Make Diaspora a Member of the Free Software Support Network

MS maxwell salzberg Public Seen by 152

As Diaspora has grown into a healthy community run Free Software project in the last year, it is time to find a proper home, backed by a non-profit to help it continue to grow. While we can all agree that the community-driven infrastructure is great, there are still a number of things the project cannot directly do without an entity supporting it, such as raising funds.

The past 8 months, Sean and I have been working to find a good home for the assets of Diaspora. One that will support the project’s values, provide a nice structure for dealing with trademarks, copyright, money, and other assets that will ask both in the best interest of, but at the will of the project.

We looked around to our network, trying to find the right place, but one name was at the top of our list: Eben Moglen.

We are lucky that when we asked Professor Moglen for his help, he proposed what was the perfect solution for our community: Diaspora should join the Free Software Support network (http://freesoftwaresupport.org/), an organization that he heads up as a peer organization to the Software Freedom Law Center (http://www.softwarefreedom.org/). The Free Software Support Network operates as a non-profit holding organization for worthy Free Software projects. FSSN helps projects with the paperwork and clerical stuff that hackers generally don’t want to do, like taxes and dealing with banks ( I know you don’t want to do this because I have been dealing with it :)

FSSN gives Diaspora the following:

  1. A respected place to hold all of the assets of Diaspora; the trademarks, the code copyright, JoinDiaspora and our money. It is a transparent organization which acts in the interest of the project and the community. If we decide we want to spend money doing code bounties or give swag to our top contributors, FSSN will let us do what we need to do.

  2. Take tax-free donations. FSSN is a 401c3 charity. Every penny that is donated to FSSN in Diaspora’s name is dog eared for our project. This is huge in keeping the ‘back room’ of Diaspora clear, and means hackers can focus on being hackers without doing the annoying dirty stuff.

  3. A partner that shares our values. Enough said.

What it does not do:

1) Tell us how to run our community

2) Tell us how to write code

3) Change how we create Diaspora.

The only real requirement of the FSSN is that there is a governance structure in place. After a year of experience, it is my belief that we have a great organic structure to make things more codified.

Here’s the course of action we want to take:

1) Make Diaspora a Member of the FSSN

2) Transfer all Diaspora Inc Diaspora related assets to FSSN (Trademark, hosting, Social media accounts)

3) Assign all Diaspora code to the FSSN, and amend our contributor agreement to reflect this change.

To celebrate our first year as a community project, and fill the coffers of our project, and joining the FSSN we also want to run a Crowdhoster campaign for Diaspora(see a work in progress here: https://diaspora.crowdhoster.com/help-take-the-web-to-the-next-level-with-diaspora... will launch on Monday). This money will go directly to the Diaspora project via the FSSN, and we can figure out together the best way to help the project. Since Crowdfunding AND Free software are so essential to the core of what we do, Crowdhoster is a great choice. We will be going for the same goal of 10k, and even have some cool swag made up.

(EDIT: I clarified more what I meant here: https://www.loomio.org/discussions/6353#comment-46047)

(EDIT 2 more thoughts: https://www.loomio.org/discussions/6353#comment-46413)


goob Tue 20 Aug 2013 10:18PM

This sounds fantastic, and I think the FSSN and Eben Moglen would be a perfect fit for Diaspora - after all, it was his lecture which inspired you to create it! Thanks a lot to you and Sean for all your work on this, and I look forward to hearing more.


Jonne Haß Tue 20 Aug 2013 10:21PM

The only thing that makes me sad is that again, despite talking about how well we organized and run the project, made all decisions affecting so many people, in private with only two or three people involved. Would've been so hard asking the community if it wants to host joindiaspora? Would it have been so hard to ask the community if it thinks it needs another crowdfunding campaign? Would it have been so hard to ask the community if it wants to be part of the FSSN? Would it have been so hard to at least inform the community about the strategy you set before all decisions have been made? Really, that hard?

I'm not saying that this are bad decisions, I'm saying the way you talk and the way you act is schizophrenic. I'm okay with joining the FSSN, I don't think another Crowdfunding campaign gives good PR. I don't want to maintain joindiaspora.com. That's all I say, that's all I'm going to say here. Don't expect another comment on this thread from me, not even to direct queries.


Flaburgan Tue 20 Aug 2013 10:36PM

Hi maxwell. It's really nice to see that we are finally going to have an official structure. I'm also okay with the FSSN.

I'm not sure we should do a crowd funding campaign right now. The first question is, what do we want to do with the money? It'll never be enough to hire people. So what?


goob Tue 20 Aug 2013 10:43PM

@jonnehass - I took this to be a proposal rather than a fait accompli. In any case, I think it's proper that Maxwell should be involved in the transfer of everything from the old Diaspora Inc. to a new structure, and these sorts of negotiations are generally very difficult to conduct in public. Now that a transfer is on the verge of being made (whether this post is a proposal for the community to discuss or a statement of already confirmed fact), the community can then decide what to do with that structure, I guess. It's the final step of putting control into the community's hands, by the sounds of it.


Sean Tilley Tue 20 Aug 2013 10:56PM

Well, off the top of my head, money could be used for several things:

  1. Code Bounties for features (groups, XMPP chat, etc)
  2. Sponsored development (for example, if someone wanted to work for several months specifically on putting together a third-party API or improve federation or something)
  3. Project server infrastructure (Let's say we wanted to create a Public Search Engine for D*, just as an example)
  4. Cost of travel for representing D* at Conferences / Hackathons / Meetups.
  5. Donate to support other projects that exist in similar spaces as us. (MediaGoblin / Friendica / Tent / Loomio)

The other important thing to think about, it could in fact be good for PR. Many people outside of the Diaspora community haven't really heard about all of the progress we've made as a project, and so a little fund-raiser might be just the thing to say "Hey, we're still up and running, we want to grow the project out further."

Besides which, those are funds that the project would be able to use at any time in the future.


Dennis Schubert Wed 21 Aug 2013 12:27AM

This party is not going to be a very nice one.

While creating a 401c3 compliant non-profit is a good thing, starting another crowdfunding project is not. Like @jonnehass, I'm not ready to maintain joindiaspora.com. Actually, I'm not even ready to promote joindiaspora.com in any way.

In fact, JD is the worst thing that could ever happen to this project. Referenced and linked by the media, it totally screwed up the decentralization we used to promote. Instead of encouraging techies to set up their own pod and non-techies to join a pod in their neighborhood, everyone linked to a (in the beginning closed-down) pod with utterly high federation lags and some horrible mistakes in case of privacy.

We all knew these things and talked about them. Instead of fixing them, everything stalled and took forever. I cannot remember how it took to get podupti.me linked on JDs front page. Too long. Way too long. And that's just one of those funny stories.

Do you really think we need another $10k? Do you remember the comments and articles about the $100k the project got? I'm sure you do. What do we need the money for? Most of the leading development gets done by two heroes @jonnehass and @florianstaudacher who are working in their spare time. They are not coding because they want to have money, they are coding because they actually like the project. We don't need private repos on GitHub as we should be doing open source, huh? We don't even have to pay the webserver running diasporafoundation.org because that's just a nice way to fill up some unused resources. We didn't even pay for the SSL certificate because there are some really nice guys out there. Yeah, "cool swag", I see.

As @seantilleycommunit said, we could use money to pay some awesome developers to work full-time on some projects. And we could use money to promote the project at various conferences. WE COULD. We don't even know yet! How can we start a crowdfunding campaign without telling people what we're going to do with that money? 30 days to raise $10k? Yeah, sure thing. We lost the epicness after the kickstarter campaign and this is not going to work out.


Sean Tilley Wed 21 Aug 2013 2:24AM

@dennisschubert I think it's worth mentioning that none of us really have to deal with JoinDiaspora if nobody wants to deal with it. I'm sure that, as a community member himself, Maxwell probably wouldn't mind handling pod upkeep. I've discussed the idea of closing registrations on JD, with a proper message and link referring to poduptime and Installation guides for new prospective users of Diaspora. Maxwell's mentioned that he's willing to close off registrations so that users will disperse more evenly between pods, or even set up their own if they'd like.

I agree that making joindiaspora such a big focus was a misstep, but that is in the past. The reality is, no matter which way we look at it, joindiaspora is there, and until we get the proper capability for users to export / import into another pod, a majority of those users will stay on joindiaspora.

In regards to crowdfunding: I don't think it's so much that we desperately need money, so much that it would be very convenient for the project to have should a need to use funds ever arise. Is it premature to have in place right this second?

Maybe, and tbh I'd be totally fine with holding off on it if you and others are convinced that the time is not right. I'm open to taking our time with it, discussing specifically what we would do with such funds if we had them, and coming up with a better game plan. Really, in a lot of ways, I think the project is doing just fine without such a fundraiser right now. Look how far we've gotten already. I myself have about 3 years worth of posts there; I certainly don't want to have to start all over on a new pod.

However, and this cannot be understated: with end users reacting to the state of centralized social networks such as Facebook and Twitter in light of scandals like PRISM, a decentralized communication tool like Diaspora may be more necessary and relevant to those who value their privacy than ever before. Is Diaspora perfect? No, but for many people, it's “good enough”.


Jason Robinson Wed 21 Aug 2013 6:14AM

I totally agree with Sean and Maxwell here. I think the FSSN is awesome and the crowdfunding push is a good way to "bring back Diaspora" into the larger audience.

To those not wanting a crowdfunding campaign - do you want Diaspora to expand as a project or would you rather keep Diaspora for hobbyists only? I want Diaspora to be able to expand - and for that some starting funds are needed. We are not promising anyone product delivery - we are asking for money to kickstart the setting up of Diaspora under the FSSN. I really think this is an important step. "Legalizing" Diaspora without a single $0 in for it to use is a much worse scenario than someone jerking off about DIaspora asking for money again. The gains outweight the cons here, imho.

As for joindiaspora, as Sean said, the FSSN is totally separate. I'm sure we can agree not to transfer it to the Diaspora community if we want. Personally I think it would be a good idea, and no that doesn't mean Jonne or Dennis have to maintain it. But it's up to Maxwell and what we decide.

I think the key here is that while the planning was made "in secret" (totally fine IMHO, after all a year ago a transition was promised, and this could be the final step of that) - we should have a quick vote to make sure we follow the guidelines that we ourselves have dedicated to.

So in a nutshell, while this discussion is ongoing, could we possible have 3 votes;

1) Transfer the Diaspora project legally under the FSSN (this includes making sure we have proper governance in the future as that is the demand of the FSSN)

2) Launch a crowdfunding campaign to support the initial setting up of Diaspora as a legal entity

3) If we had a choice, would we want joindiaspora.com pod to be owned by Diaspora legally?

Sean and Maxwell, I hugely appreciate the work that has gone into this and fully support this, but I ask that we go through these votes before "signing any papers"/running the campaign. I'm sure we can agree that we need to have a decision quickly and thus we could probably make all voting last for a week - 99% of the community members that feel strongly on these points will have time to vote then.

Also Jonne, please don't cut yourself out of the discussion. That will only have a negative effect on the whole thing since you are a key member of the project and not having your opinions will not give this the full support it needs. Saying something once and leaving the discussion is not raising an opinion.


diasp_eu Wed 21 Aug 2013 7:30AM

Hey Maxwell, welcome back to the diaspora community :) as you wrote "Here’s the course of action we want to take:" Since one year "we" is the diaspora community, hence let us decide what "we" want.


Jason Robinson Wed 21 Aug 2013 7:57AM

@diaspeu maxwell is as much part of the diaspora community as any other of us :P

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