Make Diaspora a Member of the Free Software Support Network

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 (, an organization that he heads up as a peer organization to the Software Freedom Law Center ( 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 :slight_smile:

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:… 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:

(EDIT 2 more thoughts:

Note: This discussion was imported from Loomio. Click here to view the original discussion.

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.

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 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.

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?

@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.

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.

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 Actually, I’m not even ready to promote 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 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 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.

@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”.

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 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.

Hey Maxwell, welcome back to the diaspora community :slight_smile: 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.

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

To those not wanting a crowdfunding campaign

We didn’t say we don’t want it, we (at least, I) said we don’t want it right now. We need to prepare ourselves, list exactly what we want to do with the money, and, especially, do that when the reputation of the project will be better. So first, we announce the anniversary, release the and we see the reaction of the press. If it’s positive, if people inside diaspora* love the new version, then we can envisage to make a crowd-funding campaign. But if we are facing all the crap stuff everywhere, we need to improve the situation first, especially the joindiaspora case.

@flaburgan yeah exactly why we should vote on it. Personally I don’t get it why a crowd-funding campaign would be worse now than later - the important thing is we go forward and are not too scared to do anything.

Are we ready to make a decision? Let’s start the decision process!

why a crowd-funding campaign would be worse now than later

Because nobody heard about diaspora* for months (years?) and then we come back and say “Hey, we need money!” …
Or we can release a new version, talk about the anniversary, create a positive buzz, and then, when more people will come / set up their pods, etc, we can say “We did a great job, we can do more if you give us some donation”

@jasonrobinson Bad PR: Diaspora needs more money, Social networking alternative wants cash… i.e.

I agree with what has been said about needing to vote before things such as a crowd-funding initiative take place. I don’t think it’s the right time for it, for many of the reasons given. Let’s first get communication channels in place so that we can get out good information to the right sources about where the project has got to and where it’s going (we don’t even really know where it’s going at the moment), and so that the world out there gets to know about Diaspora as a living and growing project again, with exciting prospects. Just putting out another call for money without preparing the ground would, I suspect, get a strongly negative reaction. Remember the email the core team sent out towards the end of 2011 which started ‘We love you! That’s why we’re asking you for more money’ (or words to that effect). So many people screamed ‘What? I give you money in Kickstarter, I’m still waiting for my invite, and now you ask me for more money? That’s it for me and Diaspora’ etc. Let’s continue as we are just for the moment, and we can discuss what we could actually use money for, before deciding to do any fundraising. We can of course, once the foundation is in place, let it be known that donations can be made, and anyone who wants to make a donation can then do so, but not actively raise funds until the ground has been prepared with good communication.

One of Diaspora’s biggest failings has, in my opinion, always been communication - with its community, and with the wider world. Over the past year communication among the development team has become really open and excellent (and what a wonderful change that has been), and communication with the community has improved a bit, but there’s a lot more to do to improve communication with the community and the wider world before it would be a good idea to ask for money again.

Let’s get a foundation set up, get the blogs and planet set up, nominate a few people to act as press officers in different languages, so they can keep the press up to date with developments and get good stories with accurate information appearing in the media again, and perhaps have a crowd-funding or other funding initiative at the start of next year; or maybe later; or maybe not for at all.

That’s my suggestion re funding.

The important thing right now, I think, is that Maxwell and Sean have come up with what I think is an excellent proposal for the future of the project. I hope it is as I thought it was, a proposal and not a fait accompli, but either way, once the transfer has taken place, it will be in the community’s hands officially, and we can decide what to do with it, and could even move the foundation elsewhere or change the structure if we thought it was best.

So either we get chance to discuss and vote on it now (hopefully), or even if not we can discuss and vote on what we do next once the transfer has taken place. The important thing is for the transfer of ownership and assets to take place formally from Diaspora Inc. to the community of people actively involved in the project, and a foundation is going to act as a trust for that community, as I understand it.

I’d like space for proper discussion of and votes on the first two points Jason lists:

  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 crowd-funding campaign to support the initial setting up of Diaspora as a legal entity.

For now discussion about ownership of (surely Maxwell’s sole decision, as it’s his pod) can wait, I think.

I think there’s an excellent proposal on the table. If there’s been a failing it’s been in not communicating with the community which is actually running the project until the last minute. But that’s happened, let’s work from here. Sean, is there time for discussion and vote, or is it too late? I certainly support the transfer from D Inc to D Foundation and the proposed involvement of FSSN.

Right – time to listen to the test match – England v Australia – far more important! :wink:

I still disagree about the crowd-funding. We’re not Diaspora Inc asking more money to a product that is not available (=invites not sent to paid “customers”).

The crowd-funding will act as a big publicity thing - think of the Ubuntu Edge - it failed but it generated a huge amount of press time. We need that press time to tell the world we are here. Spamming media with “we are now a legal foundation” is not going to generate that press.

But we should really vote on this. As long as we get the FSSN part done I’d say awesome. If we decide no crowd-funding, then no crowd-funding.


So, a comment about process: nothing should be done in the community’s name without the community actually making the decision, particularly where there’s clear disagreement, as below. That means, I think nothing should come out of this discussion without a clear formal proposal-decision - we should all be able to agree on that. It would be deeply ironic if the diaspora community had no say in its inauguration.

I think the FSSN part is a great idea and everyone seems pretty much agreed on that - I would suggest someone creates a proposal on that, before we can continue to the two other bits of the discussion?

As for the other issues:

  1. what to do with joindiaspora - there is another discussion on this, why not make that decision there?
  2. crowdfunding: I don’t think we should be asking for money ‘just in case’, but I would be in favour of crowdfunding if we have a clear idea of where its going to get us. Despite some successes recently at creating a federation layer, there’s no clear roadmap as to how we are going to sort federation, or when.
    I think I’ve said this elsewhere, but I think what would make people take diaspora seriously as a project is 1) sorting federation, 2) implementing groups and events and 3) adopting a protocol which federates it with other social networks.

Unless this 10,000 request comes with a roadmap as to how its going to get us those things, I don’t see the point. And code bounties for individual parts might end up putting off developer volunteers if its not done in a well thought out way.

First off, thanks to everyone for the feedback.

  1. It sounds like the FSSN is something people are in agreement with. I do apologize it was a bit more behind closed doors, but you have to understand it was a slightly precarious process, trying to find the right home, doing diligence on both the project and the institution.

I will reiterate. All D* assets will get moved over to ownership. I am happy to continue to maintain for the period of the transition, or until the community can decide what they want it to become. Tear it down, make it a “pod uptime” style thing, whatever. Whatever we decide, it should be something we recognize we can solve later. No press push needs to mention it, but it will get transferred over.

I’d say we should create a proposal here and get that cleared away.

  1. Crowdfunding.

I’m sorry I didn’t elaborate on this further in my initial post. I’d say this would be a huge shame if we didn’t do this. We can hammer out details here on what we should do with it, but I can’t stress enough that you can not be afraid of haters or what people might think. If Daniel, Ilya, Raphael and myself were afraid of what was going to happen when we asked for money, then none of this would have happened.

The text on the Crowdhoster page is currently placeholder, but here is what I would like to do with the money

  1. Sponsored four fellows to work on the project for the next six months. I think we could all agree on four people that would be worthy and deserving, and it could be a great way for the community to elect and sponsor people who share their values. To me, this could be the future of how open source community driven projects stay viable. We can just keep doing this every six months to keep people refreshed.

  2. Run a Diaspora conference of some kind. You all have been getting to know each other on the web, why not have a chance to meet up in real life, and put a face to a name?

  3. If it really goes bonkers, why don’t we sponsor other, related projects are also trying to further our goals?

I’m totally open to revising these ideas , but the time to do this is now. Waiting and procrastination the road to a slow and inevitable decline.

This is fitting and proper for the following reasons.

  1. It pay homage to how we got here. People LOVE the story of small groups of people who can make the change. This is a great way for the general public and press to really feel like we have passed the torch, so to speak.

  2. Diaspora is more than just code. Diaspora resonated with people not just on our message of privacy and decentralization, but the fact that even via crowdfunding itself, four guys might be able to spark a change, create a community, take on giants, and make the internet a better place. It’s about a glimmer of hope that a small group of people could actually make a profound change.

  3. Diaspora is needed now more than ever. You all know the news. People feel helpless again, and they want to support something that helps make a difference. It’s not just about the money, but when people feel like they are a part of something, they care about it a lot more. Diaspora becoming a foundation gives people hope

To address your point directly @jasonrobinson I disagree 100%. People thought handing Diaspora off to the community was it being deadpooled. We all know that is not true, but getting a new foundation to take its place is like a phoenix rising from the ashes. It’s a way better headline than “1 yr Diaspora Community Anniversary.” It’s not about giving people invites to anything. It just about people supporting that there could be a better way to live on the web. It’s about creating the perfect storm, a trifecta of good news that will get people excited again.

Do not be afraid to do something audacious. I realize it might sound a little crazy, but now is the time to take the plunge.