Strategy (Non-commercial fund, fundraising etc.)

I tried hard to find any mention of a registered foundation behind the diaspora* project, something like Wikimedia Foundation that supports Wikipedia and other wiki* projects. It raises millions yearly and still remaind non-profit.

I was wondering about the next milestones, priorities, roadmap.

It seems like there is none! It’s just a github account with some contributors… and that’s it?

I believe there is a huge amount of people craving for a feature-rich Facebook/LinkedIn/XING analog, so why don’t we organize ourselves to implement it all?

How about making a non-profit organization in Germany (so-called e.V.)? It only takes 5 people and some small paperwork. Right after registration you could apply for lots of free resources from the major IT companies. You could (I could) write grant applications and get money to pay for the development. You could create a bank account and a donations page etc. etc.

Just looks at the Mastodon creator. There is a stable development.

Building a donation stream would allow hiring a couple of half-time employed employees and boost the project development.

There are pod maintainers, some of them get revenue for hosting, they actually could become the founders of such an organization and even start donating on a regular basis.

There are working people who are fans of diaspora* and could encourage their employers to become sponsors of such a foundation.

So, what is blocking us? Lack of leadership? Or something else?

Money has never been this project’s bottleneck. None of the active core developers have an interest in working on diaspora* full-time (which includes me), so raising money is not a concern. We have more than enough money to support the project’s infrastructure.

Hiring external developers with no relation to the project in its current form is not productive. You’d need way too much onboarding effort, and you’d need to spend way too much time on feedback and reviews to a point where it wouldn’t be sustainable anyway. You can’t scale OSS projects like diaspora* by just throwing more human resources at it.

We’ve had, at some point, legal representation set up so that people and companies could donate to an actual non-profit to support diaspora* development. The actual income of that was so low, it didn’t even cover the operational costs.

As for Germany specifically, founding and registering an e.V. does not magically turn your org into a non-profit. You can get declared a non-profit as any legal entity, but that requires a lot of extra work. Doing so only increases the operational costs of an entity as it complicates bookkeeping to a point where you’re almost forced to hire an accountant just to keep compliance, which is expensive. The actual benefits in tax reductions are purely theoretical. If you hire staff as a non-profit e.V. or as a gGmbH, you’d still have to pay Lohnsteuer for your employees, and you’re actually also gewerbesteuerpflichtig if you make more than € 35k per year, which you have to to be able to effort maintaining the e.V. and hiring staff. While this is an exceptionally German-English paragraph, similar caveats apply for 503(c)(3)s in the US.

Most of the time, founding a non-profit for a project the size of diaspora* is nothing but a waste of time and money. You can just as easily collect donations via, for example, the Open Collective Europe ASBL/vzw. It’s just that the potential income isn’t worth the effort.

Adding more features to a project isn’t helping a project. Most of the time, even though people claim they want new features, in the end, there isn’t any significant usage of those features - or maintenance. We’ve seen this in this project many times before: sharing geolocation was a huge feature request, but once it was implemented and the novelty has worn off, nobody is using it. Lots of people requested an instant messaging integration, but once that was implemented, most podmins didn’t even bother setting it up, and those who did saw low usage, and nobody ever wanted to fix bugs after the initial implementation happened.

A thing that lots of projects tend to forget is that “do one thing and do it well” isn’t just a random idea that someone came up with. There’s a reason for that, and frequently, just adding more features to a project is only causing harm.

Splitting the project away from pod maintainers is a deliberate choice, not an accident. And my personal opinion is that that’s a good thing if the project’s goal is actual decentralization.

Most of the “other” projects have… issues. Matrix, for example, has a nice product, but I’d guesstimate that over 75% of the entire network are hosted by Element, the company. This not only includes, but also some “custom” nodes like Mozilla’s Matrix homeserver. That’s not decentralization - that’s running a central infrastructure with a bunch of white-labeled custom domains. That’s a bit like adding your own domain to Google Mail - that’s not going to make your email any more decentralized. The same is true for Mastodon, where a gigantic chunk of users are on, which is hosted by the project team - and a bunch of other big nodes like are hosted by the same company - “” which is a one-person company that’s hosting all its instances in the same OVH region. The reliance on a central authority for both project’s health is immense, and I don’t want to encourage other projects going the same route.

Companies that host OSS project instances are cool because it allows the project to gain significant revenue (in the case of Element, it’s enough money to hire a lot of employees who do great work), but it actively subverts the idea of having a decentralized platform in the first place.

We as a project do not want to handle user data, and we don’t think that it would be a healthy thing for the “central project team” to also offer diaspora* hosting, which is why our pod at only hosts official project accounts and will never be open to registration. In practice, this principle has already been violated by us “fostering” two big pods until the migration feature is ready for prime time, but I see no incentive to hoard even more user data in our control.

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Hi Dennis!
It seems the question you have answered been more about social part than about running an actual non-profit. From the social side there are a lot of things that could be done, but again, it seems that the main focus of the diaspora teem is just to have fun with the code and hope it could be something else some time in the future.
It’s really disappionting when people see only tecnical issues and do not want to think about some usefulness of the tech. Of course, the diaspora team sees some light in people using the platform, but from social point of view there is really no startegy. As it seems to me team members just do what they can do about the soft and forget about any strategy.
From social point of view there should be an idea, that motivates people to participate. The basic idea is about “do not allow to get you data to anybody”. OK, but wouldn’t it be much better to allow some friendly entity to relieve you from keeping your data? For billions of people such idea is really better. The only questuon is - where is such a friendly entity?
Just compare this - all people do everything themselves vs all people are happy because there’s no need to do everything themselves. What option is preferable? Of course - the second. if we forget about the missed friendly entity.
So, the value of a hypothetical friendly entity has a tremendous advantage over an option of doing everything yourselve. Isn’t this a compelling argument to create such an entity?
Of course, it’s a bit harder to succeed on such way, but this is a really promising strategy. Or do you prefer to do what’s possible - just to keep some bug hunting to let some people think thier data is “free”, instead of doing a great job of a startegical importance to almost all people on earth?

This isn’t true. I spent multiple paragraphs highlighting the issues with founding a non-profit. I also highlighted that, in Germany (where most of the active devs are located), if you want to hire developers to work on your project, the only real reasonably way would be to found a gGmbH, which requires you to have €25k of base capital, and probably €5k+ in legal fees. I also explained how there is a large upkeeping cost. This isn’t about “the social part”, it’s about “running an actual non-profit” not being feasible.

Correct. People who work on projects in their freetime work on whatever they want to. It’s nobody’s business telling anyone what to do. That being said, all active contributors have a pretty good understanding of what’s important to the project.


If you transfer €40k to my bank account with the explicit agreement that you’ll never get it back, I will set up a diaspora* gGmbH and pay accounting fees for two years. Everything else is not compelling to found an actual non-profit org.

Founding a non-profit is not a requirement for running a project. Founding a non-profit is not a guarantee for anything to happen. Founding a non-profit allows a project to have money-flow, and that’s about it. And that’s pointless for a project like diaspora*, where the expected income is pretty much zero.

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