September 24, 2008 Users See Service as Choosing Cause Over Community

With Twitter having largely overcome its many issues that made it a long, hot summer for the leading microblogging service, traffic to smaller competitors has stalled, if not decreased, across the board, at Plurk, Rejaw and, which leverages the open source microblogging software. But a hard core group of users clings to's mission as an open, developer-friendly alternative to Twitter, with many using both services in parallel. Yesterday, I asked the community to spell out why they were using the service. Some of their responses are below.

Candrews echoed many of those on around the frame of freedom, saying:
    "I'm here for the Freedom. I want my data to be mine, to be able to leave when I chose, hack as I wish, and share all I want."
The issues of "freedom" and "openness" were cited much more than anything about community, which is what I would have expected to get if I polled Twitter.

Csarven wrote, similarly:
    "Universality of the Web. For the collective good, information should be accessible to all."
John Metta wrote:
    "Initially, I focused on because I've been an Open Source Software programmer for nearly 15 years. I appreciate the possibilities of an open, federated system- specifically when it comes to extending that system to work natively with other applications. For those applications to use Twitter, they would have to work around the closed nature of the system."
Jesse Stay, a frequent blogger here, and staunch supporter, wrote, " is more of a cause than a community. We're all here to see that more open features are included in micro-service SW. OpenMicroblogging services like this are more about building a horizontal platform of meshed microblogs that all interoperate."

You can see that message echoed through the dozens of responses I received:

    "I use #identica because I believe in the cause. Open trumps walled gardens every time."
    "I use mostly because I believe in the promise of a distributed, open source microblogging service and I want to see it."
    "like others, I use #identica because it uses open technologies, and it's open like good net technology always is."
From what I could tell, most of the users hadn't flat-out abandoned Twitter, but instead, added Identica to their outlets. In fact, a good number of the responses I gained on also hit my replies tab in Twitter. This is due, in part, to Identica's enabling you to cross-post to Twitter from the site, but also due to the rise of products that let you post in multiple places at once, including Posty, which I use to hit Twitter and Identica in parallel myself.

As services start to cross-populate, more savvy users are even using Identica as a tool to reach people in a new way. Tibor Holoda of Slovakia wrote to say he planned to use it as his "native language (non-english) channel" that hooked into FriendFeed. As he wrote me, "It's easy for my english-speaking followers to just hide my tweets and see everything else i'm posting," adding, "I'm trying to persuade and evangelize the use of microblogging in our country, as its not very common among folks in here yet (just a handful of geeks is using it as of now)."

Metta added, "In the long-term, as better bridges develop allowing more seamless cross-posting and aggregation, I really feel as though federation can excel, and am using the system as a fundamental building block to my next business endeavor's design both in anticipation and in support of that."

Twitter is winning the public microblogging battle because of its large installed base, and its built-up community that has largely forgiven them after months of trials. While the user community isn't the largest today, it is one that clearly believes in its underlying foundation of open source, friendliness with developers, and the hope that through open source and extensibility, that it can make inroads outside of the niche which is using it now, but possibly, be adopted in the enterprise. If you are a big fan of, you can of course find me there, at