archive about

A new role for geek communities? Win back the Internet.

(I wrote this piece in Greek about a year ago, when the first signs that Google Reader may not have a future showed up. I think that it makes much more sense now, for more people. Please read it: this may be the way to win back a decentralized and independent Internet.)

I recently tried NewsBlur, a feed reader resembling Google Reader. NewsBlur is open source and licensed under the MIT License -you can get the source code at

It works much better that I would expect. The UX is not as polished as Google Reader’s but it works. And being open source, there’s nothing to stop anyone that would like to improve it.

Yesterday, I logged in again, after many months, to It was on my todo list, but I remembered it after reading that twitter might censor tweets if required by law in ”countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression.”.

Ideally, I’d like to ser up my own StatusNet instance, just like I’d like to set up my own NewsBlur instance. However, setting up and maintaining these things takes time that’s usually not worth it if it’s only for one user.

This is where I think geek communities come in: they could offer such services to their members and the public in general. Local LUGs, hackerspaces and other tech communities could set up and support this kind of infrastructure, from StatusNet servers, to torrent trackers, to pubsubhubbub hubs, etc.

Yes, I know that may of these communities already do it. One has set up a local StatusNet server, an other an IRC server or forum, or mailing list. I have the imprssion however, that in most of these cases, the motive is experimentation and not to provide a service. As a result, in many cases, after the initial excitement is gone, the servoce is left on its own, and eventually is taken down.

It is important that these communities see that this may be one of the most important roles they could play, or even, their purpose.

There’s a lot to win by such a turn from fun to purpose -not that they are mutually exclusive.

First of all, we will have more than one alternative, independent service providers for services that are today centralized and controled by one company.

Then, there is knowledge and expertise. There will be a good number of people that know how to setup and maintain such services on middle-to-large scale. Software will get better too, open source software always does when it has a big number of users.

I also believe that the communities themselves will win in more than one way. They will probably be abble to attract more members willing to offer their knowledge and time. They may even find revenue streams: much like I donate to wikipedia because I value what they do, I’d donate to my local LUG if they were operated a service I use every day.