Sunday, January 20, 2019

Different Choices: Patchword and Scuttlebutt

This post is part of a series where I explore and review alternatives to the more popular social media platforms. This series was inspired by "It May Be Time to Start Making Different Choices," 30 December 2018.

Since posting this, I have been corrected on some mistakes I made. See below for corrections, and many thanks to Dan Hassan.
ref: @NeB4q4Hy9IiMxs5L08oevEhivxW+/aDu/s/0SkNayi0=.ed25519
The boring bit
Scuttlebutt is what makes it all work. If you're not a techie-geek, that's all you really need to know. If you are a techie-geek, my descriptions of it are probably a dumbing-down that you don't need (it's dumbing-down for my sake, not for anyone else's; I know enough of this material to get myself into trouble, but not always out of it).

Patchwork is the program (one of them) that lets you access the platform. Manyverse (coming soon in it's own post) also uses Scuttlebutt, but at present, they don't cross-connect.

There do exist a host of other programs available to access the platform, but Patchwork seems the easiest to set up and get started with.

Scuttlebutt as a concept is different from what most people think about as social media. There do exists "pubs" which are more of a similarity, but the rest works very differently. In scuttlebutt, you connect directly with your network. Every individual person you connect to is like a handshake. You shake hands with one person at a time (with the exception of pubs). Everybody that you've shared a handshake with can see your public posts, and you can see theirs, but you don't download those posts from a server somewhere, you get them from their computer.

When they say "You control your data" they mean this literally. Your data and the data of the people you interact with is stored on your device.

There's no backup. [See corrections below] There's no copy out there stored by a multi/m/b/tr/illion-dollar corporation. There just you and your handshakes.

As for pubs, they're essentially handshaking machines. You connect to them, and that connects you to everyone else who has shaken hands with the machine. They are hosted by individuals (as far as I can tell) and join one at your own risk. But there's no obligatory master list; if you want to start your own pub and not tell anyone but who you want that it exists, you can do that; it costs $5 and up a month to sign up with a compatible server-hosting company, unless you know someone with their own server who will lend you some space.

Less boring
This platform isn't new. It also looks pretty quiet. Unless you have a bunch of friends signing up with you or join a public pub, expect to be treated with crickets. In friendless scuttlebutt, no one can hear you scream.

There's a small handful of public pubs.

It's very promising, something I really want to join in on the journey, but I don't have anyone who wants to join me for the ride. At least, not yet.


There are actually backups, in the form of replication. Everyone you connect to has a backup of your data, and because they do, you can't really delete anything. That helps serve the mechanism that allows you (and everyone else) to read messages while you and they are offline. But even still, there's no corporation (yet) out to farm your data for their own purposes.

Hypothetically, a megacorp could set up a pub of their own, but the pool of users they could connect to at this time, and probably well into the future, is sufficiently small that it's honestly probably not even worth the effort.

More Different Choices posts