Once upon a time, there was social network from Google called Orkut, Or was it Buzz? Oh wait, it was called Google Plus. In the final analysis it served mostly to prove that Google cannot do social, but in many ways it was much better than the alternatives. People with technical backgrounds were far more likely to be found there, and it was great for photographers. But in the end, as with so many things, Google killed it. (Parenthetical note: Do not ever rely on anything from Google. They cannot be trusted.) But when they announced that they were going to kill it, people started looking around for a place of refuge for people who liked Google Plus and were not ready to resign themselves to Facebook. And two main contenders emerged: Pluspora and MeWe. We’ll cover both of them, but this is all about Pluspora.
Diaspora to the Rescue
As you might guess from the name, Pluspora is based on Diaspora. In fact, it is an instance of Diaspora (just another pod, basically) which I think is a good demonstration of the strength of Diaspora as a platform. In this case, it is used to try and recreate some of the things that made Google Plus beloved to that particular community. That said, it does not do everything Google Plus did, and is not exactly the same. But on the positive side, being a Diaspora instance means it inherits a lot of good things from its parent:
- It is open source. The software running it is just Diaspora which is licensed under the GNU-AGPL-3.0 license.
- No one owns it. So while Google can simply shut down Google Plus because it feels like it, no one can effectively do that to Pluspora. It can just be transferred to another server at any time, and barring a short period of readjustment, keep going as if nothing had happened.
- Formatting! Google Plus did not have good tools for formatting your post. Diaspora (and Pluspora therefor) have great formatting tools, including Markdown. This means that if you do long texts, you can have different levels of header, for instance, as well as lists. Anyone who has used Facebook or Google Plus knows how awful it is to not have tools available.
- Feed is strictly chronological. That is something that is a pet peeve for me, since I want to see what the people I know have posted since I last checked in.
- No promoted posts. That is something I hate about Facebook. They promote anything that will result in them getting paid, and it is mostly garbage. Also, I think a lot of the “promoted” posts are designed to get your personal data. Here there is no one doing that.
- No one cares about the follower count. If that is the kind of thing you obsess about, perhaps you should reconsider your life options, but I never have cared. If someone follows me, that is great, and if they decide to stop, that is fine too. It is not a moral issue to me.
- Preview posts! Why don’t other social networks get this? I like to be able to see how my post will look before I press the Share button.
- Polls: You can easily add a poll to a post. There is a button on the lower right of the compose window that lets you easily add a poll. Not something you would do every day, I admit, but handy to have.
- Embedded links are much better. This kind of flows from the attention to formatting, I suspect, but in any case you will find this works better in Pluspora.
Again, to be clear, these are all features available in Diaspora, so Pluspora gets them through inheritance.
Now. to be sure there are also some things lacking. One thing that Google did very well was store large numbers of photos and let you organize them in albums. But that was not really tied to Google Plus other than through making it easy to post the photos You can still upload photos to Google in the Photos app, and organize them in albums. You just can’t easily share them the way you could previously. Pluspora can’t do that because it requires a huge amount of storage space and bandwidth. Google has more storage space and bandwidth than God, when you come right down to it. You can upload photos from your hard drive and embed them in a post, and it does a good job of that, but I will miss the Google Plus workflow for sharing photos. And because Google Plus was so good for photos it gathered a large community of photographers that are not likely to move en masse to Pluspora.
Another difference is Diaspora “Aspects” vs. Google Plus “Circles”. They have similarities, but are not the same thing, and if you had invested a lot of time and energy into setting up your circles you won’t be quite as happy.
The Pluspora Community
Although the mechanics are different, I felt right at home on Pluspora as a refugee from Google Plus. I quickly saw posts from many of the people I had followed on Google Plus, particularly a number of journalists like Esther Schindler, Steven Vaughn-Nichols, and Glyn Moody. The Guardian is now there, as well as Al Jazeera. For me this is all good.
Because Pluspora is simply another pod on the Diaspora network, it is pretty simple to get going. You don’t need to choose a server since that is already done for you. You just need to go to https://pluspora.com and on the upper right is a link to “Create account”. Just click it, and you can select a user name, put in a password, and you are in business.
You probably should do a little to fill out your profile if you want to connect with more people. This is an identical process to the Diaspora profile, since this is just another Diaspora pod. But note that you can make different choices here if you wish, such as using a different profile photo (optional in any case), making different privacy settings, and so on. You could, for instance, have different NSFW settings on the two. If you tend to make a lot of NSFW posts on Diaspora, but not on Pluspora, just make the default settings different.
Pluspora is offering the ability to connect with Tumblr, Twitter, or WordPress, so you have this available if you want it. In my case, I don’t want to connect those things so I just skipped over it. To access this, click on your profile, settings, services, and you will see those options.