An introduction to Identi.ca

logo for identi.ca

Dennis Bournique of WAP Review has me pegged as a social media whore gadfly and he’s right — I habitually sign up for new networks and services just so I can secure my preferred user name on them. I’ve learned some hard lessons from Gmail and Yahoo… never again!

So it should come as no surprise that I’ve had an account on Identi.ca for quite some time, without really knowing what to do with it. That is, until this week and my new Linux rig. Thanks to it and Gwibber, my new favourite social network aggregator, I can finally see what all the fuss is about.

Where the l33ts are.

No offence to Twitter, but Identi.ca seems to be the de facto social network for the Linux community. Among the notable users there is rms — yup, none other than Richard Matthew Stallman, founder of the GNU project and The Free Software Foundation.

I can’t say he’s particularly social on identi.ca; his activity there seems limited to promoting links to his own blog. But that he’s even on it gives a lot of street cred to the service, considering the stringent requirements that his own computer has to meet.

So what makes Identi.ca so different than other social networks?

Host your own party.

In addition to being covered by an AGPL for the software and Creative Commons for the content, Identi.ca is powered by StatusNet — microblogging software that you can install on your own server (like WordPress) or have hosted for you (like WordPress.com)

I’ll freely admit that I’ve accounts for both me and this blog on StatusNet, in addition to a pair of Identi.ca accounts. Why? Re-read the first paragragh of this post. A benefit of StatusNet over Identi.ca is that anyone from any social network can join and follow your posts — though I’m not sure if posting replies works for users from other networks. My StatusNet accounts are currently inactive for this reason. If that changes I’ll be sure to let you know.

Other features.

Like the dearly-departed Jaiku that Nokians so often wax poetic about (it hasn’t actually gone anywhere), Identi.ca has the ability to present a conversations as inline threads, as in this exchange I had with a StatusNet user yesterday. Note that each response can also be viewed as a individual tweet — er, dent. I think that’s what they call it…

Also, where Twitter has lists Identi.ca has groups, which you can join like (ugh) Facebook and post to by adding an exclamation mark onto the beginning of the group name like !lo, which would post to the Linux Outlaws group.

And finally Identi.ca does at least recognize the elephant in the room with built-in functionality for auto-posting to Twitter. Note though, that you’ll want to let your followers know who you’re retweeting and specifically which network they’re on. This dude on Twitter, for example, has the same handle but isn’t quite as prolific as his Identi.ca counterpart.

So what took me so long?

That Identi.ca is both unabashedly Canadian and open-source you’d think I would have jumped on it from the get go. My reason for not doing so has to do with HootSuite — another Canadian product that currently doesn’t support it. For shame.

As of right now you’re not missing anything on this blog’s Twitter account; the Identi.ca version has been set up to auto-post to Twitter. And I certainly don’t have any plans to give up my personal Twitter account anytime soon, but if you find at some point that you’re not hearing much from me there it may well be because the party’s happening on Identi.ca — that is, after all, where the l33ts are. 8-)

7 Responses to “An introduction to Identi.ca”


  • Andrew,
    Fabulous introduction to identi.ca!

  • Thanks! Hope I didn’t miss anything too important…

    For anyone who didn’t know, Kevin has one of the most popular “dents” on Identi.ca right now, and is in my humble estimation the best dad ever.

  • Actually, I believe RMS has a proxy posting for him in FSF. Or maybe he sends a message to a daemon that downloads the identi.ca webpage and emails it to him.

  • I’ve had my identi.ca account ( http://identi.ca/bogart/ ) for at least as long as my Twitter and possibly longer. I used it quite a bit as Jaiku imploded and went away, but none of my real-life friends (the ones that live within 50miles of me and I see on a regular basis) use it. I suspect this is because most of them are Mac weenies (oooh, flamebait, sorry!)

    Originally, there wasn’t much difference between Twitter and Identi.ca. They were both light years behind the functionality of Jaiku in terms of being able to hold a conversation. Identi.ca had groups, which was a great concept that I guess I don’t quite get.

    But I’m looking back at Identi.ca and besides the fact that gravity and gwibber support it, it is much more difficult to use, simply because the application support isn’t there.

    Likewise, twitter is abysmal to use, but the very clever applications that have been written make it much easier to follow, so that’s where I have been. Since acurrie has been talking about it, I’ve been checking back a bit more often, but I still find twitter much, much easier.

  • I’m missing a setting somewhere. How do I ignore @replies to people I do not follow on identi.ca?

    Back in my day, there were only like 18 users and we didn’t call the posts “dents”. :)

  • Good question — Identi.ca seems to obfuscate the whole high-school “following” business to the point where it doesn’t really matter. Not a bad thing, IMHO, except for the occasional spammer here and there.

    (In other words I don’t know. Sorry…)

  • I’ve had an account on Identi.ca for close to a year but never got around to using it. Been a Twitter and Facebook type. But after your intro here, I went back and I think it’s quite sane than Twitter is. Now have it added to Gwibber so won’t have anything to miss out. Thanks

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