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My first week experience with Scuttlebutt and Patchwork

TLDR: Frustration.


Disclaimer: I have probably lack of knowledge regarding several aspects involved in the ways SSB works so read the following with the eye of a developer biased point of view mixed with a neophyte user.

What brought me here? - Bits of context

It's been a while since I've started despising current major social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube being the main ones I use frequently). Here are a list of griefs:

  • Lack of privacy
  • Arbitrary display of the timeline
  • Censorship
  • Data ownership

Just to name a few.

Recently, I started building the ambition (or building exasperation, you choose) to work on an alternative that would propose real solutions and empower people, for real.

After a lot of peregrinations, I stumbled upon André Staltz (@andrestaltz). I learnt then about Cycle.js and SSB which are both great technologies IMO but we are only going to talk about SSB.

What is SSB?

I'll miss a lot of important aspects and probably write craps but I'll expose things from my understanding. Know that I'm willing to expand my understanding so if I offend you with my naivete, let me know and teach me ;)

To my understanding, SSB is a protocol which aims to enable development of decentralized applications. It's decentralized in the way that users store their data on their devices and each devices communicate with each other when they are at reach. at reach meaning when they are on the same network being offline locally (direct p2p connections, sneakernet, …), on the same WIFI, mesh, on the grid (connected to the same pub server(s)) and probably more I don't even know exists.

So far there is various kind of applications mostly on development. Social media platforms like Patchwork and Patchbay, a mobile social app like MMMMM, music sharing and listening platforms like Lola just to name a few.

What's wrong with SSB

The list of pub servers is broken, that's not a huge problem but having to pick a server from a list is too geeky to be mainstream. Plus, as of writing, the list is full of down servers and when you find one, you are lucky if it follows you back, since you have to be followed if you don't wanna shout in the emptiness of the void.

Server must follow back otherwise newcomers will experience the frustration of writing to no one, more precisely being read by no one.

When someone is not following you or not following someone you follow, you can not read any of their publications. But when you read a thread and they participated in this thread, you will have holes in the thread since you're not allowed to read them. I think this can be fixed when servers follow back and I think servers should follow each other so that when a user joins the network, public threads keep their consistancy.

Since it's decentralized and user owns their data, their data is stored on their devices. I wonder what happens when one has low storage (because of device capacity, or usage, or how long it's been since you started using the network, or whatever that is not of our concern).

Another thing that triggers me is that I've read you should be careful on uploading your profile picture since you can not delete it even though you can change it. So far I don't know what are the motivations and the cause behind this design decision. It feels like it's behaving in a blockchain way.

SSB and me

In one word, here is what I feel: frustration.

What I've noticed is things seems to be OK for people using it/working on/with it for quite some time now. My guess is they are either not using everything (like git-ssb, a git layer upon ssb #duh, which is down since I joined the network and probably even way before that) or not having this follow back issues since they joined when it was probably in a better shape, or created their own pub server at first to join the network and killed them by now, …

I'm sad. And disappointed. But mostly sad. I want to believe in SSB but so far the experience is really bad. And I'm not even exaggerating.

And it's not just me. Landing on Patchwork, I've read a lot of publications mentioning the same issues, the same frustrations. And the worst is that you can't tell anyone because the way things are made no one can read you!

Now let me clarify something. I am grateful to the amazing works that people have been doing and think it's a must have. Let's not forget to temper my feelings. I'm hugely frustrated but it might be worsen because I had huge expectations.

Let's end it here

Now, I am disappointed and frustrated. I don't really know how to speak with people that could help. I want to believe in SSB and the likes if there is but it started too badly. I'll have to take some steps back if I don't want to just throw it all out.

If you can help me, enlighten me, orientate me, please do! Write to me.