Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Recommended: Command Line's Podcast Interview about Microblogging with Evan Prodromou

By Dennis D. McDonald

Command Line continues a tradition of intelligent, literate, and thoughtful interviews with his October 1, 2008 interview with Evan Prodromou of Control Yourself. The interview discusses the related topics of open source software commercialization and the possible “federated” nature of post-Twitter microblogging.

Prodromou is responsible for laconica and Laconica is a free open source microblogging server. is Prodromou’s own microblogging service that uses the Laconica software to support its Twitter-like micro-blogging.

What I found most interesting about the interview is Prodromou’s discussion of the interrelationship between the free, open source distribution of Laconica and the evolution of commercial (paying) services around core applications. He makes the familiar arguments around why open source software can provide the foundation for a viable commercial operation based on differentiation and competition around service levels rather than around feature exclusivity. He envisions, for example, networks of Twitter-like micro-blogging servers operated by different entities that share a common underlying architecture — Laconica,presumably  — which thereby simplifies some level of data portability from server to server. Plus, given the open source nature of the basic software, upgrades, fixes, and enhancements can be propagated across operators.

It’s an interesting model. Prodromou discusses it in comparison with how some blogging software providers have prospered. Given the relative simplicity of functional complexity of a micro-blogging tools such as Twitter or Laconica, however, I wonder if the comparison is valid. As social networking tools become more commonplace, microblogging functionality and related services might just pale in comparison with the identity of the people and groups that use them.

In other words, people don’t join usually groups because of the features of the network, they join a service because of who belongs and/or who sponsors the group. True, making it easier to continue microblogging based conversations across networks due to server compatibility is potentially a good thing. But it may also have the counter impact of reducing innovation in the underlying system architecture.

Prodromou’s discussion is relevant to data portability and emerging standards in the social networking world. Only time will tell if Twitter’s lead in microblogging can be overtaken through proliferation of services such as Laconica. Nevertheless, I have signed up at

Copyright (c) 2008 by Dennis D.McDonald

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