Mastodon – a lightweight twitter that can weight a lot

So, the news broke.

It’s all over the Internet.

Mastodon is the new cool kid on the block.

It came out on my radars a few months ago on ProductHunt, but now it’s “officially” a serious project :

At least most of the major media outlets like for instance  :

Mashable: Bye, Twitter. All the cool kids are migrating to Mastodon.

MicWhat is Mastodon? Everything to know about new social network

Yahoo: Mastodon, the new alternative to Twitter

The Verge: Mastodon.social is an open-source Twitter competitor that’s growing like crazy

Then you have the usual nay-sayers (Don’t get too attached: Twitter ‘rival’ Mastodon will go extinct – like really … Lance? Are these all the reasons you found for real?) and some more balanced opinions : Could Mastodon be the social network to replace Twitter?

What’s clear is that the stock market is not taking this as a very good news : Mastodon Could Accelerate The Downtrend In Twitter Inc. Stock

 

Matt Lee – took notice and still trying to figure how he feels about it:

 

Which we can understand given the background :

 

 

But jokes aside – what’s important is that everyone noticed the evolution of the GNU-social compatible new player, and everyone wonder what’s going to happen there.

So I just wanted to share some ideas which are running in my head for a while already.

I already knew about GNU social before Mastodon but it used to have such a bad UX/UI that I decided it was not really useable yet and that either someone would take care it or that, one day I’d get to it (one of these many crazy project that most of the time stay in the drawer of with many other crazy projects…)

So I am very glad – and by the reaction of many, I am sure I can say we are all very glad, Eugen Rochko (@gargron) did the work – and brought GNU Social to a new level, adding more features beside just making it pretty.

 

Now where all this is going?

 

Well… the future will tell.

But here are some ideas I would love it go.

 

1. A true conversational platform

Twitter main strength (at least as I see it) is its capacity to make conversations happen. It’s the most conversational platform of today main stream social platform.

Yet, conversation is very community driven. Not everyone will feel comfortable in any kind of conversation. Not everyone have the same conversational culture, which mean some people will feel offended when no offence was meant on the other side. And that’s not only on Twitter (though, when you have 144 character to voice your opinion, it makes the exercice a bit tricky sometime). People get annoyed and angry in the real life over conversation that happen face to face… so it is bound to happen in the virtual world.

Twitter one dimensional aspect has led to a many issues due to a lack of compatibility of conversational culture.

In the real world, we organise our conversations in communities – where people share in common a conversational culture and or opinions, or topic of interests or references.

The concept of “instance” I hope will allow to bring back the whole concept of communities which is native to the conversation.

In a sense BBS and other forums had this feature built in. It’s just that it was not as flexible as twitter made it.

Because it’s federated, you can also get updates and interact on with other Mastodon users from the outside  (i.e: other instances).

 

2. Corporate internal network – like Slack but less annoying and more efficient

Internal communication are vital for any organisation.

Yet, we often lack the tools to make these communication efficient while yet not intrusive, etc.

Slack – the internal chat software – has tried to fix this problem. While we can discuss if it has really solved the communication aspect of the problem, we can agree it has created an great time-waster. Slack is today an IRC software on steroid – with jumping notification every 2 min – turning this magical software into an attention-whore that is not alway helping getting much done. (By the way, the way Slack is today – is very close to what IRC was a few – long – years ago.)

All this to day, that I am a big believer that Twitter-like platform like Mastodon Social for can be of a great use for internal communications for companies but – also – for interest-centered platform – just like Slack communities (see these examples: #People – for HR or Launch.chat for creatives or the VC club ).

For this to happen however, we need to see Mastodon have some SaaS options – and/or that hosting companies start to add the one-click-install I am talking about in this article about the cloud.

 

The future will tell

Really, I have no idea how this will grow.

What I know is that OpenSource software is not incompatible with business and making money – WordPress was once just an opensource fork and turned into a major company with a great product today – and also clear by today that it is not the only way to make it – Linus Torvald – principal developper of the linux kernel took a different road but still made his project successful (a clear euphemism).

All this to say that for now it looks exciting and we will see how things are moving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why should you give a damn about the internet

When I talk to people about the Internet – the first reaction is always : “Yes! Today you have no choice”.

Then when I dig a little deeper – you hear the real stories.

The “Yes… but…”
– not in our industry
– people are not buying online really
– the market is not ready
– it is still early

So first, who is connected?

Look, in case you haven’t noticed but everyone is.
You want numbers? Here they are:


Age 20 to 64 : 95%

Which is virtually everyone.

And the tendency is not going to go reverse any time soon:

The young generation is connected younger, and connected people in their late 50s and 60s today will not be less connected when they will be in their 70’s and and 80’s

And, what do you think they do when they are connected?

What would 95% of the population do?

Well… pretty normal things :

  • they search for informations about stuff they need – be it a product or a service. Actually over 89% (and probably more) are using a search engine before making a purchase decision.
  • Some buy things online – more and more actually – in 2007 it was around 25% average in Europe and today it’s more than 50%. If you look in details, you’ll see that places like the UK are already at 80% of its population buying online. Even France which is late on every trend is now at 55% of people buying online. The one who are dragging the stats down are countries of eastern Europe (Bulgaria was 2% in 2007 and is just 12% now or Romania who was also 2% and is just 8% now) – but they are improving and they’ll catch up.
  • When they don’t buy online, they check prices while they are in your shop, using their phone. (Google is reporting it’s around 82% of shoppers – which is an enormous proportion – but even if it’s just 50% that’d be already impressive).
  • They make money – with a growing amount of ecommerce businesses or even just people buy and selling on platforms like ebay / Airbnb / etc.
  • They save time – buy using google map, waze, and every other apps they can to get the information they need in no time (which include travelling information, buy plane tickets, etc.)
  • They have fun – watch-time of video and audio online is skyrocketing – TV is dead already for a while – (the only reason TV is not buried yet is because we are waiting for when advertisers will realise no one is watching and they’ll move their dollar somewhere else).

In short, Internet is a part of every aspect of our society, and for now it seems it’s not going anywhere. So you’d think more seriously about how you plan to build your internet presence and take care of what you do online because it is only going to get more and more critical.

Just my 2 cents…

The cloud is dead — long live the cloud!

Or why there is a massive opportunity for people in the hosting business.

Back in the (not-so-distant) days, if you wanted to have some online software — to manage your invoices or your customers — or any kind of business management solution — you had to have your own servers for your company and install-and-configure the hell out of it.

But then, SaaS came along (cloud solutions of all kinds) which started out of a general observation that people like instant-one-click-software things and if we could simplify it for them and break down the cost of the licence to a simple monthly subscription, shit would sell better.

That’s basically the concept behind every SaaS software out there : get your software running hands-on with no hassle, just pay us 49.99 a month on a 1 years contract locked in (ok, it’s not always that bad, but we’re going to crunch some numbers in a minute and you’ll see it is not sooo cheap either in the end.)

That’s how Basecamp, Asana, Trello, Freshbooks, Quickbooks, Salesforce, Dropbox, Insightly, Hubspot, Slack and countless others are rolling.

TL;DR : it used to be hard. The cloud came along and made it easy. amen

Easy is not cheap

For B2C solution, it makes tons of sense to have a subscription based, pay-as-you-go software — because you have many one of two, and they are pretty cheap (Netflix, Dropbox maybe Spotify… and you’re done, right?)
From a B2B standpoint however, I have more and more issues swallowing that blue p(b)ill.

Let’s run the following scenario:

if you are a 5 people business (so not that big) and you run some project management software, let’s say Assana, Google Business for your emails, an online quote solution, let’s take QuoteRoller, and you have a shared Dropbox solution for your team, and obviously you have a website.

That’s a simple set up for cloud collaboration:

  • Email/Online documents — Google For Business — $5 per user per month — so that’s $25 / Month
  • QuoteRoller — for invoicing / proposals / etc. that’s 19$ per user per month / so that’s an other 100$ per month for all your team.
  • Dropbox — one shared hard drive for the team — accessible on your phone, and everyone’s laptop — $10 per user per month — $50 every month
  • The accounting software, just one user will need to access it, so let’s roll with $20 per month.
  • And our project management solution, we said Asana, so let’s go with $10 per user per month — that’s *just* $50
  • And finally, the web hosting, a cheap solution starting at $8 a month (just made that one up but that would be a cheap shot — even if you can obviously find cheaper)
  • A total of a whopping $253 of cheap-ass licence for a basic software to operate a small 5-people business.

That is *not* cheap!

When you look at the cost to simply have your own dedicated server — which for 5 people business and simple website for local customers would be fine at $20 a month.

Now, where will you go to take the software… because that’s what you buy when you go SaaS.

The alternative : OSS FTW!

In the past 10 years, a considerable amount of work was done to develop and grow open source cloud solutions.

WordPress — the open source CMS to manage your website — is the most commonly known.

WordPress was one of the first really usable Open Source software, but today you have a larger choice of software available.

 

 

And just like WordPress is available today with a one-click install, there are no reasons why all this great software (which we’ll cover in a sec) cannot be installed also with one-click install.

Introducing the OSS Business Suite

So, which great software are we talking about?
Let’s do a quick review of a bunch of options you have available, mostly for businesses (as this the focus of this article).

InvoiceNinja

InvoiceNinja give me the feel they want to be the WordPress of invoicing software. They have a .com site where you can get a free setup and a paid one, and a .org site where you can get the open source self-hosted version (https://www.invoiceninja.org/)

Feel very kinda similar to WordPress.com and WordPress.org set up (where you get a free — premium — site hosted at wordpress.com but you can get the source code and install it at WordPress.org).

The software itself is very smooth, very nice UI/UX, not the usual crappy stuff and much better than many closed-source software out there in terms of interface but also in terms of functionality.
You should check their demo.

Your CRM needs with SuiteCRM

SuiteCRM is an evolution of SugarCRM, an open source CRM solution that was quite popular a few years ago but that was very quickly left out by the mothership of SugarCRM and therefore wasn’t was attractive anymore.

SuiteCRM has picked up the challenge to rebuilt SugarCRM to its ancient glory and has made significant work to make it more usable.

They live of training and consulting so they don’t have much doc available, but there is a great community and SugarCRM itself has a lot of documentation.

And honestly, it is really not that hard to use.

Now, if you want an enterprise level CRM with single-sign-in — you can easily add functionalities that still would be cheaper than a SaaS version of SugarCRM.

If it is on your server, it’s yours, you own it. You manage it, and you add to it whatever you want.

Mautic — Marketing Automation

So you know Hubspot if you are in the Marketing industry. Well Mautic is a bit like HubSpot but open source and free. or, well… quite the same… ok the comparison is more for the sake of illustration.

What’s certain is that Mautic is a flexible open source marketing automation software including interesting data collection tools and segmentation based on engagements and point of contacts.

  • It does has a few nice features
  • A/B Tests
  • Automated Drip Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • CRM Integration
  • Event Management
  • Landing Page & Form Creator
  • Contact Analysis
  • Contact Management
  • Contact Scoring
  • List Management
  • Smart Contact Capture Forms
  • Social Media Integration
  • Web Activity Monitoring
  • CMS Integration
  • Multiple Email Service Providers
  • eCommerce Integration

Very smart.

Worth checking.

Project Management — Open Project

 

OpenProject is like Asana but open source (and yes, if you are more into trello-like, you can go and check RestyaBoard)

Open Project has pretty much everything any organisation that need project management would need.

 

So have a look, really worth it.

 

Now, imagine a hosting provider who would give you in just one click — your website with WordPress but also your project management system and your CRM and your invoicing solution, all this for a fixed price.
Not bad, uhm..

 

Slack alternatives — Mattermost & RocketChat

Mattermost and Rocketchat are two alternatives to the very popular internal chat software who’s main promised was to make email obsolete.

While we can debate if Slack is reaching its purpose or not, one thing is sure : people like to chat internally and Slack is nice.

Why go self-hosted instead of using slack… well why not? If you have this in a few clicks just like Slack to the difference that you own the whole thing, versus sharing your internal company conversation with Slack…

You decide…

I am just putting all the options on the table.

Mastodon

If you are not into chatting but still want to build a community, just to let you know, we have a twitter alternative out there, it’s called Mastodon.

I can totally understand that would not be your first move, but while we are considering/discussing open source software-quick-installs, I am somewhere deep inside pretty sure that if we would unleash a usable twitter-like solution to the business world, it would work.

Organisation would totally make an internal twitter for their own needs, and I can imagine totally a large number of organisation adopting it.

Especially because Slack (and slack alternative) are attention suckers and can get really annoying to the point it’s becoming a nuisance to your productivity.

So a twitter-like interface but with all the privacy and control that goes along with hosting it yourself, would be very handy in many cases.

Especially with the growth of remote-workers…

Anyway, I’ll probably write a separate article on this matter.

So just that you know — it exists, it’s pretty awesome and you could use it for your company.

Helpy.io

Last for today but not least — helpy.io is a great open source customer-service solution.


Tickets-system and customer-care are hot right now, and for a good reason — because people want you to be reactive to their demand, else they’ll take their dollar somewhere else or will simply curse you if they can’t go anywhere.

But good help-desk software can be expensive.

Zendesk and Freshdesk have the upper hand on the market but with a pricing-per-seat, it can get really expensive.

If you think of NGOs for instance, who could make some great use of their volunteer time for customer-care, but are on a tight budget… Zendesk is totally out of their budget.

Helpy.io is an open source solution (written in ruby for those who care about these kind of details) and honestly it’s awesome, the interface is super cool and it just make you feel like answering people’s request all day is the most interesting thing to do (think about it, at the age of remote workers — you might not want to invest in hype internal design for the office, but in the design of your internal company software, where most of your workers will spend time).

What else…

Probably more…

Actually more, but this article is getting longer than I thought so we’ll stop here — and what matter is the general logic behind all this :

OSS + self-hosting = cheaper and better than SaaS in many cases.

You can get the same for less and, on the top of that, you get the privacy control and the real ownership of the data, which you don’t have when it’s in a cloud that belong to somebody else.

Here come the TL;DR section:

  • SaaS software is getting expensive as hell
  • Having your own server is a fixed price and very affordable
  • Open Source Online software can be use for most of daily operation in a business
  • Hosting company who lost some market share because of SaaS have all the interest in the world to set up quick one-click-install and regain what they’ve lost by providing not just hosting but actual business solution