Last week I had the pleasure of chatting with David Morley, one of Diaspora*’s longest-contributing members, about his experience with Diaspora*, running his own server, and his love of cats. You may know David as the founder of Diasp.org, the second-largest pod in the Diaspora* network. He also created the current podupti.me site where users can check the stats of different pods and join open ones. Read on to find out more about David’s contributions to Diaspora*, and his answer to the all-important question – Star Wars vs. Star Trek.
Kayla: You had one of the first publicly available pods for people to join. How much has changed with running Diasp.org since you started?
David: Well when I started, it was, you know, super budget VPS, and that lasted for like a month or two. Then as the pod started getting so much bigger, it started just getting destroyed by the traffic. So I kind of just started jumping around to new VPS’s trying to find one that would sustain the traffic. Actually the one that I found was working really well – they kind of filled it up, but a lot of small companies kind of just take the money and run type of thing. So I started looking into dedicated servers and said well that kind of seems like the way to go, but like they’re kind of expensive and kind of like unmanaged dedicated servers because I can do that stuff myself, so that’s kind of where we’re at now. Right now, the pod is on three dedicated servers. And, I mean, we went from like a little 512 VPS to two dedicated servers, and 40 gigs of RAM or something from 512 megabytes of RAM, so we’ve kind of grown quite a bit.
K: So where do you see that going? Like the same direction that it has – growing?
D: Um actually no, I see that as kind of the top – where we’re at right now. I think we saw some pretty big spikes in traffic, like up to 80,000 users a day, and we’re at about 50% of that, even before I added another server. So I’ve got enough capacity to do like 5 times what we’re doing right now, but I don’t really see it growing past that just because there’s a point where there’s a lot of risk with having that much responsibility.
K: So why did you decide to start your own pod in the first place?
D: I mean, initially it was for myself – I thought “Oh, well this is cool,” and I wanted something that was open source and that I could contribute in. And it was a little scary for me because I had never used Ruby and I was like, well I can learn, it’s no big deal. But it was just initially for myself, and at that point it was kind of a big deal to install the code; it wasn’t like you could just install it on your local computer and then run that. It was like, well once you get it going it kind of needs to stay going. It’s kind of still the same way now – it needs to stay going and be dedicated to what it’s doing.
K: So tell me about podupti.me – the website that you started with all the statistics of the different pods that exist. How do you get those statistics?
D: I created that because there was another one out there that had kind of been abandoned, and I was just kind of frustrated with the data on it. The number one pod hadn’t been updated in months and months and months, and the code – you would actually go on there and it wouldn’t work with the other pods. So I was just like well, I can kind of create my own and go from there. And I thought it’d be easy to just collect the data myself, but that’s uptime data, and uptime sites check your site every two minutes and keep the data forever – that’s going to be a lot of data. So I decided to use existing uptime monitors. The one that I chose was Pingdom because they have a free account that you can sign up for and the pod has been on there for 17 months now. The site updates itself every hour and just kind of checks that we’re live and whether you can log in or not.
K: Cool, and then an unrelated to Diaspora* question…Max told me that you are a big fan of cats, so tell me a little bit about that.
D: Yeah, I am cat-obsessed. I actually just have two right now from four, but yeah I’m cat-obsessed and I’m gonna be one of those little old cat ladies at some point in my life with a house full of cats.
K: So how did that start?
D: Well I was born and raised in Arizona, and I used to go to Chicago every summer to visit my aunt. She was a cat lady, and there would always be a litter of kitties and a few cats who I kind of fell in love with, and every summer there would be a few older cats and the litter of younger cats…and it was just kind of this cat-fest every summer. And I came from a dog house, and I was kind of like, dogs are okay, but I didn’t really connect with them the way I connected with cats…I must be half-cat because I just get along with them so well.
K: Fantastic. So back to Diaspora*…what do you think your favorite thing you’ve contributed to the project is, and what would you most like to see in the future on your pod?
D: Well I think that podupti.me is my biggest contribution because you know, you can’t have everybody on one pod, and we just need to keep getting the message out that you can join a pod or start a pod. I think the podupti.me site really shows how many people are looking for a place to go and a pod ,and I think it’s nice that that exists. As far as going forward, I still want to see the ability for people to do this on their own. It’s still pretty tricky, I mean it’s not a simple task. You’ve gotta be a little computer savvy and you’ve gotta be kind of Linux savvy, so I think the more that becomes a reality, you can just be like, “Hey try this out,” and the people who actually try it will think it’s pretty cool.
K: Definitely. On a broader scale, what do you think the future of social networking will evolve into? Like where do you see it going in the next five years?
D: Wow, I don’t know. Big question. I think that obviously there are some really big sites, like Facebook, that seem like they’re at their bubble right now. Everyone’s joined it and everyone’s tried it, and everyone’s like “Eh, I’m kind of done with that. It’s not really what I want to do with my time.” If you’re into things like Farmville or whatever, I mean you’re always going to want to hang out there, but if you actually want a social network then I think you’re going to realize that it’s not really that much fun anymore. So I think that it’ll actually evolve into smaller-type things, smaller-type social networks where you’ve got your niche of friends – kind of like old forums. I used to go on forums that were just people who had really similar interests as me, and right now I still go on forums but we talk about cell-phone things or whatever and that’s all it’s for. So I kind of see that with social networks right now – it’s like yeah, a site that has 800 million people who talk about everything is a lot of stuff, you know? If it were a site that only talked about Blackberry cell phones and that’s what I was really into, and that was my social network, then I could network with those people on the level of more than just a forum, of more of a social network, I think that’d be pretty cool.
K: Okay, and last question, Dan has a burning question for you – Star Wars or Star Trek?
D: Aw, jeez…I can never seem to pick because I’m a geek and I like both. Hm…I would have to pick Star Wars, I guess. Yeah, I’m gonna go with Star Wars. That’s a hard call, because the last few movies were so…dumb. And well, if the other movies had been…better, then I’d have been like hands down Star Wars, but they were so bad – I mean they weren’t bad, but you know…not geeky enough or whatever.
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A huge thanks to David Morley for his time and contributions to Diaspora*!