rstat.us: building a community on a community

Recently some friends of mine along with myself found it desirable to move away from Twitter based on their policies and terms of service. Each of the existing alternatives had something major lacking and doing what computer scientists seemed to do best, we decided to reinvent the wheel. Except in this case the existing wheel was square and chained down and the alternatives were unattractive and written in PHP.

The idea for rstat.us was born. The name coming from "R" as in "ruby" and "R" as in "our". The idea is that using the ostatus protocol the whole microblogging structure can be completely distributed with many different individuals running their own nodes. Existing sites, like identi.ca, already use this protocol. Rstat.us itself was developed over 10 days with only the basic features being written and the intent for launch was to have a simple functional site that was able to do the bare minimum.

Initially after launch the site had a massive rush in traffic, accounts were created, and shorty after features were demanded and bugs were discovered. The issues list on github was linked and pointed to and all of our email inboxes were flooded with messages. In a matter of a couple days we already had thousands of users. Those that chose to create accounts with their existing twitter accounts had the messages automatically posted to twitter and word spread rapidly. We are using what we are trying to "replace" in order to get the word out about who we are and what we do. The best part is that it's working.

Most encouraging, though, was the pull requests that starting coming in through github. The github repository has 293 watchers, and 67 forks. Almost 30 different people are responsible for the current status of the website. Many more than that if you consider the number of people actively submitting bug requests. Github has been extremely instrumental in allowing us to grow and add as many features as fast as we did.

I love hearing feedback from the community that not only is the project itself extremely organized, but the source itself is an extremely valuable learning tool. Hopefully, rstat.us may demonstrate the value of distributed technologies and the overall usefulness of being able to talk across communities.

You can follow me on rstat.us and view the source for the project on github.