Life outside the Big Blue Box

Photo by mkhmktg (Creative Commons).
Photo by mkhmktg (Creative Commons)

It’s not that everyone needs to stop using Facebook but those who actually communicate with friends, participate in communities and organise real life meetings really should start using something else as well. The rest could spend less time looking at stream of pictures and random blurbs, but for that Facebook is really ideal. Just like television.

As I’ve already written before:

Somebody said: “i would love to see hitchhikers leave CS and FB for their chats”. I promise to work hard to make this happen. Might take a year or two but eventually, slowly. *

Facebook can be very effective tool at organising events or building communities. A lot of people are reachable via it daily. Hitchgathering — the annual gathering of European hitchhikers — was originally organised purely at the wiki and mailing lists, but slowly discussions moved over to Facebook. It has grown from a mailing list of 100 actives to a Facebook group of 7000. Daily at the group people ask questions, look for travel companions and hosts. The same has happened to many previously active CouchSurfing groups.

Just ignoring the power of Facebook won’t lead anywhere, we have to be more pragmatic.

Ok, so how do we get people out?

At communities we develop, we shouldn’t overlook the “Facebook effect”. Instead let’s allow people to use their data from Facebook so that they could benefit from their existing contacts, events, profiles and groups without visiting the blue site itself. At the same time you need to offer these tools to meet people’s needs at your network and frankly just do a better job. Your network cannot be built only upon Facebook obviously, but it can benefit from it and therefore survive. Facebook does not get any of your data or contacts from Trustroots. You don’t have to be pushing anything (or anyone) back to Facebook.

For instance, at Trustroots we allow people to connect with their profiles in Facebook and elsewhere. That’s not at all required of course (and will never be). Those not using Facebook won’t miss a thing.

Trustroots minimizes your time spent online and maximizes time spent with people. Almost the opposite of FB, which gets people addicted and attached to the site, to sell ads.

However hard we try to encourage people to fill up their profiles and hope they’ll bring friends with them to the new network, they will still leave their profiles empty and their friend connections will mostly remain outside Trustroots. For a new site to nourish and avoid having a stack of empty profiles, it’s important to have also other mechanisms to show they are real, trustworthy people with a history of social interactions collected somewhere else.

Trustroots is still at the very early stage, but eventually we’re planning to:

Link to your other profiles

Creating an account anywhere is quick, but creating years of social history isn’t. Why hide it? You can now already add a link to your Twitter and Facebook profiles.

See your contacts on a map

See in an instant where all your Facebook friends are. You can use the same feature with your Trustroots connections; FB just brings extra content to it and many people who are not likely to join Trustroots anytime soon.

See who/what you have in common with someone

If you like the same groups, follow the same person on Twitter, have mutual contacts in Trustroots or Facebook, you will probably trust that person more. Even with an empty profile.

Fill your profile with content from other sites

Now, this idea has been getting interesting criticism. Automatic filling is often perceived as lazyness. It’s nothing more than copy-pasting your CouchSurfing or BeWelcome profile descriptions. If that prevents empty profiles, be it. Again, you still need other methods to encourage people to make their profiles interesting.

Show who of your Facebook contacts are also at Trustroots

Pretty self explanatory.

Get those discussions and user mentions out of FB

I don’t yet know how but eventually I want this to happen.

Our ideals

Internet neutrality, privacy, decentralization, or simply disliking to give personal data to capitalist corporations are all important matters, but not everyone is concerned.

We who believe in freedom, open source and non-profit organizations, should work on this issue pragmatically, not with unproductive emotional fuss.

The rest will follow.


  1. Just by the way, some ~70% profiles are connected to Facebook and/or Twitter. Many of them are (great) hitchhikers and travellers I was communicating only on FB before. I wouldn’t feel comfortable anyone telling bad word about these people.

  2. A positively brilliant explanation/elaboration – bravo!

  3. As someone very much considering participating in the Hitchgathering this year, I felt quite excluded from it because all communication was now happening in a Facebook group. Instead of trying to get Hitchgathering out of Facebook, it would have been nicer if it had never ended up on FB to begin with. Hitchwiki used to have forums that could have served that purpose, but they went down and never came back up. The Rainbow Family offers a good example of how those who like FB can use it if they must, but the “official” discussion happens elsewhere, on venues that they control.

    So I think a very high priority now for hitchhiking discussion is to restore a forum, linked to from both TR and Hitchwiki. Why would this have to take a year or two? It would come now at an important time: many people stayed on CS only because it had a very good hitchhiking forum, but they are so fed up with CS now that they are leaving it, and they need another helpful forum out there somewhere.

    1. Christopher: We want to implement discussions very well and it’s not on top of the features we have to implement now, so it (realistically) will take some time. Dealing with that stuff requires help from volunteers as well and we don’t have proper structures for that yet, either. I think we’ll do some sort of city pages first and start experimenting with discussions there later.

      At Hitchwiki Rémi wanted to implement new forum software already in January-February, but we’ll see. If we have time (I doubt).

      BuddyPress+Wordpress installation at Hitchwiki is pain to maintain, breaks all the time and is so cumbersome to use that most of the folks don’t bother. Discussions started to move to FB due — I believe — because FB is technically very good for it. We’re thinking of ditching it completely in 2015, but I’ll send separate mails about it to the mailing lists before we decide on anything.

      BuddyPress deprecated forum feature so they had to go at the same time at Hitchwiki, too. Discussion groups are still there, eg.: Hitchhiking and Travel partners but they’re very ghostly compared to their FB alternatives: Hitchhiking partners worldwide, hitchhiketribe, hitchgathering and many more.

  4. […] then there’s the long term goal to actually get people out of Facebook for many things, starting with some very active FB groups related to low budget […]

  5. “Those not using Facebook won’t miss a thing.”

    Except uploading a picture?
    I know there’s another option to do so (gravatar), but what about the ones who don’t have a WordPress account either?

    1. We’ve got avatar uploading ready and in testing — we’ve just been busy coding Hitchwiki these weeks and thus didn’t find proper time to push it online for you guys to enjoy. Patience! :-)

  6. Thanks for the effort to explain why you’re linking trustroots to facebook, but frankly, I didn’t buy it. Why on earth should a community who believes in “freedom, open source and non-profit organizations” tie their structure to a greedy capitalist enterprise that is precisely the opposite of those three things? By setting up the trustroots community as simply an extension of Facebook, you’re being subservient to corporate capitalism. That’s not what the world needs, another network dependent on Facebook, like so many others. You’re just giving them more power. By the way this is going, in 20 years time the whole world economy will be controlled by Google, Facebook and Amazon. Just read the news. From this month, Amazon will start to sell fresh groceries in the UK. The future is scary and you’re not doing anything to prevent it from happening.

    1. Hi Pedro,

      Thanks for writing.

      >another network dependent on Facebook

      This is false — you can perfectly sign up to and use Trustroots without anything to do with Facebook. I challenge you to try. ;-)

      >The future is scary and you’re not doing anything to prevent it from happening.

      I disagree about us not doing anything. We are actively trying to make it easier for people to use less Facebook.

  7. “tie their structure to [Facebook]”

    This isn’t the case, in the least. I think BW/Mikael is absolutely on the right track, with regard to making it easy for people to make use of existing/external social media profiles and history. Unless a social network reaches some kind of “critical mass,” it will forever be hobbled with insufficient value. And as Mikael has stated repeatedly, the information from other networks is imported only, never exported.


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