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What is Diaspora*?
As a long-time user and fervent advocate of the leading open-source, privacy-aware, social network, Diaspora*, I was recently very shaken by the death of Ilya Zhitomirskiy. Ilya was one of the four original founders of the project and a core developer. He died this past Saturday. The cause of death is believed to have been suicide though it has not yet been conclusively confirmed.
Diaspora* is a rather young social network, making its debut in November of 2010. As of this writing it is still in Alpha. Many people are familiar with the even newer Google+ and its use of “Circles”. However, few know that Diaspora* had such a feature from its very launch, called “Aspects”. Aspects operate in a similar, if not easier-to-use, fashion. Diaspora* is spreading by word of mouth, as the project is donation funded. It was started by four NYU college students with a desire to make a social network that didn’t operate like a panopticon.
What’s wrong with other social networks?
Other social networks like Facebook and Google+ are wielded by multi-billion-dollar multi-national corporations. These corporations use these networks to build a centralized database of our lives. Multiple controversies have arisen with these corporations over their use of our information. Their data is often openly accessible to government agencies with specialized interfaces. They enable surveillance, profiling, and identity theft on a scale hitherto unknown. These popular social networks are the most effective panopticons of all time, putting everyone in a position to socialize about any and everything together. While we do this we supply personal photographs, videos, and information in a convenient ready-for-database form. We do this without any way of knowing if others are monitoring and what others are doing with this information.
The founders of Diaspora* set out to make a social network that was quite different. Their social network demonstrates a commitment to privacy, decentralization, community ownership, and freedom of speech.
Privacy features like “Aspects” are built-in and prominent so you can be sure that what you say is seen only by the connections you specify. Additionally, the network is decentralized, such that anyone (with the property equipment and know-how) can host the software of the network themselves. Each instance is called a “pod” and seamlessly connects to all of the other pods on the network. Diaspora* is not located in any one place on the net, such as diaspora.com, but rather is located at any domain hosting a pod. The founders’ pod is Join Diaspora, but is invite only. However, there has been an outcropping of more and more pods allowing instant public joining as well. These include Diasp.org (which I’m on) and Poddery, among dozens of others. Most of these pods are ad-free and donation-funded.
Diaspora* also freely allows the use of pseudonyms and doesn’t require inputting any personal or identifying information whatsoever to use and enjoy. This is in stark contrast to other proprietary social networks. You can have multiple accounts with different names and that is just fine. The founders of the social network realized that pseudonyms promote free speech and the protection of personal privacy.
While only 1 year old and in alpha, without millions or billions in funding like other social networks, the network is surprisingly feature-rich. Current features include: convenient tagging functionality; following public posts when you add someone prior to reciprocal sharing; animated gifs; embedded videos and music; messages; email forwarding; tools for rapid sharing through your browser; photo upload (with photos only posting to those who you want to see them); posting to FB, Tumblr, and Twitter from within Diaspora*; public posting; a community spotlight feed; the ability to follow tags; a markup language for formatting text; ability to post very long messages with an expandable preview showing in the feed; posting pictures as clickable links from url. New features are always being added.
Did I mention that the program is also open-source? Software developers can examine the code and take part in its development.
Why is Diaspora* Right for Astrologers?
Astrologers should find Diaspora* to be the most hospitable of all the social networks. By astrologers I mean people who do astrology for a living, as well as hobbyists and people just interested in learning and talking about it. Astrologers as a group are frequently under attack by both religious fundamentalists and the skeptic community. Astrology is seen to involve supernatural views and concepts largely incompatible with both religious fundamentalism and materialist fundamentalism.
Most astrologers don’t do astrology for a living. Additionally, some are involved in serious scientific or intellectual work. Many jobs also involve extensive work with the public at large. A privacy aware and decentralized social network can allow people to discuss astrology without broadcasting it to others. Talk about science with your scientist friends and astrology with your astrology friends freely on the net, without going permanently “on record” with both. You also don’t need to set up a profile of yourself for advertisers, government agencies, and who knows who else. Social networking is intended to be chatty, informal, and free-flowing. With Diaspora* it can be like that without all the big corporations and data harvesting. Talk about astrology, politics, or anything you want without a need to explain yourself to those who may pass judgment on you, or even seek to harm you.
Aside: Astrological Circumstances Surrounding Ilya’s Death
When Ilya passed I was very shaken, and I am still quite shocked that such a bright, charismatic, and innovative person could see the end of life at only 22 years of age.
Astrology doesn’t really help me to change the events of life, as it may for some people. I look to my will and spirituality to overcome. However, astrology does provide me with some insight that everything happens purposefully within a context of rich meaning, known by an intelligence far greater than my own. For this reason, when unfortunate events occur, I eventually get around to looking at the astrology.
Ilya was born on October 12, 1989. I don’t know his time or place of birth, thus the possibility for very extensive chart work is ruled out unless such reliable information comes to light. I do know that he was born with the Sun at late 18 or early 19 degrees Libra, co-present with the malefic planet Mars at 14 degrees Libra, and Mercury at 1 degree Libra. Mercury is in phasis, and thus appears to be strong in the chart, showing intellectualism. This stellium of planets in the socially-oriented Air sign, Libra, is squared (in a sign with a 90 degree relationship with the other sign) by both Jupiter and Saturn (Jupiter and Saturn being opposed to each other in Cancer and Capricorn respectively.
Saturn conjunct Sun in Solar Return
Ilya passed one month after his most recent solar return. A solar return is one’s astronomical birthday – the exact moment of the Sun’s return to its position at one’s birth. The solar return has been used since ancient times as a chart signifying important happenings for the year. Saturn in his solar return was at 20 degrees Libra, within about a degree or less of Ilya’s Sun. Saturn is the planet signifying death, as well as melancholy, depression, fear, and dread. The Sun is the planet most associated with the life force. Ilya’s solar return signified a strong and rare joining of the force of death and dread to his personal force of light and life. I found this to be a sad and fascinating metaphor for his death.
Saturn’s trip around the zodiac takes about 28 years, and thus Saturn conjoins one’s natal Sun for a period that occurs at most about once every 28 years. While the event happens about every 28 years, it is even rarer that at the time of one’s solar return for the specific year of the conjunction, Saturn should be within about a degree of the natal Sun. Note that same configuration occurred in Kurt Cobain’s final solar return prior to his suicide.
Rest In Peace Ilya ZhitomirskiyI thank you sincerely for your dedication to human integrity and liberty. You will be dearly missed, both by those intimate with your unique spirit and the millions whose lives you will have helped to make a little better.