Fire Signal Server – The Inspiration Behind Laconi.ca?

logo.pngMy good friend, Scott Lemon, made me aware of an interesting project underway that appears to possibly have been the inspiration behind Laconi.ca, the open source software behind the service, Identi.ca. The project is called “Fire Signal“, and is the brain child of Ron Whitman, the developer behind the Twitter Traffic alerts site, Commuter Feed.

Fire Signal appears to be a set of standards set out to encourage micro-blogging platform developers to build their systems in an open, distributed way. Identi.ca states that they are building off of Laconi.ca which is based on the “Open Microblogging Protocol“. Zenji Open Projects (Ron Whitman’s set of open standards) calls this protocol, “Fire Signal”. According to the Zenji Open Projects wiki,

“Fire Signal is an open protocol designed to allow users to publish and send short public and private messages of 160 characters or less across distributed web-based networks of Fire Signal Servers, the second initiative of this project. The concept behind this is commonly known by the term “micro-blogging”, popularized primarily by the web service Twitter and a growing number of competitors. “

650px-FireSignal_Overview.pngAccording to the diagram presented on the same page, the concept looks amazingly like the concepts behind laconi.ca, with multiple content servers all sharing data between each other. I see no links to code on the project (it seems to be a standard only, similar to the micro blogging protocol identi.ca references), and Ron Whitman seems to be the only contributor, but the site does claim that laconi.ca is a working example of Fire Signal Server. It’s interesting that the laconi.ca website and openmicroblogging website make no mention of Fire Signal Server, nor does identi.ca.

It’s hard to tell if this was the origin of Laconi.ca or not, or if several ideas all began at once, and ended up having the majority of efforts focused towards the laconi.ca project, but if it is the inspiration, Ron Whitman deserves a lot more credit for his contribution now that identi.ca seems to be taking off by storm. If not, this does seem like an excellent new project to help out with – I hope the two projects could work together. I’m interested to find out more about the origins of this and how it relates to laconi.ca – this concept is truly the future of micro-blogging!

You can find me on identi.ca at http://identi.ca/jessestay, or follow all my updates throughout the web and discuss on http://friendfeed.com/jessestay.

UPDATE: Per Evan Prodromou, founder of identi.ca, and the Laconi.ca project, the two projects are indeed separate. Hopefully Ron Whitman can take his great ideas and contribute with the Laconi.ca cause now. It’s nice to see lots of great minds wanting such a standard!

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92 thoughts on “Fire Signal Server – The Inspiration Behind Laconi.ca?

  1. Well they list one working example being laconi.ca, which is what powers
    identi.ca and several other microblogging services. The idea behind
    laconi.ca, if I understand correctly, is that your followers, your posts,
    your content, follows you to whatever supported microblogging platform you
    move to. If Twitter deletes your followers and they're a supported
    platform, it's okay, because the other servers all have localized copies as
    well. If identi.ca goes down, you could re-route to another supported site
    and post and get updates there and they would appear again on identi.ca when
    it came back up. That's the idea behind it, I think.

    Like

  2. Hey, Jesse. I hadn't heard of the Fire Signal Server before it came up on Identi.ca this weekend. However, people have been talking about federated microblogging for a while, and if FSS contributed to that conversation, then it did influence my thinking at least indirectly. I'd love to get Ron's help shaping the OpenMicroBlogging standard and network.

    Like

  3. Thanks for your input Evan – do you know much about the origins of Laconica
    and how it started? This Fire Signal Server that he's proposing is very
    interesting, and interesting that he's putting Laconi.ca as a “working
    example” of it. Hopefully he's now fully involved in the Laconi.ca project
    and microblogging protocol.

    Like

  4. Jesse: the origins of Laconica? Lessee… probably http://evan.prodromou.name/Identica_launch and http://evan.prodromou.name/oscon2008-evan-prodr… are the best places to look. I think you might have a mistaken impression that Laconica or OMB antedate Identi.ca; they don't. I started on the code base in May 2008, released for a private beta in June, then public in July. My guess is that he's talking about Laconi.ca as a working example of the FSS because it's a working example of the principles.

    Like

  5. Thanks Evan – that's what I was wondering. You're doing great work, btw –
    hopefully he joins you to help in your effort rather than continuing on a
    separate standard (I'll update the post in a few here to make sure that's
    noted). If I can help at all with the cause please let me know – I'm one of
    your most loyal users!

    Like

  6. Hi Jesse,
    Just found your article – I'm Ron Whitman, who made the Zenji Open Projects site.

    Actually, the wiki was essentially just a sketch of ideas I had for the concept of a microblog protocol. It is sort of my manifesto for how I would envision a microblog protocol to work, with the notable addition of geolocation and an emphasis on real-world mission-critical “published short messaging”.

    I had been working on the wiki but let it sit until I read about Identi.ca, so I released the Fire Signal wiki unfinished in case someone else wanted to glean from it.

    That said Fire Signal is in no way the inspiration for Identica, since the info was published a few days after Identica was released.

    Thanks!
    Ron

    Like

  7. Thanks Ron – it's great that more people like you are thinking of a
    distributed system though. What are your thoughts on the way identi.ca is
    doing it? Would you do it any differently?

    Like

  8. Well, Identi.ca is still very young so I'm sure there are lots of items that I'd like which are under construction.

    My primary interests are with the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, and Laconi.ca. OMB needs serious work – a bit more democracy around it and better documentation. I'm still not sure how various Laconica sites interact with each other. It would be nice to see OMB as something can be viewed as truly open and something anyone could build a service off of, with or without using Laconi.ca as the server backend.

    Vision-wise I'd love to see these services take the whole field past the “Twitter replacement” concept and more into the evolution of the behavior. Even the term “micro blogging” is misleading, since many examples of Twitter user behavior have nothing to do with blogging or even status updates, especially in the case of interacting with various Twitter-API dependent sites. I've started calling it “published short messaging”, which is deliberately more open-ended.

    In some ways I'd like to see OMB or Laconica evolve into something that could be installed everywhere, as ubiquitous as email. In some ways it should be just a feature for an ISP or social networking site rather than services unto themselves. It would dissolve Identi.ca, Twitter, Pownce or Plurk as “microblogging” brands though – I suppose these services would simply become specialized published short messaging communities…

    Anyhow, there's my little rant on the subject – thanks for the writeup!

    Like

  9. Hi everybody, this is one of my first blog comments evar, but I think i'm the first guy to be so taken with the omb spec that I implemented it myself.

    I first bookmarked it on June 16 and started working on my implementation right away, leaning on the diso-project's OAuth/XRDS wordpress plugins I had some of the spec working when Laconi.ca and Identi.ca were announced 2 weeks later.

    From there I grabbed Laconi.ca and started to make my service compatible.

    Anyway, the reason I'm posting a comment here is because of Ron's comment about “could be installed everywhere” — that's a huge part of how I write PHP code. In fact my implementation of omb should work on Mac, Linux, Windows, PostgreSQL, MySQL, PHP4, PHP5 etc.

    Check it out here:

    http://openmicroblogger.com

    http://openmicroblogger.org

    Thanks, and thanks especially to Evan for putting together OAuth/XRDS etc into something really useful and fun.

    — Brian

    Like

  10. Hey Brian – so glad my blog could be one of your first comments! Did you
    implement that with your own code, or using Laconi.ca out of curiosity?
    It's very nice regardless – would love to know more about how you
    implemented it.

    Like

  11. For years I've been trying to make an “architecture of participation” of some sort — I already have my own OpenID server with SSL at http://e-cred.org and I started writing a Restful PHP framework several years back as a “study project”.

    In May/June I was looking at SMOB which is Semantic-web microblogging basically, and I thought that was probably the key to causing sites to be able to interoperate (and actually, I think that's still the way to go for Groups because a SMOB group can span multiple sites)

    While studying OAuth and searching for XRDS and trying to figure out where that all fits in, I found Evan's spec posted as a blog post on http://search.technorati.com — it was weird because I would google for “openmicroblogging” and just the single result would come up. I was impressed, because here was something new, and nobody seemed to be doing anything with it, and it was _simple_ which is always the key pretty much.

    So I took my PHP framework and used it to implement the spec from scratch, I've built a lot of in-house sites and a lot of my own sites with the framework but it's pretty new and will certainly need a lot of work to make it solid. But it does have some good design aspects like Model Security, Restful polymorphic controllers, Routes and Content-negotiation so it's pretty sophisticated if a little hurkin'.

    As you can see I took advantage of some existing infrastructure — A WordPress theme called “prologue” and the diso-project plugins. Basically I wrote a fairly crude compatibility layer for my framework to take advantage of those wordpress plugins. All they really provide are the theme and the OAuth and OpenID libraries. The actual implementation of openmicroblogging is in the plugin called “omb.php”.

    The OAuth “dance” was pretty exciting to get working for the first time, it's like OpenID the way it bounces between sites and I think a lot of awesome software will be written with OAuth and OpenID in the future.

    — Brian

    Like

  12. Brian, simply awesome – I'm going to blog about this tonight if you don't
    mind. This further proves my point that microblogging is a technology and
    not a service. My friend, Joseph Scott at Automattic would be very
    interested to see that as well since he wrote Prologue. Stay tuned tonight
    and I'll publish a post about it – you've got an awesome, extendible product
    there!

    Like

  13. Hi everybody, this is one of my first blog comments evar, but I think i'm the first guy to be so taken with the omb spec that I implemented it myself.

    I first bookmarked it on June 16 and started working on my implementation right away, leaning on the diso-project's OAuth/XRDS wordpress plugins I had some of the spec working when Laconi.ca and Identi.ca were announced 2 weeks later.

    From there I grabbed Laconi.ca and started to make my service compatible.

    Anyway, the reason I'm posting a comment here is because of Ron's comment about “could be installed everywhere” — that's a huge part of how I write PHP code. In fact my implementation of omb should work on Mac, Linux, Windows, PostgreSQL, MySQL, PHP4, PHP5 etc.

    Check it out here:

    http://openmicroblogger.com

    http://openmicroblogger.org

    Thanks, and thanks especially to Evan for putting together OAuth/XRDS etc into something really useful and fun.

    — Brian

    Like

  14. Hey Brian – so glad my blog could be one of your first comments! Did you
    implement that with your own code, or using Laconi.ca out of curiosity?
    It's very nice regardless – would love to know more about how you
    implemented it.

    Like

  15. For years I've been trying to make an “architecture of participation” of some sort — I already have my own OpenID server with SSL at http://e-cred.org and I started writing a Restful PHP framework several years back as a “study project”.

    In May/June I was looking at SMOB which is Semantic-web microblogging basically, and I thought that was probably the key to causing sites to be able to interoperate (and actually, I think that's still the way to go for Groups because a SMOB group can span multiple sites)

    While studying OAuth and searching for XRDS and trying to figure out where that all fits in, I found Evan's spec posted as a blog post on http://search.technorati.com — it was weird because I would google for “openmicroblogging” and just the single result would come up. I was impressed, because here was something new, and nobody seemed to be doing anything with it, and it was _simple_ which is always the key pretty much.

    So I took my PHP framework and used it to implement the spec from scratch, I've built a lot of in-house sites and a lot of my own sites with the framework but it's pretty new and will certainly need a lot of work to make it solid. But it does have some good design aspects like Model Security, Restful polymorphic controllers, Routes and Content-negotiation so it's pretty sophisticated if a little hurkin'.

    As you can see I took advantage of some existing infrastructure — A WordPress theme called “prologue” and the diso-project plugins. Basically I wrote a fairly crude compatibility layer for my framework to take advantage of those wordpress plugins. All they really provide are the theme and the OAuth and OpenID libraries. The actual implementation of openmicroblogging is in the plugin called “omb.php”.

    The OAuth “dance” was pretty exciting to get working for the first time, it's like OpenID the way it bounces between sites and I think a lot of awesome software will be written with OAuth and OpenID in the future.

    — Brian

    Like

  16. Brian, simply awesome – I'm going to blog about this tonight if you don't
    mind. This further proves my point that microblogging is a technology and
    not a service. My friend, Joseph Scott at Automattic would be very
    interested to see that as well since he wrote Prologue. Stay tuned tonight
    and I'll publish a post about it – you've got an awesome, extendible product
    there!

    Like

  17. For years I've been trying to make an “architecture of participation” of some sort — I already have my own OpenID server with SSL at http://e-cred.org and I started writing a Restful PHP framework several years back as a “study project”.

    In May/June I was looking at SMOB which is Semantic-web microblogging basically, and I thought that was probably the key to causing sites to be able to interoperate (and actually, I think that's still the way to go for Groups because a SMOB group can span multiple sites)

    While studying OAuth and searching for XRDS and trying to figure out where that all fits in, I found Evan's spec posted as a blog post on http://search.technorati.com — it was weird because I would google for “openmicroblogging” and just the single result would come up. I was impressed, because here was something new, and nobody seemed to be doing anything with it, and it was _simple_ which is always the key pretty much.

    So I took my PHP framework and used it to implement the spec from scratch, I've built a lot of in-house sites and a lot of my own sites with the framework but it's pretty new and will certainly need a lot of work to make it solid. But it does have some good design aspects like Model Security, Restful polymorphic controllers, Routes and Content-negotiation so it's pretty sophisticated if a little hurkin'.

    As you can see I took advantage of some existing infrastructure — A WordPress theme called “prologue” and the diso-project plugins. Basically I wrote a fairly crude compatibility layer for my framework to take advantage of those wordpress plugins. All they really provide are the theme and the OAuth and OpenID libraries. The actual implementation of openmicroblogging is in the plugin called “omb.php”.

    The OAuth “dance” was pretty exciting to get working for the first time, it's like OpenID the way it bounces between sites and I think a lot of awesome software will be written with OAuth and OpenID in the future.

    — Brian

    Like

  18. Brian, simply awesome – I'm going to blog about this tonight if you don't
    mind. This further proves my point that microblogging is a technology and
    not a service. My friend, Joseph Scott at Automattic would be very
    interested to see that as well since he wrote Prologue. Stay tuned tonight
    and I'll publish a post about it – you've got an awesome, extendible product
    there!

    Like

  19. Well, Identi.ca is still very young so I'm sure there are lots of items that I'd like which are under construction.

    My primary interests are with the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, and Laconi.ca. OMB needs serious work – a bit more democracy around it and better documentation. I'm still not sure how various Laconica sites interact with each other. It would be nice to see OMB as something can be viewed as truly open and something anyone could build a service off of, with or without using Laconi.ca as the server backend.

    Vision-wise I'd love to see these services take the whole field past the “Twitter replacement” concept and more into the evolution of the behavior. Even the term “micro blogging” is misleading, since many examples of Twitter user behavior have nothing to do with blogging or even status updates, especially in the case of interacting with various Twitter-API dependent sites. I've started calling it “published short messaging”, which is deliberately more open-ended.

    In some ways I'd like to see OMB or Laconica evolve into something that could be installed everywhere, as ubiquitous as email. In some ways it should be just a feature for an ISP or social networking site rather than services unto themselves. It would dissolve Identi.ca, Twitter, Pownce or Plurk as “microblogging” brands though – I suppose these services would simply become specialized published short messaging communities…

    Anyhow, there's my little rant on the subject – thanks for the writeup!

    Like

  20. Hey Brian – so glad my blog could be one of your first comments! Did you
    implement that with your own code, or using Laconi.ca out of curiosity?
    It's very nice regardless – would love to know more about how you
    implemented it.

    Like

  21. Hi everybody, this is one of my first blog comments evar, but I think i'm the first guy to be so taken with the omb spec that I implemented it myself.

    I first bookmarked it on June 16 and started working on my implementation right away, leaning on the diso-project's OAuth/XRDS wordpress plugins I had some of the spec working when Laconi.ca and Identi.ca were announced 2 weeks later.

    From there I grabbed Laconi.ca and started to make my service compatible.

    Anyway, the reason I'm posting a comment here is because of Ron's comment about “could be installed everywhere” — that's a huge part of how I write PHP code. In fact my implementation of omb should work on Mac, Linux, Windows, PostgreSQL, MySQL, PHP4, PHP5 etc.

    Check it out here:

    http://openmicroblogger.com

    http://openmicroblogger.org

    Thanks, and thanks especially to Evan for putting together OAuth/XRDS etc into something really useful and fun.

    — Brian

    Like

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