Recently, initially for curiosity and then again by inspiration of the #RIPTwitter trend, I stumbled upon GNU Social, the FSF's effort to keep the social network platform once known as StatusNet (and formerly identi.ca) alive and up-to-dated (while the original StatusNet developer started from scratch with the pump.io project).
Despite the FSF imprinting and the GNU branding (you know: usually, not exactly the attractive and open-minded community you would like to see...), I've been surprised to find fast and kind responses on the issues tracker, a very interesting development activity, and an even more interesting network of federated instances populated by dozens of users. I installed my own instance (easy enough to do), I began to follow some account from other instances (federation works! For real!), and I raised my eyeballs over existing great integrations such as with Wordpress comments (see at this blog for a very good example).
Probably this is not yet a real alternative for most Twitter users, but near enough. To become a reality, apart some urgent required tweak in the graphic design (but certain instances are already more advanced than average...), more contents are required to ignite the network effect that every social network needs to have a meaning.
So, in latest two days I've hacked GNUS. Which is the most simple but effective approach to push fresh contents on the network: harvest them from RSS feeds on the open Internet.
The deployed instance permits everyone to add new RSS feeds and for each one it creates a new GNU Social account (on my own node), hourly updated with items fetched from the feed itself. Follow email@example.com with your GNU Social account (wherever it is hosted. Remember: this is a federated network!) and you obtain (more or less...) the same result than following @Reuters.
Of course the lack of editorial curation for those automatically managed accounts is evident (starting from missing avatars and messed handles), but still those offer a reasonable alternative in many cases.
Please add your favorite feeds on the instance, or host your own GNU Social node, and help in floading the network with contents!