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.
What is Diaspora*?
Diaspora* is a rather young social network, making its debut in November of 2010 and 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” which operate in a similar, if not easier-to-use, fashion. Diaspora* has largely spread 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.
Other social networks like Facebook and Google+ are wielded by multi-billion-dollar multi-national corporations, building a centralized database of our lives. Multiple controversies have arisen with these corporations over their use of our information, which are said to be openly accessible to government agencies with specialized interfaces and to enable surveillance, profiling, and identity theft on a scale hitherto unknown. They are certainly the most effective panopticons of all time, putting everyone in a position to socialize about any and everything together with personal photographs, videos, and information listed in convenient ready-for-database form, 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. Not only does the social network have privacy features like “Aspects” built in and prominent so you can be sure that what you say is seen only by the connections you specify, but it is also 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 main, founders’, pod is Join Diaspora, but is invite only, while there has been an outcropping of more and more pods allowing instant public joining as well, such as 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, unlike 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. 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, and many other features are already present.
Did I mention that the program is also open-source (i.e. the community can examine the code and take part in its development)?
Why is Diaspora* Right for Astrologers?
Astrologers, as in people who do astrology for a living, as well as hobbyists and people just interested in learning and talking about it, should all be most comfortable on Diaspora* of all the social networks. Astrologers are one of the few groups that is frequently under attack by both religious fundamentalists as being engaged in something unholy and by the skeptic community for being intellectually deficient or even insane, because astrology is seen to involve supernatural views and concepts largely incompatible with both religious fundamentalism and materialist fundamentalism.
By far, most astrology enthusiasts don’t do astrology for a living, and some are quite 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 them to communicate with others about astrology without alerting the entire world that they are into astrology with all the important personally identifying information. Talk about science with your scientist friends and astrology with your astrology friends freely on the net, without going permanently “on record” with both, and without setting 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, and with Diaspora* it can be like that without all the additional garbage that comes with networks like Facebook. Talk about astrology, or anything you want, with who you want, without feeling defensive, pensive, or like you need to explain yourself to family, certain friends, academic authorities, your boss, your clients, your students, or anyone else you think may pass judgment on you, disadvantage you, or simply not understand.
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, assembled with the malefic planet Mars at 14 degrees Libra, and assembled with 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.
Ilya passed one month after his most recent solar return (i.e. birthday – but exact moment of Sun’s return to position held in natal chart). 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 most associated with death, as well as that associated with 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, particularly since 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 (the timing of the first conjunction event will differ depending on the particular date of someone’s birth and how far the Sun was from Saturn at that time). 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.
Rest In Peace Ilya Zhitomirskiy
I 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.