Challenge: Representation of the Fediverse

This is a follow-up to this fediverse post that I sent to share a frustration I had while participating in the one-week long Buidling a European Cultural Backbone conference.

At this conference:

PubHubs has the backing of 2 Dutch universities, the Dutch public broadcasting networks, some important civic organizations, and more. And they just started and will only expand their partner ecosystem. PubHubs has a great vision and an alignment to the values of the Fediverse. They have overlapping ideas, and are using a different tech stack with Matrix protocol. They likely reinvent wheels and become separate from the Fediverse.

The same is true for the European Platform discussion. Participants among which were MEP’s (e.g. Eva Kaili, EC Vice President, representing S&P) discussed a vision and preliminary plans. One planned platform is “A European Perspective” digital news service supported by 11 public broadcasters across Europe. They have many plans to expand this platform and the partner network and become a ‘European Public Sphere’.

The conference itself is about “Building a European Cultural Backbone”, which is a conglomeration of interoperable European networks. This initiative is funded by European Cultural Foundation.

In all of these initatives there’s a lot of opportunity for the Fediverse.

BUT…

Challenge: The Fediverse unlike other initiatives has no people or parties that can reliably represent it.

And that is a problem. It compounds other issues we have:

And makes it really hard to bring to attention a unique opportunity:

Opportunity: The Fediverse is not about single platforms, but it constitutes an open Cultural Backbone already.

However, what the talks at the conference shows, making strides is all about organization, organization, organization …

The Representation Challenge

One thing became painfully clear to me:

  • Without representation the Fediverse will miss the boat on each and every opportunity that flow from other initiatives.
  • Without representation we cannot draw attention to the solutions, both technological and social-cultural, we already offer.
  • Without representation other, less attractive, watered down, undesirable (e.g. Metaverse) platforms will move ahead of us.
  • Without representation we’ll lose the technological race to position ourselves firmly in the future digital landscape.

What many fedizens do not know is that the EU has been for many years the biggest supporter of the Fediverse. Without the EU Horizons funding that has been distributed to many different federated projects by means of Next Generation Internet EC Initiative.

  • Most of this funding was granted to individual R&D projects or for FOSS fedi apps, that stand on themself.
  • There’s hardly been any funding for all the activities related to substrate formation, leaving this work fully to volunteers.
  • If the lack of substrate leads to stalling of the Fediverse, a very real risk, then most innovation funding will have been wasted.

Even on relatively minor issues representation is needed, but it depends on luck whether it is found:

Note: In both cases I am involved, but via informal channels and without really having time nor resources to dedicate to this.

Solution: The Fediverse MUST have some form of organization that can represent it, defend its interests and ensure its future.

There’s no way around it. We must have representation or be passed by and ignored. This brings additional challenges:

  • Such organization is a sensitive subject on the Fediverse, that resists anything it perceives as having authority and power.
  • Such organization requires people’s (near?) full-time engagement, and hence it needs to be funded, hence needs formality.

A solution should take both into account.

  • An organization should give itself a mandate that clearly is to the general interest of the Fediverse as a whole.
  • An organization should represent the different interest groups related to this mandate as well as possible.
  • An organization should have an open governance structure that is fitting to the dynamics and culture of the Fediverse.

Given the particular Fediverse dynamics there’ll likely be people that are fundamentally opposed to such organization no matter what.

  • The organization should strive to find broad consensus and followers, but at certain point just move ahead and act on its plans.
  • The organization should provide clear incentives for parties to join and must prove its benefits over time, establish its position.

(Image credit: actuaries.digital, CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0)

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