Made-to-Measure Social Networking: Tailored social graphs

In another topic I mentioned how “FOSS enables BOSS”, or how we set ourselves up for failure and helping Hypercapitalism, by being part of the same game. While we wield the Four Freedoms, we allow hypercapitalism to wield the Fifth Freedom: The Freedom To Corrupt.

Yet, it is hard to find better, more strategic ways to go about our work, without making concessions to our Principles and Values which are pillars to the new system we envision for the Commons.

Transparency is an example, where working in public is important for 2 major reasons:

  1. As pre-condition to foster high levels of Trust, which is yet another pillar of Free Culture.
  2. Because open information inspires others. Ideas must flow freely so cross-pollination happens.

In another strategy topic I already mentioned some Transparency Strategies to use, as Radical (real-time) Strategy is just not possible to use all the time (unless you are fine to position as a “loser”).

Strategic Social Networking

Adjacent to Transparency, in related areas, are aspects that affect Reach and Findability, Appeal and Attraction. This deals with strategic obfuscation of activities from malign hypercapitalist influence.

What is social networking? Well, first of all social. Here it differs from the Web at large, where you want to have easiest access to as much of the information you are interested in. On a social network you ideally limit your social graph to the people you want to hang out with. Those with whom you’d want to socialize, because you share common interests, but also principles and values (in most cases).

There’s a set ofpractices that can be followed to hone your social graph and make it uniquely personal:

  • Create an account where you vet all follow requests.
    • Either you accept people you already had interaction with.
    • Or you vet their understanding of FOSS culture.
  • In profile settings turn off all discovery features.
    • Don’t advertise your profile in trending lists, “Who to follow”, etc.
  • Moderate your account regularly and cherry-pick followers/following.

What is the result of this?

  • You reach people you want to reach, but create frictions for information to reach where you don’t want it to reach.
  • You do not need to make concessions to the levels of Transparency, or much less so.
  • Your network becomes a natural attractor to the people you want to hang out with.

I feel there’s more to be explored here. Curious about thoughts…


Large projects, and in particular entire ecosystems of projects have many people involved in many different roles. Each person has their own passion and interests.

To ensure healthy ecosystems or project communities entails finding the optimal dynamics where people can express themselves, find fun, satisfaction and win-wins from their collaboration. In other words:

Collaboration works best when fine-tuned to motivations and incentives of all participants.

A new project or growing ecosystem needs to attract people based on these motivations and incentives, and then try to activate them in collaborative processes.

If it wants to be efficient in finding the right people to collaborate with, it helps if those already involved delve into their ‘network of friends’ i.e. their own strategic social network, and find people with aligned passions and interests.

Rolodexing is a way to make that easier. If someone posted about a passion once, you might remember that at the right moment. More likely you forget. Rolodexing involves keeping notes and other metadata to make that easy. Some examples…

Example: LinkedIn

LinkedIn used to have rolodexing features. There was a timeline of interactions with someone you are connected to (part of your strategic social network) where contact moments were listed and you could add notes to those.

The features were removed because LinkedIn is a surveillance capitalism platform and rather wants to monetize that information for their themselves and their customers (advertisers), not their users / addicts (you).

Example: Mastodon

Mastodon has the feature to add Notes to someone’s profile. This can be used to make your network more strategic, as a rolodexing feature. It is a but unwieldy, as it involves manual iteration of profiles to check notes. Maybe the profile notes are exposed by an API.

Example: Flockingbird

Flockingbird intends to offer a federated social network similar to LinkedIn (but minus all the crap): a professional social network. Not much is known about planned features, but this is an example of a social network that is Strategic-by-Design.

Idea: Sourcing SSN through microblogging

While Flockingbird will likely form yet another social network not 1-to-1 compatible / deeply integrated with microblogging apps such as Mastodon, we already have Mastodon.

With a dedicated strategic account and dilligent application of curation practices the social graph that is attached to the (Mastodon et al) microblogging account can already be very strategic in nature. Microblogging is an easy, natural way to build a good personal social graph - in this case - for a specific purpose.

If you would have other collaborative features for particular purposes (i.e. different domains than Microblogging) they can be modeled on top of this SSN:

  1. Microblogging: Ideal to curate the strategic social network.
  2. Other domains: Take strategic social network as input and build on top of that.

Bonfire by @ivanminutillo and @mayel would be an example where functionality built on top of the social graph would benefit from such graph to be tailored strategically (to answer e.g. “who is doing what in our collaborative ecosystem?” and “whom can I approach best to delegate this task to, taking their motivations, incentives, passions into account?”)

In response to Jacob Weisz of on forge federation chat:

Again, I think for federation to win, we have to accept corporates are coming: The important part is to guard them from involvement in development. […] We should build tools an ad company would not build, right into the protocols themselves. (ActivityPub already understands Organizations versus People, Mastodon just doesn’t use it yet.)

[…] I do feel like I get value from purely “following” interactions, but maybe we need to break that out more. I do really enjoy adding people’s personal blogs to my RSS reader and getting news through blogs on that as well. But a lot of people expect that “social broadcast media” [refers to this toot] to surface their news (whether general world news or topical to their interests/fields/hobbies).

I responded with:

I think there’s value in distinguishing between your “knowledge network” and your “personal network(s)”. In the knowledge network you want to have as broad a perspective as possible on e.g. tech trends if that interests you. In your personal networks you tailor the social graph to those folks you’d like to hang around and collaborate with.

My Mastodon account was used for advocacy of Fediverse, before the disruption. Hence it is no longer useful in any way, shape or form to collaborate on forge federation. Because any toot I sent reaches plenty of folks whom I rather don’t want to collaborate with. My reach goes well beyond FOSS or even OSS and includes the deeply corporate money wolf folks. With my profile as it is now I cannot even follow that Google SRE, as they will follow me back, further diminishing the use of my profile to share interesting bits of info. So maybe I create a second account. An alt that I can use more strategically and only interacts with the folks I want to do that with.

Mathew Lowry in his project is thinking of making distinction between networks by defining Trust Circles: