The Fediverse Saga: How Shall We Conquer Our Challenges?

(This topic has been moved from Fediverse Town. It relates (and was created before) listing the major Fediverse challenges, and mentions Federated Diversity Foundation that is now part of the Social Coding Movement)


(source: imgflip)

Introduction

I was inspired to write this topic by the discussion of Fediverse needs: More developers started by @weex:

The reason why I started a separate thread is because the other topic doesn’t cover the full problem, imho. It is not just about the developers, but about all fedizens (you might call them stakeholders) that participate in and are passionate for the Fediverse.

The Good News

I help maintain the app watchlist for litlle over a year now, and added the developer watchlist . Since then a ton of projects have been added. From that perspective one could say that the Fediverse is growing, though not all of these projects have picked up steam.

Also the diversity of the apps have increased. Different app types are being created, and devs are slowly venturing beyond the narrow scope of Microblogging to tap more of the full potential that is in the ActivityPub-related open standards.

There is very exciting research going on, which - though not directly ActivityPub related - might help us go next-level, and also attract more technologists to help extend our common foundations.

Also there’s a lot of interest from the European Commission and EU and local government institutions in what the Fediverse has to offer. At SocialHub we organized a 3-part event (video recordings available) to stimulate that. From the EU and their new Horizon Europe programs a lot of funding may come forth.

As an uplifting vision of how we can collaboratively strengthen the Fediverse I wrote the Spiral Island analogy:

SocialHub and Spiral Island: A Fediverse Foundation Analogy

Spiral Island was created by Richart Sowa from stuff other people considered trash. An inspiring symbol of sustainability and hope, it was nonetheless destroyed by a hurricane. Richart’s work in a way mirrors how we build our beloved Fediverse… but we must prepare to be hurricane-proof…

Our challenge is to be able to wheather the storms that will surely come as we move into the future. That is…

The Fediverse Challenge

Previously I wrote this on SocialHub:

The Fediverse Challenge

In follow-up to the issues I outlined in the Mastodon versus Fediverse discussion, here I want to address an even broader, more urgent topic that I have been trying to put to attention for some time.

Tragedy of the Commons

Just like FOSS the fedi suffers from The Tragedy of The Commons. Some human/social characteristics on the Problem side:

  • Complacency. “Hurray, we have arrived. The fedi is strong and will continue to exist”
  • Anarchy. “We don’t need to organize, just relax and enjoy. Things move by themself and go as they go”
  • Individualism. “I’ll just do my thing, run my project, and have no time or willingness to look beyond that”
  • Division. “I am holier than thou, and I don’t like some things you do. Hence I’ll ignore or fight you”
  • Self-interest. “I’ll choose the fun bits, if they are handed on a platter. Someone else do the chores”

These are generalisations, of course. There are many fine people around, helping fedi forwards (They create forums, like this one, for instance :slight_smile: ). But we also lose a lot of them again, because they become disillusioned, or just burn out after a while.

United in Diversity

We have something unique on the Fediverse in terms of culture and diversity. Sure, there are many problems and reasons to complain, but doing so without providing solutions or helping to improve (which I see a lot of fedizens do) is contra-productive.

For our Fediverse Futures we must evolve, not devolve. Evolution, not revolution. People talking about Fediverse catching up and beating the traditional social networkin platforms sorely miss the broader perspective: the weaknesses outlined above. They must be tackled first, or we’ll burn from within.

After the EU event at SocialHub we adopted two inspiring slogans, or rallying cries:

  • United in Diversity: Let’s benefit from the unique position we have, safeguard it, and build further upon these strengths.
  • Social Networking Reimagined: Jump on the opportunity to do things differently this time. Truly social and for real people.

Let’s make them more meaningful!

The Way Forward?

The wikipedia page on Tragedy of The Commons offers little in way of solutions, as it has a different perspective. Except in the small paragraph “The Mid-Way Solution”. I highlighted important keywords:

One of the significant actions areas which can dwell as potential solution is to have co-shared communities that have partial ownership from governmental side and partial ownership from the community.[151] By ownership, here it is referred to planning, sharing, using, benefiting and supervision of the resources which ensure that the power is not held in one or two hands only.[152] Since, involvement of multiple stakeholders is necessary responsibilities can be shared across them based on their abilities and capacities in terms of human resources, infrastructure development ability, and legal aspects, etc.

All the elements we need for a healthy future are already there. But they are fragmented and dispersed. There’s little empowerment and joining of forces. There’s opportunities in tighter collaboration in terms of reciprocity and synergy.

The difficulty is that in most cases we require volunteers “willing to do the chores” and have a persistent group of them at it. I am convinced that solutions lie in these three fields:

  • Advocacy: Storytelling, awareness, rallying people to the cause, community-building, finding contributors, encouragement
  • Community work: Communication, planning, organizing, events, documentation, relationships, cross-pollination, co-creation
  • Governance: Strategy, steering, direction, overview, co-ownership, participation, democratic influence, unison, shared vision

Social Networking Reimagined

The Fediverse is not individual apps, loosely tied together here and there. It is one organism, a true social network. With its diversity in people and application types, and decentralized nature, it is more complex than traditional social network. At least it will be, if we want to tap into its full potential.

We have a unique opportunity now. To reinvent what “social” means in the the digital space. The Fediverse can be a field lab, a staging ground and playground of groundbreaking and innovative humane technologies.

To achieve this, we MUST see it as this organism, not focus on individual cells. We MUST dedicate on uniting people behind its cause, using advocacy, community work and governance.

Besides my own advocacy (of which this topic is part) I do community work at SocialHub, not just on technical side of things, but trying to appeal to a broader audience of technologists and other fedizens / stakeholders to join our member base. It is often unthankful and very time-consuming work.

In many aspects SocialHub is still ‘just-a-forum’ and not a true community. Something more is needed that ties things together. Hence I created a first draft of:

Federated Diversity Foundation

In the fediverse organization on Codeberg I drafted this site:

Social Networking Reimagined

Welcome to Federated Diversity Foundation. We strive to empower SocialHub community and the Fediverse they build.

I kept its aims modest till now, to avoid the divisiveness that invariably comes with more ambitious plans. The word “foundation” has nothing to do with non-profits or NGO’s or other incorporations. It means “ground to stand upon”, just like the floating base of Spiral Island .

What is Fedi Foundation’s purpose?

Community empowerment • Cooperation • Healthy growth • Advocacy

From the About page:

  • We empower community. Strong communities build strong ecosystems. We are dedicated to the success of the SocialHub, our community, and we support our fellow members. Together we ensure that Activitypub rocks.
  • We foster cooperation. Creating a solid technology foundation is a collective effort. We streamline organization and processes to make that easier. Encouraging member interaction, and extending relationships across the web.
  • We facilitate healthy growth. We want more technologists to join the fray. To make Fediverse stronger, evolve our open standards, and facilitate a vibrant ecosystem of free software projects that interoperate.
  • We advocate our work. More people should know what we do, and why we do it. Our vision is one of “Social Networking Reimagined”. We spread the message of Humane Technology and the promise of being United in Diversity.

I view the Fediverse in layers, where each one builds upon the next. I represented this as a lightbulb, where the current flows from the anode upwards, to eventually shine its brilliant light (and illuminate the world :wink: )

The fediverse lightbulb goes from Foundation, to SocialHub, to Ecosystem and finally to Fediverse

Please participate. Act!

If you want to know more about Fedi Foundation, then comment to Presenting Fedi Foundation: Empowerment for SocialHub community - Community - SocialHub

If you want to discuss how Fediverse Town might fit into all of this, then comment to Positioning and purpose of Fediverse Town community forum

Or just add your comments below.

SocialHub community

Help cross-pollinate between Fediverse Town and SocialHub. We are not just for techies. We need feedback from the broader community.

Join SocialHub and Let's Reimagine Social Networking