What would an ideal fediverse organization do?

This topic is mirrored from What would an ideal fediverse organization do?, created by @WisTex on SocialHub, as there is much relevance to that question to the Social Coding Movement.

Fediverse Organization

In many regards the question that is the topic of this thread is the reason that Social Coding Movement exists. The scope of Social Coding is broader, as it focusses on the entire lifecycle of free software development. But for the social aspects that are involved with any software project it aims to wield the Fediverse as much as possible. One might say:

The more seamless Fediverse supports Free Software Development processes, the better it is suited to support its own development.

The Fediverse is an example of a free software ecoystem, where many, many projects rely on an underlying technology base - most prominently the open standards of ActivityStreams and ActivityPub, plus Linked Data. For this technology base to mature and adoption to increase the ecosystem players must collaborate. That is the core challenge to solve, an especially tricky one given grassroots and anarchistic culture. There is a win-win if project members involve themselves beyond the scope of their own work, and dedicate some time to substrate formation to strengthen the foundations their own project rests upon. But advantages aren’t always clear, and time is precious.

There is a “Tragedy of the Commons” at the protocol levels of the Fediverse.

The topic Major Challenges for the Fediverse keeps track of the problems that must be overcome, and Social Coding will dedicate to bring solutions to them.

@WisTex brings some great points in the Socialhub topic and I wholly agree that a “governance body” isn’t going to work. Any form of organization needs to take the unique dynamics and culture of both Fediverse and FOSS movements into account. I recommend reading Challenge: Fixing the Fediverse Technology Adoption Lifecycle that offers hints on how to do so.

About SocialHub

I have been moderating SocialHub for a couple of years and spent much time on community-building there. The SocialHub has been more active in the past, but due to various reasons it has declined and can be seen now as “just-a-forum”. There’s no real community unfortunately.

Some factors:

  • Some members feel scope should be technical-only, AS/AP and its implementation details.
  • Frustrations that discussion remains “Just talk”, leads to no real ecosystem improvement. Folks rather code their own app.
  • Staff, esp. admins, have a hands-off approach, recently aren’t actively involved. Volunteered tasks aren’t done (e.g. Wellbeing team).
  • Serious well-being issues involving high-profile members have torn the community (I was involved via Wellbeing team).

Will mention this topic in Social Coding Foundations chatroom for discussion.

I think the biggest challenge is that many people in the Fediverse have very passionate visions, and some of those visions are not always compatible.

So, such an organization would have to be neutral regarding licensing, platforms, and protocols, and work to facilitate a common goal. It should also work remove the us vs. them mentality many people have, and strive for cooperation and collaboration.

Perhaps the common goal would be federation itself, working to help projects talk to one another (interoperability), and providing resources to the public and to developers.

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They are passionate in general… vision, values, principles, beliefs, etc. Organizing is like “herding cats”, yet for an organization to have any measure of success and impact the help of these fine folks is needed. Stimulating cooperation and collaboration, yes, and not with any formal means of “governance”, but instead guiding, encouraging, fostering…

A very tough nut to crack, though. A “common goal” in itself isn’t enough, I found. And even clearly showing the win-win of participating to people that already have so much on their plate, isn’t. The hallmark of any ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ is that people use it more than they collectively give back to uphold something.

Any form of organization requires a ton of volunteering. Or alternatively, financial compensation of some kind for those doing the boring chores, to ensure they can keep going. Most people really like to do their Own Thing, is my experience from years of community management.

I agree on the gist of what you say, and what such organization should provide. It could start independent, with a group of dedicated people, gradually showing its benign purpose, gaining reputation and a place in the ecosystem. Gain buy-in from established players who are then willing to be involved. This was my intention for Federated Diversity Foundation, but I’ve now repositioned it as just an e-Zine website.

In a way this was also what the W3C SocialCG and the SocialHub were. They went the same road as most community: slowly petering out (though of course they may be revived again, if someone’s willing). With the amount of Protocol Decay (tech debt) to tackle on the Fediverse and all the related community work to do, these communities might have worked better if they were funded. Maybe modest payment for doing the chores and/or bounties for community work.

But I still think that might not have been enough. That there’s too much informal structures and fragmented community already established. And all revolving mostly on the vision of Microblogging-like social networks.

For the challenges I listed before I have a whole bunch of ideas on tackling them, and in coming times intend to post on them and discuss.

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Another thing we have to address is the fact that not everyone really wants the fediverse to be adopted widely (i.e. go mainstream). And I think that is part of the issue.

When I first became involved, I made a comment on how making some changes would bring in more users, and the first comment back was “what makes you think we want more users?”

I think people like their little communities and don’t want to be overrun by the masses. And some are afraid that if the fediverse expands too much, they lose their small communities. But that does not necessarily have to be the case.

And I think that groups trying to grow their community are afraid that any new organization would steal their community members. And that is an understandable concern.

So, perhaps, we need an umbrella organization to help coordinate things, with member groups that are autonomous. And we work on interoperability so that these projects can talk to one another, without worrying about members transferring away.

And one of the goals of the organization is to foster independent groups and communities rather than replace these groups and communities.

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I shifted my opinion myself on this. I don’t want massive adoption. I don’t think Fediverse will survive massive adoption. At least not the Fediverse we’d like to see.

Feel that fedi should grow at its own pace, organically and that “slow” and “small” are strengths.

For the moment I dedicate to Social Coding Movement as just such an umbrella organisation. This forum itself is co-shared and available for independent projects to use if they have relevance to Social Coding related activities.

Very much this. The organizations should be just as decentralized as the technology is.

I think we need to separate the notion of spreading federation vs. becoming mainstream.

It’s like bringing a telephone line into a rural community. It’s still a rural community… just now it can talk with the outside world.

I think that the communities themselves should grow organically, and that we should encourage people to create their own unique communities. But we should still work on interoperability between communities.

After all, installing a phone line so people can talk is not the same thing as turning a rural community into a city. I think the focus needs to be “communities that can talk to one another” and “the social equivalent of email” rather than trying to make particular platforms or websites popular.

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This discussion made me think of an interesting organization that people in rural areas of the U.S. might be familiar with. It is the Independent Grocers Association (IGA). It is also in other countries, such as the Philippines. It gives smaller independent grocery stores the ability to compete with the giants by increasing their collective buying power.

Another organization that comes to mind is the Wi-Fi Alliance, which manages the Wi-Fi specification, but does not make the actual products. No one manufacturer owns the brand Wi-Fi, but they have to comply with the Wi-Fi specifications to use the Wi-Fi brand on their products.

I am not saying we should duplicate those organization models, but it does give us some ideas of what we could create.

Maybe we need an organization that supports the communities themselves. The goal would be to nurture the smaller communities, and promote interoperability between communities. Instead of focusing on the platforms, we focus on the communities themselves and what they need.

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Yes, we have something similar with the Dutch Dairy Cooperative, which was growing from general merger of village cooperatives, but is now a multi-billion dollar private cooperative. I like the general idea a lot.

Social Coding Foundation was started to explore the possibilities and best-practices for establishing healthy ecosystems.

As for “interoperability between communities”, i.e. considering a technical aspect (without going too far off-topic), I am a huge believer that “Community” is key and then especially when considering “the space between communities”. The meaningful inter-relationships that tie them together. For a long time I am promoting an idea I call “Community has no Boundary” which involves supporting on the Fediverse just as intricate social fabric as exists in real life.

Community then is an abstraction that allows us to forego talking about “instances”, the de-facto communities that are really a technical implementation detail. A community model would be as minimal as possible when implemented as an ActivityPub vocabulary extension. It might look like:

(Since creating the diagram I see that the relationships property should be at the Actor level, not just on Group)

There are different levels of community though.

For example, someone on Twitter or Mastodon doesn’t really feel a sense of community. They are just another user on a platform that allows them to talk to people they have relationships with. In fact I would argue that it is not a community at all. If the platform has groups, like Facebook Groups, those are communities, not Facebook itself.

So I think there is a difference between instances and communities.

Yes, there is. It is just that in current fedi advocacy instances are often “sold” as communities (“start your own instance and define the rules in a CoC”). That is no longer needed in the explanation to fedi newcomers. Also, as an example where the difference is explicit, there is Lemmy where an instance hosts many communities and you can connect to them from other instances. Your Following is an implicit community, your timeline another.

Facebook Groups are communities, but a specific implementation. Many fedi apps are implementing Groups support now, and I see in discussion things like “A Group has Members and Moderators”. But that goes beyond community concept. It is a different concern, and should be modeled in a different extension. Combining them I mgiht offer Moderated Groups as a feature. If I add a Policy extension, I might model Community Governance.

So now we are down to five levels deep:

  1. End Users (Members)
  2. Communities (Community Leaders & Moderators)
  3. Instances (Administrators)
  4. Platforms (Developers)
  5. Protocols / Cross Platform Interoperability (Developers)

And they all have divergent needs and concerns.

An instance can be a community, but it isn’t always a community.

Let’s break down the needs of each group:

End Users

  • Technical Support
  • Education


  • Best Practices
  • Promotion (i.e. attracting the right members and repelling the members they don’t want.)
  • Dealing with Moderation and Spam


  • Installation & Updates Support
  • Hosting
  • Customization
  • Compliance
  • Monetization (how to pay for the servers)

Platforms & Protocols

  • Developer Resources
  • Sample Code & Documentation
  • Interoperability

And, obviously, there is some overlap, and some people wear multiple hats. But we also have to consider that different groups have different needs.

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There are many ways to slice things, and the above is but one. Hauling back to a related post of yours on the SocialHub forum each of these parts can (and will) have different people behind it, and prefer different forms or organization.

What would be the ideal fediverse organization then, is the umbrella ‘framework’ that can facilitate all that, offer services where needed/wanted, and proper ways to drill-down into the ecosystem. Wrt open standards it is not dissimilar to W3C, or maybe rather to IETF, but then broader. On SocialHub for instance IndieWeb was mentioned as an example of broader scoped umbrella.

At the time I scoped fedi.foundation for a similar purpose, I consciously restricted to more of a technical audience. My experience with Humane Tech Community was that the broader your scope is, the harder it is to get and keep real activity going. But a positioning as an ‘umbrella service provider / facilitator’ is yet different and might work much better, as the constituent parts are individual, independent initiatives, so there’s decentralization in the organization structure.

Btw, related to all this and quite interesting are talks we have on bringing Sociocracy, and this can be modeled on top of Community concepts. In September there’ll be another vidcall to discuss. See the pad on prior discussions we had and agenda: [Copy] Sociocracy and the Fediverse - Smallcircles.

PS. On fedi.foundation I currently positioned things like this, with Social Coding as umbrella (like this forum is a co-shared community):

Lightbulb image showing how Social Coding to Foundation to Ecosystem makes Fediverse light up