decentralised microblogging: thoughts on fedi

posted 2019年11月 7日

when talking to people about the fediverse who don’t know anything about it, it’s depressing how little there is in terms of introductory articles and references i can link to so i don’t have to stumble through explaining it myself which doesn’t end up explaining much and probably scares people away more than anything. so this is my attempt at providing some cursory information about the fediverse is, what it isn’t, what misconceptions about it exist, the problems that exist with it as it currently is, whether you should consider joining the fediverse (and if so, on which server?), and why despite its shortcomings it is still better than most social media available (especially twitter). wow; ok this might end up being a multi-parter. that’s a lot to cover.

what the fediverse isn't

the fediverse:

  • is not mastodon
  • is not a “nazi-free” twitter alternative
  • is not a moderation-free “free speech” twitter alternative
  • is not the same on one server as it is on another
  • is not a privacy-centred twitter alternative
  • is not finished. it’s a living and evolving thing
  • is not a single piece of software and cannot be judged fairly by looking at one implementation of it

ok. let me elaborate.

why is it the first thing i say is that it isn’t mastodon?

sometimes the easiest way to introduce someone to something is by using videos from youtube/ that spell things out in a simple way and pretty pictures, animations, and voice-overs. when talking about the fediverse, there is an overwhelming amount of content regarding one piece of software that runs on the fediverse called mastodon and it’s almost always written as if it is the fediverse (or worse, they don’t mention the fediverse at all and call it the mastodon network). this is bad. because there is so much more to the fediverse than just mastodon.

let me make something clear here. i like mastodon, overall. i think it’s a good piece of software. my first identity in the fediverse was on a mastodon-run instance. but the problem with the mastodon hype reminds me of my introduction to the world of free software and gnu, linux, open source, the osi, the fsf, and that whole fiasco i had to navigate before i had my initial opinions changing the more i learned. and i know most people don’t dig as deep as i do into these sorts of things and stick to their initial beliefs, regardless of how accurate they are. that’s the problem. the way this stuff is presented and the way i found out about it, i used to think open source was the sensible mindset, that linus torvalds created the whole os, and i had no idea how far back the history really went. i went from a osi fanboy, to a fsf/gnu zealot, to where i am now which is my own opinion and still changing as time goes on (as opinions should). i’m closer to the free software view in their philosophy but am not in agreement with them in all they have to say and have done by a long shot. oops; tangent.

ok, what’s all this about nazis, free speech, moderation, privacy, and what happened to the kiss principles??

yah i know that’s a lot to cover, and i doubt i’ll get through it all in this post. but with something as old as the fediverse, you can’t really use design principles like “keep it simple, stupid” (aka kiss) when discussing the state of different protocols over time and software built on top of those protocols and all the hard to find history involved that led to things being the way they are. but i’m going to try to avoid the history and politics as much as i can and just spell it out how it is, in reality, at this moment. because a lot of people in the fediverse are suffering from the mistake of thinking the way things were on twitter or tumblr or wherever they came from apply to the fediverse as well. because they don’t. and i don’t know close to everything there is to know in order to give an accurate state of the fediverse address anyway, so i’ll try and limit myself to things i am fairly confident of. i will correct any mistakes i make in any part of this blog post in a way appropriate to the error made. i want this to remain as relevant as possible for a long time.

i did not come from twitter. i did not come from tumblr. i don’t know much about those places. i only know when i’ve tried browsing through things there or even a couple times starting a twitter account, i couldn’t stand it and had no idea what to do. so most of what i know about these places is hearsay. but apparently, people often come to fedi looking for something either more moderated or less moderated, with less nazis or with more free speech. now, all of these things can be found in different places in the fediverse. but the way things are handled is more tuned to small, reasonably sized communities and individuals. the wrong way of implementing a decision based on making an instance comfy and free of spam, unwanted content, hellthreads, and hatespeech is when the instance (a server running software that connects to a protocol like activitypub or ostatus and part of the fediverse) blocks any and all interaction with another instance. there are exceptions, but this is almost always the case. when choosing an instance (sometimes called a dimension, by a cute few ^^), check to see what instances it blocks and to what extent.

ok i’m getting way ahead of myself here. i’m going to end this post here, try and organise my thoughts, and hopefully part two will actually get into the things one should know, the counter-arguments to the ones i give for certain stances i take (because all sides deserve a voice, and my opinions are no less flawed than anyone else’s), and hopefully some examples of moeverse dimensions (the best parts of the fediverse for comf as well as freedom in the hands of the user) and what instances to avoid joining because of overzealous blocking, or that are fine overall but might not be for you.

and that’s still just the tip of the iceberg here. if you have anything you want me to include, or corrections, or things i should have mentioned but was too lazy to find sources for and couldn’t remember off the top of my head, or if you want to tell me how this is coming along so far (pls no bulli), and so on, i am on the fediverse with the handle or you may email me if you wish.

i know this part one is far from being what i imagined going in but in subsequent posts i hope to get all i have to say down, and when all that’s done, i think i will write a separate introduction to the fediverse that will not be a blog post but a permanent page on somewhere with all the fluff removed and references included. #futuregoals

until next time, my succulent readers, please:

stay tasty o/