Fediverse Futures: Visions & dreams. Feedback wanted

fediverse-rising-2021-year-of-the-fedizen

Introduction

When typing the title for this topic, Discourse suggested this topic with similar title:

AFAIK the Fediverse Futures group has not been followed-up on. But I want to discuss a different twist to it.

Everything and everyone involved in evolving the Fediverse is doing so from a highly technical perspective and mindset. This is logical as we are organically discovering the technical foundations for a new social web, based on a technology standard. But I notice this narrow focus is also leading to a general lack of imagination, especially where we advocate Fediverse to people that hadn’t heard of it before. Much of our blogs and articles about this ‘better web’ is about “What currently is” and less so about “What could be”.

I recently wrote about broadening the way we advocate ActivityPub in “Positioning ActivityPub: De-Emphasize “Being Part of the Fediverse” as primary USP”. But there’s more to it. We should avoid the technical focus early on, and inspire visions and dreams, to think out-of-the-box and about real innovation and the opportunities that flow from that.

Here’s how generally speaking a Fedi advocate promotes ActivityPub support to a FOSS project/product maintainer:

Advocate: You should implement ActivityPub in your project.
Maintainer: Why would I do that? What’s in it for me?
Advocate: Can’t you see it? There’s [microblogging & social use case outside your core business domain / technobabble].
Maintainer: Hmm, maybe. I will [close the issue for now / put on the backlog] but thanks for your idea.
Other advocates: Yeah, AP support is very cool… [upvote / technobabble]. This other project also has [technobabble].

Okay, I am painting this a bit black & white, and have been guilty myself in promoting this way.

I was triggered to write this topic, because of how - despite lotsa effort of advocates - the Discourse team and community does not have much enthusiasm in embracing ActivityPub support. Our case does not manage to make business sense to them. There were plans to implement it and even funding, but - I think due to the type of advocacy described above - they stepped away from it. In ActivityPub Support: Phase 1 RFC the MVP is for a FB-like personal feed facility that has very little to do with forum software.

Fediverse Futures visionaries group

We’ve talked about this more often. We need a more holistic approach to fedi development / evolution. We need product designers, graphics artists, UX/UI/Interaction designers, futurists and visionaries to join the dev folks.

I propose to extend the #meeting:socialcg group idea outlined by @cwebber to go this holistic route.

Proposal: Erect a Fediverse Futures initiative for elaborating high-level, non-technical perspectives, visions and dreams.

Everyone can join this initiative from whatever background they have. We’ll actively encourage and invite people with diverse and different viewpoints, and stimulate brainstorming, creativity, thinking out-of-the-box and crazy, wild ideas. Current AP devs SHOULD be actively involved, and spin-offs plus follow-ups, technical elaborations will follow afterwards and independent of the initiative.

The initiative will need a couple of people to be its drivers, but other than that needs no real ‘group’ / membership concept. It can be very loose. I volunteer to be in this driving seat, provided that at least 4 to 5 others join as well. As part of our tasks we can take the whole onboarding and community organization + processes thing within our scope.

Would love your feedback on this proposal.

Depicting domain-specific visions & dreams

Lastly I would like your feedback on an idea to generalize what I did in response to the Discourse AP RFC proposal. I wrote a bit of a visionary description as input for a brainstorm discussion, outlining what Discourse might be like if it were built from the ground up with federation support.

Now, like this post, when writing off the top of my head I tend to be long-winded using lotsa text, which is not smart in our attention-deficit TL;DR savvy world. But the idea is…

Idea: Select business domains we’d love to see in the fediverse, and write visions / business cases for candidate projects.

I.e. similar to what I wrote for Discourse, better formulated, and generalized for the Community Communication business domain. Then publish it at an appropriate location, and use it in our advocacy. Instead of going project by project and filing a rather random story, we point to the Visionary Business Case or whatever, and then follow up with some specifics on how the particular project may tackle its adoption. Here too there are opportunities to just reference ready-made documents, like “Adopting ActivityPub: The Process”, etc.


I am quite enamoured by Domain Driven Development (DDD) and I think this approach fits excellently to the Linked Data aspects of fediverse. It might be used in the visions / business cases we publish.


All in all, for 2021 …

:sparkles:   Let’s create some magic together

fairy-openmoji_medium-dark-skin-tone_1f9da-1f3fe_1f3fe

Use our 2021 hashtag:   #YearOfTheFediverse

Looks like there are a few good ideas presented here.

Idea : Select business domains we’d love to see in the fediverse, and write visions / business cases for candidate projects.

Good idea, maybe contact people who are involved in platform co operatives or small groups who support each other, They are more open to the idea of collaboration.

https://platform.coop/
https://localsparktorbay.org/ < local to me, so I can try and promote there.

Paul

1 Like

Thanks Paul, a great suggestion. Maybe in general Fediverse Futures should move along two tracks:

  • Find excellent parties who would greatly benefit from the fediverse, but are not on it, or eve entirely unaware of it.
  • Elaborate business cases based on interest shown from these parties, and take them on adventure of ideation.

I really like this proposal but I’m not comfortable enough with english to participate :_) In catalan we are promoting “Fedicat” and I hope we will find ways to collaborate for our FediFutures :slight_smile:

1 Like

Great! Sure. We should coordinate globally in all language regions. PS. Your English is quite alright :slight_smile:


Update: I just encountered a good example on Hacker News of technical mindset and possible shifts we need to make for the Fediverse. It comments the article My personal wishlist for a decentralized social network in which 3 desirable features are listed:

  1. Network-layer anonymity
  2. Grassroots content delivery
  3. Customizable moderation

I don’t disagree on any of them and also like the gist of the article… but look how technical the approach is. Not a single typical FB user will make the jump based on such feature list. The HN thread for a large part continues the technical focus, but there are also glimmers of looking more deeply on what a ‘social network’ means. Top comment by motohagiography is (formatting mine):

Thinking a new social network platform is destined to fail because it’s a copy of something, but without the impetus that produced the original. It’s the “make something people want,” but more “make something they use for X.”

You need the original purpose. It has to be to make something that isn’t itself. Myspace was mainly novelty and music, Facebook was for status minting from ivy colleges, other ones are for an exogenous purpose as well. Politics isn’t a useful unifying principle. I helped run a progressive political precursor to one of the major ones about 20+ years ago, and it only existed because it was tolerated by part of the establishment, and it could not survive a truly hostile environment.

Gamers made discord a thing because it was for playing games. Hipchat was about making code, and Slack was a way to manage people. Reddit was for sharing alternative/emerging culture.

A divergent platform needs a basis in the culture, and the current generation of censors came up in divergent/alternative culture, so they have a more sophisticated idea of what nascent opposition looks like than the old ones.

Short version is, we don’t need a decentralized social network, we need new culture that produces networks, and courage to create that culture.

Other interesting observation is in the response by rossdavidh:

I might also add that a social network like Goodreads or Stack Overflow that is based around some purpose or topic, is so different in tone from general purpose social networks that lots of people don’t even notice that it has essentially the same set of features. Also, way less toxic and icky feeling when you use it.

Of course, special-purpose social networks never become nearly as big as Facebook, but in my mind that’s a feature, not a bug.

Hey, that’s what we got with ActivityPub. Cool. The follow up is by halfmatthalfcat:

And might even be the future. Do we need something as big as Facebook? Maybe social networks in the future proliferate on “topic” lines where each network is tailored to whatever topic.

I’m working on a social-ish network for TV. Is Facebook good for live discussions about TV? No. Is Reddit? No. Is Twitter, kinda but not really. That’s the problem I’m trying to solve just for TV.

And lastly in this subthread we have 2 people, leppr and presentation, making observations that:

  • a) “people like general social networks because they value the specific human connections more than the topics of interest”
  • b) “I can’t imagine that the mass market will become OK with having like 10 different portals with inconsistent user experiences, unless under some kind of umbrella”

To a) I would say “It depends, and can be both” and with b) I mostly agree.

Interesting question: Can we Reimagine Social?

Our problem in building the Fediverse is that:

We are techies doing open-source projects, and from an isolated use case we build an app / product / service, that we then seek to integrate with the ‘broader fediverse’ (where that federation is often a secondary objective that comes later).

We may have the business domain of our app well thought out, but the business domain of the Fediverse itself has organically grown based on our technical perception of what Fediverse means. It is a domain of Apps, Instances and Projects and things like that.

It is an infrastructure domain!

In my Discourse Meta Community has no boundary: Discourse-as-a-Fabric post, I imagine a ‘global fabric of forum-related functionality’ being formed by ActivityPub adoption. Well, come to think of it… why should we restrict this concept to forums?

Fediverse: The Social Fabric

In the logo + slogan discussion I phrased the Fediverse slogan: Social Reimagined.
How would we do that?

Well… why wouldn’t any individual person choose exactly the Social Network that is most fitting and uniquely tailored to them, and is a mix’n match of various social features? Forget instances, forget apps, forget the infra layer… my social entrypoint is a mashup of all the things that interest me, presented through a portal of my choice.

If I want a cozy network for my friends and family, then I’d have that. If I also want a curated microblogging feed on a particular topic, I add it. Forum capability for that topic? Check and added. Podcast creation? Add it, and publish results elsewhere. Music service? Integrate and go.


Now this way of thinking is of course not new. And has been tried in the past as well. It comes with great complexity overall. But - and now switching to more technical focus again - all the technological foundations are there. ActivityPub and Linked Data are enabling technologies. We can build portals and mashups. Note that the latter need not be open-standards based, and anyone can build them in their own way (similar to those building AP clients now).

The mindset shift is what counts. What we’ll build in technical sense is:

  • Apps with their own front-end UI
  • Integratable services with API’s, C2S, S2S
  • Single-purpose clients
  • Portal clients and mashup frameworks
  • Bridges and adapters

Going back to the Social Media Fabric new concepts may arise. Like, it can still be daunting for a non-technical user to configure their portal in the way they like. Building portals with user-friendly features capable of doing so is super hard (think e.g. SharePoint), and might well fail.

But we may have more expert people (but not necessarily tech guru’s) that create tailored experiences which you might call, I don’t know, Social Media Templates of sorts.

For Jack Dorsey so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten company Twitter, that whoever migrates to Mastodon should not perish, but have everlasting Freedom.