Thanks for @mariha for coherently expressing this idea (me having written some rambles to her about this idea too). And @aschrijver and @how for their validating enthusiasm .
(I wrote about my background in my welcome post).
I would like to support this initiative in a low-key kind of way, and have been chatting with @mariha about it more informally too. Maybe if a few people wave around enough enthusiasm at some point some code arrives!
I’ll (ab)use the apparant tolerance for long wordy posts here, with my own long wordy post!
Background context pondering
Governance has been a challenging and fascinating topic for me in all the grassroots community software projects I’ve worked on, and I’ve come to see the value of autonomous independent nodes, organising as they wish, but able to opt in (and out) of bigger wholes as desired.
In https://karrot.world we approach this by each group on the platform being independent rather than by tech-based federation (as most of the groups would not be able to run an instance), but would potentially like to do that too later.
For me personally, the fediverse (by which I mostly mean mastodon) is really working (an “alternative” platform that is not entirely full of discussions about the platform itself ) - and I love the properties of:
- can share software platform (e.g. mastodon) (as software is hard to develop)
- can run instances independently with own governance mechanisms
- can opt-in/out of federation with other instances
- can interoperate with other software too (client+server)
For hospex these things seem potentially very exciting .
the challenges of building software platforms - each new hospex community puts together an exciting new shiny tech platform, only to struggle some years later when it’s not cool tech any more, and the kind of work required has become a chore, leaving burnt out grumpy developers left and a pile of tech debt, … or commercial sell out of the community (who are the people that actually made the platform useful).
critical mass issues - each hospex platform struggles to get enough people to join, and people get tired of having too many accounts on too many platforms that have too few other people on, federation can solve some of this
community self-governance - with only a handful of platforms available to choose from, the governance of those is usually left to the usual type, who already hold some kind of power in society, building tools that allow groups of people to govern themselves addresses some of that
Mastodon allows 100s (1000s?) of communities to exist independently yet speak to each other, I’d love to see 100s or 1000s of hospex platforms that can cater to peoples needs more independently, yet still allow cross-communication. Safety is huge topic in hospex as peoples physically safety is really on the line - I’d love people to be able to choose their community of trust and federation options to meet their own definitions of safety.
There is still a very tricky centralization problem of the governance of the protocols and the development of each tech platform (developers not generally representing or understanding the needs of the communities very well), and for that I really enjoy things like the design justice principles.
(Slightly) more concrete stuff
I don’t know so much about activity pub, but the challenge to me seems how to express the activities of hospex in the language of activity pub / activity streams / etc. Most thoughts about how it should work will encode or embed various cultural/value assumptions, so seems wise to make these explicit.
A few examples:
hosting requests with arrival/departure dates (like airbnb), encodes a transactional consumerist perspective that communities that value connection might want to avoid
trip itineraries (like couchsurfing) presupposes a planned kind of travel, whereas some communities would emphasis more spontaneous travel
review/reference features (like many things) have their own complex set of dynamics… (reluctance to leave negative reviews)
My personal hospex cultural preferences are for a kind of spontaneous / short term (0-24 hours) messaging-based communication within a small community of very aligned people, for brief stays as I travel. Others seem to enjoy participating in an online “travel community” (tips and stuff) first, planning in advance, doing local cultural activities together… and other stuff I probably have no idea about.
I generally like the principle to make things (at least) one level more abstract than the underlying activity, to allow scope for appropriation of the tool for uses the designers did not know about (considering how much is possible with general chat/facebook groups alone, there is quite some scope there!).
I’m curious if there is any tooling for building activity pub ontologies, or whatever, to help express possibilities? Although I most highly value chat (voice/video) in addition to written “backup”, and more concrete exploration, shortly followed by working code
I’m not sure how much capacity I have to contribute to this practically though - I do quite enjoy the position of bridging abstract conceptual blahblahblah-ing into what might be needed for code to appear, which is sometimes more human, sometimes more technical.
Anyway that’s (more than) enough from me for now!