Ideating organization structure for the Grassroots Fediverse (wiki)

“Any decentralized [ecosystem] requires a centralized substrate, and the more decentralized the approach is the more important it is that you can count on the underlying system.”

— Byrne Hobart. The Promise and Paradox of Decentralization

Fediverse has gained critical mass. The ecosystem is going mainstream, appealing to a broader audience. There’s corporate interest, and even Big Tech is pondering an entry.

→ This means Opportunity and Threats… now is the time to address them.

Threats consist of various levels of Corporate Capture of the technology landscape, and that goes up all the way up to EEE. I won’t go into this much, as these dynamics are well-known. There’s one positive side to the corporate interest: On the short term dedicated company resources can signficantly boost evolution and technology uptake. Longer term corporations will take the drivers seat and FOSS movement is driven to their usual position in the fringes.

“It’s the Culture, stupid!”

In the FOSS movement we are so deeply focused on technical aspects of technology, that we often lose sight of the bigger picture of what we manage to establish with our collective efforts. Consider this:

Q: What’s the key quality, or ‘unique selling point’ if you will, that led to the success of the Fediverse?

A: It’s the vibrant Culture that has been fostered over a period of years in a grassroots environment.

I feel this is such an important insight. There’s people bashing AS/AP et al for their technical shortcomings. People saying that e.g. Nostr is so much better and will win with their “censorship resistance”. There’s a gazilion startups that tried to launch the killer Social Media platform… and failed.

Those long years with the Fediverse slowly, organically carving out its well-deserved space on the web, driven by Free Culture and the Commons, i.e. having the interests of real People at heart… these have created the conditions for the Fediverse to flourish! A fedi that’s human-scale and humane. That was the key success factor!

The Fediverse knows what “Social” is!

On the contrary corporate Social Media were never about social at all. They were about money at all cost.

“Defend What 's Dear to Us”

With the Fediverse the Free Culture and FOSS movement managed a rare feat: To erect a complete open-standards-based ecosystem from the ground up and steer it towards success. Now our challenge is to see if we can remain in the drivers seat and keep the Fediverse delightful and for everyone, making it more diverse and inclusive than ever before.

Now it is time, as @darius so clearly expressed before to “Play and Win Our Own Game”:

Moving ahead: The Grassroots Fediverse

As many people stated before, grassroots cultural dynamics means resistance to overly formalized processes and centralization of activities. The fragmentation and resulting chaos of our dispersed activities all across the web lends a certain measure of resilience. This is a Good Thing™ and it is needed… to an extent.

At the same time too much fragmentation makes The Grassroots Fediverse weak and vulnerable to concerted efforts to bring order to chaos. Efforts that corporations will soon be deeply involved with.

There’s a sweet spot to be found between order and chaos.

Ideating our grassroots organization

In the Wiki post below you can all edit your ideas for a ‘minimum viable organization structure’ that’s needed for Fediverse evolution that retains our grassroots culture and dynamics which made us successful.

Discussion goes here: Continuing the DoOcracy

(Note: This topic is locked, so that wiki edits will bump the topic to the top of the forum)


Parallel tracks

Proposing organization along two tracks that takes place in parallel:

  • An organic and grassroots evolution of the Fediverse.
  • A formal track related to future standards at the W3C.

The diagram below depicts this idea in more detail:

Given these tracks anyone involved in the developer ecosystem should find a place where they feel their contributions add most value.

The Grassroots Fediverse

What we have…

ActivityPub Rocks website

A landing page to introduce people to AS/AP having great SEO.

Proposed TODO’s:

  • Approach @cwebber with ideas (done: mail by @aschrijver)
  • Bring website under Fediverse codeberg org account? Collab with @cwebber
  • Redesign the website, keep it up-to-date (editor team, volunteer @trwnh?)

SocialHub Community

This very forum with a rich archive of insights and things to be processed. With 687 members on March 2023.

Proposed TODO’s:

  • Seeking new forum admins (led by @how, see this topic)
  • Improve the Community Governance
  • Elect / organize a Wellbeing team

Fediverse Codeberg organization

Organization account on a FOSS software forge, to create teams and repositories. Currently here we find:

Fediverse Enhancement Proposals (FEP’s)

FEP’s are currently the only process where shared technical advances are discussed and specs defined. We discuss them in the #standards:fep forum category.

W3C Note of the FEP Process

As proposed by @melvincarvalho and supported by @eprodrom and official W3C Note published by the SWICG can make reference to the FEP process hosted on Codeberg and SocialHub.

Proposed TODO’s (please update re:W3C procedure):

  • Write note draft
  • Review/publish

What we might add…

Forked W3C repo’s of ActivityStreams and ActivityPub

For years the W3C repo’s were unmaintained. By (soft-)forking them to Codeberg, we can dedicate to adding updates to the text and also host them on non-Big Tech platform. This may serve multiple purposes:

  1. Might dedicate to thinking about vNext specification drafts, may upstream to W3C later.
  2. Might derive a reduced “ActivityPub: The Good Parts” comprehensive spec.
    • E.g. from framework to constituent parts (see AP critique recently quoted again by @trwnh)
  3. Might make the specification easier to convert into tests, by providing clear labels for requirements, see here.

There may be interest to set this up, e.g. by @helge on a hard-fork side (bullet 2).

Fediverse Development Documentation website

For years we have a messy wiki post Guide for new ActivityPub implementers, that has a lot of good info, but that most people forget to update.

There’s recent initiative to launch a developer documentation site FediDocs by @gabek. Yet it is on Github. Would be best for collaboration to have it under Fediverse codeberg org.

There’s a Github repo where sequence diagrams for message exchange patterns are created (by @boyter). This would be very useful to be under one single documentation portal.

Then there’s more fragment places where documentation exists. Let’s unify and not reinvent wheels.

Proposed TODO’s:

ActivityPub Test Suites

Test Suite projects should be available under the Fediverse codeberg org account. There’s the official test-suite that needs to be fixed, and the unofficial one by @cjs in Golang that might be forked. Also there’s been talk to having a test suite first of all defined as pure documentation in text and/or Gherkin BDD behaviour tests.

Federated Diversity Foundation

Fedi foundation was created by @aschrijver and previously proposed as a multi-author website to keep track of technology developments on the Fediverse. It has since been made part of social coding movement, but is still available for the original purpose.

Having people share background articles on their apps and FEP’s and such in a portal site, makes it easy for the dev community to follow along AS/AP ecosystem evolution.

Note that the ActivityPub Rocks website is another candidate to fulfill this role. Though it might better serve as a top-level drilldown into the parallel tracks of grassroots evolution and formal development.

Gathering the SplinterVerse?

Here are various initiatives listed that document aspects of the Fediverse developer ecosystem… initiatives that might bundle forces.