Let's Play and Win Our Own Game

I’m Darius Kazemi (@darius) @darius@friend.camp, and I’m an independent researcher, programmer, and artist. I’m the maintainer of Hometown, a fork of Mastodon with community-enhancing features, and I added AcitvityPub support to the open source event organizing software Gathio. I was a Mozilla Open Web Fellow in 2018-2019

As creators of federated social software, we have a choice: we can compete with social media giants on their own terms, or we can play our own game, one that’s impossible for the giants to play in the first place. If we want to do the latter, we need to identify the fundamental assumptions that constrain the giants and ask ourselves what we can do when we throw those assumptions out entirely.

In this talk, I am going to try and inspire you to make things that would be literally impossible to make on the centralized web. I am going to talk about both the advantages and disadvantages of doing this kind of thing. Expect to hear concrete examples of software that already exists, and also examples of software that could conceivably exist in the very near future.

Questions & Answers available!

Q&A Session – Closing Keynote, “Let’s Play and Win Our Own Game”
⬡ Hooray, the live Questions & Answers are available here


First thing I like about Hometown is the ability to post “unfederated”, i.e. “tight-knit to the server” ; the support of event is also interesting, any chance you share it with Mastodon and/or discuss it in Federated Events?

@darius, I tried to find your implementation of Hometown to look at the Event code, but friend.camp announces itself as Mastodon and sends to the original Mastodon code, and I could not find anything on your GH account.

Thank you for thinking about infrastructure and service providers. At this level there’s another issue: many independent ISPs use the same datacenters, which makes decentralization difficult. Supporting initiatives like FOSShost.org and other librehosters may help alleviate this problem as they would be able to diversify the location of their servers. As always with the alternatives, it’s the attention and love of the community that makes it possible. For too long have we been fed with the illusion that the Internet is “free” (as in gratis), and that prevents fair competition, because you cannot compete at zero cost.

Signs that something can’t exist on centralized networks

I love this slide:

  • Doesn’t meet a profit motive
  • Doesn’t “scale well”
    • nodes can/should remain small anyway, only has to scale across a network
  • Looks like something that “failed” in the past
    • BBS, gopher, universal feed readers, etc etc
  • Is something that you don’t understand the utility of
    • Many puzzling ideas are in fact just useless but it’s still a positive indicator

Looking forward to the live session!

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Oh thank you for pointing this out! That’s a bug. I almost never look at the non-logged in About page, heh. It properly links to the source code in the logged-in interface. I will fix that shortly.

In the meantime, check out Hometown here. I made it its own org in order to decouple it from me personally at least a little bit:

The wiki in particular is the best place for info:


The Event stuff is still really just a hack (literally Event just gets rendered as a URL that auto-links to a ‘add to your google calendar’ shortcut, obviously not generally useful). I hope that some time in the next year I’ll have something worth discussing with the community.

You might want to attend the Events in ActivityPub BoF.

That brings me another question: did you try merging some of the features upstream?
Especially https://github.com/hometown-fork/hometown/wiki/Local-only-posting which sounds very simple and desirable.

Great @darius, I added the project to the ActivityPub Watchlist.

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@how I did not attempt to merge local posting upstream because the main reason Hometown exists is that there is a 2+ year old open pull request on Mastodon for exactly this implementation of local-only posting. You can see in “Who” section of the page you linked that I credit Renato and his work on this PR, our implementation is just a merge of the outstanding PR.

My sense is that local-only posting is considered out of scope but it’s hard to tell, as Eugen’s last comment on the PR explained his concerns, asked for feedback, and then he hasn’t commented on the feedback.

I have upstreamed some minor bugfixes from Hometown to Mastodon, but our core features are ones that I have chosen specifically because they seems like they do not fit Mastodon’s project scope as I understand it.

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@aschrijver Thanks! You may also be interested in adding these other projects:

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Ah, the debugging server is new to me. The other one was already on the ActivityPub Developer Watchlist I created.

Edit: Glitch debugging server added :slight_smile:

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This is why I hadn’t added Hometown to the fediverse.party wiki yet. It gave the impression was just a flavour of Mastodon, rather than a distinct project forked off from it. Great to have that cleared up :slight_smile:


This Q+A for this session is happening here now! https://bbb.fosshost.org/b/mor-c5d-m5z-5jo

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moved to conf.tube, now included on top …