(Note: The first four posts in this thread have been moved from What would a fediverse "governance" body look like?)
I’d like to start at looking what triggered this topic, a fedi discussion with lotsa interesting background (started by me pointing to reasons why Signal chose to be centralized and @rysiek following-up)
Some important points as I see them:
- Fediverse is evolving quite slowly, our greatest strength (decentralization) is our weakness too (fragmentation).
- Our developer base is quite small, and SocialCG / SocialHub has low activity. Time is our most precious commodity.
- Many open issues stay open, things drag on, onboarding is really bad, documentation is lagging, involvement is ad-hoc.
In theory this is all fine. After all, most devs are here for the fun, passion, and excitement to run cool FOSS projects.
But it also makes us weak in a rapidly evolving world of tech. There’s a real danger we are outmanouvered, become irrelevant or even tombstoned in the long term.
I’ll copy some text from Rationale for participation in SocialHub now:
My collapsed argument that AP/Fedi evolution too slow, making us weak and needing focal points of coordination (click to expand).
On AP / Fedi itself I notice that - while its install base is healthy-ish - its dev community overall is very small and thus quite weak-ish in upholding innovation pace. And the fragmentation by which development takes place is hampering fedi + standards evolution, imho.
Though we are proponents of decentralized technology our community needs central focal points to coordinate, where “the family” comes together, so to say. In this we only really have SocialCG and SocialHub (plus #social irc channel, and some matrix rooms, but they are less effective for knowledge gathering and coordination). A metric ton of useful developer information goes lost each day, because it happens on isolated islands and others aren’t aware. The onboarding experience for new devs that want their apps to federate and make sense of the technology is horrible.
And as a result AP / Fediverse innovation & evolution speed is lagging imho, when compared to other decentralized technologies. Even though we have truly production-ready platforms, tested to reality, slowly other tech may become the more attractive candidates. Solid project, though doing zero community-building and having no apps in production is 3x as large as SocialHub, and SAFE community is 16x as large, IPFS 10x exceeds our little group.
There was excitement and trepidation about Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky report. But the questions are a) if they’d choose AP could we handle it and b) if they’d choose another tech could we handle it? We should not become irrelevant, folks. We want to lobby the EU to become a recognized interop standard, but we currently simply have no good story. Finally I wan to once more point to Are we ready for the threats to the Fediverse and decentralization movement?
The above leads me to conclude that we need more community engagement:
We urgently need a stronger SocialHub to reinforce the ActivityPub ecosystem !
The problem with this is that rallying of the community, advocating, housekeeping (besides in general being an unthankful job) takes really a humongous amount of time! And here it was raised that:
Maybe the community needs a donation-funded foundation that enables people to spend more time on these things. Most devs lack bandwidth. Such foundation could have very exciting way in which it is set up, i.e. as a real innovation center that truly involves people from all walks of life, and stimulates to think about tech differently.
Rysiekúr then brought the discussion to our Fediverse Policy Special Interest Group (where things stalled after 1st meetups) with:
How do we get policymakers etc. to know about fediverse and treat fediverse seriously? […] the pitch to users, developers, mastohosters and other fedifolk would be:
Important fedi-affecting legislation is being passed or discussed:
- implementation of the Copyright Directive
- discussion on Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act
Ending the argument by stating:
Fediverse needs to have a loud, well-resourced voice.
My argument on this point is that our Interoperability ‘sales pitch’ to e.g. politicians is also quite weak:
- The good part: We have 2 great W3C Recommendations with AS/AP that build on other standards!
- Then we have some de-facto standards, where you have to figure out how they are implemented across the board.
- Then you’d have to find out all the hidden complexities of federation by literally digging through code bases and issue trackers!
- Then we have no good places where to ask for support, no process guidance, a very early-days FEP process, etc.
- And most of our interop experiences are limited to a Microblogging domain.
Interoperability constitutes a complete package, that just doesn’t exist at the moment.
“We need a foundation, you say?”. Yes, I think so. The “governance” body - even though in scare quotes - is a bit of a formal start.
From The Free Dictionary: Foundation
- that on which something is founded; basis
- the base on which something stands
- an institution supported by an endowment, often one that provides funds for charities, research, etc
- the charter incorporating or establishing a society or institution and the statutes or rules governing its affairs
I think its main tasks should be:
- Organizer of ‘focal points’ where community comes together, coordinates and becomes stronger (e.g. by rallying, advocacy).
- Presenting a unified face, our ‘official’ front office to the outside world.
- Be a collector and distributor of funds to any people playing active roles in evolving the fediverse.
This foundation would be really something that belongs to all of us, representing and defending the fediverse’s interests. It needs not have a very formal organization structure / governance model.
- It wouldn’t be authoritative in tech decisions (SocialCG + SocialHub are for that).
- Certainly not have Presidents and Board of Directors and all that jazz.
- It would not be co-opted by accepting big tech money.
- It’d be totally transparent in how it operates, and where funds are spent.
Maybe some people heavily involved on a daily basis may earn some sort of modest income from their efforts. Other than that:
- The foundation might crowdsource their activities
- Activities are prioritized based on their merits to the community
- A bounty model of funding might serve to reward those carrying them out
(Note: This was originally posted here)
I have another discussion going with members of the Humane Tech Community about “What makes a Humane Technologist?” that is quite interesting and has relevancy to how a foundation can position itself:
- While pondering fedi slogans I think “Social Media Reimagined” can be a true paradigm to follow, and a rallying cry too.
- With that Fediverse can be a veritable playground, makers space and innovation labs for would-be humane technologists.
- As it evolves around its community values and culture, embracing best practices, it’ll be an exemplar of humane technology.