POLL: SocialHub Scope and Purpose?

When it comes to Future of SocialHub I think it is valuable to define more clearly:

  • Scope: What subject matter is relevant to the community, and what is off-topic?
  • Purpose: What are objectives? What does the community want to achieve?

I hereby propose:

Proposal: Give SocialHub most compact scope: Focus exclusively on protocol standardization.

And maybe broaden out from there, but not before active community is achieved on the narrow scope.


Achieving a diverse, broad-scoped active and healthy community is possible, but would require super active and involved staff. In the grassroots environment most likely requiring more effort than most volunteers are prepared to give, leading to eventual burn-out. It is the chores that need to be done, that are most problematic.

During my time as moderator I tried to broaden both scope and diversity. A community characterized as:

  • “Fedizens evolve the Fediverse collectively”: Anyone non-technnical or technical has a say, all skills are welcome and needed. Explore potential and possibilities of the Fediverse.

Besides people stating their annoyance with non-technical topics, I also came to see that it won’t work in the culture and dynamics of our particular ecosystem. Instead I would now prefer a different approach:

  • “SocialHub where ActivityPub Rocks”: The smallest possible scope i.e. Protocol level open standards evolution only. The shared common denominator every interoperable fedi app has.
  • Decentralized domain/app specific hubs: Are you in a specific domain? Organize your own community and/or ecosystem and develop AP vocabulary extensions and related FOSS projects.

ActivityPub Rocks

What happened after W3C specifications were finalized in terms of open standards evolution? Very little. Nearly all substrate formation within the ecosystem stalled. Ad-hoc and post-facto interoperability were main drivers of evolution and led to much protocol decay. SocialHub is a giant backlog of unresolved open issues.

Only recently thanks to @weex efforts and a number of fedi devs dedicating their time (for which kudos :pray: ) the FEP process is gaining traction.

In the smallest possible scope SocialHub is a developer-oriented community, that focuses on evolution of the decentralized interoperability protocols and their open standard specifications.

I always saw this as having 3 interdependent process tracks, with decreasing levels of required formality:

  1. Open standards track
  2. FEP process
  3. Vocabulary extensions

Open standards track

Most formality here. This track will eventually deliver ActivityPub 2.0 and other related standard specifications. Various FEP’s might be adopted in them (superceding the FEP).

These next-gen specs should fill in “the missing parts” in e.g. security, identity, auth/authz, etc. But also might be better organized. Current specs are a mix’n match of Transport Protocol, API definition, and core vocabulary that makes the whole more of “framework”. You cannot say to someone: “Just implement AS/AP specs and join the Fediverse”.

FEP process

Where most of the work is focused, and a process is already in place (which can be further improved).

The most valuable FEP’s imho are those standardizing protocol mechanisms that are common and needed for any fedi app, regardless of the app type or domain that it targets. Valuable also would be: How do we define AP Vocab extensions in consistent manner? How do we discover capabilities of an Actor endpoint? Etcetera.

Vocabulary extensions

ActivityStreams is kind of the core vocabulary of the Fediverse. ActivityPub protocol is based on it, extends it. It is very intertwined. But AS/AP is also a Linked Data standard where machine-readable semantics are supposed to be a key feature. ActivityStreams is handy. It contains CRUD-like activities. And it contains some social media primitives (such as Like).

However, when it comes to the current fedi, I feel that everyone is too focused on cramming their domain model into existing concepts of ActivityStreams. Only because that is how we started to do things, and it is what the most popular app is using. We never specified in a good way how different well-namespaced vocab extensions can be modeled and then stacked together as lego-like building blocks for different use cases / domains.

Some of these vocab extensions can become FEP’s, others may be app-specific or domain-specific. That should be made clear. For instance the current Groups federation FEP imho is an opinionated implementation, that models groups as seen in social media (there’s mention of Forums and optional moderation mechanics).

Decentralized community

For many of these AP vocabulary extensions, when they are specific to a particular domain, ecosystem or even a single app, might be best developed in decentralized fashion. Having their own community of interested people that maintain and evolve them.

In a way this already happens:

  • Podcasting has its own separate ecosystem. Their own vocab extensions. They never engage on SocialHub.
  • Mastodon does most their work in their own community, only touches SocialHub on common fediverse-wide concerns.
  • Peertube developed their extension in-house (Framasoft), having one dedicated developer on the project. (See also notes on Social Video platforms).

I don’t think that is a bad trend at all. If e.g. later on Peertube and Owncast and other projects in a Video related domain feel the need to collaborate and standardize things, they can create their community for that. It will have a narrow scope as well, making it more likely that the members are willing to be active for the community.

5 Likes

I like the proposal, but I also think technicians are too much extracted from other people’s concerns, and as such miss opportunities to evolve technique for good reasons. I like that we have the space for non-technicians to come and discuss and discover the technical side, and also to chime in and ask what they need from the technicians. Not having this aspect of the community would certainly make it less useful. OTOH only with more involvement from people who desire such outcomes can we make it happen. So, to reproduce a conclusion of Howard Rheingold: what it is → is → up to us.

1 Like

I think that what this proposal would boil down to is that most activity is protocol-level, i.e. removed a bit from end-user requirements. All activity that leads to robust, resilient and interoperable communication.

Where people’s desires for particular social features and social networking capabilities come into play, is on the levels of all the fedi apps that investigate the user’s needs. And that will translate into AP vocab extensions, less in scope of SocialHub given this proposal.

2 Likes

This is likely not helping the problem of social/tech divide by pushing the two world views apart, we need more overlap not less, though I understand the problem of this not being at all easy #geekproblem

Makes a good point about this, we need to make this work, ideas please?

1 Like

I repeat the notion that from a DoOcracy we can evolve to become something more, but at the same time we came to the conclusion that there isn’t more animo to be more than “just-a-forum” right now.

What is the current SocialHub status?

  1. We have good technical discussions going on.
  2. We have a working FEP process that can be further improved.
  3. We have a huge archive / backlog as inspiration of technical stuff-to-do.

SocialHub Scope and Purpose is still an open issue. What do we want?
I suggest that is the next thing to poll


What scope would you prefer SocialHub to have?

  • Singular focus. Tech-oriented. Evolve the core protocols + FEP’s.
  • Broad focus. Everyone is welcome, technical + non-technical. All fedi topics go.
  • Somewhere inbetween these 2 scope extremes. Please explain your vision.

0 voters

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First vote and already faced with

Please explain your vision.

I will give an example of where to draw the line.

First.) I think everybody will agree with me is that ActivityPub use cases often require human moderation. This means that there will need to a human actor somewhere making decisions. As far as I can tell, the current ActivityVocabulary only includes Flag (Activity Vocabulary) as a tool for moderation.

Second.) Moderation is often by people who are not the developers implementing the protocol.

I want to create a tool now to help with moderation using AcitivityPub. For this:

  1. I want: Input from the Moderators on HOW such a tool would be used:
  2. I don’t want: Discussions about WHAT to moderate.

So in summary, I would like to allow discussions on HOW the Fediverse is used, but not on WHAT the Fediverse is used for.

2 Likes

Welcome to the SocialHub community @helge. Yes, that scope makes sense. I guess good moderation mechanisms go beyond pure protocol concerns, yet OTOH they relate to a topic that is still rather universal for the Fediverse at large. Requiring user feedback from those actually moderating right now.

With that I feel it is not far from what I thought of as ‘singular focus’. The community wouldn’t have part of its member base be moderators discussing their day-to-day activities (which would be inevitable full of the WHAT they do and encounter). And this user feedback might in large part be collected in toots, poll toots and devs interviewing mods.

Thank you @aschrijver for keeping the meta going. I like to operate in a way that is open and then address problems as they come so I voted Broad.

The way I see it working is if we’re inundated with content that requires too much moderation or seems clearly off-topic in regards to federated social media then we would discuss that problem and decide on solutions. No need to go much deeper than that. Happy New Year!

I am not worried about the inundation. More about first of all making the community broad, and then making it meaningful. But guess its alright to state it might be broad, and when not acting to make it so, things remain as-is and whoever comes the merrier.

Personally I feel that by adopting a singular focus helps make discussions more actionable and useful to the evolution of fedi wrt the stalled open standards track. It would help give Purpose and incentives to contribute. Now that fedi is mainstreaming I expect, if we do not manage to get this going, corporate takeover will follow on the protocol levels and we lose the initiative.

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Apart from working out FEPs, discussing how to implement the standards and announcements of new implementations etc, I would like to see conversations like the First steps: Why is my profile not found on Mastodon Instances? would continue to be seen as on-topic.

2 Likes

The SocialHub scope and purpose should be limited to that of the W3C Social Web Incubator Community Group:

The SocialCG provides space to collaborate and coordinate for implementors who are building on any of the specifications published by the Social Web WG, and related technologies. It is also a place to incubate new proposals which build on or complement the Social Web WG recommendations.

Please note that according to the homepage of the W3C Social Web Incubator Community Group SocialHub is the forum of that CG. That is something which needs to be discussed because the Mailing List is now active again and GitHub is also used by the CG. Instead of one place for discussion there are several which do not seem to be coordinated.

2 Likes

Yes, agree. I do not know the extent to which this mention of the SocialHub indicates an “official W3C relationship”, rather than “here we also discuss”. For me personally these W3C mailing lists never really worked. I minimize email use, but also the UI offered to navigate these mailing lists is a PITA, imho :sweat_smile:

But they do have the ad vantage of being a better archived track record of prior discussions when compared to this forum.

When it comes to picking up a formal standards body there’s more than SWICG meetups alone (see my notes above). Things go even to an extent where we can think of whether work done for a AP v2.0 needs to be under the umbrella of the W3C. It might just as well be under the IETF, which may be even a better fit for a grassroots community of fedizens and FOSS developers to organize their ecosystem.

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The IETF has its place in the world of standards organisations. Healthy communities can live under both umbrellas. But I doubt that the IETF would be preferable to a W3C CG regarding community. So far most people who were or are related to Social Web standards seem to be more related to the W3C. Network effects apply here too. The SWICG has 122 members - most of them not active currently.

The link with W3C is highly relevant. The disjoint nature of SocialHub and SWICG is confusing for newcomers. It would be great to get more on the backstory and even better to understand the nature of the formal relationship.

2 Likes

The forum software does have the ability to separate discussions by topic, so it can serve as the official forum for the community group, and also as a forum open to the public to discuss ActivityPub.

It comes down to what the admins and moderators want to maintain, because ultimately, if less-technical ActivityPub topics are not discussed here, they will be discussed somewhere.

1 Like

3 posts were split to a new topic: Working and thinking on “native” aproches to governance

A post was split to a new topic: Clarify relation of SocialHub versus FEP repository

If you want to pursue this it is best to summarize your ideas in a new topic, so that it can be split into more actionable chunks, be they social activities (e.g. people organizing) or socio-technical support you think is needed and that may be turned into FEP’s or larger AP vocab extensions.

4 Likes