What would a fediverse "governance" body look like?

Looking for feedback on this, its unoriginal and should work fine so fits the #fedivers

I agree with this view. I think there cannot be one single governance body. At least not in the form that is proposed, as it does not fit the grassroots nature of how the fediverse came into being, and the diversity and culture of the fedizens that participate in it.

Saying “not in this form”, because there are evolutions of the Fediverse that can address the issues you mention. I believe that, when we are shaping online social interactions, we should model them to desirable social interactions that exists and work well in the real world.

You indeed already mention some of these, like Sortition. But this will not be the model that is attractive to everyone. It is essential to have Freedom in any way, shape or form to be baked into the social networks. Currently we have a very limited model, where you choose an instance based on its Code of Conduct (and maybe the appeal of the domain name), and then you have Followers / Following under your control.

Elsewhere on this forum in #fediversity:fediverse-futures I introduced the Community has no Boundary paradigm. It is an abstraction layer that allows modeling Community more as it exists in the real-world. Here people participate in many communities in various roles and representations.

Applied to the Fediverse it would abstract individual instances away, as well as the application domain the instance provides. It is more task-oriented. With this model an instance may come with a full Community identity, or be just infrastructure where you have a fedi account. Note that this is a good thing:

The terminology of “Instance” is a highly technical term, that has no real-life equivalent

It unnecessarily seggregates the Fediverse into instance-bound boxes. In the Community model you would fulfill arbitrary amount of Roles (and possibly online identities, with more extensions in place) in arbitrary amount of Communities.

Now going onwards towards “Governance”. Of course there’s need for communities to be managed, and certain rules (if only the CoC) to be enforced. With the requirement of full Freedom, each community should be able to decide their own governance. Subsequently - based on that - another community may decide what role members of the first community may play in their governance.

So in that way an ‘overall governance’ of the Fediverse might be spun up. It of course carries a lot of complexity, and will take time to evolve to something practical (there are frameworks to understand and model the complexity, such as Engaged Theory).

Now, in order to express these Governance models, there may be extensions on top of Community model, that provide e.g. Governance Policies, expressed in a Linked Data vocabulary. You attach them to a community, but the policies themselves are reusable e.g. a Sortition policy.

Note further that multiple projects are creating governed community software, such as Loomio. But each of these is doing things in their own way, contained in their own software packages. A federation model for Governance Policies would break these artificial application boundaries, and once again put Fediverse on a more task-oriented approach to extending its capabilities (where application boundaries disappear, are irrelevant).

Finally, I just created a new post Federated Moderation: Towards Delegated Moderation? where one extended option is Moderation-as-a-Service. In Community has no Boundary + Governance Models, this would just be certain people in certain Roles (e.g. “Instance Moderator”) that can be discovered via the federation model.

Can we focus on #KISS - what are the “threat models” of the proposal this thread is about, we need
food for thought and talk

Let’s define the models and look at pros and cons - am interested in who gets empowered as an outcome of the process - because all the current #mainstreaming models have bad outcome on this criteria.

We need to do better and thus likely we need to do different.

20 years of this… can tell you stories over a beer if you like.

The topic title itself implies sketching visions of what a ‘fediverse-wide governance body’ may look like. But with that the concept itself is far from KISS. What would make it within reach, ultimately, is something that can be broken down into individual smaller parts that are implemented and gradually introduced in stages where each stage builds on top of the foundation provided by others.

But on the whole, I don’t think “one governance body” is realistic. That is a fundamental issue. In my post I am in favour of freedom of choice of what governance one wants, and this may vary depending on context.

The is nothing original in my outline for a “governance” body for the federated online groups. Here is a mainstream article on the issue Why elections are bad for democracy | Politics | The Guardian

The is no “one governance body” meany things are not in there because it is up to the groups themselves to decide on the outcomes. The outline above is a structer and a process for the group to decide.

Aristotle relates equality and democracy:

Democracy arose from the idea that those who are equal in any respect are equal absolutely. All are alike free, therefore they claim that all are free absolutely… The next is when the democrats, on the grounds that they are all equal, claim equal participation in everything.[6]

It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot; and as oligarchic when they are filled by election.[7]

A foundation at best is an oligarchy with maybe a liberal fig leaf of democracy, its interesting to think if this is the way the fedivers sees itself? We should have a video meeting.

Hi Hamish,

In follow-up to our vidcall, discussing Governance models

Just looked at a good video explaining of DDD. Don’t know if it is the best, but it gives a good idea:

Also I did a quick search on ontologies related to Governance. Though I didn’t find directly usable things, some are interesting to link nonetheless:

Some more search might yield more useful input. But the domain needed to model ‘Governance’ in a generic way, probably needs to be adapted for our own use. Note, btw, that we are talking about a ‘meta model’ here: it should be able to express any policy instance (e.g. a Sortition Policy). And if that leads to too much complexity, then - just like with AS/AP - things will be left unspecified i.e. ‘holes’ that people can fill in for their own use case.

Our current working models of “governance” in open-source projects are Monarchy (the dictator for life), Aristocracy (the devs), oligarchy (the NGO, funders) and finally way out on the edge Democracy (the users).

If we are to have a positive social impact, we need to consciously shift from these medieval and early modern ideas of governance to something more modern. We need to recognize that it’s kinda a working dysfunctional joke at the movement. And to challenge this #geekproblem and the desire for control that comes with it is a first good step.


Have watched 3 videos on DDD and am still none the wiser

Maybe you can give examples based on this draft image.

There would be many useful tasks that could help the fediverse for a funded organization. For a project of mine I would like to work with Wikidata (a database related to Wikipedia) and the Wikimedia Foundation Germany was so kind to give us an hour of their time to help us find our way around Wikidata.

Wikipedia is decentralized (by language) and Wikimedia is decentralized (several large rich countries have a Wikimedia Foundation, which is funded by a call for donations on Wikipedia).

So a foundation model can be decentralized. While one worker cooperative can be highly centralized. I like cooperatives, but they are only decentralized and non-profit if we make it so, not by definition.

I have been thinking about a decentralized peer review system for the scientific literature, which is independent of journals (brands that are often owned by monopolistic abusive corporations). Maybe some of these thoughts are also applicable for the Fediverse or can at least start a discussion.

The peer review is organized in disciplinary groups (a bit like small journals, but then journals that do not publish the articles themselves). Because scientists are used to review for journals, I call these groups “review journals”. Each journal has an editorial board with respected scientists from their community. Internally these editors have all the power, I guess some here would call it oligarchy or dictatorship; you could also call it a corporation. But the power of the editors is limited by making it easy to start a new journal. So if the community is not satisfied with the editors, they can search for other editors and can start a new journal. (And they do not have to start from scratch because all the old reviews and comments have an open license.)

A relationship between this review system and the fediverse is that a scientific article may be relevant for multiple review journals/communities and I wanted to make it possible to share reviews and comments via AP. (But in the end the editors decide what is published in their journal, they are responsible for the quality.) And like the fediverse the (initially) central organization would only host one platform/instance and code the free source code. So costs and power are shared by many servers, hopefully run my research libraries and similar organizations.

Naturally, I should not be the one to decide how papers are reviewed, different researchers, editors and especially disciplines likely have a very different idea of how articles are to be reviewed. In the Fediverse every instance writes some sort of text what their rules are. I would like to see something in between where journals can sign up to organizations who have formulated a set of rules. And also sing up to organizations that check whether these rules are actually used or at least have a look when people complain (ombudsman).

For the development (of ideas and code) and support, I am thinking of creating an organization (initially one non-profit) that splits up when it gets too big. It should be written into their by-laws, that when they get to big, they have to make a plan on how to split up, give their funders the option on which part they prefer to fund and assign the funders who have no preference (do not respond). Hopefully, it will be legally possible to have funders agree to such terms so that no funders are lost when an organization splits. Like with GPL, the new organisations would again have these terms on getting too big in their by-laws, but otherwise they can be any organizational form and do any task that is useful, i.e. people are willing to fund. This is, at least, still a few years out for me, so the idea is not much more concrete than that yet.

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Interesting, we do need decentralized peer reviewed science.

You could set something up that would work this way with the #OMN codebase. An example would be the Resistance Exabition which I have yet to do a video about. Have a look at Indymedia Reboot - visionOntv for the grassroots media view of the #OMN project to get the outline.

This would be a more radical decentralized federated project than you outline - good to think about different approaches.

There are many peer review systems being build. We will have to see which one works. As far as possible I would like them to be compatible with each other. Maybe AP can help there, but most seem to use REST APIs.

I do not think that more decentralized is automatically better. Mastodon is great because of the good moderation. If everyone had their single-account instance this advantage would be gone.

We will have to see what the right mix is. Currently the scientific literature is quite decentralized, there are many journals and the moderation/review/publishing decisions are made on the journal level (not be the centralized publishers). That is something that should be maintained, the scientific literature should not become one big unstructured database, but it should also not be a fully decentralized blogging system.

(I had already commented on your OMN video 4 months ago. :blush: )

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I really love where the discussion is going. @VictorVenema it is so nice to see you here, welcome! (Victor and I know each other from fedi, and we are co-maintainers of delightful-open-science).

Key question: How to ensure all the ideas expressed here take flight?

I think we all observe that the needs expressed here are shared much more broadly on the web. There’s a trend growing where tons of similar initiatives take shape in one form or another. In order to bring things together we MUST find common denominators and create building blocks on top of which we can stand!

Note: This is the Spiral Island analogy I outlined before. Creating an archipelago of interacting cooperatives, communities, companies and institutions.

It should also be clear that this goes WELL BEYOND what can encompassed in a single code project. We need to go into specification space in order to allow anyone to build their own island, add plastic bottles to their base, build stuff on top, and build bridges and walkways to other islands. Specifications can be full-blown standards, or they are Linked Data (AS/AP or otherwise) extensions and vocabularies that are commonly accepted.

Here’s where domain analysis and domain-driven design (DDD) come into play. It provides Strategic Design that is especially well-suited to break down the complexity into manageable parts, while keeping non-technical domain experts in the loop, all along the way.

You are a domain expert in grassroots governance with 30 years of experience who proposes a “Sortition model” that relates to an “OpenWeb Governance Body”. And you want it to eventually have a fediverse-wide, or even web-wide applicability. While it may start small, it should be universal enough to gradually scale and encompass that scope.

The question is: In a “United by Diversity” fediverse, will this be the only governance in use, or are there people who don’t to adhere to this and use different governance models? Will they be excluded from participation in the organization you propose, then?

Additional question: Will there be many other forms of governance that apply at different scopes and contexts? I think the clear answer is YES. For instance an Organization (an actor) generally dictates their own internal governance structure and rules, while a Group within the organization might yet have a different governance. So does Governance apply to Actors then?

Not exactly. A Document might also have governance rules. For a Document governance rules might dictate that it is Moderated before it becomes available somewhere. In general many domain-specific entities might be ‘governed’ in some form or other.

Without domain analysis, and - hopefully - some form of standardization that results from it, you might say “Screw it, I’ll just implement the easy way and choose my own implementation”. You implement Sortition and someone else does too. Result is that with N amount of governance models and M amount of implementations per model, we end up with N x M custom solutions, and Interoperability is out the door.

The entire SocialHub community exists to avoid that situation.

So we are going to analyse the Governance domain. With this we start with having the simplest top-level generalization, and gradually add more detail as we talk to domain experts and incorporate their feedback. So, for example:

An Object may be subjected to governance.

But this is very vague. We can define a new domain term for different forms of governance called “Governance Policy”, and since we are already in the Governance bounded context, we can simply say Policy.

An Object may have a Policy assignment.

Note the word ‘assignment’. This may hint to other domain language that must be elaborated. Also an object may have different policies depending on ‘context’… another term to explore. We might promote “Policy Assignment” to become domain terminology.

  • An Object may have a Policy Assignment.
  • A Policy Assignment is the set of policies that apply to an object

At every level new questions are raised… Who is doing the assignment? What is the meaning of an object that is governed? What are the relationships to other domain entities? How can we describe the policy context?


The above are mere examples!

Domain experts and analysts need to come up with a Governance domain model that makes the most sense, and uses a familiar, easy-to-understand ‘ubiquitous language’. While analysing the domain, additional subdomains may be identified that can exist independently (and form a ‘context map’).

One of the requirements is that it should not become too complex. So in places where there are too many variations we may leave ‘holes’ in the spec that will be filled in with custom implementations (just like what we did for AS/AP).

Now to come back to “OpenWeb Governance Body” - your domain of interest - it might boil down to be specified as a Sortition Policy that applies to Community relationships. I.e. having Social Network + Community + Governance subdomains in its context map.

With well-defined (sub)domains in place, others can jump in and add additional extensions to them, e.g. @bhaugen and @lynnfoster might add Value Flows domain to the mix.


This is an interesting question:

it’s a permissionless process/structure so is open, the group that forms using the tools decide who is a part of the group or not - and it can/will divide into a web of connecting instances of governance as a natural human process of group formation. The is no exclusion, always diversity - in this it’s a natural fit for the fedivers.

If people are stupid (and we live in the era of #stupidindividualism) each governance instance will have one member and NO POWER

To get POWER people have to work together, this is built into the code. You can only hold it for a limited time so it’s important to use this time to get stuff done. HORDING of power is limited, it flows through the community and by this flow it energies and solidifies the community - building horizontal power to challenge/change vertical power #KISS

I imagine people will try and push for http://hamishcampbell.com/2021/04/24/governance-in-open-source-projects/ all the existing power structers BEFORE Democracy. As we are “permissionless” we can’t stop them from doing this. We just have to do better, and being native to the fedivers is a big help here.

We touch on where power comes from is this thried.

In the fedivers path it comes from different places than a corporation, a government, courts, police etc. we need to think and build with this difference and NOT try and drag the fedivers back to the normal path.

REMEMBER the fedivers works BECAUSE it’s different.

It’s easy to forget this important thing when #mainstreaming agenders grab and hold.

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One way of keeping power structures in place is to never question it. I think this is happening too much lately in this community. As power remains unquestioned, it remains in place. Who are you afraid of? would be an interesting question to ask around.

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While I admit I too enjoy drawing nice static boxes and unchanging point-A-to-B arrows for governance things, I imagine a governance body in this space would be very fluid and accommodating* of people coming and going, for sure it would help me keep the FEP process going… :sweat_smile:

*y’all are already accommodating and not knocking at my door, but I also mean beyond that: in a way where responsibility can ultimately be carried out.

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Yep that’s the digram above.

The question that is missing in almost all these conversations is “who are we empowering” think i did a blog post on this http://hamishcampbell.com/2021/04/24/governance-in-open-source-projects/

We have big problems in alt-tech

"Look thought my tech news feed and mutter Uttley pointless… utterly pointless… stupidly pointless… dangerously pointless…naively evil… innocently evil… just plain evil…

Muttering under breath… We need to do better in alt-tech."

It’s a mess, we need shovels to make compost to plant seeds of the world we won’t.

What would doing better look like?

Think starting with the #4opens would remove 90% of the cuff thus revealing the real potential for good outcomes.