What would a fediverse "governance" body look like?

I found some great resources related to a more universal definition of a Governance domain model. First there’s: MetaGov and this research collective has - among others 2 subprojects, both experimental tools.

The Metagovernance Project is an interdisciplinary research collective. We build standards and infrastructure for digital self-governance.

Interesting is the paper Modular Politics: Toward a Governance Layer for OnlineCommunities (PDF) where e.g. in par. 3.8 Implementation strategies they show a governance model for social media mentioning Sortition…

Policy Kit

Consider the platforms you use for online communities today. These platforms only offer governance options that are top-down, autocratic, and punitive, involving admins and mods. But what if platforms could provide other types of governance, such as more democratic ones? What if communities could build for themselves the governance that suits their needs and values?

PolicyKit empowers online community members to concisely author a wide range of governance procedures and automatically carry out those procedures on their home platforms. Inspired by Nobel economist Elinor Ostrom, we’ve developed a framework that describes governance as a series of actions and policies , written in short programming scripts.

Community Rule

“For everyone to have the opportunity to be involved in a given group and to participate in its activities the structure must be explicit, not implicit. The rules of decision-making must be open and available to everyone, and this can happen only if they are formalized.” (Jo Freeman, “The Tyranny of Structurelessness”)

Too many of our communities adopt default governance practices that rely on the unchecked authority of founders, admins, or moderators, lacking even basic features of small-scale democracy. The purpose of CommunityRule is to help communities establish appropriate norms for decision-making, stewardship, and culture.

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It is the up and coming subject - lets make it happen.

Important not get lost in the #process geeks as that’s a dead end and has been for the 30 years I have been doing this and let’s keep it both #KISS and human understandable.

metagov.org It’s good that rich and famous Americans are working on building web “governance” as diversity is always good.

But its also bad as most people go for the rich high status American projects which has a long history of ending badly. Let’s do this #DIY please as diversity is always good.

It’s a balancing act. If the goal is to define Governance in a way that may find broad adoption, then a KISS approach that ignores most of the complexity will not achieve that. I argue that the breadth and scope with which they analyse the domain, is the proper one. In a translation to how such model fits within the Fediverse things can be left generalized, not fully specified to the deepest levels. The generalization works to simplify things, while it gives implementers the freedom to fill in holes at higher levels of granularity. This strategy is no different than the one that was applied to the AS/AP specs.

I still feel that in your preferred approach you want to take a single use case in this broader picture, i.e. a specialization, and implement that as a KISS approach. Specialising like that always makes things simpler, but also leads to something with narrower applcability.

As for the people involved, yes they are mostly academics, and yes they may have a more SV-mindset. They may understand community concepts very well, having studied them, but not exactly grasp the culture we like to see. I don’t know about that. But if that is problematic, then the bridge I have to sell you, is that the internet standards that we know and love, and use on a daily basis, were created by just such people.

I think we have something to offer them. On their page they mention some proprietary SaaS / social platforms, two blockchain projects, and instead of Fediverse they refer only to Mastodon. With Fediverse and AS/AP we have the perfect experimental playground. What they are seeking, according to the paper, is something that is:

  • Modular
  • Expressive
  • Portable
  • Interoperable

TADAAH   :tada:   → Linked Data, ActivityStreams, ActivityPub

So we might prepare a project for the standardization of a Governance vocabulary and related stuff, and invite them to collaborate. I still don’t know if that project matches what you have in mind :slight_smile:

Am talking to @dajbelshaw@fosstodon.org on mastodon and as he say the is circler hopelessness in thrieds like this…

First - human beings are messy, mashions are not messy.

Second - with this understanding we minermise the role of machines and maximise the role of humans. We BLOCK “common sense” attempts to remove messy as people are not machines.

Third – we keep it at a #KISS level “serving the humans trying to communicate” by getting out of the way and let the humans work it out and simply providing structure for the groups, we don’t define the groups.

A bridge that need building and maintaining to cross the chasm between horizontal and vertical thinking.

Its native “governance” and federates in the same way the as the project it governs in this it IS COUNTERINTUITIVE to mainstream ideas and “common sense” no bad thing, its why we are here.

You do understand that the world view you put forward is crossing talking to the project we are addressing in this thried?

We are doing a funding proposal to do the simple well tested project/workflow (which we know dues not scale) and roll it out trying federation to scale. We know this works to extent , look at the “Fediverse ” as a living example of this approach working to scale small to bigger.

Yes there will be lots of “smoke” and we could do with some help keeping the project clear of this

Documenting the process http://hamishcampbell.com/2021/05/21/talking-to-the-burocractic-coop-crew/

With the “governance” mess at #FSF #freenode etc. its past time to look beyond our current “undemocratic” models of #openweb projects

This is a outline using the fediverse as an example of a thought through coding project with good defaults for trying different approaches for better outcomes.

We HAVE to overcome our #stupidindividualism to have a hope of a better world.

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Interesting to see open/closed happening live with freenode and About Libera Chat | Libera Chat looking at this page the #openweb crew have moved to the vertical “grassroots” governance model http://hamishcampbell.com/2021/04/24/governance-in-open-source-projects/ oligarchy is the default outcome currently.

Interesting to see a #openweb project move from oligarchy to monarchy and then back to oligarchy.

It is an absolute war out there surrounding freenode, e.g. Gentoo Freenode channels have been hijacked | Hacker News

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Is there a Fediverse/ActivityPub IRC anywhere out there on the interwebs?

I know this thread has been a great resource and example of more abstract and higher-order thinking, but i also have a concrete problem that may be less abstract. When it comes to the FEP I think that I as an editor (i don’t want to speak for @lain and @pukkamustard ) could be more active in executing the process and making it more well-known. I haven’t been keeping up with my fellow editors – perhaps they are doing far more than me – I just know I’ve been failing in that regard.

I don’t know if the FEP power structure is an oligarchy or something else, i just know it’s probably in need of improvement in terms of response times, tooling, and promoting awareness. The governance question comes into play when trying to figure out how to enact the change that solves these problems, as editors are given wide latitude but nothing is said about how to add/remove or poke-and-prod-into-action the editors. Just comes down to personal conduct/responsibility at the moment, which works great if you trust the people that are editors, not so much if you don’t. I feel like I could unilaterally declare “I’m not an editor anymore” or, more controversially, “any objections to make so-and-so now an editor” but those actions don’t feel good to me. I can only imagine how powerless someone who isn’t an editor may feel, if they wanted to boot out an unproductive editor (ex: me).

From another forum:

Really good questions, thanks. Let’s try and address some issues.

The need for “governance” came out of a practical problem, the #activitypub community is made up of “cats” you know the slogan “herding cats” we were doing seminars outreach to powerful EU Eurocrats on why they should be interested in #activertypub and interesting they really are interested. We had no voice, only “cats” with everyone pushing their own tiny projects, it was a lot of work and stress, but we got the presentations done.

Back to the questions. A lot of the issues you are outlining are actually covered outside what is normally though of as process - It’s designed to be messy, it’s not designed to be tidy. Let’s illustrate this by answering each point.

Yep, they do, but they are subject to “recall”, and gain a lot from working with the “groups” the voices only get TOTAL power with consensus -1 which is a hard thing to acheave without the first working to building consensus through the body and groups and other voices.

You are right the is no sense checking in the formal sense, but remember the is no hard power, people only have to do things if they want to, its “governance” of a disorganization not a traditional power structer. if people get too “nutty” the is the power of “recall” if the body becomes to nutty the is the power of “dilution” more people can join the body.

The groups don’t have to talk to anyone, though will work better when they do, the voices can be involved or not worked better when they are - good to remember the “cats” at the beginning on this one.

The is no statute and no laws as this is “governance” with equation marks - there will be a growing body of mythos and traditions that people can call on when making decisions. There are no police or courts, nobody has to do anything - “cats”.

The body has negative power over the voices, it can recall them, which is the same as not signing off on their actions. The problem we are trying to solve is focus in a anarchistic/libertarian movement - how to talk to traditional burocraceys while still talking/being relevant to ourselves. The is a level of trust involved which is held in place by the #4opens

That’s a good question, that is not defined. It’s important to look at the codebase here, everything we talk about is the “default” the actual codebase can redefine just about every variable, it’s a set of tools for horazonatlish “governance” It’s up to the body to decide everything on how to use these tools if they change the default.

We have the traditional voting modals, we have a threshold etc.

The body can be restricted in size by fixing the first variable in this case it would be the instances/stakeholders or can be left to grow organically this is up to the body itself.

The group is made up of anybody in the body who needs to be a part of it - in this everything is a mirror of the same process #KISS You ask a hard question about “outside” experts/original submitter which i don’t have an easy solution to - so we would add it as an option that can be turned on or off.

They serve the same as the body, currently have two options 1 year, half every 6 month rolling to facilitate hand holding or easy/simple one year.

Due to the sortation and work load you will likely have a high turn over of new body members, the “recalling” will add to this as there are a lot of “nutters” sortation will bring up fresh people for the body to work :wink: this is a good thing as “trust” is built from this.

The voices are “trusted” to be a voice of the fedivers for their term, if they are not “trusted” they will be recalled to the body, and if they are nutters they will be recalled out of the body and a new member added ect.

Yep decisions can be made at different levels, on the image the thickness of the arrow coming out (with the blunt end) is the strength of that voice.

The group says it shite, and then move on, if the group keeps pushing shit then the voices ignore this group and in the end the body likely recalls it and replaces it with a new group - this is up to the body/voices.

Yes, sadly some good decisions that are not popular inside/outside the body/groups will be ignored we are still self “governing” cats the is no getting away from this.

Yep, based on the #4opens so everything is done with activertypub in open process, its a trust based network, if people won’t privacy then they can resign/not sign up from public governance and work through people who are happy to do open process.

Whistleblowering is a case for media not “governance” so is dealt with in this sister project Home - Open-Media-Network - Gitea: Open Media Network

Thank you for the interesting questions.

An interesting subject for this group is how this level of messy “governance” can cooperate with more formal models of governance like traditional cooperatives. The two are complementary - but the question is how :wink:

Gitea: Open Media Network


To answer a unasked question. The code is the traditional admins of the site. The body is users/the groups mods/the voices admins. We have as limited outside control as possible.

There are an optional bag of “limits” that can be added to actions to mediate out of control actions - like time-outs/consensus on actions etc. these are pick and mix, we put in a “default” set to start body’s off - It’s up to the body how these work ongoing.

The is power in default, it’s the main power of the coders and designers who build the codebase.

FYI: A great information resource I found via @m3me : RadicalxChange - Social Movement for Next-Gen Political Economies

10 posts were split to a new topic: Governance - Exploring what works and what doesn’t

Hello! I was checking out the thread and I remained looking at this :slight_smile: It was indeed work to be done in the first webinar presentation (at least), but on my side I was pushing for objectivity and an independent common view - for this it was necessary to reach some consensus. I think the result was a voice for everyone who was interested to participate to the discussions and I did my best to filter all ideas brought, while also listening to all sides. Apart from the actual presentation, the most work I would say was the listening to all sides part and ensuring transparency in the process (public forum discussions, the slides / comments, the meetings etc.).

I think that the work we did for that presentation can be a great way to present the Fediverse in general or at least a good start for the community to reach a common view.

From that experience, I would say that a governance body should be as objective and basic as possible, having as goal to define guidelines / policies / make recommendations and also work on building a community around the Fediverse. As a result, the projects can implement these in their own space, as they please and there will be a common, basic view on what the Fediverse is, regardless of the various nuances of the projects.

I am seeing a governance body as more neutral, so that it ensures a common view and tends not go in just a one-sided direction. However, the beauty of the Fediverse is exactly its diversity, so it’s a lot of work to make sure this view is neutral with so much to reach consensus on, while also not losing track of its nuances.

Looking at the webinar experience, I remain optimistic - I think we did a great job in making those slides together and reaching consensus on those ideas.

Enjoy the evening!


I think the issue of governence via laws is going to be with us for a while, a recent article here in the UK has highlighted abuse from School pupils and how they are abusing their teachers.

The more of this thing that happens, the more governments are going to be under pressure to act, and possibly introduce more draconian laws, which given the abuse taking place is very understandable.

I am not sure what this would look like however this has been in the news this week

Basically school pupils abusing teachers on platforms such as TijTok and other social media.

The problem is we already have laws in the UK on malicious communications, we have the online harms bill coming up, as well as laws on Slander, Libel, Defamation etc, I guess we just need to make sure we enforce them and they apply to online platforms, in a similar way to offline.

We perhaps also need to protect instance owners from civil / legal action, so if a user on their instance posts a defamatory comment, the owner is not held liable but the person who posted it is, however the owner is free to remove something that the feel could get them sued.

If people don’t like that level of censorship, they can set their own instance up and take on all the work, and legal responsibility that comes with that.

For governance people will expect us to act, if this took place on the fediverse, which is much more difficult given the nature of how servers are run, however we need to be seen to be pro-active so it does not look like we are doing nothing and the fedi is a free for all for abuse.

As people discover the fedi, the this will attract good, well mannered and rational people but will also attract people with other motives to do people harm.

I like the fact we can discuss content or subjects that would probably get deleted on mainstream social media, having conversations is important as a way to help challenge misconceptions or misunderstanding of topics.

I guess one job that governance body can do is help produce very good resources to help new users use the system, understand how it works, how it is different to what people have been used to, how to block, mute users for example.

A sort of one stop, community developed resource.

This is especially important if social media can be held more accountable, if someone is going to get sued , who should it be?. instance owners, the people here who are part of that governance.

We need to make it clear how to block, report and mute people, end users have that power, what happens if a person reports criminal activity, where do we draw the line.

People are free to post anti vaccine content, but we are free to block it. just as those are free to block pro vaccine content for example.

Perhaps the governance body needs to be able to speak for how that works.

Just a few thoughts.

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Point 1

Delegation of specific authority to specific individuals for specific tasks by democratic procedures . Letting people assume jobs or tasks only by default means they are not dependably done. If people are selected to do a task, preferably after expressing an interest or willingness to do it, they have made a commitment which cannot so easily be ignored.

Raises a good point, perhaps tasks should be handed out to more than 1 person, that way if something happens someone else carries on, or the two can discuss something before making a final addition to a specific idea.

People can also take on more than they can handle or need help and support in that task then struggle to get that support (personal experience) so it is vital people (paid or volunteer) are supported.

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