The Fediverse and why it makes me miss phpBB

i joined "the fediverse" (or more specifically an instance of mastodon) more than two years ago. it was my first social network.

i met some amazing people through it, and owe essentially my entire real world social life (and several real world romantic partners!) to the network.

it immediately appealed to me because it was composed of actual people, instead of brands, and people seemed to have their guard down more, so they were more approachable. i didn't have an established circle of friends and didn't have anything impressive i wanted to show off publicly, so twitter and facebook and tumblr were useless to me.

before it, i mostly used traditional topic-based forums, where everyone was semi-anonymous.

software state of the union

in two years, the state of fediverse software is basically the same.

the only difference is that two years ago GNU Social and OStatus were semi-alive, and now they're decisively dead, with remaining instances migrated to pleroma (whose UI is much more familiar for former GS users). this leaves ActivityPub as essentially the only player for server-to-server protocols.

there are only a few main implementations of ActivityPub that people actually use:

conclusion: there are so few implementations that are actually usable, which is a sign that it's far too hard for ordinary software developers to implement ActivityPub. we need a simpler protocol if we actually want a diverse, decentralized network.

it is still too hard for underprivileged people to run their own servers.

my involvement with pleroma

i started out using Mastodon but a cool Pleroma server that was heavily customized by its cute catgirl admin (cathoderay.tube; now dead) convinced me that i needed to self-host. catgirl.science was registered on 2018-07-11. at this point, i had no money, running Mastodon with its large system requirements was out of the question.

immediately i got to work hacking on the codebase, made some UI changes, fixed a few janky security issues with HTML sanitization, and made sure it ran well on my weird OS of choice (NetBSD).

i was added to the dev team in 2018. this was shortly before pleroma development became comercially funded, at which point i basically immediately lost interest. lain said some rather mean things to me which convinced me that Okay, These People Who Say They're Not Entirely Great Might Be Right. whatever, ancient history.

my worldview is heavily shaped by hanging out with some far-left anarchist punks on various internet forums, so my pleroma server has always had rather "mastodon-like" rules (absolutely nothing that hints of any kind of bigotry or fuck off, etc etc).

i often felt like we were unfairly tarred with a bunch of "bad actor" instances that began to spring up (freespeechextremist, which we blocked from the start, etc etc). at this point, i've given up arguing, and if people want to say bad things about pleroma as a whole because of those places, i'm not going to argue with them but instead retreat further into this little corner i've created for myself.

microblogging and politics

doing political activism online is a complex subject and i'm just some internet random, so feel free to ignore everything i say

the fediverse has understandably due to its interesting userbase become a place for marginalized people to talk about their experiences. for some people, that's all it is. i tend to hide away from those types of posters these days, being an extremely weird transgender person myself, i'm really exhausted.

organizing anonymously through community groups, rather than individualized profiles, makes a whole lot of sense to me. it makes everything less personal, makes your group less targetable, and avoids mixing your dirty laundry with your pictures of your cat.

i'm increasingly unconvinced that activism that amounts to screaming at your followers is useful.

i have pretty strong political views but i mostly just want to have a place to squeak my random everyday thoughts into the void, they are unfocused and mostly amount to silly things.

other people use social media differently of course, to promote whatever it is they're working on, or as a contest to see how many stars their latest joke about cum can get.

all of this makes me miss the origanized topic-based discussion forums provided, where you could focus on topics that interested you rather than being handed the entire streaming universe of shit. content warnings are not a good replacement.

federation and moderation

the modern fediverse is filled with "block recommendations" for aspiring instance admins, because it turns out many servers need to be actively maintaining 50+ long lists of blocked domains to maintain the peace.

there are other protocols based on the federation principle, e.g. XMPP, which is used for direct chats rather than exposing yourself to the world. your instance admin still gets a great deal of control over you, but they have to do much less work curating the entire network for you.

from my perspective as a software developer, i can't help but wonder if we should instead be focusing on making it as easy as possible make your own universe and hop into your friends' to talk to them from the clientside, rather than forcing people into silos that do nothing but attract shit from the global universe, and where admins with the resources to do so rule over the nest.

conclusion

i miss the glory days of invisonfree, to be honest.

i don't want to have the whole world of shit thrust on me.

besides, phpBB will run on a literal potato