Fastly @ FediForum — March '23

I attended FediForum a few weeks back — there was so much great conversation, and you can see notes from all sessions here:

Each day kicked off with demos of all the cool apps people are building for the Fediverse:

  • Mammoth for Mastodon, by Shihab Mehboob: A beautiful Mastodon app for the rest of us. Will show the Mammoth app’s onboarding super-simple onboarding flow and power features.
  • Owncast, by Gabe Kangas (Owncast is a Fast Forward member! :fast_forward:): The open source live video server for your events. Broadcast your performances, games, communities, conferences, and more without big tech.
  • Steampipe by Jon Udell: Steampipe is an open-source tool that maps APIs to Postgres tables, and visualizes queries on dashboards. We’ll look at a set of dashboards based on Mastodon queries.
  • Bridgy Fed, by Ryan Barrett: Bridgy Fed federates traditional web sites and blogs directly into the fediverse, and back again.
  • Flipboard, by Mike McCue: Connect Flipboard to the Fediverse
  • Whalebird & Fedistar, by Akira Fukushima: Mastodon, Pleroma and Misskey clients for the desktop. I will introduce typical uses and customization methods for both apps, as well as other unique features.
  • Planetary, by Rabble: Peer-to-peer social network with thousands of communities.
  •, by Manton Reece: is a fediverse blogging platform and social network. We’ll demo following Mastodon users and some of the platform differences.
  • Wordpress ActivityPub plugin, by Matthias Pfefferle: The plugin implements the ActivityPub protocol for your blog, to federate articles/notes and receive reactions from the Fediverse.

The breadth of topics during the sessions was broad, but there were a few recurring themes I noticed across all conversations:

  • Discoverability: Several sessions were called specifically about discoverability, not only of other people but also of relevant servers, apps, etc. And it felt like the issue came up in many of the other sessions I attended too. Search is at the heart of this issue, which generates debate wherever its mentioned, and algorithms are too. Ideas were floated about how algorithms could be implemented and where that would or could happen in the stack. The general consensus was that any changes made for the sake of discoverability should be opt-in.
  • Verification: For the Fediverse to feel safe for journalists, brands, celebrities, government agencies, and others for whom impersonation poses a risk, verification must be improved across the entire Fediverse. Ideas on how that should be implemented varied greatly.
  • User experience: Right now, it can feel like the Fediverse user experience is geared toward technically savvy or very determined people. In particular, most of the UX conversation centered on selecting an instance. There’s a fine line between easing the new user sign-up experience and obfuscating what makes the Fediverse so unique amongst social platforms—decentralization—by pushing people to a certain instance.

I also called a session during FediForum about how companies like Fastly can be good stewards of the Fediverse and grow it sustainably for people, projects, and the planet. Here are my takeaways from that session:

  • For-profit involvement is inevitable and welcome: The feedback I heard from the people in this session was that it is inevitable that companies will join the Fediverse, and looking at it from a certain perspective, it is a sign that the Fediverse is becoming “successful” (opinions differ on if becoming mainstream is a sign of success), after all, where the eyeballs go the brands will follow. But that doesn’t mean companies should turn up expecting to behave the same as they do on centralized, for-profit social platforms…
  • Lead by example to set behavior norms: Any company or brand that wants to join the Fediverse should observe the cultural and social norms of the Fediverse before joining. And when they do join and start participating, they should adhere to existing behavioral norms. Even more so than on centralized social, brands should know that the Fediverse is about conversation and community, not about broadcasting company news.
  • Keep the power with the people: It’s important that companies joining the Fediverse remember that this space is all about returning power to the people. Users own their social graph and are free to join and leave instances. Instances have the power to set their own community moderation policies, and they have the power to defederate from or block any instance they choose. So companies joining should be mindful of this and create their plans with an eye toward maintaining user freedom and avoiding centralization.

I was interested in hearing how other people felt about this issue, I posed it again to my friends on Fedi:

Overall, it was a great event, and it was really wonderful to spend time with others thinking deeply about this space. I’m excited to keep in touch and attend future events!

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