Soon, some venture capitalist will put $5 million into a startup that offers free fediverse accounts with unlimited storage, etc.
Unless every other instance instantly blocks such a service from Day 1, you can kiss your fediverse goodbye and say hello to a new Gmail. Once network effects kick in, they will make the rules.
It _can_ happen here but you have an opportunity to kill it before it does.
@aral Makes me think a lot about hashbase for the same concern.
Here’s an idea: form a voluntary “Fediverse Code” that limits the size of instances to a small number. Say 100 or, at most 1,000. Any instances larger than that size are blocked.
The mega-instances we have today, like .social, voluntarily agree to cull their numbers over a period of time; aiding the migration to other instances.
The fediverse is already hugely centralised and unless we do something about it, it will be ruled by a handful of feudal lords/Mini-Jacks.
@aral While I completely agree with what you want to achieve, maybe another (and way more smart approach) to that would be: Figure out *why* people (user, ...) are heading for bigger instances, why we *see* these bigger instances pop up rather than many small ones? Why regulate things technically instead of figuring out and eventually meeting the users needs? 😉
@kensanata Yes. But I think it's also a matter of making this decentralized, instance-based approach accessible to users who aren't just little-trained but actually not trained in technical things at all. So even understanding what an "instance" is might be difficult especially for people who never used e-mail. Not even talking about making a smart choice. And not even talking, too, about people "buying products" and identifying "things" with "products" - mastodon.social "is" mastodon?
@z428 I understand your concerns. All I'm saying is you said in the first toot that we should figure out "why" people are heading for the bigger instances and I feel I provided an explanation for it. You then asked "why we see these bigger instances pop up" and I think my explanation covers that, too. Therefore I conclude that we do need to "regulate things" because we figured it out: this is not about "users needs" but about how information spreads.
@kensanata Maybe, yes. Maybe it's, however, also about technology - getting back to that "getting started" approach again. If we want to have a fediverse with extremely small instances (ideally single-user-instances), the technology must be hidden from the user, same as the internals of my car are hidden from me (and I don't want to know at all). Our challenge is to cater single-user instances to users whose skills are little advanced beyond installing apps on smartphones. 😉
You know, there is joinmastodon.org that seems very official (it is) where under the signup section suggests a bunch of instances to register in. Then with v2.5.0 we have relays, which in some ways is a good reaction to information-spreading-with-bigger-instance things by allowing small instance to reach others faster.
@dragnucs Yeah, I try to point people to joinmastodon.org. But even if half of us do this, and so half the newbies are well distributed: the other half will get on the same instances that their friends are on and the effect is slower, but still there. And it will always be there, if at least some people join instances directly. It'd be something different if bigger instances weren't listed on joinmastodon.org, for example: then we'd introduce a negative bias to fight this.
@kensanata Still think we need to reconsider our threat model here. What if that $5m budget is not spent on building a "single large" instance but rather on buing a hosting service such as masto<dot>host to allow for cheap and "cost efficient" creation of small instances by arbitrary users? This way, we still had a nice clean #fediverse without big instances, and yet all ideas of decentralization would be completely lost.
@z428 @kensanata @dragnucs How Venture Capital works: A VC invests $5 million in the _exit_ of a business. That is, they invest in the _sale_ of the business in several years time, ideally in the $500M+ range (because they’ve already invested 9 other $5M lots in other startups and know they will lose that $45M – one of the $5M bets has to be a unicorn for them to get a return). Now ask: if this VC-backed initiative is successful who will buy it for $500M+ and what will their business model be?
@bob Yes. Plus, on the other side: "Big" instances also inevitably will come to life in cases in which educated users do trust a certain admin and its management and moderation crowd to provide a good service. From that point of view, forcing them to other instances rather than being with people or choosing depending upon whom they trust seems totally counter-intuitive in terms of "the #fediverse approach". 😉
Man, if Masto-as-a-whole somehow started regulating instances to that level, “you can only have xxx people,” I would totally be out of here.
but otoh, since my home instance was hovering around 100 and is probably still under that in re. active users, I’m not the target for this discussion. Just *shudder* “prune users.”
@aldersprig Same here. 🙂 Actually, I am still trying to figure out what's the exact rationale for keeping / demanding instances to stay "small". I'd rather have a network similar to e-mail here, with a load of "small" players, a bunch of "big players" (Google, Apple, Microsoft, some Telcos), a bunch of public structures (universities, ...), and maybe some others - but only "user count" seems too simple an approach to build that structure. 😉
@vi Yes. I definitely see that. Plus, well: I *do* work to earn a living, too. I want to use FLOSS and open services. But I do not *expect* people provide me with these things for "free". I still firmly believe that we only will see a real change if we come to sustainable, robust business models allowing people to earn a living by developing FLOSS software or providing services such as mastodon, without being volunteers depending upon donations.
@z428 @aldersprig @Gargron In which case, we can all go home now because we already have this exact same system today. It’s called surveillance capitalism and it’s centralised. It’s a system where the big players make the rules and violate your rights.
The alternative is a system in which every node is equal.
@aral Yes. The alternative would be a system where every node is equal. Such as e-mail where my small self-hosted domains MX is equal to GMail or T-Online mail accounts. I don't even disagree with your points, no offense. My criticism is: We don't seem to do decentralization "right". How "decentralized" would this eventually be given a majority of "decentralized" mastodon instances runs on Amazon AWS or Google Cloud?
@aral Likewise, I don't really buy the term "surveilance capitalism". I don't want "big players" to be able to dictate the rules. But spending effort on trying to demand instances to remain small won't change anything about that. The earlier we accept that companies such as WhatsApp, Google, ... got big by providing an overwhelmingly large amount of "untrained" average users access to a technology they never used before, the better. WhatsApp is the "best" (worst?) ...
@aral Maybe, yes. But are we really willing to change it? We're lost in a load of mostly technical discussions - matrix, xmpp, mastodon, the fediverse and the federation, and feel like we're moving something. Are we, really? I bet the majority of people using WhatsApp, Google, ... is completely ignoring all this - not out of stupidity or ignorance but simply because they don't even understand the actual problem. And even worse: The very moment we give bad names ...
We had a barcamp at the FrOSCon where we discussed the topic. https://programm.froscon.de/2018/events/2278.html
I summarized the barcamp here (in German, sorry) https://www.hasecke.eu/post/coopweb/
We concluded that we will never have the means to outperform the big companies. So while a brilliant UX is paramount it boils down to an ethical decision. We have to make it cristal clear: a capitalist company can claim "Don't be evil" but it will never be good. We need a #coopweb.
Fully agree. We need a #coopweb and ethical hosting. My idea on that, a while ago, was #libresaas generally for Software-as-a-Service offerings in situations in which a pure FLOSS licensing approach doesn't help because it seems the wrong level of abstraction... :
Cool. Your Libre Saas approach is exactly what we discussed at the FrOSCon. The cooperative webhoster @hostsharing complies with your five rules and we – the coop members – already discussed to offer the services you mentioned. But this project needs a lot of ressources. Our membership is growing, so we might be able to realize these ideas someday.
Perhaps you would like join us in Essen? We meet regularly and guests are always welcome.
@juh I'd really love to be somehow involved with this, because I think it's the right idea, because I think I might be of help and also because, given my current professional engagement, I have time and energy left to be spent on side projects. My only limit however is that I am virtually unable to do travelling anytime soon, given Essen is more than just an afternoon trip. I'll see what I can do.
@aral @aldersprig @hostsharing
@aral ... to the tools they're able to use with their skill sets (in example all the Google stack), chances are they will simply ignore us. We need to convince people if we want them to make a different choice. Using wording such as "surveillance capitalism" or "Fuck off Google" is not very likely to help here in my opinion - it just might drive away people, even those who eventually would be willing to support because they share similar mindsets.
The partly different positions may also be related to what we expect from Mastodon. Should it be a global replacement for Twitter? Or a playground for nerds? For me personally it's a tool to create a kind of think tank or lab. A nucleus that helps to make society freer and more democratic. And I can run my instance in this way while others pursue other goals. That's great.
@christian Fully agree. That's why I am even more uneasy with that focus on trying to "block" "larger" instances. In such an environment, I would *merrily* have a load of small instances live right next to some city or company instance or a "commercial" (paid?) service, maybe similar to posteo or tutanota (for e-mail) operated by a commercial entity and paid by its users? The only thing that needs to be ensured is that all these entities actually *remain* equal...
@aral @aldersprig @gargron
Of course not. But I don't need to be convinced. 😉 On the other side, I've been into FLOSS for more than two decades now. I have learnt to have operating systems, desktop environments, browsers, ... available "for free" (-as-in-free-beer). And, too, this seems a difficult excuse: Even if I was willing to pay, I don't see any paid "open" service on par with Google Apps for Enterprise (except maybe Microsofts Office Online stuff which seems little better a choice).
@hypolite I'm uneasy with this, a bit. It seems a weird and very special technical aspect and just one side of the problem. But more than that: Why are we spending so much time fighting this technically and in communication? Wouldn't it be better, for media outlets, app developers, software creators, ..., to instead have business models that allow them to earn a living without having to rely upon advertisement and (subsequently) tracking? There doesn't seem much in this field... 😟
@hypolite While I mostly agree, I am unsure whether that's all there is, to it. From where I stand, I see online publishing *rather* difficult: People don't want ads and trackers because, well, it's a fairly blatant invasion of privacy. Agreed. Most people I know, also, strongly disagree with paywalls and login-to-read models (because it effectively destroys the idea to easily link to articles once read). Even more and possibly worse: Some people would even be willing to pay for ...
@hypolite ... high-quality journalism but either fail to do so because the payment itself is done in a not very privacy-friendly manner (*cough* PayPal) or it is way too expensive as a all-or-nothing approach or it is too difficult to handle. From that point of view I really think it would dearly need, in example, *trivial* and anonymous micropayments, maybe all along the lines of what #brave did with the Basic Attention Token. Something you can use to pay for content with a ...
@hypolite ... single "click". Much like pressing a "like" button but actually by paying a small amount of money. Another difficult (maybe different) example, from where I stand, is #fdroid. I really like this very much, but as far as I see, right now there is no chance to build FLOSS Android apps for a living if you don't want to rely upon donations. There's no business model for that, especially for games and considering that some even see "in-app purchases" as an anti-feature. ...
@hypolite I've been into Software Libre and GNU ever since reading the GNU manifesto in the mid-1990s. I always believed in "Libre" being more important than "free-as-in-free-beer". Today, however, I see that, apparently, there is only "free-beer" based business models on the internet, and either people refund using shady approaches such as tracking and ads, or they use none of these (and possibly don't have an income if no one donates once in a while). Not sure how to resolve this. 😐
@aral ... example, in my opinion. All they did would have been possible "just" with stock XMPP before, as well - but no one really cared to actually package this into something Jane & John Doe could use. WhatsApp did. Same about e-mail. Love it or hate it - GMail provided a dead-simple access to this service virtually *everyone* could use. Why don't we just stop bashing these services and get back to work to provide services same as easy-to-use and same as reliable?
@bob Yes. But these are two different things in my opinion. Setting up an Android device *with* a GMail account is dead-simple. Getting WhatsApp installed and configured to talk and text to virtually everyone in her family is something my aunt (who will turn 70 next year) did completely on her own, without us even knowing she actually bought a smartphone. Looking closer ...
@bob Fully agree. I'm exactly on the same side here. And yet, my question would be: Getting back to my 70-year aunt. With "stock" Android she managed to do so. Maybe with iOS as well, which seems no better. Can we give her a FLOSS based smartphone she can get started with just as easily? I don't see even that, right now. And *this*, in my opinion, is the problem we need to tackle, not trying to blame users for making a choice where there aren't "better" alternatives.
I have nothing more to add here. That's exactly my point and, for me, the most crucial issue. We can't blame the user for making choices. We only can try to work to give people a "better" option to choose, "better" both judged by *our* and by *their* requirements. Maybe Purism wil be there, at some point. At least I hope so.
@bob As far as I see, these things are even worse: We're faced with a large set of users that doesn't want to control the platform but actually just *use* it - and doesn't make a difference between "hardware" and "software" either. There are these tablets, smartphones, ... and software is as an integral, inseparable part of the device. I am not sure how to change this.
This is my personal Mastodon.