Aral Balkan @aral

Using “egalitarian“ instead of “decentralised“ to refer to a network topology without centres

I don’t like the term “decentralised” (which sucks, given how often I use it). For one thing, it’s ambiguous (see, for example, the eternal debate of whether or not to use “decentralised“ or “distributed” when you mean “no centres”). For another, it defines itself in relation to its inverse. I’m going to start using “egalitarian“ to describe the network topology where every node is equal.

· Web · 10 · 14


I like this in theory but all nodes are not equal

maybe "exploded" is a better term? but it's too close to 'explosive' which is a loaded term :/ so not that then

dunno, unsure

@sydneyfalk @aral I agree that it does not describe what is done with this kind of network topology.

I heard about the term "acephalic" to describe this kind of relation of power in this network topology. I like this one.

@inso @aral

oh my yes, I like this term

also I could imagine a privacy-oriented "hardened" separate fed specifically called the Hydra that would seem


@sydneyfalk @inso @aral

How about "non-hierarchical"?

<doesn't mention the next logical step>

@inso @aral @sydneyfalk I'm not sure using the term "brainless" is the best way of promoting one's preferred mode of networking.

@sydneyfalk Thanks! I do mean using it only for networks where all nodes are equal. In other words, a peer-to-peer network where there are no incentives for any of the nodes to scale vertically, where there is no proprietary lock-in/centres and where the interaction model is peer to peer. (e.g., I would not use it to describe Mastodon if the norm was instances of many – I think “federated“ describes that well – but I would if the norm was instances of one.)

@aral Please be aware of the unfortunate connotations given to "egalitarian" by some people (I was also not aware of this a few years ago). Anti-feminists often call themselves "egalitarian"

@Gargron @aral that is almost always 'gender egalitarian' in my experience. I hope that is true for most people because it is a widely used term.

@inmysocks @aral Maybe, maybe. You should check what impressions it leaves before committing to using it tho - maybe it's fine.

anti-feminism and sanism/neurotypicals being trash Show more

anti-feminism and sanism/neurotypicals being trash Show more

anti-feminism and sanism/neurotypicals being trash Show more

anti-feminism and sanism/neurotypicals being trash Show more

@gargron Yeah, I think this is a new thing among the alt-right types. They're trying to re-center misogyny by calling feminists 'non-egalitarian.' It's basically a way to wreck the language for their own purposes and deny 'us' our own frame. The question is how do we fight Orwellian manipulation of this sort? Do we keep using egalitarian to mean egalitarian, or to we use something else to make it clear that we are also pro-feminist?

@aral I was having trouble trying to figure out how to describe nodes in Dodo so I am going to use egalitarian.

@aral I think there's not wrong with 'decentralized'. Egalitarian is more of a social-economic-political term. Also don't forget that a decentralized network doesn't have to mean that all nodes are equal. Some are smaller/larger, some have less/more features, some have different roles in the network.

@aral I think that would start to shift the meaning of egalitarian.

We don't have egalitarian in mastodon. Even so there are atempts in that direction.
The social status is very different between eugen and a common user.

Also I'm not shure if I like egalitarian at all as it just say (haven't yet read much about egalitarian) having equal right but doesn't define them

Thought we could have very bad equal right..also states use these arguments to opress through the court system

I've been using the term decentralized and shifted to describing it as federated.

Thought that is pritty acurate describing how it is.

Decentralized misses to describe the relation between the nodes.

distributed is very general in discribing the relation between the nodes.

@paulfree14 I mean very specifically to describe the network topology where every node truly is equal. In other words, imagine if the norm in the Mastodonsphere/ActivityPubsphere was instances of one. Or imagine any peer-to-peer topology where the nodes truly are equal (I don't mean in terms of how many followers you have but in terms of the features of the nodes themselves). That’s what I’d use it for. Not as a replacement for “decentralised” or “federated”.

@aral @paulfree14 perhaps, to avoid confusion, we need a different term than "egalitarian"?

"Egalitized" (as a call-back to "decentralized")?

@paulfree14 @aral I mean, with "egalitarian" you're going to run into these issues all the time. Especially in environments with a lot of people who feel strongly about social issues (and people on Fediverse often do).

@rysiek @paulfree14 The other alternative is to invent a new term of some sort, like “equinodal” – but, again, then you run into the accessibility issue.

@rysiek @paulfree14 @aral
I like "equinodal" very much. It's fresh and doesn't lead to other interpretations debate. "Equinodal" it's fresh. I'll try to use both to see how it's understood by people I'm talking to.

@rysiek @paulfree14 I feel it’s important that the term itself does not imply that the norm is centralised. It’s not. It’s just the dominant topology today. e.g., PCs didn’t decentralise Mainframes; they created their own topology. I see the same for the Personal Networking era. It’s a new topology; not an evolution of the existing Web/Cloud, even if it may use some of the same technologies.

@aral @paulfree14 I like "equinodal". What accessibility issue are you talking about?

@rysiek @paulfree14 If I talk to someone without technical knowledge, I will have to explain “peer to peer.” Equinodal, I’d have to explain to everyone (since it’s not a term that exists). When you say “egalitarian”, nearly everyone – regardless of technical skill – has an idea what you mean.

@rysiek @aral
I like the idea to use a term mostly used to describe social constructs to describe technical construct.
Just by doing so it feels like matching two, still very much seperated political actors to join fighting the struggles togehter.

@aral @paulfree14 with "egalitarian" everyone has an idea, but as this thread proves it's the wrong one... :)

@rysiek @aral @paulfree14 I think to avoid confusion we need to insert a pro-feminist context when we use the word egalitarian rather than to cede the word to patriarchal authoritarians. Although making up new words is fun, it creates an 'ingroup' and 'outgroup' dynamic of people who know what it means and those that don't. I'm not saying you are wrong. We might need to make up new words to fight back. The downside to creating a feminist context is that context is hard to convey in soundbites.

@ewankeep @aral @paulfree14 sure, but we were talking about how to refer to specific network topography.

While I recognize network topographies and social struggles are related (that's precisely why you won't find me in walled gardens), that's a broader discussion.

@rysiek @aral @paulfree14 This is a tough problem. Explaining technical information to a non-tech audience is hard enough!

@rysiek @aral @paulfree14 I think the context here is the fact that you are talking about a technical subject. I don't think feminists would misunderstand egalitarian network typography to mean anti-feminist. You are using it for a precise and well defined meaning. I believe in this case it is clear to a general audience and preferable to a made up word that needs to be explained.

@ewankeep @aral @paulfree14 point is, in this very thread somebody misunderstood how the world "egalitarian" was being used.

So., there's that.

ok from that perpective it seems to make sense.
Still somehow is equalitarian linked in my brain somehow negative.

I might be biased, and it might change.
But right now it reminds me of a majority rulling class defining the rights everyone should have, could be through using binary majority voting systems, and claiming to protect those rights based on equalitarian philosophy.

@aral Dammit, this undermines the double meaning in my * project name. But you have good arguments.

*) even though I have a bit of content on the domain, the project is far from finished.

@zatnosk I like that double meaning also ;) I’m not saying we have to stop using the existing terms; only that I feel “egalitarian” describes a p2p topology in an accessible and expressive manner :)

(Best of luck with your project, by the way. Please feel free to ping me updates any time if you like.)

@aral Ah, that's a good angle.
I personally use decentralized as an umbrella term for anything not-centralized, and then specify federated or p2p when applicable.

In your terms, can a p2p network be non-egalitarian? If so, is it an overlapping definition or subset?

(Thanks! I'd love to have your feedback once I get it filled out somewhat - it'll probably take a while, though. Life can be demanding regarding time.)

@zatnosk I’d say p2p and egalitarian are synonymous. I feel “egalitarian” would be easier for a person without technical knowledge to understand and it puts the focus on the aspect of the topology that I feel is most important for social reasons.

@aral @zatnosk yes youd say theyre synonymous but most people wouldnt. SO that doesnt really make them synonymous does it

@Concerned_Commy @zatnosk Indeed. And yet, language isn’t a static construct either. You throw something out there and either it sticks or it slips off into the ether of could-have-beens :)

Tagging this with #decentwebeu so I can find it later, when I need to remember terminology.

@aral "Egalitarian" is kind of orthogonal.
A centralised network can be egalitarian if it guarantees the rights of its members.
A decentralised network can be not egalitarian if the power of some nodes prevails over the rest. (think the prominent position of miners in the Bitcoin network)

Sure, as a marketing newspeak term, it may work.
It's orthogonal at best, and potentially not true.

It's really down to a personal ethical decision.

@h I do mean to limit it to node abilities and not node popularity. Within that context, a centralised network cannot be egalitarian (even if it guarantees the rights of its members) because, by design, those running the central node will have rights that the other nodes do not have (including the right to decide what their rights are). In a network where every node has the same capabilities/abilities some nodes may be more “popular” – more connections – but will not be privileged.

@aral So, modern democracies aren't egalitarian by that definition?
Sorry, I'm confused.

@h Can you think of one practical example that is? :) It’s a spectrum, isn’t it? While we may never a network comprised entirely of equally-weighted nodes, I do believe it is important to have an accessible term to describe it so that we know where the “x” is on the map – so we know what we’re aiming at and can communicate that as accessibly as possible.

@aral I see the need for terminology that can be used to communicate these ideas.
I think it's a good idea to educate people about these concerns, and I appreciate and acknowledge that the job of a communicator such as the role you sometimes take can be hard work.
But I don't believe that using terms that mean something else clarifies things in layman's terms, I think they confuse things.

What's wrong with saying that more people are equivalent, or better connected in a network?

@aral All I'm saying is maybe the concepts of equality, connectedness, and equivalence are fundamentally distinct and they shouldn't be confused.

@aral Thanks, but I'll abstain from using this word. Egalitarianism is not a very good ideology, so I'd rather use "decentralized".
@aral egalitarian is just as ambiguous as decentralized if not more.
@aral While I agree "decentralised" is not ideal, I don't think "egalitarian" is much better. To an academic it is indeed more precise, but to many I think it may be just another difficult word that does not mean much. Don't have any better suggestions though, so think I'll stick with "decentralised" for the time being.
@aral It's a possibility, but I imagine that Facebook and Google would have no problem in also describing themselves as being egalitarian. They might say that each Facebook user has an equal opportunity to create content and have their say. On the other hand it would be hard to imagine either of those organizations being able to plausibly describe themselves as decentralized.


I wonder if there's not two different conversations here.

One is the soft aspects/benefits that you might address with "egalitarian". These would concern privacy, security, data control...

The other is the physical blue prints of a distributed network that need described in appropriate/conventional terms. The techie shit, whether it's called decentralized, or whatever.

Discussions would include both, respective to purpose. But you can't effectively use one to mean both.

@aral "every node is equal" may come up against practical constraints. Is it really necessary for all users to have enough bandwidth and connectivity to be equal to a node at a colocated data centre? And if so, what does this do to the economics of providing internet access at remote locations (say, rural Norway, or the Australian outback)? Can a just network admit users at constrained locations without requiring them to have top-notch connectivity?

>where every node is equal
Unfortunately I don't think this can apply to the fediverse in its current state. Most users within the "mastosphere" treat as a model instance, and are not to shy to defederate with anyone who diverges from the principles set by it. Not to mention any other clashes between random instances. As a result you end up with several clusters, some of which are straight up walled gardens.
@dwmatiz @aral what would the point of having a federated network if every node was equal anyway

might as well just have a centralized service on a distributed system if that's what you wanted
@shpuld @aral Except we *kinda* had that back before Mastodon started getting traction. Full server blocks had been a rarity before Gargron decided to turn them into one of Masto's main selling point. Not even Hannes from Qvitter had the balls to do so, opting for sandboxing/silencing individual users instead.
@dwmatiz @aral it's easier when the network is still small and doesn't have much mainstream appeal