Mastodon, co-operatives and the fediverse


#1

If people are not aware there is a federated alternative to Twitter, called the fediverse, which uses servers running Free software, the most popular platform being Mastodon.

Over the last few months I have been in some discussions with the people running a co-operative Mastodon instance, social.coop to see if we can help them and they have joined our coop to be able to use git.coop to host git repos, wikis and issues.

Webarchitects are not currently in a position to host Mastodon servers and we would need to invest the time to develop Ansible roles to enable the quick deployment and maintenance of instances before we could do so, but I think it is something we should seriously consider doing.

If we were to do this I’d suggest that it would make sense to also commit to providing a Mastodon server for our members to use, we could use a domain such as socialmedia.coop for this.

Moderation of the content posted to Mastodon servers and the ability for servers to block other servers is often a contentious issue, my view is that if we were to provide a server for Webarchitects co-op members we would expect them to abide by:

And we would abide by our committent to Free Speech:

Webarchitects are committed to the practice and defence of Free Speech and self expression.

We are very supportive of Free Software and Free Speech, however this does not include hate speech or speech designed to incite acts of violence.

This would mean that we wouldn’t block any instances on political grounds or police the content members post as long as the above wasn’t contravened. Equally we wouldn’t restrict the ability of members to block or mute others that they do not wish to interact with. This is basically the same approach that we take with email — for example there are no doubt fascists with Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo email accounts but we don’t block the email servers these companies run.

We would however take a very dim view of spamming or abuse of that nature and wouldn’t hesitate to block any other Mastodon servers that were being used to launch attacks of this type.

For managed Mastodon servers we provide for others we wouldn’t police the content or policies of the server moderators at all, other than in the case of spamming or abuse of that nature and of course we wouldn’t provide hosting to fascists.

I’d be interested if anyone else has any thoughts on this?


#2

Thanks for this Chris. I agree that technical policies, which are about keeping the show on the road and protection from spam and other attacks, are wholly separate from what we might call social/political policies, which are about how we co-exist in these digital spaces. As we can see from the near-continuous stream of stories coming out from the big social media corporations about how to handle content and users that are deemed to be beyond the pale for all sorts of reasons, in practice it seems that this is a hard division to maintain, at least within the operational context of the likes of FB, Twitter, etc., which seek to run on a profit-seeking basis, monetising the data of their users. Given that context and mission, I’d argue that these businesses are essentially conflicted: their business model demands high numbers of users, and cares not a jot about the nature of the content that is created by these users - it’s all just grist to the mill of their big data machine. It seems that only when under pressure from governments have they given thought to mitigating the worst abuses of the platforms they run.

Could it be that smaller scale operating models, such as those used by these Mastodon communities, are potentially more effective at self-policing and developing codes of practice, and may therefore be healthier places to inhabit than the social media juggernauts?

In terms of should Webarchitects invest the time and energy into being able to offer Mastodon as a Service, that a whole different question, and I guess the answer is bound up in some research, thinking and number crunching. It’s certainly an interesting idea. I wonder if it might be a useful service to mid-size organsiations, especially those with a distributed workforce, for use as an internal social network (I know FB offers a product like this)?


#3

Thanks for your thoughts Graham.

My guess would be that a XMPP server or another Slack-like application might be better for an internal system?


#4

Possibly. Each of these applications has pros and cons, and the nuances of the user interface can make a big difference in how people view and interact with the content and with each other. Slack, or the MIT licensed open source alternative Mattermost are great at some things, but I find them really frustrating to use on other occasions.


#5

I’ve been helping out with the social.coop tech stuff, we’ve started an ansible setup at https://git.coop/social.coop/tech/ansible/ - although it currently only configures a few bits and bobs on the server, not the actual mastodon instance yet, but that will come later. We used the docker-compose approach and learnt a lot along the way! (the official docs are ok, but a bit patchy).

There is a bit of information about the setup available at https://git.coop/social.coop/tech/operations/wikis/infrastructure-overview


#6

That is awesome @nicksellen, I’m looking forward to following the development of this :slight_smile: :+1:


#7

I like the idea of Mastodon, having had a look, but haven’t tried it - would be good to hear from anyone who’s got experience with alternative social media?

I love the suggested URL socialmedia.coop :slight_smile:


#8

Is socialmedia too broad a term for something that is a twitter alternative? I’m going to throw twit.coop into the hat, but perhaps that is too silly for some. :wink:


#9

The German hosting co-op, Hostsharing eG have launched their own Mastodon instance for their members: