Every Fediverse Instance an Island

I’ve been playing with some of the fediverse software to see about their features and what may be something I want to use. 

For example, I am excited to try Pixelfed, which is for image sharing (think Instagram) for Apokrupha. I’ve set up and have been using Bookwyrm for my reading habits. And playing with GoToSocial, Calckey and Mastodon for microblogging. 

The thing is though, the features of these applications are only a part of the equation. 

When you set up a single user instance, it is bare. There is no one else there to interact with. You aren’t federated with anyone yet, so searches don’t really work. 

It is just an empty canvas. 

That server, that island you are on is intended to be a social network. That is the main feature of each of these apps: interaction between accounts. 

The federation of these islands is a feature, yes. But that federation is based on user interactions, and is not automatic. A fresh server is empty, unconnected. 

Does Bookwyrm have a use if no one but me ever sees what I post there? I mean… yes, it does. It’s a nice record of books I’ve read and thoughts on them as I go. 

But I know I’m missing out on the real power, which is connecting and exchanging with other readers. 

I am not familiar enough with the backend of these protocols to even start to suggest what may be a good plan. Something as innocent as a ‘broadcast’ type post that would let introductions from one server be sent to others would no doubt have unintended consequences. 

There are things one can do to start to connect. Feditips (which continues to be a great resource) had a post a few days ago which had some good ideas. Among which are, joining groups, which are basically accounts that auto reblog anything sent to them, letting you connect to topics independent of servers; and looking through registries of accounts for ones you’d like to follow. 

The hope is, of course, that once you get enough posts rolling through, you’ll be able to keep connecting to more accounts that you want to interact with. 

And yet, still, your instance is an island. It will always be an island. The “social” part of the networking will always be reliant on you, the user, leaving your island and going to find new things to connect with. It is a pro-active stance that you frankly don’t have on large networks.

So why don’t I just invite people to my island? (Insert ‘People, what a bunch of bastards’ joke here) Joking aside, that turns it from something I use to something I have to admin, to something I have to moderate. Moderation can be a lot of work in of itself. 

I used to moderate a forum (a few forums) back in the dark ages of the internet, and while I toyed with the idea of starting a horror themed fediverse server, it quickly realized how much work that would be managing people. 

So why don’t I just join a larger instance for these apps? 

I suspect this is the question I am dealing with. In the end, I think smaller / one person instances is really the future / killer feature of the fediverse. Each of us having our own slice of the world we control, and yet are connected is powerful. 


But maybe those larger instances have a place as well, especially for those starting out, those without connections to bring. 

Because, as an unfortunate side note, older posts don’t get shown to new users on different servers. So that amazing picture I posted on Pixelfed of those strawberries? No one who follows me will see them through their account. 

They have to go to my server to see that image, and then (at least as far as I know) there isn’t really an easy way to interact with it. So that post is effectively lost in time. It exists, but not socially.

Which is its raison d’etre, no?

The Fediverse Cometh

With the shenanigans going on at Twitter, I, as a lot of people, have been looking into alternatives. I had heard of Mastodon (open source Twitter!), but had not tried, or even looked much into it.

One of the many times things nearly collapsed, I caved and went and signed up. I will mention that signing up for new things is something I am becoming more reluctant to do these days, which is probably a different post.

I signed up for Mastodon to give it a try and from there found out more about the Fediverse. So, what’s that? Fedi.tips says:

The Fediverse (or “Fedi”) is a collection of thousands of independent social media servers that talk to each other seamlessly. This means that the millions of users on these servers can interact with each other as if they were on a single social network.

What does that mean? It means rather than there be one site, i.e. Twitter or Facebook, there are lots of them, and each runs the server background to have these social sites. But then the magic happens.

Fediverse sites us a protocol called ActivityPub which connects all of them together. So a post on one site can be seen and commented on by another. You can follow people on different servers, even different apps, all from your home.

And it is pretty cool. It means there isn’t a central control over the site. Sites can be set up based on subject, or locations, or any other grouping. Want a social network for your family? here ya go.

AND, you can still interact with people on different sites.

I’ve decided to jump in. It is exciting and combining both the connection of social media, but the control offered by self hosting makes it doubly appealing.

I’m still looking into how I will host my microblog (i.e. Twitter replacement), and whether it will be Mastodon, Misskey, or something else.

But I have done two things. The first is set up this very blog to be on the Fediverse. With an ActivityPub WordPress Plugin you can now follow this blog on Mastodon, Pixelfed, Writefreely, etc.

Just look for @jake

The second is to set up a BookWyrm instance on books.jacobhaddon.com. BookWyrm is like GoodReads, which I had long since abandoned. I’m going to give it a shot, and see if reading in public is something I want to do. It is a sweet setup, and has been easy to use so far.

So if books are your thing: @jake@books.jacobhaddon.com

And there will be no doubt some others. I would like a PixelFed instance, but am currently having some issues getting it set up. (And I’ve made a new page to list my accounts here.)

What is the end goal? Why do this? I think the big thing is that the current state of Twitter is showing us all that leaving these things up to just a few corporate entities is not the way to go. ActiviyPub makes social networking more like email than a closed off system.

Sound interesting at all? Check out this page on Fedi.tips, which is a list with way more information on the Fediverse and its options. Mastodon is a great starting point, but there is much more out there. You can sign up on servers that already exist, or if you are so inclined, you can set up your own.

Social, but on your terms.

The Current State of WordPress is Confusion

I’ll start by saying I’ve been using WordPress as a major foundation for my websites since January 2008. I have made themes, plugins, and built several sites using the software.

I am not sure who WordPress is for anymore.

I’ve been helping my father with a WordPress site. He wants to set up a blog for some travel he’s got planned and wanted some help. Now my dad has used WordPress before, circa 2014, and went into this thinking it would be just some refresher tips.

It was not.

In fact, thanks to the new editor feature, it turned into me learning on the spot how to do things in the new set up.

Things that were at once simple, like setting up a menu or changing the widgets are now completely unintuitive, involving extra clicks, hidden menus, and figuring out which blue box is highlighted.

I pulled up my self hosted version (Dad is on WordPress.com), and most of those features are as I Ieft them, leading me to think the back end is 1. different on .com and 2. linked to the capabilities of the theme being used.

(There is an extra menu layer on the .com site that is nothing but frustration.)

It doesn’t change the fact that Dad just wants a blog to post updates and pictures, something WordPress was designed to do, and it is not a straightforward thing to set up anymore.

One thing we would always ask as we were designing websites is “is it clear what you want the user to do?” A question on my mind as I was explain my father how to simply write a post.

Even the app has nothing but clutter. Why isn’t “post a blog” the most prominent thing on the first screen? (Blue button in the corner)

What is the current focus of WordPress? Who are they looking for as users? I know they are going after places like Squarespace for the website/webstore builders, but who are they leaving behind?

I know in the year 2021 someone making a blog isn’t as common of a thing. And the sites that WordPress hosts are rapidly becoming either webstores or content for clicks sites and adds, but still.


Somewhere in the rush to add in unlimited options the most important part was forgotten: the user.