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?