Federation: The Inmates are Running the Asylum!

Social network slowdown will change lives

photo: Randy Resnick

I think everyone is pulling back a little. The sobering and repeated Facebook “scandals” and the bitterness over the Google+ closure has awakened a lot of people. They now realize they were wasting more time online than is reasonable when they have lives, families and the potential to do other things. Google+ was obviously a poor investment of time spent, other than temporary gratification. That network is continuing for GSuite users and some believe this will attempt to compete with Slack. What could possibly go wrong?

I believe the world of social networks is especially great for shut-ins. Prisoners, people who have reduced mobility for health reasons, introverts, agoraphobics, very old folks and such. I think the majority of us who are not in one of those categories will be better off spending less time online in vapid social network conversations and more in real life, doing facetime in the non-patented meat space version.

Pluspora was a great initiative. It brought me back after 8 years of inactivity on two original Diaspora pods. Those of us who joined diaspora in the first year didn’t know what to do with it. Pluspora and other similar efforts introduced Diaspora to others at a critical moment. MeWe, another Google+ refugee destination, is just another silo with a business plan and while I’m happy if people find it fills their needs, I’m also sorry for them; it’s a private company that will do what wish, not what you wish they’d do.

Mastodon is fantastic. People complain there’s no one there, which is obviously not true, since it’s one of, if not the most, successful federated platforms. And you can engage there with its creator, an amazing young man who still posts there daily.

The other platforms that connect to federated platforms, like the one I am currently on, Friendica have a huge potential. They’re like the guy or girl at the dance that nobody notices. Inside, people will love it, be fiercely faithful and adamant about open source and federation, but outside, no one is asking for a dance. If you’d like to see more about Friendica, here is a directory to browse.

What’s the big deal about federation?

Federation is the agreement between platforms to support common exchange protocols that allow them to talk to each other. On Friendica, I can engage and interact with people on Pluspora, Diasp.org, the numerous Mastodon instances, Hubzilla and other names I’ve never heard of. These all make up a galaxy called the “fediverse”. So what does this geek orgasm have to do with the average person who wants to look at cat photos or landscapes, listen to music, chat about writing?

First, more diversity because of a wider reach, geographically as well as socially.

Secondly, there is no business plan compelling the platform to attempt to manipulate people who use it. When people move from Google+ to MeWe, it’s jumping from the frying pan into the fire. A smaller company, owned and operated by unknowns has an unknown future. There’s some vague thing about “rewards” which immediately puts me off, but perhaps for some, it can be a form of gamification and hence, gratification. The private company-owned platforms can change the rules at will, be turned off with little or no notice and in the meantime collect data, and we all know where that can go. The biggest difference between these silos and the distributed platforms is huge.

Mastodon and Diaspora-based pods and instances (read ‘services’ if you prefer) are coded, maintained and run by volunteers. Some are financed by voluntary donations. The open source code makes for better security, and anyone who can set up a server may use that code to make their very own place for a community. That community, once built, can choose which other communities it wants to connect to.

In short: The inmates are Running the Asylum

But sanity is inside the asylum, not outside! Outside is business as usual. Outside the asylum is nefarious trafficking of your data for financial gain and power. Manipulation of what you see and the spread of anger and fear are what works best in that plan.