Yes donating to the admin is nice, but have you considered we can use this energy to build institutions for actual user power?

Large scale user unions which fund the systemic development and sustainability of this environment? That fund moderation labor across the network?

Democratic institutions that can push back simultaneously against Big Tech, BDFL like Mastodon and misguided legislation to regulate the internet?

Umbrella organizations that can shield users from arbitrary abuses of instances and simultaneously assist teams running instances with legal issues, know-how, funds and best practices?

We're currently only scratching the surface of what federated social networks can be and we need to be way more ambitious.

@rra One step at a time, I guess. It takes time to figure out, even for the most enlightened minds on these things. But you're right, the time to push the ambitions is now.


I think you need to elaborate on the big ideas.

I’m hesitant anymore when people talk about establishing units of power, be they called unions, institutions, organizations, or anything else.

Seems like things are working pretty well so far, though I’d like to see more small/medium size instances than big.

I’ve heard of coops working, and might be the right scale and community mindset.

But I’m not really a socmed hanger-on enthusiast, just an observer passing through, so don’t mind me.

@rra that’s not how humans work.

Any organization with over 100 souls eventually gets exploited by people who crave power. Despite the best of intentions.

Create a herd, and the wolves show up.

@rra 👍 I will continue donating to lurk but indeed that alone won't stop anybody with the admin password to sell the data corpus, and won't force the Mastodon project to implement encrypted "direct messages". The "founder" centered support for libre soft projects such as developing mastodon or hosting mastodon is the next obstacle to overcome the issues with the open source model.

@despens @rra good points. I also like the idea of user-unions. I heard many questions about decision making about further development (the call for QT is one of them).

So I wonder what would be a good thing to try out? I also ponder over how a union and a federated network would go together, or are we talking federated unions?

@shusha @despens Good questions! I think there is not that much precedent although there are some forms of collective organizing to draw from. So best to try out and see? But indeed there is a need to have an organized influence in the development of the software other than creating issues and hoping for the best. Ideally this would encourage a diversity of solid implementations.

@rra @shusha The software industry employs developers that work on free software a company depends on. It is also common to sponsor projects like ffmpeg / libav which all video hosting and streaming platforms depend on. The goals in these cases are pretty simple to formulate. I think for users it is currently easier to just drum up money for supporting an existing organization. But to formulate common goals will be hard for users because made into consumers they have been deprived of the required language, and the target conflict is not entirely clear I believe. Maybe it would make sense to start there?

@despens @rra yes, I agree on the problem with consumer mentality - or subjectivity - that is difficult even to adress. I think this needs to be overcome from the inside. Maybe about difference? I am thinking about the calling for QT by the black community as a cultural form of community building. Which is completely counter intuitive for white users. So one question would be: how is usership different based on positionality (not sure if this is the correct term, but thinking about feminist standpoint theory). And to find ways of talking about it, that might lead to ways of making ways for difference, not as in forks, but as parallelities.

@rra Agree, better to contribute to the community than donate to the admin. an experiment in this

@neil yes is a great example! We need more of those, but also aimed specifically at the governance not of specific instances but of the ecosystem.

@rra union of users independent of developers? A UUID if you will.

That's actually a great idea, representing the interests of non-programmers and non-this-particular-thing-programmers.

@rra I like the idea of “user unions”. I guess that’s not completely new: we have membership organisations like Consumers Association (UK), EFF, and other advocacy groups? But this would be more, I think.

@gklyne Yes, consumer advocacy groups, consumer coops are definitely inspirations to draw from. Going to have to be some hybrid of existing forms.

@rra interesting idea, I guess Wikimedia Foundation is somewhat of a precedent here, with positive and negative aspects. What would make it a union?

@rra You have some intriguing ideas, but...

If we're going to discuss that and organize something on Mastodon & the larger Fediverse, the admins have to keep the power on.

It ought to be possible to do both large and small things at the same time.

Thing is, some of us have only just joined Mastodon.

I'm looking for small ideas, baby steps first. Sure, that could be part of a larger design but starting small is where a lot of us newbies are at.

:fediverse: :mastodon_oops:

@rra I like this thinking. I hate feeling like a pawn and these large companies make me feel that way sometimes.

@rra this would be a consumer association, not a union


I think it would be a hybrid actually. It is important to recognize the social reproduction that happens as part of social networks as a form of labour. This should not necessarily means that everyone should get paid, but that no one can pull the rug from under the community you've painstakingly built.

@rra how, exactly? very unclear on what the organising model is supposed to be here. how and why does it strike?

@aeonofdiscord Yeah so I do not have definitive answers, and, yes the direct comparison to labour unions is a bit clumsy but here is an attempt:

a strike is the withdrawal (exit) of labour from a workplace which makes the voices of workers heard. In a network like this, a strike can be the withdrawal of your presence from the platform. However, to actually withdraw that presence meaningfully, you need to be able not suffer too much from the consequences. For example, the reason why people who hate Facebook are still on Facebook is that they can not exit without hurting themselves more than they hurt Facebook. There is no meaningful exit.

Seth Frey and @ntnsndr described this as having "effective voice and exit" in this paper:

In Mastodon, it is possible to switch instances, but only to take your followers not your post history. So that is a problem that should be solved for people having more effective means of exiting, and therefore having more voice. I think the organizing model would be around recognizing that issue and funding software that would allow for effective voice and the potential to exit.

Of course, then there is the issue that actually there is labour ongoing in moderation and the question for compensation should be on the table. Another thing to organize around.

@rra I’ve thought about this as well and I’m not convinced going back to a large scale organization is better. It’s too similar to the centralized social media site many of us have stopped using.

Smaller sites are easier to manage and easier to let fall if they’re not working out.

@realitythreek The point is not to make larger sites. The point is to make the existence of smaller ones socially sustainable.

@rra there have been attempts

another project that has accumulated some funds

and i have my own ideas towards this direction

my main takeaway is that an org like this should be aiming to give away something that produces excess value that is perpetually re-invested in the community. don't limit yourself to what can happen within a collection of websites!

@itzpaquet Yes, thanks for sharing these references! Community wealth building is an important thing to strive for with something like that..

The problem I see with institutions is they always turn sour after some time. Maybe I am just lacking imagination and don't get your vision.

@TheSecondVariation Yeah they are not unproblematic and I am no expert in this but it is worth the try. The hing with NOT organizing something is that there is in fact a lot of sourness already, its just hidden from view and the goal would be to alleviate some of that.

@rra I guess the question is, how do we structure that and at what point did we reinvent the concept of governments? Not that that's a problem...

@toba We don't because we stay specific to what we are doing. That is considering the governance of social network ecosystem in which folks can voluntarily participate, nothing more.


@rra I'd be very concerned about creating systems of power that are easily exploitable -> lead to oppression, which would make things worse.

This sort of large-scale power-building makes sense in situations where you're dealing with a large powerful adversary (government, employer, etc.), but... is that actually what we're dealing with here on fedi?

Or would a loose association of likeminded folks, like we have now, be capable of achieving the same thing but without the risks of power systems? Because that certainly seems preferable.


@joepie91 Two things: first we should be prepared for that adversary to arrive and draw lessons from how google pulled an Embrace Extend Extinguish on the previous federated network namely . Second, in the last weeks I saw a lot of admins struggling to cope with the scaling of the network and there should be ways of alleviating that. Not too sure about the specific form though.


«build institutions … that fund moderation labor across the network»

Thanks, but no thanks.

I prefer to fund the local «moderation labor» of the moderators and administrators of my instance without having a centralized and unionized moderation bureaucracy in between.

In other words: I do not wish to see moderation policies getting centralized.

#labor #union #moderation #bureaucracy #mastodon

@tkurz I agree it is good to fund your local moderator! But also don't loose track of how moderation might *already* be on a way to centralization now that blocklists are implemented. Someone will at some point make The List™ that many mods will just copy paste. There should be accountability systems around that.


A centralized “user union” would be vulnerable to a hostile takeover by ideologues. And then good luck with “accountability”…

As long as each instance can choose its blocklists freely, I can choose an instance whose blocklist fits my needs or set up my own.

The last thing we need is a Fediverse with a centralized blocklist that excludes any instance that doesn’t subscribe to this blocklist. I’ve seen such discussions emerging already around the instance

@tkurz there is no reason why this entity should be singular and all encompassing.


You proposed “large scale user unions (…) that fund moderation labor across the network”.

I don’t know how many of those unions you think it takes. And I don't see why I would want the moderators of my instance to be accountable to an outside union that has them on their payroll.

As far as I am concerned, the people on each instance are the “union”, funding locally the kind of “moderation labor” they appreciate, or leaving the instance. That’s as democratic as it gets.

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