Writing about open & equitable product development

Group Convergence

Groups as both a formal ActivityPub spec and general concept deeply invigorate me. I previously wrote about group-to-group following (FEP-d36d) as the missing glue layer to successfully transition /r/rust to the threadiverse.

Today I wanna talk about what a common implementation of Groups as defined in FEP-1b12 can do for the fediverse at large.

Groups in a nutshell

I recently wrote this post to share my brother's math projects:


A friendly fedizen told me that mathstodon.xyz would be a great place to share this. But how do I share this project specifically to Mathstodon? Except for using the #math hashtag and hoping someone in their midst will see my post and share it on their local feed, there's really no way to do that. That's what groups are for.

If I have the right read on how groups are being implemented in the microblog-paradigm, they're gonna give the local content of an instance's network more structure and discoverability, on an opt-in basis. Threadiverse apps on the other hand specialize in fedi-scale frontpages that aggregate these groups.

Lemmy as a flagship

By far the most popular implementation of ActivityPub Groups to date is Lemmy. It's also unique in its strictly group (boards) centric design.

There is a prior history of groups in the fediverse, existing for a long time in the likes of Hubzilla, Friendica and Streams, all paving the way for what is on track to becoming a default part of the fediverse experience:

Because of its mainstream adoption, I believe Lemmy should be looked to as the canonical interoperability test of any new groups implementation. I say that with the utmost respect for all antecedents of Lemmy-groups. There's a lot of history here that I'm not privvy to; names deserving of much credit. I leave it to the fediverse to patch those gaps in my knowledge as we go, but go we must, and Lemmy is where the action is at.

I'm a big believer in building around where the people are already congregating. Sure, you can always go ahead on your own terms and 'build it and [maybe] they will come'. But a guaranteed way of achieving technical adoption is to go where the people are already at, and ask them what they'd like to see built.

That's what inadvertently happened with Lemmy, which modeled itself after Reddit, a place where lots of people were congregating. As Reddit started imploding, Lemmy happened to be the best idea lying around for digital migrants in search of a more trustworthy alternative to the platform that had betrayed their decade-long loyalty.

While still at the grassroots stage, Lemmy is now very much a place in its own right that you can go visit and decide for yourself if it's somewhere you'd like to stick around in.

I for one am finding myself increasingly at home in the threadiverse. That said, it feels unnecessarily separated from the fediverse which undergirds it.

Talk to your neighbors

One of the most important topics raised on the threadiverse in the past two weeks was titled “Lemmy/Kbin Reinvestment Phase and Recruiting from Mastodon” with distinct discussions on lemmy.blahaj.zone, lemmy.ml and lemmy.world.

It argues that with the initial migration waves of Twitter and Reddit behind us, the next upswell in community growth could come from within, by means of greater cross-fediverse interoperability.

TL;DR: What I’d like to particularly emphasize here is the focus on Mastodon user recruitment. They are far more likely to both improve the quality of discourse here and contribute to community building than your average reddit user. Not to mention they can already be active from their existing accounts. The barrier for entry is nil. I think a valid strat to go about this is to advertise existing specialized instances to their existing equivalent communities on the microblogging fediverse. This solves both the problems of growing the specialized instances from 0 and making their discourse substantially different enough to warrant specialized instances in the first place. Things like:

#bookstodon to literature.cafe
#monsterdon to lemmy.film
#climateemergency to slrpnk.net
#histodon to some equivalent of ask historians (This is probably the only way we’d get the experts needed)
Any of the many art tags to lemmyloves.art

I fully support this growth strategy. However, the barrier to entry is quite a bit higher than nil.

There are pending integration issues on the side of Mastodon and Lemmy respectively. Especially on the Lemmy side there's an ongoing debate regarding the extent to which it should be Mastodon-compatible. I'm strongly in favor, because it strengthens the fediverse network as a whole when content can be doubly amplified. There's a big difference between being able to talk to Mastodon vs behaving like it.

Stubborn holdouts of the increasingly off-putting Twitter/X and Reddit commonly point out how their open source alternatives don't really offer any cool new features. You know what will never happen? Twitter and Reddit being in direct, seamless interaction with one another. Mastodon, Lemmy & friends are at the precipice of a brand new social networking experience defined by app symbiosis.

There's a lot more to be said about everything to be gained from group interop, but I won't belabor the point. I think the advent of groups in Mastodon & co. will inevitably push the status quo forward. In the meantime Kbin is doing an excellent job experimenting with possible interplay between the microblog and forum formats.

Unix-philosophy Everything-app

The ActivityPub protocol is uniquely well suited to realize the kind of “everything app” that WeChat popularized and Elon imagines his “X” to become. But unlike the monocultural borg-like approach of those identity proprietors, an ActivityPub-based everything-app will actually be made up of multiple apps operating in unison, joined together by Juicy Clients.

The convergence of groups across the fediverse is a monumental step closer to this next-gen reality of social network applications.

Friendship is the “killer feature” of the fediverse! 👯