Bonum Certa Men Certa

Social Control Media is a Bubble and JoinDiaspora Might be the Next Casualty

Video download link | md5sum 32bb26b827f9b9b8b4382ad9b53404ac The Crisis of JoinDiaspora and Social Control Media Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0



Summary: There's no money in hosting other people's "social media" accounts unless one is willing to misuse/abuse them; sadly, this means that JoinDiaspora has an existential crisis, like so many sites before it (that's how I lost 'my' accounts at gnusocial.de, pleroma.site and several others); if we cannot pay to support hard-working administrators, then we're better off relying 100% on self-hosting

THE Social Control Media 'bubble' burst quite recently when Facebook itself admitted that it had lost active users and the value of the company collapsed. Meanwhile, Twitter itself has just lost a lot of money throughout its existence; the business model both companies adopted or adapted to revolved around manipulation.

Facebook itself admitting people are leaving
Running a "social" "media" (it is neither of those things) site is hard; it's also expensive because many kinds of issues inevitably emerge, leading to bureaucracy (potentially making new enemies for the administrator) and insane non-solutions [1, 2] to real problems like copyrighted porn, revenge porn, and fatigued moderators who get exposed to distasteful "content" like severed heads, animal cruelty etc.



The collapse of Social Control Media isn't new to me; I wrote about what happened to Identi.ca and now it looks like the same might happen to JoinDiaspora, the "original" pod of Diaspora with 316,648 users in it (this link might already be broken by next month). I've spent weeks communicating with people, both publicly and privately, and my findings are partly covered in the video above. The short story is, running a pod of that scale (2,974,673 posts local to the pod and 1,420,841 comments, not even counting 'imported' stuff) is almost infeasible unless it's treated as a full-time job with hard limits on the number of active/new users. Moderation burdens and legal threats (being held responsible for other people's behaviour) are a "hidden cost"...

"Moderation burdens and legal threats (being held responsible for other people's behaviour) are a "hidden cost"..."I've been thinking about the matter carefully for weeks. It has bothered me a lot. But I've come to the conclusion that unless somebody else takes over the pod and runs it as responsibly as Lukas has (it is feasible but seems rather improbable at this stage), I will pay that somebody every month for the trouble. It takes a lot of hard work to maintain sites of that size and the incentive isn't always there when it's mostly "other people's stuff", including stuff one might strongly disagree with. If nobody steps up and takes over JoinDiaspora, then it might be offline within less than 3 weeks. That would be devastating and sad. In the case of Mastodon/Fediverse (including GNU Social and Pleroma), I've already gone through three accounts because there is too much volatility. After the third time ('three strikes'!) I decided to not even bother returning anymore. Instances were being shut down too frequently and choosing a "big instance" sort of misses the point of federation. In the video above I explain why self-hosting one's own instance (for 1 or 2 accounts) is also quite impractical. Better to host one's own blog or Gemini capsule, then share RSS/Atom/equivalent. Some people were gullible enough to outsource their feeds (in effect their subscribers), foolishly trusting Gulag/Feedburner to outlive themselves. As nixCraft's Vivek put it yesterday, in a site that attracts millions of visitors: "The lesson is evident here, not to trust 3rd party with your RSS feed or content. I will never forgive Google for erasing Google Reader RSS/Atom feed aggregator. I lost many readers because of that move."

"'Free' community hosting is an enticing, alluring trap; you are always at the mercy of the operator, whose capacity as a moderator and financial means are limited."Self-hosting is the way forward; federating across instances may be fine, but only as long as all the pertinent users are self-hosting their own accounts. 'Free' community hosting is an enticing, alluring trap; you are always at the mercy of the operator, whose capacity as a moderator and financial means are limited. One day Twitter and Facebook too will be offline; it's not a question of if but when. Users' own interests won't be a consideration in such decision-making.

If someone picks JoinDiaspora, knowing up front that it is a big task to deal with, I'll try to rally online friends to help with funding (like subscription) and contribute myself. I can assist technically too (system administration, moderation and so on; others told me that they would do the same). Maybe it can all be salvaged and preserved. I think it should. It's of massive historic importance. Some people developed this thing to their death.

As an associate put it this morning, "self-hosting is the way forward, yet fewer and fewer these days know anything about computers and fewer still can actually use them. No, flicking fingers passively at a read-only display is not using ICT."

The associate wanted to emphasise the "point about how easy it is to self-host Gemini and, maybe, WWW. However for the latter to be both safe and easy it is necessary to stick to CSS+HTML and eschew fancy CMS tools. Static site generators will meet the need of most."

In future posts I will try to expand upon the subject at hand; there are ways for people to self-host (from home) -- especially using a lightweight transmission protocol such as gemini:// -- and then syndicate inwards and outwards, just like in the golden age of RSS feeds. Society would be vastly better off this way, as the image below illustrates.

Net topology

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