Tag: ActivityPub

Forbes on federation

This article uses a common format in Forbes where we follow an individual who just happens to have a product to sell. The story is lightly researched, and told in a way that seems to suggest that innovation comes from white guys.

Still, I’m sharing it because it’s a mainstream discussion of ActivityPub and Scuttlebutt, protocols that underpin federated social networks. Linking to places like planetary.social also normalises the true meaning of ‘community’ as an active verb rather than a passive noun, as well as the notion of co-operatives.

While the original, aborted version of a decentralized Twitter was built using the same messaging standard as Google Cloud Messaging and Facebook Chat, a number of technical innovations have recently surfaced, enabling an even more open and decentralized architecture. In January 2018, early blockchain-based social network Steemit exploded to its peak of about a $2 billion market value and Henshaw-Plath took his first job at a blockchain startup, seeking to learn from the inside about the technology that connects people without middlemen.

Though blockchains’ decentralized infrastructures might seem perfect for connecting friends on a social network, Henshaw-Plath was eventually turned off by their reliance on cryptocurrency. “Our feeling was that the primary social interaction should be based on intrinsic motivation,” says Henshaw-Plath. “If you integrate financial incentives into everything, then it can make it into a financial game. And then all of a sudden, people aren’t there because of their human connection and collaboration.” Users, it would seem, agree. Steemit fell 94% from its all-time high to about $107 million today.

Henshaw-Plath started looking for alternatives. “Eventually,” he says, “I discovered a protocol created by this guy who lives on a sailboat in New Zealand.”

That is Dominic Tarr, an eccentric, open-source developer who lives just off the coast of Auckland on a Wharram catamaran named Yes Let’s he found on the side of a road. Tired of being unable to send emails to his friends from his Pacific Ocean location, Tarr wrote software that uses technology similar to Apple’s Airdrop to create a protocol that lets anyone build social networks where information moves like gossip, directly from phone to phone—no internet service provider required.

Entrepreneurs using the protocol get to choose their own business models, their own designs and how their systems function. Users, meanwhile, can move freely from network to network. Tarr called the software Secure Scuttlebutt after the cask that stored water on old sailboats, which is also maritime slang for “gossip,” as in conversations held around a water cooler. “Modern capitalism believes that what people want is convenience,” says Tarr. “But I think what people actually want is a sense of control.”

Scuttlebutt itself isn’t supported by venture capital. Instead, taking a page from the way Tim Berners-Lee funded the creation of the World Wide Web, Scuttlebutt is backed by grants that helped jump-start the process. Similar to a distributed autonomous organization (DAO) that connects groups on a blockchain, there are now hundreds of users who personally donate to the cause and an estimated 30,000 people using one of at least six social networks on the protocol. An estimated 4 million more use the largest social protocol, Mastodon, which supports 60 niche social networks, with a rapidly growing pool of blockchain competitors in the works.

Source: Jack Dorsey’s Former Boss Is Building A Decentralized Twitter | Forbes

Blogging in the Fediverse with Write.as

I couldn’t be happier about this news. Write.as is a service that allows you to connect multiple blogs to one online editor. You then compose your post and then decide where to send it.

Matt Baer, the guy behind Write.as, has announced some exciting new functionality:

After much trial and error, I’ve finished basic ActivityPub support on Write.as! (Though it’s not live yet.) I’m very, very excited about reaching this point so I can try out some new ideas.

So far, most developers in the fediverse have been remaking centralized web services with ActivityPub support. There’s PeerTube for video, PixelFed for social photos, Plume or Microblog.pub for blogging, and of course Mastodon and Pleroma for microblogging — among many others. I’ve loved watching the ecosystem grow over the past several months, but I also think more can be done, and getting AP support in Write.as was the first step to making this happen.

Baer references one of his previous posts where, like the main developer of Mastodon, he takes a stand against some things that people have come to expect from centralised services:

If we’re going to build the web world we want, we have to constantly evaluate the pieces we bring with us from the old to the new. With each iteration of an idea on the web we need to question the very nature of certain aspects’ existence in the first place, and determine whether or not every single old thing unimproved should still be with us. It’s the only way we can be sure we’re moving — if not in the direction, at least in some direction that will teach us something.

In Baer’s case, it’s not having public ‘likes’ and in Mastodon’s case it’s not providing the ability to quote toots. Either way, I applaud them for taking a stand.

Baer is planning a new product called Read.as:

Today my idea is to split reading and writing across two ActivityPub-enabled products, Write.as and Read.as. The former will stay focused on writing and publishing; AP support will be almost invisible. Blogs can be followed via the web, RSS, email (soon), or ActivityPub-speaking services (for example, I can follow blogs with my Mastodon account, and then or share any posts to my followers there). Then Read.as would be the read-only counterpart; you go there when you want to stare at your screen for a while and read something interesting. It would be minimally social, avoid interrupting your life, and preserve your privacy — just like Write.as.

Great, great news!

Source: Write.as

OERu has a social network

I saw (via OLDaily) that OERu is now using Mastodon to form a social network. This might work, it might not, but I’m flagging it as it’s the approach that I’ve moved away from for creating Project MoodleNet.

The OERu uses Mastodon, an open source social network with similar features to Twitter.

We encourage OERu learners to use this social network as part of your personal learning environment (PLE) to interact with your personal learning network (PLN). Many of our courses incorporate activities using Mastodon and this technology is a great way to stay connected with your learning community. The OERu hosted version is located at mastodon.oeru.org.

I was initially convinced that this was the right approach to building what Martin Dougiamas has described as “a new open social media platform for educators, focused on professional development and open content”. I got deeply involved in the ActivityPub protocol and geeked-out on how ‘decentralised’ it all would be.

However, I’ve changed my mind. Instead of dropping people into another social network (on top of their accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) we’re going to build it around something which will be immediately useful: resource curation. More soon, and follow the Project MoodleNet blog for updates!

Oh, and if you need a short, visual Mastodon explainer, check out this new video.

Source: OERu