Getting away from the big "social" companies

I know there are various alternatives to the “core” social media companies - Facebook, Twitter, etc.

However, I’m not that familiar with them, or what they look like.

I’d be interested in something far more small community based and selfhosted-ish - I really do miss Google+, as the communities tended to be a lot better (in my experience), though it was populated by the sort of people who use Google+…

I would also be very interested in things that order chronologically, not “random reordering” as is commonly used to ensure you always see something novel when you refresh. That’s a pretty toxic-to-humans way of handling content feeds.

What’s out there, and what are the requirements to host nodes?

Mastodon is the Twitter replacement. Toots instead of tweets, heh.

Diaspora* is the Facebook replacement.

Both are mesh-y. Minimum node requirements are usually around 4gb instances for a container deployment. You might be able to cram it down into a rpi or minimal instance at a commercial cloud provider, though. Example …

I generally disagree with hosting anything like that from an SD card, but that’s useful. Does one need to host an instance to engage, or are there public nodes one can use to see what the community looks like before going about the sysadmin tasks required to host?

As it’s federated, there’s plenty of public nodes, each with their own flavors and communities and internal moderation.

Discourse is chronological and can be selfhosted. It isn’t distributed, if that’s part of what you had in mind by selfhosted.
My impression is that each instance tends to be its own community, although I’m not sure how much that’s driven by the software and how much that’s driven by the communities that support instances.

This (gestures around) is Discourse, more or less a stock install.

Selfhosted just means that you can run it on your own equipment - be it physical or cloud. It’s not a “Subscribe to some service for some other company to run it,” though I assume that option exists for Discourse if you want it.

Smaller communities are definitely part of why I’m interested in this approach to interaction online. Humans just don’t scale.

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Okay, the prototypical ‘self hosted but distributed’ model is Fidonet. Each BBS has it’s own forums, but the ‘federated’ ones get shuffled off to far flung off BBSes where users can respond to them, if they so wish.

‘modern’ distributed would be diapsora*/mastodon, where again, posts are per server, but the servers where those posts are syndicated can respond to the posts.

It’s good to have outside ideas, too. Insular communities tend to eventually go to groupthink or consensus, and tag team any outside opinions.

I agree about groupthink, I’m just not sure how to solve it in a generally scalable manner.

Topic based forums are a good way. People focused on ideas not ideologies tend to be civil enough to let diversity through. As long as it’s not an art-focused topic (speaking from experience).

I think groupthink is a problem unrelated to the size of the forum or community at large. People tend to develop cliques on and offline regardless of how big the pool of people and ideas is around them. Perhaps we might see such a group and wish to see them expand their minds with fresh ideas, but it’s a rare sort of individual that wants to wade into a cacophony of voices so diametrically opposed to their own philosophy. They’re more likely to pass over such groups completely, until they find one with ideas already more agreeable with their own.

The more I think about it the more I think it’s up to the individual to seek out new and/or different ideas and perspectives, there’s not much the forum itself can do to encourage that.

To make a hasty example, if I want to learn about the Ford F-150, it’s history, how to work on it or where to get the best upgrades for it, the best place for that is probably This is fine, but I think it would be foolish if I thought this would be the best place to have an unbiased discussion about if this years F150 or Chevy Silverado is the best truck to buy. The F150 forum is always going to be too much an echo chamber about how the F150 is the best truck ever and everything else probably sucks. Just as it is likely to be on a Chevy forum as well.

It’s up to me to look at both places, and try to deduce the merits each group presents as clear from blind brand-loyalty as possible. Or I can try to find a third, less biased source of comparison between the two choices.

Basically this is a long winded way of saying it’s my responsibility to seek new ideas or hard data that might challenge my opinions, and not be sucked into the echo chamber because my personal identity is now too wrapped up in the defense of my favorite truck/brand/sports team/political party/etc.

Having been involved in precisely that sort of forum before I can assure you that in general they are excellent places to ask precisely those sorts of questions. The people who deeply know and love something are often, in that security and knowledge, the most willing and able to objectively discuss its relative merits and faults. The more broadly focused the forum (instruments, say, versus a specific brand or a specific instrument type) the more there tend to be factions, although it can be a ripe place for discussions at the same time. Still, having a topic means the general populace of a forum are encouraged to stay on point and that helps to mediate the relationships in a way that permits greater constructiveness in the water cooler threads.

That said, you’re also right that in a broader sense being open to and seeking out diversity of experience, opinion, and lifestyle is far superior to expecting it to come to you by simple virtue of social arrangement.

I think we’re on the same page there. In rereading my last post, I didn’t mean to sound so harsh against an F150 (or any) forum. Mostly I mean that if there was ever going to be an echo chamber chanting ‘ford rules, chevy drools’, it’s going to be found where else but a ford forum.

I guess the best one can hope for is that the majority of a community is mature enough to articulate why they feel their ideas are best, rationally discussing with and respecting those that disagree, and shunning or correcting would-be trolls, shills, and loudmouths that would rather stir up trouble than engage in meaningful dialog.

How to reliably build and keep a community like that, I have no idea. Probably why I have a few dozen forum accounts over the years where I’ve hardly made more than 10 posts from each of them. There is info I can benefit from and knowledge worth getting in those places, but asking questions or discussing more ‘hot button’ topics just looks like a giant tar-baby I’d rather not kick .