On the subject of Connecting Federated Social Media Networks

The past few days on the Fediverse have served to remind me a few things:

  1. The internet is as smart and as ignorant (and everything in between) as the macrocosm known as “human civilization” reflects upon it.
  2. Sometimes the victims will become the victimizers in any given situation, usually without them being aware of it.
  3. Upon pointing it out to said type above, instead of working to acknowledge and understand, they will double-down under the guise of righteousness, again unwittingly using the exact playbook that they had been persecuted under at some point in the past.
  4. As usual, any attempt by a rational third party to diffuse whatever situation breaking out on the internet will lead to a wider conflict/argument/brigade session where everyone winds up digging their heels in and missing entirely the point.
  5. And finally, as usual, there’s a 95% chance it was started by someone who was all to ready to be triggered by anything and everything so they could start some shit on the internet at that moment.

OK, with that preamble out the way, let’s get into the latest drama related iconically to trying to bridge this patchwork, fledgling open social media landscape. As you may be aware, there are two federated decentralized social media protocols that are pretty big right now; ActivityPub and ATProto. Per my previous notes on both:

  • ActivityPub is a federated social networking protocol that enables users to interact across different servers and platforms used by popular projects like Mastodon, Pleroma, and PeerTube. It’s been around since 2017 and is born from previous projects like Statusnet and Ostatus. It’s in full federation right now, mainly serving as the underpinning to Mastodon, a microblogging server.
  • ATProto is a newer protocol developed by Bluesky, a public benefit company born from the ideas from former Twitter engineers. The protocol’s main advantage is that it provides true account portability and can scale up with search and discovery. Since it was originally developed to be the successor to Twitter, it also has hooks for composable moderation and algorithms. It’s not federated at the moment, but the only instance using it, the self-titular Bluesky (bsky.app) says “its immenent. Indeed, the company just took down the waitlist and opened up registration to everyone worldwide a few weeks ago.
OIG1.jpg

So what the hell happened?

In short, someone built something that can connect both networks together in a sense and a bunch of people who likely don’t really know the technology’s underpinnings instead proceeded to blow up their victim status to trigger everyone else and brigade the developer who was asking for constructive dialoge and ideas before he got too far in the development process.

Now I must note, I’ve been using Ryan’s Bridgy site and suite of crossposting tools ever since I got into the Indieweb movement as it ticks all my boxes for making my content go all over the web and whatever comments and discussions take place out there, I can track and archive them on my site without worrying if I’ll get taken down, or the site goes dark. Bridgy already has bridges for Mastodon, Reddit, Facebook, and even supported Instagram and Twitter before they became… drunk with power. I am eagerly awaiting the day when I can sit on Bluesky and follow Mastodon folks or sit on Mastodon and comment on Bluesky posts… Or better yet, tag everyone in both places from this blog right here. ActivityPub and ATProto are open source and its pretty easy to make tools like this unlike feeling around in the dark with undocumented APIs that may get shut down at any second; That’s why we can’t do this with Instagram!

It’s no secret the fediverse is the social media of choice for those who feel voiceless and vulnerable on the other “big” networks; you can gain a sense of community and comradery on an instance with others sharing the same experiences. However, it is still a social network.

  • Social: relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other.
  • Network: a system of devices, or entities including people and animals that are connected and can communicate with each other.

So in regard to having a bridge to connect the two together… Yeah, it’s kind of a no-brainer and I thought everyone else was looking forward to having it like myself. Boy was I wrong:

You need to make this opt IN not opt OUT. It absolutely fucking sucks that you want to force the majority of decentralized posts here into content for Jack fucking Dorsey.

Cyrus (still a bit spooky tbh) (@Cyrus@zirk.us)

honestly fuck you. Do you really expect everybody to have enough space in their bios to opt-out of your fucking bs? How many opt-out bs am I supposed to put there?

Joshix 🦣 (@joshix@fosspri.de)

 

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My Take:

I honestly don’t get the vitrolic knee-jerk posts I saw coming left and right from some corners of the fediverse, then I started noticing the pattern: It’s mostly people not understanding what the goals of both ActivityPub and ATProto are as a protocol and their equating it to Mastodon and Bluesky as “psudo-corporations” that have some level of control… And even perhaps Ryan’s attempt to bridge both protocols with free and open source software that is literally already working to bridge other social networks as I type this, as some imaginary invasion mob coming to victimize them on the internet. 😓

Allow me to say this as a member of a marginalized group of people in real life who has had my share of internet trolls come at me: (I’m a Black man from the USA, and I have yet to lose my Black Card, am a refugee repping into the Fediverse on both Bsky and Masto so I think I can speak on some things.)

  1. Get out of your feelings. The animosity is unwarranted and uncalled for. This is the internet and it wasn’t designed for you to have your entire-ass identity tied to it. This is truely the reason social media is some bullshit sometimes. The internet is supposed to be a communication tool, not some MMORPG for y’all to live your whole existence. If anything, your IRL personality should extend INTO it, not the other way around. Dude could’ve just cut the bridge on, posted Github links and lol’d all the way to the way to the next project and there wouldn’t be much you or I could say; the fediverse has no Ts&Cs to violate!
  2. Attempt to learn the technology before you postulate whatever opinions around it. Don’t come up with some off-the-cuff hot take on how you think the bridge is suddenly going to aim 3 million users of Network A at your posts on being a furry/inanimate-curious who happens to be in a cross-species relationship with a hubcap from a 1993 Chevy Corsica that happen to be publicly available on Network B. That’s not how network bridges work. Understand that whatever you’ve posted publicly anywhere is subject to someone reading it and deciding to give you a like or give a hateful comment. They don’t need a bridge to do it; they can already just make an account on the network you’re already on and fuck with you. It’s actually easier for them and less traceable!
  3. We already have bridges now. Consider this post is on my own personal blog powered by WordPress. It’s being cross-posted POSSE-style to wherever you’re reading this or got referred from, whether it was through an automatic script, or I manually cut and pasted over. My blog is already acting as a bridge and there are many others like it. It’s been that way in the past, and someone was bound to create this technology. If it’s not @snarfed, then it’ll be someone else. But mark my words, it’s gonna happen.
  4. Learn the difference between protocols and applications. Bluesky is an application on the ATProto protocol. Mastodon is an application on the ActivityPub protocol. Both are facets of the wider fediverse. Don’t conflate these things. This blog is an application on BOTH those protocols and also does webmentions and other cool things. Once ATProto is fully federated and opened, it’s only a matter of time before I can snag an ATProto plugin in the same manner as the ActivityPub one and have it not even need to rely on a “translator” like Bridgy for that part. (If I just lost you with the technobabble, now you see why it’s important to seek to understand this technology before reacting to some perceived threat.)
  5. You’re not in a walled garden on the fediverse. You’re in the open and as such you more than anyone should understand and respect the right to choose. The power here is in your hands and you have the ability to block, but your right to do so ends at the tip of your own nose and doesn’t come anywhere near mine. Also realize both ActivityPub and ATProto were designed for openness first; if you seek privacy and isolation, then you need to grab Signal and create some rooms there with some buddies away from the open internet.
  6. Assholes exist everywhere. Don’t conflate the tech of one place with the ability to keep bigots, fascists, bullys, and jackasses from your timeline. Moreover, don’t shoo away people that are trying to do things that are inevitable anyway from doing it correctly! Understand federation is going to happen with or without your input if not by this project, by someone else. There’s no hiding, there’s no “safe place” except the one you create and control yourself within or without these places.

Letting you connect to other people you care about is not unethical or immoral. You have a lot of options for whether you want to participate in the BS bridge–either by managing your follows directly, by blocking users from that domain, or by blocking the whole domain. This is how federation works. You have absolute control over who you interact with.

Evan Prodromou (@evan@cosocial.ca)

 

I’m approaching this line of thinking from my longtime use, contribution and propagation of FOSS/open-source software and the use of my actual social media of choice, the indieweb which is best summed up here:

The #IndieWeb is for everyone, everyone who wants to be part of the world-wide-web of interconnected people. The social internet of people, a network of networks of people, connected peer-to-peer in human-scale groups, communities of locality and affinity.

tantek.com

 

Also, one more thing:

The most important lesson, I’ve ever learned about online privacy is this one: If you want something to be private online, don’t put it online in the first place.

DavidB (@DavidBHimself)

Updates & Errata

Pardon the typos, grammar bombs and double negatives in my “stream of consciousness” manner of writing this particular post. My years of journalism prowess still requires fresh eyes and a fresher cup of coffee. Being that this is my blog and not a column in a major publication, I’m a bit lax so 🤷🏾‍♂️ …fuhgeddaboudit!

🆕 Some other posts I’ve been reading that align with my opinions and have some additional references, and deeper information:

Likes, Bookmarks, and Reposts
  • Ryan Barrett
  • Aaron Parecki
  • Dominik Schwind
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov
  • Jeremy Cherfas
  • DecaturNature
  • James Van Dyne
  • Tom
  • Beardystarstuff
  • Jatan Mehta
  • Beko Pharm
  • bsky.app
12 responses
  1. @starrwulfe Agreed and well said. Still seems like early days of federated social networks, still have much to work through. But it’s great to see progress.

  2. @Denny
    Thanks! I’ll pose the same question I gave in another thread:

    There’s an interesting spin in between all this with us here on micro.blog: We’re kind of our own deal here. If basing it on technologies, I believe Webmentions and RSS is at the heart of what makes this place tick. But we also speak ActivityPub and ATProto (and a few more) thanks to bridging. Does that mean we also should be sounding the alarm anytime another ship comes along that has “strangers that speak the same languages” aboard because of the unknown threat or just welcome them and ourselves into the new fold?

    I’m really curious as to what most micro.bloggers think about all the dust-ups surrounding impending federation of disparate social media networks and some of the extreme “hometeam hooligan” protectionism behaviors seen in some spots. What’s a good way to foster good discussions about both the technology aspects as well as the developed communities within an instance/site while trying to advocate for federation?

    ---------------------------------------------

    [↩REPLIED:] Denny Henke 19 FEB 2024 13:51 EST https://micro.blog/Denny/32030646
    @starrwulfe Yeah, it’s interesting and I think for many, including myself, still a bit confusing! Micro.blog is kind of it’s own deal with it’s own semi-silo. Our blogs are open via RSS but I think there are still questions/confusions about commenting. I had a friend (not on micro.blog) ask how he could comment on my blog. I could not easily explain to him how to do so. Later he joined Mastodon and he’s now on BlueSky. I let him know that he could comment via Mastodon. He was a bit confused at first because I have a stand-alone Mastodon account so he was just interacting to that account.

    Since seeing your recent posts about web mentions along with those by @khurtwilliams I’m aware now that there is potential for cross posting comments via the micro.blog timeline to WordPress blogs but that seems even more confused/difficult and unreliable? I think Khurt has been struggling to get it working.

    As for your specific question about federating, with the big ships like Blue Sky and Threads, I like the open, welcome approach.

  3. @starrwulfe I couldnt find my bridged account on bluesky. Have you found yours? I also havent found my personal blog on Bluesky.

  4. @fromjason I don’t t think @snarfed.org will use a “bridged accounts” type of implementation on his bridge. Right now nothing like that exists on Bluesky/ATProto. You could be seeing people like me who’ve changed their handles to URLs? I changed my original Bluesky account name to my website URL starrwulfe.xyz (I think it was starrwulfe.bsky.app or something like that) because ATProto uses your DID number as a portable identity and your handle is just a pseudonym. One DID actually supports a few handles I think but that hasn’t been turned on yet.

    • Right now Bridgy does facilitate crossposting and publishing so that site webmentions get translated into posts when you include the magic publish link. Bluesky comments get pulled into your blog via the same webmention translations as well. For more info, check out this part of the FAQ and see it work right now with this post on my blog and in the Bluesky crosspost
    • The bridge is going to work in the manner of being able to sit on one network and follow someone or some thread from a different network. Follow Bsky from a Masto/ActivityPub account or see and respond to a Masto thread with your Bsky/ATProto account. Check this post out detailing it out a bit more.
    • There also will be support to turn a website that supports webmentions into a ATProto actor in the same manner as how Bridgy Fed can do with ActivityPub now. This is what I’m interested in. I want my blog to speak all fediverse languages so I can have one real home on the net.
  5. Here’s a quick example of how I already federate comments from my Bluesky posts back to my blog. You can see this post in the comments section of the link above. If you post here, it goes there as well. At some point, whatever’s over there will come here too. That’s called bridging folks!

  6. @starrwulfe Interesting discussion! Personally I was a bit taken aback at the level of vitriol the Bridgy developer copped from Mastodon users. Personally I always felt that the syndication of public posts (which is, after all, what we’re talking about) was a good thing… if people really don’t want that, they’re going to need to grapple with their privacy settings, because not all developers will actually be reasonable people like the Bridgy guy.

    I’ll admit the furore gave me second thoughts about “backfeeding” Mastodon replies onto my own site, though. Just because I think it’s OK, clearly doesn’t mean everyone agrees, so I decided to be more respectful of that. Now I have replies displaying as reactions, so it’s required to click through to see the original comment (I don’t think these people can actually object to their comments being linked to… surely). If there was a way to filter out “true” webmentions, including Micro.blog replies, to continue displaying those in full, I would, but I don’t think I can with webmention.io. In the longer term, though, it makes me unsure whether I should bother continuing to display webmentions at all. What is the risk-benefit ratio? I don’t really want to get attacked by people because they don’t know how to change the privacy setting on their reply posts to “Unlisted”, lol. And I’m also not sure how much I care any more about interactions being preserved with the posts themselves (especially cos often the display gets a bit mangled, especially with emojis). Argh, it’s an annoying one.

  7. @jayeless I’m not worried so much about it. I’m treating the comments section of my blog like a personal mastodon/bluesky/microblog instance insofar as I’m hosting the public replies to my content. At some point there should be something that periodically sends a 401 Gone status to delete posts from their remote locations Webmentions style.
    But for now I have no problem taking down comments for people. And I have no problem reminding them they posted a public reply to both their instance and mine in fitting with expected behavior.

    Linking to the original post is a good compromise but I’m looking at being able to functionally reply inline to a comment and have it filter back to the poster, just like this one hopefully does! 🤞🏾

  8. @fromjason @jayeless looks like things are starting to work here:
    fed.brid.gy/docs

  9. @starrwulfe yeah, opt-in. That’s great.

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