• @dark_stang@beehaw.org
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    11411 months ago

    Every time a big company gets into an open source space, they try to take it over. Hopefully everybody in the fediverse recognizes that.

    • Gaywallet (they/it)
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      11 months ago

      It kind of doesn’t matter whether everyone in the fediverse recognizes it or not. People around here often forget that they are in the vast minority when it comes to tech literacy in the world. Most people are not interested in the experience that lemmy currently offers, because it’s far too complicated and people asking simple questions are often met with scoff and scorn, because the question has been asked before and they should have just searched for an answer or because it’s so simple, obviously it’s just <insert complicated technical explanation here>.

      The fact that none of this is approachable to a tech naive person is precisely why microsoft killed OSS in the late 90s, why google killed XMPP, and why it’s extremely likely a place like meta or another company might succeed in effectively killing off a platform like activitypub (altho I don’t think it’ll kill it entirely, I do suspect that they will slowly kill it by bleeding users over to their platforms). You see, what these large brands have is recognition - people who are not tech literate still know what google is, what facebook is (they may not know they’ve rebranded to meta), and what microsoft is. These companies have the resources to throw actual designers at this space and provide a front end interface that is friendly to just about anyone. Combine good UX design with a company that people recognize and a huge platform from which to advertise to users (imagine logging into facebook and being presented with all the cool new things you can do on the fediverse) and you’ll get normal people trickling into the platform.

      Here’s where things succeed - these platforms will start as open, and so all the normal people will now be able to talk with their tech friends who are also in the fediverse, and slowly these platforms will become monoliths. They’ll start curating the experience more as user reports roll in, and as they tighten the reigns. Over time you’ll find that you can’t reach these users unless you’re also on their platform, and your non-tech literate friends will ask you to migrate to their platform so you can continue to interact through the same channels that they’ve been interacting with you. While you may be unwilling to migrate, some people will be, and slowly but surely the platforms will dominate the space. They might be sunset eventually as a way to kill off the protocol, or they might just simply turn into their own walled garden.

      The only way forward I can see which is resistant to attacks of capital of this nature are when an open source protocol actually starts to center design during the development of the platform. You can’t just tack a user design expert onto a platform like Lemmy and ask them to make things make sense, because federation itself needs a whole new set of terminology, designed by people who understand how non-tech literate people think, and a whole new backend to support a front end that’s truly user friendly. But user design is not friendly to github and most developers aren’t designers, so this isn’t something I see being accomplished anytime soon. The best that can happen right now is for better platforms to be designed for front-end and UX designers (something akin to github but useful to designers), to work on implementing these kinds of people from the beginning, and for open source projects to start reaching out more to designers, to start spending donated money on designers, and to center design as an important principle to OSS protocols.

      • @SkyNTP
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        11 months ago

        A discussion around tech is a distraction, and it’s a fallacy to think people are too illiterate to understand the problem. The problem is one of incentives, politics, and economic policies. The problem is that people have forgotten that a free market only serves the interests of paying customers–and while that’s fine for the paying customers, users of online platforms are not paying customers. They are slaves to a system that will treat them like dirt because they become addicted/dependant to it.

        It’s going to take a cultural revolution for people to learn this, not so different than it took generations to learn about the dangers of mercury/asbestos/cigarettes/climate change/plastic pollution. You are right that the change doesn’t happen with discussions around FOSS/fediverse/UX. It starts with a realization of the dangers of the business models of big tech.

      • @abhibeckert@beehaw.org
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        711 months ago

        There’s nothing wrong with Lemmy’s user interface design.

        It has bugs, for sure, but if you just go to an instance, sign up, and browser the fediverse within that instance it’s a great experience.

        • Gaywallet (they/it)
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          1211 months ago

          You may find nothing wrong with the user interface, but I’m not you and I see plenty wrong with it. I’m not the only one with this opinion, as evidenced by a number of github bug requests, a near constant stream of questions in support communities on these websites, all of the votes my comment is receiving, and well, just asking like 10 random people what they think. I would encourage you to try to put yourself in other people’s shoes - if you’re struggling with that, simply ask them how they feel and listen to what they have to say.

          • @abhibeckert@beehaw.org
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            11 months ago

            Oh it’s absolutely full of UX bugs, for sure. It took me a week to sign up, because of a user interface bug. But those are all clearly just bugs, they’re not a design problem.

            Lemmy needs a lot of work, but it’s an excellent foundation, at least from a design perspective.

            • @bric@lemm.ee
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              111 months ago

              From a design perspective it still has a lot of friction on signups though, we’re asking users to make a server choice before they even remotely understand what that entails. That simple decision made me spend a week understanding the fediverse before settling on Lemm.ee, but the average user won’t do that, they’ll get confused and then leave.

              From a more traditional UX standpoint the general feed is also fairly bad, reddit has built in feeds for the things people care the most about (trending and subscribed) that pop up by default when opening the app or website, and gives the advanced controls off to the side. Lemmy on the other hand defaults to a feed that shows basically nothing, and only gives the advanced controls to fix it. For a new user that isn’t tech savvy, the fact that the feed defaults to local is enough to make Lemmy seem completely dead if they happened to join a small instance.

              These aren’t major issues for us, but they are major issues for widespread adoption. It needs to be so easy that you can use it accidentally, and the UX isn’t there yet. I’m sure we can fix issues with the feed and the app, but I do worry that the server choice problem isn’t going to get a good solution

        • alyaza [they/she]M
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          811 months ago

          There’s nothing wrong with Lemmy’s user interface design.

          as a not-tech-savvy (relative to other users here, anyways) person: i have absolutely no idea how you can say this with confidence. Lemmy’s UI and UX is probably still on the worse end of FOSS projects i’ve used and i’ve had a year and a half to get used to it. i still have to double back to find certain settings that i use literally every day in moderating the site! i hang with it because i know the developers are slammed, but this would not fly with even most of my friends, much less my mom or someone who has extremely low computer literacy and mostly learns by repetition.

        • @Spzi@lemmy.click
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          411 months ago

          There’s nothing wrong with Lemmy’s user interface design.

          The first step is a UX disaster: https://join-lemmy.org/

          Only 2 clicks / pages down the road you can start registering an account, and you don’t see what the experience might be before that. Instead, you’re being presented tech talk about servers.

          You might argue it’s not actually lemmy but just the landing page. I argue, it’s so good at being a scarecrow, most people visiting lemmy haven’t seen anything else except for that page.


          The inner lemmy is pretty fine, I agree. Some parts are still confusing. For example, most people will not figure out they can search for content from within a specific community by carefully configuring the drop downs in the general search form. Most will look for the search directly attached to the community.

    • Dee
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      3311 months ago

      Looks at article.

      Yeah, I think they might realize it lol

      Happy to see it though, I’ve been saying they should be defederated right out of the gate ever since I first saw these rumors.

    • MudMan
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      811 months ago

      So hold on, is this an open source space, a protocol or “like email”? Which of the poor analogies people use to convey excitiement about AcitivityPub are supposed to apply here?

      Because, you know, Google got into the Linux space, into email and into open source software and it seems those survived the experience.

      • @dark_stang@beehaw.org
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        1311 months ago

        Google is actually a great parallel here, because of what they did to XMPP (the federated chat protocol). They implemented it for hangouts/gchat. It was a good on-ramp that allowed people to talk across platforms. Then Google created a bunch of features that only worked internally and not with XMPP. Then they removed XMPP.

        • @abhibeckert@beehaw.org
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          11 months ago

          XMPP didn’t work on mobile. You had to have the app running to receive messages, and the battery wasn’t large enough to keep the CPU powered up all day.

      • jalda
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        1311 months ago

        [Google got] into open source software and it seems those survived the experience

        Not really. Google is responsible for the open source browser Chromium, which is the base for Google Chrome, Edge, Brave, Opera, Vivaldi, etc. They dominate the browser market, and they use their position to implement features outside the web standard. Their competitors (mainly Firefox) are not able to implement the non-standard features, driving them out of the market. Classic Embrace-Extend-Extinguish.

        Google got into the Linux space

        Technically, both Android and Chromebok are Linux-based. But Google has done everything possible so that they aren’t part of the “Linux space”, to the point that Android uses a fork of version 3.x of the Linux kernel (regular Linux is now at version 6.x).

        • @abhibeckert@beehaw.org
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          11 months ago

          Google is responsible for the open source browser Chromium

          Pretty sure that was Apple, not Google. Google joined the WebKit party later. By the time Google forked WebKit the other rendering engines (used by the FireFox and old versions of IE) were pretty much gone.

          Also, Now that Google has forked WebKit, we’re back to two competing engines. And at least on the websites I run our traffic is about 45% each (and 10% other). That’s actually more healthy than it used to be (95% IE).

          Private companies embracing open source browsers fixed a broken platform, it didn’t embrace/extend/extinguish.

          Yes, FireFox is struggling for marketshare. That happens sometimes. Personally I think their biggest problem is they have a legacy code base that dates back to Netscape. It’s got nothing to do with Google.

        • MudMan
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          11 months ago

          Right. But you do notice how any of those scenarios fail to “extinguish” anything, right? I’m typing this on Firefox, which is still going strong and has negligible incompatibilities. Chromium didn’t eradicate the competition by embracing open source, it did so by succeeding with their commercial product. The ONE competitor it didn’t outright replace with its open source alternative is Firefox, in fact.

          And in the other scenario Android simply forks and separates. Linux is clearly not threatened by Android or ChromeOS, and all of those remain viable, healthy alternatives to closed, paid competitors from Microsoft and Apple.

          Can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Either the open source environment based on Firefox and Linux is thriving or it’s been dismantled by malicious adoption from commercial enterprises. Which is it?

      • @Rakn@discuss.tchncs.de
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        11 months ago

        Yeah but these examples are all bigger than Google. The fediverse irrelevant in comparison. Additionally at least Linux doesn’t have such a strong network effect, since it’s not a social network. I mean I’m going to let myself be surprised. But I kinda doubt that anything good will come from it.

        The Meta business side isn’t nice folks that try to do good in general.

        • MudMan
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          211 months ago

          If the bar for the fediverse surviving is “nice business folks that try to do good in general” then we’re already doomed.

          Just like political systems, social networks that require goodwill from their participants just don’t work, you need to build a platform resilient enough to survive bad faith engagement, hence the need for moderation, among other tools.

            • MudMan
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              211 months ago

              Wait, you think it sounds nice in theory?

              Because from where I stand, in theory it sounds like an abyss of paranoia and despair where any peaceful, functional social construct is one misstep away from the chaos of humanity’s unchecked incentives devolving into self-destructive imbalance, with only the faintest barrier of civility and social engineering keeping our collective shit together.

              I think “we should only talk to nice people and let them into our internet club” sounds nice in theory. I think “we should make our club so resilient and well regulated that even the worst of the worst can’t destroy it or we’re already doomed” sounds depressing but accurate.

              • @Rakn@discuss.tchncs.de
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                111 months ago

                What I meant by that is that I doubt that you can make your club so resilient. We are talking about a lot of social dynamics here. This isn’t a technical problem in any way. And the past has shown that network effects are a real thing. So inevitably if you give someone with a thousand times the resources and likely than the rest of the community the opportunity they will take it. It will become known as the main instance and everyone will join there. Smaller instances will become more irrelevant as they are already and at some point bow to what the largest instance dictates.

                Take Lemmy for example. You can already see some of that happening with instances like beehaw. Do what they say or you get defederated. Naturally smaller instances will fall in line. What do you imagine happens if an instance joins that is as thousand times the size of the current entire network?

                At some point it will be „do as we say or loose all your content“. Which will then lead to users switching instances where they have the access they want.

                This is not a technical problem. The protocols can be nice and open. But that doesn’t help you if the network itself is fragile due to human nature.

                What I meant is: It sounds nice in theory that you can build a social network in a federated way that is resilient to our social nature. I just have my concerns and going to watch with interest how it unfolds. It will likely take some years. But we‘ll see.

                • MudMan
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                  111 months ago

                  It is absolutely a technical problem, and if it isn’t then we should shut down all social media.

                  I mean, beyond the fact that network effects don’t care about federation (if people are gonna migrate to their Twitter clone they’ll do it regardless), if social media can’t be sustainably deployed at scale without harming society then it should be banned altogether.

                  I’m not convinced that is the scenario, though. It’s a bit like Americans and healtcare or gun control going “it’s impossible, how could it ever work” despite most of the world having figured it out. You can absolutely have the right requirements for moderation. You can absolutely set the right guardrails to prevent hostile activity. You can absolutely prosecute and punish infractions, both through in-app tools and through legal tools.

                  But yeah, if you think you can’t do those things, then you should be campaigning to shut down the fediverse altogether, along with all other social networks, not to defederate from any Meta apps that want to use ActivityPub.

                  • @Rakn@discuss.tchncs.de
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                    111 months ago

                    Nah. Why should I be against it? That’s a rather weird stance. I don’t really tend do deal in auch absolutes. But seeing that it’s a technical problem for you I don’t think there is merit in talking further about it. I don’t see it that way. Technology is just an enabler. It doesn’t much matter in these things.

      • @baduhai@sopuli.xyz
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        311 months ago

        It’s debatable whether email survived. But yes, I do believe this problem is being blown out of proportion, it was inevitable that large companies would get into ActivityPub.

      • @sznio@beehaw.org
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        111 months ago

        Google got into the Linux space, into email and into open source software and it seems those survived the experience.

        Try to start up your own independent email server instead of going with one of the largest providers. You will never be able to message anyone on Gmail.

        • @kensand@lemmy.kensand.net
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          111 months ago

          That’s funny, I just emailed someone on gmail from my personal server.

          This just isn’t true. It’s admittedly a bit of setup to get DKIM, SPF, and all the other fun stuff required to send email properly, but Google will accpet mail from my server with no issue.

        • Skylar Dwagon
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          111 months ago

          Very much not true. All I’ve really had to do was create an SPF entry in my DNS and setup DKIM. Once that was done, it was okay.

          The guys I regularly exchange email with have had no issues getting mail from my server.

      • @tinselpar@feddit.nl
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        111 months ago

        Activitypub would be more like NNTP. And Usenet is not in the best shape since Google took over Dejanews and let it moulder and rot.