submitted 2 months ago by droning_in_my_ears to c/nostupidquestions

I'm a reddit refugee trying to figure this out. It seems to me like it's a decent idea to break up countrol like this, but unfortunately there are some inherent problems that mean it might not work in the real world.

The biggest in my view is that communities are scoped to the instance they started in. You could have 2 different communities with the same niche and the same or similar name but different insurances and the subscriber numbers will be split across them. I think this is damaging to growth because it spreads active users.

Eventually if the niche grows one of the communities of the niche will be the biggest and most active. So generally users will consolidate around the instances with the most active communities thus making those instances have a lot of control and defeating the purpose of federation.

Is there something I'm missing here? Because currently I'm not convinced this can both grow and keep things decentralized.

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[-] Contramuffin 79 points 2 months ago

I think you're misunderstanding the purpose of decentralization. We don't decentralize in order to keep communities small. We decentralize so that normal people, the non-billionaires, can host Lemmy.

Let me explain. It starts with a simple premise: social media owned by companies can and will enshittify. If not right now, then they will in the future.

From this premise, we conclude that the only way to produce a healthy, self-sustaining social media is by having the people own it rather than a company. But this leads to a challenge: only companies and billionaires have the money to be able to host large social media sites. A large site requires a large server, and that requires a lot of money.

The Fediverse sidesteps this issue by only requiring people to have small servers, to keep costs low. But then that introduces a new problem, which is that small servers can't host the sheer number of people required to promote discussions and communities. So, the Fediverse makes a second innovation: have the small servers communicate with each other and share information, so that as a collective, the sum of the small servers becomes large enough to host a healthy community of users.

We federate across multiple sites because if we were to all pile into a single site, it would overload that site, and the poor chap who's running the server would have a terrible day trying to keep the site running.

The issue you're noticing (having multiple communities of the same topic) isn't really the intention of federation. That issue is just because a bunch of people from Reddit tried to make the same communities all at the same time without checking if the community already exists. The expectation is that, over time, communities with the same topic will consolidate, exactly as you predicted.

[-] [email protected] 3 points 2 months ago

I really disagree that the expectation is that communities will consolidate.

I think many users including OP overstate the problems of "split communities" and understate the advantages of having similar communities on different instances.

Having a /c/opensource on both lemmy.world and lemmy.ml doesn't meaningfully "split" the opensource community. Users can subscribe to all, some, or none as they wish. So what if you see the same post twice - it'd not ideal but not really a detractor. It's not the same as say, forking an opensource project or having discussions on both IRC and matrix.

[-] [email protected] 27 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

It's no different than Reddit with the exception that the main container for the posts isn't a singular thing. There are many containers that can all contain the same posts simultaneously, and talk to each other to also share votes and comments.

This post isn't on my instance, but I am able to see it, and comment all the same and everyone else on any other instance that sees this post should be able to see my comment as well.

It's easier to think of it as having 2 layers of subreddits. The first layer is the instance you're on; the main site you log into and peruse the content and functionally the same as "reddit.com," but spread out over multiple servers and even controlled by different admins. The second layer is the communities themselves, which are functionally the same as subreddits.

[-] [email protected] 25 points 2 months ago

The Problem you describe applies to reddit also, however the solution on lemmy is in your question.

If a community gets scuttled on reddit, where are you going to go? How do you make the transition smooth enough that you'll retain most of the community. You're pretty up shit creek in this scenario.

On lemmy if the main community is scuttled, there are already 5 new communities set up, with the same UX/app/login creds. The members can transition easily and carry on being wonderfully niche.

Yes technically the owners of the instance "have all the control", but it's in the same way that a friend lending you their car "has all the control". If they're a dick or need it back you can just ask someone else. As opposed to reddit which is more like welfare, if the government decides to kick you off, you're shit out of luck

[-] XbSuper 3 points 2 months ago

The problem with those other 5 communities, is that they fracture the user base. Even before the one you were using gets scuttled, the users are split between several places, and they all feel dead, because again, the user base is fractured.

I like the idea of Lemmy, but honestly don't see how the idea is sustainable if it wants to grow.

[-] [email protected] 21 points 2 months ago

Yeah, as big as Reddit's namespace for subreddits was, Lemmy's is another dimension bigger because you can have one community per name per instance. This feels daunting and possibly confusing at first. But honestly Reddit wasn't much better. In fact, I think Lemmy's approach solves certain issues that Reddit's approach created, such as:

r/actual_subreddit u/PM_ME_YOUR_GANGLIA registers r/nerves, then neuron enthusiasts come in to talk about the latest in sensory meat, except u/PM_ME_YOUR_GANGLIA is a terrible person who runs the sub like a complete asshole. So u/teh_whizzz opens up r/actual_nerves or r/nerve_tissue or whatever and that becomes the actual place for nervous system affectionados to hang out...until the meme spam becomes excessive and then r/nerve_memes has to split off...you know what I'm talking about.

There's no reason for that to happen on Lemmy, because if the mods at [email protected] won't quit dipping their infected foreskins in the punch bowl, someone can open [email protected] or [email protected]. Eventually most traffic will move to the "actual" one that isn't run by skid marks. Newcomers who think "I wonder if there's any communities about nerves" will use the search communities feature, then check out the most popular one.

In the big Reddit Exodus 6 months ago, a lot of people joined the platform, created various identical communities on various instances...most of which went on to gain no traffic whatsoever. Everyone searching for communities ended up going with The Popular One for whatever topic.

Or, even if there are simultaneous functioning communities, this means one of two things: folks will end up subscribed to both, maybe the mods maintain slightly different aesthetics or house rules so they're both useful in different ways, or the same posts get made to both so you only need to be subscribed to one.

Then, what if the instance a popular community was on goes offline? This can, has, and will continue to happen. The community can coalesce again on a different instance and keep right on tranglin.

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[-] XbSuper 17 points 2 months ago

Yes, and I don't understand how anyone thinks it's sustainable. Inevitably, 1 instance will rise above the rest, and become the only one that matters. But due to the ever growing number of instances, and user's insistence that federation is the way forward, it will take years before anything palatable appears.

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[-] [email protected] 17 points 2 months ago

To a certain extent it splits the audience, but that's the intention behind federation - to allow communities split across instances to talk to one another.

The main reasons for doing this are:

  1. It keeps server costs down. Bigger servers require bigger money, and the people running these servers are relying on donations, they're not billionaires that can just keep expanding forever.

  2. It prevents all our eggs being in one basket - if a server goes down, only the community on that server goes. All the other communities can continue, and may even have cached content from the downed server.

  3. It prevents the same power imbalance thar Reddit have. If a host starts acting malicious, the community can move to a different instance.

[-] balancedchaos 5 points 2 months ago

I had the same concerns as OP, and you have pretty much convinced me. Well done.

[-] [email protected] 15 points 2 months ago

You are abbsolutly right, that's one of the main problems I have with lemmy as well. I personally suggest a "multi-community" feature, like multi-reddits, so you can at least merge all the splintered communites again on the user end.

[-] I_Miss_Daniel 10 points 2 months ago

Having a client that merges the same article URL would also be helpful, as the same thing gets posted repeatedly but each time that happens, the comments are spread over them all, diluting the conversation.

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[-] [email protected] 11 points 2 months ago

Even though, it's a risk, for example [email protected] and [email protected] are two communities for the same niche which despite having different ambiences split the communities.

That said, you can follow both (they're small so you can follow more than on reddit) and if one has a moderation/culture not pleasing you, you can move to the other one.

Fundamentally, not different from reddit having different guitar communities under different names as the main onc became a shithole.

You can also close a community to redirect it toward another one in order to limit duplicates

[-] [email protected] 8 points 2 months ago


Fundamentally, not different from reddit having different guitar communities under different names as the main onc became a shithole.

This. It's no different to that, and the decentralization also makes it easier to find the alternative communities because they don't have to run off and call it "trueguitar" or something.

[-] [email protected] 6 points 2 months ago

Yes. And some people post to multiple communities and you get the same post twice unless your app handles this.

[-] XbSuper 3 points 2 months ago

I'd be happy if it was only twice. I see the same posts 3-4 times, regularly. I've taken to blocking a lot of instances, but I feel like that destroys the purpose of lemmy.

Idk, maybe reddit will eventually design an app that's not hot garbage, and I can return there.

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[-] [email protected] 5 points 2 months ago

Others have pretty well covered how multiple communities serve different purposes. I'm going to cover why that isn't a problem.

When you first decide to follow a community on Lemmy- either as a brand new user or an experienced Lemming branching into a new subject, there's going to be a few ways you find a community.

The most obvious is a search, which will list the various communities. You'll check the few most active, and either subscribe or skip each one. Multiple communities isn't a concern because every Lemmy client will aggregate them in your feed. When you decide to start posting, you'll have a decent feel for which one(s) are a good match for your content. The downside is cross posting, which is still a problem that needs to be solved.

The next option, mostly used by new users, is a direct link. Someone tells you about a specific community. You follow the link, read the posts, and decide to subscribe. Other, similar communities don't matter- the person sending you the link already filtered it down for you.

[-] [email protected] 3 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

@droning_in_my_ears it's okay, you're just still thinking in the old way (so are some of the commenters in here). Once you get your head around this, you'll see it.

You could have 2 different communities with the same niche and the same or similar name but different insurances and the subscriber numbers will be split across them. I think this is damaging to growth because it spreads active users.

Okay here's what you're missing: the active users are active in multiple of them at the same time. Where something is hosted no longer matters.

Take my news as an example, I subscribe to world news on my own instance kbin.social and on lemmy.world, on beehaw, and on lemmy.ml. When I view my Subscriptions I see all of them in my daily feed and I vote and comment in all of them.

And on Kbin we have Collections (like multireddits) which means I also have a multi news feed with news communities from dozens of communities on many different instances.

The beauty of it is, if an instance gets ruined by a Spez-like figure it doesn't matter because federation.

So generally users will consolidate around the instances with the most active communities thus making those instances have a lot of control

You do at the moment see a lot of reddit-like behaviour with users clustering in .world, but this is not actually a problem and confusion about "where everyone is" is just a growing pain. Communities will grow or shrink or develop, find their place in the fediverse ecosystem.

[-] PlutoniumAcid 3 points 2 months ago

Good points, but hang on, I have an issue with the clustering. Let's say I want to join something about "dice games".

First challenge is to find out, what such communities could even be named. My search-fu is weak so I might only find one such community, but there are others, bigger ones. How could I find them?

Next, let's say I find five communities on four instances. Wow, yay! Intuitively I would definitely want to join the biggest but I will also join the others so as not to miss anything. If everyone does this, it will never crystallise into one primary source.

That may be fine for reading, but what about posting? I don't want to bother posting on all the damn sites.

In total, I really understand what Fediverse is aiming for here, but Reddit looked so much simpler. Like Linux (no coincidence I'm sure), Fediverse is a great idea with great features, but it's juuust shy of being mainstream enough for the average Joe. So ultimately, the best community for my dice games... is Reddit?

[-] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago

@PlutoniumAcid first of all, you would go by most active not biggest subscriber numbers (which you can't actually see accurately from within your own instance), and not everyone even does this, let alone joining everything.

Recently I made a multi for news communities so I could get an overview, and it's definitely not all the same people in all the big ones (my instance lets me see the names of upvoters). People join what feels right.

I don’t want to bother posting on all the damn sites.

I don't get what you mean by this. I post all over the fediverse but I do it all from right here on kbin! That said, there's no need. Why not just post in the communities you like most? It's no different to reddit in that regard - you don't feel pressure to post in all the subreddits, do you?

Eg outside my own instance I like the big movies over at .world but when it comes to global news I prefer .ml, but for sciencey stuff I tend to sub on mander.xyz.

but it’s juuust shy of being mainstream enough for the average Joe

True, for now. Full disclosure, I don't particularly want reddit to move here just yet. It was getting too full of people who sound like my racist aunt. The fediverse has a feeling of chill still, people contribute because we're having fun building something new, there's no algorithms, shill armies, or enshittification.

I've been on the internet since the 1990s, so I've seen things rise and fall, and I think the future of social media is federated. I get enthusiastic about it, but of course it's not ready for everyone yet, and realistically most older people may never even get here. But now I've discovered it, I'm never going back. :)

[-] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago

Actually mbin have fixed it and you can see accurate subscribers numbers from it on all communities

[-] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago

@Fitik thanks, that's good to know! Useful.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago

At least on kbin, you can search for magazines(subreddits) either by names, or by names and descriptions, and then search only local(to kbin.social) or across the federated servers as well. So its really quite seamless.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

First challenge is to find out, what such communities could even be named. My search-fu is weak so I might only find one such community, but there are others, bigger ones. How could I find them?

If you found one you've found people who would know about others.
If you've found none, almost every instance now has an askkbin/asklemmy/askwhatever, and someone there will know.
If no one knows, it probably doesn't exist and you could make it yourself if you were so inclined.

Intuitively I would definitely want to join the biggest

both you and OP (and so so many others who are used to reddit, and capitalism in general, but I digress) seem fixated on constant growth, and more on the size of the community, than the quality of it. I think that's probably an issue you need to resolve with yourselves, rather than try to apply it to something like the fediverse.

[-] [email protected] 3 points 2 months ago

Eh it’s an annoyance and one Kbin/lemmy devs are working on improving. Kbin already now groups cross posts across instances, and there’s still more progress being made on fixing this issue.

Ideally it shouldn’t matter where you are, at current it does.

[-] [email protected] 3 points 2 months ago* (last edited 2 months ago)

@Deceptichum I guess it would if it's super important to you to be able to discuss any given post with the biggest possible number of people (which kbin's crosspost feature already fixes, because it shows you how many comments are on an article's crossposts and links you to them).

But I quite like some of the smaller discussion communities. Worrying about there being several on a topic isn't any different to worrying about how reddit had several subs on the same topics.

Things are developing their own flavour already. It has to happen organically. I get the feeling from what people are saying that flaws in discovery is the main issue.

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[-] [email protected] 2 points 2 months ago

I do sometimes wonder if it would have been good if the structure was federated. So have everyone recieve a magazine/community when one is made and link to it. sorta like the old news groups but like kbin.social.news and lemmy.world.news

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago

I take it you know how federation works and your phrasing is just odd

Yes there is some splitting and fragmentation, but that is not always a bad thing. Take "World News" as an example, an instances like beehaw and lemmy.ml will have very takes and comments on an article if it was posted to both of them - and this is good.

[-] [email protected] 1 points 2 months ago

If you set your lemmy app to browse by all, rather than local or subscribed, you should be able to see posts from many different insurances.

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this post was submitted on 06 Dec 2023
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