FLOSS Weekly 759 Transcript

Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.

0:00:00 - Doc Searls
This is Floss Weekly. I'm Doc Searls, Jonathan Bennett and I had a great conversation with Evan Prodromou, the father of Activity Pub, which is behind Mastodon, and all kinds of actual social networks not the things they call social networks, but kinds that are really social and they're growing. This is an open source movement that's happening in lifetime, is truly social, is really interesting, and Evan is an awesome guest. You have to listen to it or watch it. That is coming up next.

0:00:35 - VO
Podcasts you love. From people you trust. This is TWiT.

0:00:44 - Doc Searls
This is Floss Weekly Episode 759, recorded Wednesday, November 29, 2023. Activity Pub Crawl.

0:00:55 - Leo Laporte
Listeners of this program get an ad-free version if they're members of Club Tweet. $7 a month gives you ad-free versions of all of our shows, plus membership in the Club Tweet Discord, a great clubhouse for Tweet listeners. And finally the Tweet Plus Feed with shows like Stacey's Book Club, the Untitled Linux Show and more. Go to twittv slash club twit. And thanks for your support.

0:01:20 - Doc Searls
Hello again everyone everywhere. This is Floss Weekly. I am Doc Searls, and this week I am joined by Jonathan Bennett himself. Today you're really small on my screen, so either you're wearing a white jacket or no jacket at all. Is that what's-?

0:01:36 - Jonathan Bennett
It's a white jacket, it's a formal no, no, no, no, no, no. Think more like Panama Jack style white jacket rather than James Bond tuxedo style white jacket.

0:01:48 - Doc Searls
Like two opposite ends of the spectrum. Oh yeah, it's great look, but I think it's the first. I don't think I've always seen it with the dark jacket, which I tried to imitate, but all I could find is a dark shirt, where I am right now.

0:02:03 - Jonathan Bennett
You know, if you hadn't said anything, I wouldn't have known.

0:02:06 - Doc Searls
Yeah, it's just Actually. I just saw the Stop Making Sense concert film again after 30 years or something like that. There's a scene in it where David Byrne has this giant suit that he can move around in and wiggles around on the stage. It's pretty-. I feel like I'm looking at that a little bit. My shoulders are not that wide. So our guest this morning is a returnee, which I did not know until he told me, from our 37th back in 2008, which means we go back at least to 2008 or 2007,. I guess Evan Pondromo, who I know through Status Net and some of the other many things that he's done in the past, are you up on his work. You done your homework on this.

0:03:01 - Jonathan Bennett
So I have paid attention to Activity Pub and the whole Fediverse for a long time. Yeah, I think that's just the coolest concept. Let's take all the neat things about Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and all those services that people use, but set the data free and let people bring their own server. It's just the coolest thing.

0:03:21 - Doc Searls
I know it's funny to see that once again his time has come, or almost come, so let me bring him in. Evan Pondromo I'm going to go down a list here. His signature must be gigantic. In addition to being like an open source geek from all the way back, he created the Wiki Travel open source travel guide, now Wiki Voyage. Creator of Status Net Software, now GNU Social, which went to Identityca, a social networking site that competed with and was many ways better than, twitter. Back in the early stages of that. It was a real landmark effort. I think that's when we started Noamis around that. The co-creator of Activity Pub, the protocol that runs Bastodon and the whole Fediverse now, which is a pretty big deal Director of Open Technology at the Open Earth Foundation. Author of an upcoming book on Activity Pub for O'Reilly, from San Francisco. Now lives in Montreal, but coming to us from London in a room that looks like the fog machine.

0:04:30 - Evan Prodromou
So, evan, welcome to the show man, thank you so much for being here. I'm sorry about my spooky lighting, but hopefully that's a nice tone. Yeah, so I am on the road right now. I realize that that's a little bit tricky, but I'm glad that I was able to join.

0:04:52 - Doc Searls
I like how we go on the road. I'm on the road a lot too, but it's rarely the road, it's the air. I fly between these places. So, man, I don't know where to begin with this, but we were. I think I first met you you probably were at an IW early on, or two or three or four or five, and I was on Identica and to follow what you're doing with Statusnet back then. What happened? Are they still around in some way, or is it all morphed into Activity Pub based stuff now? What's that?

0:05:33 - Evan Prodromou
transition. Super, super great question so the software that ran Identica? So again we're picking up the sequel of my episode 37, I think so we'll start there which happened about the time that Identica and Statusnet were launching. That was a time of a lot of hope and optimism. We've been through kind of a trough of pessimism and then back to the world of optimism right now. So, long story short, identica is still around. It's running a new piece of software well like 2014 piece of software called Pump IO. Basically, what happened is Statusnet started. Identica was running Statusnet. I moved it to Pump IO. Pump IO became the basis of Activity Pub, so the Pump IO API and protocol is what Activity Pub is now. Unfortunately, I and the other maintainers have never gone back to actually make Pump IO compatible with modern Activity Pub, so it's still kind of in the imaginary dead end. It is on my list of projects to get to, but Identica is a little off the off the Fediverse right now, but it'll be back soon. We'll get to it soon. I'm thinking in decades here.

0:07:03 - Jonathan Bennett
I just have to say I feel so deeply that idea of oh yeah, it's on the list of projects to get to somewhere eventually. It's a long list. I feel that so much.

0:07:14 - Evan Prodromou
Yeah, I feel like I've got a long list. I kind of you know. So, talking about this issue of having distributed social networks, we had kind of a first wave around 2010 and we had a lot of innovation happening. Statusnet is a good example, but there were a number of other projects diaspora we had some informal cooperation but we never really got to like hey, can we all work on a single standard by the mid 2010s, the W3C Worldwide Web Consortium the folks who do web standards like HTML and CSS stepped in to say it's time for us to have a social networking standard and brought together a whole bunch of people from different open source projects as well as commercial projects to develop Activity Pub.

Activity Pub launched in 2018, I want to say, about the same time as Mastodon. Mastodon picked up and it's really been the flagship software for Activity Pub. A lot of people talk about the Mastodon network when they really mean the Fediverse, but we mix them up a little bit, but this kind of second incarnation seems to be doing really well. I'm pretty excited about where we are.

0:08:40 - Jonathan Bennett
Just so everybody's on the same page. Let's just assume that there are some folks that haven't watched the previous show and maybe don't know what we're talking about, what the Fediverse is, what Activity Pub has to do with it. They've heard about that Mastodon thing, but they don't have an account there yet. Give us a 30,000 foot view. What does this set of technologies let somebody accomplish? What's so cool about it? What's the juice that's worth the squeeze?

0:09:05 - Evan Prodromou
Well, I like that. I've got to shout out to.

0:09:09 - Jonathan Bennett
Sean Sean, one of our co-hosts, likes that particular turn of phrase that I picked it up for him.

0:09:14 - Evan Prodromou
Go ahead. A lot of us have this experience from using commercial social networks like Twitter or Instagram or TikTok, where we'll say something like Jonathan, I think you should really see this cool video on TikTok and you say something like, oh, I'm not on TikTok yet, or I decided not to keep an account there, I'm on Instagram. And it's like, well, you can't get that content on Instagram unless somebody copies it over, which actually happens quite a bit. But this idea of, like my grandma is on Facebook, my senator is on Twitter, all my friends are on Instagram and my kids are on TikTok and I have to maintain an account in each of those places in order to interact with the people and the content. The idea of federated social networks is to say you should be able to kind of stake out a home in a social network and stay there and connect to people on other networks and see content from other networks. So the federated part is taking separate networks and being able to have content or personal relationships that cross the borders between the networks.

0:10:37 - Jonathan Bennett
Okay. Now I'm kind of curious like what's the back end? All of this runs on. Are we talking about PHP code? Has everything been redone in Nodejs? Is it full of Ruby on Rails developers? What does that ecosystem look like?

0:10:53 - Evan Prodromou
So the structure that we currently have now so I'm talking 2023, there are on the order of 20 popular Fediverse social networking services right, or servers, open source projects like Pixel, fed or Mastodon, pluroma there's a couple dozen of them for setting up social networks, depending on your needs for your community. Typically, people will set one up for a community that has an affinity around an interest, or geographical affinity, a group of friends. I have one for my family, you know so, my kids and my wife and me and this gives us a way to kind of set up a little server that we can use for communication among ourselves. But we can also connect to other servers across the Fediverse. So Mastodonsocial is a great example. It's one of the biggest networks on the Fediverse but from my server at cosocialca, which is where I do most of my participation, I can connect to people on Mastodonsocial. People on Mastodonsocial can connect to twitsocial et cetera.

So we have a lot of backend code working there, most of the code. So Mastodon is Ruby on Rails with a little bit of Nodejs thrown in. I think Pluroma is written in Elixir, which is kind of a cool, you know, functional language. Gnusocial, which is also on the Fediverse, is PHP. Wordpress has a plugin for connecting to the Fediverse, so you can publish blog posts and they go out into the Fediverse. And that's also PHP, like the rest of WordPress.

0:12:55 - Jonathan Bennett
So Activity Pub is just this kind of open standard with some things defined in it. You can bring whatever language you want to do it. I like that. That's the best.

0:13:05 - Evan Prodromou
That's the way to do it. That's absolutely it. That's absolutely it. So the way that Activity Pub works, it's got two main parts. The first part is that we have a standard for JSON objects that defines some of the important activities that happen in a social network. So things like creating a tweet, liking someone's image, updating your profile picture, things like that. We have a standard set of activities that you can use for communicating this information. And then the second part is that we have an HTTP-based protocol for transferring these activities between servers. So if I post a new note in Twitter, you would say tweet. In Macedon they say toot, like an elephant's trunk. I don't think that's the is that still a thing?

0:14:07 - Jonathan Bennett
Is it still toots on Macedon? Because that was kind of a troll thing way back in the beginning there was, I wanna say, one of the guys tried to step back from that.

0:14:16 - Evan Prodromou
Yeah, oigen has changed it and it's now Oigen Roscoe who's the lead developer and CEO of Macedon. He took it so it no longer, when you had the little button, doesn't say toot, it says publish. But old timers still call them toots, so I still call them toots. I like that term. But that information packet that says Evan posted a note gets transferred out to all the servers of people who follow me and then it's delivered to those users through their web interface or through a mobile interface. So there's like a client to server aspect of Activity Pub and then a server to server aspect. Old timers or old internet hands will recognize this topology as being very similar to how email works, right. So we have a protocol for interacting with your mailbox on your mail server downloading your latest messages, uploading, sending out messages and then there's another related but not exactly the same protocol for sending a message from your mail server to another mail server.

0:15:36 - Jonathan Bennett
Okay, so I feel like you just open Pandora's box.

0:15:40 - Doc Searls
If it's similar to mail.

0:15:42 - Jonathan Bennett
What is to stop us from seeing the same spam problem in Activity Pub that is basically killed email today?

0:15:51 - Evan Prodromou
That's such a good question. I think it's a really interesting thing to have come up. One is that we have way better tools today than we did in, say, the early 2000s, when spam was really like digging into email, and we do have like great filters. We have spent like 20 years training spam filters on email spam, so we're doing pretty well on the social web. I think there's also the fact that you can do better filtering based on more contextual information, right? Is this a reply to something that I posted? Tell me about the image. Is it an image that I recognize? Is this someone I have a connection with, which is not something that we really have a sense of in email, or is this someone connecting with me who is a friend of someone I know? So we have a lot of social signals, kind of deeper information that makes social contacts somewhat better for training and rules than the email is. But let me just say it has not been a problem so far for spam as much.

Where it's been a bit of a problem is you see those situations on, say, twitter, where someone makes a post and it gets very unpopular and there are like hundreds of thousands of attack messages. You're an idiot, I hate you, et cetera. It is on Twitter. You have to kind of wait for Twitter's trust and safety team to figure out how to fix that problem and they don't always come to the rescue in time. One of the great things about the Fediverse is that that role of managing user behavior moderation is kind of distributed among the servers. So my server, your server, the Twitch social server, where all the admins there are kind of taking care of that work to keep the Fediverse a little bit safer and more friendly, and it's notably different than on commercial social networks. You do see a lot better level of conversation, less abuse et cetera.

0:18:32 - Jonathan Bennett
That is something that I would love to dig into with you. There is another question I wanna ask first, and then I think Doc's gonna pick it up, and that is speaking specifically of Macedon, although this could apply to other clients, other connections to the Fediverse. Yeah, is anybody making money from this yet? So are there any Macedon instances where people are running ads beside the real content? Has somebody come along and commercialized this?

0:18:58 - Evan Prodromou
So let me give an example right now of the server that I use. It's called co-socialca and it's actually a cooperative, so we all are all the members have a co-ownership in it. We pay annual dues and that pays for the server and that keeps things running. And it's only available for Canadians, unfortunately, so not everyone can join because of our co-op laws, but it's a great way for us to make sure that the server's always running. We have great income. That's keeping things going and it's really a nice system for doing that.

There are some servers that have advertising support. They the advertising, tends to be a little bit different right, so it tends to be display ads built into the web UI rather than in stream ads, and the main reason is that those in stream ads are really easy to filter out, so it's less effective as an advertising mechanism. The other thing you see for advertising on the Fediverse is you'll see some sponsored posts. So someone will say this is a sponsored post. I tried this. You know electronic doodad and I got it free. You know hashtag sponsored. So that's another place where you'll see some advertising happening on the Fediverse.

0:20:36 - Doc Searls
Well, I have so many thoughts about this and so many questions to ask, and I especially about I want to go deeper into the business thing and I want to not at length, but a couple of thoughts about it and also matters of permanence, and also what can only the big guys do and what can only the little guys like us do. But we'll get into all of that right after this break. Okay, so, first on business, scott Galloway, who has a great podcast with Kara Swisher, called I hate to promote something that's like one of the biggest podcasts in the world. We've got one too but he said something I think is important about the news business, which is it's not a very good big business anymore. It's a small business You're going to do he didn't go that far with it, but that's where I'm going with it which is you can have a good small business in a nail salon, a barber shop, whatever.

I suspect that the businesses we're talking about in the Fediverse are going to be of that kind, rather than you have one big centralizer in the middle of it with a lot of responsibilities, which is what we had, and with Twitter, have to a lesser extent with X and have to a massively dysfunctional extent with Facebook, especially with their recent revelations that they knew everything about how they were bad for kids, but did it anyway.

So I'm wondering if you're looking at it that way, like, hey, small business is good. There are some small businesses to be had in here. There are also ones that aren't a business, like I on my blog, which I've had forever, never had any advertising. I always made money because of the blog, not with the blog, and that's been the case with open source for the duration. You make money because of open source. You don't make money with open source as much. If you're red hat, you get some of that, but even there is compromised. So is that much of a thought? As the work on the Fediverse has proceeded, has that been in your mind at all, as a strategy even, or just as an outcome?

0:22:53 - Evan Prodromou
You know it's a great question. I think one of the things that often happens for me when I talk about the Fediverse is like I get kind of put on the spot to invent good business models for people and I'm like, look, if I had really good ideas for business models, I would do them myself and I would make a lot of money and I would pay someone to come on podcasts for me instead of going on them myself. So I don't always have great, great ideas, but I can say that the combination of open source software and open protocols plus federation gives us a lot of hosting services similar to the way that you see WordPress hosting. So massto is a great mastodon hosting service where you can go and I think it's less than $10 a month and don't quote me on that to have your own mastodon server that's running on their network and they make sure you have backups and they do all that stuff and I think that's a great business. People have done great businesses doing cPanel hosting and I think there's a lot of opportunity for hosting on the Fediverse as a business. It's not a scalable business. It's a business where you're doing like some pretty reasonable margins, but you can do a good business that way. I think that there are also going to be.

Another thing that's important is very few of us think you know almost every business has an email domain and we provide email to our employees, but we don't really think of it as a key part of the way we make money in our business. Right, occasionally, if we have a newsletter or something like that, but we don't think about our employees like sending email to their colleagues and other companies as a, you know, money making process, even though it's really essential to that business. I think similarly so, for example, my day job at the Open Earth Foundation. We have a MassedOn instance, socialopenearthorg, where people can follow us, follow along with the work that we do. It's not a money maker but the way for us to connect right.

I think that there are some cool options for other ways to make money with the Fediverse. There are a few clients that are paid clients on, like iOS and an Android, where you know they're like $8.99 in the marketplace and they're great Fediverse clients that way. But yeah, I think one of the things that happens when you have open source and you have open standards is you tend to go towards commodity pricing, which, for customers like us is awesome. You get great technology for, you know, a really competitive price.

0:26:12 - Doc Searls
I want to ask about permanence and archiving, but frame it in. And I want to bridge to that by noting that we had Matt Mullenwagon here several months ago from WordPress and he and they have done a pretty good job of taking something that is an open standard, the and an open source body of code with WordPress and made a business out of it. But they actually and I want to give hats off to them went out of their way. When Harvard shut down the servers where I had my blog for a long time worked with Harvard to make sure that there were no 404s. Everything now went from from a URL at Harvard to one that is docsuralscom, which is my own, which is, of course, hosted somewhere. They're doing the hosting, which is nice of them, and they have that service. It's a paid service but also really we're very respectful of that.

I have no faith whatsoever that Twitter. I mean I've often downloaded what I've written on Twitter as often as I can, but I have no faith in the long run that stuff is going to last. Same goes for Facebook. Searches for old stuff at Facebook go nowhere I'm wondering about. I mean you talked about email and I thought there was a really good point that the mental model we have for email, which is I'm on a bunch of lists, right, but I also have personal email. It's all archived here. I've got it on my you know, these are just mine.

I suppose a Gmail which most people are on it's a little different, but it's still theirs. I mean, yours is a person, you have a sense of that. But my email at suralscom is as well as IMAP and it's hosted by Hover. It's also something I have a copy of and it's on my computer here and it goes back to 1995. And I've got that and I'm wondering if there's a similar thing going on with all. I mean like one on one hand. I'm seeing all these posts on other Mastodon instances on my two. One is the twit one and the one for journalists called Jernadot Host. Yeah, but I don't know if, like if you know, mastodon Rando out there goes out of business and goes away, does everything I saw there persist in any form? I don't have no idea about that.

0:28:55 - Evan Prodromou
Yeah. So I'm going to give you the kind of good news and the bad news on this. So the good news is that if you, we have really robust systems for keeping your identity related to a domain so if you have, you know, social dot, surals, dot, example, for example you know you've got a, you've got a domain that you use. If your server goes down, you just bring up another Mastodon instance on another server, point the domain there. Things are just hunky dory. They just keep going right, restore your backup and you're ready to go. So that's a really nice aspect of this. At that layer, right, and you can even do it somewhat with different implementations of activity pub. Like some of the activity pub implementations will take up Mastodon backup and restore it into their own database Also really nice. You just move the move the domain and you're there. The problem is when you're using so you mentioned Jernah host you're using someone else's domain. If Jernah host decided to go out of business or change the way that they work in a way that you didn't like it, there is a unique. I just I just probably stopped gesturing. I just got the iOS gestures. I'll stop me. I'll stop being so interesting on camera.

So one one thing that we do have on the network on activity pub is that you can move from one host to another host, right? So you tell everyone in your network automatically. Of course, evan at old server is now Evan at new server. Follow me over there and they will automatically follow you, so it's a very smooth transition. That happens. What doesn't happen is not all of your data moves over with you, so your images and notes and things like that. So your social connections move, but not your data.

It's a really important part of people feeling like they've got control over their systems. The original way that we kind of designed this was to have individuals running their own family servers or company servers or university servers. What's actually turned out to be the way that the Fediverse is mostly spread around top topologically is that there's a lot of volunteers who are running their own servers and they let other people kind of use those servers, and that's not a very permanent structure. So we need to have a better way from people to move from one server to another. It's okay. Right now we have data. Portability is a big part of what we're working on at the W3C right now.

0:31:55 - Jonathan Bennett
So I'm curious about something it does does the internet archive you know that's one of the places a lot of us go to to try to find that old content Does the internet archive have any visibility into activity pub applications? So you know, just again, mastodon, because it's the most popular Does do some of those Mastodon feeds get scraped and archived there? And you know we can, we can follow that up by. You know, talking about things that happen on places like Twitter, where tweets from 10 years ago get brought back up. You had this terrible take 10 years ago. You're still a terrible person, aren't you? That's what happens all the time. Maybe there's a bigger question about whether it's a good thing that the internet never forgets.

0:32:46 - Evan Prodromou
So I will give a couple of Weasley answers there, right? My first Weasley answer is that internet archive has its own Mastodon instance. So I'm tempted to go start asking the people from internet archive to comment on this. So they've been very active in kind of the Fediverse community. That's the first thing, that I think it's Mastodonarchiveorg.

The second thing is that I know that they are doing archiving at that web page level, right, so they get a snapshot of a web page that has a toot on it or a conversation on it and that does get backed up, and it gets backed up in the same way other websites are. There's a little bit of like technicalities, like master on. Users can set a flag to say don't archive my page, and Internet archive will respect that. In general, though, those conversations are getting archived. What I don't know is if they're doing protocol level archiving, like I talked about those little JSON packets, and it's possible to get a public feed of all the public packets coming out of a server. I don't know if Internet archive is keyed into that and doing archiving of that. I hope they are. I want to talk to them about it because it will be a good idea to do. If they're not doing it. Yeah, I want to do it.

0:34:23 - Jonathan Bennett
There's a lot of potential there. Yeah, one of the things that comes to mind is on Twitter. I jokingly talked about people in their bedtakes from 10 years ago, but there's also been some things that have happened. Even government officials have made statements on Twitter and then come back later and tried to claim the exact opposite. There is this sport of getting the receipts. Yeah, for individual people, maybe that's not great, or maybe it is, I don't know, I haven't thought through that all the way but particularly for official accounts, I think that is a pretty important thing to be able to do. Yeah, I don't know. There's definitely an interesting counterplay of things that might be important about that idea.

0:35:16 - Evan Prodromou
One of the things that's really important for GDPR, which is the privacy regulations in Europe, is that right to be forgotten. I made a mistake. I posted something I didn't want to. I'd like it to just disappear from the Internet. There are ways to do that. If you're in control of a website, you can put some flags onto a site that says, hey, this is no longer available. If you have copies of this, get rid of it. We have that option within Activity Pub. When you delete something, that information goes out everywhere and it gets deleted from everywhere. I guess the question would be how good is archiveorg at managing those? I know that they're pretty good at it. They've been pretty respectful of people's needs for deletion. I think the hard part is that on Twitter, for example, they've got 200 million users. They're not going to advocate for you if you do a deletion. Versus running your own server, you have a much more control.

0:36:27 - Jonathan Bennett
All right. Doc is whispering in my ear that while we talk about Activity Pub the whole time, we probably shouldn't. Doc, you want to pick it up and ask about one of these others?

0:36:36 - Doc Searls
Yes, we can pick up. Actually, I want to go a little bit further with this thread. Great, not so much with Activity Pub, but with something I mentioned earlier and I think it's an important question what is it that only the big guys can do? I think we have a possible answer with what happened to email, in that nobody does a better job of spam filtration than Google. That's just the case. I don't use Google and the service I'd use is good at it, but there's still a lot of false positives and stuff. I mean some things.

A reporter will want to go on Twitter and see what's happening on Twitter. Can they go onto the Fediverse? Not exactly they have. Again, it's kind of like are they in a circle where they're going to get the information they want? There's a lot of greenfielding that can happen there. I think I was sort of what I was looking for with the Journalhost, in a way. Where do journalists get their information when they can't go to a centralized thing and have a list, for example, and only follow that list? I mean, I've got hundreds of journalists on my Twitter slash ex-list which I don't look at them much anymore because I don't go to Twitter that much anymore. But Journalhost is not that, yet it could be. And part of it is mental modeling and part of it is just architectural. And what do we need? What can only the big guys do, and that isn't bad. I mean, you can say, geez, apple is really great at making a gigantic ecosystem. It's wonderful if you're in it and nowhere else, right? So yeah, yeah.

0:38:30 - Evan Prodromou
So one thing that's probably important to note there is we tend to think about this kind of like onboarding as if it's entirely about features of the platform, et cetera. Twitter has well had they all got fired, but they had people who were concierges, who were business development folks, who were going out to celebrities, to political organizations, to political people and saying we'd like to see you on Twitter, what can we do to help you connect with your audience? This is your concierge. They'll tell you how to tweet. They'll help you through it. So there was the platform provided an ecosystem for big, big folks, big content creators. Same thing happens with YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, et cetera. There is a lot of support for content creators in those areas. We don't have that as much in the Fediverse, and that might be something that they can do, that we can't do yet, and we might need to think about the social structures that would let us like have a Fediverse concierge. So it's helping Oprah or Miley Cyrus get on to the Fediverse and use it and be productive.

Another thing that you mentioned is like having big collective spam protection, because that's one of the best things to do for spam protection is that spammers are trying to send out a million emails. Well, if they get stopped at the 10th email because you reported it and the other 10 million can't go through, that's awesome. So having that collective oh, this might be a dangerous word, but herd immunity in terms of spam is really great. And again, that's something that we need to rethink in terms of a federated world. Honestly, every time we talk about this, you ask about business opportunities. Those are two right there like doing the social media, consulting for the Fediverse, doing spam protection for the Fediverse. There's a lot of things that people could build businesses around.

0:41:03 - Doc Searls
A couple of thoughts that occurred to me and looking also at the back channel, which is helpful. One is that because the GDPR I mentioned I don't want to go deeply into this, but oh sure, most new laws protect yesterday from last Thursday, especially in tech, and you've got it for the next 50 years. What the GDPR protected 2015 from 2012,. And now we're here we are. I think it should be the norm in 2023. But this has one thought about that, and I bring that up because I think the Fediverse is still under the radar legislatively. I mean, very few regulators are looking at that, saying how could we make that stop? They're not doing that. So this is a good thing.

0:41:50 - Evan Prodromou
But so you talk about so less about, say, privacy regulation, more about antitrust regulation. So a lot of the European Union, in the US, they're looking at these big platforms and saying there's a big moat around these big platforms and no one else can participate. And one of the things that we do when we try to break up big monoliths is insist that they implement open standards and especially open protocols so other players can get involved. Happened with telephones letting long distance carriers onto AT&T's network. We see it all over the place. One of the things that the EU has been talking about is we would like to see social networking standard supported by these big social networking platforms. I don't work at Facebook. I'm not involved at Facebook at all. My guess is that some of that aspect is part of why Facebook. We actually haven't talked about this at all. Facebook has a product called Threads with 130 million users on it, and they are implementing activity pub and rolling it out in the near future, according to their announcements.

0:43:19 - Doc Searls
So I need us to hold our thoughts for while we have a break, because I want to go further into Not just the threads things, but the other things you're involved with. That we needed before the end of the show, so we'll get to those right after this. Okay, so I'm on the right to be forgot. I wanted to mention that a German friend of mine said he liked the GDPR. He says how do we remember who we forgot? So that's always interesting, but I want to oh God, where was it? There are too many thoughts.

Well, I guess I want to go a little further into this that the Fediverse is the actual social network, and I'm wondering if, to what degree.

I mean, you mentioned that you have your family on this thing, and it's actually during this call that I thought wait a minute, I should set up a server just for our family, because they're all on Facebook and I could set up something and I said hey, extended family, come here. One of the good things about Facebook which is actually awful in another way is that the threshold of setting up a group is so low and so easy, and to make it private is also real easy. You want to have a high school reunion or something like that. Especially if you're among the elders that are the heavier Facebook users, it's a real easy thing to do. And then it's there and I'm wondering if I'm thinking what's the path toward which the Fediverse and one's casual participation in it as a muggle can become normative? I mean how, when it becomes as easy to set up your own little masted instance as it is to set up a Facebook group?

0:45:13 - Evan Prodromou
Yeah, yeah, I just love that example. Facebook groups are such a they are currently the gold standard, I would say, for setting up a community on the internet where people can communicate, share documents, share images, have conversations. We are not there yet with masted on. We're not there yet with the Fediverse right. So typically you either have to set up your own server like a masted on server. We also have some group servers.

So one of the big things that happened in the last year with the Fediverse was when Reddus, reddus, reddit, different organizations when Reddit was having problems with its API clients, right, so they were changing the API client requirements, a lot of the users were like we don't want to be here anymore, we want to set up our own systems, and they moved to the Fediverse right.

So they're using these group servers called Kbin or Lemmy that you can set up for doing those group conversations. So for someone who is looking for that group experience that you got from Facebook, I would kind of push them towards Lemmy and Kbin. In that area, which is still on the Fediverse, you can connect through masted on, you can use your masted on account, things like that. But it's a, it is an opportunity, but I agree, there is some software work to do. There may be some protocol work for us to do to get to that level where you can just be like, hey, we're having a family reunion next month, let's start organizing it, get the right people invited into this group. I definitely agree. We're still not there yet in terms of UI and in terms of software.

0:47:11 - Doc Searls
By the way, lemmy is LEM and Y and Kbin is KBN. So just for people, do you have something there, jonathan?

0:47:19 - Jonathan Bennett
I'm struck by a thought. He's looking at me. I've got this real thoughtful look on my face.

Yeah you do. I wonder if IPv6 changes the game on this at all. So I just had this thought Nobody wants to run their own server, right? Normal people don't want to run their own server. But when you get to the point to where IPv6 is rolled out, you can have a server in an app. And so I'm having this thought of if you have a phone or desktop or whatever that supports IPv6, why can't you just roll up the entire server into an app, an app experience, and let somebody just download the app, type their name in. It'll go out and get a dynamic DNS address for them, and suddenly you've got a new mastodon server sitting on IPv6 somewhere. I'm wondering whether some of these roadblocks are going to get solved through technology, particularly the IPv6 rollout.

0:48:20 - Evan Prodromou
Jonathan, why are you giving away these great business ideas? That's a highly valuable thing, yeah, so I think that those either we have appliances in our home, right. So it's like a pre-built appliance that shows up and you just plug it into your router and it starts being your social server. Phones are a great device to use. Using a dynamic DNS is another great, great part of that. I really think that this is an interesting aspect because you can start also going into the other Internet of Things, things around your home, right so your cameras you're turning your lights off and on watching status stuff, having some control, using an open standard for both controlling and monitoring these devices. I've actually got a whole section of a chapter in my book especially about having these small devices on the Fediverse.

0:49:33 - Jonathan Bennett
Interesting. Yeah, that's fascinating. All right, do we want to talk about these other two projects, wiki Travel and Open Earth? We are almost out of time. Maybe give us the 30,000-foot view on the story about Wiki Travel.

0:49:48 - Evan Prodromou
I'm going to pass on Wiki Travel. We talked about it back in the number 37. It's doing great. Wiki Travel moved to the Wikimedia Foundation, the same nonprofit that runs Wikipedia, and it's thriving. It's got a lot of language support. There's so many articles. It's really one of the best places to look If you love to travel. Check out Wiki Voyage. There's lots of great information there.

The other project that I work on, which is my day job, is I work for an organization called the Open Earth Foundation, openearthorg. We are a nonprofit that makes open-source software to fight climate change. So this is my like. It's one of my passions. Well, two of my passions open-source software and the climate crisis. We make different products that are participating in reducing emissions around the world. Citycadalyst just came up. Citycadalyst is an open-source project that we just launched for cities that helps cities take stock of the greenhouse gas emissions that are happening inside their cities and start planning on how they're going to reduce those emissions. Cities are responsible for about 75% of the greenhouse gas emissions on our planet, so they're a really important part of the net zero solution and we're really excited to have an open-source product that they can use.

0:51:28 - Doc Searls
So I want us to take a quick break and we'll get down to the closing part of the show. We can go down any number of different ways, so, but we're going to. There's too much good stuff to talk about. We'll be back with that right after this. Okay, boy, there's Well, look, go ahead. Yeah, go ahead, go ahead. Give me a thought.

0:51:51 - Evan Prodromou
We've got our regular. We've got a regularly scheduled meeting in 2038. It's coming up in 15 years, so we do this every 15 years. So when I come back on in 2038, we'll have a conversation about some of my other projects and we'll go through those.

0:52:10 - Doc Searls
If the work continues to work in 2038.

0:52:13 - Jonathan Bennett
Yeah, yeah.

0:52:16 - Doc Searls
And the show does have to point out that, yeah, that an important link is back to episode 37. I'll have to listen to that Also. I think the next time we have you back, both Jonathan and I need to wax our mustaches. So we're all in. Thanks, we're all in compliance. You may have to grow a full goatee below there, so we look like brothers.

0:52:43 - Evan Prodromou
Can I ask a question while we're on, yeah, which is we've talked a lot about how people can participate in the Fediverse. One thing that I'm not sure about, and maybe one of the two of you could say, is like, for people that are part of the Twitch community I know Twitch Social is there what does it take to sign up on Twitch Social? Can anyone sign up?

0:53:09 - Speaker 6
I will step in and answer that.

0:53:12 - Doc Searls
Our producer. Thank you, yes, this is.

0:53:16 - Speaker 6
Ant in the studio. Twitch Social is our Fediverse here for Twitch and is run by the chief Twitch, mr Leo Laporte, and it's as simple as going to Twitch Social and requesting access and he himself will do all of the approvals. Wow, just to make sure. You mentioned that. You heard about it here on one of the shows or something like that Because he tries to minimize the spammers and bots and so forth that comes through. But yeah, this is his baby and we have a lot of fun over there on Twitch Social Just talking about it. Yeah and everything. So yeah, twitchsocial.

0:54:00 - Doc Searls
Well, this gets me to actually something that is part of the protocol, personal protocol or routine on shirnahost. For example, if I get a follow request from somebody who I don't know I have no idea who they are I don't say yes, I don't let them follow me, and that's a kind of spam filtration, you know. I mean they need to say more than you know. Jill 413, you know, or something like that, wants to follow you and I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing there either, because they're in there to begin with.

0:54:38 - Evan Prodromou
Maybe they're already cleared something. I usually pry and check. Do I know anyone? Does his name look familiar? That gives me a sense of like. Do I really want to be sharing important information with this person? No, and so I have one account evanetcosocialca that's my big public one and that's open follow, so I let anyone follow that one. And then my personal account, which is on my family server evanetpodromopub is really for my family, close personal friends. I share our vacation photos. I share, you know, pictures of what I have for dinner, Because that's more intimate and I do take more care about who can follow me that way.

0:55:23 - Speaker 6
Yeah, I'm going to hop in here because I've had some concerns about this and sorry for interrupting you all no please do. But the whole privacy aspect of these social platforms. I have an account here on Twitter that's social and I locked it up. You know I could have left it public.

You know, with us being in a broadcast and so forth. But I locked it down because I got to the point with all of my other social platforms. It was just too daggum much and I didn't really want to stress, so I locked it down and I have to go through and say, hey, yeah, I'll let you follow me, because I don't want to deal with a lot of spamming and things like that. And right now, if someone goes to follow me, I'm in a bit of a pause on letting people in, because it again just trying to find that perfect balance of I want this to be my happy space. I also want to share some things. I also want to interact with some people here and there and just, you know again, just make it a happy space. And I think, as public people in this broadcast space, we're expected to have everything just sort of wide open, and I think that's crap. We're humans too and we still need to keep a clean head and a clean mental space. Okay, I'm getting off the mic, bye.

0:56:40 - Evan Prodromou
I think that's such a powerful point, though, which is like we can't be on stage all the time. We're not always acting in our public persona. Sometimes we just need to connect with friends, family, colleagues, neighbors in a way that's more private. That makes more sense, and I think that's one of the things about having control over your social systems is you get to set those levels yourself right. It's not up to Instagram to decide who you share with. It's up to you, and I think that's a nice part of having open source software and open protocols.

0:57:13 - Jonathan Bennett
Yeah, absolutely.

0:57:15 - Doc Searls
So, as we're getting down to the end of this, two things. First of all, I don't want to wait until another 15 years or whatever to have you back. I'll have to have you back before that. But I'm wondering where you see social going in the literal sense, because I think what we called social networks really weren't. They were just another centralized thing where people could be social. But the Fediverse maps a lot better to what our social networks actually look like. Even what Antje shared with us is a perfect example of how that works.

Everybody has their own little protocol, based on a collection of protocols, based on who they know, how they know them, where they are. There's a reason we don't walk down the street with a name Badge on. And actually I wanted to ask you about identity, because you've been at the IW a few times and the fact that IW is still going after since 2005,. So that's 18 years that will never be solved in a huge way. It's just not. It's going to be a problem forever, which is maybe a good thing, but where do you see it going? What's the kind of progress you're looking for here?

0:58:32 - Evan Prodromou
So I'm going to give a couple. Here's my hot tips for, for sociality, say, over the next couple of years. First of all, threads joining the Fediverse is going to be huge, right, that is going to mean a huge number of new people coming, the world's biggest social networking company joining the Fediverse. I think that's going to turn a lot of heads towards the Fediverse. Organizations that haven't already been joining up are going to be like we have a possibility to access all of Facebook's customers and provide content to them without Facebook getting involved. Awesome, this sounds great. So I think that that is going to really kick off some huge growth in the Fediverse. That's my first one. My second one is that I think we are going to see more organizations from the real world providing social services to their natural audiences. So universities MIT has a has a master's on server for MIT students I think we're going to see more universities providing social networking services to their students, staff and professors. Companies providing social network service to their employees and having more of this distribution that maps very cleanly onto real world organizations. So that's kind of the second one.

The third one is, as we're talking about bringing more people on, there's going to be more software, more innovation, more different kinds of applications. One thing that I tell people when they're thinking, when they're like where can I make a change in the Fediverse? And I say, like go look in Facebook and look down the main menu where it says dating, marketplace, groups, your photos, memories, take every single one of those and that's going to make a great Fediverse piece of software, possibly a Fediverse business. Similarly, jim Barksdale says there's two businesses bundling and unbundling. We're really at. The unbundling level is like taking what you like out of these other networks and building a building open source software or open source businesses out of it.

1:00:58 - Jonathan Bennett
All right. So I'm going to jump in and ask We've talked a lot about making the Fediverse more mainstream, but on the other end of that spectrum, what is the weirdest or most unexpected thing that you have seen someone do with activity, pub or the Fediverse?

1:01:15 - Evan Prodromou
I'm going to tell you one of my favorite things. So the Fediverse. A lot of the people there come from open source background. We've got a certain kind of humor that has a lot of word play that's involved, right? So, for example, for hashtags on the Fediverse, if you want to talk about mosses or lichen, you use the hashtag mustadon, right M-O-S-S-T-O-D-O-N, right. Or, if you are doing, if you want to show pictures of flowers, you use bloom scrolling, like doom scrolling, use hashtag bloom scrolling. Well, I was like I was like looking at this and looking at my mastodon and then I thought, oh, my goodness, I wonder what's on astodon A-S-S-T-O-D-O-N. I was like dare.

1:02:17 - Speaker 6
I dare.

1:02:21 - Evan Prodromou
Can I just say what that means?

on the pediverse is these adorable pictures of people's donkey farms and mules and it's all about donkeys and it's one of these things where I was just like I really like being part of this community, because people thought of that joke, they figured out what to do with it and they made something that was like really wholesome and amazing out of it. So it's a really fun part. I follow the hashtag now because it was a really surprising one and I like that it turned out that way. There we go.

1:02:58 - Doc Searls
Oh, there it is. Yeah, For those watching, there is an astodon, wow. Actually, it's one of those forgotten mammals. It's kind of a cross between a donkey and an elephant. Yeah Well, we are actually beyond out of time at this point. So this is where we ask what your favorite text editor in scripting language are. Wow, I don't know if they asked that back in 2008, but they ask it now.

1:03:29 - Evan Prodromou
I'm gonna answer with my favorite text editor. I use VS Code all the time. I think it's an amazing editor. It's got a ton of extensions. It's got beautiful support for all kinds of development tools. I used to be an Emacs user. I've totally gone in with both feet on VS Code and this, ah, I won. That's great. And then, for programming languages, probably my favorite is using Scheme like GnuGyle or GOSH. But most of my work now is in JavaScript, which really feels great under my fingers. It feels very list-blank if you know how to make it work. Oh no.

1:04:20 - Doc Searls
And it loves playing those. They always come through so loud in my headphones it's like whoa, wait a minute. Well, that is. It has been great. Having you on Our back channel has been loving it, and I think our front channel, when it's out there, is that people are gonna love it too. It's been really great. It will have to have you back sooner than later, so thanks a lot, man, it's been great.

1:04:48 - Evan Prodromou
Thank you so much. Yeah, let's get it before the turnover on you next time. That's important.

1:04:55 - Doc Searls
Oh, that's a good one. So, jonathan, at least he didn't say Java, at least he didn't say Java, yeah, no, I kind of like JavaScript too.

1:05:07 - Jonathan Bennett
It's a fun language, but everyone's fine. We talked to somebody at the end of the show. They told us Java, and it's like man, I just I wish we didn't even do the interview.

1:05:16 - Doc Searls
Oh no, what's wrong with Java? I haven't heard Java that often. I think I'm trying to think of it, but it's been a while. Yeah, yeah, it's hard to you know. It's interesting there. I remember an interview that Howard Stern had with Conan O'Brien where they talked about how they'd all interviewed thousands of guests and they actually didn't remember many of them, because you can't, it's thousands of guests. This is one I'll remember for sure. It's been a really. It's a good one.

1:05:48 - Jonathan Bennett
Yep, yep, it has been a lot of fun.

1:05:51 - Doc Searls
Especially as it's happening. It's a happening thing right now and it's moving.

1:05:54 - Jonathan Bennett
It is you know, something that struck me during the show is we were looking at a potential future where you know the European governments could come along and say hey, facebook, twitter, you know all these guys, you need to implement activity pub Right. Like that's a potential.

1:06:13 - Doc Searls
Right, like they do with USB-C. You know which actually that was a bad idea, because if I'm a maker, I don't want to be told what to do. But you're right, they could do that. That's the interesting thought.

1:06:24 - Jonathan Bennett
Yeah. So you do have kind of this libertarian idea that says, well, these companies, they're privately owned, they should be able to do whatever the heck they want to. Now the other side, you have this idea well, but it is a good thing for consumers to have just one kind of plug. So there is kind of that same weighing of the options and I kind of come to the same place as my libertarian bent. I think, well, these companies, they're run by people, and people should have the freedom to not use activity pubs. They don't want to. But at the same time, man, that would shake up the internet. If Twitter was forced to be on the Fediverse right. That would just be incredible.

1:07:00 - Doc Searls
That would be really interesting. That would be really interesting. And of course you say, well, it's only in Europe, because they're the only ones who are going to do that kind of thing, right, but then they'll have to do it everywhere else, just like we did with cookie notices. Right, we have to do cookie notices.

1:07:16 - Jonathan Bennett
Which you know. You bring up one of the worst things that Europe has done to the internet.

1:07:21 - Doc Searls
Oh, I hate cookie notices, yeah yeah, and the thing is the law doesn't even require it. It doesn't. If you're not a bad actor, you don't even need to do that stuff. But it's like your lawyers will say well, everybody does this, everybody has to put the cookie notice in the front of their thing. It's like, I mean, it's almost for many sites. It's sort of like the smoking will kill you thing you see in a cigarette pack, only it has to go on everything. It's like all of this might kill you. Yeah, yeah so. But I'm really encouraged by how much is possible here and how alive it is and how forward it's going. And it's just super cool that Evan's been involved in this like all along, you know, and is making it happen. You know he's not dropping out, you know this is cool. Oh, sorry, I'm not supposed to say that the New Jersey showed up. I'll bleep it later.

1:08:21 - Jonathan Bennett
No, it's cool. I'm very much a fan of Activity Pub and you know we talked about it in one of our roundtable shows back about a year ago I think, when everything kind of went sideways with Twitter, and you know there was this very non-political kind of line that we took that. You know, whether you like the new owner of Twitter or not, the fact that lots of people are talking about Macedon and the Fediverse is just a net win for everybody. So you know that's the beauty of open source, not just open source software, but like even open source information. Going back to the older definition of open source, it gives people. It gives people freedom to choose and that's the big thing that the Fediverse brings is it gives people that other option. If they don't want to buy into the Facebook ecosystem or the Twitter ecosystem, they can host their own, and the fact that it's out there for an option it really it makes everybody better.

1:09:18 - Doc Searls
Yeah, I almost have to forget the back channel, is it? New Jersey showed up, oh geez, oh goodness, I can't. There's so much I could write there, I'd rather say it here. Anyhow, this is a great search. I don't think it was your plugs, because we need to get out of here.

1:09:35 - Jonathan Bennett
Okay, so the big thing that I will talk about is over at Hackaday. You can follow my work. The security column goes live just about every Friday. We took off for Thanksgiving, but we will be back this Friday and that is all the news you need to know and, specifically, the things that I found interesting in the security realm throughout the week. So hackadaycom on Friday morning. Look for that and follow me there.

1:09:59 - Doc Searls
Thanks a lot, and I'm keeping up the tradition by actually not remembering who we have next week this time, and I have so many windows laying on top of each other here.

1:10:09 - Speaker 6
Well, I tell you, some things never change.

1:10:12 - Doc Searls
No, I changed for two weeks. For two weeks I was almost on top of it.

1:10:18 - Jonathan Bennett
But this week Adam Jacob from System Initiative.

1:10:21 - Doc Searls
Oh, there we go, Adam, Jacob. Oh, thanks so much guys. Team Recall before I could get to it. That's a great, so that'll be a good one. That's coming up next week and we will see you then.

1:10:35 - Jason Howell & Mikah Sargent
It's midweek and you really want to know even more about the world of technology, so you should check out Tech News Weekly, the show where we talk to and about the people making and breaking the tech news. It's the biggest news. We talk with the people writing the stories that you're probably reading. We also talk between ourselves about the stories that are getting us even more excited about tech news this week. So if you're excited, well then join us. Head to

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