Foundation - the What

What we’d actually want the Foundation to do?

:information_source: This post is a wiki, you can edit it as well. Please add to it only the things that there is a consensus about. Otherwise please make a note that the subject is still under deliberation. Thank you!

I can’t get a hang of Mural, so I’d like to ask for summary of the goals discussion, if someone would be so kind :slight_smile:
Making first post a wiki, so we can put there the things that we have consensus about :slight_smile:

Idea:
As mentioned in the other topic, I think the Foundation should be an advocate for Fediverse related projects and communities, an entity to speak in their name and to protect their interests

I provided my motivation for starting the fedi.foundation halfway last year in this and this comment on the other thread. But it bolls down to:

  • There’s an Achilles Heel to fedi and “Tragedy of the Commons” looms. Fedi is weak, might stall and eventually fail.
  • But the potential is enormous, and that would be an endless waste of opportunity (a fist against big tech, a humane tech field lab).

From The Promise and Paradox of Decentralisation: “Any decentralized [ecosystem] requires a centralized substrate, and the more decentralized the approach is the more important it is that you can count on the underlying system.”

That substrate is mostly missing. I would like the Fediverse Foundation to be an intricate part of it, and dedicate to:

Foster healthy evolution and safeguarding of the future of the Fediverse.

Important part of that is contributing to its culture and make it a true PeopleVerse, not a loose group of ‘users’ and another such group of developers. People all the way, knowing that what they have is upheld collectively. What does that mean in terms of “The What”?

The What

For fedi.foundation I defined 4 tracks:

  • We empower community
  • We foster cooperation
  • We facilitate healthy growth
  • We advocate our work

That’s not concrete, I know, but it is directional and it forms substrate. But it boils down to the foundation ensuring that “stuff happens” on the fediverse, and that community work and the boring chores that are needed to be done, also get done. That there can be strategy to how fedizens can coordinate their grassroots efforts collectively.

In the foundation fedizens will find places where they can join activities, where they get inspired, and where they know what objectives are and what’s at stake.

There’s numerous activities, initiatives and projects that might fall into these categories. They need not all be specified upfront. Most of them are not performed by the foundation itself. The foundation can be a facilitator, a motivator, an engine for fedi evolution and innovation, stimulating these activities to occur. The central point that you visit to know what’s going on.

Especially if we have funding and can compensate people for some of the work. An example is General user-focused, high-level animated Fediverse explainer video? The foundation can arrange a crowdfunding action, collect the money and commission the video. It might also contribute money itself.

Okay, could you please give us some exaples? I mean, we want to do this things doing actually what?

Well, I wrote those tracks with what I experienced at SocialHub at the time. This example relates to that… please bear with me, it is not explained in a few words.

Standards evolution

Many of the discussions at SocialHub are about a developer saying “I want to do [this and that] on the Fediverse in my app”. Very often they are needs that are expressed by fedizens using the app.

One such need is support for Groups. People joining a group and discuss or collaborate with other group members on some common theme or topic. Sounds simple. But Group is a ‘social primitive’ defined in the open standard of the Fediverse, and Groups should be compatible between apps (e.g. so that from Mastodon you can join a Pleroma group). Interoperability is needed, and hence standardization.

A group discussion on SocialHub started in March 2020. It stalled. Then another group discussion was started in August 2021 due to Pixelfed implementing groups, and the prior discussion came alive too again. Then a third discussion was started December 2021 by GNU Social about allowing groups to be independent of instances (i.e. same or linked group can exist on multiple servers).

That is 21 months of discussing things without any conclusion. Meanwhile several Group implementations have been implemented in apps, all incompatible with each other. The problem has become harder now, because applications are installed on instances and developers do not want to break compatibility. They are more dug in to seeing their approach become the standard, even if it isn’t the most desirable approach.

The Problem

There is no substrate. No community organization and facilitation. Those who shout hardest in the discussion, or are furthest in their expertise on the subject, or already implemented things their own way, become the dominant voice. It is understandable. These people are busy, and most passionate for their own project. They come to SocialHub out of courtesy and because they also want the fedi to be better.

At SocialHub there are 2200 topics just like those just highlighted for groups. All open and undecided. There are some processes (but not enough) defined that theoretically could bring resolution and order to the chaos, like Fediverse Enhancement Proposals (FEP’s).

The real problem is that coordinating all that needs to be done, facilitating the processes, collecting feedback from fedizens, chasing developers to respond to that, create clear documentation, reaching consensus, and encourage applications to comply to them … all of that requires such a significant amount of community work being done, that it is too much to ask a couple volunteers to be responsible for that.

This work is doing the chores, and persistently with perseverence at that. It is highly underappreciated and unthankful work. It is the work that needs a foundation to support the people that dedicate to it.

The solution

Build the substrate. Involve everyone on the fediverse with it. How do the needs and desires of arbitrary fedizens materialize? Which process supports that best? How and where can anyone best jump in to help? Who facilitates all that and make it a well-oiled process? Who continually improves the processes based on experience?

→ The Fediverse Foundation does.

I have described this from a more or less technical standpoint. But the reality is that the technical and non-technical are tightly interwoven and one depends on the other. The lightbulb image in my article on The Fediverse Saga demonstrates that analogy. All layers of the fediverse are needed to shine brilliant light to all fedizens.

If fedizens complain about elitist devs not listening to them (which often happens), then they need to have the ability to have their voices heard, and be pointed to how to do that. If their expectations are unrealistic they need to be able to be informed why that is the case, and what they may be able to do about that. If a complaining fedizen is not willing to help make things better, they should be told in a friendly way to “shut up or put up”.

The Fediverse isn’t a nice machine created by devs for everyone elses convenience. It is a living organism where each single cell contributes to its health. And there is an enormous amount of organization that can help with that. It can’t live with 150 volunteer developers supporting 4.5 million fedizens, if they don’t help too.

The Fediverse Foundation is the central nerve system that coordinates, ensures that blood vessels grow and give nourishment to all parts of the body… [etcetera… add more biology analogy as needed].

“The Now”

I would like to add that I think that at this time there can’t yet be a concrete 5-point bullet list of “The What” yet. There can only be a brainstorm by all those interested for a foundation on bullet points that represent the way they think a foundation should go. Maybe it amounts to a crazy set of 50 or 100 bullets.

As I see it, from those a single Mission and Vision can be defined that scope the boundary box, the operational field of the Fediverse Foundation. From there slowly more detail can be sketched until finally there may be this 5-bullet high-level list. At that time you’ll also see that people involved in ideation don’t really want to be involved in the nitty gritty work of erecting an actual incorporated entity. There will be a smaller group of serious folks that must do this work.

Imho the entity thus created should once again allow many people to join, on well-defined conditions, with clear responsibility in place and with proper incentives.

“The Plan”

I feel we might start with “Foundation - The Plan” and “The What” being a step in that plan. The Who, The Why, The How, The When are others. Also I feel it is easier to agree on a common Mission and Vision without going into the exact details of The What as yet. I think many of those cannot be known right now, other than posing them as mere ideas / indicators.

A lot of these steps can be elaborated in parallel. We can already think of the type of incorporation we want, the Values we wanna have and formulate them in a manifesto, and whether we want to be a funded foundation or not, plus how we intend to find + spend that funding. Etcetera.

“The Elaboration”

The pyramid proposed by @paula is a good start. It is like a Christmas tree we decorate with ideas, and then connect with garlands. When we agree on certain statements or ideas, we can start to elaborate them in more detail, and connect them with other ideas.

For instance:

  • Statement: Serious community duty and work should be financially compensated to ensure it is done.
    • Requires: → Funding
  • Statement: Funding shouldn’t depend on just donations, too unreliable (see: Feneas shutting down).
    • Requires: → Other sources of revenue.
    • Options: Cooperative with subscriptions? Grants? … ? → Investigate options.
  • Statement: Funding MUST be spent appropriately, and in a way that put fedizens at ease.
    • Requires: Non-profit, Transparency, Oversight, Regulation
    • Options: Non-profit venture (cooperative + foundation)? … ? → investigate options.
  • Statement: Fedizens should have a democratic say in what the Foundation does and funds.
    • Requirement: Channels, Organization, Governance
    • Options: Sociocracy? … ? → investigate options.

Is all this a lot of work? Sure is :hugs: