January 28, 2019
People around me use Facebook groups a lot. They get lot of value out of them. These groups are used for vague communities organisation. You want to share information about flats to rent in your city? There is a group for that. Try to give out furnitures? Same, a group for that. Exchange tips on how to repair your car? You know where I am going.
Mailing lists used to fill that need. Why not anymore? It is more difficult to join one, mailing lists tend to have crummy interfaces. An email you receive feels more personal (even when it is not). Generally there is less a sense of community in a mailing list than on Facebook.
What about forums? The old phpBB. They also tend to be replaced by Facebook groups. Convenience won here mostly. How many people know how to run and update a server to run a Discourse or a phpBB? How many want to pay for it?
And in both case, the discovery factor is quite important. It is easy to find out about a group a friend shares to (it appears in your timeline) – how would you discover a mailing list a friend is part of? No serendipity in finding a forum either, you need to search for it.
The fediverse offers a new possibility to create a tool that is as good as Facebook groups – Mastodon is a social inbox with a familiar interface. We just need to have a concept of group.
Isn’t there one with (hash)tags? Kind of. But tags are completely informal, they do not appear in your timeline / inbox and, are not federated (as far as I know).
What about instances as communities? I feel ambivalent about the local feed. In a way it is a great tool to discover new people on my instance. But on the other hand it forces me to be careful about what I share. I want to avoid polluting the feed with things that are not relevant to the community of my instance. Should I create a new identity for each topic I might be interested in?
So I went and created something new – I called it Federa groups. For now it is fairly simple. You log in with your Mastodon identity. Then create a group, let’s call it starwars for the sake of the example. You (or anyone) just needs to follow this new group within Mastodon then at @firstname.lastname@example.org. If you mention the group in a toot it will be boosted to all the people following this group.
Federa groups is a very simple service for now. There is UX as well as security work to be done for sure. And I can think of many additional feature to add (private groups, search,…). But first I want to see if the idea has legs. Contact me if you have any feedback on these groups! Tell me why I should keep investing some time in it! Or even better, help me build it!
Discuss this on Mastodon