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How to run a small social network site for your friends (runyourown.social)
359 points by quaintdev 40 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 209 comments

I have what I think is a unique perspective on this.

Private small self run social media already exists. It's personal Minecraft servers.

When I was younger I ran a Minecraft server out of my toaster of a PC. Friends hopped on, made their own little houses, built stuff and talked. Friends would pass in and out and in order to get in you had to be invited! I'd say max there were 10-20 people on there somewhat consistently.

It was great, and better than social media or even game for hanging out with your friends IMO because it emulated synchronous human interaction instead of just setting up feeds where everything has to be "perfect".

It was easy enough for a 14 year old to setup, and administer. Mods made it hackable and fun.

I guess the metaverse was already a thing back then huh?

This has been like that with many multiplayer games to some extent before the age of matchmaking. Someone sets up a dedicated server with certain mods/game configuration, and that would be yours and other randoms favorite server. Over time, you'd actually become a community.

I've gone back to play Unreal Tournament 2004 this past year in such dedicated servers, and it made me realize how badly matchmaking ruined the sense of community in MP games.

That’s actually interesting—I used to really be into multiplayer games when I was a teenager into my early 20s, and have some great memories of virtual hangs with friends both real and offline. My interest in online gaming basically dropped to zero (or even negative) after that, which seems to coincidence with when matchmaking started becoming a thing. I think it was it Halo 2 that was the first big matchmaking game that I played and I just really couldn’t get into it at all, I just more or less assumed I was just getting older and losing interest in childhood hobbies but never connected it to the loss of community in my head. Thinking about all those multiplayer lobbies from yesteryear gives me pangs of nostalgia.

I follow the same arc. I grew up lugging network cables around to setup LAN parties for Warcraft and Command and Conquer. Then went to college and setup a Halflife server that our entire dorm got into. Even the non-gamers got into it creating their own characters (some of them naked... the characters not the players although you never know what's going on down the hall), and it was a source of bonding that I'll never forget.

Pretty soon after that World of Warcraft was introduced and games started getting more "massive" and I lost all interest in endless games with people I didn't know personally.

Almost 20 years later and when I'm able to sneak a game in, I only play single-player mode to follow the storyline.

I used to play on a specific cod multi-player server back when cod was only a single title. Knew handles of people on the server even though I didn't socialize much (would say hi and the like but nothing much more than that).

My second year of college my roommate and I were chatting and found out we both frequented that server and knew each other by our handles.

Even though I didn't use the dedicated servers as a social mechanism, just hanging out and playing with/against each other for countless hours was enough to seed a lasting friendship when we did meet irl.

Interesting, I was just thinking Halo 2 was great for that sort of thing. I have some fond memories of joining private parties and goofing around for hours hunting for glitches

Maybe it was Halo 3? The one that focused heavily on matchmaking play (I played on Xbox if that makes a difference)

> I've gone back to play Unreal Tournament 2004 this past year in such dedicated servers, and it made me realize how badly matchmaking ruined the sense of community in MP games.

I used to enjoy playing TF2 until 2013/14 or so. I settled into the No Heroes servers and after a while you get to know people. You pop on, see familiar names, say hello and you'd have a good time. It was like a small town which had a lot of other people passing through keeping things lively yet familiar.

Recently I tried to play TF2 again just for kicks. The community is dead. I played for maybe 30 min before exiting uninstalling and never looking back. Good job valve.

I still really like TF2 but you've got to stay away from the official servers. Community ones are still great e.g. https://uncletopia.com/servers, https://creators.tf/servers

In Valve's defense, not a ton of games make it past a decade with a healthy playerbase, right?

This is true, the game felt like it was waning in popularity around 2014. But I attribute that to the then new instant play and other UI changes which favored valves servers over community servers which were effectively on "page two". The communities dried up as a result.

Perhaps it isn't surprising that when interaction is designed to be disposable and replaceable, i.e. matchmaking, no real community can form.

This is what killed wow classic when dungeon signup was introduced

Successful, pleasant dungeon run? Added to friends.

This is rather bad news as an implication for Tinder.

All dating sites have effectively two sets of users: people who use it until they get a long-term partner (A), and people who can use it forever because they are unlikely or unwilling to get a long-term partner (B). That is effectively intrinsic to the activity they are born to serve (dating). This said, there are enough people belonging to the B set to keep them in business pretty much forever.

There is also the option to provide ramps for people in A towards some other form of socialization (double dates? dinner parties?), but I don't think anyone really tried it yet.

There's also an influx of (A)s of course because it doesn't always work out :)

Even if it did work out, both (A)s and (B)s are constantly born and growing up.

Well, that's only true when you consider matchmaking for short interactions, which surely prevents community bonding. Longer interactions do not prevent bonding.

As for Tinder... I'm pretty sure you can find the equivalent of "dedicated servers" where to form a community, but I don't think that's what most people would want.

Surely you meant UT99... ;-)

A sprawling list of servers to join. Ahhh the memories. headshots jumping off the upper area of deck16. Console gaming and auto joining servers like in CoD. Bleh. Zero sense of community. Before we all met on IRC quakenet in random clan channels.

Speaking of UT99... it's still getting patches https://github.com/OldUnreal/UnrealTournamentPatches

> OldUnreal took over maintenance of the Unreal Tournament code base after reaching an agreement with Epic Games in 2019.

Thank you for the heads up!

Unreal Tournament is the best example I've seen of this too. I played on a server for a while before realizing a good chunk of the people were there just to socialize and the game was really secondary.

Ah, the earlier days of Counter Strike were my version of this. Custom maps galore created by the community, custom game modes. WarCraft mod was my favorite, building XP for abilities on the server - definitely had a good community as the skills for use in game were earned and contained on the individual server.

A shame this vibrant and creative element of the game was stamped out.

This used to be the case with TeamSpeak/Mumble too back in the day. Some of my favorite memories as a teenager was setting up Teamspeak servers on a Linode box and setting up everything. I’m glad Discord is making that easier for kids today.

With no sarcasm or irony whatsoever, this is a fantastic way to stay connected with people—if you can be online at the same time as them regularly and they all actually want to play Minecraft.

The advantages you get with a more traditional-style private social media site are accessibility and asynchrony.

Did the same thing in a Minecraft predecessor called Blockland. Even ran a big mod pack that was all about social stuff like having IRC inside the game client. And what you say about invite-only is totally true. I used to run a fansite about an Xbox game that was still "unannounced" and the community was very non-toxic because I started a private forum on the IGN message boards where it was only full of people that mentioned the game elsewhere. What a time!

Same thing for me, Minecraft servers were part of my "social media usage" when I was younger. I like how they offered different degrees of interactions. You have basic chat and private messages, but you can also go on Skype/Mumble/etc and talk to people.

These days I kind of have the same thing with a private Discord server (5 people including me) and Twitter. My Twitter account is private, most of my friends (~10 people) are also in private. I can have a window on the "outside world" by following stuff from the outside, but interactions are limited to me and my friends.

We usually set up a new Minecraft server every year and play a lot for a month or two (most of us are still students), and having a 3D world that we can modify at will is always very special. I've thought a lot about what the future could look like for us. I have this idea of a "3D coworking space", though for now frequent Discord calls and Twitter interactions are enough. I do miss the feeling of building something together and living in a (virtual) space together. Just like it's easier to remember things with a mental palace, it's easier to remember the memories we made together while visiting our Minecraft servers.

I've heard some positive reviews about gather.town[0] for virtual co-working, though I've never used it. The demos look cool though. It lacks the creative element of Minecraft though. I'm not sure to what extend the worlds are customizable. Curious if anyone has used it and has an opinion.

I've tried FocusMate, though that is along the "match-making" model, and I didn't get much out of a random pairing for 1 hour at a time.

[0] https://www.gather.town/

For me the real lack of gather.town is not the creative element but 3D. I have great immersion in 3D spaces, but really poor immersion in 2D spaces. From what I see and from my point of view, it's a very small improvement over a Discord server with multiple vocal channels.

Yes games have been a social forum for over 2 decades. But they're not federated like ActivityPub nodes are.

IMO this is what a metaverse should be: just a federated game.

Actually, Open Simulator (an open source implementation of Second Life's protocol) is kind of already that, although one might debate whether it's a game and the tech is pretty dated by this point.

I can't help but think that kids today are doing something like this in their own way. And that the real thing people miss when they wax nostalgic is youth.

I see kids today doing this a lot with "Among Us", Fortnite and Minecraft still. Among us basically functions like a chat room but you can control who enters, password protect it, set rules for the game etc

I wonder if minecraft's sticking to private servers as the first class multiplayer helped keep it relevant.

i did the same thing, minecraft servers were an amazing social experience for kids

100% and it got me into tech too :)

Learn a lot with spare time on your hands and wanting to build something for your friends!

Me too! If it wasn’t for Minecraft I probably wouldn’t be where I am now. Pretty much the first time I wrote code was because I wanted to build a Minecraft mod. It was (unsurprisingly) absolutely horrible, but it was the start of a long learning journey.

+1, I never would be where I am today if it weren’t for running a Minecraft server.

i feel old... wasn't minecraft released like yesterday? like in 2012? how can you be an adult person now?

Haha you should probably feel ancient!

I feel old knowing people in college now were born in the 2000s.

“I can see the 1 from here…”


Yup. A bigger point on "small social networks" that it's taken years for me to learn; I've always dabbled in the idea of social networking as its grown up, hacking together a little thing that looked like twitter before twitter for my friends, etc.

Here's the thing that may save you if you're trying to pull one of these together: You can't do it without something else. Meaning, the idea of a "local" Twitter/Facebook killer is great but (if you're me) no one will see the value and you won't be able to onboard ANYONE without some sort of "social carrot" separate and apart from the mere idea of "hey, new social network."

(This is one of those ideas that nerds like me just have trouble digesting, so hopefully it helps someone get through this. I've tried and failed this many times over. Will probably do it again :) )

Yes, but look at the audience. My elderly parents and inlaws and cousins aren't going to play minecraft. I want to give them a Facebook clone that isn't a Facebook spyware product.

I had that experience as well but with Tibia instead of Minecraft. It was essentially IRC with an embedded MMORPG. Everyone I knew played it. We'd gather somewhere to train our characters and chat. Good times. At some point I started hosting Open Tibia servers for my friends, even opened it up for strangers later. Lots of fun and was my first programming experience with C++ and Lua.

You can’t even send photos with Minecraft though. It’s certainly a social experience but in no way comparable to say, Facebook or instagram like Friendcamp in the article

That sounds like a feature to me.

If I was hanging out with a friend in person and they kept showing me pictures of other stuff in their life I'd get bored pretty quickly. If I'm hanging out with someone, I want to be talking with them and doing stuff with them, not getting a slideshow of their most glamorous recent moments.

Each to their own, I guess, but I find the normal mode of interaction on "social media" (including all that photo sharing and commentary) to be super weird and undesirable.

People don't really "hang out with their friends" on social media.

If you don't realize interactions with people are different when you are: face to face, in same VoIP call playing same game, playing same game with text only, in same VoIP but not actively doing same thing, and on a website like Facebook or Twitter there really is nothing to even start conversation on.

Yes, of course, if I play Minecraft with someone there usually no photos shared, but we probably are on Discord for VoIP and use the screen sharing function if we want to show something.

Showing pictures of stuff we talk can be pretty interesting. Having friends show me a video of how the procedurally animated spider created walks, some crazy place they visited or how the new girl they are dating looks like isn't boring.

The advantage of Minecraft (or any other game for that matter) is that you are focused on the game. You can enjoy playing it with people even if you otherwise have nothing in common and/or disagree with their views/opinions.

When it comes to photos specifically, not being able to send media is also a huge advantage when dealing with creeps or other malicious people. Spam is pretty much non-existent in most games because you generally can't click on links, and the worst "malware" incident is typically a troll telling you to Alt+F4 to fix a bug.

Next you’ll tell me you can’t look at ads!

It depends what you're looking for. If it's a relationship, you probably will do better looking for another medium, but for pure fun, it's a perfect setup.

Funnily enough I've just recently set up a minetest server and it's been quite an interesting learning experience. Heartily recommended. :)

I don't think minecraft has enough features to replace the likes of instagram or facebook. Most people aren't gamers.

I agree that many gamers expect Metaverse world, but I didn't expect it would happen this fast.

How meta

Yeah they don’t want you to realize that it can all be done locally much more easily now

Wireguard or similar simple VPNs would make file sharing 1:contacts makes everything easier now.

Kubernetes + Kilo obsoletes cloud DCs.

But you won’t get to participate in agency manipulating big business that way.

> can all be done locally much more easily now

> Kubernetes + Kilo

How is maintaining an app on top of a Kubernetes cluster easier than setting up a Minecraft server on an old PC back in the day? Who pays for that and maintains it?

I miss how every hobby had a forum running on phpBB, SimpleMachines, Invision, etc.

HN is great, but it's very point in time. If I find an interesting topic posted over a day ago, it's never getting new replies. It's a snapshot of the thoughts on that topic for that single day, nothing more.

As much as I like threaded discussion like on HN I think it makes following discussion over a longer period of time almost impossible as you need to look all over the tree for new replies. Even reddit's highlighting of new posts does not really fix that and is s paid feaure anyway (except in the subs you moderate) so won't have any effect on the nature of the community. Maybe having both a threaded view for the first time you want to read through a thread and a more linear view for updates would make sense.

Scoop places a [new] tag next to comments that have been posted since the last time you refreshed the page, so that you can just Ctrl-F. So there have been popular sites doing this for 20+ years, e.g. Kuro5hin and DailyKos. HN just hasn't had features like this due to being limited by single threaded compute for various reasons. Although if the comments were served via an API, this could now be down in the front end with just the timestamp of when each user last refreshed each page.

Yeah honestly forums counteract soooo much of the weird incentives that lead to a lot of yelling (yes there is still yelling in forums)

I’ve been in two “tiny forums” in the past and honestly I prefer that to the idea of a Twitter clone. Let’s people put in more effort, have real topics (like about events) and isn’t just streams.

I'm on a number of "large niche" forums (think posts-per-minute not minutes-per-post) and yeah, lots of yelling. But I'm also on a large Facebook group aiming at the same audience (actually a spin-off of the most ancient of those forums), and it's a night and day difference. On the Facebook group everybody with even the tiniest trace of control is self-censoring themselves into total silence, leaving only the chattiest voices outdoing each other with irrelevant posts. The forums are terrible in their own way, but still so much better.

But it's very noticeable how the forum audience is aging, even compared to Facebook which is already the retiree home amongst corporate social media. I can't imagine how lopsided interaction must be on the "influencer platform" generation of social media must be..

It definitely stops the seagull effect where people Just fly in and shit uninformed opinion all over stuff. Not to mention downvotes by the flock.

> I miss how every hobby had a forum running on phpBB, SimpleMachines, Invision, etc.

A lot of sufficiently niche hobbies still do. E.g. if you get into rare fruit growing, a lot of the best information is in various Discourse forums.

This is exactly what I want. I don't want something federated, I just want to host a small site on a particular topic and have some moderation control. I don't need it to connect to every other social network, I just want it to be a small island that like-minded people can congregate on to talk that also has more modern features than the old phpbb did.

Also true for me. I'm building something like that, where RSS feeds and RSS readers come together on a small personal website. Not necessarily a group chat or forum, more like a microblog/timeline/webring thing. A lot of individual websites, connected by the technology of modern and traditional internet.

Question: Would the absence of a forum (or some sort of group chat) be a deal breaker for you?

I like the idea of such a thing, if I'm understanding it. A place to write your thoughts and share them with others while being able to see their contributions? I miss the old geocities sites, even as bad as they looked, because you could create what you want and make it available to others and I miss the old webrings where you could discover new things random people created.

I am interested in a small forum ability as well, but it doesn't have to be in the same application.

Good to hear. My ideas for such a thing are based on the same sentiment; the internet as it used to be, and should be (?). I agree that some interactive parts like a forum, or even nested comments like here on HN, are necessary. That's what really makes it a two way street. Me having a website and you having a website (and us subscribing to each other's feed) is more like two one way streets.

A webring is also a feature I really like. Good for related - but still random - discovery.

I am still on two different extremely niche forums, one running phpBB (wild skins and all). I sometimes go to other existing forums also. This stuff exists.

GDPR and the upcoming online safety bill and the EU's digital economy regulations makes it nearly impossible for almost anyone to run a forum. That is now only possible by big tech.

Couldn't the person running the forum simply not abuse their users by not exploiting their personal data for commercial gain? How hard is that?

GDPR is harder than that, there is a bunch of legal stuff and having to have someone legally responsible to follow the more vague parts of the GDPR.

GDPR is not just "not exploiting their personal data for commercial gain" but a lot of busy work with massive fines if you make any mistakes. How is most community forums going to work with that?

If I don't collect any PII, even to the point of not bothering with analytics, and the only cookies I use are for auth or other absolutely necessary functionality, are there GDPR rules I need to worry about?

No. Various 'consultancies' will tell you otherwise, but the only thing you really need to provide is a chance for users to delete their data. Ideally also an option to extract/download it, but I don't think anyone has ever really been hassled for that.

Contrary to all the BS the tech lobby says, you don't even have to have a cookie banner today I'd you don't collect datat beyond what is technically needed.

Fines are proportional to turnover, and you don't get fined if you don't have any turnover. People are very scared of GDPR in a way that doesn't reflect the actual enforcement!

You do have to avoid leaking, though; it's effectively a requirement to do information security.

Its a max amount or a percentage of turnover, whichever is higher.

I don't buy it -- GDPR is about protection of PII. Don't collect it, you're done.

OK, slightly flippant might take half an afternoon of training for all staff.


I don't understand why that would be the case. GDPR is mostly about personal data (that you don't really need for a forum). The online safety bill would at worst get your forum get blocked in the UK, but I haven't been able to find clear expectations for a forum outside of what I would call "regular moderation". I also didn't find much about the EU's digital economy regulations. Would you mind expanding on why it's nearly impossible for almost anyone to run a forum now?

People can post a lot of personal information to an internet forum without asking the owner and even email addresses count as personal information.

Labour and the Tories are trying to extend The online safety bill to put forum owner in prison if found to be causing harm (whatever that means) and you would have to pay for staff to monitor the forums 24/7 (no one is going to help out if they risk going to prison). All with a fuck ton of vagueness that can millions of pounds of fines.

That will make it impossible for anyone but big tech to run online forums.

Even if that UK bill passes, why can’t Americans and third world residents simply ignore it? If the UK requires ISPs to block the domain, that’s one thing, but how can they realistically enforce prison time on a foreign forum owner? A country that honors such an extradition request is one that is in need to violent replacement with a legitimate government.

Thank you for the explanation. From what you said, blocking the UK looks like the most sane thing to do if you run a forum, though I'm not even sure if that would be enough for them.

People posting their PI on their own in public is however not something the GDPR really covers and so would not affect a forum operator. Leaking users email addresses is another thing of course, but was undesirable before there was GDPR. (Though it might be totally possible to run a forum without requiring email if one is really worried)

You are not wrong though that running forums or any website with user generated content is becoming increasingly difficult for individuals, though the real culprits here on EU level are the recent copyright reform which requires you to remove infringing content quickly and the upcoming Anti-Terror regulation which requires removing content in one hour. Though it might be true, that many of these laws might be toothless against individuals or non-profits, even though they do not specially exclude them. But it really seems lawmakers don't think much of the internet beyond facebook, twitter and google.

These have thresholds though, so if you're just a random person running a small forum you'll likely never feel any effect.

If you’re a private American with no EU-based assets, why should you care about GDPR? A US Congress that would enforce an EU fine is a Congress that no longer has legitimately to govern the US.

Why is that?

Don’t you basically just need to stop collecting any data that is not put up there by the user itself? At least with regards to gdpr.

I am in the process of starting a forum so I am quite curious to know if I am wrong in this?

Why would a non-European forum operator care about GDPR?

Exactly. If my US-based sites get a GPDR complaint, GeoIP blocks will go up and the entire EU can suck a lemon.

Or just say, “sure fine us another €40million. How do you plan to make us pay?”

I have no idea of the status of potential treaties that cover these matters. If I start getting harassed, it’s much easier and safer to block them, rather than escalating things in a direction that could end up in extradition. I would not trust the US government to protect me.

But I like your sentiment.

Small social networks is the real "web3" opportunity. The contours and requirements to reach that next stage are still somewhat blurry:

* how to make them ubiquitous (easy hosting, maintenance, moderation)

* how to federate flexibly and effectively (private/public boundaries, social graph discovery, integrate different media, polymorphic clients)

* how to nudge behavior, extract people from their digital prisons and reboot them into more sane behaviors - not trivial, some real social scientist input required

* how to make them self-financing without creating distorted incentives for any stakeholder

etc. there are lots of things to work out but its clear we've been through an centralized web / walled garden aberration period that inflicted untold damage to the broader "digital transformation" enterprise and legitimized / rewarded abusive practices that can not persist as a permanent pattern

I wish there were a way to broadcast "I am a <hobbyist> in <area>" and generate a decentralized forum (i.e. phpbb 15 years ago). Growing up, all online friends lived hundreds of miles away; as an adult, all my friends have wildly different interests. Nowadays Discord is The Answer but it's not nearly as intimate as a good message board. Maybe that's a function of growing up, but I can't help but feel disillusioned that $someone hasn't come up with a good enough solution for my use case (San Diego retro computing/HAM/etc.) that isn't instantly inundated with real-life politics.

I'm not really there yet, but I'm working on having something close to this possible in the near future. It's not exactly in a forum format, I am partial more to old reddit's interface paradigm, but it will allow a person or a community to easily bootstrap a discussion platform that speaks ActivityPub (the same thing Mastodon does) and that can be plugged into the bigger Fediverse ecosystem.

An example instance is at https://littr.me

Quick feedback: I really like your color scheme there. Dark blueish grey as a background, and a regular blue that comes of as pretty bright as the text color, and therefor pops forward and sticks out. Nice variation on the dark mode theme.

Quick feedback: that name is not very inviting...

Thank you. The name doesn't matter that much for me, I wanted to make a pun on littering and it stuck over time.

The same content can be found at brutalinks.tech (but I doubt this domain is much better :D)

Much as I don't want to promote them (it was a toxic hell working there), Kalido were trying to do this kind of "match interest<X> in area<Y> and generate introductions".


I tried looking at it briefly and the first thought that hit me is if someone except MeWe[1] is finally trying to recreate the great parts of the social network part of Google+.

Would this be correct?

Edit: I searched HN and the only reference I could find to Kalido was your comment(!).

It looks so promising yet from the comment it doesn't seem like either something I shouldn't want to touch (like Something Awful) or something that wouldn't survive long.

Is there anyone here either you or anyone else who wants to share some lore?

Edit 2: It seems on a closer look to look more like a weird enterprise cross breed between linkedIn and Google+, not a general social network. Still interested to hear more about it, I feel I am reasonably well informed about such software and yet this has slipped by.

[1]: I had great hopes for MeWe, but last I checked they were still lacking a great deal IMO, especially in that they don't seem to see the value of not broadcasting my actual identity to everyone.

> It looks so promising yet from the comment it doesn't seem like either something I shouldn't want to touch

I can't speak to the communities on there - I just worked there, never really used it myself (but the founders and others who work there do use it to make connections, I believe.)

> more like a weird enterprise cross breed between linkedIn and Google+, not a general social network

Yeah, the main thrust is that it's an "AI powered LinkedIn for generating communities" but there was good support for "find people who like <X> near <Y>" and get suggestions if people appeared near you with similar interests ("<A> also likes <X> and is near you in <Y>").

> this has slipped by

I don't think they've got around to making a big publicity push yet.

I spend a lot of time on forums before and recently I googled those communities again and all has been lost. Forums contained very valuable information and function as a history archive. Too bad most of that has been replaced with temporary solutions that get pushed down timelines never to be seen again.

My project[1] will have discussion boards in groups at some point. But not exactly "broadcast", it's more like Facebook groups that you join and do things in.

[1] https://github.com/grishka/Smithereen

It's not decentralized, but doesn't meetup.com satisfy some of those ideas?

meetup.com I think does. I know a couple people that organized groups and myself was a member 10 years ago. Its business model was to charge the organizers of groups a yearly fee, which is nice for the members (to not get ads..). A lot of the groups were quite good and some of the tech ones are still going.

Space Twitter is like that if you follow carefully, mute ruthlessly and say things that others in the community agree with enough to follow you back.

Not affiliated nor currently active, but I want to plug Aether for its moderation and discovery systems. I wish it wasn't a dedicated app, but that's also part of what makes it tick, for now. Trigger warning: there is a blockchain element to it; one of the very few useful cases for it, imo.

Probably should have added a link if I'm gonna shill: https://getaether.net/

I like the idea of if, but the ephemerality of it is a biggest-killer there is for myself personaly. I think additional (or better as a default) version would be that all your posts are automatically hidden, unless chosen otherwise, and that the post retention policy at the time of posting of each reply be clearly indicated as well.

I cannot stand the apps and systems that, when blocking, just totally purge and puff the conversion out of existence, not just for the block-er, but the block-ed. Both sides have the right to their memories! Maybe Y poured their soul there, and they want to continue having access to those moments; X does not get to have ultimate control over that.

If X or Y want to block, then the blocking action should just lock and prevent further replies. (And there's definitely way more nuance possible here that I will be getting into here.)

The "nuclear" version would be to hide the blocker's part of conversation of which I also extremely disagree: everyone needs to learn, experience consequences, and evervigilantly practice to stand behind one's words — but those should always be remarkated with he fact that the stances, feelings, opinions expressed then should be considered ephemeral in an ever-evolving state, and not etched in stone. (And even add a short revision note tag function: "This is no longer considered valid, more info here / ask me more".

And while I have presented this example here as a private conversation between two people, my thoughts on the group conversations are very much aligned to these.

However, I am mainly of the opinion that block as a function should he reserved for the gravest of offences, and that people should (continue to) learn to settle their differences of opinion peacefully and as amicably as possible. Blocking willy-nilly does the exact opposite of it, and just builds the ever-more-impenetrable echo chamber(s) of samethink.

Have you tried Facebook Groups?

eg. a quick search found a Ham radio group in SD: https://www.facebook.com/groups/856599821517281.

More Ham radio groups in San Diego (you can do a similar search for retro computing): https://www.facebook.com/search/groups?q=ham%20radio&filters...

Meetup also has some retro computing groups, though I don't see one in San Diego (why not start one?): https://www.meetup.com/topics/retro-computers/

(Caveat: I work on FB Groups)

I'm not going to be the commenter that goes on and on about the negative impact Facebook is having across the world, as this is disruptive to genuine arguments.

To give a clear counterpoint to the idea of using Facebook groups - forums had anonymity. You could be a different version of yourself - for better or worse. It's not possible to do that on Facebook without accountability.

> It's not possible to do that on Facebook without accountability.

Sure it is. Our local town Facebook groups have a wide variety of clear sockpuppet accounts. Facebook's detection and processes for this are laughably bad; quite a few people have reported the "Count von Brokenhymen" style ones to no avail.

Yes, well, my son cannot get a facebook account because his first attempt was a sock puppet account (photo was a gecco, username "Gordon". Kid has class). He's tried 4 times since and usually gets shut out within 30 seconds.

so sock puppet might not be as easy as it once was.

> Facebook's detection and processes for this are laughably bad

Both for false positives and false negatives. I had to register an account to participate in some local town stuff, and my account got locked every week, regular as clockwork.

> (Caveat: I work on FB Groups)

You and your team members do really great work -- it's one of the only reasons many people still use Facebook. If you bail and create something that is more decentralized and web3, but with the same quality and consumer accessibility, it'd be a hit. And, you'll replace one super-voting-share emperor with a large community of crazy but well-meaning stakeholders, who are a lot more fun to work for.

Hey, that's really kind. Thank you!

Web3 is super interesting, and I'm excited to see it grow.

I have not because I've deactivated my Facebook account and generally detest centralized services and miss the old days of user-run forums, but I'll give the SD HAM group a fair shake. I've had poor experiences with Meetup so I'll pass on that platform. Thanks for the rec :-)

Facebook Groups have almost completely replaced some internet automotive aftermarket bulletin boards where no one ever searched anyways. If there's one major positive to the normalization of FB Groups it's the absence of inane "did you search?" comments. Though I do wish people would search. :lol:

I used to be a "forum junkie", but FB Groups has completely replaced that behavior. I don't know if it's better or worse, but at least I am not checking 5 different forums anymore. The forums come to me.

As much as it’s popular to hate on Facebook, I’ve found the niche groups that form are great.

It is a bit OT to 'run your own social' and 'decentralized forum' though.

Moderated groups and personal pages are the only sane places on Facebook. It’s the only feature I use along with Messenger.

For me this kinda misses the point of social networks. I don't need a special site to stay in contact with my actual friends (nor could I convince them all to join my site). I also don't need something to talk with total strangers.

I want something in the middle, a site to explore the fringes of my social graph. Look up people that I barely know. Understand who is connected to whom, who is a friend of a friend. And have a low-key way of staying in touch with people who are not in my closest circle.

I think this was realized with Facebook in the late 00s (or in Germany, StudiVZ). It was literally a people's directory where you would enter information you wanted to publicly share, and basically "everybody" was there.

> I want something in the middle, a site to explore the fringes of my social graph. Look up people that I barely know. Understand who is connected to whom, who is a friend of a friend. And have a low-key way of staying in touch with people who are not in my closest circle.

This is what Iris is going for. https://github.com/irislib/iris-messenger

> Friend Camp is anti-free-speech, at least in the sense that freedom of speech is commonly understood as a value. This is repulsive to some people on both the left and the right, and it's important that people with that core value find somewhere other than Friend Camp to set up their online home

I like this perspective because free speech is considered fundamental to the point that if you don’t uphold it, you’re considered a totalitarian. Not having an absolute view of free speech is what we would call a more nuanced view. Although I wouldn’t want a University, the ACLU, or Facebook taking this view, I think it’s fine for a small community to take it and is one of the things that can attract people to small social networks.

> Not having an absolute view of free speech is what we would call a more nuanced view.

There is no such thing as absolute free speech. We know of the many nuances like "fighting words", incitement, libel, child pornography, slander, etc. I would like Universities and the ACLU to respect these exceptions to absolute free speech.


Don't forget espionage

Nuance is where all the bullshit is. That's where soft power thrives.

Why is a nuanced perspective bullshit?

No, that's where the bullshit is, not that nuance is bullshit. Nuance is great for certain things, like art. But, like art, there's a lot of room for interpretation, misunderstanding, impersonators, and even deceptive dishonesty.

Nuance requires everyone is on the same page. What looks like a masterwork to you, might look like something a child could paint to the teeming millions.

> Nuance requires everyone is on the same page. What looks like a masterwork to you, might look like something a child could paint to the teeming millions.

I suspect they mean Jackson Pollock:


I personally lack sufficient “nuance” to appreciate his work.

What I really want to see is a guide on:

'How to convince all your friends to jump ship and join you on a platform you built, and abandon their friends in the process.'


Every now and then I see this kind of post here. "Friends", they say. "Run software for your friends", they tell.

I always wonder who are these people who have so many friends and who are these friends who are willing to try experimental social networks with no one else in them.

I"m the one that wants to try experimental social tools, in my circles.

You can come meet us, the link has been in my profile for months. ;)

Why does using an additional platform require abandoning anything?

Having a forum account doesn't delete your Twitter.

This, but unsarcastically.

>The reason I can make these modifications is that Mastodon is open source

the pedantic me would like to point out that mastodon is "free software" more than anything "open source" because that terms can mean a lot of things that free software isn't but i get the point. yeah.

there is this amazing software called pleromaPi. https://github.com/guysoft/PleromaPi/

so you simply install it on a raspberry pi and you are good to go with your own social network. this is by far the easiest way to dip your toes into free software social networking via the fediverse.

then there are https://fediverse.party/ , which if you get started with pleromapi can be much easier to understand and you will have a good time learning about technology and stuff.

What makes Pleroma different from for example Mastodon? Why would one choose one over the other?

mastodon needs like 4gb ram to properly work while pleroma can work on a 1gb ram vps/pi without any trouble. it is also easier to manage because there are less moving parts

it is much easier to host with lesser resources

Thanks! I had been considering Mastodon for a private (non-federated) little community. But from a quick look it seems Pleroma doesn't have any mobile apps? That's a dealbreaker for many people.

Pleroma emulates Mastodon's API, so most Mastodon apps also work with it

Thanks! That's interesting. Looks like I have some research to do.

In addition to the apps mentioned already, the mobile browser UI is actually well-liked by many.

oh. pleroma does. there is tusky and fedilab. they are all intercompatible so it works wonderfully. just login.

My experience as a Mastodon admin is that Pleroma is popular among people with anime girl avatars who like to post swastikas, ethnic slurs, and right-wing propaganda.

So you'll stick with more inefficient software for the sake of political ideology? The thought of that is very funny to me. It highlights everything wrong with software design today.

Tools and systems pick up associations.

Old-school Unix systems. Mainframes. BBSes. Mac vs. PC. Hondas sporting spoilers. F150s sporting certain bumper stickers and exhaust modifications.

In cases, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For at least a signficant portion of the Fediverse, Pleroma use has come to be associated with a certain set of users, to the point that the servers are blocked on sight.

Which those seeking to join the Fediverse might care to take into account.

Mostly I stick with it because life’s too goddamn short to try and get something else up and running, never mind kludge together some way to import the existing accounts and posts, it’s what was there when I was willing to spend a couple of weeks making a place for my friends to talk.

That’s fair. I don’t see why you need to knock a more efficient implementation though.

My experience of Pleroma is primarily looking at the timelines of people who have been reported by my users. A large percentage of those reports come from white supremacists with anime girl avatars who are using Pleroma. After several years I am increasingly inclined to get a report, look at the offending user, see that they're on a Pleroma, and just block the whole site then and there without any further investigation.

I am pretty sure I am not the only Mastodon admin who feels this way; anyone coming to the Fediverse should probably be informed that this is a reputation this particular software has.

If this bugs you then do something to clean up Pleroma's overall act and make the racist trolls know they are no longer welcome to use it.

Are you aware that Mastodon and Pleroma are just servers?

Any offensive domain you come across could be running Mastodon, Pleroma, Misskey, etc. The behavior of individual servers doesn’t reflect on the open source technology they are using.

I guess it just so happens that offensive people prefer to use a more resource efficient technology. Not sure why that is, but I think it’s funny that people like yourself prefer crappy technology if it means that it aligns perfectly with your political beliefs. Just weird to think of servers in this way. As if NGINX could be political.

Yes, I am aware of this. I run a Mastodon. I have been running one for several years. And I see a lot more reports from my users of people on Pleromas than on Mastodons or on any other Fediverse server.

The original question was "What makes Pleroma different from for example Mastodon? Why would one choose one over the other?", and "Masto admins are less likely to cut you slack in a dispute if you're on a Pleroma because they see a lot of jerks using Pleromas" is a difference, IMHO.

I can't say I "prefer" Mastodon. It's the server that was there when I decided to start running one. One of my friends switched over from Masto to Misskey and seems to be happy with it but it was a lot of hassle to do the change, more than I'm willing to bother with.

Why's that then?

Hell if I know. But it's a definite trend I've noticed.

Pleorma is easier to install and less resource-hungry, so the bar for setting up an instance is lower.

The best social network these days is a smallish closed group chat on your favourite platform.

There are apps that exist already to keep these private if you wish. But the key is curating the chat so there is good signal from friends who arnt starting flame wars.

This, I think this is really why Facebook bought WhatsApp.. Because they buy everything they view as a threat and it kinda is.

I actually tried to do this with Diaspora and a couple dozen of my closest friends. We tweaked it to not have like buttons, and like other fun stuff. The idea being that it'd be our own little space and we could be weird on there and design it as we felt like.

Sadly, it just did not catch on, people were not invested enough in it. These days, I'm not too sure there is a point to this kind of thing instead of a group WeChat/FB or Discord or what have you chat.

I do wish the community of HN had a forum kind of site, not quite social media but something with more persistent interactions on topics and perhaps among users.

I set up an SMF site, about ten years ago. It has about a thousand members. A number have passed away, during its tenure.

And tumbleweeds and dust bunnies.

Facebook killed it.

I keep it going, but no one really uses it.

A lot of people criticise the Growth efforts are social media company —and they tend to do some shady things— but their work leads to large groups of people being active and findable on the same platform. That’s hard, requires a lot of effort and in genuinely valuable. If people included that in discussions about whether the bad habits was worth it, we could have more meaningful conversation about the role of social media.

It's only hard because it's zero sum competition against others doing the same. It seems to happen quite naturally.

No, it’s hard because it involves imagining a lot of ways that potential users are blocked, prioritising them, explain the product and simplify it. I’ve work for a dozen social media company and none saw itself as a zero-sum game.

Really great perspective from a community point of view (if you want a good read, check out the 20-year-old "Design for communities" book - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Design-Community-Derek-Powazek/dp/0...).

From a software pov I'm less convinced. Seems to me that "just make a Telegram / WhatsApp / whatever" group is where most online communities seem to be coalescing...?

Problem is, Telegram stores all conversation data in their cloud with homemade encryption, and WhatsApp is proprietary, owned by Facebook, and has been target of numerous security breaches... So, something encrypted via open standards and self-hostable (matrix anyone?) does a better job guarding data privacy and security.

Yeh, agree in theory. In practice (sadly) I don't think most local groups care about privacy or security...

It would be tough to get any adoption at larger than a small handful of people scale, and most of that already happens over private chat platforms.

I help curate networks for my fraternity (US, college for those of you not familiar with it). Many of us are in the same or related career fields, and there’s a few hobbies that are common to find in the group (sports, music, etc). These are people who, for the most part, genuinely enjoy spending time with each other, meeting up a few times a year as at larger events like our colleges homecoming and our founders day. Many spouses are close friends too and people who live near each other often hang out together, kids play sports on same teams, etc.

But even with those things going for us, it is damn hard to curate any sort of social space with continued interaction. People have become accustomed to things being so niche, that groups with wide-ranging topics are dead. If people want to talk guitars, they’ll do that on a subreddit, or find the Facebook group for their cars. People self-select into hyper-specified conversation groups. I have been unsuccessful in finding a way to successfully foster wider, continuous conversation in a group setting.

The closest I’ve seen to that is in larger family text threads where aunts/cousins/etc will occasionally share pics of what they’re doing or share that they got a promotion at work or something. It seems rare outside of a family dynamic.

I hope the OP, or someone figures out a good way to build community that isn’t just laser focused on a specific thing, or built around a cult of personality, but I fear that’s more or less human nature, at least in current US culture.

> It would be tough to get any adoption at larger than a small handful of people scale

I think that's exactly the point. OP wants a human-sized community, without the cancerous mandate of growth. It's meant to be a bulletin board for your immediate community, around dozens of people in size on average.

I guess we have different ideas of small handful. I’m not thinking continuous growth, I’m thinking things in the range of Dunbars number.

Personally I haven’t seen anything work for more than about 5-10 people, and group chat really works fine at the < 10 scale in my opinion.

>If you have some programming experience, this is for you.

>If you have no programming experience, this is for you.

I can't tell if there's a typo here, or if the "Who is this for?" section could be shortened to simply "everyone", haha.

I think you're right: this can be shortened to "everyone". I imagine the author is just trying to make it very clear, in a humorous way. Non-programmers can use this to learn, but programmers can still use this to have fun.

Every time this article shows up on HN I give mastodon a shot. I've tried to launch mastodon multiple times over the past few years. It is non-trivial for someone who doesn't know the dozen components involved, and not just the docker image. I hope someone makes a better docker container that is a little more plug-and-play with AWS or DigialOcean.

Have you checked out Pleroma? I've heard that it's much more light-weight, and it interoperates with Mastodon.

All the complications with federation and fitting poorly-defined "communities" into well-defined servers, and the author's idea of "neighbourhoods", are incredibly prone to failure. From experience, I only got along with a few people in such small "communities", and, at best, felt no connection whatsoever with the rest; thus I can only reject the idea that having a small and rigid community is ever a good idea. I seriously think that having to pick just one community, and then manage everything via a community, is the cause of most moderation/administration/management/etc disasters on the Fediverse.

Servers should just be public utilities, and no further associations should be given to them; leave the people who use them to decide what a community is!

I'm not sure that many people would want to share what they put on social networks with their local computer enthusiast. Talk about hobby, neighbourhood questions, lost child—sure. But a lot of conversation on there are gossiping, private information, the occasional password.

A lot has been said here about privacy and how social media company might abuse it; the reality, is that they don’t care much about your private conversation, unless they can target ads based on this, or grab your attention. They don’t have the time or the inclination. Your colleague who can see all private message on Slack without notification and probably does religiously (yeah, that’s a thing) on the other hand…

You can't guarantee privacy in a federated system and it's important to understand. I'm working on my own ActivityPub project and I don't even support any kind of non-public content for now. I'll be exploring the options for e2e encrypted instant messaging later tho.

One-to-many messages can be encrypted with end-to-end encryption by encrypting a copy for each recipient using their public key.

Apple essentially does this with iMessage, both for sending a message to each of your devices as well as to each recipient in a group chat.

The problem with that is that you now have to have a "client" to decrypt and display those posts. And it has to manage keys. And you have to shift some of that burden onto the user because otherwise the key could be accessible to the server.

People do somewhat expect this stuff for messaging, but it'll get really messy really fast for posts and photos and similar long-lived content. It'll get even messier when you consider that privacy options in this style of social network are the likes of "friends only", so they include dynamic collections of users.

Can't all that be modelled with keys/signing? Can you elaborate more on the risks around automated key management?

> Can't all that be modelled with keys/signing?

Probably? I don't know. The problem is that it gets really complicated really fast. When someone adds a friend, how do you grant that new friend access to their older friends-only posts? How do you revoke that access, and access to any future posts, when they unfriend someone?

> Can you elaborate more on the risks around automated key management?

The biggest problem for my project in particular is that it requires the ability to run arbitrary code and reliably store valuable data on the client side. And client-side rendering. I can't quite do that. I have a requirement that everything must work in a regular web browser and JS is mostly optional.

And even ignoring that, question remains: how do you make sure the server doesn't have access to the key while the client does, while keeping the user experience sane?

I've been tinkering around with these ideas at https://github.com/neopub/neopub (demo at https://neopub.pages.dev).

It runs entirely in the browser, using the Web Crypto API. For key management, I store the user's private keys in the browser's password manager, and friend keys in IndexedDB, backed up to the user's host in a client-side encrypted blob.

> When someone adds a friend, how do you grant that new friend access to their older friends-only posts? How do you revoke that access, and access to any future posts, when they unfriend someone?

My project publishes an encrypted post as one file, then 1 keyfile for each of your friends to unlock that post. When you unfriend someone, you can just delete all their keyfiles and cease generating them for future posts.

In my admittedly limited experience as a human being on this planet, you are not going to be able to form and maintain a cohesive group of more than about 50 to 100 people who all basically agree on values and moderation rules and that sort of stuff.

I run a FB group with 5,000 members. It's active daily, on a controversial topic but I don't do a moderation actions more than a couple times a week. I'm in reddit with a million members that does fine too. Clear direction is really helpful. "No trolling at all, none" is much better than "don't do much trolling".

Otherwise, I like the instructions.

Facebook's own automated moderation is all but certainly playing a role here. To think that this group requires no moderation is all but certainly false.

There's also a distinct difference between total registered members and current active users. Especially on any group more than a few years old, there will be many registered-but attrited members who aren't regularly active. The active membership may be anywhere from half to 1% of the nominal registered count (and even smaller on very large groups). Unless you've got accurate insights into those patterns, I'd discount your experience strongly on these grounds as well.

Looking at Google+ groups in the months prior to that service being shut down, I noted a number of patterns. Peak engagements, indicated by visible post, comment, and +1 (equivalent to "like") activity seemed to peak on a per-user basis at around 10,000 users or so. Not only were there far fewer very large groups (1 million+ members) than would be expected, but those that did exist were far less active than their raw size would suggest. Post activity was a much stronger predictor than size for engagement. Spot checks of larger groups showed many were overrun by spam and low-effort posts. (This despite Google's own anti-spam and anti-abuse measures.)

If you're in but not moderating that large subreddit, I'd also tend to discount experience. Reddit also has its own automated anti-abuse systems, though AFAIU it relies far more on moderators, and the load and tools are a constant source of contention between the site and its (nominally) unpaid volunteer admins. Lack of trasnparency also leads to many suspicions and complaints (most unfounded, some not) against mods.

This reminds me of a blog post that I can’t find anymore. I sort of remember the title being a riff on “Cooking for One” but it might have been “Programming for One”. It was about the author making a little photo sharing app just for their family. Kind of like a snapchat clone, but invite only for friends and family, no public feed at all. Does this ring a bell for anyone?

[An app can be a home-cooked meal](https://www.robinsloan.com/notes/home-cooked-app/)

Thank you so much! This has been itching my brain for a while.

Anyone remember Opera Unite, https://web.archive.org/web/20091120143058/http://my.opera.c...

I was all-in on it being a new decentralisation of the web, that Facebook et al. would become syndicators of our broadcast content. We'd publish the content from our own computers and online services would cache it for access, but it would always be available as long as there was a direct route from my home computer to yours.

Still, I see that this sort of system could happen, basically a web-mesh.

I have this problem now, or, at least, I have a problem that might be solved with such a site.

However, the trick would be convincing NON-technical people to use it rather than ad-hoc group texts or (ugh) Facebook.

Not really meant for friends, but for organizations and companies we have build Open Social as open-source platform: https://www.drupal.org/project/social and SaaS at https://www.getopensocial.com/

We are happy to have the backing of orgs as the UN and the European Commission. Goal is to go fully decoupled using React and GraphQL next year.

Open social looks really awesome, but also looks intentionally hard to find the source code to, and figure out how to run it.

There are no pricing information or demo videos on the website, so it's hard to know if the saas pricing is even feasible, and no video to help engage interest. It just says "request a demo". Why can't I watch a pre-recorded demo?

May be an oversimplification but I have a group iMessage on my phone with a handful of college buddies. It works pretty much perfectly as a private social network.

I agree with all the problems they note about large social networks: not being in control of the software, the data, the rules, and so on. I think this approach solves many of those problems. But, some of other the problems with systems like Twitter and Facebook are inherent to the style of communication, and are not solved by just hosting your own Twitter and Facebook clone.

This is Discord. I have several small friend groups who meet and talk through Discord without having to deal with running our own service.

I used to run a "for friends only" social network on ning.com a decade ago. Was fun till Ning changed direction.

God, I hadn't even thought about Ning for a decade. I had to check it still existed. I remember when it was 24 Hour Laundry.

That's was the initial purpose of Subreply.com just for friends, but it evolved past that and now I have to review each new account. It's still great because everyone it's verified.

I wish there was a service to allow only real people to sign up on small sites / forums.

The BBS lives again!

At first glance it seems like people are reinventing the BBS.

I am creating two new webapp for you! alovez.com alternative to facebook.com and snapfeel.com alternative to instagram.com

Takes me back to the hay days ning.com days!

How about just having Signal groups?

Uh. I personally hate signal groups. If you ever lose your phone, you loose all history. The desktop app works, but won't show any history. I know in signals eyes this is intentional, but it's also silly. I had access to all that information, it's not any less safe on a new device that I have to prove I own.

You don't have a logged history of all of your in-person chats with your friend groups, either.

Neither does the other person, though. With signal, you lose history, but anyone who hasn't changed devices, doesn't.

Agree. If they're really your friends, you already have their phone numbers.

Blogger has always been the way.

Have private Slack. It is good.

"private Slack" is a contradiction in terms. Slack is not e2e encrypted and the people at Slack can read all of your messages and DMs.

Being a US company, there are a fair number of circumstances where they have to turn the contents over to the government without a warrant or probable cause, too.

Yeah, although Privacy as a Service is never guaranteed to be private.

Did you read the article?

Who do you prefer to share your personal data with? A friend or a large tech. No more gossips or sleeping with your friends partner

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