The Lemmy User Experience is Better When Centralized into Fewer Instances

Most people access the Fediverse through one of the large instances: lemmy.world, kbin, or beehaw. New or small instances of Lemmy have no content by default, and can most easily get content by linking to larger Lemmy instances. This is done manually one "Community" at a time (I spent 15 minutes doing this yesterday). Meanwhile, on larger instances, content naturally aggregates as a result of the sheer number of users. Because people generally want a user experience similar to Reddit, I think it's inevitable that most user activity will be concentrated in one or two instances. It is probable that these instances follow in the footsteps of Reddit- the cycle repeats.

I actually think the Fediverse is in the beginning the process of fragmenting into siloed smaller, centralized instances. Beehaw, which is on the list of top instances, just blacklisted everyone from lemmy.world. Each of the three largest instances now are working to be a standalone replacement for Reddit and are in direct competition with each other. It is possible that this fragmentation and instability? of Lemmy instances will kill the viability of Federated Reddit altogether, but hopefully not.

These are my main takeaways from my three days on the Fediverse. I will stick around to see if the Fediverse can sustain itself after the end of the Reddit blackouts.

towerful,

It sounds like you are describing new user experience.
And I understand, coming from Reddit, how this can be a shock.
However, that's how Lemmy works.
Similar to how twitter users got a shock moving (or trying to move) to mastadon.

The very nature of the fediverse works better with more instances, where a single instance has fewer users and the communities are more focussed.

Beehaw hasn't "blacklisted everyone from...". They've defederated. Whilst it may seem similar, it's more nuanced. And that's what a lot of people don't understand.
Block-listing all users from lemmy.world from interacting with beehaw would be an amazing ability. That would put beehaw in a read-only state for users on lemmy.world, whilst still allowing beehaw users access to lemmy.world.
Unfortunately, the current admin/mod tools do not allow for that. And manually dealing with the huge influx of toxic users (posting death threats, illegal porn or trolling) was taking too much time.

Besides, the lemmy.world admin is working on custom tooling to deal with this issue. Because it is their users causing this issue, and it is their problem. And there is no higher authority - there are no Reddit admins to say "stop brigading".
Shitjustworks, last I heard, weren't responding to communication.
I have no doubts that beehaw will refederate as soon as Lemmy.world sorts their mod issues, or the Lemmy framework allows for more nuanced mod tools.

You have to remember that Lemmy is young.
It's been around for a few years, but the shear scale of what is happening now is less than 2 weeks old

Jeknilah,

You misunderstand. I was making the case that for me personally, the fediverse works better if there are few central node instances that are not particularly focused. I get that this is controversial, but I make the case for it anyways.

For example, I would rather have all the largest technology, gaming, and selfhosting communities be in one or two instances rather than having to x-post to 5 technology or gaming communities across numerous instances.

The second part is only speculation, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyways.

miracleorange,

I mean... that's on you, then. Historically, that's not how the Fediverse has worked, and it likely will continue to not work that way. Things could always change, considering the Twitter exodus and now the Reddit exodus, but the way most Fediverse services are set up seems to encourage smaller communities rather than large, centralized ones. Plus, if you have centralized ones, what happens if admins go rogue? What if the servers go down? What if, what if, what if? With decentralization, you avoid so many issues that come with having those large, centralized instances. Of course, there are downsides, but if you want something centralized, maybe try something like Tildes?

JohannesOliver,

What fediverse services are set up that way? For most projects, the flagship instance is by far the largest. For Mastodon it is something like 900k difference between the next most popular instance.

Jeknilah,

Twitter is a extremely good fit for ActivityPub as there you are following users, while in Lemmy you primarily follow communities whose strength is determined by number. !technology on beehaw is better than !technology on an instance of 10 people.

By centralized, I mean to be in the 1-4 large instances on Lemmy that people flock to from smaller instances. Right now, the design of the Fediverse encourages former Redditors to join the biggest instances. Discovery tools might spread out the users and make solo instances more viable, but the activity may still be concentrated in the same few instances.

Every instance has the potential to be standalone like Tildes by defederating from everybody else once they hit critical mass. Like Truth Social on Mastodon. Or Kbin before it Federated.

czech,
czech avatar

I think we just need better discovery and aggregation. If everyone is looking at an aggregation of "/technology" from every federated instance then there's no reason to flock to large instances.

phase_change,

Isn’t there a big danger of advertising and influence moving in if you have a handful of centralized servers?

Sock puppet accounts to influence the conversation don’t make economic sense when the people you are influencing number in the thousands. They do when you are in the millions.

Paying a server admin for influence or a hand on the scale makes no sense if that server has thousands of users mostly subscribed to your handful of communities on your handful of large instances.

Yes, the user experience is easier, but I think it opens things up to community attack scenarios that a wider federation of of servers with a wide distribution of popular communities makes more difficult.

And to be clear, I don’t mean attack as in taking systems offline. I mean attack as in moneyed interests doing the type of thing moneyed interest does on all popular social media. Things that I believe make the user experience worse.

My fear is that your desire for centralization to make the user experience easier creates a system that makes the user experience worse in a way that makes it much more difficult to fight.

JohannesOliver,

It’s unfortunate if the sh.itjust.works folks aren’t speaking, their listed rules seem pretty reasonable and the problem users appear to be breaking the rules of that instance too.

Lionir,

We have talked with them and will work with other instances to push for better moderation tool. We have nothing against individual people or their communities. Let's keep that in mind.

FaceDeer,
FaceDeer avatar

This copy-and-pasted reply doesn't actually address what I was talking about.

The people who have a problem here aren't lemmy.world, it's beehaw. So while it's understandably polite for lemmy.world to moderate themselves, ultimately the tools you're going to need will be on beehaw's side, because even if lemmy.world does everything you could possibly desire there's going to be many other instances that allow open subscription in the future and you can't expect them all to do your policing for you.

Lionir,

This message was not copy-pasted nor was it addressed to you, I'm kinda confused why you think that.

But yes, beehaw needs moderations tools - we are working with other instances so that Lemmy - for everyone - can have better tools.

Also, we don't expect other instances to do policing for us, this is why we want better federation options so that people using Beehaw can interact with the outside but those that do not cultivate a culture that matches with what we want would not be able to interact on Beehaw.

FaceDeer, (edited )
FaceDeer avatar

Very weird, there appears to be a bug in kbin. I'm seeing your "We have talked with them..." comment as a response to dozens of different comments here, including one that I made, and now when I look through the thread my response to your comment is replicated in all those dozens of places as well. My apologies, that would explain why your response seemed like such a non-sequitur to me. I'll see if I can file a bug report about this.

Edit: here's the bug report.

Edit 2: I missed a duplicate bug report that was already filed for this issue

Lionir,

Thank you for filing the bug report - that is really weird... I hope kbin fixes that issue quickly because that's definitely gonna lead to some very off interpretations.

Kichae,

This. A hundred times this.

Defederation is healthy, and is usually temporary between admins working in good faith.

And different websites are just going to have different rules, because different admins are going to have different goals, and differing resources.

People should disabuse themselves of the idea that they're entitled to see or be everywhere. Or that they even want to be. The bitterness and anger toward the Beehaw admins because they don't want to deal with other people's shit is nothing more than FOMO, and it's not healthy.

Taubin,

I'm very out of the loop here, what's going on with beehaw and lemmy.world?

I'll be honest, the federation thing is very confusing for new users. I have set up my own instance and have pulled a few instances into it (I think that's the correct terminology), but I still don't quite understand it all.

One thing I do find frustrating, is most of the content that shows up is from 1 instance (beehaw) and 1 community in that instance (Technology).

I found a few things I'm interested in and added communities to my instance, but all that seems to show up is the one instance and one community. It kind of seems to defeat the purpose. I should have just joined beehaw and stuck with whatever communities they have. Which again, seems to defeat the whole point.

I'm technical enough to set up my own instance on my own server (with a few other federated items on it) but this in particular has proven frustrating. I'm sure someone will come along and tell me I'm doing it wrong, but that's the point. It shouldn't be this frustrating or confusing if it wants to succeed.

In fact, I had to log into Beehaw to comment here, as attempting to comment from my instance, just times out.

abclop99,
Taubin,

Thank you for that

FaceDeer,
FaceDeer avatar

Block-listing all users from lemmy.world from interacting with beehaw would be an amazing ability. That would put beehaw in a read-only state for users on lemmy.world, whilst still allowing beehaw users access to lemmy.world. Unfortunately, the current admin/mod tools do not allow for that.

...

Besides, the lemmy.world admin is working on custom tooling to deal with this issue. Because it is their users causing this issue, and it is their problem.

It seems to me that calling this "lemmy.world's problem" and expecting them to be the ones to solve it is disingenuous. You yourself say that you could "solve" it with your own custom tooling. Why not work on adding the ability to block users from a specific other instance on your instance, if that would be an amazing ability? Why is it only lemmy.world that has to do work to solve the problem?

Other instances also allow open signups, and there will no doubt be more of them in the future.

Elw,

I think what they’re trying to say here is that lemmy.world is a site with a community and they’ve got a problem of having a toxic community that’s abusing another community. THAT is their problem and they need to fix it through moderation. Until then, other communities will do what they need to do to limit the damage caused by the users of their community. It’s not solely up to Lemmy.world to create the tools to fix their issue but it is their responsibility to moderate effectively, just like every other community has that responsibility and they have an incentive to work on the tools to make that job easier for themselves but also for all of the communities in the fediverse.

Swimmerman96,

It is probable that these instances follow in the footsteps of Reddit- the cycle repeats.

I don't think this is completely the case. Some instances will suffer from overzealous mods and admins, others will suffer because of absent ones, others will have too strict or too lax rules. That's unavoidable in any large number of communities. But Reddit is preparing and doing something that the vast majority of Lemmy instances will never do, Reddit is trying to prepare for an IPO and to have to show growth to shareholders on top of advertisers.

If that is something that could be done by a Lemmy instance, if that is botched it would be even easier for Lemmy users to jump ship to other instsnces and potentially defederate from the IPO instance.

Senseibu,
@Senseibu@feddit.uk avatar

Totally disagree, the more tech savvy can spin up their own single used instances if they want, be fully in control of their own content and participate just like anyone on any large instance bar being defederated. All for basically free

UnbeatenDeployGoofy,

It would be more beneficial if ppl registered in small instances, right? Since it has better traffic than instances that are overloaded and also enjoy the same content

Uniquitous,

Hard disagree. Centralization is what enables rich dickheads to seize control of what ought to be the commons. Dispersing the community into many small nodes that communicate with each other is the safeguard against that happening. Ideally it shouldn't matter which node you call home.

CrimsonOnoscopy,

Exactly. Reddit was dominated by small groups of controlling mods.

Decentralization means freedom to try something better.

boff,

That's definitely an ideal benefit of decentralization, but as the OP correctly pointed out, the reality often works out differently than the ideal.

LoreleiSankTheShip,
@LoreleiSankTheShip@lemmy.ml avatar

Exactly! I believe that once Rexxit is over, a big part of those that stay and have joined the big instances will naturally migrate to smaller instances with rules and philosophies that match their own.

gun,
@gun@lemmy.ml avatar

OP is not saying centralization is good, just that it appears to be inevitable even on the fediverse. They suggested this centralization could kill the project altogether. You misread their point.

Smh people downvoting OP because they can't read.

Uniquitous,

Also, the title of the post is "the lemmy experience is better when centralized" so maybe if you're gonna call out reading comprehension, try a little of it yourself. Smh indeed.

gun,
@gun@lemmy.ml avatar

Well maybe if you read past the title you would be following the conversation better

Uniquitous,

So the title and the content of the post are inconsistent, and you're gonna put that on me? Cool cool cool.

Uniquitous,

Downvoting... on an instance that disables downvotes? Neat trick.

StringTheory,

Each of the three largest instances now are working to be a standalone replacement for Reddit

Beehaw has been it’s own thing for a couple years now. It has never wanted to be Reddit. They have done such a good job of curating their instance with excellent communities and membership that the Rexxitors want to join it and make it into THEIR replacement for Reddit.

yozul,
@yozul@beehaw.org avatar

I think that the Lemmy equivalents to big subreddits will be centralized around a few larger instances and they'll come to dominate the all timeline, but more niche things seem like they can crop up anywhere. My favorite subreddits were always the smaller ones anyway, so federation will be important for me.

Also, it matters that there are a few big instances instead of just one. If one goes full spez the others can take up the slack until a smaller general purpose instance can take its place. For example, if beehaw does go nuts and just keep defederating until it's completely siloed instead of this being a temporary measure until moderation is more under control, then I can just make another account somewhere else and these communities will become less important. I don't think that's likely, but it's a problem that solves itself in a federated system.

Mummelpuffin,
@Mummelpuffin@beehaw.org avatar

Gross blech gross yuck. No, please god no. I'm subscribed to communities from loads of instances. The whole point of federated applications is that no one really has control over the whole.

StringTheory,

People who have been engaged in an authoritarian system for so long that they “can’t see the forest for the trees” are lost when they experience anything else. They are driven to recreate the centralized authority, because it is life as they know it.

SomeGuyNamedPaul,

I'll toggle from local to all if things are a bit slow, but I generally regret it. The chatter "over there" was that Beehaw is the place to go, and it just happens to run on Lemmy software.

TheBurningCloud,

I think a lot of issues with federation can be solved with improving the code. Lemmy is still a very new product.

rowinofwin,

My hope is that federation will end up having a halfway setting, where content can come across but engagement is limited in some way. For example, you may see a post from lemmy.ml but you would only see comments from beehaw and the upvotes you give it will be calculated locally. This would allow content to be visible from everywhere but would keep the communities separated to some degree. Also having personal opt-in federation may work, just like with NSFW, you could on your account allow a particular instance to come through while someone else would not select that, leaving you with a fairly personalised experience.

SpaceCowboy639,

This kind of stuff follows Zipf's Law so it's 100% expected that there will be 3-4 instances aggregating the largest amounts of traffic, but instances smaller than that will constantly shift around and grow, organically, rather than be compounded and corralled artificially by one platform. In other words, this is just statistics playing out and we're nowhere near the end.

ryanlovescooljeans,

"Zipfian distribution".... I learned something new today. Cool concept, thanks for sharing!

xtremeownage,

I would disagree.

What happens when everyone flocks to beehaw, or lemmy.world- Is those instances end up going pretty slowly.

People from other instances can still read, can still post, and can comment. This, for example, is popping up on my newsfeed.

A post, on beehaw, written by a user on monero.town, being read by a user on lemmyworld.com.

Also, when beehaw defederated with lemmy.world, that is no bueno too.

21trillionsats,

This isn’t “one or the other” IMO. There’s room for niche instances hyper-focused on a generalized topic like “math,” “comp sci,” “sports,” etc.

But then there should also be a massive generalized instance (hopefully 2 at least so the competition keeps admins in check) that has a little bit of everything and acts as a Reddit replacement. We can have our cake and eat it too.

Limeade,

There’s already an entire Star Trek instance, startrek.website. Niche instances may end up being a way some communities get around the issue of big servers defederating from each other over their different administration policies. With that topic having its own instance, Trek fans on Beehaw and Lemmy.world can unite in nerdy fandom across the divide. I’m not quite sure how the defederation works through a third party instance though, if posts/comments from Lemmy.world users to startrek.website will still show up when viewed through beehaw’s display of the communities there or if they will be filtered out of the feed locally.

Nia,

I’m scrolling through old posts and figured I’d give an answer to this in case someone else comes across it and is wondering. Regardless of if the instance is a third party instance that’s federated with two instances that are defederated (ex: beehaw and lemmy.world), neither can see the other user’s posts or comments regardless of where they are.

I was scrolling through !opensource earlier and there is a popular post that I can see from another account, but I can not see it on my beehaw account, because the poster is a lemmy.world user.

Floppy,

This is exactly what happened with the early waves of mastodon migration; a whole load of instances suddenly had to up their game, there was defederation all over, and tooling had to improve to handle mod needs in larger communities. We’ll get there, it’ll stabilise. In the meantime, fund your server and thank your mods :)

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