Ind.ie forum vs Mastodon instance


#1

Hello folks. We’ve been having a think about the future of this forum. We love the little community that we have here (including you silent lurkers!) but we have some ongoing issues:

  1. What we are working on with Indienet etc is a natural successor to this forum. However, it is nowhere near ready for use yet, and we want to have something for discussion and less formal communication.
  2. Discourse is not necessarily aligned with our values, and can change at any time. They added Google search by default, and even though this is hosted on our own subdomain, an increasing number of resources are pulled from Discourse’s CDN, and we can’t guarantee the trustworthiness.
  3. Discourse costs us $100 per month. While it’s a reasonable price, I’m not sure that we have enough people on here to justify the cost.

So we’re considering whether we should set up a Mastodon instance for Indie, and direct discussions from there.

Advantages of Mastodon over Discourse is:

  1. People can federate from their own instances rather than joining ours.
  2. Our values are more closely align with Mastodon. We (well, @aral) have experience running Mastodon ourselves, so we could set it up and maintain it while keeping everything on our own server space.
  3. As a community, we usually move from topic to topic fairly chronologically, so I think it Mastodon’s chronology should work for us.

Possible disadvantages:

  1. A few people come to this forum for Better Blocker support. Mastodon doesn’t particularly lend itself to support questions. But then both this forum and Mastodon require signup, so I’m not sure it’s the best place for support anyway.
  2. Mastodon isn’t a forum, so may not lend itself to discussion of topics in the same way. Sure, there’s hashtags, but will it still work?
  3. We would not host an instance of Mastodon for everyone, just for Indie. So in order to join in a discussion, you would have to either join an existing instance or set up your own Mastodon instance.

Anyway… no decisions have been made yet. I just wanted to float the idea, and see what the rest of you think. This forum is nothing but some empty web pages without you, so your opinions are very much appreciated!

Thoughts?


#2

This is a tough question / decision. In my opinion in the end this will boil down to the question how to weight the more complete user experience around having discussions (Discourse) against a cheaper and more ethical alternative that can at least cover some of the functionality (Mastodon).

For me the main difference would be the following:

Given its real-time character and intentionally crippled search functionality I think that moving the community to Mastodon would mean that discussions become more short-lived, because once its out of your timeline and you don’t want to spend hours manually going through all Indie posts the discussions will be forgotten. Moreover this will probably mean that discussions like the one about tools for remote teams won’t reach the depth they have today and can’t be easily found if someone is looking for such advice.


#3

I fully agree with @julian:

Maybe make use of an open source forum software? Flarum looks fine.

On the other side we should dogfooding. Maybe we can, on the long way, can push Mastodon in a direction which works better for us.


#4

For me, it would be really nice if we could keep the forum!

It’s nice and comfortable for me (from a users perspective), I know how to use it.

I get the Mastodon is a goog thing™, but I havent engaged with it, yet (appart from passively reading, when following the links in the ind.ie homepage once or twice).

So while I guess that “have to either join an existing instance” is not that hard, I don’t know if and when I will do it - just because I want to give my attention to so many things.
…I just realise, like any user, I’m afraid of change! :expressionless:


#5

I share @Joachim01’s sentiments. Also, I’d be willing to pay a small fee to keep Ind.ie forum as is. For that matter, I’d be willing to pay Google and Facebook a small annual fee for their services if they were to remove advertising, tracking, and stop collecting data.


#6

Discourse is open source as well though. In the past I’ve been running my own instance using Docker at DigitalOcean for $10/month, and it has proven to be rather low-maintenance with almost fully automated upgrades and backups. I’m sure that would suffice for this community as well.

I’d just like add that the only occasions that I visit here are because of the e-mail digests that Discourse sends out. If you’re going to move to Mastodon I hope a similar feature exists, otherwise I will not know what’s going on, since I don’t regularly check anything else than e-mail.


#7

Same here, I only really come here via email updates, not via direct visits.

Are there any reasons why you can’t run your own instance of Discourse?


#8

if almost everybody is coming here only via email updates, not via direct visit then it is not necessary to run own instance of forum to notify users, you can notify via mastodon toots

main purpose of discourse is to have discussion, so question is if we can find discussion here.

if there is not forum, where can I ask question. well, I can imagine that I will toot question with hastag #indie or directly via @indie

so, it is ok to switch to mastodon for me, I already follow @indie@mastodon.social and @aral@mastodon.ar.al


#9

Mastodon doesn’t have such a feature. It might however be possible to use the RSS feed of the Indie account in combination with a RSS-to-Newsletter service, like the one MailChimp offers. Whether this is an elegant solution is another debate.


#10

Another (mostly) lurker here :slight_smile:

I appreciate the discussions here and that I can go back and find topics easily. Not familiar with Mastodon, but get the impression it is more useful for a stream of status updates. Please correct me if I’m wrong!

What I don’t like so much is that more and more resources get pulled in from somewhere and that the forums seem slow to load, compared to other sites. Cost seems high, too, for a small outfit like Indie and for the trickle of posts here.

Recently, I have been meaning to check out Hubzilla, because it seems to have interesting technical properties and a rich feature set:

However, it has a much smaller member base than Diaspora and Friendica, plus I have yet to find out if I can stand its interface. (Events in Friendica were a disappointment in that regard).

Also, I suspect self-hosting Hubzilla to be a larger undertaking than with Mastodon.


#11

Agreed. This is definitely something I’m concerned about.

I think this is very common, and is not necessarily a bad thing (as designers/developers we just tend to be reductionist about people disliking change.) It’s important to me that we don’t put too much effort on you lot, as it already means so much that you spend time here :sparkling_heart:

I appreciate this sentiment! Unfortunately the issue is less about cost, and more about time. We need to actively maintain this Discourse forum to ensure it stays safe and useful (besides the service provided by the Discourse team.) I enjoy spending my time here, but it’s vital that everything we spend time on at Ind.ie is effective.

This is a big deal. And I agree, Mastodon just doesn’t reproduce this valuable function. And I know that we have a lot of quiet/silent participants who only interact via email.

Time. We’re both fairly thinly-spread as-is, which is why we pay for the Discourse provisions.


#12

Love all these suggestions, thanks @janc1. It does make it seem more possible to use Mastodon. Though I do worry about visibility if people have to be invited into a discussion via @mentions.


#13

It’s funny how we so often return to the old familiar technologies! (This isn’t a bad idea, I think a bit of work could make it functional, but I’m not sure how to make it discursive.)


#14

You are not wrong!

Yes on the resources coming from elsewhere. I do suspect it might be more capable (and thus heavier) than we truly need.


#15

You’re absolutely right, basically you can think of Mastodon as a decentralized Twitter clone with intentionally crippled search functionality.

I agree with that, if this community moves to Mastodon we need a unique hashtag.

At least from my perspective it would be necessary that the Indie account boosts the posts with the indie-specific hashtag, because following hashtags on Mastodon is a bit cumbersome and I’m not even sure whether it’s possible in some of the mobile apps.

Having said that, as someone who is quite active on Mastodon and thus has a pretty active Home timeline I’m still a bit worried that the Indie posts will get buried by all the other posts. So, while I currently don’t really rely on the email digests, I think I would definitely need them when this forum moves to Mastodon as a reminder to visit the Indie account and to engage with the posts there.


#16

is it really too far? 6month or next year?

maybe you could switch to https://fluxbb.org/
I am using it as a user at bbs.archlinux.org and it is quite OK


#17

Time. We’re both fairly thinly-spread as-is, which is why we pay for the Discourse provisions.

If time is an issue, is there any way for a member of the Indie community to help out with managing Discourse? Obviously, trust is a big issue but it would ease your involvement.


#18

I love this description.

It is hard to say. I think we’ll probably have something working for a small group in a shorter period of time, but as we’re aiming for something that’s usable in the mainstream, it may take a little longer. (Also as we’re working with a very unique set of technologies, we’re unable to rely on existing libraries/frameworks for a lot of what we’re doing, so @aral is doing loads of research right now.)

Thanks for the recommendation. Unfortunately it’s highly unlikely that @aral would want to switch to anything PHP-based!

Hmm. I’ll have a think on this. We are fairly willing to trust, I’d be more worried about taking too much advantage of a person’s kindness without providing them with proper renumeration.


Making the Ind.ie forum more valuable
#19

Looking at this discussion from a different angle:


#20

(So it’s not just my own prejudice, then :wink: )That would exclude Hubzilla, too, even if not considering the size of the thing.

Probably true for a system, that can be a forum or most anything else…

The interesting thing about Hubzilla is that your identity is not bound to your home hub and it can be connected so that your streams don’t disappear even if you home hub goes down. Quite unlike Diaspora, for example, but something similar to the Dat protocol. I think.