Bookmarked Is the fediverse about to get Fryed? (Or, “Why every toot is also a potential denial of service attack”) (

I love that the fediverse exists. And I have the utmost respect for the gargantuan effort that’s going into it.

And yet, I am also very concerned17 that the design decisions that have been made incentivise centralisation, not decentralisation. I implore us to acknowledge this, to mitigate the risks as best we can, to strive to learn from our mistakes, and to do even better going forward.

So to the ActivityPub and Mastodon folks, I say:

Consider me your canary in the coal mine…

Aral Balkan reflects upon the perils of managing his own instance of Mastodon. He explained the ever present dangers of denial of service and the challenges associated with this. (Personally, I experienced this in part once when Balkan shared a link to a post I had written.)

The big issue according to Balkan is the incentive to join an instance that seemingly absolves users of such problems, this however just kicks the can down the road. For Balkan, instances should be limited from getting too big and ideally we should all have our own instance linked to our own domain, the ultimate form of verification.

I have tinkered with using my site as an ‘instance of one‘. Although I liked the idea, I could not get it all to work how I would prefer, so I persisted with my POSSE approach. This also have me thinking about Jim Groom’s reflection on life in the cloud. I guess the reality is that there is always a cost.

Bookmarked Why it’s too early to get excited about Web3 (O’Reilly Media)

If Web3 is to become a general purpose financial system, or a general system for decentralized trust, it needs to develop robust interfaces with the real world, its legal systems, and the operating economy.

Tim O’Reilly explains that investments and speculations in technology do not equate to success. The lay of the land in regards to the dot-com boom was only visible years after the crash.

I like to remind people that I wrote “What Is Web 2.0?” five years after the dot-com bust with the explicit goal of explaining why some companies survived and others did not. So too, I suspect that it won’t be till after the next bust that we’ll really understand what, if anything, Web3 consists of.

Associated with this, successful change occurs when it is accompanised by investment in infrastructure and robust interfaces. He uses Carlota Perez’ book Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital to explain this.

[C]onclusion of Perez’s analysis is that a true technology revolution must be accompanied by the development of substantial new infrastructure. For the first Industrial Revolution, this included canal and road networks; for the second, railways, ports, and postal services; for the third, electrical, water, and distribution networks; for the oil age, interstate highways, airports, refining and distribution capacity, and hotels and motels; for the information age, chip fabs, ubiquitous telecommunications, and data centers.

For example, both Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos used their speculative stock price to invest in infrastructure.

Elon Musk has been a master at taking the outsized speculative price of Tesla stock (which at one point a year or two ago was valued at 1,500 years of the company’s profits!) and turning it into a nationwide electric vehicle charging grid, battery gigafactories, and autonomous vehicle capabilities, all the while catalyzing entire industries to chase him into the future. So too has Jeff Bezos used Amazon’s outsized valuation to build a new infrastructure of just-in-time commerce. And both of them are investing in the infrastructure of the commercial space industry.

Replied to A Modest Proposal: Deweaponizing Network Effects by Cal Newport (Study Hacks)

In my hypothetical scheme, everyone has a cross-platform universal identifier. Every stable social connection on a given service can be imagined as a labelled edge in a social graph that contains a node for every universal identifier.

The key in this scheme is that these edges are owned by the user and must be easily portable to any service.

Cal, this discussion of users owning their content has me thinking about the #IndieWeb and domain of one’s own. It also has me wonder where this fits with Eli Pariser’s discussion of online parks.
Bookmarked The Constant Risk of a Consolidated Internet by Ian Bogost (The Atlantic)

The internet was invented to anticipate the aftermath of nuclear war, which thankfully never happened. But the information war that its technological progeny ignited happens every day, even if you can’t log in to Twitter to see it.

Ian Bogost reflects on the recent Twitter hack to highlight how centralized the internet has become.

The fact that the Twitter hack wasn’t consequential further alienates the public from the risks of centralization in information infrastructure. Most Twitter users probably didn’t even notice the drama. As far as we know, the few who were hacked suffered limited ill effects. And the low-grade power users, like me, who were caught in the crossfire either got their account back and carried on as before or didn’t (yet) and amount to uncounted casualties of centralized communications.

The concern is about the implications associated with such platforms for manipulation.

Replied to Everyone has a mob self and an individual self, in varying proportions – Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel (Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel)

At the moment it’s not the tech that’s holding people back from such decentralisation but rather two things. The first is the mental model of decentralisation. I think that’s easy to overcome, as back in 2007 people didn’t really ‘get’ Twitter, etc. The second one is much more difficult, and is around the dopamine hit you get from posting something on social media and becoming a minor celebrity. Although it’s possible to replicate this in decentralised environments, I’m not sure we’d necessarily want to?

Doug, I find the ‘I don’t get x’ an interesting discussion. Personally speaking, I thought I got Twitter five years ago, but now I am not so sure. Has Twitter changed? I guess. But what is more significant is that i have changed, along with my thinking about the web. I therefore wonder how long dopermine model will last until it possibly loses its shine? In part, it feels like this is something Cal Newport touched upon recently in regards to Facebook:

The thought that keeps capturing my attention, however, is that perhaps in making this short term move toward increased profit, Facebook set itself up for long term trouble.

When this platform shifted from connection to distraction it abdicated its greatest advantage: network effects. If Facebook’s main pitch is that it’s entertaining, it must then compete with everything else that’s entertaining.

I am not exactly sure of the moderation associated with decentralised networks, but I am more interested in streams that we are able to manage ourselves.

Replied to Library JSON – A Proposal for a Decentralized Goodreads (

Thinking through building some kind of “web of books” I realized that we could use something similar to RSS to build a kind of decentralized GoodReads powered by indie sites and an underlying easy to parse format.

I created a proof of concept by converting my own bookshelf into a JSON file

This maybe the beginnings of a federated site to support book clubs etc. I too keep my books on my site, the next step is a reader and incorporating a bit more nuance. I was also interested in Cory Doctorow’s thread on Twitter, as well as Matt Webb’s call to build on top of RSS in a similar way to podcasts.

I know that using RSS instead of JSON objects looks more complicated on the face of it… but RSS is already battle-tested and there’s no point reinventing the wheel. And in terms of building an ecosystem, it’s faster to start with RSS rather than doing something bespoke. It worked for podcasting!

Bookmarked Webrings by Charlie OwenCharlie Owen (

A ring of websites. A webring.

This may seem a bit bizarre to readers in 2019, but you’ve gotta remember that things were different back then. There were no search engines as they exist today. Google was still an academic side project at Stanford. Social media didn’t exist (oh my god the bliss). You couldn’t see what was trending, or see a retweet. There were no “278 friends are talking about this”. You relied on word of mouth for everything.

So webrings were ENORMOUSLY important for discovering new and exciting content back in the Age of Innocence. A 50 user per month site could find itself “next” to a 5 million visitor per month site, which would then start passing visitors to it. Hitting random would take you to things that you shared an interest in, but would never have any other way of discovering

Charlie Owen unpacks the idea of WebRings (or CircleJerks). She explains how they work and why they are different to blogrolls or decentralized spaces like Mastadon. She also provides some thoughts on how they could be rolled out using something like GitHub. For a different introduction, Greg McVerry has made a primer for CLMOOC.

Liked Equity, Access and the Distributed Web by Kevin Hodgson (

If the future iteration of the Internet, as we know it, is built primarily on secure peer-to-peer computing power in a fully distributed mesh — where our resources are shared and our collective networking grows stronger and more secure with more users in the system (and this is where the technical aspects are beyond me right now, so I am writing this in faith that either blockchain systems or something else will be the underpinning of security) — then more people will have access to more networking, and more opportunities.

Liked Gab and the decentralized web by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (

These are complicated ethical questions. As builders of software on the modern internet, we have to know that there are potentially serious consequences to the design decisions we make. Facebook started as a prank by a college freshman and now has a measurable impact on genocide in Myanmar. While it’s obvious to me that everyone having unhindred access to knowledge is a net positive that particularly empowers disadvantaged communities, and that social media has allowed us to have access to new voices and understand a wider array of lived experiences, it has also been used to spread hate, undermine elections, and disempower whole communities. Decentralizing the web will allow more people to share on their own terms, using their own voices; it will also remove many of the restrictions to the spread of hatred.
In America, we’re unfortunately used …

Liked Article 13 makes it official. It’s time to embrace decentralization by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)

Although it uses incredibly imprecise language, it can be reasonablly inferred that the directive targets large service providers like Google and Facebook. It doesn’t target small communities or people who are independently hosting their content.

All of which means that peer-to-peer decentralized social networks are exempt, if you’re hosting your profile yourself. Nobody on the indie web is going to need to implement upload filters. Similarly, nobody on the federated social web, or using decentralized apps, will either. In these architectures, there are no service providers that store or provide access to large amounts of work. It’s in the ether, being hosted from individual servers, which could sit in datacenters or could sit in your living room.