Had an interesting start to a conversation yesterday about Mastodon servers, and the driving philosophy under them.

And how you're either aiming to create a service or a community, and how these actually have different motivations and requirements.

And I thought that was interesting.

For a community, you *have* to ban early and ban often, and defederate early and often.

As an admin, it's your job to protect the ✨vibes✨ of your space, to promote community, and to remove elements that are toxic or harmful.

A service doesn't work the same way. It isn't attempting to create (or promote) a specific vibe, it's just *there*. You make of it what you will, find what you will, and (as an end user) block what you will.

The admin "just" makes the service available.

Launching an instance is either making a service or making a community.

But critical to this thinking I was having, you have to pick which one you're doing.

You can't be both.

And the corollary here is, when you pick an instance, are you picking to join a service or a community?

A service won't really care if you have a bad time. A community, if you fit with that community, will.

This of course leads into the two fundamental ways that Mastodon is being used, offering a service and creating a community.

A service only works if communities exist. Without communities, there is little value to the service.

Communities can form on top of a service, but they're ad-hoc, messy and, crucially, *cannot* be protected by the service, because protecting a community goes against the ethos of a service.

@aurynn sort of interesting to think about this in the context of the 3rd path that is occupying a single-user instance.

the instance is just available to me via a service, but i'm left to consciously maintain a community made entirely out of bridges to other instances that are all over the map in terms of how they relate to this.

@aurynn I've seen the recommendation given to Fediverse newcomers: start at a large instance, then branch off into your favourite small one.

I wonder if the same kind of evolution happens for communities? First, people bump into each other on a large "service" instance. They get to know each other better and interact more; perhaps they start a few common 🐟 groups.

Then, at some point,the "service" instance can't sustain the community, so they branch off and form their own instance ⤴️

@aurynn of course this assumes someone in the community has the technical know-how and enthusiasm to set it up; the worse case would be that they simply stay on the service instance with a not-so-optimal experience 😕

little value to anyone with a soul ;) I have seen plenty of masto clones attempting to turn it into a profit engine that could care less about community, but their conception of "value" is unrecognizable to me as such.

@aurynn would you like to publish this as an article somewhere? 🤔

@maloki yeah I need to turn it into a blog post I think

@aurynn @maloki seconded, this is a great reading and a good take on fundamental difference of approach seen here.

community related thoughts 

@aurynn i think there's a further point to be made here about the alienation of many white western urban folks from communities due to their daily lives and environments being essentially structured as services - both through their personal existence primarily as employees (people as service) and the high levels of tenancy (housing as service)

so essentially community building often doesn't come naturally and we need to make a conscious effort online

@aurynn i think one very insidious think about the service instances is it is financially beneficial for them to look and sound like a community instance, so people will want to be on the server instead of simply federated to it.

@aurynn this reminds me a lot of this old blog

It's by the (at the time) "community manager" of the Penny Arcade forums, and hits some of the same thoughts about forum communities.

I think you're right, to have a community we need to build a community, can't do that with a "we don't take sides" attitude.

Of course it's a very fine balance. Suspect a bunch of ECE stuff is relevant TBH.

@aurynn So ... did you intend CloudIsland to be a community, or a service? And which do you think it is now?

@yojimbo I didn't understand the difference in the beginning, and thought they could be the same thing.

Now I know it's a community, and not a service.

@aurynn @yojimbo I didn't pin a new intro post last year by accident. 😁

I always knew what I wanted, it took a while to figure out how to start making it work with the tools I had, though.

@aurynn as a newcomer I find it difficult to tell honestly just looking at any given instance at face value. It might become more obvious once moderator assistance is needed for the first time though.

@aurynn I don't necesserily think the "community" option is better than the service option. And I also don't think the "service" option is necesserily synonymous with unmoderated instances.

There is something about the word "community" that makes my skin crawl. I associate it with this two-faced small-town feeling where things might be great on the surface, but you're afraid to show too much of your true self cus *people might talk* >.>

@Owlor At least the community option is making a choice, choosing what and who they want to be, rather than let that choice be made for them by the broader societal racism, homophobia and transphobia.

It may not be the right choice, or implemented well, but at least it's a choice.


That depends on the instance. Most instances are services, mine, is a community. It has other services and invite only

@aurynn I think there is at least one more option... Make it for your self... For fun or education

A bit exaggerated 

@aurynn heheh, my personal failing in founding any kind of place for people is that i always try to build a community, but then the people don't arrive and there is no community or vibe to tend to, and i just feel like I'm only running a service after all. :P

A bit exaggerated 

@Stoori @aurynn lol I sometimes get scared of this too! 😅

@aurynn This reminded me of a very interesting article, on geek social fallacies. I remember operating an IRC channel and finding it almost physically painful to quiet or ban regulars. Some of it was fear of the channel dying or splitting, but some of it was this really strong sense that excluding someone was wrong. The article:

@aurynn How would you balance a potential ban with someone "paying for access"?

@yojimbo Paying for access doesn't pay for the right to be a dick. I might issue a refund if I'm feeling generous that day, but the ToS is pretty clear that getting yourself banned does not earn you a refund.

@aurynn it is also vital that your users are informed about this choice.
I'd hate if my instance owner suddenly had more criteria for me than generic decency. I never subscribed to a community.

I would venture a third scenario:  those who are running their own instances of Mastadon, Streams, Hubzilla, etc.

These (my own instance included) are specifically for joining the community at large rather than trying to create a new community or service.

..which is the thing that is so appealing to me about the Fediverse. Just run your own instance and connect with the people you find interesting or challenging.
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Cloud Island

A paid, early access, strongly moderated Mastodon instance hosted entirely in Aotearoa New Zealand.