Copyleft Curator

A newsletter by Tomat0 dealing with issues in the FOSS and fediverse community.

Open Edutainment

If you would like to leave comments, you can do so on this Mastodon thread.

If you would like your content to be featured, check out this guide to get started. If you have any questions or would like to submit your account, please DM me on either Mastodon or Twitter.


Something I've picked up on during my time in the Fediverse is that PeerTube's design seems to mesh incredibly well with the concept of themed instances. By the term “themed instances”, I'm referring to individual instances which only allow uploads pertaining to a specific genre or niche of video.

Some of the reasons I suspect this is the case are:

  • As someone who moderates an instance, I can say from first-hand experience that PeerTube has a serious spam problem. Whether it be advertisements, people ripping movies, or generally low-quality uploads, if you're not strict with curation, it ends up flooding the feed. For the average viewer, this is a turn-off, as they want to be able to use PeerTube to find creators.
  • The narrower scope means that content creators don't have to compete for attention with the spam, and will usually get more reception on their videos. This is important, because it encourages creators to keep uploading to a site which has a fraction of the users as YouTube.
  • For administrators of more generally-themed instances, these sort of themed instances prove to be more reliable in the quality of their content output. If I were to run a catch-all PeerTube community and began following a bunch of these themed instances via federation, what I would have at the end is a very clean and engaging content feed to serve my audience.

If we want PeerTube to succeed, we need a reliable content stream; this means we need to be able to recruit creators and then make sure those creators' content gets to an audience as efficiently as possible. The spaces in which we allow people to upload play a huge role in this.

Once we have developed a welcoming space, we can scout out smaller creators (usually by looking through Discords/subreddits where people are known to advertise, then DMing them) who show potential in the content they're uploading, and use the instance theme as a wedge issue to convince them to mirror their uploads.

What I have seen from personal experience, and what I hope to make clear throughout the course of this review is that this strategy works. It's just a matter of people willing to take the first step and carry it out.

What is TILvids?

We're going to be focusing on how instance administrators can develop the aforementioned space; in this regard, TILvids seems to be a shining example.

I first discovered TILvids after someone boosted them on my Mastodon feed. I was curious and decided to look further; immediately upon opening the site, I was greeted with an aesthetically pleasing yet distinct theme, handy links on the sidebar, and a diverse content pool. It was then I decided that this was going to be the focus of the next issue.

Before we get ahead of ourselves though, let's answer the most obvious question. TILvids is a PeerTube instance dedicated to educational-informational content (if you need a YouTube parallel, think Vsauce or Game Theory).

Here are the stats as of writing this:

Some things to note about the instance itself:

  • Registration is open, however uploading is invite-only. My best guess is that this is a quality-control measure.
  • There is support for mobile through an app called NewPipe. A three-minute video tutorial is provided explaining how to set it up.
  • Federation with other instances seems to be outright disabled.
  • The site runs on donations, and encourages content creators to promote their own monetization methods.
  • PeerTube's new live-streaming feature is enabled. Whether or not it's actually used I can't say for sure.
  • Currently the site is being managed by one person, but said person has expressed the desire to make it into a larger community. If you are interested in helping out (reaching out to creators, helping on social media, running channels), send a DM to the Mastodon account linked at the bottom of this article.

Onto the content itself, this is actually an incredibly impressive mix of stuff. I spent some time scrolling around the feed and the most promising channels I've seen so far are FermiLabs, The Science Of, and Illustrate to Educate, all of whom could probably warrant their own issue of Fediverse Spotlight if I had the time. This is an actual community with multiple regular uploaders who provide a solid array of content.

If you want to search for content (this goes for any instance), I recommend browsing both the Trending and Local Videos tab.

Tomat0's Thoughts

  • TILvids is probably the best-looking instance I've seen to date. It's clear serious thought was put into the presentation of the site, a factor which seems to be severely underrated in the Fediverse. The colors are restrained, consistent, and visually appealing.
  • On the topic of presentation, the tutorial videos. They're easy to find, well-edited, and cover the basics of the instance without wasting too much time. More instance administrators should make use of the sidebar.
  • The instance has 0 following and 0 followers. I tested to see if following was outright disabled, but it seems like it's set to request-only (which I assume are always declined). I can completely understand why they do not follow other instances, however not accepting followers seems like a major missed opportunity. TILvids has a lot that can be contributed to the larger Fediverse ecosystem, and I fail to see a reason why they wouldn't.
  • Half the videos are tech-related which is a bit disappointing, considering how much tech stuff is already all over PeerTube. However, I should stress this is a relative nitpick, considering how absolutely excellent this content pool is apart from that.
  • Levels of community interaction are good by PeerTube standards. I clicked through about ten videos, the majority of them had at least one like, and about a third have comments, although its by the same two users. Pushing for higher levels of interaction isn't easy, but is probably a good next step.

Interview with the Administrator:

What gave you the idea to start TILvids?

I started TILvids after being a creator on YouTube for a very long time (at least a decade). While initially I loved YouTube as a creator, over time it became less about sharing great videos and more about trying to figure out how to daily use YouTube's algorithm to get views. This has caused a dramatic shift in the type of content that gets created on the site, leading to very stale, derivative content.

At the same time, I've become much more interested in data-privacy. People shouldn't have to give up their private data just to use web services. There are so many great options out there now, including Linux, Firefox, Nextcloud, etc. but there wasn't much in the way of online video. I found the PeerTube project and thought there was huge potential there. Unfortunately, many instances are full of conspiracy-theory garbage, NSFW content, and pirated content.

With that in mind, I decided to take my love of edutainment content, mixed with the potential of PeerTube, and sprinkled with a bit of the Netflix content model (i.e. curated content) and out of that came TILvids. It's definitely an experiment, and one that I've been tweaking for the last 6 months, and will continue to adjust it based on community feedback!

How did you go about finding and convincing creators to bring their stuff to PeerTube?

This has been probably the most time-consuming and challenging aspect of TILvids, convincing creators to give it a shot. People make videos to be seen, and without a large community, that's not going to happen. The first few weeks of TILvids were full of adding my own content, finding public domain/creative commons content, etc.

As time has gone on, it's gotten a bit easier to get people to take a chance on sharing their content with the TILvids community. We have a lot of open-source/open-web supporters making content about that, because there's obviously a natural connection there. I also do a lot of searching around sites like Reddit to find creators that are struggling to build an audience, despite having quality content! I love finding creators like this, because it's a great way to help them build an audience, without having to give-in to the YouTube algorithm!

What's your favorite channel on the site?

Who is your favorite child?! This is a very hard question to answer, because almost every channel on TILvids is a result of me looking for content that I enjoy. I'm a huge Linux fan, so I love watching content from TheLinuxExperiment, PizzaLovingNerd, GeoTechDigital, etc. AthenaProductions has really cool mythology, Vex0r and TheAtticDwellers have great retro stuff...like I said, I can't really answer this question easily!

TILvids is also the official PeerTube instance for the Pine64 community, which I think is lovely because I'm a huge fan of that project. I would love for TILvids to be the home for other open-source/open-web community projects, so if you are one of those projects looking for an online video home that respects user privacy and open-source, hit us up!

Is there any advice you could give to new instance administrators on how to grow their community?

This is an interesting question, and it really depends on your goals for the community. Some instances just want to be a mirror for the larger PeerTube ecosystem, and if that's your goal, then it's just spinning up an instance and connecting.

On the other hand, if you want to use PeerTube to model something like TILvids, you first need to decide what content you want to focus around. TILvids focuses on edutainment, so any creator that wants to share content has to fit into that lens. By putting a tighter focus on what type of content you want to build the community around, it makes it much easier to seek out creators and rally the community around that focus.

You also have to put in a LOT of work outside of just running the site. Every single day I find a video to feature as a “TILvids video of the day”. I promote that on Reddit, Mastodon, Twitter, Lemmy, etc. At the same time, I'm having to reach out to creators to see if they'll share their content on the site, manage channels for some of them, work to get community donations, deal with issues on the site, etc. I also try to make my own content when I have time! So definitely, you have to be willing to put in probably 20-30 hours a week, which for most people will be in their spare time. You have to really enjoy what you're building, or you'll get burned out quickly!

Thanks for the great questions, and for spreading the word about TILvids! Hopefully folks that enjoy edutainment content will stop by and join us!


In addition to the featured instance, the TILvids community can be found on Lemmy while the instance's administrator have a Mastodon account for updates and communication.

Using Videos to Showcase FOSS Gaming

If you would like your content to be featured, check out this guide to get started. If you have any questions or would like to submit your account, please DM me on either Mastodon or Twitter.


What is Gaming With Werewolves?

Gaming With Werewolves is a video-game channel on PeerTube (which are still rather uncommon, surprisingly) with a focus on Linux and FOSS games.

Here's what you need to know about FediLab:

  • The channel is one of many run by a user known as chriswere, who is actually rather active on the PeerTube scene. As of writing this article:
    • He has continued a steady stream of contributions for almost two years. (since August 1, 2018)
    • The last video uploaded to this channel was one day ago. (July 14, 2020)
    • The last video he has ever uploaded to PeerTube was today. (July 15, 2020)
  • The focus of the channel seems to be left rather broad. While he has mentioned an interest in being able to show off FOSS games, he also covers general Linux titles and also other games.
  • The channel isn't entirely solo, occasionally, his friend HexDSL will join him to play a game.

Tomat0's Thoughts

  • I find the most interesting content on this channel to be the FOSS game reviews.

    • A lot of people are unaware of the amount and variety of FOSS games available, and as someone who is making this newsletter to help give exposure to another overlooked archive of content, I absolutely support this initiative to help promote FOSS gaming. It's a topic that's not very commonly covered, even outside of the Fediverse, and as a result it feels like a breath of fresh air.

    • Video is a great medium to convey this; let's plays are already a subculture on the internet, and being able to showcase gameplay footage gives us a preview in a way neither screenshots nor articles could. And since its all unified under one channel, if someone wants to keep up with the FOSS gaming scene, all they would have to do is follow this account.

    • When Chris is talking about the game, he often yield really interesting information, such as how Xonotic has changed since he last played it or how game jams give birth to a lot of smaller FOSS games. What he does discuss is often relevant to the game, such as level design, history, or general feel.

    However, he does have a habit of getting sucked into the game and going quiet, which makes the free-form style feel disjointed. The videos could probably be improved by mixing shorter “first impressions” footage and more scripted informational portions. Trimming down the videos' length to somewhere around five minutes might help with this too.

    • Chris makes sure to assist the creators by discussing where each game can be found, linking it, and sometimes even mentioning what it is licensed under.
  • The other content on his channel is rather varied. Everything gaming-related from video-essays to straight-up Let's Plays can be found.

screen

  • I don't see an issue with this by itself , but I think a bit more can be done to distinguish each type of video.

    For one, PeerTube now has a playlists functionality which could be used to organize these videos. Also, corresponding the border color in each video's thumbnail to the series they belong to would help anyone quickly skimming the channel feed with being able to identify videos in the series they're looking for.

Interview with Developer

1. What keeps you coming back and uploading content to this channel?

For me, PeerTube has an underground quality which I'm very attracted to. Somewhere on the internet which is a little off the beaten track and outside the mainstream, but a wonderful place for those willing to seek it out. It's nice to find a platform that is still small enough to have a sense of genuine community, where you can build friendships, recognise people and get lost in its quirks.

2. What are some of your favorite FOSS games?

Minetest is definitely the one I spend the most time on. I enjoy building in creative mode and building all kinds of interesting buildings. The RTS game, Widelands is another gem I regularly enjoy. I really enjoyed strategy games from the late nineties and Widelands is great at scratching that particular itch. OpenTTD is another classic I can spend days of my life on. Other honourable mentions include OpenArena, Red Eclipse, Hedgewars and SuperTuxKart.

3. As a creator, what advantages do you get from PeerTube as a platform?

There are countless better coders and developers that me in the FOSS world. For me, making content for PeerTube is my way of contributing to a software ecosystem which fits my strengths.

4. Do you use your own app to browse the Fediverse? If so, how does it feel when you're using it?

I find that viewers and commenters have deeper and more thoughtful insights than on other platforms. That's not to say those people don't exist on other networks, but they often get drowned out by the general noise.

5. What is Bootleg Penguin? (Bonus Question)

An avant-garde, one-off, never-to-return podcast which explores the deeper, more thoughtful side to gaming on Linux.


ChrisWere can also be found on Mastodon and has a homepage which acts as a hub for all of his accounts. Donations are handled through cryptocurrency addresses which are listed on his homepage.

Federation on The Go

Note: Once again, I apologize for the (this time much longer) hiatus. Quite a few months ago, I partnered with WeDistribute, a news-site that was acting as the official mouthpiece for Feneas. The original plan I had in mind was to continue on Fediverse Spotlight after I got both of the already-written articles ported to there. However, the chief editor has been less and less active as of late.

I hold no ill will or resentment, but I must begin resuming this project under the assumption that the site is abandoned; the fediverse is at a crucial stage in its development and I do not want to waste this opportunity to help it grow by indefinitely waiting.


What is FediLab?

This is the first time I'm reviewing an actual work of free-software rather than just free-culture, but as it is directly related to the fediverse, I think it makes a good place to start. There's a lot of mobile clients out there, but FediLab remains the only one I've seen which handles multiple services rather than being dedicated to just one.

Here's what you need to know about FediLab:

  • Fedilab currently supports six different federated services: PeerTube, Mastodon, PixelFed, Friendica, Pleroma, and GNU Social.
  • It is licensed under GPLv3, making it a true copyleft work rather than just simply permissive.
  • It is currently being maintained by a solo developer (Thomas) rather than a team; to Thomas' credit, he is incredibly active and responsive to community feedback.
    • As of writing this article:
      • The last update was one week ago. (Jan. 19, 2020)
      • The last bug report Thomas responded to was 9 hours ago. (Jan. 30, 2020)
      • The last issue Thomas has resolved was two weeks ago. (Jan. 14, 2020)
  • All in-app links to Twitter/YouTube are automatically replaced with Nitter and Invidious, open-source front-ends that strip out all telemetry from the aforementioned services.
  • The app's color scheme can be easily customized, exported, shared, and imported thanks to a simple and portable theming system.

Tomat0's Thoughts

  • The most polarizing, yet unique choice is designing Fedilab to be one app for multiple services. Most mobile apps focus on one service, so this approach is definitely unique.
    • The execution is astonishingly good. This is a solo-effort by a developer who only asks for donations to cover server-costs. Then consider that this is fusing different types of services, each of which with self-hosted instances, and based on a platform that's very much in its infancy. The consistency, determination, and humility shown by Thomas is something I deeply respect, especially in the face of such a colossal challenge.
    • One of the strengths of this is that it helps play into the interconnectivity of the fediverse. Being able to quickly switch between PeerTube, Mastodon, and PixelFed is admittedly rather neat and is better for a quick daily catch-up.
    • On the flipside, having all of this in one app feels rather... distracting. As an end-user, I feel like its easier to focus when the environment I'm working in is dedicated to that specific task. As much as I appreciate Thomas' effort, I feel this undertaking conceptually would be a lot better as a suite of apps.
    • The app is huge, around 38MB. However, there is a Lite version which clocks around a much more reasonable 11MB.
  • Due to the sheer amount of moving parts, there's a noticeable amount of bugs here and there. To Thomas' credit, this project is an incredibly delicate balancing act and he's continued to patch them in an incredibly timely fashion.
  • Despite the wide variety of offered services, they all have a consistent UI that is clean, functional, and easy to pick up. Just today, I installed the update that integrated PixelFed support and I understood how to navigate it within less than a minute.
  • I very much appreciate the implementation of Nitter/Invidious; it highlights the open nature of the free-software community and how this sort of collaboration can manifest to give us creative solutions to simple problems like this.
  • I use a Blackberry 10 device as a daily driver, and the main reason I continue to use Fedilab is that it's maintained fantastic compatibility with older Android versions. This is incredibly important because BB10's Android emulator runs KitKat.

Screenshots from F-Droid

Interview with Developer

1. Why did you create an all-in-one app as opposed to a dedicated one?

I published the first release of Fedilab on May 2017 (previously Mastalab) because I discovered the Fediverse through Mastodon few weeks ago. Then I discovered Peertube, and I wanted to keep the same logic of an app for the Fediverse. That's also why the app uses many portion of code for working with different social networks. Other supports came later with user suggestions. Also, managing several apps will be resourceful (different projects, publications with a lot of common code).

2. As a solo developer, do you ever see yourself burning out? Would you bring other people to work on the project?

Yes, sometimes it's hard to keep this motivation. That's why encouraging messages are really useful. I mostly do know every weaknesses of the app. I do care of messages that criticize the app because they help to point out most important issues. But I have the help of several people for translations and also someone helping me in background.

3. How has the community been at suggesting things and reporting issues? Have you noticed your communication with them having an effect on how you handle the project?

Fedilab is simply built with feedback. I added a lot of features that could have been suggested or things I wanted. I really do care about people suggestions. That's how the app grows up since its beginning.

4. Do you use your own app to browse the Fediverse? If so, how does it feel when you're using it?

Yes, I mainly only use it. My critics would be the same than others. It's slower and less smoothly than other apps. But, I can't switch because I do need extra in-app features. I planned to fix all that bugs to let new ones come.


FediLab also has an official Mastodon; if you would like to donate to help cover server costs, Thomas has set up a Paypal.me. The source code for FediLab, alongside all of the other apps he has developed can be found on his GitLab.

Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape or form officially affiliated with any of the projects/instances. I write/cover on this topic because I genuinely care for it.


As people become increasingly disillusioned with “conventional social media”, there's a lot of confusion among creators regarding alternatives for publishing their work.

There's been multiple attempts by vultures, usually involving crypto-currency in one way or another: these are often structured similar to Ponzi schemes and should be avoided at all costs.

However, past all of that, there is one initiative that holds promise for creators who are scared of copyright/censorship: the Fediverse.

What Is the Fediverse?

The Fediverse is a term used to refer to the ecosystem created by various interconnected instances to make one unified yet decentralized social media community.

All of these “instances” are individually hosted websites with their own rules and administration: however, they all run a common, open source application under the hood that links them all to each other.

This allows for the giant content pool of centralized social media without any of the centralized control. Don't like the rules of one instance? That's fine, just go to another one which you like more.

Due to the checks provided by federation/FOSS, the freedom often claimed by many isn't just a hollow promise. It's in place regardless of what the original creators decide to do years down the line.

Where do I publish/register?

The instance recommendations are subject to change at any time, for obvious reasons.

Registration seems to throw people off, but it's easy once you have a lead on where to look. Here's a quick guide.

Music/Podcasts

  • Best Service: FunkWhale
  • Recommended Instance: Official
  • Replaces: SoundCloud
  • Mobile App: Otter

Videos

  • Best Service: PeerTube
  • Recommended Instance: LinuxRocks
  • Replaces: Instagram
  • Mobile App: Thorium

Art/Photography

  • Best Service: PixelFed
  • Recommended Instance: Official
  • Replaces: YouTube
  • Mobile App: PixelDroid

Blogging/Writing

  • Best Service: Plume
  • Recommended Instance: Official
  • Replaces: Medium/WordPress

FAQ

Why should I care? A lot of the popular platforms have become quasi-monopolistic, and as a result it is no longer out of the ordinary for a creator to get screwed over. False copyright claims, sporadic removals/demonetization are incredibly common and difficult to appeal usually.

I'm not sure if I want to fully commit yet.

That's fine, you can still mirror your content over to these services. This will give you a backup incase something happens to your original account and also give you a chance to try out these services.

How will I get paid without ads/crypto?

Ad-revenue and crypto both have their issues to the point that anyone who expects to seriously get paid should not expect this to be a stable source of money.

At this point, independent creators are best off relying on donation platforms; here are a few options:

  • LiberaPay is a popular option with Fediverse creators, functioning similarly to Patreon but with a few key differences.
  • The traditional option is Patreon, a donation platform that works similarly to a subscription model for the people who wish to donate to you.
  • If you don't want a subscription or for some reason want additional privacy, setting up a Monero wallet is probably your best bet. The process is a bit more involved, so I wouldn't recommend it if you just want an easy way to get paid.

Shorts From a Webcomic Artist

Note: Some of the posts are NSFW (not pornographic, however), these posts are tagged, so pay attention to tags if that is an issue

I apologize for the brief hiatus, I'm juggling a lot of projects right now. You can see what else I'm working on right now, I'm working on compiling and journaling all my projects onto my personal blog. If you'd like to contact me regarding Copyleft Curator or something else, I do have a Mastodon.

Onto the issue itself, this time I wanted to check out something of a different medium, so I spent some time scrolling through the federated PixelFed timeline. A lot of good stuff here and there, but Reinder's work definitely stuck out.

What does Reinder do?

Reinder is an internet cartoonist known for continuously working on the webcomic known as Rogues of Clywd-Rhan for the past 28 years alongside various other series which can be found on his site.

On PixelFed, however, he uploads various sketches and one-off panels of his, mixing traditional and digital techniques.

Tomat0's Thoughts

  • Reinder shows not just skill, but also versatility and a willingness to experiment with his art. Usage of different styles, subjects, and tools can be seen not just across his comics, but also even within his PixelFed page.
  • In addition, we see a consistent output of content being produced; the Inktober challenge he's taken up (one ink drawing per day, based on a daily prompt) showcases his commitment and willingness to improve.
  • He somewhat gives us a glimpse into the process of making these, by showing the ink layer and then his finishing touches.

Drawings

Interview with Creator:

1. Could you break down your process of making comic strips, whether it be the writing, the planning or the sketching?

In terms of writing and planning, my process varies per title. The Lives of X!Gloop isn't planned at all, by design, because I want to stretch or even break the rules of storytelling in it. Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan is planned only in a broad sense, but since I haven't done substantial work on it in a few years, it's maybe not a great one to talk about. Spun Off and Abúi's Travels have more of a roadmap that's in my head than a detailed plan and are written page by page. I really shouldn't do this; whenever I have sat down and written a story in full, with revisions before drawing it, the results have been a lot better. But I don't seem to be able to discipline myself into doing that. I blame brain issues, because self-medicating helps a bit. My newer project, “Cultish Manners” is one that I'm working on in advance a little more. One way I do that is by dedicating most of my Inktober this year to scenes that I want to happen in that story and its sequels; ultimately I want that comic to be like a recent Doctor Who season where themes from the early episodes recur in the final ones. As for drawing, I typically just pencil the whole either digitally or traditionally, then do inks digitally followed by flats in the color scheme the page should have overall, then shades and highlights, then word text and word balloons, in that order. Lately, to help me solidify things a little more, I've started typing up the words during the thumbnailing phase, so the dialog is at least more fixed. That goes into the transcripts that I now put up on the website and I hope it helps ease me into a process where things are planned in advance a little more, for all of the titles.

2. Could you talk more about your experience participating in Inktober? Any challenges you've faced, what you've gained out of it so far?

I try to do drawing challenges year-round, but Inktober is the big one for me because it's one that so many people take part in. It's the same way I approach running: I run all year but train a little more extensively for the 4-Mile event in my home town that has 10,000 people taking part. I did Inktober for the first time in 2017 using characters from a comic I was then considering and without the official prompts, but abandoned it after about 7 drawings. The biggest challenge for me is that October is a busy period in my day job, as well as the time of year where it becomes harder to work in daylight, so scheduling around these factors is the hardest. But it's also the area where I have the most to gain, because my executive function isn't great, so it's good for me to have a regular way to say “I'll do this at that time of day, and if that doesn't work, I'll do this other thing instead. For example, if I don't get my inks done and drying up by 9 AM when I have to leave for work, I can use a different tool that doesn't take so long to dry, or I can take the penciled art with me and work on it during my lunch break, or in extreme cases I can ink or even do the whole piece digitally. That decision-making process has been broken for me for a long time, but this year it's finally gotten better. I also try to be more flexible about what I draw on any given day. If an idea in my head is too complex, I may be better off drawing a thumbnail and leaving that for later, or if a prompt doesn't work for me on that day, instead of beating myself up trying to come up with something, I can go to a different prompt or no prompt. That prevents tunnel vision and because I don't do this for a living, I don't have to stick to a specific plan at any time. I'm privileged to be able to do that.

3. You've done this for quite a long time, not just drawing but also interacting with the online community even from the early days. How has the internet helped you grow as a creator?

“The internet” as a large and amorphous thing hasn't done much for me, on the whole, other than providing an endless source of reference. What helps me grow has been communities of people, on any platform. Those can be traditional social media, forums, federated social media or chat rooms; I'm not picky about that. In fact, I get a lot of encouragement from knowing that three of my co-workers who I see every day are also doing Inktober. Having said that, the places where I get the most energy and inspiration have been a small Discord server of other artists, and mastodon.art where I follow the Inktober2019 hashtag and see people putting out great stuff every day. There's a good balance on Mastodon.art where there is on the one hand a community that will encourage and validate you, but for me, I can also be a bit competitive with them and channel my envy of other people's greater technical skills in a healthy, positive way. When I was getting started with webcomics, the part where you engage and communicate with others was much more stigmatized. People I talked to would not recognise interacting with other artists, and with the audience, as part of the job of publishing art online. But it's important for me to share my work widely, to know what people like and where the people are who like it, and to talk to people about what I'm doing – for validation more than critique if I'm honest. I can critique myself pretty well.

4. Webcomics often require a lot of dedication, which is often what kills off a ton of them. What keeps you going even when you don't feel like continuing?

You know, I don't know if the way I do things counts as 'keeping going' because I produce like about six pages per comic per year and it's bothering me a lot that this is so. I do have a lot of dedication and will to continue, but I have a hard time keeping focus on any one thing and almost no uninterrupted free time to speak of. It's not as bad as a few years ago when I came close to begging my spouse not to refer to me as any kind of artist, because I wasn't doing much art. For her to announce me as an artist, and indeed as someone obsessed with creating art, to strangers made me feel like a fraud, because if any of them were to ask me 'so where's the art?', I wouldn't have a really good answer to that. It's gotten better as I got some of my executive function back from its absolute low of a year and a half ago. But it's still a struggle. Drawing art in bite-sized chunks helps, which is why I do art challenges all the time. If I can finish a piece over the course of a day by taking 15 minutes in the morning when everyone else is asleep, 15 at lunchtime and maybe 30 in the evening, that makes me feel like I've accomplished something. But it's not a great way to make a comic. When there's an idea in my head, even if it's just about how to do a thing that I'd been working on before, it excites me and takes up all the room in my brain. I need to get it out and I get really unpleasant if I have no opportunity to catch it. So that drives me, just having an inner need to do it. It's not always fun to have a day job in the way of being creative. But on the other hand, it's also been a blessing that I don't have to do this for a living, and that I've never had any real success at it. When artists become successful with something, there's a risk that they will then have to keep doing the same thing over and over again, and I've never had to deal with that. If something becomes too repetitive, I do something else instead.

In addition to the featured account, Reinder can also be found on Mastodon, his own website, and Patreon if you'd wish to support him directly.

The Creative Commons Musician

With a blog like this, it's important to find a solid work to start off on. After all, first impressions matter, and in order to encourage more people to explore the creative side of the FediVerse, you have to demonstrate what is possible. Music is fantastic in this regard as even a few minutes can densely pack in so much meaning and effort. So when I noticed Uwe Hermann's channel on PeerTube, my interest was piqued.

And upon further inspection of his content, I was not at all disappointed.

What does uwehermann do?

Typically his videos consist of recordings of multiple percussion instruments being laid out in a tile-like fashion (see below) edited to form a full song. Songs covered range from standard grooves to full remixes of songs in the Creative Commons. uwehermann_video

Tomat0's Thoughts

  • The content does fit on PeerTube; while one could argue that music would be a better fit on FunkWhale, the video component itself does actually contribute to the impact of the work as a whole. Hermann is able to use a wide array of live instruments and by showcasing them through the video, not only does he distinguish his work from purely digital music, but also breaks down the process in a fashion that potential viewers could be inspired.
  • The choice to remix Creative Commons songs exclusively is a bold one, but also a very admirable one. By promoting music available to the public and redistributing his own work under a CC Share-Alike license, the derivability is clearly demonstrated in a fashion that benefits the Free Culture movement as a whole.
  • His video descriptions are comprehensive, naming all the instruments he uses and also providing complete credit to all work utilized.

Interview with Creator:

1. What does your video creation process look like?

I generally record 1080p/60fps videos using a smartphone, with a Zoom H5 used as USB “soundcard”. Most of my editing is done on Linux using open-source software: e.g. Audacity for audio editing, Ardour for multi-track audio arrangement, and Kdenlive for video editing. As for the process in general, I usually start by playing around with various instruments until I find a nice set of patterns or rhythms I want to base the song on. Then I quickly record a draft version (audio only) of the patterns and try to make a rough audio arrangement in Ardour until I'm happy with the overall song and every individual track (4-12 usually) and how they fit together with the other tracks. The most time-consuming step is then actually recording the final version of the video (and at the same time audio) tracks. This usually requires quite a few “takes” to get a good run where video/lighting is OK, where audio quality is OK, where I'm actually playing the instruments with a usable timing and without errors etc. The process repeats for every single track/video of the song. I usually have a “click track” on a headphone while I'm playing each instrument, so that the timing between the different tracks is correct; I also add small hints to the “click track” for when I need to pause or change patterns for the respective instrument. After all videos are recorded I extract the audio tracks to individual WAV files, arrange and mix those in Ardour, and export the result as the final audio version. Similarly, all video tracks are arranged in Kdenlive. Intro, outro, transitions etc. are added as video effects, and the final audio file from Ardour is used here. When all is done, the resulting final video is rendered, which usually takes an hour or two, depending on how many tracks there are.

2. Are there any videos you wish you could do-over or regret making?

Not really. The first video is arguably the least “professional” one I made, but it was OK as a quick test of both the instrument (which I received on the same day I made the video) and the video editing process in general. I improved my video/audio/editing/timing/musical processes quite a bit for the next few videos (though it's all still far from perfect, of course; I'm not a professional musician, just a random dude on the Internet doing this in my spare time, just for fun).

3. What would be some advice to people who are interested in making content similar to yours?

Give it a go! It's a lot of fun to make your own little arrangements or songs, or to remix other (Creative Commons licensed) songs. You don't really necessarily need a lot of equipment or expensive software (a smartphone and some open-source software will do just fine). You don't even need to own or be able to play any instruments really, you can easily just arrange songs or remixes in Ardour by using other Creative Commons licensed audio files, e.g. from ccmixter.org or freesound.org or the like.

In addition to the featured channel, uwehermann can also be found on Mastodon, FunkWhale, and PixelFed.

One of the biggest hurdles the FediVerse has to overcome right now is highlighting quality content in the ocean of spam. In order to get people on the platform, we need both infrastructure and content. We've made great strides in the former as a community, but not as much the latter. Or to put it simply, the best way to help the Fediverse grow is to encourage creators to begin using it. Only once there's creators can an audience grow.

This isn't unique to our platforms, however as a relatively new and small community, we still face this issue a lot more than more established sites. The purpose of this blog is to promote and highlight creators who create thought-provoking and substantive content and aggregate them into one place where potential fans can find them. This'll help encourage creators to join the platform while also giving fans a way to quickly find what they want.

Why create for the Fediverse?

For years now, social media platforms have been very heavy-handed with privacy violations, seemingly arbitrary moderation policies, and favoritism.

This has led to an environment incredibly hostile for both creators and consumers, where it is content that is advertiser-friendly that rises to the top. This puts unrealistic expectations on creators to upload frequently, make videos that are broadly appealing, and avoid scaring off advertisers.

The Fediverse provides the foundation for an ecosystem that is able to tackle this problem at the root. “Alternative platforms” have sprung up in the past, but they often end up being rather shady, since they have nothing to hold them accountable.

The Fediverse is not one site, but rather instead a network of individually hosted servers all running open-source software with a common protocol. This ensures that no one person controls it and everyone is able to see its internal mechanisms.

Even if you decide to still create content for other platforms, you should still consider mirroring your content to a Fediverse platform. That way, you can find a new audience, have insurance should something happen to your main account, and also help out the community initiative.

Submitting Federated Content

Basic Requirements

  • Content may not be pornographic/obscene in nature. NSFW is fine as long as an explicitly artistic purpose is served, but there's other places to host your porn/gore.
  • Do not upload other's content directly; copyright may be bent in a transformative fashion but explicit plagiarism is not.
  • Optional, but it'd be appreciated if your content is not traditionally copyrighted; if you would like to add an open license, Creative Commons has a quick tool that helps you decide on one.

What platforms are accepted?

  • PeerTube (Video)
  • FunkWhale (Audio)
  • WriteFreely/Plume (Blogging)
  • PixelFed (Visual Art/Photography)

Exceptions may be made for Matrix rooms and Mastodon accounts on occasion, however they must demonstrate the four characteristics of substantive content; for example, a personal Mastodon would not be accepted, but a Mastodon created for the purpose of an ARG might be.

What instances do you recommend to upload my stuff?

Software and Services

Software is accepted too, however all software must be licensed as open source in one fashion or another. (Despite the name of the blog, permissive licenses are allowed too.)

What constitutes “substantive content?”

Substantive content is consisted of four parts: quality, consistency, novelty, and derivability.

  • Quality refers to both presentation and the actual meat of the content. Does your work reflect both professionalism and effort on your part?

  • Consistency refers to the ability to upkeep the level of content, more specifically in terms of density as opposed to time. Ultimately, a page that is consisted of high quality content spread across gaps of multiple months comes off as more consistent than a page that finds its quality content drowned out by frequent, thoughtless content.

  • Novelty refers to its place in the FediVerse as a whole. Does this need to exist? Does it fill a niche that has not been extensively tapped or bring something new to an existing genre?

  • Derivability refers to how the audience is able to interact with the work itself. Is there room for inspiration? Can people build off of this idea to help the community as a whole?

F.A.Q

I'm a content creator, but I'm not on the Fediverse yet. Can I still get a review?

Set up a profile at any of the above instances, mirror your content, and put in at least some effort to update it and I'll be more than happy to review it.

What will the reviews look like?

Reviews will mostly comprise of a brief overview, followed by the creator's statements (if they are available for contact), and my own thoughts as an audience member. I do not intend to score anything, just stir conversation and provide links.

Can I submit others' content for review?

Yes you can, as long as the content is being hosted by them. This means you can recommend a content creator you like, however you cannot re-host others' work or pass it off as your own.

Where can I submit content?

DM me at tomat0@mastodon.social. If you are suggesting someone else's self-hosted work, please also include their contact information in your DM. Alternatively, you may DM me through Twitter if you do not have a Mastodon account.