Introducing the Open Web Project

This is a transcript of a video released on PeerTube on February 18, 2022. Invite links to the chat and further information can be found at the end of this doc.

Currently a lot of initiatives in the free-culture and Fediverse communities are very disorganized. People want to help and promote these movements and platforms which align with their ideals, but they have no idea where to start. When people sign up on federated platforms, they have no idea where to find creators, and creators don't know how to find audiences.

Other alternative social media initiatives like the various “free-speech” and blockchain-based platforms often have millions of dollars backing them, which allows them to dish out tons in sponsorship money and get tons of free media coverage. The general public is convinced that their only options are either Mark Zuckerberg or Bitcoin.

The Fediverse has from the beginning been built on anti-commercial principles, seeking to build itself on organic interaction and growth. While this means we may lack the ability to buy hype, our greatest weakness is also our greatest strength. Those other platforms constantly have to manufacture engagement, and as a result the communities formed there are inorganic and quickly die out. The strength brought to us to work together and pool our creative talents and voices is going to be crucial towards ensuring it becomes a success, that there is a genuine challenge towards Big Tech.

But in order for that to occur, there needs to be a space to cultivate that, a community in which members put in just as much as they get out. Modern social media often pushes people to be very self-serving, with people looking to chase their own clout with no concern for others. While this may be a winning strategy for algorithm-driven platforms like Twitter or YouTube, the same can't be said for platforms and communities which are anti-commercial. It's not enough for people to go around spamming links in comment sections, there has to be a stronger bond. The community needs to feel communal.

By creating a space where people can work together towards their respective goals, whether through formal contribution or just feedback and discussion, we leverage the strengths we have. Scrolling through various forums and federated sites, we see the same question pop up constantly? How do I help, how do I organize and spread the word? Some people go out and do this individually to varying levels of success, others give up.

The foundation has been laid already; we already have a lot of well-engineered platforms, a lot of users who are genuinely interested in seeing a new web, and even quite a few content creators who want to break free of the old ecosystem. The main thing that's missing now is the element of connection, linking the various scattered pieces together. Posting into the void is never fun, we come to social media to be social.

So the answer is to form a system in which collaboration is the key source of strength and members get out what they put in. The incentives all align. It becomes something fun and social, being part of the Fediverse begins to actually feel like being a part of something.

By having a common place to organize, learn, discuss, and share, these questions no longer have to be asked into the void. Currently, there exists no space which manages to explicitly try and foster that sort of environment. As a result, we have decided to make a Discord server dedicated to exactly that, to create just that sort of place. And to those who are already using Element, don't worry. The server is bridged to a Matrix chat, which will also be linked in the description.

From my experience, chatrooms are the best at fostering a sense of community and communicating in real-time, both crucial towards our goal. To this end, the server looks to be a place which provides a space to accomplish the above in three ways:

  1. creating a central, real-time place to plan out ways to get the word out about the Fediverse and recruit new users
  2. allowing people to collaborate on projects, get advice, and find people willing to help them out on whatever creative project they're working on.
  3. allowing Fediverse creators to connect with audiences and get feedback on their work. In turn regular users can scout out who is worth following

Of course, this won't be possible without some level of heavy-lifting. Starting a community is only a fraction of the battle, the early stages of activity and growth is what determines its future.

The paradox of online communities is that the most attractive ones tend to already have activity in them. This may seem self-defeating at first, but there's a loophole. What matters, and what people on the fence see, is the level of activity, not necessarily raw member counts. Once we get over that initial hill, it snowballs from there.

These early stages tend to be the hardest, but also are the stages where each person's help matters all the much more, no matter how small it seems in the grand scale of things. That means we need you, the person watching this. It doesn't matter what skills you do or don't have, even just joining, bringing in your ideas and interacting with others goes a long way.

If you're interested in helping make the Internet a better place or just want to find a place where you can share your own projects or find the work of others, join in. All the links are in the description, and there's no harm in checking the initiative out.