This is a very interesting article about the long-term sustainability of the Fediverse for moderators, administrators, and developers. We’ve already had two of our lovely Beehaw admins take breaks to take care of themselves as they experience the burnout associated with maintaining a community, and I think for a lot of use we already know how exhausting it can be to take a center stage position in an online community.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any great starting points for what to do, but at least talking about it is a start.

I am calling for the professionalization of the fediverse since December of last year. The donation-based and “pay-what-you-want” systems that the most popular instances are adopting are not sustainable and they are not fair.

Paying for servers is the least of the problems. Dealing with hundreds of thousands of users who are freeriding on the donations from some generous minority is. The income from an instance might grow linearly with the number of users, but the amount of issues grows exponentially because of the potential number of interactions.

Instead of these handful of servers who are concentrating the majority of users, we should be aiming at having an explosion of smaller instances who have a well defined, limited size and where every members contributes, no matter how little. When everyone contributes, then everyone feels responsible and the burden gets to be shared among all. When a handful of people give and the majority does not reciprocate, we get these cases of people feeling burn out and isolated.

Rentlar
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I agree with your assessment that the Fediverse would be healthier encouraging small to mid-sized servers to populate with each having active groups of members contributing a fair share of money or time.

I’m just confused by the other parts of your comment. Donation-based financing appear to work for some instances like Beehaw at least for hosting and backup costs, but how do you determine what is a fair contribution and who is freeloading? Should the admins be taking a minimum wage salary from the fund as fair compensation of their work? Are the free-loaders the prolific posters or commenters, the chronic lurker who only votes, or the people that only visit the website once in a while?

A slush fund non-profit to help get small and mid-sized servers up, running and maintained as suggested in the article is a good idea.

Also I’ve long been telling the admins since 2 months ago to take breaks as needed and forgive themselves for mistakes they might make. It’s a lot of work, and burnout shouldn’t be normalized. Instead, taking breaks for the purpose of mental health before it reaches a breaking point should be normalized.

About the first part of your comment, some of the ideas around “professionalization” imo would make Beehaw lose a part of it that I love. How in my experience it’s a little rough around the edges but friendlier in a deeper way than most social media, relying on common sense and mutual understanding to keep arguments from getting too heated, and a strict but well-defined and equitable approach to moderation. I get why it might work better in many aspects, but the raw conversation I was able to have even with people I vehemently disagreed with on Beehaw has been an amazing experience.

Money won’t change the fact that moderating humans online as a job sucks either way. Plenty of people are stuck in crappy jobs that they hate and only do because not eating is worse.

Arotrios
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Speaking as someone who ran a set of public forums back in the early days of the internet, the number one thing I can suggest is don’t do it alone.

Alone, you’re one person arguing with hundreds of other people that your opinion is the right one. This burns out anyone but the most narcissistic assholes (I should know, being the latter). With a team, you get to deflect attacks that would be personally directed at you to the overall team while relying on their support to provide a unified front. Bullies generally target single individuals - they rarely go after groups.

This can be hard to build, and it often relies on a third party in the admin role to encourage the creation and unity of the mod team until it gets on its feet, often becoming part of the team in the early phases until it runs well on its own. A minimum of three people is usually what it takes to really make a community thrive cleanly.

Unfortunately, the fragmented nature of the Fediverse makes it difficult to build these kind of teams, as the mods have to be users on the same instance platform, and a small instance with only 20 users can end up with an enormous amount of content and commentary from users across the wider Fediverse. This, of course, ties into @hoodlem 's comment regarding bandwidth costs for instance owners - the speed at which your traffic can scale is exponential, and you need to be prepared for it from both a financial and staffing standpoint.

One solutions that could help would be to have an ActivityPub login standard that would allow logged-in users from one instance to moderate a community on another when given permissions. A cross-platform private messaging standard would help here as well. Of course, both of these functions would have to be encrypted and secured to prevent cross-site attacks, but they could be steps in unifying the Fediverse without centralizing it.

EDIT: as pointed out in the comments, you can mod across instances, but it doesn’t look like you can mod across platforms yet.

One solutions that could help would be to have an ActivityPub login standard that would allow logged-in users from one instance to moderate a community on another when given permissions.

That’s already possible on lemmy. Not sure about kbin.

Arotrios
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That’s pretty cool - I wasn’t aware of that functionality - makes me want to investigate further. I’m wondering if the basis for the function is within the ActivityPub protocol, or if it’s a function built into the Lemmy code.

Unfortunately, the fragmented nature of the Fediverse makes it difficult to build these kind of teams, as the mods have to be users on the same instance

No they don’t. As long as the instances are federated then you can moderate a community on another instance. I’ve set up communities on my home instance for other people to mod and I mod a few lemmy.world ones.

Arotrios
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Yep - @morrow corrected me on that point. I should replace that statement with platforms (aka kbin to lemmy or mastodon to lemmy, etc)

@dark_stang@beehaw.org
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Is there an opportunity here to pay mods and admins of the fediverse? I’m already signed up to donate to beehaw each month. Is there enough demand to have a paid-only subset of instances? I’d rather pay $5-10 a month and have mods get paid than have them burn out or have ads everywhere.

Lionir [he/him]
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Well, at the size of beehaw, even if half of the people here gave 5$/mo, I think we’d almost have enough though it probably wouldn’t be fair compensation in terms of hourly wage. Speaking personally, I would not want to make this an exclusive space to people who can pay.

@hoodlem@hoodlem.me
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Good article. I would imagine one large stressor for admins is “how am I supposed to pay for this?” With instances needing to upgrade because of the huge influx of users.

The article suggests a non-profit for mental health support for admins and moderators. While I like the idea, I think we can go further—a non profit to help pay for running instances and paying admin and developer salaries. The names mentioned in the article would make sense for something like this (for instance, Mozilla. Also, how about the EFF?)

The Cuuuuube
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Yeah I was thinking about that too. Right now most instances rely wholly on donations from their users. The fediverse probably needs something like the linux foundation or clound native computing foundation to help cover costs for instances that get unexpectedly huge

@vhstape@beehaw.org
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I don’t think the Fediverse has a mental health problem. I think people online tend to be terrible, regardless of the platform…

The Cuuuuube
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I still think it changes the calculus for how it feels moderating an online space when you’re volunteering vs when you’re getting paid for it. The latter can let you emotionally datach yourself from it. The former? It’s an act of love for which you receive hate

reddit? YouTube?

This is a good observation

@vhstape@beehaw.org
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Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Some people just can’t handle the “anonymity” the internet proves and take every chance to be a dick

Chronoshift
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@vhstape @Cube6392
Good thing that those people stick out and threfore we as a community can take care of the problem. I’ll do my part to flag jerks.

astraeus
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Very few moderators on reddit are getting paid anything to moderate subreddits, the key difference is that lemmy is still in the early stages of moderation tools.

@jarfil@beehaw.org
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If those “moderation tools” means something like the automated blanket moderation with no recourse that’s going on Reddit… we already have that, it’s Reddit and pretty much every other for-profit platform where “some false positives” are acceptable as long as they don’t damage the income sources by offsetting the influx of new users.

astraeus
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At least a few third-party apps are being adapted to Lemmy, those were where most of the richest moderation tools were. Reddit has a pretty substantial, matured API to handle a lot of those moderation tasks. That’s where Lemmy needs to catch up more than anything else when talking about moderation. I think that moderation in Lemmy will be important, there’s a lot more at stake for these communities if proper moderation is not in place.

I disagree. When you are paid for it you become reliant on it to make ends meet in your life, so you’re more willing to put up with absolute garbage that you shouldn’t have to. This forces people to try to detach from it as a coping mechanism while they fall further down the hole. Paying them won’t change a thing about the mental health issues and will probably make it worse.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay them, but we shouldn’t look at it as the fix for this either.

@sabreW4K3@lemmy.tf
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The whole planet has a mental health problem. Was discussing this earlier in another community with a German user.

@floofloof@lemmy.ca
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We live in a system that isolates people and makes them fill their lives with long hours of dull work for fear of becoming penniless and homeless, while they watch this crazy consumption led by sociopathic billionaires destroying everything they love about the planet day by day. And then when people are miserable because of these problems, they receive pills and conversation (if they’re lucky enough to be able to afford them) while the material problems continue. It’s no wonder we’re all a bit messed up.

@sabreW4K3@lemmy.tf
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Capitalism is shit. We’re brainwashed to believe that there’s only so much and we have to get as much as can and before everyone else, damn the cost, even if it’s our mental health. I don’t understand how we can’t look at it from the other angle and say, if there’s only so much, let’s protect it. Let’s share what we have so everyone can have fun. Let’s care about everyone and lift everyone up.

No! That’s communism and we can’t have that!

I don’t think that’s anything new, just a new flavour.

gabe [he/him]
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I don’t think people really realize just badly the pandemic affected peoples mental health and how that impact hasn’t really decreased much at all

@sabreW4K3@lemmy.tf
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I think even before that, there were major issues. The pandemic just made it so we couldn’t ignore them any longer. Which is ridiculous given how much people were acting out. But now everyone is aware of how important it is, because so many were trapped with their own thoughts and/or monotony. Even so, our governments paid lip service and then failed to make meaningful changes. My government cares more about getting people back into the office than making sure mental health care is accessible to everyone.

gabe [he/him]
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I agree. I became an adult during the pandemic, and the way mental health is approached towards children and teenagers is really really bad and has only gotten worse these past few years.

@sabreW4K3@lemmy.tf
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The thing is, there’s so many people that want to help and can change things. But they just don’t have the access. For my grandparents, University was free and then when those people graduated, they slapped a charge on it. So we have less people able to afford to study it, let alone do the job where their open salary is now less than McDonalds. It’s so stupid.

@t3rmit3@beehaw.org
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The pandemic just exposed the lie that in the worst case, the government, or your job, or someone in power, would help you.

There’s not really much “going back” from that realization, especially when we can literally find news articles every day about how another politician is campaigning against us for one thing or another.

Today, for instance, I discovered that Arkansas had passed a law to make it possible to criminally charge librarians if they lend out the “wrong” books to people!

Metal Zealot
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Being “terminally online” is a real thing

As much as Reddit has done wrong (hence me being here as a part of the migration) one thing I always liked was the mention of “remember the human”. This isn’t a network of bots, but actual individual people interacting and - in the case of this article - creating the things you are utilizing. Jerboa has a weird issue where if I hit “back” on what I think should be a sub screen to “home” as the main page of the app, I instead leave the app entirely. Does this mean I am warranted to passive aggressively - or even with well intentions - tag the developer on mastodon to request a fix? No. That’s what support requests are for.

I think people with the advent of the internet and the ease of communication over text have forgotten empathy with those alongside them on the internet. We need to refocus the way we communicate on these platforms - federated or not - to respect the opinions and thoughts of those around us. (Not necessarily agree, but respect.) I also like the proposed idea of the support line for developers of federated tech and sites, as it may provide alleviation for the stress sudden large influxes of users can cause on often one person teams acting as Atlas and holding these instances and servers up for their userbase.

TL;DR: Everybody Love Everybody.

Even if it’s FLOSS, decentralized, and federated, social media is still social media.

Rentlar
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From the article:

If you want a certain feature, or are waiting for the release of a new version of the software you use, or have a bug: I urge you to please be patient with the developers. There’s an enormous amount of work to do, and every project is understaffed and strained for finances at the moment.

Please please please be nice to people that are taking their own time and mental energy from their own lives without material compensation to give you something cool to enjoy.

I get things can be frustrating when something needs fixing, but people that contribute here are mostly overworked and underfunded.

And those that are helping out but feeling overworked, do take breaks regularly before you get permanently burnt out on it. That should be normalized, it goes for Beehaw admins and other Fediverse admins mods and contributors as well.

FIash Mob #5678
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Please please please be nice to people that are taking their own time and mental energy from their own lives without material compensation to give you something cool to enjoy.

Not only that, sign up to donate to their Patreons. I give a buck a month to my mastodon instance and my two lemmy instances.

John Colagioia
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Granted, I don’t run instances of anything yet, but speaking as someone who has been on the Internet for a while, including in moderation capacities…

  • Yes, obviously make mental health treatment more accessible, but if it has gotten to the point where it’s needed (as opposed to the equivalent of checkups and maintenance), then things have already gotten out of hand.
  • Moderation needs to happen as a team or community, because you can’t take a break if it’s all on you. At that point, problems grow while you try to heal, and you come back to a worse situation than you started with.
  • While we should pay moderators for their time, because their time is valuable, that’s also not a solution, just basic respect. People with high-paying jobs burn out, too.
  • Long term, though I obviously have no authority or sway in these matters, the idea of “moderation” should probably be replaced by “governance,” because governance carries the connotation of distributed responsibility. The person who decides whether to discipline in a given case isn’t the same person who metes out the discipline. Neither of them decide appeals on the decision, and none of them work without oversight. Also, the expansion of the Fediverse is largely a shift away from feudal governance to more-but-not-totally-democratic governance, which I think is more comprehensible to most people than “the owner of your server (who you’ve never really considered as a person) can’t put up with your crap anymore and is pulling the plug.”

That’s unfortunately not complete or a useful policy proposal, but hopefully those off-the-cuff ideas will spur something more worthwhile.

Lionir [he/him]
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Yes, obviously make mental health treatment more accessible, but if it has gotten to the point where it’s needed (as opposed to the equivalent of checkups and maintenance), then things have already gotten out of hand.

While I agree with this on principle - at this moment in time - I don’t know any admin of any of the big instances which does not struggle with balancing their admin responsibilities and living.

While we should pay moderators for their time, because their time is valuable, that’s also not a solution, just basic respect. People with high-paying jobs burn out, too.

When it is a job, people can quit. When it is a labour of love, that is a lot more difficult. As the model doesn’t give nearly enough money for people to be financially compensated, the only ones who can stay are those doing it as a labour of love. These people probably need to work because they need to live. This makes self-control of the time invested a lot harder, I think. People are more likely to drive themselves to burn out with these conditions in place.

John Colagioia
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On the former, yes, I’m definitely thinking about sustainability in the long term, not the current crisis. It might be too late to fix the current situation, at least in the sense of making it so that current large-instance owners can continue to manage everything alone.

And on the latter, kind of. When it’s a job, then people also rely on the income. One of the big problems with most economies in general is that, if someone feels bad about your current job - overwhelmed, depressed, or otherwise stressed - then they’re not in a good position to find the next opportunity. They don’t want to take more hours out of the day, and that stress shows through on job applications. And someone might want to solve that by paying them less, so that they have other jobs, but that throws it back into the “labor of love” column.

That’s why I make a big deal about distributing the work across a group or community. Paid or not (but ideally paid), it’s far easier to walk away if the “bus factor” is high enough that the job can afford to lose an individual or two for a few weeks and replace them if they leave permanently.

BitOneZero
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The constant crashes of Lemmy from performance issues have really been hard on me, because I just don’t like seeing it happen to people. It’s honestly been the worst web site in terms of stability I’ve used in over a decade.

Lots of good comments here on this discussion.

man the only stability issues i’ve noticed is literally minute-long outages on my server and posts about other instances going down without me actually noticing it.

Chronoshift
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@Cube6392
Perhaps they’re is more we can do to encourage donations, but without being annoying about it.

AnonTwo
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These things all existed long before the Twitter/Reddit issues. But there’s no way they could have predicted it would happen.

While i’m sure there are a lot of factors, a big one is probably just nobody could have expected the blowup that occurred. And as much as people have joked/complained that Beehaw was undermanned, the fact of the matter is they probably knew it better than anyone, and they felt it and had to actually deal with it.

No easy answer to the situation, it’ll probably just take a lot of time to work itself out.

Butterbee (She/Her)
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Does the Fediverse have more of a mental health problem than other social media sites? Or is it just more visible and more likely to be hidden away?

@farcaster@beehaw.org
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Yeah, exactly. Commercial social media sites pay workers in low-wage countries to moderate content. Plenty of stories out there about the toll it takes on them, but it’s easy enough for the commercial sites to just keep finding more cheap labor. Fedi is mostly volunteers so it’s quite different, and much more visible.

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