Kicking off our Fediverse research

Our DIIF-funded research on Fediverse governance and administration officially begins this month, so we’ve made an informal federated blog to communicate about the work—welcome to that! 

We’ve written about the project and why we’re doing it on our own sites, so here’s a brief recap. Our official research question is: “What are the most effective governance and administration models/structures in place on medium-to-large sized Fediverse servers, and what infrastructural gaps (human and digital) persist?” Darius wrote us a back-of-the-napkin mission statement as well:

We are going to take into account the people, the software, and the processes of the Fediverse. We are going to do the best job we can to capture how prepared (and how unprepared) they are to deal with the risks they face. Then we are going to make strong recommendations for how open source projects, philanthropic funders, civil society organizations, and others can co-create a Fediverse that is safer and better for humanity than the social media we've been stuck with for two decades.

Our work will center on semi-structured deep conversations with about half a dozen server admin/mod teams from around the world, and right now, we’re in the process of building our longlist of server teams, from which that final half-dozen teams will be drawn. We’re working toward a final list that’s balanced across factors like size (we plan to include servers ranging from about monthly active users with flex on either end as needed to explore a rich sample of experiences), location, primary language(s), demographics, and governance and administrative structure.

Supplementing our main research stream will be lighter discussions and surveys targeting groups like: members of Fediverse servers; organizations and institutions working on Fediverse governance, administration, and tooling; and community leaders and stewards from adjacent networks and communities. In our in-depth interviews and other conversations, we’ll prioritize full disclosure and informed consent—and more broadly, we’ll be making our best effort to capture the most accurate, genuine, and nuanced representation of the views, concerns, and hopes of the people who contribute to this effort. (We’ll redact individual identities in certain cases, and all decisions about identity will be made in consultation with the people we speak with.)

To keep up with your work, you can grab the RSS feed, sign up to get the posts as a newsletter, or follow this blog at on Mastodon or other Fediverse services. (You can also follow us—Darius and Erin—individually from your own Fediverse account.)

The project’s findings will take a couple of forms, including a handbook for people interested in Fediverse governance, recommendations to funders and institution-builders on the needs and risks facing Fediverse administrators, and our final report to DIIF—and all our findings will be public and freely available.