What are some new or reddit features that you think will improve Lemmy, and what are the things that you don’t want to lay your eyes upon ever?

  • @tronk@lemmy.ml
    3 years ago

    Lemmy has amazing potential, but I worry two threats could hamper it: a small size and vague/nonexistent values.

    A small community limits its potential for good ideas. I’ve described why here. In summary, we need a dense and malleable network for good ideas to flourish. Lemmy, by design is malleable, but it may not necessarily be dense.

    As to values, vague values lead to individual rumination and communal discussions without direction. To avoid that, values need to be clear, explicit, and reinforced.

    In a sec I’ll try to explain my thought process behind these worries, their potential solutions, and how that translates into features.

    Wise Nudges that Reinforce the Sense of how Alive Lemmy Is

    I like the fact that I can see updates in real time of other posts being made. This creates the impression (or, if you’re less of a phenomenologist and more of a positivist, “emphasizes the reality”) that this website is alive. I think features like this, that show how active this community is, can somehow make up for the fact that it isn’t nearly as massive as Reddit.

    Yes, there are people who say the small numbers are a good thing, but a dead community isn’t. While in reality it is an alive community, we have to see it to believe it. I mean getting a gut sense that this place is alive.

    That sense is conveyed through the already-existing real-time updates of posts, community statistics (under certain circumstances), and trending communities/posts.

    I say community statistics only reinforce aliveness under certain circumstances because seeing 0 users per week is quite discouraging for a community. I wonder if there are non-deceptive ways of emphasizing that a community is growing. Maybe seeing users who recently posted or a couple of selected posts? Heck, this also makes me think of (take out your crucifixes) Stories: while they may be annoying because they show things that we don’t value, they do convey the sense of activity. I’m not married to them, but they serve a purpose. Also, I’m speaking without really knowing what would be the best ways of conveying life and inviting participation. Perhaps reading some Nudge could help. Or some Switch

    But we’d Sell Out and/or Degrade Content!

    I see this proposal being responded to with two objections: One is related to ‘selling out’ to methods of deception. Another one is regarding the quality of content.

    As to selling out, it isn’t immediately clear to me that deliberately choosing which facets of oneself to show is problematic. This is certainly the case if you’re under oath at a trial. Even then, most of us would choose to be our ‘pensive’, ‘frank’ and ‘reverential’ selves. Choosing which selves we are is something we do all the time. But if done (1) with clarity regarding Lemmy’s values, (2) through wise nudges, and (3) for the purposes of making Lemmy a thriving community, the worries about (1) being duplicitous and (2) falling prey to the market’s discourse regarding what a ‘business’ has to do to keep afloat, largely subside.

    As to the related objection, that the quality of content would decrease if we ‘get people hooked’, this is not necessarily true and also not necessarily a problem. It’s not true because, again, if users have clarity regarding the values and norms of this place, the vast majority of the content will abide by those values and norms. But also, I am a human, not a robot philosopher-programmer-privacyEnthusiast-politicalBeing. I like dank memes. I like silly jokes. I’d absolutely hate Lemmy if it was a place where I’d always have to pretend to be poised. Instead, I can sometimes laugh at silly memes or talk about my favorite TV shows —you know, be human! In community! With smart, principled, and funny people!

    Clarity of Values that Orient us All towards Democracy and how to Convey them

    But we shouldn’t only think in terms of not selling out or not degrading content. Avoiding things leads to overthinking if we don’t have things to look forward to. We need a vision as to what we want.

    I suggest Lemmy is a place where democratic principles can be enacted through open source and federation. This implies that we want to create the conditions for such a democracy, which are: (1) access to Lemmy, (2a) explanations or resources to learn, which is part but separate to (2b) a sense of belonging, and (3) fair and consistent moderation. These guarantee that people can effectively participate, at (1) a technical level, (2) at a cognitive and affective level, and (3) at an institutional level.

    I think Nutomic and Dessalines have been stellar at making Lemmy technically accessible. They’ve also been incredibly generous at letting us know what’s happening, or giving us cognitive resources. Through the norms that come with FLOSS communities, I’ve gathered a sense of belonging too! The public modlog is part of the sense of fair and consistent moderation. Those are all there.

    That is the big picture, the goal: orienting us all towards reinforcing anti-intolerant-discourse and its flip-side, inclusion.

    But I wonder if a stronger sense of the democratic values that we all hold is possible. Could it be done through a minimal manifesto? One that simply states “We recognize freedom depends on (1) resources, (2) education, and (3) institutional enforcement. Therefore, we are committed to making Lemmy (1) FLOSS, open-government, and efficient; (2) a place with a culture of thinking, teaching, and visible learning; (3) swift and fair moderation, with a strong anti-intolerant-discourse stance.”

    Of course this is not a set-in stone proposal. But I think the emphasis on democratic principles is important, because it does not prescribe a particular political belief outside of those that are necessary to maintain democratic principles. So, for example, white supremacists would be clearly not welcome here. But again, this is not about distancing oneself from bad things. Rather, it’s about being explicit about the vision of the future of Lemmy.

    My mini-manifesto is just a tool to make that vision shared among all of us. Another option is to take inspiration from Project Eunomia, which was researching how changing UIs could help reduce misinformation. Or, you know how on Reddit there’s this “Starting a post with ‘upvote if’ is against intergalactic law”? What would be the equivalent towards reinforcing the values of democracy? These are all ideas on how to reinforce democratic principles.

    A Conclusion, I guess…

    I tried to lay out why (1) having more people here, (2) having silly posts, (3) and making Lemmy explicitly about democracy will make it better. I presented it in a sort of philosophical-principle-y way. But I also suggested some ways of making those principles tangible. Those ways are not at all set in stone. My point is to be clear about our visions. Which tools we use and how should follow that.

    If there is a single thing that I’d like to convey, it’s that:

    TL;DR: The benefits of having us all see that this community values and reinforces democracy are immense. We should find ways of conveying that to everyone, so that awful people aren’t enticed to be here (since we are anti intolerant-discourse), so that Lemmy never falls prey to the closed-source switch of Reddit, so that we get a sense of belonging, and so that we (and newcomers) participate more, abiding by the democratic principles of Lemmy.