I remember the first time I had to integrate myself into a new community. It was right after college. I had started my first job which was in a new specialization of my industry. I had to come to grips with a life transition, learning how to work with a new team and new software, learning about the ins and outs of the industry around me and those interactions, et cetera. It is a very unsettling position to have orders of magnitude more things to learn than time to do it. No one expects someone to pick it all up instantly but in me there is a drive to “come up to speed” as fast as possible. When it comes to contributing to the Fediverse I am feeling the exact same thing right now.
To say I’m new to the whole Fediverse is an understatement. I had never dabbled with it until 2018. I had peeked over the wall to check them out every once in a while. There’d be a story about Diaspora whenever there would be some new Facebook outrage. There was a discussion about MediaGoblin when there was some Tumblr or other problem. That’s the way my life went when it came to social media. Although I had been more and more directed in my open source usage and development my social media experience was still solely the walled gardens even though I knew the pitfalls and problems of those universes. Then Cambridge Analytica happened. Thinking to myself “enough is enough” I made my move to get into using the Fediverse (not knowing it was called that at the time) instead of the walled gardens. Quickly I enjoyed the experience, minus the lack of IRL friends/acquaintances, and even dabbled a little contributing. Starting in the summer however the whole concept of making the Fediverse more accessible to everyone and embracing decentralizing the web in general really grabbed me.
I started my development journey easily enough with the system that I used the most: Diaspora. The two I really use the most are Mastodon and Diaspora. The final decision making process is probably another blog post in itself, but in the end I chose to begin focusing my development efforts on Diaspora. Yet the more I worked with Diaspora the more I wanted to go beyond just the software development on that project. The Fediverse as a whole has a profile problem and an accessibility problem to overcome. There are literally dozens of people working on all manner of federated platforms. I feel to be a real member of the broader community I have to engage it, be part of it literally not just by association indirectly. After personally reaching that threshold in the last month I have begun to start exploring more and more and getting more and more plugged in. First joining Feneas. Then creating a Matrix account. Then following blogs…and so on…With each new thing I found I am finding ten more I hadn’t even heard about.
It’s been attributed to Aristotle, Einstein, and others but the maxim “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know,” has held personally true for my entire life. It’s moments like this that it is so poignant though. I am definitely in the “drinking from a firehose” stage of joining the Fediverse as a contributor not just user. It just takes time, patience, and work to get there. It also takes interacting with other contemporaries that are on the same journey. There are committees, Discourse channels, conferences, et cetera. There are PhD theses, like this great one by Amy Guy, position papers, blog posts, etc. There is a lot of work being done across a dozen different projects. I can’t integrate all of that ever much less instantly. But getting my toe in the water in different places and beginning that process of reaching out to the broader community is easy and now underway. There’s a lot ahead for me in this area and I’m really looking forward to the journey. I’m hoping that I can ultimately become a part of the broader Fediverse community and help everyone make the Fediverse better by the day and more accessible to more and more people.