I’ve been thinking about something like an instance Community Pledge becoming commonplace. Mastodon instances tend to post rules, user expectations, a tiny bit of info about administrative practices. This helps cultivate the Mastodon region of the fediverse. But, and I don’t mean the following as criticism, most instances have not communicated what their administrative commitments to their community are. Perhaps because until recently things have been on a smaller scale & practices are maturing.
Here is what I’ve been considering. It’s a thought process but not at all, thought-out. There are problems but I’d like to put the idea out there in case others have worried about this and perhaps, something can come of it. This is written in 500 character paragraphs because I was originally going to thread it in Mastodon but it got too long.
What happens if an instance owner suddenly disappears? Radically changes their stance on how the instance operates? Chooses to block federation from other instances that many people have active connections to?
I think a Mastodon-style federated instance has unique responsibilities to the members of its community. Mastodon instances could be owned and operated by an individual or group of individuals, a coop, a commercial entity, a not-for-profit sort of entity (e.g. professional org, NGO, etc.), an institution (educational or government), among others. Each has its reasons. Administering these communities isn’t like owning another type of website, where control can be mostly absolute.
Participants in Mastodon communities are building relationships that feed into their personal, professional, or other contexts. We’ve all, together, nurtured our instances’ communities and feel a bit of, I dunno, pride/joy/ownership/belonging? (else why do people fret about choosing/moving instances?). Since the protocol interconnects these communities, I think administrator responsibility isn’t just local but extends along the lines of people’s connections to other communities/instances.
Admins ready to reckon with what they’ll pledge to their community, could build better communities. A pledge might, for example include: 1 contingency procedures if the instance were to shut down (backups, infrastructure, funding, death/disappearance?). 2 Federation approach (rationale, why/why not specific instances federate, process for notifying & ideally, consulting with users when a new instance may be blocked).
Example 3, Clarity on other decisions (all decided by single admin? are moderators participating? can others become moderators and if so, what’s the process? formal decision-making structure? outside factors like people or organizations that could exert influence on the decisions?) A few of these examples are built into the social.coop model and some other instances.
What can users expect from participating in a community? Upon signing up we know what is expected from us but not the other way around. I don’t think an admin should be forced into offering a pledge. But I imagine eventually something unpleasant will happen, in which people lose their service, become disappointed, or regret being a part of an instance, and that will all federate too. A pledge from the admin, if not enforceable, might help set expectations or influence reflexive responsibility.