All are welcome in this discussion but this is really more focused on local users of literature.cafe, I’ll leave this post up and pin it for a few days just to get some feedback. Insight from others on other instances are welcome, but please realize that this is a discussion focused on users who use literature.cafe

Our community may be small, but I do want to know peoples thoughts before anything.

For those who do not already know, hexbear is on our defederation list.

With that being said there’s another thing that some might not already know. I am a practicing reform Jew. I am by no means a perfectly observant Jewish man but I am quite a lot more religious than most I think. I wear a kippah, try my best to keep kosher, and participate in the religious rites of Judaism as well as participate in prayers and community events. It is primarily why I started this instance as reading and books are a core cultural aspect in being Jewish. Knowledge is power, and we aren’t called the people of the book for nothing. As well, I am extremely involved in the Jewish community and know many Jewish leaders across the country and the world due to my stints of working as a “Jewish professional.”

Being a practicing Jew in a culture with rapidly rising antisemitism is extremely exhausting both in real life and online, and unfortunately that exhaustion was maximized on Reddit at times in regards to interacting with specific communities. One such community that I had pretty bad experiences with the specific subreddit that hexbear spawned from. Right now I’m pretty reserved about talking about Judaism and my faith as there isn’t a Jewish focused community on here, but when (not if) one comes I will very much be active there.

And this leads into the elephant in the room that always is brought whenever I bring my Jewishness up: I am not Israeli, nor have I ever been to Israel but I have worked with Israelis and am friends with quite a few Israeli Jews. I rarely if ever discuss the topic of Israel & Palestine even within my own community because of how charged it tends to be, but especially online it is a topic I actively avoid due to the stress and antisemitism I have faced over it. My ideals and opinions in regards to that can pretty much summed up “fuck fascists” and “I pray for peace.”

I have more opinions on the matter, specifically on my very direct hatred of Netanyahu as well as more detailed knowledge of just how completely fucked the Knesset is and how bad things really are there. I speak a bit of a Hebrew, and know some of the political stuff that goes on there. Things are bad, and are likely only going to get worse there not just for Palestinians but for that entire region as a whole due to the war mongering nature of the new government there.

Criticizing Israel and it’s current fucked up fascist government is not antisemitic, but holding all Jews accountable for the crimes of the Israeli state absolutely is. Immediately asking a random Jewish person about their feelings on Israel isn’t inherently antisemitic but it feels extremely hostile and often contributes to an environment of generally feeling unsafe as a Jewish person especially in left leaning spaces. It feels as if you’re trying to pin down whether or not we’re a “good jew” or a “bad jew.”

When the community hexbear spawned from existed on reddit, the antisemitism I witnessed during brigades were some of the most egregious on the site outside of r/conspiracy. That is why I blocked that instance per-emptively, as I felt the antisemitism I directly experienced in that community would follow here if federation was enabled.

I had a pretty productive discussion with an admin from hexbear in a matrix chat, and to be quite honest it made me realize my bias towards the entire community wasn’t probably the most fair. The team is different there than the subreddit, and the admin made it clear antisemitism is not tolerated.

I know the community is controversial across the lemmyverse, but I am willing to attempt federation. The admin offered to add our instance to their allowlist and refederate, and if there’s issues that arise we can just reblock.

I’m curious of peoples thoughts on the matter. Overall this instance isn’t politically focused, but books in large part do have a political nature to them. It’s hard to deny that authoritarianism and the free consumption of literature is fundamentally incompatible.

  • Janvier
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    7 months ago

    Absolutely do NOT federate with Hexbear, but for reasons that have little to do with Hexbear’s politics.

    I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the Threadiverse (Lemmy + Kbin centered Fediverse), and I’ve come up with some observations that are true in August 2023 I think every new Lemmy instance should consider. I’ve split it into five parts to avoid Lemmy’s 10k character post limit.

    1/5 – The Threadiverse is shrinking

    There was a huge boom in Lemmy activity during the Reddit mod protest, but Lemmy and Kbin are not as mature as Reddit was when Digg dramatically enshittified. There wasn’t enough organic growth to capture the rain squall, and now the flood of users is flowing back to the ocean. It’s visible in the active user data, as well the pages of undermoderated single poster communities littering the wider Threadiverse where the last activity is two months old. New Lemmy instances continue to appear, but the total number of active users available for them to share continues to steadily decline. There’s a couple of obvious culprits for this:

    • Lemmy instances frequently become unavailable for unscheduled maintenance, due to operator inexperience and the rough edges of the software
    • Third party apps are still in beta stages or unreleased, and the interface leaves a lot to be desired, leaving many disappointed with the user experience.
    • Moderation tools are still in their infancy. Poorly moderated communities and inactive mods create the potential for very toxic experiences.

    This does not mean the Threadiverse is failing; Reddit will continue to decline in quality, and if Threadiverse software and community continues to improve, we will reach an inflection point. Another major Spez event after that milestone will kill Reddit like Reddit killed Digg. To reach this goal, each new instance needs to bring something more to the table than extra space for fewer people to spread out in.

    • Janvier
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      7 months ago

      2/5 – Hexbear is a successful Lemmy instance

      I support your account of Hexbear’s predecessor. I don’t share your background and naturally had a different experience. I think its useful to explain the history here for the benefit of other readers to better understand Hexbear’s current contrarian character, even if it is filtered through my limited experience.

      Hexbear has its origins in the subreddit ChapoTrapHouse (CTH), a community that began its existence when Reddit was an open platform for fascist propaganda. Several subreddits were dedicated to mocking black people, spreading jewish conspiracies, bullying fat people, othering queer people, and sexually harassing women. My interaction with CTH was limited as a Redditor, but their participation as an antifascist group who were fighting back against those trends was a welcome presence. When the mainstream media started making a story about the racism, homophobia, antisemitism, misogyny, and the bad press threatened advertising revenue, Reddit banned the most overtly embarrasing subreddits. In an act of ‘enlightened’ centrism, Reddit banned CTH along with them. Perhaps Reddit blamed them for drawing the press’ attention, perhaps they didn’t want to be accused of being left-wing by going after fascists exclusively. But in any case, CTH needed a new address. That’s how Hexbear became one of the earliest Lemmy instances.

      With several years to grow from a Reddit refuge to a full-blown social platform Hexbear has found its audience. They have site-wide movie nights where films are free-streamed and co-watched in chat. They’ve developed an internal stalinist-emoji based language (incidentally famous for causing problems because federated sites display the images at full resolution.) They have very active moderation, responding swiftly to non-party users stepping out of line with permabans. Dying communities like !anarchism are kept on life support with activity like mods creating regular general megathreads there where the community topic is irrelevant. If you’re transgender or non-binary and are looking to connect with others over North Korea apologia, there’s not a better place on the web to be.

      While Hexbear is more eager to federate with others than others are with Hexbear, its size and activity proves an often overlooked point: Hexbear has become extremely successful Lemmy instance in spite of (or perhaps due to) having extremely limited federation.

      • Janvier
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        7 months ago

        3/5 – Moderation, not Federation, is the Threadiverse’s killer feature

        Lemmy is not Reddit, and calling Lemmy a Federated or Open-Source version of its inspiration is doing it a disservice. Since Lemmy instances are not venture capital funded, continual growth is not the criteria for success. On Reddit, people who read, post, comment, and vote are the product, advertisers are the customers, and investors set the policy. Return on investment trumps all other concerns, and Reddit must continue to grow to be successful. Lemmy allows for a much more diverse set of definitions of success.

        So the 0th step in becoming a successful Lemmy instance is deciding what that success looks like. That’s obviously up to the admin(s), but it can’t be achieved without skilled and dedicated moderators. Moderators do obvious tasks like remove spam and ban hate-speech, but they also encourage community activities, model conflict resolution, and produce content. A healthy community is a well-kept garden, and a successful Lemmy instance must include a collection of healthy communities. Moderators are the gardeners that help a community grow.

        Moderation is a difficult and emotionally taxing job. I’ve alluded earlier that Reddit made an unforced error, degrading the moderator experience by killing 3rd party apps, and that Lemmy is missing those same essential tools due to its current stage of development. But Lemmy has an advantage over Reddit in there are plenty of instances where admins will listen to and respect their moderators. Lemmy’s codebase and 3rd party software is improving, and while Reddit may be able to improve their internal moderator support mechanisms, moderators will never be more than exploited rubes for them.

        Since moderation is so difficult to do well, and is so essential to the Threadiverse project, the effect on moderators should be the primary concern in making any decision that changes the policy, culture, or performance of a Lemmy instance.

        • Janvier
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          87 months ago

          4/5 – Brigading is when you click on threads that appear on your front page

          On Reddit, brigading was the initially common practice of linking to a thread or comment that was anti-racist for example, and inviting people from a racist sub to downvote and respond to it. Their sheer numbers would send an initially positively received comment into deep negative numbers and overwhelm the poster with personal attacks. The Shit Reddit Says (SRS) movement saw the positive potential of this tactic, and built several subreddits dedicated to calling out misogyny, homophobia, and racism on the site. At that point Reddit began listening to brigading complaints and built anti-brigading measures like a link style that enforced non-interaction, and threatening to ban subreddits that linked interactively to comments or encouraged bullying the posters in their original context.

          Brigading still happened but the bullies had to do a little more work. Some would manually enable interaction, with the miniscule risk that Reddit would respond with consequences. Other bullies would coordinate attacks in a discord chat or other offsite communities. Whenever you received an unexpected flood of negative replies or a surprising amount of downvotes to a typically innocuous comment, it wasn’t paranoid to think that the interaction was not organic.

          A similar phenomenon happens regularly on Twitter, where bullies search with keywords to find conversations between total strangers and people they would never follow to interject their unwelcome ‘hot takes.’ For this reason search on Mastodon is limited by design.

          Whether brigading is intentionally organized or not, the experience of being brigaded is real. Slashdot was a famous chat forum that predated Digg and Reddit, and became known for the Slashdot effect, where the overwhelming traffic from the popular site would overwhelm the bandwidth of a smaller site it linked to, removing it from the internet with a mechanism identical to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. Similarly, Hexbear is such a large and active site, its users will overwhelm any small community or new instance with their traffic just by virtue of its content appearing in its general feed. Any headline the site finds controversial is going to experience brigading regardless of whether it is intentionally organized or not.

          The idea that this can be mitigated by warning and banning for disruptive and abusive behavior ignores the fact that this represents free labor by you and your moderators. It is extremely emotionally taxing to make these kinds of decisions and inevitably defend them, and the sheer volume from dealing with a site like Hexbear will absolutely burn out most people tasked with this responsibility.

          • Janvier
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            7 months ago

            5/5 – Caveat Federator

            Hexbear’s success isn’t the only example of federation being over-rated. BeeHaw caused controversy by defederating from sh.itjust.works and lemmy.world to protect their moderators’ sanity. Two months on, it is obvious they made the right descision for the right reasons. A number of positive contributors joined precisely because they took this bold action. BeeHaw is currently the second fastest growing server, and has become an instance with a unique character and community that attracts positive participation from across the Threadiverse.

            Federation creates the potential for a diverse variety of instances to independently find their voice and niche. Ironically, premature federation with larger instances can overwhelm a new instance, washing away its unique character or preventing it from developing an identity in the first place.

            It’s commendable you’re seeking feedback from your users on the decision, and I’d suggest you continue to be open about your politics and preferences. You’re not going to please everyone, and it’s important that you grow a community that you feel welcome in and are supported. Your commitment to the principle of federation or the diversity of the political discourse here isn’t going to matter much if you burn out and have to shut it down.

            You obviously have reservations about federating with Hexbear. Regardless of what the current consensus appears to be, don’t do it. In fact, consider defederating from other large Lemmy instances too, at least until you’ve built a stable community with experienced moderators, and you all agree the moderation technology is now up to the task. You may lose some current users, but you’ll attract others who agree with your decision and are more supportive of the kind of community you’re trying to build.

            • gabe [he/him]OPMA
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              56 months ago

              Dang I thought I responded to you, but I guess I didn’t. But this entire essay is amazing, and I completely agree. It sums up my feelings overall towards it generally too.

            • ShittyKopper [they/them]
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              7 months ago

              You’ve explained a few things I had in mind so well I kinda want to boost parts of this thread outside the threadiverse into the general fedi. Specifically parts 3/5 and 5/5 (as I think the Hexbear-specific parts are not exactly relevant over there). Just want to ask your permission before doing so as Lemmy does not notify you when this happens AFAIK.

              • Janvier
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                7 months ago

                Permission granted. Thanks for the heads up, it also allows me to stalk your post history so I can participate in and learn from the discussion too.

            • cacheson
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              16 months ago

              Just a heads up, Hexbear apparently opened up federation with shitjustworks recently, and there’s a discussion thread over there about it. I made a comment there linking to this comment chain.