16 comments

  • gpm 8 days ago
    How would moderation work here? Like, what prevents me from being literally inundated with people trying to sell me scamcoins, or viagra, or nudes, or whatever the latest thing is.

    You say "Self-moderating: a user has enough control over what they receive to reject spam content", but it's unclear what that means. Are you telling me I'm going to have to keep saying "I don't want to hear from ViagraSupplier1493956" every time ViagraSupplier1493957 makes a new account? Won't they just automate creating new accounts so I continuously have to reject them?

    Or is this an opt in system? That's not what the word "reject" means to me, but it's the other "simple" alternative that I could imagine this describing. If so, is there literally way for a new user to onboard to this network except to convince people to start "listening" to them via side channels (like asking friends on other social media to follow them)? That's basically how things like substack work... I'm not sure I see it scaling.

    I think it was one of the reddit founders who recently made the point that content moderation is fundamentally about increasing signal to noise ratio, and frankly I can't think of a harder problem. When you're trying to pitch a decentralized social network to me, it's literally the first question I have.

    PS. The readme links to "https://chatternet.github.io/", but that doesn't exist.

    • mawise 8 days ago
      Signal to noise in the context of discovery of public content is just hard. If you remove discovery, or limit it to curated content you can get around it. Haven[1] (my project) skips discovery and makes every source for your feed opt-in, but I'd love to see more attempts at curation!

      [1]: https://havenweb.org

    • indigochill 7 days ago
      The general philosophy right now in the ActivityPub admin space is to federate widely and weed out the baddies as they show themselves (thus the emphasis on "rejecting" bad actors).

      Personally I think this is only going to work for a little while but if ActivityPub catches on, it's going to be as inundated with spam as email is (without any of our modern spam filters). Therefore I personally moderate my ActivityPub server by whitelisting a handpicked list of servers that I personally trust (which I knew about by having browsed discussion groups on this topic).

      As for the scaling question, there are two layers to that: per-server and overall-network scaling.

      Per-server scaling doesn't matter. All that matters is serving content that the users of that server find worthwhile. Whitelisting works fine for this, but discovery requires checking out different servers or having out-of-band knowledge of other servers. I think this is fine. People can promote servers they find worthwhile in all kinds of ways, same way as for example gamers find gaming clans.

      Overall-network scaling is a function of how all admins decide to federate. Right now most admins federate widely so the overall network has scaled very quickly. But really this doesn't matter either because there's actually not necessarily any such thing as an "overall network". If you made a graph of all ActivityPub servers in the world, there might be multiple disconnected graphs and that's fine. If admins in those graphs have decided not to federate with each other, that's the system working as intended.

      > That's basically how things like substack work

      My understanding (but correct me if I'm wrong) is Substack is a central server where multiple authors can publish their work. Federated content is different in that I can publish my content on my server and anyone who federates it can also get it on their server (and likewise I can get theirs on mine). But if I go off the rails then they can cut me out while still federating other authors they find worthwhile. Each server can make their own moderation decisions. It puts moderation power back into the hands of independent admins instead of tech companies.

    • garrinm 7 days ago
      Thanks for the thoughtful question. Signal to noise, spam, sybil attacks etc. is probably the hardest problem to solve for this project, so I suppose it only makes sense its not really solved. But I hope that Chatter Net offers the tools which can be used to, if not solve, then at least make progress on the issue.

      The short answer is that Chatter Net routes messages to you only from people you follow. If this was just messages authored by people you follow, it wouldn't be a very interesting platform. But in fact, whenever a message lands on your UI, you emit a View (https://www.w3.org/TR/activitystreams-vocabulary/#dfn-view) event on the message you just viewed. And so people who follow you will see that view, and that's how content makes it way around.

      The long answer is.. well long. And it's not an answer so much as a conversation. I see this as all relating to trust. And it's not really possible to discuss trust without implicating the debate of anonymity vs. privacy.

      In real world communities, you trust some people, and so you are wiling to spend time listening to them. These could be family, friends, actors, politicians etc.

      On the internet, the mechanism for trusting someone is actually a bit odd. You believe that when you connect to a known domain, there is some trustworthy entity behind it serving you content of interest to you. And if that domain hosts a social media platform, and that platform trusts a user by allowing the user to create an account, then you sort of extend the trust you have in the platform to that user. But this is all very anonymous and leads to all sorts of issues such as bot farms and domain parking.

      When things are framed that way, it almost seems the current efforts around moderation are really trying to treat the symptom, not the cause. Does it make sense to trust an anonymous user on some platform? The place this seems to work best is Wikipedia. But even there the implicit trust in user accounts is sometimes abused (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/08/wikiped...).

      I think somewhere along the line the concepts of anonymity and privacy got confused. In the real world, if you walk around hiding your face and otherwise concealing your identity, people don't trust you. The things you want to keep private, you discuss in a private setting (e.g. in the comfort of your home). But when you are in a public forum, your identity is what you use to get others to listen to you and interact with you.

      In this sense, Chatter Net is a public forum, while something like Signal or Matrix Chat would be a private forum.

      • robertlagrant 7 days ago
        Thanks for the explanation - it's good to hear a little about this. I have a couple of questions.

        > But in fact, whenever a message lands on your UI, you emit a View (https://www.w3.org/TR/activitystreams-vocabulary/#dfn-view) event on the message you just viewed. And so people who follow you will see that view, and that's how content makes it way around.

        Do you have to push a button to share it in some way? How do you stop all content traversing the entire graph of people if it's shared as soon as it's automatically displayed on your UI?

        > In real world communities, you trust some people, and so you are wiling to spend time listening to them. These could be family, friends, actors, politicians etc.

        How does this relate to echo chambers? It sounds as though it would be hard to avoid creating one.

        • garrinm 7 days ago
          To me it's still unclear if having a message traverse the entire graph is good or bad. Something like this is required otherwise this will really just be a chat app, and probably not a very good one at that. What I mean is that if you can see only messages directly addressed or shared with you, well that's just Signal.

          The current implementation traverses the graph of follows, which has some nice properties. Even if you had 10x as many bots as users on a platform, they can all post and share and like etc. But if no one from your social graph is following those bots, you won't see any of their content. Of course all it takes is one person in your network to follow a bot, and now you're exposed to all that spam. In that case you might want to unfollow this non-discerning friend. And the threat of being unfollowed will create incentives for people to make meaningful follows in the first place.

          Some more granular tools will need to be built to help refine this. For example, you might not want to see things more than 3 steps away in your graph. There is also the concept of flagging messages which is not currently implemented, but will allow one user to stop a message from spreading to their followers.

          As for the echo chambers, I'm not sure yet what this will look like. In the physical world there are soft echo chambers. People make like-minded friends and join like-minded organizations. To some extent this is good, when comparing to the alternative where everyone has to listen to anyone which would create a lot of conflict. Taken to the extreme though it does seem to make people intolerant to differing ideas.

          The question I am asking myself (and for which I do not have an answer) is: will a platform like Chatter Net encourage people to progressively discover new ideas (the more people you follow, the more variety of content you will receive), or will it give the tools for people to lock out any competing views.

          • robertlagrant 7 days ago
            > The current implementation traverses the graph of follows

            Yes - apologies. You did say that the first time around as well. That does make a lot more sense.

            Thank you for the rest of the comment as well. Good food for thought.

      • int_19h 7 days ago
        Out of curiosity, have you seen Aether, and specifically its approach to moderation?

        https://getaether.net/docs/faq/voting_and_elections/

        I don't know how well this would scale in practice, but the idea of people delegating moderation to others is interesting IMO.

        • garrinm 7 days ago
          I have not seen this, thank you for sharing! I will have a look, it does seem interesting.
    • fatehx25 7 days ago
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  • stonogo 8 days ago
    Not implementing server-level blocklists is almost a guaranteed method of getting your instances added to federated blocklists. I see that this is not ActivityPub compliant, so presumably this would only federate with other Chatternet instances? If that's the case, I recommend hurrying to implement a solid product vision, because otherwise "no deplatforming" is your primary sell, and the people who are buying are perceived as folks who have been deplatformed already. It's a hard problem right now to get some people to separate "free speech" and "hate speech" in social media, and until that's got a solution I'm not sure a slightly-different protocol will move the needle.
    • garrinm 7 days ago
      You bring up some good points. Indeed Chatter Net as-is isn't able to fully integrate in the Fediverse. I think it'll be possible to get there, and I'd like to see the project get there, but in the meantime its more of a standalone network.

      The only real difference between the Fediverse and Chatter Net is that in Chatter Net all messages are signed. To know the origin of a message you simply verify the signature. Whereas in the Fediverse you have to trust that the server authenticated the user and stored the data correctly.

      The consequence is that in Chatter Net federation happens user-to-server, not server-to-server. That's because a server can trust messages coming from any arbitrary user, so long as it has a valid signature. The server can choose to filter messages from unknown users of course.

      I think maybe a more important selling point, from that perspective, is that as a user of Chatter Net, you consume messages only from identities you trust (follow). So you can completely filter out unwanted communities. This will take a lot more work to correctly describe in the docs. And the implementation isn't fully sorted out yet either.

    • nathias 7 days ago
      A hard problem is selling it short, it is impossible to separate them, because they are one and the same.
  • RobotToaster 8 days ago
    It certainly sounds interesting, especially the lack of server blacklists.

    >It closely follows (but is not fully compliant with) the Activity Pub protocol.

    Are you aiming for posts from ChatterNet to be visible to the rest of the fediverse (mastodon et al)? How will that look from the POV of the mastodon server?

    • garrinm 7 days ago
      Hi, thanks for the question! I realize I pushed this with some important details missing.

      As a first objective I'd like to get Chatter Net nodes to be able to consume from the Fediverse. The (small) challenge is that posts in the Fediverse are unsigned, whereas what makes Chatter Net tick is really just adding signatures to Activity Stream objects. How this could work then is that a Chatter Net user (or server) could pull posts from the Fediverse. That user (or server) could then emit an "view" message on that post and sign that message. Now that message has an "origin" within Chatter Net allowing others to trust it and share it. Many accounts can share the same post. In fact they just sign the CID of the contents of the post, so the post itself could be retrieved from an external server.

      The more challenging objective is to get the Fediverse to hear about what's going on in Chatter Net. Chatter Net servers could implement the Activity Pub server-to-server protocol. But other Fediverse servers would need to trust the contents coming from a Chatter Net server, and without moderation this would be complicated.

      If this project picks up some steam I am hopeful others will have good ideas on how to address these issues.

    • aliqot 7 days ago
      > Are you aiming for posts from ChatterNet to be visible to the rest of the fediverse (mastodon et al)? How will that look from the POV of the mastodon server?

      For that matter, how do other fediverse apps handle this when transferring from concept-to-concept like normal social network to microblog, or chat to microblog? It was my impression that it is like-to-like rather than just general information schema.

  • mgerdts 8 days ago
    I’m trying to make sense of what this. It seems the answer may be on the project’s GitHub page reference in the rear, but that just 404’s.

    https://chatternet.github.io/

    • garrinm 7 days ago
      There used to be a page there, but that's been taken down until more work can be done on it.

      I pushed this all a bit early, there are a lot of details missing. I'll be spending time documenting things a bit better in the coming days. In the meantime if there's anything I can answer I'll be happy to!

  • mxuribe 7 days ago
    @garrinm This sounds very cool! I will keep watching your project, as i'm very excited for it! Kudos!

    Also, you might also consider collaborting with the folks at https://spritely.institute

  • s3000 7 days ago
    Which api does the client [1] use to communicate with the server [2]? Is it possible to use existing mastodon web clients like [3,4]?

    [1] https://github.com/chatternet/chatternet-client-http

    [2] https://github.com/chatternet/chatternet-server-http

    [3] https://pinafore.social/

    [4] https://www.cuckoo.social/

    • garrinm 7 days ago
      Good question! Right now the client and server talk over HTTP using routes that conform with the Activity Pub spec (everything resource under `/ap` on the server should be a valid Activity Stream document conforming to Activity Pub spec).

      However:

      1) this isn't tested with any other Activity Pub client, so there are probably some implementation differences (errors) to iron out.

      2) Currently the server doesn't implement the full Activity Pub protocol, so an existing client will probably make calls that will 404.

      3) The server doesn't use any kind of authentication becasue Chatter Net doesn't rely on any server authentication. Clients authenticate messages based on signatures, so it doesn't really matter where the messages come from. Activity Pub doesn't seem to say anything about how authentication should work, so this should in theory be compatible. But in practice, existing Activity Pub implementations seem to rely on certain authentication patterns.

      But I would definitely like to get the project to be compatible Fediverse clients. So this is something I want to work towards.

  • s3000 7 days ago
    Good idea. If your selling proposition against other protocols like farcaster.xyz is that the protocol is compatible to ActivityPub, could you explain where it is not fully compliant, please?

    >It closely follows (but is not fully compliant with) the Activity Pub protocol

    Can you imagine to run a bridge server to the Fediverse? This should require a white-list to gain the trust of the peering nodes, though.

  • alx__ 7 days ago
    Naive question, what is this solving?
    • garrinm 7 days ago
      It solves the problem of relying on 3rd party platforms to establish user identity. That is, when Alice wants to hear from Bob, they both have to be authenticated by some 3rd party Acme Corp. Alice can't know that a message is written by Bob unless she gets the message from Acme Corp. In that case she needs to trust that Acme Corp correctly vetted and authenticated the user Bob, and that their database isn't corrupted. This reliance on Acme Corp. is what has lead to walled gardens, de-platforming, bot farms, etc.

      I will also add that, when done right, 3rd party platforms managing user accounts does come with benefits over Chatter Net's decentralized approach. So I consider Chatter Net an experiment to better understand the alternative.

      There are some interesting features that come out of Chatter Net's approach, like the self-moderation idea discussed in other comments. I think exploring them could be rewarding.

      As a final note, Chatter Net is inventing very little here. It's mainly packaging together a DID (https://www.w3.org/TR/did-core/) and Activity Pub (https://www.w3.org/TR/activitypub/) implementation into an opinionated library which is ready to deploy on existing web tech.

      • kanwisher 7 days ago
        This description is barely intelligible for programmers. You need to work on making your concept more clear. I'm guessing you are trying to make a decentralized twitter so that no one can gate keep, but its insanely difficult to understand with your description
        • Double_a_92 7 days ago
          Exactly. I am a software engineer and I have absolutely no idea what it's about by just reading the description of the project!

          > "Chatter Net is a modern decentralized semantic web built atop self-sovereign identity."

          That's just a group of random buzzwords to me. They might as well also add "blockchain" and "metaverse" to it...

        • garrinm 7 days ago
          I agree the description wasn't quite ready for prime time. I will work on the documentation and adding examples.
  • acjohnson55 7 days ago
    How does this compare with Bluesky, which I understand also uses DIDs?

    https://blueskyweb.org/

    • garrinm 7 days ago
      There are lots of similarities indeed. No idea exists on its own, and it is not surprising that there are many others trying to solve the same problems and arriving to similar conclusions. I would consider Chatter Net to be a parallel experiment exploring similar ideas.

      I think I can also address the elephant in the room: Bluesky is built by a team of (very likely talented) individuals. Chatter Net is, well, Chatter Net xD. The atproto project is very interesting to me, and part of the reason for pushing Chatter Net so early was to make sure its have a chance to be heard before the space becomes too crowded.

      At a high level I can spot a few differences in the approaches:

      - Chatter Net is smaller project focused much more on the data model, whereas atproto is more of a holistic solution specifying not just the data model but also how it should be shared and stored to some extent.

      - Chatter Net builds on the Activity Pub (and JSON-LD) standard whereas atproto introduces a new data format.

      The core ideas atproto are very similar to the ideas in Chatter Net. Those ideas are extended to touch on some complicated topic that Chatter Net is just starting to address (their big world vs. small world discussion).

      However, I'm not entirely sure yet how decentralized Bluesky (atproto) will be. In security the system is only as strong as its weakest link, and I think ultimately whether Bluesky is decentralized, federated, or run by a consortium will depend on:

      - how personal data servers are created / managed - how easy it is in practice for a user move between apps, servers etc. The signing key is not controlled by the user, but they do control a recovery key. If a platform changes direction or becomes otherwise incompatible with a user, I can imagine this system working out quite well, or it becoming akin to asking for your post history from one platform, and then manually uploading it to another and having to rebuild your network etc.

    • erlend_sh 7 days ago
      ..which builds on https://ucan.xyz/ for auth. I’m also curious to learn what Chatter Net does differently, and whether that’s necessary.
  • esjeon 7 days ago
    So, is this kind of decentralized wiki based on DID?
    • garrinm 7 days ago
      Pretty much, good observation. The main idea really is just to push identity to the client. Activity Stream is a convenient way to package information, especially if you want to self-sign it and have it be self-descriptive. And Activity Pub is a sensible way to share that information.
  • mark_l_watson 7 days ago
    There are problems tuning out unwanted traffic, but cool idea. Apparently RDF, etc. are not used?
    • garrinm 7 days ago
      Chatter Net doesn't offer a solution to spam / unwanted traffic, but maybe it can give tools for people to create their own solutions. The idea is to have a network of servers, and each can enforce their own rules (the simplest of which would be to only accept messages from known users).

      To the user, the servers are rather transparent. You can connect to multiple servers at once, and you can connect to different servers on different sessions. So somehow you can act as the bridge between various communities allowing information to spread. But each community can still enforce its own rules around what information it stores.

      The main difference to the current Fediverse is that federtation happens user-to-server, not server-to-server. Ultimately, each server has full control over what it stores and shares. Ana each user has full control over what server they want to listen to.

  • rch 8 days ago
    Is there a license for the server? Sorry if I'm overlooking it.
  • qualudeheart 7 days ago
    Is an api with c++ bindings available?
    • garrinm 7 days ago
      Unfortunately not at this time, this is very early days for the project.
  • PaulHoule 7 days ago
    Semantic as in RDF?
  • Yan-solucracy 7 days ago
    undefined
  • agentultra 7 days ago
    I don’t think it’s a good idea to build any kind of social networking application without moderation and filtering tools. Both for server admins and users.
    • garrinm 7 days ago
      Agree! Chatter Net is built to be self-moderating. The currently implementation (conversely.social) isn't fully using this yet.

      From the user point of view, the idea is simple: you receive messages only from people you follow. As people in your network emit "view" messages (about other posts), those posts will make it to your inbox. It's a sort gossip mechanism.

      There's another side to this coin: as a server administrator you might not want to host arbitrary content. So a server is free to filter content using any rules. The simplest of which would be to allow content only from trusted accounts.

      A user is free to connect to any server, and if that server accepts their content, this is how they can send messages. A server is free to server only the information it wants to share. A user should be connected to multiple servers, and these can change session-to-session.

      This is meant to be transparent to the user, you just go any site that delivers the front-end which can run a Chatter Net node, and that node will listen to what servers others are connecting to, and connect to those servers.

      The hope is that communities will form around certain servers / moderation styles. But ultimately, the user chooses what they consume.

    • toofy 7 days ago
      yeah, no moderation is just spam bots talking to other spam bots.

      edit: the author specified below that moderation is on the to-do list, they’re hoping someone with moderation ideas will help with implementation later—it just hasn’t been added yet.