A Federated Commons | Building the Commons

by Mike Thicke

Twitter’s recent troubles have catalyzed unprecedented attention on Mastodon as an alternative. In turn, this has introduced many to the Fediverse—a loose collection of services that, like Mastdodon, use the ActivityPub protocol to communicate with each other.

At Humanities Commons, we have long considered ActivityPub to be the most promising way to expand from our current, single-site, structure to a network of associated Commonses. We have taken Mastodon as an inspiration and model for a new, federated Commons network.

I hope to use this blog both to keep users at Humanities Commons informed of our plans and progress toward this goal of a renewed Commons and Commons network, but to also have conversations with all of you about our direction, about how we can best serve your needs, and about how you can contribute to our journey.

In this post, I want to describe in general terms how the Commons functions as a pseudo-network now, some of the challenges we’ve experienced with that structure, and how a federated or decentralized Commons might address those problems. In future posts I will go into more detail about how different components of the site—such as profiles, groups, sites, and the repository—might function in a federated Commons, as well as discussions of how we plan to implement all of this.