RunYourOwn.Social Network

This is one of the things I want to be doing: running a tiny social network service for a few family members. This guide goes from questions like “Why should I?” and “Should I?”, through to practical advice for those with programming or I.T. expertise and for those without.

–> Run Your Own Social (

How to run a small social network site for your friends

by Darius Kazemi


From Open Source to Open Communication

I just got around to reading mhoye’s article The Evolution Of Open and it challenged and changed my perspective in a good way, relevant to how Matrix fits in to the quest for “open” communications systems for the benefit of society as a whole.

I was focused on decentralization tech, empowering users to technically control their identity (see: “Self-Sovereign Identity“) as the primary need to concentrate on.

After reading that post, I’m seeing how empowering users needs to be at a much more social level, having communities that can technically communicate with anyone but practically need to set loose boundaries in variety of ways, having the personal and collective ability to “tune out” messages and people and entire communities that are abusive or just uninteresting to them.

It’s not that we shouldn’t all be open to hearing view from people who are different from us, it’s that if we allow everyone on the planet to shout into our ears at an equal volume, that’s not effective communication, it’s no use at all. (And spammers use spam bots to amplify their unwanted inputs.) Rather, we need ways to go selectively and occasionally to hear different views, moderated by people we trust.

In the #synchronicity channel the Matrix founder Matthew expressed reservations about how, in the article, federated systems are positioned as detrimental to providing a safe “open space” for all participants to be free from online abuses. The author writes, “I believe that federated infrastructure – that is, a focus on distributed and resilient services – is a poor substitute for an accountable infrastructure that prioritizes a distributed and healthy community”. Matthew countered that federated systems “have an existential reason to fix” that problem. Big-corp silos have financial reasons to address the problems of safe inclusion, and indeed have “health” and “reputation” teams dedicated to it, but they are only ever going to do so in profitable ways, which could be insidiously worse. Maybe the perspective expressed was what’s available today rather than future-looking. Today, the “best” moderation is achieved in some profitable silos. For the future, it seems obvious to me that federation is part of the solution, even though it poses challenges, and that point seems to be missed.

After reading and pondering these issues, I raise the priority of my ability as a user to control the rules that my federated messaging server applies to me, and to migrate to one that suits me better, above the technical ability to run my own instance of such a server.

Hoping Mozilla Embraces Matrix for Chat

Mozilla, bastion of the Open Internet, intends to switch its communications from the ancient and very open IRC, to … well, something better, as Mike Hoye explains in the articles Synchronous Text and Goals And Constraints.

My concern is that the first article suggests an intention to look for a complete packaged solution — “We are not rolling our own”. it reads to me like the hope is that not only is the software packaged, but also a hosting service and also the management of the service, and that brings to my mind such things as the handling of complaints and legal bureaucracy. Such a solution is likely to be commercial and closed, because commerce has found there is a great demand for such systems and developed some.

The state of open communication systems is fragmented and rough-edged in comparison, even though great progress has been made on some fronts. Perhaps open communication systems are under-valued by the governments, universities and open-source organizations that might have power to resource their development. They might see that email works very well and many other channels are available and think that the commercial market is doing a good job in developing new alternatives and doing society a favour in making them available for use for no charge. Perhaps the decision makers have not the background, the insight and the careful consideration it takes to be able to see the other side of the equation. Anyway, the result is that the development of open systems hasn’t really been pushed by larger society, and it seems to me only now in the last few years are we (society) starting to understand an inkling what we are missing because of that.

As someone who feels aligned with Mozilla’s view of the social values and ethics of an open internet, I have been quietly wishing that they and other organizations will increasingly help push open systems into the mainstream. The possibility of them adopting a proprietary communication system quite upsets me.

I admire the foresight of the French government for boldly choosing Matrix for their chat system.

I took the opportunity to drop some hints in this direction in my response today to Mozilla’s “Reimagine the Web” Survey.

The specific issue of replacing Mozilla’s main real-time communication network is being discussed in a room/channel named Synchronicity on Matrix and on IRC, and they plan to start standing up candidate solutions and evaluating them soon. I don’t have much available hobby time to participate, but I hope to throw a few tuits into that space if I can.

Mozilla’s “Reimagine the Web” Survey

My responses to Mozilla’s “Reimagine the Web” Survey; your responses are needed by 14th May.

  1. I consider myself to be:
    • Tech savvy
  2. favorite thing about the internet:
    • removes tedium like posting paper order forms; learn serious and fun things; work from home
  3. the term “open internet” is best explained as:
    • my connections, data and activities are legally and practically owned and controlled by me, not by freebie-service lock-you-in companies
  4. Thinking about the future of the internet leaves you feeling:
    • Super excited!
  5. Who is most responsible for making the internet a good place to be?
    • big corps Won’t; gov’t Should but in UK is not proactive (encouraging to see French gov’t pushing open tech like Matrix); we users Are theoretically responsible for this part of our society but don’t know about the issue or what to do about it
  6. What values are most important for ensuring a healthy online experience?
    • trust and reputation: to decide whose blogs, news, product ads to trust, I need the ability to share and manage reputation of users and companies
  7. What are the main challenges we, as a society, face on the internet at the moment?
    • Privacy violations, Lack of Civility, Centralization of control
  8. What should Mozilla’s role in contributing to a healthy online experience focus on?
    • Encouraging advocates of openness to work together, because hackers often prefer working in a sandbox but linked systems are key to open internet. Both encouraging individuals and especially forging relationships among organizations (smaller ones, bigger ones like Apache, FSF, Debian, any at all).
    • Seeding initiatives to improve linking and viability of open internet projects, especially important but un-sexy areas that aren’t already addressed by enough volunteers, like ways for everyone to store and back up all kinds of their personal data.
    • Teaching newcomers and general net citizens about the issues.

Goodbye G+, Hello Matrix and Indieweb

And, poof!, there goes another “walled garden”. Goodbye Google+, I won’t miss you. Rather than jump ship to another silo such as FB, I’ve been getting very interested in non-silo, “own your own digital self” alternatives, sometimes referred to as “re-decentralizing” the Internet because it originally was that way before these monoliths came to dominate it.

The website suggests “ethical, easy-to-use and privacy-conscious alternatives” to popular sites. I can agree with most of their suggestions. For blogging, there are several lightweight, Open alternatives.

To ensure you keep ownership and control of your next website or blog, there are two requirements:

  1. Connect it to your own domain name (mine’s at so you don’t lose control of it and your links don’t break and addresses don’t change when you have to leave your service provider. If you pay someone (like to run it, you’ll need to pay them for the privilege, as well as registering your domain name in the first place; each of these may be around £1 to £2 a month.
  2. Make sure it’s open source, so it can in practice be set up again somewhere else when your previous service provider shuts down or you need to leave them.

For how to Own your Own Data in terms of blog posts and responses, etc. — see IndieWeb.

For messaging, it’s got to be Matrix. It provides a user experience like WhatsApp and Slack but is Open, so you can choose who runs your server and how much it integrates with other services.

Use Matrix! Not WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a closed silo — you can do with it only what the company chooses to let you do. Like Facebook. They can start placing annoying adverts, restrict what external systems you can integrate with, introduce charges for services that were once free, and change their terms of use in any way they like at any time.

Yes, they provide a useful service, for free. But you get sucked in, then you get locked in.

Matrix is Open (as in freedom, liberty) — you can move to another Matrix service provider and still talk with everyone, no matter which Matrix service provider they signed up with. Your work, university, or friends can host their own Matrix server, control their own data, modify it to talk to other systems, and customize it as they wish.

If you care about freedom of communication, use Matrix!