Brussels / 4 & 5 February 2023


Decentralized Social Media with Hachyderm

Leaving the Basement and Form the Nivenly Foundation

In November of 2022 over 30,000 Twitter refugees decided to create an account on my Mastodon server running in my basement. By the end of the month I had scheduled time off my job as a Principal engineer at GitHub and began the process of legalizing an entity to protect the service. The rack of hardware began to topple over due to the increase in load, and I found myself instantly responsible for 30,000 passwords, email addresses, IP addresses, and access to several extremely popular technologists personal direct messages. This is the overview, research, hypothesis and outcomes that came from the mass exodus of Twitter. Learn how I was able to form a cooperative entity to combat the impact of ruthless capitalism in Silicon Valley in the name of a sustainable free and open source social media service.

We start the presentation by communicating data about W3C decentralized protocols, Mastodon adoption, Twitter exodus, and Hachyderm metrics. We spend the first few slides looking at graphs and metrics to demonstrate two outcomes. 1) The world is shifting to decentralized services and 2) These services are forming around W3C standards.

We move onto a production outage, technical impact, and overview of what it takes to run Hachyderm (my 30k Mastodon instance) behind the scenes. The outage we explore trended #1 on Hacker News and covers the depths of traffic analysis, incident response, ZFS on Linux, systemd, and PostgresQL at scale. We understand how many people are working at Hachyderm, and what the motivation is to give the various contributors financial stake in the entity.

We spend the next section of the presentation unpacking the consequences of Silicon Valley surveillance capitalism, consequences of hyper-inflated startup exit strategy, and venture capital in general. We learn how the profit motivated model is ultimately responsible for the downfall of centralized and corporate-backed services.

We explore the legal decision I made to form a cooperative entity, and why I chose this model over a non-profit or regular profit focused corporation. We explore what a "democratic corporation" looks like and draw the analogy to open source software governance. I offer a working model that the broader industry can leverage for their own projects in the same way that GitHub has offered BEIPA as a way to combat invasive ownership problems in corporate tech.

The audience walks away understanding the nuance between open source technology, and a disruptive shift in how the world is observing profit driven corporations. We look at my experience as a successful open source maintainer and how my passion for free and open source methodology has lead me to adventure down the unprecedented path of cooperative entities for my projects. Learn how I am addressing the problem of open source maintainers not seeing accolades and financial compensation for their work by changing the game of how corporations operate. Learn how my little social media service became the spearhead in a movement that I hope will disrupt the tech industry, and set a precedent for equality and sustainability for the world.


Photo of Kris Nóva Kris Nóva