The past month has changed the Fediverse, and, by extension, our instance. We’ve continued as normal (apart from limiting sign-ups) to give ourselves time to figure out which changes were only temporary, what seems to be changed for good, and how to react. A month seems ample time, and here we are with a set of changes in how chaos.social will work in the future.
We (@leah and rixx) have been running chaos.social for over five years now. It’s been fun most of the time, and all the exhausting tasks were easily offset by the joy and community in our digital living room. That’s as it should be.
With the Twitter acquisition a month ago (and, to a much lesser degree, with the announcement in April), our instance started growing much faster than ever before. We checked some of the growth by limiting sign-ups to 42 (and later 23) new users per day, but much of the growth was that thousands of unused accounts were suddenly activated again.
We worked a lot to compensate for this. We both put in easily 10-20 additional hours per week. Initially, this was mostly scaling up our setup to keep up with the increasing demands, and once that was done, it was mostly working with people. Nearly all our moderation work is done in private messages and emails, so it wasn’t very visible to our users, but the culture clash between Twitter expats, dormant users and people who have been using chaos.social actively for years was big, often unpleasant, and stressful.
We can’t keep this up. The stress made chaos.social no fun to run – we thought a bit about adding people to the team to support a larger instance, but after thinking about it, that’s not what we actually want (though we nearly convinced ourselves to do so regardless, out of a misplaced sense of duty).
We are here to provide an online living room to ourselves, our friends, their friends, and their friends’ friends and so on. We’re willing to do unpleasant work for it – and we wouldn’t be willing to do the same work for a bigger, more professional, more general instance. So we decided to enact changes that will make running chaos.social seem like less of a chore and more of a joy.
All changes in our new instance rules will come into full effect in two weeks, on December 13th, and we’ll start issuing warnings based on the new rules a week earlier, on December 6th.
Sign-ups will remain closed
Even when we had less than two thousand users (to our current ten!), we’ve heard that we are too big and too centralised. We reacted by turning into an invite-only instance (to immediately be accused of elitism, naturally), but at this point, we agree: We can’t grow further. We are closing sign-ups, effective immediately. As admins, we can still invite people, but we’ll exercise that option rarely and carefully.
We’re primarily an instance for the Chaos community. That doesn’t mean that people who aren’t part of that community should leave, but neither does it mean that we should be the main instance for our community. For everybody thinking about running an instance of their own:
We’ll offer advice for people starting their own instances
We’ve written about the work involved in running a Mastodon instance, and we’ll be publishing a guide to scaling Mastodon in the future. We are very interested in a decentralised Fediverse, and will offer advice to anybody wanting to move to their own instance.
No more automated posts
Providing a living room for people is great. Providing unpaid resources and work for bots and crossposters, on the other hand, does not spark joy. Going forward, we will not allow automated content on chaos.social, and we will ask people to either turn off their crossposters or to move to a different instance.
Bot owners: we’re sorry for the hassle. We will allow a small amount of bots to stay. This is mostly limited to bots that are relevant to the Chaos community. Ping us at @ordnung or via email (contact@) if you own a bot and think that applies to your bot.
More CWs on the local timeline
We have always asked our users to be thoughtful about their CW use, which worked out pretty well. However, with the sudden rise in user numbers, we decided to move some part of that behaviour from our “Best Practices” section up to the “Rules” section. Particularly, when posting to the local timeline, please add Content Warnings for posts about violence, sexually explicit content, death/disease, and politics, particularly when negative or controversial.
We want our local timeline to be a place that particularly attacked and marginalised people can read without getting blasted with painful topics. We want to afford them and everybody the choice when to engage, instead of becoming yet another doomscrolling place.
The list of CW topics is just that – the topic list. Actual CWs would look more like “uspol, transphobia, Texas” or “US elections”.
There will always be exceptions and case-by-case calls. We’re confident we’ll end up at a local consensus in the matter again. And it’s not like people will get kicked out for making mistakes – we always talk to people in private when there are problems. You can also add CWs via edits later on, so don’t worry too much.
If calling them Content Warnings seems to dramatic to you, try to see them as more of a Notice (there’s a discussion about getting them renamed, too).
Image descriptions on the local timeline
In the same vein, we’ve moved image descriptions up to the “Rules” sections for when you’re posting to the local timeline. We don’t care if you add them via the Mastodon feature, or in the post, or in a reply, and they don’t need to be extensive. Adding “[image: a bird]” to a post would be enough already.
Best Practices updated
We’ve been meaning to update our Best Practices section for a while, and a big rule change like this was just a convenient time to do this. Apart from changing some phrasing, the new best practices are, verbatim:
- Provide credit for creative works that are not your own.
- Don’t be a reply guy – uninvited comments about another user’s personal choices, lifestyle or family are strongly discouraged and may be considered harassment.
Just like before, going against the Best Practices might lead to a reminder or a quiet conversation with us. While it could technically get you kicked off the instance, you’d have to really persistently act against them (and at that point, why are you on chaos.social?).
thank you for flying chaos.social today. We know these changes are a lot, and if they are not to your liking, we completely understand if you’re going to move to a different instance. (Remember our offer of help in setting up your own instance!) For everybody who is sticking around: thank you for your trust, and thank you for making this whole thing worth doing.
PS: We’ll also have an update on finances and donations in the near future!