Soweli Lukin


Micro-pubnixes, local flavour and two-tier structure

Here's a quick post which will not do any of the ideas contained within justice.

cmccabe recently phlogged about the future of pubnix 1, which is obviously a topic close to my heart these days. I'm glad he linked to colorfield.space, which I have been negligent in doing myself. He also coined the phrase "micro-pubnix" for pubnix servers running on small machines like Raspberry Pis, which I think is great. Squeezing multiple users into a small machine is a fantastic practical demonstration of the absurd extent to which modern computing life has inflated system requirements far beyond what is actually needed.

sloum has already replied 2 and raised what I think is an extremely important point to keep in mind as we see more and more discussion about federated content between interconnected pubnix systems, and that's the importance of what I'll call "local flavour". If all servers are interconnected with all others via all possible channels, and the same content is accessible from everywhere in the same way, there is a homogenising effect which results in servers being perfectly interchangeable, which is an impediment to building strong communities. It's also a recipe for conflict when people with different values or norms for online behaviour are forced to interact in the same space.

My recent post 3 about recreating the early internet via whitelisted connections between pubnix servers completely failed to mention this, but not because I hadn't thought about it. I elaborated on my idea a little in an email to jynx, wherein I described the idea of a federated pubnix-verse with a kind of "two tier" structure. The basic idea was that all individual servers could be interconnected to some extent using established, standard tools like email (SMTP, POP and IMAP) and news (NNTP). Sticking to established standards means pubnix admins can use off the shelf software and their existing knowledge to connect with one another. Mail and news are also systems with very well-established tools for controlling what you receive, in the form of spam filtering and kill files. This lets people practice what jynx calls "voluntary non-engagement" with people they don't want to interact with. Adding structure to this fedpubnixverse would be voluntary tighter integration between groups of servers, making them "subverses". The tildeverse is, I think, history's first pubnix subverse, and circumlunar space is on track to be the second. I imagine subverses being connected, in addition to the mail and news connections they necessarily share by virtue of being part of the larger verse, by more synchronous forms of communication like IRC or XMPP, but also by experimental forms that require close coordination and cooperation between admins. An example of this would be the rsync-federated BBS that is being established between the Zaibatsu and Republic (much progress on this front has happened in recent days, stay tuned!). This two-tier structure lets like-minded people "huddle together", permitting local cultures to evolve and different norms of conduct to be practiced, but also permits user-controlled interconnection over the whole verse so that nobody needs to be any more isolated than they want to be and there can be verse-wide discussion of, well, anything that needs to be disussed verse-wide.

This seems like a nice model to me and once the circumlunar subverse is fully interconnected I will be reaching out to other people about mail connections and, later, news.


Soweli LukinIssuesAlex Schroeder