Trunk is a website where you can find like minded people on the fediverse.

2019-02-14 Trunk Wiki?

I’m starting to feel that maybe I could simply replace the Trunk web app with a wiki. The only drawback is that people could add others without their consent. I wonder how we would handle that… perhaps the accounts added would get mentioned in a direct message and they would only show up on the page after confirming with a reply from their account? Trunk admins could simply keep an eye on the wiki’s recent changes page or something. Anyway, just thinking aloud.


Comments on 2019-02-14 Trunk Wiki?

So, what prompted the replacement talk? Is there a difficulty running the bot? I noticed that it does not seem to work for me, and there’s a large field for improvement, even if it did work (e.g. getting removed from the list is not documented and/or implemented).

Pete Zaitcev 2019-05-16 14:40 UTC

I just wonder whether it would be easier to onboard admins. And since more and more pages are editable by admins I started feeling like it was slowly turning into a bad wiki. No page history. No recent changes. No rollbacks.

Removal from the lists works just like additions. An admin has to do that. Same for the bot: the bot simply adds requests to a queue but an admin still has to manually check the queue and approve the request.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-05-16 23:16 UTC

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2018-10-17 Trunk Quality Program

I fear that a lot of the people that volunteered for Trunk have either fallen silent (a common problem), or they don’t actually toot a lot on the topics they signed up for. Perhaps they’re interested in following more people tooting about the topic and were confused about the purpose of the lists, or they do write about the topics but they also write about a gazillion other things, drowning out the signal people might be looking for, or it turns out that they mostly boost other people instead of writing their own toots (in which case we might be interested in adding the people they’re boosting to our lists instead).

It’s difficult! I’m considering going through all the lists (ugh!) and clicking on all the linked people. Removing people from Trunk feels like acting as the content police. It’s awful. I need to get into the mindset of “curating.” Perhaps I wouldn’t feel so bad if I were a curator at a gallery, picking and choosing the people that get exposure. But who am I kidding. I’d still feel bad.

But I want better quality for Trunk! So I need to get into the groove. I need to repeat this, like a mantra:

  • If people are no longer active, I’m going to remove them.
  • If people are mostly boosting others, I’m going to remove them.
  • If people are mostly writing about other stuff, I’m going to remove them.

Should I notify them? I wonder. Are they going to change? I hope not! But perhaps it would still be fair to tell them. Hm. 🤔

Like this, perhaps:

Hi! I’m slowly going through the lists on Trunk to see whether people actually write about the topics they volunteered for. I followed a link to your profile and didn’t see a lot of posts on the topics you were listed under so I’m going to remove you from the lists. I hope you understand. 🙇 If you’re simply interested in reading about a topic, you don’t need to be on the list, you can simply follow people on the list. 🐘


Comments on 2018-10-17 Trunk Quality Program

Yeah, I think that the slight reminder makes a lot of sense. I don’t remember what I supposed to do after joining some lists to be honest.

Jacky 2018-10-17 07:15 UTC

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

People probably intend to post on their chosen topics, but never get around to it. I’m sure people will accept that failing, if it is pointed out to them. It probably doesn’t require individual communication, blanket statement somewhere would be fine.

Fitheach 2018-10-17 08:34 UTC

I liked the comment by @ckeen: “Trunk’s biggest plus is somewhat showing the broadness of possible stuff people talk about. With the usual introductions you will find yourself sitting in a very small bubble. […] So I think trunk is useful as such, I am wondering how much active curating is necessary to achieve good connections.”

Indeed. How much active curating is necessary? I’ll have to think about this some more.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-10-18 20:09 UTC

Perhaps a simple first step is to remove inactive accounts? I’m also interested in removing shit posters (is there a better word?) – just the most obvious off-topic posters, if we have any of them. I also don’t know how to get started. As an individual admin perhaps by simply picking a list, clicking on all the accounts, removing the ones that I think need to go, and then send a message to the admins. The admins can check the log and provide feedback if they want. Something low-level like that?

– Alex Schroeder 2019-02-28 22:29 UTC

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2018-09-10 Trunk Explosion

Trunk A while ago, I wrote a little web app called Trunk. It was supposed to help beginners get started. Beginners see a bunch of people in lists and if they’re interested in the topic, they can follow all of these people. And if it failed, or if you wanted to pick and choose, no problem: you could always just click through and pick and choose yourself.

I’ve always asked for people to volunteer for being on the lists because I felt that adding people to lists without them knowing or agreeing to it is rude. It’s a surprise to be suddenly exposed like that! So people had to volunteer: message me and ask to be added to this list or that list. This was also to serve as some sort of minimum quality control: if your timeline is full of spam, I’d be able to deny that request.

Soon, a bunch of friendly people volunteered to help out. This is great. The task doesn’t require any programming, it’s all about getting messages, adding people to lists, and talking with the other admins about this list or that list. Recently one or two accounts with more reach mentioned Trunk and we were flooded with new requests.

If you’re interested in helping out, please contact me and volunteer for the admin team!

I just posted the following call for help:

We’re looking to add volunteers to help out with #Trunk administration. Mostly that means getting messages by people requesting to be added to a bunch of lists. There’s a simple admin interface where you then get to do that. There’s also a decent amount of discussion trying to figure out whether we need to add lists, what to call them, how to describe them, that sort of thing. It sometimes feel like a strange mix of philosophy and the Muppet show.

Some of the things we talk about:

  • What is the best name for a list? I had never heard of Wrenching before, for example.
  • How granular do we want this to be: do we need to have Knitting and Sewing and Crocheting or do we just need Fibre Arts? Do we list Dada or will we end up adding every art movement in history? Early on I was pointed at lumpers and splitters on Wikipedia. This discussion never ends and we might have to go back on them as the fediverse changes. We create lists for programming languages and sports now, but we don’t want to have lists for all the various diet trends: low carb, keto, paleo, etc. Perhaps that will have to change.
  • Do we add NGOs, and if we do, do we add them to a list of NGOs or do we add them to the topics they toot about? We decided to add them to a separate list of Organisations, NGOs & Associations because we want this Trunk instance to be about people connecting to other people.
  • What if the NGO wants to create a list for the NGO itself: FSF, FSFE, EFF, ACLU, Greenpeace, and what about other organisations: political parties, companies? We decided that in this case we’d like these organisations to run their own Trunk instances.
  • What about news bots? Given that we want this instance to be about newbies finding other people, we don’t want add bots.
  • What about people just boosting a lot of other people? Same argument: we’d prefer the people being boosted to volunteer for some of the lists. That would foster the people finding people aspect of it all.

That’s not to say that having lists of boosters and bots could not be useful, too. But it’s not what we want to do. The same is true for foreign languages.

I think that non-English speakers should start separate Trunk instances. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll help you get it installed and everything. Right now I’m thinking that it doesn’t really make sense to add people that mostly toot in a foreign language. I just wonder about the numbers. It’s easy to say now that we don’t mind a French account tooting about Gamedev even if we don’t speak French, for example. But what will we do when 70% of the people in the Gamedev list are Japanese? So I suspect we’d need to have a “Gamedev 日本語” and “Gamedev Français” and so on. Maybe we’d need to translate “Gamedev” as well: “Spieleentwicklung auf Deutsch”. Soon we’re talking about lists we don’t understand to people we don’t understand... This will not scale.

I’ll try to make Trunk as easy to translate into other languages as I can. Please volunteer if you’re interested in this! 😅


Comments on 2018-09-10 Trunk Explosion

The newer edition of Trunk now comes with a queue and a bot.

I installed the bot as @trunk and every ten minutes it connects to see if anybody mentioned it using the formula “Please add me to a comma separated list of names.” If so, it adds the request to a queue stored in the Trunk app. There, admins have an easy way to accept the request.

What this lacks is feedback! I’ll have to think of something. Right now, the bot will accept direct messages which the admins might not even see. Ideally, the admin’s action would then prompt the bot to reply, I guess.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-09-11 13:06 UTC

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2018-08-12 Trunk for Mastodon

So the last two days I’ve been working on Trunk. Trunk allows you to mass-follow a bunch of people in order to get started with Mastodon. Mastodon is a free, open-source, decentralised micro-blogging network.

I’m imagining something like Google+ Circle sharing. Remember that? If you had a good bunch of people you wanted to share, you did, and others could subscribe to all of them in one go. At first I thought Mastodon Lists could serve the same purpose. But then people told me that public lists can be a means to harass people: put victims on the same list as know idiots, put victims on lists with an insulting name, point followers at a list and invite them to tell victims off, etc. But I still want a list of cool people to recommend for newbies to instantly follow. So now I’m trying to find a compromise. Trunk is a web app based on a public, curated list for all to see and maintain. Does better accountability solve the problem? I hope so!

  1. people need to volunteer for the list, I don’t want to put anybody on a list without their consent
  2. as a person, I’m going to try and make sure we don’t have any spammers, idiots, or sinister figures on the list
  3. I also want these to be quality lists, so I’ll check the timelines of suggested accounts to make sure that (at least at the time I added them) they actually posted on topic

I know this “tagging” of accounts is weird. I personally also don’t like too many accounts that just post about one topic. But when I was new, things were different. I had some topics I knew I was interested in: role-playing games, Emacs, pictures. I would have loved to find a way to quickly follow a few dozen accounts and fill my timeline with stuff I cared about.

Also, the list management interface for the Mastodon web client is atrocious. Perhaps I’ll turn Trunk into a kick-ass list-management tool for Mastodon. 🙂

I’ll be collection ideas on the Software Wiki.


Comments on 2018-08-12 Trunk for Mastodon

Ugh, about two days if implementing this stuff – famously the first 80% are done in 20% of the time, of course – and then another two days of basically updating lists, manually. This is time not well spent. If only there was a way to automate this!

Perhaps a kind of bot with a conversational interface? “hey bot, please sign me up to Javascript and Lisp!” and it would do just that? But surely spammers would then abuse the system. So we’d need a review system? A rollback and ban mechanism? In the end it would mean using a wiki backend, perhaps? Or version control?

I like ephemeral data, of course, so a wiki that kept forgetting old revisions but kept some around, just in case, that might make sense.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-08-14 14:55 UTC

Well, I added the ability to add more lists and to add people to lists via an admin interface and two people volunteered to do this! Yay! Thanks! And now I’m off to a break.

– Alex Schroeder 2018-08-15 13:50 UTC

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