März 10, 2016

GNUSocial / Quitter and choosing a server

When twitter tried to make itself unpopular again (last time they upset their users with the prospect to allow 10,000 character tweets) by introducing an algorithmic timeline, the Hashtag #RIPTwitter started to trend and people started looking at alternatives again.

One of the alternatives is GNU social, often called Quitter after a popular GNU social server. Here is an article how to get started, once you decided for a server.

GNU social is a federated system like Jabber/XMPP, which means there is no central server. Each user can choose from a lot of servers, but reach people on other servers. This is a great thing, as everybody can run his own server and having more different servers adds redundancy and diversity. No one can control or censor the whole network.

On the other hand, without a central website, you have to choose a server you want to use for your account. Which server should you use? The one with the nicest name (i.e. quitter has a nice ring for twitter users), the one with the most users, or should you use some other criteria?

Of course, self hosting may be an option for some of us, but others cannot or do not want to host an own server. I host most of my stuff by myself, but unlike an e-mail server it would be hard to move to an hosted service, when i decide i do not want to host my instance on my own at a later time. So i started to think about which criteria are useful to choose an GNUSocial server for my account.

Some of the main aspects include:

  • Reliability: You do not want your E-Mails to be lost, probably you do not want your queets (messages on GNUSocial) to be lost as well.
  • Privacy and Security: Neither should the data be lost on a harddrive failure, nor do you want your private messages or password in a leak.
  • Moderation: On the big sites like Twitter there are sometimes problems with harassment. So when a new social network grows, it will need some moderation to stop people from harassing others. On the other hand could too much moderation hurt the idea of an free alternative, which may even provide more freedom than the commercial ones.

As i asked myself these questions, i thought others may ask themself the same. So i decided to survey some of the server administrators about these things. I sent a mail with some questions to these instances (taken from this list of instances):

(I will link them to follow up posts, as i get answers and have time to blog them)

The Questions:

Gnusocial configuration

- How many characters per queet are possible on your instance? - Which plugins are installed on your instance? - Do you keep up with the most recent version or are you testing new versions for a while before using them?

Users, Stability & Money ========================

Users would like a service, which lasts forever and runs fast and reliable. Can you tell something about how your service tries to achieve this?

- How many users does your service have? - For how long does it exist? - How do you pay for the service? Do you get enough donations, do you have sponsors or do you pay for it yourself? - What do you need to pay for hardware / hosting? - Are there costs for moderating / maintaining the site? - How do you want to ensure, the service will last (That it can be payed for and there are enough people, who keep it running)? - How can your users support you? Do you accept donations? Are there other ways to say thank you, like a amazon wishlist or flattr?

Abuse Handling ==============

The larger the site, the more abusive users will come. How do you handle the moderation on your site?

- How can users report abusive Queets / private Messages? - How fast can the moderation handle such requests? - Are you actively moderating the site or just handling reports?

- Do you have specific policies how to react on which type of incident? - Is there a page with the rules for your instance or do you rely on common sense and notify users, when they are going too far?

- Can you tell something about the possible consequences for breaking the rules? - Do you notify authorities for serious incidents or do you just ban the users and let the victim report it to the police themself?

Moderation ==========

Moderation to prevent abuse is important, but too much moderation can hurt a site. Moderating legal but possibly offensive posts may create chilling effects, where people censor themself to avoid being moderated or even banned for unpopular opinions.

- When do you delete possibly offensive tweets? - When do you warn users? - When do you temporarily ban users? - When do you permanently ban users?

- Do your moderators discuss decisions among themselfes or are they acting on their own? - Do you discuss the moderation with the users? - How do you avoid, that moderators are biased to their own opinion in the discussion, which they are moderating?

- Do you think your users need to think about being moderated before writing a queet? - Do you have any rules, which require the users to think beyond common sense before posting, like avoiding tv spoilers?

- Where does inacceptable behaviour start on your instance? (bad opinions expressed in a serious manner / flame wars / trolling / insults / haressment / serious threats) - What are your moderators doing with reports for queets in heated discussions, which are strictly speaking not breaking a rule, but offending other users in the discussion?

- How are you moderating queets from other gnusocial instances?

Backup & Privacy ================

Some instances have plugins for backup, others don't have this option. What options do you provide for your users? How do you handle the privacy of your users?

- Can your users export their data (queets, private messages)? - Is there a way to import this data or data from other gnusocial instances? - Do you have backups for your server, i.e. in case of hardware failure? - Can your users delete their account? - How long does it take for the data to be deleted completely (i.e. disappear from any backups)? - Do you retain any data after deletion, i.e. to as proof for abusive behaviour, to enable recovery of the deleted account or to prevent others from reregistering the account name? - Do you ever read private messages? Under which circumstances would you do so and would you inform the users afterwards?

Security ========

- How are you protecting the data (i.e. is the server hard disk encrypted)? - Does your site use HTTPS? - Did you configure more security options like a HSTS header?

Legal Issues ============

It is pretty common that people post copyrighted images on social media, which can get them into trouble. A smaller site may have problems to get accused of the violation itself instead of the user. How do you handle copyrighted content and law enforcement requests?

- Do you inform your users about rules for posting copyrighted images / texts? - Do you try to actively moderate copyright violations or do you take down content only on request? - What would you do, when you receive a DMCA notice or a similiar request in your country?

- What do you do about images violating personality rights of people in the image? - How would you handle requests for the EU "right to be forgotten" law? - Did you think about getting a national security letter?

Technical Information =====================

Can you tell something about how you run the website?

- What hardware are you using? - What software (i.e. operation system, etc.) are you using? - Does the server just run gnusocial or are you using it for other things as well? - Is your server very busy with the instance?

Final thoughts ==============

- Why should users choose your instance? - Do you want to tell anything else?

Kategorien OpenSource Internet Medien Software english
Tagged GNUSocial Quitter StatusNet twitter RIPTwitter
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