Six months of Wikis World


I did a lot of new, crazy things in 2022, but by far, the most unplanned and unexpected was running a social media server for my friends.

Somehow it has been six months since Taavi and I launched Wikis World, dubbed "a Mastodon server for wiki enthusiasts".

Given that milestone, it's time for me to come clean: I do not like microblogging. I don't like tweets nor toots nor most forms of character-limited posting. I'm a print journalist by training and mentality (there's a reason this blog has justified text!); I'd so much rather read your long-form blog posts and newsletters. I want all the nuance and detail that people leave out when microblogging.

But this seems to be the best option to beat corporate social media, so here I am, co-running a microblogging server. Not to mention that I'm attempting to co-run accounts for two projects I've basically dedicated the past decade of my life to: @MediaWiki and @Wikipedia.

Anyways, here are some assorted thoughts about running a Mastodon server.

Content moderation

I feel like I have a good amount of "content moderation" experience from being a Wikipedia administrator and my conclusion is that I don't like it (what a trend, I promise there are actually things I like about this) and more importantly, I'm not very good at it. For the first few months I read literally every post on the Wikis World local timeline, analyzing to see whether it was okay or problematic. This was, unsurprisingly, incredibly unhealthy for me and once I realized how unhappy I was, I stopped doing it.

Especially once we added Lucas and now AntiComposite as additional moderators, I feel a lot more comfortable skimming the local timeline with the intent of actually seeing what people are posting, not pure moderation.

This is not to eschew proactive moderation (which is still important!), just that my approach was not working for me, and honestly, our members have demonstrated that they don't really need it. Which brings me to...

Community building

I've said in a few places that I wanted Wikis World to grow organically. I never really defined what un-organically was, but my rough idea was that we would build a community around/through Wikis World instead of just importing one from elsewhere. I don't think that ended up happening, but it was a bad goal and was never going to happen. We have slightly under 100 accounts, but it's not like all of us are talking to and with each other. Instead, I feel like I'm in a circle of ~5-15 people, largely Wikimedians active in tech areas, who regularly interact with each other, and half of those people host their account elsewhere. Plus the common thread bringing everyone together is wikis, which is already an existing community!

So far I'm pretty happy with how Wikis World has grown. I have a few ideas on how to reduce signup friction and automatically hand out invites, hopefully in the next few months.

The rewarding part

It is incredibly empowering to exist in a social media space that is defined on my own terms (well, mostly). We are one of the few servers that defaults to a free Creative Commons license (hopefully not the only server). We have a culture that promotes free and open content over proprietary stuff. And when I encourage people to join the Fediverse, I know I'm bringing them to a space that respects them as individual human beings and won't deploy unethical dark patterns against them.

To me, that makes it all worth it. The fact that I'm also able to provide a service for my friends and other wiki folks is really just a bonus. Here's to six more months of Wikis World! :-)