Send in your ideas. Deadline October 1, 2024
Theme fund: NGI0 Discovery
Start: 2019-04
End: 2022-10
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Discourse ActivityPub

Connecting internet discussions with ActivityPub

Discourse is a modern open source discussion platform. In some ways it can work similar to email but it much better suited to large scale group discussions that in turn become searchable (i.e. indexable) items of knowledge on the world wide web (given that the forum is publicly viewable). We are building a two-way mirror for Discourse topics, compatible with the ActivityPub standard. The first iteration of this will be "Live Topic Links": When a topic is created on Forum A by pasting a URL to a topic on another Discourse instance (Forum B), the user is prompted "would you like to sync replies between this forum and the forum you're linking to?" If the user clicks "yes," replies to the mirror topic on Forum B would be synced back to the topic on Forum A, and vice versa (if Forum B has "whitelisted"rum A).

Why does this actually matter to end users?

People become active members of communities based on their interests. You join a cook club because you love Italian food, subscribe to a music magazine because you like rock and apply to a biking group because you are an avid cyclist. We do the same thing on the internet, searching for and finding particular groups that talk about what interests us and join the discussion. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter set the terms for how you can search and find the communities you are looking for, as well as what updates you can read and which are kept from you. These services also suffer from massively spread offensive, misguiding and harmful content that feeds into the business model of grabbing and keeping our attention as long as possible.

Platforms like Discourse try to make internet discussion more transparent and user-centric, for example by letting users maintain a civilized discussion through flagging any inappropriate comments or trolls and having the code be open source and peer reviewed. The decentralized nature of the platform gives users more freedom to discuss and connect and avoids any invasive nudging, tracking or manipulating. But the lack of a central feed or homepage can also mean that small communities eager to grow end up being hard to find and ultimately die out. This project helps such communities to be discovered by using a a new protocol for delivering users with notifications and the ability to subscribe to content that interests them, all in a decentralized way without the need for any party to collect and possibly record this data . A Discourse forum meant for amateur chefs can aggregate all cooking-related forums that are active on Discourse or other platforms supporting this protocol to help users find the cooking advice they are looking for. This of course also extends to communities that are crucial for a vital and active public space like activists and journalists. This project can ultimately help to lower the barrier of entry for Discourse as an open source, transparent and user-centric alternative to popular and proprietary social media platforms.

Logo NLnet: abstract logo of four people seen from above Logo NGI Zero: letterlogo shaped like a tag

This project was funded through the NGI0 Discovery Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825322.

This project is archived. Due to circumstances, the project as planned did not take place. This page is left as a placeholder, for transparency reasons and to perhaps inspire others to take up this work.