First off, I wanted to say hi to all the new members we’ve had join in the past month. Thank you for joining us here at Beehaw. A community doesn’t exist without its members, and it’s exciting watching this instance grow.

I’ve always been a proponent of keeping explanations as simple as possible and allowing discussions to clarify the finer points, but I’ve noticed that I’ve been repeating myself a lot recently with the influx of new users and lot of fantastic questions about what we are, what we’re doing, and why we’re different.

This is to be the first post of a series in which I’m going to share my own thoughts on the vision of Beehaw and how I hope it can be brought to fruition. It’s also a place for me to share my thoughts on what’s wrong with other social media platforms, such as some of the major pitfalls of most moderation systems. To be clear, I don’t speak on behalf of everyone who’s been involved in starting this instance and I certainly don’t speak on behalf of everyone here, so this isn’t meant to be a manifesto, or a set of rules etched into stone tablets for you to obey. I will try to frame ideas that I hold through my own eyes (I), and ideas which I believe the establishing community holds through the lens of our eyes (we).

A condensed history of the formation of Beehaw

The group of users who created Beehaw used to exist on another platform. Many of us came to that platform from many other platforms before it. We were sold on the idea that it was a different platform, where discussion would be encouraged, and things would be different. While the platform was still small, there was a much higher feeling of cohesion and community and users being aggressive or hateful to each other was incredibly rare. When they were mean, it was often over emotionally charged issues and typically resolved itself with apologies or slight changes in who interacted with who. Over time this platform, like many others before it, got infested with a group of people I like to refer to as rationalists.

I’m simplifying their mindset to that of the rationalist, because rationalism touts itself as a belief that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge, rather than belief or emotional response, and they often touted such ideals. While I agree that beliefs and emotional responses can get in the way of important work, the kind of rationalist that I take qualms with is someone who doesn’t understand that their own beliefs or emotions are clouding their judgement. At times they repeat racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted narratives because they are not as learned as they think. They often end up causing a lot of harm to minority individuals who already struggle to get society to listen to them because bigoted notions dominate the common narratives found in society.

On this platform I attempted to address this emerging problem of rationalism. To be clear I do not view these people as bad people. I simply think they are misled or unintentionally ignorant. When I was younger, I found myself in possession of many of the thoughts they discuss because I was also taught them through the lens of a colonial oppressive system. It took a lot of work to undo some of the brainwashing that I had gone through and to realize the harm that I was causing by ‘debating’ these issues online.

Unfortunately for me my attempts to address this problem on said platform were met with ire by the creator of said website, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I should cease these meta-discussions altogether. That message and that final thread that I had created on the matter lead to a discussion on an informal community for the website where likeminded individuals began to lay the groundwork for what we felt was wrong with this system of moderation and the problems we saw in modern social media platforms.

The spirit of Beehaw

The issue as I see it with modern social media is the way in which rules are enforced. There are many good reasons to itemize specific behavior which is not allowed, but the downside is that extremely specific rules are easy to maneuver around. We’ve all experienced someone who’s a real jerk on the internet but manages to never get banned because they never explicitly violate any rules. I’m not sexist, they’ll claim, but happen to post a lot of articles calling into question modern feminism or criticize the wage gap.

I think many people today would agree that someone ‘debating’ the benefits of phrenology in the open would constitute racist behavior, but there was a time and place in the world where it was considered real science, despite many scientists distancing themselves from this field very early on and critics writing scathing commentaries on this emerging field. This same guise of civility is frequently exercised by bigots, with modern examples of sexism, homophobia and transphobia being easily found on nearly any major social media platform.

Humans are pretty good at figuring out when someone is being a dick online, even if they are acting within the defined rules, and one solution to this problem is to recenter humans in our online social platforms. The idea of not having a ton of explicit rules, and instead having simple rules like “Be(e) nice” is a startling one for most, because it upends what we’ve come to know and expect from the internet. However, by keeping the rules simple and instead attempting to enforce the spirit behind the rules, we’re able to deal more effectively with problematic individuals and create a space in which you aren’t worried about whether you’re going to have explain to someone why you’re a human and why you shouldn’t be subject to incessant bigotry online.

What is (and isn’t) Beehaw

That brings us to the fundamental question of what Beehaw is and isn’t. Beehaw is a social media platform. So, we do want you coming here and sharing links to news articles, websites you find, starting discussions, connecting with others, and in general doing what you see on other social media websites. We want you to do this while being nice to each other. If you aren’t nice, we’ll remind you to be nice. If you continue to be problematic, we’ll escalate from there, but it’s going to be on a case-by-case basis. If your first reply when we ask you to be nice to each other is to fuck off, I’m going to respond in kind. I also understand that being emotional is a normal part of being a human and that some of us struggle with anger more than others, and I’d like for this to be a community which is open to the idea of reversing actions, such as bans, if you’re willing to talk with the community about why you think it should be reversed. Of note, we simply do not tolerate intolerant behavior. Being explicitly racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or bigoted in any other fashion is not tolerated here.

But how might one determine when it’s okay to be intolerant towards people you believe are being intolerant or who are being intolerant but doing so because they are uneducated or have not spent time deconstructing their own privilege? Many philosophers have written extensively about this subject, and I simply don’t have time to write an entire manifesto. In simple terms, I am not advocating for tone policing. I believe that being outraged and angry at people who are destroying our society is a good thing to do. When the supreme court removes protections for abortion, it’s okay to be outraged and to take action into your own hands - they have done something intolerant. When someone advocates online that you don’t have the right to your own body, it’s okay to tell them to fuck off. In fact, I greatly encourage it. This is being intolerant to the intolerant.

However, when someone online shares an opinion and it feels like they might be intolerant and you jump to the conclusion that they are intolerant and you launch into a tirade at them, this is not nice behavior. You didn’t check if they have the opinion you think they have, and that’s simply not nice to someone which you don’t know.

It gets even more complicated when you consider someone who is sharing an opinion they have which is actively harmful to many individuals in the world, but it’s due to their ignorance. I personally believe that so long as this person is not actively spreading this intolerant viewpoint and are working on themselves to become a better person, that it would not be particularly productive to launch into a tirade against them. I understand, however, how someone could be quite rude in response to such intolerance and I agree that this person may desperately need to be educated appropriately, but there is no way for that discussion to happen on this platform in a productive manner while lobbing insults at each other. I can understand why, at first brush, some might consider this tone policing. However, I disapprove of the intolerant viewpoint, and I approve of it being corrected, but I also approve of the intolerant person attempting to become a better person.

The only way for a platform which is hoping to exist as an explicitly nice place online to avoid taking sides in a situation like this is to withdraw from the quandary entirely. This kind of nuanced political and philosophical discussion is just simply not meant for Beehaw. I’d like to think that I’m aware and learned enough to avoid ‘debating’ things like phrenology, which are obviously racist, but I’m also smart enough to realize that there’s likely some ideas which I’ve internalized or been taught by a colonialist western society which are harmful to other minorities. I want to be able to learn about how everything I was taught was wrong, and to be corrected, and that space can only exist when we don’t let users berate each other over ideas they project on others (whether that projection happens to be correct or not).

  • I’m struggling with a conflict here, and I hope we can have an open conversation about it.

    I just started a monthly donation to Beehaw via OpenCollective, and I love what Beehaw stands for and the “be(e) nice” policy. It looks like Beehaw is gaining traction, and there are topics and people here that I want to engage with.

    At the same time, I see things like this: describing very specific ways in which the creators of the Lemmy platform are perpetuating pretty gross ideas about what the world should be like.

    The struggle I have is that Beehaw is independent and aligned with my values, but it uses the Lemmy platform and therefore provides traction to the existence of Lemmy, attention to the Lemmy project, and the downstream benefits derived therefrom to its creators and maintainers.

    In general, I think that the creator of something should remain separate from their work. You can appreciate Harry Potter without supporting TERF ideas. But Lemmy creators are taking their contributions and funneling them into running an instance that reads like a tankie troll farm (at best) and that creates real-world harm.

    Mainly I’m curious to hear from Beehaw founder(s) how you imagine this could play out? Have we given consideration to how much our efforts here might inadvertently contribute in some very small way to forwarding those negative social agendas? What is to be done?

    • We would absolutely like to minimize harm in the world but it’s impossible to live in a colonialist society without inflicting some amount of harm all the time. I would say this is fairly minor harm in the grand scheme of things, but if you have strong feelings about this I’d love to hear more about your concerns. I also think it’s more or less impossible to avoid using any technology that doesn’t have a problematic past. There are choices to be made, but we’re not a collective of programmers trying to bootstrap a whole new platform, we have to work with what’s available to us.

      • I appreciate the response. I don’t feel strongly about it at this point, but I did want to make sure that y’all were at least aware of some of what is going on. Fedi.Tips, which seems like a quite popular resource for newcomers, is strongly discouraging Lemmy as a whole for this reason. I don’t know how much of a headwind that presents for Beehaw, but it’s worth knowing.

        Still love Beehaw and the mission and the values!

      • Have you ever considered forking the Lemmy repo and building your own software to both maintain interoperability with ActivityPub, but also to be able to better fulfill the features and goals that are specific to the Beehaw philosophy?

          • Well, with the influx of thousands of new users, it’s very much an option in the near future. I also work in healthcare, but have a ton of programming experience. Maybe it could be a cool summer project for me and a bunch of other Beehaw users :)

            • We’re not opposed to the idea of migrating platforms, but we also recognize it’s a huge jump and would like to preserve content. If this is something you want to take on as a project that’s great to hear, but I also don’t want to promise anything to you at this time. Do it because you want to, not because we will change platforms if you do, if that makes any sense.

              • Well, in software development lingo, a “fork” is essentially making a copy of the original code (in this case the Lemmy software that runs on the server) and modifying it. I would of course presume that one of the goals with such an undertaking would be to preserve interoperability with the rest of the ActivityPub network. There should be no impact to content on the server itself.

                • My understanding is that there would be some downsides from forking main lemmy, because our dev might take off in another direction which could contradict with or have issues with future updates (or would require developers to port it over to the fork). But maybe you and other developers can meet and decide on a best path forward (as a collective effort) and present it to beehaw administration?

                  • The way git, the version control software that coordinates individual changes and updates, works, you can basically freely “pull” all updates from the main Lemmy repository as you want, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

                    EDIT: Now that I’m reading your comment again, you seem to suggest some deeper underlying inconsistencies. I don’t know about that, but as I said before, interoperability with the rest of the network should be the top priority before any other feature.

    • “Have we given consideration to how much our efforts here might inadvertently contribute in some very small way to forwarding those negative social agendas?”

      Not an admin or founder but really want to react (sorry for the long post I am also not as wise as the post may seem ;)).

      I really think this isn’t a rabbit hole you want to dig to deep in.

      I do like these questions or cases because it is a really good subject to philosophize about.

      In another topic someone had the same gist and this was my response;

      "I can understand your reasoning, but would your stance be different if you didn’t know the political spectrum/ideology of the devs when joining lemmy or something else?

      Just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

      Have you vetted every single mod, admin, developer of every online community you joined to see if they are up to your (political) standards?"

      I think the question is valid because there are indeed possibilities for the devs or the main/biggest lemmy instance to gain traction and spread the views that they have.

      On a different note would it be any different if we would take Reddit and it’s subreddits for example?

      I am (very) progressive and there are subreddits on Reddit who well…aren’t. Those don’t align with me politically nor do they align with my view of the world. If Reddit as a whole would gain traction than the risk is there that subreddits and their ideology could be spread wider than in the confined spaces of the site.

      Every post I put on the platform itself is engagement and could pull in people who could be vulnerable to ideologies that are different than mine and could be harmful for others.

      Does that mean that we as a community are partaking in forwarding the agendas of people who can do “harm”? I would say yes.

      But I would also say that a online community is a reflection of society.

      I think it is good to have boundaries about what is acceptable, if for one there would be a situation that a possibility would arise that every instance is forced to have a “Stalin was the victim” community or post etc, than questions should be asked.

      I don’t know how much power the dev’s have regarding the instances that aren’t theirs so I cannot calculate the risk as of now.

      • Thanks for sharing that. I am similarly divided on the subject and that’s why I won’t say that I feel “strongly” one way or the other.

        I don’t think the devs have any power at all to mandate how instances are run. The software is open, so the moment such a thing happened, someone could create a fork of it and change it, and that is how it should be.

        It’s absolutely fair to point out that we all participate in, if not benefit from, things that cause harm to others.’s mention of colonialism is 100% spot on. My reason for bringing this up was only to raise awareness. I think I’d describe it as “problematic” today, but not “show-stopping.” I hope that through our awareness of the issue, we can be faster to intervene if something does escalate. That’s all.