We’ve been fielding a lot of questions about the design and layout of the site, and like the previous philosophy posts, I think it’s time again to detail our thoughts and explain why we do some things a bit differently than the rest of Lemmy.
This is not a reddit replacement
This is not and is not meant to be a Reddit replacement. The original community here has decided to carve out a space for itself because we grew increasingly upset with modern social media. Modern social media has become a breeding ground for hate speech, for trolls, and for bad behavior. We don’t want to recreate that environment. We want to explicitly make a nice little corner of the internet where we can hide from racist, sexist, ableist, colonialist, homophobic, transphobic, and other forms of hateful speech. We want a space where people encourage each other, are nice to each other, are supportive and exploratory and playful. We think this can incorporate many wonderful features and aspects that made Reddit and other link aggregator and discussion based communities popular on the internet but it is not meant to be a replacement- we are and want to do something different. If you’re looking for a straight Reddit replacement you should look elsewhere. If you happen to register on another instance you’re still more than welcome to participate in our communities but we will hold you to the standards we’re looking for, namely that you’re nice when you’re participating here.
We may be the only instance on Lemmy that has community creation restricted to admins. One of the big first discussions we had about communities was whether we should allow porn or certain kinds of NSFW content. In short, legally speaking, this is an incredibly risky move. We’re not a VC with a bunch of capital and lawyers on retention and we’re not particularly interested in taking on any of that headache. NSFW spaces on the internet inherently break a lot of social norms. I’m not sure the diversity of behavior seen in NSFW spaces can be easily moderated or is particularly compatible with our core ethos - creating an explicitly nice and safe space. If it is compatible, it involves answering a lot of complicated questions about acceptable behavior that I don’t think any of us have the time or energy for.
Another reason why we’ve locked down community creation also has to do with creating an explicitly nice and safe space here. One such suggestion we’ve seen discussed many times since our inception is a space on mental health. As many of you have rightly pointed out, these spaces often invite trouble for a number of reasons. To be perfectly clear we all take mental health very seriously. I’ve been in and out of therapy my entire life (diagnosed depression in the 3rd grade being my first introduction to mental health) and I’m extremely supportive of destigmatizing mental health. I can’t speak for all the admins, but I highly suspect they hold similar opinions on the importance of mental health. None of us are mental health professionals and ultimately if you’re seeking mental health care, we highly suggest that you speak with a professional. Communities like mental health often require users to be willing to hold the proper and healthy amount of space for someone to work through a problem (as working through these problems can surface strong emotions) and ultimately become a better person. Unfortunately, this can run counter to the need for members in the community to feel respected, to be treated nicely, and to be safe from feeling any need to carry anyone else’s emotional burden. Mental health is often an emotionally charged subject and even though we’re all human and want to hold space to allow this kind of healing, a dedicated community would be inviting the need for a lot of moderation to make it successful and compatible with our ethos and guiding principles.
Mental health isn’t the only community where we might potentially run into the issue of playing nicely with our only rule, to be(e) nice. Sometimes our hesitation comes from how we’ve seen communities focused on a particular subject play out across the rest of the internet. A few examples of this that you’re probably familiar with are incel and men’s rights communities (often misogynistic), free speech communities and platforms (often allow a lot of hate speech), and certain kinds of communities focused on taking pictures of humans (often becoming dominated by thirst traps). We don’t want our communities falling into any of these traps or creating a non-nice space on Beehaw, so this may be the reason behind a hesitancy towards creating certain highly requested communities.
In my experience, small communities on the internet need to reach a level of activity to sustain itself. People are typically not willing to eternally refresh and revisit a website that is not receiving a ton of traffic or populated on a reasonable cadence with content. Small communities remain dormant for a very long time until some kind of viral attention brings enough content to sustain the community on an ongoing basis. This is part of the reason that we have not split out communities such as gaming into tabletop gaming, specific platform gaming, or even genres of gaming. This will likely happen at some point in the future as the example of gaming is a rather popular community but it’s the reason behind our encouragement to post related content in the most appropriate existing community. I personally think that there is a lot of benefit to not getting hyper specific with communities, because too much granularity can lead to people not discovering related content organically (imagine communities only existing at the level of each video game, rather than at the level of platform gaming, video gaming, or gaming as a whole). However, this needs to be balanced against overall activity and the ability to interact with and comment on posts. If a community gets too large and the majority of the community is focused on a particular kind of content (such as just video games in the gaming community), then it warrants splitting the community or creating more granular communities so that people can find the content that they’re looking for rather than getting lost in the noise.