Don’t tell people “it’s easy”, and six more things KBin, Lemmy, and the fediverse can learn from Mastodon

Reddit’s strategy of antagonizing app writters, moderators, and millions of redditors is good news for reddit alternatives like KBin and Lemmy. And not just them! The fediverse has always grown in waves and we’re at the start of one.

Previous waves have led to innovation but also major challenges and limited growth. It’s worth looking at what tactics worked well in the past, to use them again or adapt them and build on them. It’s also valuable to look at what went wrong or didn’t work out as well in the past, to see if there are ways to do better.

Here’s the current table of contents:

* I’m flashing!!!
* But first, some background

  1. Don’t tell people “it’s easy”
  2. Improve the “getting-started experience”
  3. Keep scalability and sustainability in mind
  4. Prioritize accessibility
  5. Get ready for trolls, hate speech, harassment, spam, porn, and disinformation
  6. Invest in moderation tools
  7. Values matter

* This is a great opportunity – and it won’t be the last great opportunity

Thanks to everybody for the great feedback on the draft version of the post!

#kbin #lemmy #fediverse @fediversenews

  • Don’t tell people it’s “easy” anytime. Anything is easy when you know how to do it. Learning new things is difficult and telling someone it’s easy just makes people feel dumb and that they can’t do it. Encourage folks to learn.

  • @thenexusofprivacy

    I’m a first-wave Reddit refugee and I agree, don’t say the fediverse is easy. I’ve been online since the early 90s and it’s not an easy transition. I wish there was a map. I wish it were easier to set up new communities for chatting.

    But having been through these cycles (online and IRL) before, I must say that maybe you *don’t* want it to be too easy. You *don’t* want to get too popular.

    I hope the Reddit revolt works. I want my niche communities back.

    • I stated a similar sentiment elsewhere. The reason the discussions on reddit became less rigorous and interesting is a case of Eternal September. As you make a site more user-friendly and accessible, you actually are inviting a lot of users who are would have been unwilling to learn a slight learning curve. Maybe it’s remiss of me to say, but I think it speaks to their unwillingness to change their minds or being willing to view a new perspective about much.

      As an older person here who was on Slashdot and left for Digg and then left to reddit, I genuinely think having a slight learning curve prevents people who would otherwise be shitposters and nothing else from joining the fray. I really would like to see high quality discussions online thrive again like they often did in the early days reddit (and where they often still do on its predecessor, hackernews), and as elitist as it is to say, I think having it be a little more technical and confusing isn’t a bad thing.

      Also, as an older person here, if people are willing to figure out the initially quite confusing way that Discord works, they can figure this out, too.

      •  Jon   ( ) 
        6 months ago I strongly disagree. Most people have better things to do with their time than fight their way through buggy and confusing software. And as I say in the essay, if it were harder to sign up for Gab, would that make the quality higher? Of course not.


        • I don’t think its nearly that bad. It takes time to get setup the way you like it, but so does reddit. So does other social media platforms.

          Having an easier search and community index system would be great though. I feel like that’s one of the biggest barriers to entry currently.

          • Yes and no. In the article I say

            | Still, despite the quirks, once you figure a few things out, both Kbin and Lemmy can give you a surprisingly good reddit-like experience, and some of the larger communities have over a thousand active users which isn’t chopped liver.

            That said …

            • on this post says it has 10 comments but only 8 are visible. Looking at it on it says 15 comments, also only 8 are visible.

            • Your comment showed up on Lemmy and (unlike other comments) didn’t show up on’s original post.

            • Even if you have a Mastodon account, if you click on that link it’ll most likely take you to a tab where you’re not logged in and can’t interact with it unless you know the magic way of cut-and-pasting it to the search window in a tab where you’re already logged in – and your account’s not on a site that’s defederated from

            Most people (including me!) find stuff like that very confusing!

          • Yeah, so far it has been neither buggy nor confusing for me. It’s taken a small amount of research and being willing to ask fellow Lemmings how things work. It’s actually a much more fully fleshed out in many ways than a lot of other social media sites. I just learned how to do footnotes[1], for example.

            1. Ooooh, fancy! ↩︎

        • The more popular a community becomes, the shittier it gets. The easier you make it to join and interact with, the more popular it will become.

          In the case of places like Gab, Truth Social, Parlor, and other right wing nut job havens, while the quality of users might not get higher if you raised the barrier to entry, those places certainly wouldn’t have become as popular as they have.

          But the barrier to entry isn’t the only reason they’ve congregated there, they have other cultural reasons driving them, primarily the owners or moderators being friendly to that kind of mindset. I don’t think the same crowd would be able to gather here as they’d just get defederated.

            • I disagree with that. The larger subreddits have significant moderation problems. Only through extraordinary efforts by the mod teams, such as at /r/askhistorians, are things kept in line. It’s simple math: the more users you have, the more likely you are to have people posting in bad faith. If a subreddit of 1 million users has only 0.05% of its users posting low quality content, that’s still 50,000 people that need to be moderated for.

              • @SemioticStandard I agree that the larger a community gets the harder it is to moderate well (and the tools here are still much less advanced than Reddit, which is a big problem). But trying to deter bad actors by making it hard to sigh up doesn’t work. Spammers and other bad actors are typically more likely to make the effort than people who might well add a lot of value.

            • I really do not understand this expectation people have that an online forum of 1,000,000,000 people would be full of deep nuanced conversations. Even if you got the smartest 1,000,000,000 people who ever lived and put them in some group, how could they consistently have interactions anything other than superficial? Communications will be flying around at blazing speed all the time.

              Any group that size is going to have only tenuous connections and contexts with one another. So it will suit certain kinds of topics and vibes and goals and not others. The lingua franca of funny cat videos will work. But some things require a more intimate approach where participants can create and become acculturated to group norms. Luckily all modern forum software and platforms have the ability to form sub groups and to choose what groups you attend to. Nobody was forced to spend time in /r/all. All this talk about how put upon the smarty pants geniuses are because easy to use technology compelled them to pay attention to dumb people does not impress me. Really just seems to be a lack of agency when it comes to deciding how to spend one’s own time.

              I think large communities can be perfectly fine as long as you have your expectations calibrated properly.

        • @jdp23 @dingus

          The software should function, yes, but making something too accessible, whether it’s a social website or an underground dance club, changes the quality of the experience. Dilutes it, if it doesn’t outright destroy it.

          I would say that Reddit is still a great resource when you get down to the small subreddits devoted to particular topics. That’s why I want to protect it from the meddling of people who only want to milk it for money.

      • It wasn’t really Eternal September that killed Usenet, though; it was spam, and the lack of effective means to control it — or the will to completely isolate the servers that tolerated it.

        The AOLers weren’t the ones with the Perl scripts emitting buy herbal teen viagra. Rather, the new popularity of the medium made it appealing to every unscrupulous idiot with a get-rich-quick scheme. The first commercial spammers went on to publish a book about how to spam Usenet, which instructed similarly unscrupulous businessfolks to “hire a nerd” to code up a spam bot.

      • Your comparison to usenet is a bit silly. Obviously there was at least “a slight learning curve” to obtaining and working a news reader in 1993. And in 2023, for that matter.

        Furthermore, on reddit and elsewhere there are lots of dumb posts by technically savvy people. There was whole busy subs full of memes and jokes which could only have been created by someone with in-depth technical knowledge.

        Lots of people who do not have the time or the wherewithal to wade through obtuse tech rituals have plenty to contribute and I’m sorry you have allowed your life to be so narrow that you haven’t noticed that.

  • I came here after reading a migration guide at r/redditalternatives, i just wanna say, describing the technical aspects of kbin and ActivityPub doesnt really help navigate the the kbin UI.

    It’s not really necesary to explain how kbin, lenny and mastodon can interact with eachother when the average brand new user doesn’t know how to interact and is overwhelmed by kbin’s webpage alone. Currently these platforms are being intoduced from the developer’s POV and it’s like being thrown to the deep end of the pool.

    Anyways back to reading any and all posts i can find to figure this site out lmao

    • Yes almost all guides and introductions goes into activity pubs and feds. General users don’t care. Just point them to a “website” to sign up on and how to reach the content. Eventually we all will learn about the cool underlying tech.

      Information overload is a very real thing for new users.

      • But you can’t tell them how to find content if you aren’t explaining to them how federation works at least on a basic level. Because they need to understand that not every community is on the server they have their account on and if they want to follow certain communities they have to search for them with this (otherwise) weird string that is somehow containing a part of another website.

  • Today is my first day using lemmy on a desktop and not a mobile device. It was certainly not easy on mobile but finding and subscribing to communities was easy once I used desktop. But mobile is certainly not a good way to start. I would recommend to anyone starting out use web browser on your desktop first and then you can transition to mobile.

  • Blind user. So far my experience with Lemmy is good, slightly better than Reddit. The major accessibility hurdle is some way to easily navigate through comments. Possible ideas would be using HTML landmarks, headers, or invisible (to sighted users) separators.

    • Wow the comments are are all nested under the same parent, without hierarchy.


      // and 
    • @CasscadingSymmetry Very good points thanks! I revised that section to include them. An excerpt:

      "For many people, very much including me, the Fediverse isn’t easy. It gets easier over time as you figure things out and get used to the quirks, but I’ve been on Mastodon since 2017 and I still find it very complex – and sometimes confusing, too …

      As the examples I gave above in the discussion of reality making it more complex highlight, Kbin and Lemmy have similar quirks. That’s okay! I mean, it’s not ideal, but it is what it is; the developers are doing what they can to improve things, guides are betting better quickly, hopefully it’ll get easier over time – and it’s not like you need an advanced degree in computer sicence to figure it out. But it’s not easy! So please don’t misset expectations and alienate people by telling them that it is!"