I’ve been thinking very similarly along these lines for six months or more, but with a particular slant at journalistic enterprises. I’ve specifically been considering what would happen if small local newspapers and other journalistic outlets were running IndieWeb-esque platforms for their local communities. This would potentially help to moderate and encourage local conversations and consumption of local grown content and journalism and potentially improve the toxicity of general social media or massive issues like those that Facebook is facing with genocidal effects of their platform in Myanmar where they didn’t have any local presence or moderation much less people in-house who had language capabilities to even begin to deal with these issues. This type of mission could better empower entities to improve both local journalism by binding it to a different substrate as a financial model and fix many of the issues we see with social media simultaneously.
This general idea also isn’t too dissimilar from Greg McVerry’s idea of having local libraries allow patrons to “check out” (aka set up) their own domains and social presences/identities using their library cards.
The difficulty I see is that as the world moves toward increased specialization, that looking for newspapers or even municipalities to oversee and maintain such infrastructure may be difficult. I already see issues with smaller outlets building and maintaining their own publishing platforms with simple out-of-the-box CMS solutions that are relatively easy-to-use and modify with simple plugins. (In a recent inventory of my local news sources, I’ll note here that nearly 100% of the local online news sources for my community are running on WordPress, but not all of them have a huge amount of technical knowledge about what and how they’re doing it in those spaces). The growth of content management systems like Ghost, which has a journalistic bent, also indicates that there isn’t a “perfect solution” to the CMS problem, much less the issues of running IndieWeb-like platforms/clusters based on simpler platforms like WordPress or even Known. There’s certainly a lot of space out there for third party companies to help grow and expand in both of these areas (community-based social platforms as well as journalism platforms and admixtures thereof.)
If local institutions or even governments did move in this direction, then their users are at the potential mercy of third-party businesses which may not necessarily be aligned with local values. An example of something akin to this was covered recently in The Daily on their episode Taking Over Local News. I’m also reminded about of my poor experiences with un-moderated third party platforms like Nextdoor.com can be.
Another microcosm to look at is how hundreds of thousands of public libraries are interfacing with the four or more media suppliers of e-books and what that financial model looks like as, if taken, I would suspect a similar trajectory for local social public media. Similarly looking at how municipalities interface with cable franchising can reveal some pitfalls to avoid moving forward with respect to monopolies and competition.
Certainly some additional thought about how to solve these issues at the smaller local and personal levels is welcome. Thanks for dipping into and expanding my surface area of thinking Ben.