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Our Remote Chaos Experience


8 minutes to read | January 2022

2021 ended in a very exciting way for us: We were once again part of the Remote Chaos Experience (rC3), the online version of the annual congress organized by the Chaos Computer Club, which is the largest hacker conference in Europe.

By Sandra Käß, Steffen Schnürer

There, we got the opportunity to share our ideas and vision of decentralized social networking and present our own work in this field. Through the conference we have come into contact and connected with many other like-minded initiatives and people who follow and work for the same goal. Being able to open the ChaosZone stage with our presentation about the concept of interconnectivity was not only a huge honor, but also another important milestone for us and the iconet Foundation.

Here, we want to recapture the event and give you an overview about not only our presentation, but also about relevant outputs and similar projects.

Talk: “Solving social networking through interconnectivity”

Streaming from our own cozy living room, Steffen gave a 40 minutes talk about why it is important and relevant to strive for an open, self-determined and constructive online environment that operates decentralized and gives back the control to the users instead of capitalizing of off them. We understand interconnectivity as a chance to technically expand the boundaries of interoperability, and therefore makes it possible to create a larger overall network in which alternative platforms are connected with each other. Collectively this could provide a strong alternative to the conventional networks.

Steffen holding his Talk

You haven’t seen our presentation yet or want to rewatch it? Find the link here!

You can switch the language to English (The live translation service of the rC3 did an amazing job translating our presentation, big thank you at this point! Nevertheless, naturally some things have been lost or have not become completely clear through the translation, which is why there will be a new English version, translated and presented directly by us, soon!)

Discussion session: “Implications of constructive social network design”

After discovering the amazing world of the rC3 ourselves and listening to other inspiring talks, for the third day of the conference we also prepared a discussion session about the future of social network applications, where we extensively talked about conditions and mechanisms to make social networking more constructive. Even though constructive communication is not directly our core topic, we do understand it as one of our relevant partial tasks to show how things can be done better in this regard.

Below you can find the most important ideas, results and findings of the session summarized in a protocol:
Click to expand protocol

  • There could be mechanisms to avoid/prevent posts and comments driven by negative emotions

    • E.g., a “6 seconds cool-down time” before a user is able to post a response
    • extreme case: only one post per week => does this help to share only well-considered posts?

      • There can also be negative/unwanted implications of a waiting phase that is too long:

        When does something stop being relevant/of interest?

        How long is the attention span of users?

  • Oftentimes discussions are dominated by those who “scream the loudest”/are the most aggressive with their comments

    • Challenge: How do you represent moderate opinions? How can we encourage the posting of moderate opinions?
    • Two different types of conversations:

      • rambling after a long day’s work
      • vs. constructive discussions about complex topics

      Both need their space somewhere

    • For some platforms: Should rambling get a platform/speaking time at all?

  • Related to the former point: What’s the best way to have a moderated, constructive and civil (panel) discussion online? (And not something like a group chat where everything gets messy and no one has an overview anymore)

    • Experts with regulated speaking time
    • Categorization of postings (e.g. pro vs cons, facts vs opinions etc.)

  • What are working mechanisms to tackle (the spreading) of fake news in social networks?

    • A delay time in publishing a post
    • Display of additional information along with the content

      • publication date (more recently is potentially less well curated)
      • How many corrections has a source had to admit to before? (but: Is a high or low value better?)
      • How controversial is a source?
      • How was this information piece put together

    • If content is blocked/moderated: Option to see publicly why certain content is blocked

      • Creates transparency and trust

  • The credibility of sources should be understandable and comprehensible for everyone, also for users without a strong media literacy.
  • Who preselects according to which criteria the content which is shown/accessible to the users?

    • In a capital-oriented application, there may be a focus on the “biggest news” / sensationalism, click bait
    • Users should get the possibility to customize and adjust the selection principle of their newsfeed according to their requirements

  • Adaption and spread of applications with fewer features that make an app unhealthy: addictive factors, FOMO features, user-surveillance and manipulation
  • Transparent networks of trust, which store reputation and credibility of each other
  • Anonymity vs. trolling: Can it be guaranteed that an account is connected to a natural person, even if someone wants to stay anonymous?
  • Democratization through user ranking/voting for postings

    • potentially attackable through troll farms, political influence from abroad, …

  • Why do debates work better in the Fediverse?

    • Audience that aims for a more constructive online environment
    • Less consumerism: users do not want to be sprinkled with contend, but want to actively engage
    • Distributed platforms with community bubbles who have their own fixed topics and rules
    • There’s a higher moderator-user ratio

Our summarization of the session is, that the conversation about better designs for social network applications needs to continue. There is no doubt that the front design and conversation mechanisms translate to the way conversations are being held in the application.

We draw two conclusions:

  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are different matching designs for different occasions.

  • Doing practical research is important. Theoretically thinking about design ideas is one thing, but the various designs also need to be tested, to learn about their influence and also potential unforeseen side effects.

Both conclusions can benefit greatly from the concept of interconnectivity:

  • With interconnectivity different formats and mechanisms can easily be used next to each other. The author/initiator of a topic can choose whatever design seems fitting for the conversation and the formats will be presented properly to all participants.

  • With interconnectivity, a new design can be easily introduced into real conversations and the impacts on the conversation can be openly measured and studied.

Going forward we want to keep advancing this field of research. Feel free to reach out to us, if you have something to add!

Recommendations

The rC3 saw many exciting and great contributions that could all be recommended, which is why we want to urge all of you to check out the official media library of the event! Nonetheless, there were four talks, that are particularly tangential to our work, that we would like to highlight here:

  • Matrix, the current status and year to date

    The technical and political progress reported at matrix.org are great news for the entire decentralization movement. We are especially happy about the fact that various European governments are focusing on and supporting interoperability.

  • System Change mit Instagram?? Social Media und die Zivilgesellschaft

    Watch an exciting and recommendable discussion about the curse and blessing of today's social network landscape with a perspective outlook on improvement.

  • 10 Mio€ für Open Source - jedes Jahr

    We are pleased to see that the move towards more funding for open-source work is taking place and continuously improving.

  • Facebook Files Explained

    If you want to find out or remind yourself how problematic Meta and its current monopoly in the social network world truly is, we highly recommend this talk where you can gain exclusive insights into the “Facebook Files” that were leaked last year by whistleblower Frances Haugen.

Conclusion

For us, the whole congress was a huge success and proofed to be constructive on many levels. The most valuable results for us are by far the new connections and collaborations we were able to make during these four days.

Even though the timing of our presentation was a huge honor for us (since we were given the opportunity to open the ChaosZone stage), of course and thankfully, we also went through a learning process. We miscalculated the importance and value of recording our talk ourselves to share it with people before the official upload by the CCC media team. This is the case mainly because the rC3 talks only go online shortly after the end of the conference. So, we weren't able to make our content visible and existent right away for people who couldn't make it to our presentation directly.

Nevertheless, we are more than happy and satisfied with our rC3 experience and the feedback we got for our presentation. In total, around sixty people joined the live chat during the stream and engaged with us in interesting questions afterwards. Our discussion session was lively attended as well, which we are very grateful for.

In many engaging and in-depth conversations, it has become clear that, in order to counter Meta's growing superiority, we not only all have to pull in the same direction, but also want to do so. We are happy to have met so many committed and well-connected people with whom we will work together for a better future.

We are already in the planning process of new events and activities for the coming year to look forward to and about which we will soon provide more detailed information on our homepage!

Thank you for listening to us, discussing with us, learning with us! We share a goal that is only achievable if we work together and it was a pleasure meeting you all. We hope to see you again soon!

You want to join and work with us? → Find all the relevant info and dates here!
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