@celia definitely! Being able to determine the 'social distance' of the reach when you first share/publish something is very useful to allow more finegrained decisions on what to share, as well as to formulate it. I would love have something similar for my blog where 'close circles' would read more detail (like names, locations) than others e.g.

@ton @celia

Oh, PS, #GoToSocial is also implementing local-only posting. The project is a refreshing take and developing rapidly.


@ton @celia @darius (boosted OP) Personally, I think it would be better if social distance mapped onto network distance. I.e. I would prefer circles/groups to be on the same server (preferably run by yourself/a friend) as it’s hard to ensure privacy when federating.

@celia interesting thought! I appreciate the perspective

@celia I haven't really used the "Lists" feature of Mastodon, but this seems to give similar functionality. One adds users to a List and their toots are shown up in that List's column, which one can pin for easy access. Each List can be set to send replies to no-one, members of the list or any followed user.

@proactiveservices You can't *send a toot* to one or more lists though. :)

@celia Aha yes. Seems strange that one can send replies to list members but not new toots.

The feature is provided by an instance I know of as qoto.org

@Krypton Aha! Thank you. I'll edit the post later.

@celia Good article. I like the idea of neighborhoods and wish I were on a Hometown fork, but hadn’t thought of them in relationship to Plus’s Circles.

What I was hoping Circles were when the came out — and would still like — is sort of the opposite direction. When I follow someone I want to be able to say “I’m interested in your tech stuff but not the sports stuff” or whatever. So rather than the author picking *who*, they pick a tag/category and I pick which to follow.

@celia It solves a different subset of the problem out of the gate, but I think it’s a good starting point. You could imagine a system where I can set a given tag to be invite-only or local-only or whatnot.

The big downside is it’d require authors to tag things, or a big enough set of their posts to be useful. I think it’d be worth it, but it’s an extra barrier to creation, which is anathema to social networks.

@a Yes, that is exactly how I would like tags to work. I post mixed english and german content - personal, tech and political - and people who follow me might already be annoyed by this, so I am considering to create alts...

That downside can easily be mitigated by making it opt-in and client-side only, i.e. the interface you use could perform such filtering and if the author does not tag a post you could configure to always or never show it, whatever fits.

lamenting Google Plus's Collections (again) 

@a that is more like Google Plus's #Collections, which was introduced later (and imho too late) in its lifetime.
It's probably the feature I miss the most from #GooglePlus, and I've previously gone into more details about why I miss Google Plus's Collections

Being able to filter a profile based on a list of predefined hashtags on the author's profile was a step in the right direction, but it's still a far cry from what #GPlus Collections was.

There's still plenty of times I wish I could only follow someone's tech posts, while opting out of their shit posts.
(And no, filters are not a solution, because those don't work on a per-account basis, and rely too much on keywords.)


Fedi software #Zap currently has a working version of G+ style "collections" that does exactly what you're describing.


@a @celia
Btw this is the same issue why content creators on other platforms have multiple YouTube channels and the like. I am suprised that there has not been a proper solution to this so far (YouTube could become a lot more handy by providing subchannels, but then again, I might as well leave it and help develop the feature within free software).

@janek @celia I helped build a video sharing site (vaguely YouTube-like) which allowed a user to create multiple “channels”. I agree it’s a good idea, but it also got very little use. I imagine most places decide it’s not worth the complexity.

@celia Hi Ru! What I really like about this idea is the optionality. Some people want circles and if they do, I think it can be another checkbox in their preferences. What we're doing with another Masto fork is putting issues like this in the form of a problem statement:

Mastodon doesn't let me post to circles or subsets of my social network. The result is less freedom to post the content I want, such as niche humor and complaints, or movie nights aka periodic tradeoffs of signal-to-noise for togetherness.

If that problem is accurate and valuable, we welcome any patch that addresses it. The opinion of the maintainers or myself can only act in the consensus around the problem, not on the solution. It's almost like problem-focused circles for code.

@weex Hi David! What's the fork you are working on? Be curious to check it out. :)

@celia Yes, that's it. Only forked a few weeks ago but it's been running at c4.social for personal dogfooding for a couple. Let me know if you have any questions at all.

@weex @celia In ActivityPub you can post to public, to followers or to individual mentioned recipients. A circle could be a group of mentions, bit that wouldn't propagate exclusively within the circle.

I think it would need a protocol change to support something like circles.


I did indeed, but I'm no expert on ActivityPub.
As I wrote on aforementioned post, I had a quick glance on (@lain 's ?) presentation of the protocol and all the options available, so my impression was that it's here.

I may have conflated the diversity of Activities available with the diversity of possible destinations.

Anyway aren't supposed to fix that ?


@celia I remember liking this feature when I was using good post, maybe could be implemente with different levels of granularity ? from account to (hash)tags within that account? I know I'm not that organized but I guess it would be useful

@celia So, yeah and nah.

I was on G+ and am familiar with Circles. They had their uses but were mostly a pain.

On Mastodon, there are #Lists and services such as gup.pe , as well as #hastags, all of which give some ability to organise at least incoming, and some outgoing content.

#GooglePlus #MastoDev #ContactManagement #DiscussionManagement #Hashtags #MastodonLists #Guppe

What's missing is the ability to target a toot at a specific group of people, other than 1) all your followers (which is wide open for unlocked profiles) or 2) a specifically listed set of accounts.

G+ Circles were OK at directing where content went, but abysmal at filtering incoming content (resulting in many "you're holding it wrong" arguments).

And management was an utter PITA. I ended up nuking most of mine. There were a few useful features such as being able to permit Notifications, Comments, and Stream for only specified Circles. (I made heavy use of this, with three circles named after those permissions.)


#Guppe #MastodonLists #Hashtags #DiscussionManagement #ContactManagement #MastoDev #GooglePlus #hastags #Lists


G+ Communities addressed many of those issues, though they also had many, many warts. Smaller and private communities of 50--100 or so members were actually highly useful.

G+ Collections were quite good for organising your own content, and allowed others to subscribe or mute specific topics. Others have mentioned liking those, I certainly did.


#Lists #hastags #GooglePlus #MastoDev #ContactManagement #DiscussionManagement #Hashtags #MastodonLists #Guppe

I'd like to see a managed-closed-subscription-group type feature on the Fediverse. That's probably doable simply by providing a freestanding list server with subscription and distribution management. People could subscribe, messages would be sent to it, and received by subscribers (like an old-school mailing list in most regards).


@dredmorbius @celia ditto to mixed feelings, "Circles" and their additions encompassing a lot of uses. In many ways I find alts (esp local-only option) a good fit to having multiple audiences and letting others choose which aspects to subscribe to, some of which I control the privacy of. I don't yet have a multi-account client experience I like for this, something like cross-account Lists with option to reply as any alt? Per Dr, separately I could like mail-list-like groups for bidirectional too

@loppear Alts also solve the "different personas in different contexts" issue. Something that #RealNames based single-identity systems fail at miserably.


@dredmorbius @celia yes, I think it's worth specifically highlighting the anti-pattern of single account real names from experience by now. Need multiple approaches for a blend/spectrum of reasons for audiences and personas.

@celia I've been expecting this ever since I joined Masto in 2017, but I gather the people in the upper dev echelons (Gargron and advisors) are basically Nope.

I have an idea for a way to implement it as an alternate UI on top of the Masto API, but without funding to hire other devs, it would be one more project on a rather overwhelming stack.

@woozle Overwhelming stack? What did you have in mind?


So, let's call this thing CLF (circle-like functionality) for short.

(I swear I wrote this up in some detail a couple of years ago when I thought of it, but I guess it was a Masto post and therefore impossible to find again. Trying to remember details...)

So, some conceptual points:

I often conflate Circles and Groups (Communities, in G+) in my mind, since they serve some of the same functionality.
Groups have always been higher on my priority-list, because of the way they help foster community.
Mastodon (or at least Glitch Edition) supports Lists, which are about 85% of what Circles do, I think? You can't share them, and the UX is rather more awkward... but this seems like a good starting point for working out what we actually want from CLF.

As far as adding any kind of functionality to Masto without rewriting it from the ground up to be more understandable, maintainable, and modifiable (which is definitely Goals but a rather larger project):

My starting thought was server software to provide an alternative interface between the user and a Masto host -- ideally one or more Masto hosts, so users who wanted CLF didn't have to switch to a CLF-supporting instance or try to persuade their instance's admin to install it. (Given that mobile Masto apps have worked out mechanisms for safely letting users log in to multiple accounts, this doesn't seem like it should be a big hurdle.)

The design (data, UI) details of how Circles (and/or Groups) are implemented by that software will depend on what we want from them; I assume the main insight you're looking for here is how to do it without a redesign/rewrite of Masto -- and the answer to that is basically:

users interact with Groups/Circles via a separate UI (running on the CLF server)
G/C data is communicated between CLF servers using some standard protocol -- possibly ActivityPub already has the necessary features, just not used... or we could use some other protocol known to support Groups, like Zot (Hubzilla) or Friendica.
Groups/Circles can also be interacted with (in a more limited way) via standard Masto in that the CLF server will provide bot-like accounts for each Circle or Group. (Full functionality could be provided via commands in DMs, if users wanted that.)

I hope this is making sense; it's really just a first pass at the problem, and the question of what functionality we're really wanting is probably the first thing to look at.

Feel free to ask questions!

cc: @eryn @Harena @dredmorbius

@woozle I think it's critical to look at what Circles promised, or what users exepected, before specifying a replacement:

Circles defined the scope of outgoing posts to the Circle. This is useful.
Circles defined the scope of incoming posts from Circle members. This ... often proved problematic.
Circles do not organise content by topic or theme. The expectation was often that they would.
Circles were overloaded with several other elements, including some capabilities / permissions-based settings.
Members of a circle have no idea of what circle(s) they're in, by whom, and how labled.
Circles may not have been intended to serve as labeling tools, but were quite useful for this. Often of negative labels: "troll", "spammer", "idiot", "fascist", etc., were among my own categorisations. Note that "Circle-as-tag" requires following someone you probably don't actually really want to follow.
One person's Circles ... are only that person's Circles. There's no sense of shared or collective association. For that you want Groups.

Ultimately, I found Circles most useful when used to define:

A SMALL set of profiles in which I was highly interested in seeing content.
Perhaps another 1--3 sets of progressively less-interesting-to-me accounts.

(I use Mastodon Lists for both capabilities here.)

A small set of circles for targeted distribution. Those were virtually never used. Again, Groups are what you want here. And this implies group management capabilities which are not the same as individual relationship / filtering / blocking tools.

#Hashtags are kinda-somewhat useful for search but tend to get spammed to fucking death. At least on Mastodon, you can filter a single user's content by hashtags but only by navigating directly to their home server: tooot.cat/@dredmorbius/tagged/

That's more-or-less what Circles Did / Did Not do.

@celia @eryn @Harena

#MastoDev #GooglePlus #GPlusCircles #MastoGroups #GroupManagement


Those were more or less my conclusions; a single tool that combines all the utility of Circles and Groups, would make a lot more sense. It always felt like they were both aspects of the same concept, but limited in arbitrary ways that only sort of made sense.

My big obstacle right now, as far as coding, is getting a decent web framework going. All of the existing ones I'm aware of seem to be top-heavy and very JS-dependent, which really shouldn't be a thing.

@celia @eryn @Harena

@woozle What I suspect most people are LOOKING for is:

The ability to limit content to just a select group of people. On Mastodon the only reliable way to do this is to explicitly list out recipients in a DM toot. A group would enable this.
Note that "limit" != "target". You can't ensure that someone will get or see a message, only make it difficult for someone to do so.
Note that "difficult" !- "impossible". If you've a compelling reason to keep content out of the hands of a motivated adversary, that's going to take a lot of work. Keep in mind that Mastodon instance admins can view ANY message, including DMs. They're direct but not private.
Some way to organise incoming content based on topic or theme. Unless you're dealing with a profile with very strict content discipline (that is, they post only on a given theme or topic, expecting this of most people is simply a mistake. (Your heros will not limit their personal discussions to The Topics You Find Important And Significant.)
Most group-based discussion has way too much overhead to creating and forming and dissolving groups. The great thing about meatspace is that you can create a group simply by saying "meet at P place at T time". Presto! Instant group. At some later T+t, the group dissolves. Other groups can form at P given different times (or by subdividing P). The whole concept of ephemeral groups is tremendously underserved.
Yes, longer-lived groups are also useful.
Group management is more complex than you think it is.
Group management is more complex than I think it is.
Group management is more complex than you or I think it is even after hashing it out for a few years.
At best, any digital group-management system provides a shallow approximation of the full depth and nuance of tools needed.
A group is a fragile creature. Until it becomes a fearsome one.

@celia @eryn @Harena #GroupManagement #MastoGroups #GPlusCircles #GooglePlus #MastoDev #Hashtags


Groups are also fluid. They change. They grow, shrink, merge, split, form little factions. Wander off for long lunches. Go to bed with each other. Break up.
Having only one moderator of a group is exhausting and/or prone to insufficient moderation. Having more than one moderator of a group leads to confusion, inconsistencies, and nobody knowing who did/should/ought to do what. (Note that most of this also applies to one moderator.)

@celia @eryn @Harena #Hashtags #MastoDev #GooglePlus #GPlusCircles #MastoGroups #GroupManagement


I'd be eagerly typing up a design doc right now if I wasn't trying to revive an old MediaWiki extension for LL to use >.>

@celia @eryn @Harena

@woozle Stash the URLs / content somewhere.

Use that Mastodon Bookmark feature.

@celia @eryn @Harena


Also, I have ideas about how to integrate your tag ideas with my tag ideas so that nobody hast to hate anything.

...but that is yet another area of discussion.

(can i plz haz macarthur grant now)

@celia @eryn @Harena

@woozle Since I mentioned TAGS:

A defined-vocabulary set of tags can be useful.
Everybody will hate it.
There's one I happen to like Because Reasons: the Library of Congress Classification System.
I know that you hate it. You're not wrong. But you're also not right.
"You" is not just Woozle, but whomever is reading this.
"You" includes me.

The useful thing about content tags is that ... they tag content. If they're a common vocabulary, then multiple people can interact on those tags usefully. If they're not, then ... well, absent some intelligence somewhere that associates or dissociates specific tags ... you've got a Tower of Babel and nobody speaks the same language.

(Different languages can be useful. See Tom C. Scott's Seeing Like a State and the notions of "legibility" and "illegibility". Still, there are times when a common basis of informational exchange is helpful.)

All shared vocabularies are political. Someone is oppressed. Someone is advantaged or privileged. Whether you consider this good or bad, it's an inherent characteristic of the system, and ultimately, a tool to be worked with and around.

Profile tags needn't have a shared vocabulary, but are good at organising people. I'd really like to have a few, resembling but not limited to "Friend", "Family", "cow-orker", "Angers Easily", "Wicked Smart", "Dim Bulb", "Troll", "Admin", etc. My list need not be yours. Tagging need not involve following, and shouldn't be overloaded with following-based relations.

"Mute", "Block", and "Follow" are effectively tags with specific permissions / access connotations / overloading.

@celia @eryn @Harena #GroupManagement #MastoGroups #GPlusCircles #GooglePlus #MastoDev #Hashtags

@woozle @celia @eryn @Harena

Thank you for all the interesting discussion. Re #tag the Mastodon UI that I am using allows me to enter a #tag in a toot and also in an entry field in the upper left corner so if I want to contribute to a common folksonomy (as I do) I can adjust my spelling and upper-lower cases to fit in.

Please forgive me if somebody has already said that in this ongoing discussion of #circles which I liked too. Thanks @woozle for wooz.dev/FerretCircles !


Yes, I frequently use that feature myself.

In general, though, tags are uncurateable (outside of a single user... and even self-curation is difficult in Masto because of the inability to edit posts) and nonorganizeable, both of which limit their utility.

@celia @eryn @Harena

Agree with all that. Would prefer some common tags, but at least in some cases (eg SSB) they evolved from practice. Somewhat. Not perfect.

Think tag clouds would help make them good enuf?

@celia @eryn @Harena


A tag-cloud is just a visual way of giving a qualitative sense of relative popularity within a list of tags, isn't it? It doesn't really do much in terms of showing relationships between tags, as I understand the concept.

@celia @eryn @Harena

"It doesn't really do much in terms of showing relationships between tags, as I understand the concept."

Nope. You are correct.

@celia @eryn @Harena

@celia you should try , it has a lot more options regarding with whom and how far your posts go

@joeligj12 Doesn't look like it is that much different from Mastodon/Hometown?

@celia check out groups and antennas. I think groups is the feature you are looking for!

I agree. Also, when I was on birdsite, I always wanted them to have what I called "streams. So for example a famous journalist could have a news "stream" and then say a personal opinion "stream" and maybe a sports "stream" and I'd just follow them on news, not the other stuff. Pinterest has this idea where you can follow a whole account or just one (or more) board, based on your interest.

fwiw, "Circles" have been alive a well in the #fediverse in the form of "Lists" in the #Zap family of fedi software.

Lists serve, both, to view posts from list members and privately share posts with only list members.

( https://zotlabs.com/zap/ )

@xavavu Pardon my excitement, but...

Wowwwwwwww. This seems perfect for the kind of community I am trying to build. A media storage. Circles. Groups (aka hobbies!). Events!

I am floored. Why have we never heard of this before?!

@xavavu I am of course going to take this for a test run first before going all-in.

My guess from the login/register situation is that the UI/UX lags which is something that's a non-starter for me. I need to reach out to regular folks. Get them off mainstream social media. And not hate the experience myself.

But this is one I have my eye on. When I have the bandwidth (probably years), I'd like to contribute UI/UX patches.

Why people sleep on Zap probably has to do with dev's focus on dev (as opposed to outreach, promotion, etc).

The front-end can definitely use some love.The project aims to get the back-end stuff right though (privacy, content control...).

I currently have an instance set up for family, but wanna get some  on-boarding / tutorials set up before sending links out. I'll be glad to share!

@xavavu Yes, please. I would love it! You can drop me an email at hello@rusingh.com :)

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