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hpr4116 :: Response to 4109: Building community without SEO

Building community does not require marketing and too much marketing can sometimes destroy community

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Hosted by hobs on 2024-05-13 is flagged as Explicit and is released under a CC-BY-SA license.
hpr,community,marketing,enshittification,social media,fediverse,small web. 7.

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Duration: 00:19:18


I was inspired by Knightwise's episode 4109 on future-proofing HPR.
I agree with many of your criticisms, but I'm not sure that a marketing strategy is the best way forward. Many of the most successful and sustainable businesses and organizations have been built on word-of-mouth.
For example I heard of Google, Zoom, Gmail, Facebook, Slack, Twitter, Discord, etc from my IRL friends and coworkers rather than from a marketing message. And most of the open source communities I'm a part of (Linux, Python, Firefox, Hugging Face, etc) are successful precisely because their success is not subject to a BigTech algorithm or exploitative terms-and-conditions.
Most open source projects are able to build community much by actively resisting the temptation to create a marketing message or social media campaign and instead focusing on the authenticity and quality of their "product" and catering to their contributors' and users niche needs and sensibilities.

Points of agreement (Rapoport Rule #2)

  • I share Knightwise's love and concern for the HPR community
  • I agree the intro theme song and voiceover could be accelerated and improved
  • I whole-heartedly agree the comments interface could be made easier to use
  • I agree that the HPR community feels like a monastery or convent. Perhaps faith in FOSS is a kind of religious belief or value that supersedes normal human instincts and drives.
  • I 100% support hackers that evangelize for HPR on their favorite bigtech social media platforms.

My FOSS podcatcher Antennapod, automatically skips the intro. I had to rewind in order to hear the episode number and host username in order to compose my reply.
And I have trouble engaging with the comments interface on the HPR site.
I wasn't even aware of comments on my previous episodes and once I did learn of it I found it easier to reply on Mastodon rather than on the HPR website.
As a community, I think we take it on faith that there is a place in the world for people like us that just want to share ideas, unmediated by shadow-banning, rug-pulling corporations and attention-hacking algorithms. I want to have a conversation with thoughtful people. I don't want to be engaged or monetized or exploited

  • A young person that is turned off after 3 seconds of retro-sounding audio is likely to not enjoy the "sound of woodwork (2442)" or "overlanding" audio journals (4037) of semi-retired geeks.
  • Many of us know that what we do in life cannot be measured in dollars or like button clicks, but rather by the quality of our friendships and the collective ideas that we share.
  • Zombies on Facebook, Twitter, Discord and Slack must eventually "see the light" for themselves and come flocking to "the small web" as they did during Xitter's decline.
  • HPR has been a significant positive force in my life and I would hate to sully its openness and authenticity with SEO or other marketing strategies (I know this is not what you proposed)
  • I think the enshittified Discord network is the wrong business to entrust with our community, for one thing, its app doesn't work on Linux
  • Marketing and SEO are effective tools for growth-seeking businesses, but ill-suited for an open source community
  • Anyone interested in business strategy would enjoy the eye-opening book The Internet Con by Cory Doctorow at the EFF.
  • Open source communities such as Reddit, Reddis, Terraform, Mongo, Substack, Medium, and MySQL were destroyed by growth-hackers pulling the rug out from under open source contributors and authors who eventually rebelled to fork or reverse-engineer these products and "win the day."
  • We geeks at HPR are not alone in our disaffection with business-mediated social interactions. Look at the mass eexodus from twitter. And the exit from substack. And from open source communities like reddit, reddis, terraform, mongo, and mysql. If you want to contribute your labor to a newly enshittified product they are actively seeking new contributors (and marketers) as their founding engineers abandon ship and create their own forks.
  • People share personal private contact information here that could endanger their emotional and financial well-being and information security if it were exposed to a scammer/malware platform like Discord. Discord sells your phone number to con-artists and scammers. And Xitter users talk about the blue checkmark validating their social value, but it's really a mark of shame. Discord hawks a similarly worthless token of social cred, and paywalls something as fundamental to communication as emojies. No thanks. They can take their dancing robot and bursting-heart emojies and shove 'em where the sun don't shine.

Enhance the comments interface?

  • Would a bridge server that pulled from our RSS feed and posted to an HPRbot channel on Mastodon help?
  • I've not tried BlueSky yet
  • We could even auto-post to Xitter and Facebook in the same way that Threads evangelizes Facebook to the Fediverse
  • It might be possible to directly connect the comments feed on HPR to Mastodon or BlueSky automatically.



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Comment #1 posted on 2024-05-13 07:03:39 by Knightwise

Just a small correction.

Thank you for your show. I appreciate you taking the time to respond, but do need to clarify some points. The first classic mistake is that people confuse marketing and sales. Marketing is about finding the value proposition behind a certain product and finding the right audience who would benefit from it. It’s not about pushing a product or selling adds. It’s about telling the story of ‘free software / the small web / open source … what have you” to people who don’t know about it and would benefit getting to know it. At no point in time did I say we needed to chase popularity, controversy or propaganda. At no point did i say we need to monetise HPR. I am saying we need to speak about the VALUE of HPR to people who benefit from it and give everyone a simple way to interact to further engage in the value of building a community. Ps: Your comparison between a marketeer and a drug dealer to me, feels a little naive and quite offensive. Stallman “markets” free software too, remember ?
Comment #2 posted on 2024-05-13 08:09:14 by kdmurray

Ok but...

- People can skip episodes they don't enjoy; we don't have to limit the audience to semi-retired geeks - Many of those who 'flocked' to the small web have kept it as an ancillary add-on to their other more mainstream tools: take it from one such Zombie - Marketing strategies don't by their nature sully anything, they simply make things easier for a target audience to find; it's up to our community to deploy them sensibly - Discord works just fine on Linux; I use it daily - There's a big difference between trying to attract some fresh ears and a splinter group trying to "win the day" But maybe evolution isn't what the community wants. In which case I'm happy to let it continue on its way and meet whatever fate awaits it.
Comment #3 posted on 2024-05-15 19:46:58 by Ken Fallon

Actual Actions ?

Hi hobs and KnightWise, I think you both say to have meaning full conversations with the community, but each have your own preferred way to do this. This is fine. What I am missing is clear statements of actions that HPR can do to increase the number of shows and the number of hosts. If you say the website needs improving, then at a minimum provide examples to what needs improving. Better point us to stylesheets we can use to fix your points. When you talk about the comment system needing work, tell us what work is needed, so that we can see if it's intended to be like that (anti spam, or avoiding flame wars), of if it can be improved. And don't forget that the Janitors just do what they are told, and the owners are the community members. So some things have already been agreed on the mail list. To change it you (not the Janitors) will need to argue your point and convince them to do so. Looking forward to more very constructive shows that will focus on these goals. Ken Keeper of the broom.
Comment #4 posted on 2024-05-17 05:30:14 by knightwise

Low hanging fruit

Hey Ken. I've been thinking about some "low hanging fruit" we can pick to get some extra traction. 1: Realtime community interaction : Set up a Discord server for HPR community members and listeners (with a janitors closet channel for operational managerial stuff). 2: Social Media presence: I don't think we should be on "every" social media channel, just the ones where our community and target audience is. So keeping in the spirit of "freedom" we might want to focus on Mastodon (and if possible a link with Threads). I think we already have an automated RSS feed that posts links to all the new shows on Twitter and Facebook, but getting "tracktion" on your Social Media presence is easier if you choose a "primary" channel for your engagement. 3: Promotion of these channels in the bumper/trailers of the shows to pull in listeners into engaging with the community. This way we can encourage them to record their own show 4: TALK about HPR in non HPR podcasts: Do we ever have hosts that are guests on other podcasts ? Talking about a podcast "anyone can join" is a great showtopic for other podcasts too. 5: Record a Youtube tutorial on HOW to record and upload a show. Stick it somewhere that is immediately obvious or behind a url As for redesign of the website, i think we should take a look at the way the pages are built and organised to make it easier to attract new listeners and make it more obvious they can contribute too. Intro music and voiceover: You know how I feel about it. It's long winded, slow and well... it's built to help people dose off. It should be carefully laid to rest, covered with soil and flowers and replaced by something shorter and snappier. (i'm more then happy to help if you need a new voiceover). To put my money where my mouth is : Here is the HPR Discord: Are these some steps in the right direction ?
Comment #5 posted on 2024-05-19 13:38:28 by norrist

Mastodon Comments

I've been experimenting with methods to include a mastodon thread as comments in a static html page. I'm thinking we can include replies to the hpr bot, as an additional way to comment on a show. I'll do a show about a few different ways to include mastodon comments. One method I've been looking at is using the mastodon API to pull the mastodon replies , therefor allowing an opportunity to gate what comments appear on the web page.
Comment #6 posted on 2024-05-31 20:17:31 by Ken Fallon

The link appears invalid

Just had some time to look at the Discord link but it doesn't appear to be working
Comment #7 posted on 2024-06-03 22:25:22 by hobs

mastodon comments

That's awesome that you're considering 2-way sync of mastodon comments with comments. I find it much easier to interact with hosts there where threads are maintained. I assumed 2-way sync would be a "bridge too far" ;) and was only thinking of 1-way push from HPR to mastodon when i suggested that feature.

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