Over the last few days, we closed the Ind.ie forum. It had been a fun experiment for 4.5 years, but didn’t really fit our aims to create decentralised technology. We didn’t want to shun other big platforms in favour of creating our own big platform, it would defeat the point!
Looking for Better support?
We’ve tried to cover most topics in depth on Better’s Support page, for anything other Better support questions, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send us a message on our Mastodon or Twitter accounts. (We’ve kept these accounts going for continuity.)
Anonymous support requests
What about anonymous support requests for Better? A few people have used the forum to get anonymous support because they’d rather not use their personal email or social media accounts. Some people have asked me to look into porn and fetish sites to more effectively block trackers, others have their own reasons for wanting privacy. But the forum was actually less anonymous. Signing up for the forum already requires an email address. And as the admin for a Discourse forum, I could access people’s email addresses, IP addresses, and detailed logs of their activity. I can tell you that you can trust me with your information, but I’d rather not have it in the first place. For those wanting to contact us anonymously with support requests, I’d recommend getting a temporary email address. It’s as easy as setting up a forum account anyway.
4.5 years is a long time on the web
Honestly, it’s also miraculous we didn’t close the forum sooner. Of around 4.1k posts, 24% were by me. Most often I was posting links to thought-provoking articles I’d read, which I now post here on my site on my lens. Or information about our Better blocking rule updates, which were always posted on the Better website first. Very few people used our forum for support, usually preferring to send us an email. The forum became just like another social media platform, but one that cost us 120 US dollars per month.
I’m a little bit sad
While the Ind.ie forum was intended to be a multifunctional place for temporary content, I did like the idea of fostering a community. It’s why I started sharing the articles I read, and tried to direct people there to discuss topics in more depth than we could manage on character-limited social media. But one determined person does not a community make. I developed some familiarity with a few repeat forum visitors, and we had the occasional detailed thread. But it was not the nuanced, inclusive and supportive discussion I craved. Nothing was abusive (as moderator, I’d shut things down early if I anticipated chat heading in that direction) but people tend to bring their pet topics, axes to grind, and presumptions of how much knowledge a small woman could possibly possess. Of course I’ve bleated about my desire for connection with likedminded folks before and it seems it’ll remain a frequent whinge for a while longer.
People, not brands
Along with our other work, the forum has been part of a learning process around where our output should live. When we set up Small Technology Foundation, we decided that the definition of Small Technology Foundation is the collection of both Aral and my work. And therefore we’d mostly write and share on our sites and spaces, under our own names, then bring anything relevant to Small Technology Foundation together on the Small Technology Foundation site. There was no point having five different Twitter accounts for the work of two people. In fact, it was ridiculous. We are just two people, not a startup, not a big brand. We certainly don’t need people harbouring brand-sized expectations for us. And, as I mentioned in my post introducing the Lens, we have different perspectives and voices. It’s nice for those voices to be shared in context, rather than delivered as if unified under a confused brand.
I’ll still drift around various communities looking for a comfortable home. I’m increasingly aware that community is found in people, not on a website. But those people still need the means to communicate safely and freely, so we’ll keep working on that.