Lost in transit.
You're welcome.

pixelfed365: Learnings from a year of federated digital imaging

Pretty much exactly one year ago, I happened to throw a first post wearing the #pixelfed365 hashtag to my pixelfed.social profile. Having signed up there in mid-2018, amidst the back-then raging early enthusiasm regarding the ActivityPub protocol and its benefits for open social networks, pixelfed quickly turned into a love/hate piece of software for me, and I somehow wanted to figure out whether keeping an account there is even worth the effort at all. And, what to write, one year later: I'm still torn but see things a bit clearer by now, so maybe trying this still made sense. Unsorted insights, also written down for my own clarity maybe:

  • Very personal take: Posting one image a day requires you to actually find that image along the way. Surprised this worked out well most of the days, except for the handful-or-so of photos that have been used from a "near archive" (like at maximum taken one or two weeks ago). I'm trying the same in 2024, but with a slightly different approach and wonder how it will work out this time.
  • I got less way strict throughout this process. Initially I was keeping a day number and tried to stick with an early-Instagram'ish square-only style for my pictures, actually even more so trying to keep a uniform look-and-feel with that white border. It's interesting, in retrospective, how these self-imposed restrictions moved from being inspiring to feeling like actual negative limitations at some point. The square image ratio was abandoned first, I gave up on the day numbering later on as well. Still not sure about both. Thought about using only monochrome shots or only shots processed in a different colour tone, at some point, but maybe this boils down to the same kind of limitations and will end up the same way.
  • Pixelfed being part of the Fediverse used to be slightly annoying from day one. Earliest insight was receiving some rather ... mixed comments for tagging images with "pixelfed365" - "it's the Fediverse not pixelfed why limit things to one software, use the right words" kind of stuff. At some point I honoured that by using #fediphoto365 too. (Needless to say though, compared to earlier versions of similar 365-days "projects" on Flickr, the amount of pictures by other users discovered through either of these hashtags was rather limited and spanned mostly the great images posted by charlie@pixelfed.social - thanks for being around in this weird project! - and my contributions to the topic.)
  • An other dimension of issues repeatedly spun from broken compatibility between pixelfed and other systems on the Fediverse. Countless hours were spent on, in example, trying to figure out why certain (private/unlisted/otherwise non-public) comments from other instances or platforms wouldn't appear at all or wouldn't be visible to certain users either on pixelfed.social itself or on other pixelfed, Mastodon, ... instances. In some cases, I would use my Mastodon or Friendica account to see comments left on pictures by people who interacted with my pixelfed account yet I was unable to see while logged in there. In almost all of that situations, it was hard to impossible to figure out whether I ran into problems with the software on either end or the way any of the instances involved are administered. In most cases, relevant people were open and willing to help but not in all cases, solutions were found.
  • All along with Fediverse connectivity, if you already have an account elsewhere, there's very little advantage in using current pixelfed. It offers some rather interesting features, and as always in the Fediverse, some of them aren't very interoperable with other federated platforms and some outright only work on pixelfed (like Stories). If you limit yourself to using what works for everyone else, you could as well go with a more mature platform such as Mastodon, Misskey, Pleroma, Friendica, ... too. From that perspective, already having a Mastodon account back then, I sometimes regret even having signed up with pixelfed because there's another interesting (and annoying) side-note to be mentioned here: Even with all the promises of not being tied to a particular instance, of easily being able to take your data with you when you move in the Fediverse, one's pretty much used to not expecting a working import of previously generated posts, comment threads, discussions, ... while moving in the Fediverse. Pixelfed unfortunately takes that further by leaving one unable to even export and download a full account, at least as long as there are more than 500 posts on it - which is easily the case once you follow, like I did, said "one-pic-a-day" route for a year or two. So safe to say, once you've got a reasonably sized amount of posts on any pixelfed instance, you're not able to take them anywhere.
  • Plus, talking "little advantage of having another account": While using walled gardens like Instagram, it's easy to see having an account in there will get you in touch with other people on that network which are unreachable otherwise. In the Fediverse, this advantage, even given all the clumsy interoperability and all the glitches in between systems, having a Pixelfed account along with any other Fediverse account on any other system or instance won't probably help you find new people or make new connections, it doesn't matter really much. The same people you come across in pixelfed should be (this way or the other) discoverable through any other federated platform too.

At some point, both due to the unstable comment flow and because I cleaned my accounts a bit asides that, I moved posting these pictures from pixelfed to my current status.z428.eu microblog and from there to Friendica, which felt a natural move back then and still does. Even by now, I fall back to playing with pixelfed once in a while just because I got that account, I briefly browse through the user interface, interact with some pictures (to notice I've seen them in my Friendica stream as well) and sometimes post a picture or two (knowing I could have done so from within Friendica, too). I then and now like the pixelfed UI itself, the Discover and the My Memories view, but that doesn't seem enough to massively use it. On the other side, Friendica, even without a client that polished, allows for staying in touch with people even on non-ActivityPub platforms (like Diaspora*, Tumblr or Bluesky), and I'm using that for other stuff anyhow so there's easily one tool struck out of the equation without losing much. Having too many accounts and wasting too much time trying to figure out what to keep where, where to interact with whom and how to keep track of all these inboxes in a reasonable manner and acceptable budget of time seems one of the big social challenges and pains in the current Fediverse. Sometimes less is more.

So, personal conclusions at this stage: I will most likely keep that account on pixelfed.social but not make much use of it in the future. For most of what I do, my current setup hosting this stuff on my "own" blog works reasonably well and eliminates the amount of even more tools involved. For social networking, posting this to the Fediverse through Friendica works well enough too, and I know Friendica and my instance admin well enough by now to be able to get in touch and have any issues that might pop up resolved quickly. Maybe this will change at some point, but by now, getting rid of unneeded (digital) baggage like wondering and consciously deciding which platform to spend time on is an objective that seems worth it.

2. Januar 2024

Filed under:

fediverse , pixelfed , pixelfed365 , fediphoto365 , friendica