2022 community improvements & ideas

This month I volunteered to join the community team and as a moderator to help bring some life back to the Humane Tech Community this year. I’m motivated to do this because I feel the humane tech approach is as relevant as ever. With The Social Dilemma having raised awareness in late 2020 and continued activities of CHT such as the release of the Foundations of Humane Technology course, I feel it’s important to have a welcoming community space for these discussions. It also aligns with my side project, mindful.technology where I write about humane tech and related topics.

So far, I’d discussed improvements directly with @aschrijver but now it seems best place to invite feedback from the community to discuss improvements.

Here’s what I’ve done so far:

And here’s what I still plan to do:

  • Edit pinned category descriptions for Wellbeing, Freedom, Alignment, Harms, Focus, Central (they are mostly placeholders).
    • Also add links to any related resources eg. Harms can link to CHT’s Ledger of Harms.
  • Edit sub-category descriptions & pinned posts for all the above

I’ll keep this list updated as I go - suggestions or assistance welcome!

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I do have some doubts about the current structure. It strikes me as perhaps overwhelming & unclear for newcomers. But I’ll start with tidying up the current structure and then if I have ideas for structural changes, share here.


Welcome! To get right to the point, why did this community become so inactive? Is it simply Arnold moving on? I want to suggest a few other possibilities:

  • we all started practicing humane tech, and therefore left because this forum involves harmful screen time
  • we moved from awareness of the badness of the tech industry, to acceptance of it, in the way for example we accept our national governments
  • perhaps humane technology is no longer the most relevant buzzword, ie we need to move on to alternate tech or mindful tech, etc, or even more broadly mindful lifestyles, etc. (insert your own terms here)

I feel there’s a different reason, and it is the one that plagues any would-be Community of Action. HTC wants to focus on the solution-side, and help make small steps in a positive direction. But just like with climate change, only a small amount of people want to dedicate their time and energy to that and persevere in doing so. Let alone that there are those people that spend even more time to organize and facilitate a community where they can do so.

It does not mean that people aren’t passionate about humane tech. They are, and they are incredibly worried about modern tech trends. They’d probably actively participate if there were very concrete small things they can contribute. For more than that they lack the time and energy. But providing these concrete ways to ‘jump in’ requires a level of participation that’s hard for a grassroots volunteering community to provide.

Here there exists a big difference to HTC, who are incorporated, and core participants probably have very decent salaries with which to maintain their activity.


I think you see this forum as a place for activism. However I see it as a media channel, to present technology news along with a humane reaction to it, along with mindful analysis of the technology industry and usage.

If people do not want to participate, well I agree with them on that decision. I think few people are interested in doing tech work, or working with other eccentric and unintelligible things such as github, Fediverse, etc.

Participation depends on presenting people with something they would enjoy doing. For example, many people here are interested in writing, editing, discussion etc, after all this is a forum.

No, I am not interested in activism. At least not in the traditional sense. There’s enough of that right now. A lot of that is also endless talk about problems, and precious little talk about solutions and even less actual activity to solve the problems. It is the solution-orientation that interests me, and working on solutions. And indeed, given how broad both the audience and the scope is, that is very hard to get in motion without a motivated body of people putting in significant amounts of time. Without those no more than a casual discussion forum is possible.

To get right to the point, why did this community become so inactive?

I can only really share from my own experience… when I first joined this community in 2018, I introduced myself and occasionally read posts, but at the time it was quite busy here and actually felt overwhelming. There was a lot of discussion, but not much in terms of small things I could do to contribute. At the time, pre-pandemic, I was more active in in-person communities such as the Humane Tech London Meetup. But I appreciated the existence of the community here, even if I wasn’t very active.

More recently, when I occasionally came here I felt rather underwhelmed, even though I am sure there are still people who care about these issues. My own impression on opening up the community in my browser was that the pinned posts we had up weren’t so welcoming as they were asking for quite significant help (related to the translation program, which hadn’t really taken off).

My hope for the coming year is that this community might feel a bit more welcoming & relevant, a place for those interested in humane tech to connect, learn, and discover. I don’t expect the forum to be as active as 2018, but I think with some small tweaks it can offer more than it did in 2021.

For me this is the key:

They’d probably actively participate if there were very concrete small things they can contribute. For more than that they lack the time and energy. But providing these concrete ways to ‘jump in’ requires a level of participation that’s hard for a grassroots volunteering community to provide.

I would like to provide few small, concrete ways for people to jump in. This will have to be limited to actions that don’t take much time to facilitate. I’ll put together a pinned “How to participate” topic for this soon and then we can revise it.


I’ll put together a pinned “How to participate” topic for this soon and then we can revise it.

I went ahead and create a first version: How to Participate

Please share any feedback here, in particular if you have any ideas for small actions people can take that I’ve missed :slightly_smiling_face:


I agree that the visitor experience friction has gone up since the old days, as has complexity. In my opinion visitor experience principles apply here like anywhere, that is mainly simpler is better and quickly engaging and enraging content works. That is what got this forum rolling in the beginning after all. After that the forum laid on the love and caring, which is what made it such a special place. Then the complexity went way up, with many side projects and sites, and to be honest in my opinion they each made the forum worse due to a loss of simplicity, togetherness and interactivity due to fragmentation and bloat. It is that principle where more became less. We explored solutions to humane tech problems in discussions. My conclusions were that from the tech side, there are few possible solutions and most would fail and should even be discouraged as they would be a waste of time. The solutions in tech are really just to stay independent from big and bad techs, and their monies, from the monies of their financiers, and work with open community-oriented projects, nonprofits, etc. For me the best solutions were always from the human side, that is teach people to resist the addictive pull of the tech…money-sucking industries whatever we should call them these days. This forum long ago lost the basics, that was reporting and responding to current tech news, and it was replaced with things less desirable and less interesting. I think if someone wants to bring it back then a cleaning and return to basics would be in order. And I know, this is yet another post expressing opinion with no action taken. But that is and was the main purpose of this forum, to be a discussion.


Well, but that is in the eye of the beholder. It depends on the audience you are trying to reach. Were HTC just one among a multitude of initiatives loudly highlighting the problems of tech, you can argue what its added values are. There’s still too little done on the solution side, and its done too slowly to keep up against Big Tech onslaught. I fully agree that the human factor is essential, but if you say to people “You must leave Big Tech for a better place!” then you should also be able to guide them when they say “Where to shall we go?”.

As I’ve been mentioning in various places on this forum I am long-time proponent of The Decentralized Web and in particular of The Fediverse. The latter provides an online place where people weave their own ‘social fabric’ and a uniquely human culture exists. A veritable PeopleVerse! But also this whole humane technology field lab stands and falls on the technology it is built upon. Right now a tiny group of free software developers facilitate 5 million fedizens. The Fediverse is at a point where it is attracting corporate interest. If that comes en masse that nice little humane tech playground focused on people and humanity, might well be destroyed before it really takes flight.

So you might ask yourself what is most important to focus on? How can HTC add most value, small as it is?

Should it be merely a cozy talking group where people can find some reprieve of the big problems that ail tech, and maybe be pointed in scant better directions that exist? Should it take the same positioning as so many other, bigger, more successful initiatives and try to detract some people from their audience by competing? Or should we clearly distinguish ourselves from what’s already out there, and in that repositioning take for granted the fact that that serves a smaller audience and subject matter area than we are focusing on now (which are both too broad, imho)?

The human side on the web requires technology that supports the human side on the web!

Tech can only ever be supportive in nature. But we lack the technology that is really supportive to our human needs. And providing it is where most of my personal interests lie. Especially of interest is that there’s so much discussion on this forum that can be directly applied, but it must be brought to attention of the ‘solution builders’.

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That’s just it, to be clear I am saying I am pretty sure there is no workable solution except for some level of resistance and awareness.

I would also not tell people to avoid big tech, because there are no practical alternatives. I would tell people to resist tech, that is use it less, try to give them less money, and use safer alternatives whenever possible. I did mention that solutions can be built that avoid big tech. But that is different than expecting people to avoid big tech which would be the equivalent of living in a cave or something these days. I think a lot of damage to people has occurred by attempting to avoid big tech, along with the benefits.

The fediverse is not a viable alternative, it is a niche thing for ultra programmer types. Maybe one day it will hit the mainstream, but the momentum is not there. 5 million people is not much, I get the same number of people visiting my own web site every month and I have no visions of the service ever becoming anything more than it already is.

Good point, but does it matter? I would say a simple structure with no tags or categories, let people discuss whatever they want. That way people decide. There should be rules, for example all all self-promoting projects must be in one thread. But very little structure.

That thing that tries to be more than just a forum or media channel ends up becoming nothing, which is precisely what happened to HTC. The odd thing is that it was already strong at the start. Now there may have been other factors in the decline, but let’s look at it as a company. If a company made the same moves as HTC, what kind of strategy would that be? Would not they have more success if they focused on what works best, their main offering? I think trying to be different does not work in general. There are established ways to succeed, forums and media have well established playbooks to follow to achieve growth

There’s a flawed thinking to this. 5 million people is larger than the the entire population of at least 100 countries. How many followers do you need to have to get an interesting and worthwhile timeline? Sure there are many techies, but also communities of artists, musicians, makers, farmers, what-have-you. Besides that Facebook and any other traditional social media platform also didn’t grow from a handful of users to 2 billion strong crowds overnight. Saying that something with ‘just’ 5 million people is not viable is throwing your hat in the ring and admitting you lost. To go where Big Tech will guide us. Of course there’s the type of activism that tries to turn Big Tech into a benign force, which is a different axis than trying to find alternative standards-based and open alterrnatives where people are in control.

If HTC were a company I’d ditch all the side-tracks and focus just on one thing and try to do that reallly well. The too broad scope and too broad audience are the primary inhibiting factors in creating a Community of Action because you can’t be strong across such a broad line.

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When most people think of social media, they think of one of the places they can reach seemingly almost anybody, such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter in most countries. There you can often find family members, celebs, friends, brands, work colleagues and other contacts. A humane service like these 4 - at least 100 million active people - is what I would count as success. Alternatively, having a large portion of people in any country would also be considered success.

Fediverse in total has less than 1/2 a million monthly people, less than 10 percent of my own web site. However yes many of those people are very active having created a total of half a billion posts. But Fediverse needs to grow at least 200x at the very minimum to be able to compete with the likes of smaller social media like Snap.

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We’re doing our best, Alex :wink:

It looks like the Center for Humane Technology is also repositioning, more along a solution axis and to a more targeted audience, if interpret their last newsletter correctly (which they renamed to The Catalyst). Here is one paragraph of that:


When we launched our newsletter, it was a way to keep you informed of what was happening at Center for Humane Technology (CHT). But over time we recognized a bigger opportunity to provide insight into the evolving technology ecosystem.

Our goal for The Catalyst is to do just that: provide substantive insights into technology at a systems level, touching on culture, economics, policy, individual and collective agency, and more. We seek to inform, equip, and (we hope) inspire you to take action — in a way that catalyzes a more humane future.

And further on:

This realization [of how tech harms contribute to current crises] has widened CHT’s focus from tech harms to the runaway, underlying systems that perpetuate these harms. We now ask ourselves:

What does a humane future look like?
How can we support those working to catalyze change?

I.e. solution-focus. (And also the realization that the entire system is inherently unsustainable and tech - while an accelerant - is not the ultimate root cause to be addressed.)

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I suggest making it even more clear when to use this forum and when to use Matrix. Right now a newcomer would have to:

  • Learn about this form and create an account
  • Read through the ‘How to Participate’ post (which is great, BTW)
  • Introduce themselves and get caught up here
  • Go to our Matrix and create and account
  • Start chatting in Matrix

And once they’re all set up, they have to monitor this forum and Matrix, always thinking about where to engage (“Do I make a forum post or just drop a message in Matrix?”). It might not seem like many extra steps, but I worry any extra friction will nevertheless reduce the community’s engagement.

I’d normally suggest just picking one place to build the community – either here or on Matrix. But I know some of you here are big fans of Matrix, so documenting the flow and purpose of each platform would be a good consolation.


You are right in stating this, Ty. I created the Matrix channel as a means of having more direct interaction for the Translation Program. But that program stalled for lack of organizers / maintainers, other than me. For coordinating work, having quick back and forths a chat software works better than a forum. I use Matrix a lot, both public and 1-to-1 channels, and recently counted 74 in my ‘active-or-monitor’ list. And one should always remember where content fits best, and request to copy/paste between channels if necessary.

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