Since I left Google+ and Reddit four years ago I always missed the community approach of both social networks. I’m pretty active on Mastodon, the federated (and better, kinder) version of Twitter. However on Mastodon it’s hard for me to have a structured conversation with a group of people about a single topic. It’s for that reason that lately I’ve spend time on Lemmy.
Lemmy is easiest described as a federated Reddit alternative. This means that with Lemmy members can send text posts, links and images that can be up- or down voted by other members. Lemmy already consists of tens of instances and thousands of communities. Communities (the equivalent of subreddits) are the cornerstones of Lemmy. Popular topics like Linux, open source and privacy already have their own community. If a community doesn’t exist the user can easily create one. Just click Create Community, fill in a form and press Create and you’re done. Every post has to be posted in one of the communities. A huge advantage is that posts don’t get buried by hundreds of other posts in the timeline. As a consequences discussion threads are easy to follow.
The UI of Lemmy is minimalistic but very effective. The user is presented with a list of comments that are ordered by popularity. The comments can easily be filtered e.g to only show the new comments. Via a menu selection all the communities are shown and can be searched. Overall search is very well implemented. I use it a lot to learn about topics of interest to me that were discussed earlier.
Lemmy comes with a built in slur filter which I believe is a very good idea if you want to have civil discussions. Perhaps not everyone does agree with this filter but Lemmy is free and open source software so one can always create his own fork.
I was active on the lemmy.ml instance but I left it because it’s too extreme and there were too many trolls and zealots on that instance. Luckily I found a more moderate instance called Beehaw. It’s smaller that lemmy.ml but that’s not very relevant since the it federates with the other instances of Lemmy. I can still access and subscribe to communities on other instances and take part in discussions there by clicking the All tab. One difference that Beehaw has with other instances is that the downvotes are disabled.
Besides the slur filter mentioned above the Lemmy comes with a Code of Conduct that is enforced by a team of moderators. Again a good idea for the above mentioned civil discussion. It’s worth mentioning that the moderators keep a public Modlog where one can keep track of all the actions taken by the moderators. A gesture of transparency that I haven’t seen on any social platform.
The beauty is that Mastodon and Lemmy (and all other federated social networks) serve different purposes so I don’t have to choose. They can co-exist and enable people to optimize their online social needs all with free and open source software and all federated.
EDIT: This post was rewritten on 17th August of 2021 and again on 3th November 2022 to include my latest experience with Lemmy.