OpenRefine in the Fediverse

I would like to propose to improve our social media presence with a Mastodon account. Mastodon is part of the so-called “Fediverse”, a federated social media platform, which is also open source. A lot of open source projects are naturally present there, and OpenRefine is mentioned quite frequently.

I would like this account to have a more humane touch than the Twitter account. It would be sharing things about the life of the project (development progress, related events, partnerships…), and not so much about automated content (for instance the mentions of OpenRefine in publications - I don’t think they are super interesting for the community).

We could share the credentials between multiple team members. Perhaps it would be nice if we would sign our “toots” with our personal Mastodon account, to give more visibility to team members and add a bit of accountability?

Pinging people active on this platform I am aware of: @abbe98 @ostephens @b2m @Sandra - would you be interested in having such an account? Would you like to participate in its curation? Any preference for an instance? Maybe would be fitting?


I would be happy to contribute. I could imagine sharing things like screencasts of current work(like keyboard navigation atm), relevant Wikipedia Weekly(ping @Ainali)/development streams, as well as more generic stuff like quality good first issues, forum posts that could need some extra interaction, documentation updates worth noting, etc.

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OpenRefine in the Fediverse? Absolutely! :+1:

Me helping to curate a social media account? Not sure :grimacing:

AFAIK @Michael_Markert and @lozanaross are also around in the Fediverse.

Sounds great!

My only worry here is that of “who determines the moderation policy and who enforces said moderation policy” on any particular instance that might look congenial to a project like OpenRefine. (Fair warning, social media is amazingly great when filled with amazingly great folks… and then, not so great when some level of freedom is juxtaposed between groups causing some to be marginalized. Not good for any OSS project for sure!) And we have seen in the past what happens when folks are quick to assume things of others before asking or getting to know a person. (cough! CS&S hacks Thad)

I’m not quite sure how Mastodon instances actually “moderate” based on rules or moderators but do notice that when there is juxta positioning it seems groups spin up their own instance and then frameup their own policies and Fediverse connection preferences, whereby marginalizing some communities unfairly. (not a GAP supporter, just stating what has caused a few issues with other communities trying out Mastodon instances and navigating rules/policies for their instances.)

Just my take on a very great idea, but with real implications for our own policies. Henceforth…
We should review any instance policies and also ensure they align with our own conduct policies or code of ethics (still in limbo from what I recall @Martin ?)

Ah!, the Mastodon Server Covenant is a great starting point it seems and any of the 9.1K servers in this “fediverse” basically have to agree to it. Nice! :
Mastodon Server Covenant - Mastodon (

I just reviewed the server rules here:
Sign up - Fosstodon

I personally especially admire these two and think they are important for any FOSS project as debates sometimes touch on these. So I like them since they bring civility while also not constraining civil discussion that might get heated by saying be open and listen first and don’t criticize tone:

  1. Do not engage in name calling, ad hominem attacks, or any other uncivil behaviour; criticize ideas, never people.
  1. Do not tone police. Toots may violate the standards of civility we set on Fosstodon, but you should not criticize users for their tone. Report them or feel free to block them. In neither case should you criticize their tone.

But I have no idea what this actually means? Can someone explain gently to me? :

  1. Do not “shitpost” - while humorous posts are allowed, and actually encouraged, there is no place for “shitposting” on Fosstodon.

UDPATE: it means

a deliberately provocative or off-topic comment posted on social media, typically in order to upset others or distract from the main conversation

which is perfectly acceptable and admirable, although I would have used that description instead of a confusing slang term definition.

Thanks for checking those terms @thadguidry.

I have the feeling that this instance is on the rather strong end of the policing spectrum and I am not sure I would want to have my personal account there (for instance, requiring posts to be in English would not work for me), but for an official project account those terms feel appropriate to me. If need be, we could have other accounts held in other languages.

I have applied for an account on fosstodon, let’s see if they accept us.

And sorry about the people I forgot in the list of known OpenRefiners on Mastodon (even among people I actually follow there ^^ - I actually like reading your toots too!! :slight_smile: )

Thanks for the initiative @antonin_d - I think it’s great, though I don’t think i can volunteer to be co-curator of the account, as already struggling with organisatorial duties on Wikibase group accounts. However, i can definitely boost content, and if I have the inspiration to join later in more active role will message here :slight_smile:

I support diversifying away from the dumpster fire that is Twitter, but I don’t see the need to couple the decision about communication channels with one about communication styles. It seems like whatever communication style is chosen can/should be used on all channels. I assume that the current use of automation on Twitter is driven by the desire to maintain a presence without having to invest a lot of human effort. Of course a high touch approach provides for a richer experience, but it does require a bigger investment. I also think it’s worth using automation to cross post to all supported channels.


@tfmorris I agree the choice of platform(s) is fairly independent from what we choose to post. But because I don’t use Twitter myself I do not have strong feelings about how the Twitter account should be run. On Mastodon I feel like I understand the culture a bit better and can judge what sort of content would be appropriate there.

If we want to make similar twists to the Twitter account, I would find that great. I do not know if cross-posting from Mastodon to Twitter is doable/desirable nowadays, but if that works for folks who use Twitter, why not! I would not want to set it up the other way around because in Mastodon it is quite frowned upon (posting messages containing Twitter handles that cannot be resolved by the system is not great UX).

Anyway I have set up an account here:

I’ll share the password with @abbe98 for now, if anyone else wants to participate in the curation let us know.

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For reference, OpenRefine is currently present on the following social media platform

The idea behind the Twitter feed is to

  1. Boost visibility for community contribution regarding training, tutorial, and publication.
  2. Reach out to an audience not following the google discussion group at the time.
  3. Post information that may not be relevant enough for the discussion list (I don’t want to share every new video tutorial on the forum or previous discussion group).
  4. Support a user (very rarely, and I am unsure if this should be done via official or personal accounts).

For the record, each tweet has between 5 to 20 clicks on its attached link.

Managing multiple channels

I think it is a great idea to delegate the curation of each platform’s content to a designated list of members.

Regarding cross-posting, I would recommend the usage of a tool like buffer (it seems they are the only one supporting Mastodon) or smarterqueue (which doesn’t support Mastodon), where

  • One message can be posted on different social media, with on “native” independent post on each platform (so no reference between mastodon and twitter for example).
  • Messages can be scheduled and queue in advance (so there is not a flood of messages when the curator find 10 interesting things to share in the same hour).

Any volunteers

I created this public pool (other users will know what you voted for) to identify who may be interested in managing a specific channel (or multiple channels via a buffer).

  • Twitter
  • Youtube playlist
  • Mastodon
  • Linkedin
  • Buffer (to crosspost on twitter, mastodon, LinkedIn)
  • Other - please add a comment in the conversation

0 voters

Creating a policy

If we start delegating access to social media to several volunteers, I would prefer we set up a “code of posting” so we document somewhere what is authorized and not when managing the profile since posts will be coming from the OpenRefine identity. I will open a PR on OpenRefine/OpenRefine.

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My experience with Fediverse accounts has been mixed. It draws very specific communities; most people I professionally and personally interact with are still on Twitter and I engage in a lot more fruitful interaction there. Mastodon is for many folks still quite complex; and I’ve indeed encountered some levels of gatekeeping in various (at first sight OK-looking) instances. Distributed is not necessarily more welcoming.

I think OpenRefine users will currently generally mostly benefit from more lively interaction on Twitter.

I interact with and help GLAMs and Wikimedians on a daily basis in the Wikimedia-focused Telegram group, and that already keeps me quite busy. I have no capacity to help in other places.

Thanks @Sandra. I am not interested in curating the Twitter account myself but I hope this move can at least help us reconsider what to post there.

@Martin I think the use of Buffer or other automated tools probably contributes to giving the Twitter account a fairly cold and impersonal vibe.
Looking at the past tweets, here are my intuitive thoughts (again, not spending time on Twitter myself and therefore not being familiar with the culture there - so this might be off):

  • Tweets about publications: I would avoid them unless the tweet really says something about why this use of OpenRefine is of interest. Of course that’s more work, one needs to really skim through the publication and figure out what they do with OpenRefine. Tracking all publications mentioning OpenRefine is interesting for the project team, but as a user I don’t think I would want to be notified of all academic publications which mention a tool I like. From the distance it really looks like you have some automated set up that just dumps search results in the Twitter feed and I am doubt followers really want to see that. It also feels dangerous in the sense that some academic publications citing OpenRefine are of really low quality, and I find it a bit embarrassing that we are promoting those. Potentially, it would be useful to have some sort of separate bot account for OpenRefine-related publications which people could subscribe to if they wish (I would personally be interested if I used Twitter - but I am not the target audience of the official Twitter account!)
  • Automatically tweeting StackOverflow questions also feels a dangerous for that reason. StackOverflow is not always a great fit for OpenRefine questions so we are likely promoting quite some low quality content that will get downvoted / closed / deleted quite quickly. For instance, this tweet which just says “I can’t install refine #stackoverflow” is probably not something we want on the official Twitter account, I would say.
  • For videos or training events, you are also following the same pattern of “English Video” or “Spanish Training” followed by a copy-pasted title of the resource. That also gives this vibe of just dumping content into people’s timelines. Also, I think it should rather be “Video in English” / “Training in Spanish” (as you know, not every resource in French comes from France :wink: ). I would overall be more selective and write something more customized to the resource you are promoting.

So overall, I’d aim for more quality and less quantity. I know that it’s not how you get followers on Twitter (and that’s one reason I don’t use this platform myself), but I would still like to spare some brain time of our user community by being a bit more selective.