The Yesterweb


  1. Mission
  2. Manifesto
  3. Social Etiquette
  4. Summary


Working with the guidelines established by the manifesto and the social etiquette to progressively transform the culture of the internet and beyond.

Manifesto for a New Web

This is a set of three core commitments derived from the practical experiences of the Yesterweb staff after two years of community organization. They concentrate what we have learned and how we operate into a general template that can be applied to any community at a foundational level. We propose these commitments as the basis of unity for those individuals or groups who wish to move in the same direction, while allowing a diversity of focus, interests, and missions. They are neither rules nor guidelines: they are expectations that are upheld by all participants, to the best of their ability, who believe in building a new culture for the web.

  1. The commitment to social responsibility and partisanship:

    Safety and self-defense are a basic necessity of any community, which includes the recognition that it is impossible to accommodate all people in the same social space due to the inevitability of antagonistic beliefs. Diversity of opinion is respected up until certain bounds that reflect oppressive intentions such as discrimination against age, sex, gender, class, nation/race/ethnicity, religion, or disability. When these conflicts inevitably appear, the community must strive to understand the situation and take the side of the oppressed at any cost. In cases where it is ambiguous whether the harm is intentional or accidental, an investigation through dialogue is necessary to determine malice or ignorance, as ignorance can be resolved with education.

  2. The commitment to collective well-being and personal growth:

    Sustainable amounts of selflessness and sacrifice, ideally from all individuals, are required to build a healthy community. Building and maintaining a new culture requires a consistent social effort as well. We should be mindful of collective health, taking compassionate consideration of the personal growth of everyone (actively or passively) involved in any situation. In our communication we should train our ability to listen and to empathize, patiently striving for unity and dialogue rather than division and debate, and approaching conflict with the intention of resolution. It is important that the community does not create goals purely out of opposition or antagonism toward something, and instead works in a positive and creative manner, toward building solutions either in individual or collective practice.

  3. The commitment to rehumanizing social relations and reversing the process of social alienation:

    The development of information technology capital has further disintegrated our social being, but being social is a mental necessity. We are left with the burden of re-learning the way we relate to each other and rebuilding our social bonds in a way that treats everyone as equals. This includes unlearning dehumanizing behaviors such as treating others as potential sources of profit/assets or romantic/sexual objects without knowledge or consent, and establishing rules to demarcate separate spaces in which all participants are aware and do consent (if such spaces are deemed necessary by the community). We should question the impact of our environment on our behavior, and carefully conscientiously transform that environment so that a better culture and humanity can flourish.

Social Etiquette


Table of contents:

  1. Context
  2. Introduction
  3. The Mass Movement
  4. Movement Spontaneity
  5. Movement Consciousness
  6. Movement Direction
    1. The Individual Level
    2. The Social Level
    3. The Systemic Level
  7. The Role of Nostalgia
  8. The Need for Organization
  9. Organization Formation
  10. Organizational Methods
    1. The Localized Scientific Method
    2. The Mass Democratic Method
    3. Conflict Handling
    4. Conflict Resolution
    5. Conflict Avoidance
    6. Constructive Criticism
  11. Organizational Goals
  12. Organizational Structure
  13. Observed Phenomena
    1. Cultural Propagation and Transformation
    2. Community Splitting
    3. The Online-Offline Connection
    4. The Role of Youth
    5. Socially Marginalized Diasporas
    6. Pseudonymity
    7. Organizational Discontinuity
    8. Moderation as Work
    9. The Serial Moderator
    10. Class and the Class Taboo
    11. The Professional-Managerial Class
    12. Digital Artists and Game Developers
    13. International Issues
  14. Significant Errors
    1. Handling Die-Hard Personalities
    2. Community Space Overgrowth
    3. Moderator Recruitment
    4. Elitism
    5. Privacy and Security
    6. Free Software Issues
    7. Sexual Discussions
    8. Misunderstanding of Counterculture
    9. Missing Transparency
    10. Mixed Messaging
  15. Conclusion
  16. Appendix I: List of Personal Manifestos
  17. Appendix II: Yesterweb Convention Notes
  18. Appendix III: Subculture vs. Counterculture
  19. Appendix IV: Forum Shutting Down Topic


The Yesterweb began in February 2021 as a chat server on Discord. From there, it expanded to a webring, a zine, a Mastodon server, and finally a forum. These are not a complete list of Yesterweb spaces, but a highlight of the biggest and most popular for context. The main concentration of the community and its social phenomena was within the Discord server, and then, to a much smaller extent, the forum. It briefly spearheaded an anti-web3 campaign in November 2021 which spurred a rapid growth in the community. Unable to find sufficient organizers to handle this growth, the organizers went on strike against the community in January 2023, closed down the Discord server in February 2023, and closed down the forum on May 1st, 2023.


On May 1st, 2023, the Yesterweb core organizers will cease all community-building activities with the closure of the self-hosted forum. This is our experience-summation of online community-building.

In short, the rapid growth of the community (in contrast to the slow growth of organizers) as well as the unexpected increase in offline responsibilities of the organizers led to fatigue and burnout, unsustainable community standards, and a gradual decline in quality of the social spaces. This occurred primarily in the Discord server (closed in February 2023) but the same symptoms began to appear in the forum.

We have decided it best to put the organization on indefinite hiatus so that we could recover and leave the possibility of re-organization in the future, though under a different name for reasons discussed further within this document. The potential for community-building still exists through the Mastodon server, but there are currently no plans to do so.

The following will be a reflection on our experiences (not necessarily in chronological order) and our analyses of phenomena that appeared along the way. This summary reflects two years of preliminary work and remains approximate and incomplete. We hope that it will help observers and participants gain a better understanding of everything that happened and is still happening, and that this serves as a useful resource for those individuals deciding to continue the project in the same spirit that we have summarized in the mission.

The Mass Movement

The "movement" is a digital movement of people, thousands if not tens/hundreds of thousands, who are deciding to reduce their participation in the core web, with some of those people choosing instead to increase their participation in the peripheral web. These are separate concepts from dark web, surface web, deep web, darknet, clearnet, etc. which are left to the interested reader as a personal analysis.

The core web is the "default" internet experience for all human beings, largely defined by monopoly-capitalist platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Reddit, and others. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon largely provide the foundations which define the (soft but noticeable) boundaries of the core megalopolis through their search engines and hosting services. That is to say that most internet users are confined within the boundaries of what they are able to search for and what has been presented to them. The core web experience is profit-optimized, keeping individuals within their platforms and services and susceptible to their media in order to maximize advertising, sales, and data collection.

The peripheral web can be described as the outskirts of the core web, with platforms such as Mastodon, SpaceHey, Neocities, Discord and IRC chatrooms, Matrix rooms, various imageboards, and others, including various functional clones of core web applications. It is the digital countryside of the corporate megalopolis. Advertising, sales, and data collection are substantially reduced if not entirely eliminated, providing better conditions for people to socialize in and a healthier experience overall. It is composed of web platforms that are hosted on separate infrastructure from the core web by individuals or organizations with various sources of funding. The peripheral web is discovered largely through word-of-mouth and personal research. In other words, bridging the peripheral web to the core web takes a significant amount of effort: the vast majority of internet users remain unaware of its existence.

This division between core and periphery is approximate and relative, as there are services and platforms which are ambiguously in-between, such as Cloudflare and WordPress. There are also areas that can be considered more "rural" than the scope of our investigation like tilde communities.

Movement Spontaneity

The movement is almost entirely caused by a reaction to the deteriorating conditions experienced in core web spaces and services, particularly on social media networks (the combination of social media with social networks).

This reaction can be conscious or unconscious, with most individuals being semi-conscious of it. Efforts from peripheral inhabitants to convince core inhabitants to move to the periphery are almost entirely spontaneous and disorganized. The intention is short-sighted, missing any long-term strategy for sustainability or retention of new people within the peripheral web. While there are many social and mental benefits to migration, deeper societal issues are never addressed and are often reproduced in the absence of a sustainable organized effort.

Although the migration is gradual, the movement is largely grown through spikes in activity that are influenced by significant events. Sometimes as frequently as monthly, a negative event takes place on one of the core social media platforms. This is usually a corporate decision to modify their services in some way or some particularly distressing news or social conflict breaks out, causing a portion of core residents to experience extreme dissatisfaction. Individuals from the periphery then attempt to seize the opportunity by mobilizing on their own initiative to convince this dissatisfied group to migrate.

Movement Consciousness

Any notion of mass consciousness requires a subject: What is there to be conscious of? We know of the conditions driving the reaction, but to encapsulate the full spectrum of consciousness in regards to how the web evolves over time we choose our subject of consciousness as the underlying causes of those conditions which spawned the movement. We can then divide the mass movement into three sections: the unconscious, the semi-conscious, and the conscious.

The unconscious section of the movement is unaware that any such problems exist. They come to inhabit the peripheral web for hobbyist reasons, or from accidental discovery due to a related trending topic that sparks interest or curiosity. The unconscious section is significant, but it is, at this time, not the majority.

The semi-conscious section is the overwhelming majority, and it ranges from those who intuitively feel that something is wrong with the internet, to those who have a vague idea of the systemic forces driving the problems with the internet. This section will be further analyzed later.

The conscious section has a reasonably systemic understanding of the economic and political forces that determine the internet's past, present, and future, and are sometimes able to make accurate predictions about developments in the core web, or are, at the very least, unsurprised by them. They consist almost entirely of a very tiny section of intellectuals who have undertaken self-study.


The majority of the movement is aware that problems on the web exist, but vary in their perceptions of what the problems actually are. However, the explanations given for the perceived problems contain some truth to them in a deeper analysis. The reaction to negative experiences within the core web also has a mental component that drives the need for an individual to explain their experience in a way that makes sense to them.

We will identify the three general levels of problems experienced: the individual level, the social level, and the systemic level.

At the individual level, there is an experience of repression of one's own speech or expression, or of being exposed to things one does not wish to observe or participate in. The problem is solved with the movement into social communities that are more accepting of the particular personality which is seeking it out, or with the creation of personal spaces such as websites or highly-customizable social media accounts.

At the social level, there is an experience of "toxicity" - the actions of individuals which negatively impact collective mental well-being - or social exclusion from the core web due to the tendency of its communities to form echo chambers and avoid diversity of opinion. There is also an experience of alienation: the inability to relate to others as human beings and thus feeling like one is, or others are, sub-human or even non-human objects like robots. This is resolved with a concentrated and sustained effort to rehumanize relations through a transformation of culture in smaller and more dedicated social spaces.

At the systemic level, there is an experience of systemic repression that reflects the power structures at the foundational level of society. The systemic consciousness is able to generalize specific incidences as evidence of underlying oppressive mechanisms. Attempts to solve this are guided by one's specific worldview and the solutions take various forms according to personal interpretation.

Movement Direction

Through its actions, if not completely ineffective or self-defeating in trying to solve its problems, a movement can go in two basic directions: toward the future, or toward the past - in other words, progress or regress. We will analyze the proposed general solutions of the three levels of problems by splitting them into their representative directions.

Our overall strategy was to educate people through the progressive perspective, work to resolve problems in the progressive direction on the individual and social level, and criticize the regressive perspectives and solutions to win people over to the progressive direction.

The Individual Level
The regressive solution identifies the problem as the suppression of freedom of speech or as being forced to view progressive propaganda against their will. It attempts to resolve this by escaping from these spaces and finding like-minded people sharing propaganda they already agree with, or are partial to.

The progressive solution identifies the problem as a deterioration in the overall experience of the web due to terrible management decisions, leading to poorer content quality, worse mental health, increased hostility, and occasionally persecution. It attempts to resolve this by reducing participation in the core web and reducing social connections and internet usage to a healthier and more manageable level.

The Social Level
The regressive solution identifies the problem as a result of a corrupted education system, "wokeism" and several other red herrings, or an overall attitude shift against bigotry, jokingly or otherwise, becoming largely unacceptable in the wider internet. It attempts to resolve this problem by seeking alternative spaces that are free from the social consequences of their antiquated attitudes.

The progressive solution identifies the problem as a culture of suffocating toxicity, enabled by the optimization of algorithms to drive engagement (and ultimately revenue) at the cost of mental and social well-being. It attempts to resolve this problem by seeking spaces without advertisements, commercialization, recommendation systems, and monopolization.

The Systemic Level
The regressive solution identifies the problem as a concentrated effort by a political elite, such as liberals, globalists, socialists, communists, and the like.

The progressive solution identifies the problem as one or many social systems, such as capitalism, imperialism, and the like.

Discussing the solutions are outside of the scope of our investigation since the solutions remain outside of the movement's current abilities. We hypothesize that our cultural work is a preliminary step for enabling a progressive systemic solution, having consistently worked to help others understand systemic concepts so that they may develop a more interconnected view of world systems and their role in generating past, present, and future events.

The Role of Nostalgia

The rapid increase in popularity of platforms like Neocities and Spacehey were a strong indicator that nostalgia was a significant force driving migration to the peripheral web in recent years. The community was first created when pandemic restrictions were just starting to loosen up. Nostalgia was often the first thing that stood out and appealed to new members: there is comfort in nostalgia, especially during particularly rough times.

However, Nostalgia would often lead to a regressive attitude within the space that made it difficult to achieve any sort of change. Users focused highly on nostalgia would value aesthetics as their primary focus which would lead to a distrust of new tools that did not meet their nostalgic criteria.

This focus on nostalgia would also lead to an uncritical view of what the "old web" was. Many users would express a desire to return to an "old web" that did not exist, often with beliefs that the old web was inherently less bigoted, less consumerist, and less restrictive. While some of this is true depending on where you look, users would become hyper-focused on returning to a past that never existed rather than wanting to pursue a future that fit their values.

This disconnect also meant that people who held a much more conservative view of the "old web" as their ideal would obliquely be under the same label as those with the more progressive view. These two groups being under the same label despite wildly differing views means that this label is largely ineffective as something to build a community around.

Nostalgia for the old web was not just limited to people that had experienced the old web. Surprisingly, there were many children and young adults that felt anemoia, or nostalgia for a place or time they have never been. It is clear that this was a response to the deterioration of the core web that these young people had grown up in. What isn't clear is whether this reaction is a longing for the old web and its aesthetics or if it reflects a deeper desire for change that is partially reflected by the positive aspects of the old web.

The Need for Organization

An uncomfortable truth is that external influences play a dominant part in shaping our environment and even our own decisions. Anyone who is organized with others will have a greater ability to influence their environment than those who are less-organized or not organized at all. As organizations increase in strength, unorganized individuals will eventually be so powerless as to simply accept the transformations that are happening due to the will of the organization.

We have come across many people in this space who express an opposition to structure or hierarchy in general. Any group of people that comes together for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in some way. Therefore, a lack of structure becomes a way of hiding or masking undemocratic power dynamics. For example, leadership still exists in supposedly 'structureless' organizations, however this fact is concealed or denied. This is exclusionary to the remainder of the organization who is not aware of these power dynamics.

The Yesterweb played a significant role in transforming the community and parts of the peripheral web. This has made a lot of unorganized people very upset - particularly transphobes, anti-social personalities, and general regressives - and has driven many of them away from these spaces.

There will always exist a threat of being out-organized by regressive forces. A textbook example of this is the purchase of Twitter by the richest man on earth. If the market potential ever appears, capital can always flow into the peripheral web and transform it into part of the core web.

Organization Formation

The organization began as a handful of individuals working to discover and address the needs of the community. As the community grew larger, it transformed into a loose organization composed of staff members. Finally, a well-defined organization formed at the core of the staff that created a distinction between organizers.

In its loosely organized phase, attempts were made to draw the whole community into organizing efforts. Results were poor because of low participation, and because the participants were mostly composed of the newest members who had the least knowledge about the community. We could not ensure an accurate representation from this setup, so we moved the decision-making as a responsibility for staff members. This would not work out either as moderators had varying levels of commitment and we could not reasonably expect them to take a greater responsibility.

We had eventually run into a serious problem with one moderator in particular that had several anti-democratic tendencies. It presented a real risk of going against our goals that had been derived from our social investigations within the community and replacing them with a personal vision of how the community should be managed. It was this situation that prompted the creation of a more rigorous organizational structure: requiring extensive study and training on the scientific method, the democratic method, and relevant skills for solving community problems described below.

Organizational Methods

The Localized Scientific Method
Since our goal is to create perceptible societal improvements, there needs to be a procedure which helps give structure to our actions and the interpretation of their consequences. We would prefer a rigorous scientific method, but it is impossible for us to have enough control of the social environment to produce results meeting academic and professional standards. Instead, the collective body of knowledge is localized, only applicable to and making sense within the organization and particularly among its practitioners.

To generate localized knowledge, we use this generalized method:

  1. Analysis: Observe the environment and the results of past actions, study what is happening and how things are changing. Determine the productive aspects and unproductive aspects of any relevant action, event, topic, or situation.
  2. Hypothesis: Think of actions, questions, or conversations that will improve the situation or guide it toward meeting specific goals, often with the aid of external study materials when uncertain on how to proceed. It must be socially acceptable.
  3. Experiment: Put the hypothesis into practice to the best of one's ability. Be mindful and vigilant during this experiment, determining whether it should be changed or aborted entirely as the situation changes. When the actions, questions, or conversations have been carried out, return to step 1.

It is through repeating this practice that we discover the real needs of our community. We try our best not only to meet those needs but to explain why they exist and to teach people the necessary knowledge to address those needs themselves. Once they have grasped that knowledge, they can share it with others, eventually extending and advancing the organization.

While imperfect and prone to error, this method does help the practitioner to gain an understanding and mastery of social situations over time. As it is being carried out in a social context, social mistakes need to be addressed and resolved (sometimes with more than just an apology).

It can also be applied to many other situations, such as learning a platform or program, building a website, moderating, or even in daily activities like cooking and cleaning.

The Mass-Democratic Method

We used a specialized version of the mass line, tailored to the functions of our online spaces, that can be described in three steps:

  1. Learn about and actively seek out the ideas, desires, and problems of the people within the community space, particularly from those that we have gotten to know and have achieved the highest degree of social connection with.
  2. Study those ideas, desires, and problems, discover their root causes, discard their regressive aspects, and put it all into a message with a clear and simple language that makes sense to whoever we intend to hear/read this message.
  3. Work not only to spread this message, but also to live and act in accordance with the message in order to serve as an example to be followed for the community. Observe the results of this work over time, determine its successes and failures, and then return to step 1.

This method is a cyclical process that has to be practiced like a skill, generally becoming more effective and efficient over time as the experience of its practitioners grows. Its ultimate goal is to foster progressive growth in people by helping them to understand and put into practice knowledge which improves their mastery over their personal situations, leading to better decisions and actions over time. Correct application under favorable conditions will inspire and convince others to learn more about this form of leadership, drawing them into the process of organization.

People who carry out the mass-democratic method can be thought of as an externalized brain with the purpose of intellectual growth of itself and its external connections. It is concentrated mental labor done in service to others who may not yet have the ability or recognize the need to do it themselves. However it is not automatic since the recipient of this labor must still perform their own mental labor to understand it, and will not do so unless convinced that the effort is worth giving. Thus, one of the most important tasks of the organizational brain is the task of convincing, which is also a skill learned through practice.

There is also a necessary component of education in this practice. Those who are being served with democratic means must be taught the reasoning behind these actions so they can one day put it into their own practice. After the effectiveness of this practice is realized, the usefulness of democracy becomes understood. Democracy then becomes the subject of education for its witnesses, leading to a reproduction and expansion of the democratic process. The democratic process is finally understood as a practical activity, in contrast to an idealistic notion of governance, politics, or society. Its primarchy characteristic is not that it is direct or representative, but massive - it originates and operates within the mass of people. Just as with the scientific method, the democratic method is no longer thought of as an external responsibility belonging to delegated professionals, but as a practice of everyday life.

Some of the ways we have gathered the ideas of the community include showing genuine interest in their personal experiences and opinions, taking submissions for manifestos (see Appendix I), and hosting a counterculture convention inside of our chatroom (see Appendix II).

Conflict Handling
The main activity driving the qualitative development of our community space was the resolution of conflict. The main destructive force causing the deterioration of our community space was the avoidance of conflict. By conflict we specifically mean everything that is ultimately derived from intense differences in desires, beliefs, or perspectives. This can be overt, like criticisms, disagreements, or direct statements of opinion, or it can be covert, like pettiness, pedantry, using coded language, passive-aggression, interrogation, harassment, bullying, doxxing, canceling, or snitching.

All conflict is resolved patiently and on a case-by-case basis, and is the main responsibility of community work that was carried out by the organizers and sometimes the moderators. Conflict that is avoided or remains unresolved tends to silently grow over time until it reappears with greater intensity. The main reason for the ultimate failure of these community spaces can be reductively described as an inundation of unresolved conflicts far greater than the staff was able to handle.

Conflict Resolution
The social etiquette in this document is an attempt to simplify the method of conflict resolution that has been used throughout the history of the community. It was derived from the dialectical method, the socratic method, the scientific method, and Freirean conscientization. It is not complete and it deserves to be improved upon by future practitioners.

Conflict is something that arises in every large social space independently of our own desires, and it arises primarily from differences in, or misunderstandings of, the personal beliefs of others. It is also something that happens within an individual in the form of cognitive dissonance. We made it our responsibility as community-builders to resolve these conflicts between and within people, often succeeding at reaching a greater collective harmony that drove the growth of the community and its culture.

Unfortunately in some cases we are unsuccessful in resolving conflict. Within these cases, the majority are due to certain community members practicing conflict avoidance or even being stubborn and resistant to criticism. The minority are due to our inability to understand the problem enough to resolve it, such as in heated disagreements over obscure topics that are characteristic of a subculture we are unfamiliar with.

Conflict Avoidance
At the opposite end of conflict resolution is the avoidance of conflict. This is the normal disposition and habit of the community and likely the majority of the web. We are choosing to define avoidance as anything that does not ultimately resolve the problem, which is quite a broad definition that takes many forms. A conflict is avoided by expressing discomfort, or finding an excuse, or trying to change the subject, or ignoring it entirely, or trying to bury it in a multitude of ways to reduce its visibility, or finding another conflict to start as a distraction, or silencing any discussion, or removing members from the community, or deleting evidence, and so on.

Our most common example: going silent or leaving due to a disagreement, then discussing it in secret or in a remote location among others who are already in agreement. This is the echo chamber mentality, but it is understandable; it takes effort and skill to coexist in a space with a wide diversity of thought.

Our most ridiculous example: we had community members trying to act like secret police, investigating other members' social media accounts and blogs in an effort to find evidence that would remove the originator of dissenting opinions from the community. Anything and everything has been attempted to avoid dealing with cognitive dissonance, or with the realization that one might be wrong.

The culture we were building was one which values the seeking out of multiple perspectives in order to further our own misunderstandings, which necessarily means that we have to be skeptical of our own knowledge. Critics have countered this by saying that our rules suppress freedom of speech and enforce conformity of thought. We counter this by saying that we have only suppressed a very small subset of speech that corresponds to oppressive speech, and our experience confirms a healthy, near-constant clashing of differing perspectives without it.

We have never banned a member on a difference of opinion except when that member is stubbornly enabling the denial or suppression of the existence of transgender people, the times of which can be counted with our fingers. Several banned members have gone on to obscure the real reasons for their banishment in order to gain sympathy from others. These situations have shown us that banning can become a form of conflict avoidance: the conflicts are often exacerbated outside of our spaces where we have far less power to resolve them.

Constructive Criticism
Sometimes conflict resolution requires the introduction of a new conflict in the form of constructive criticism. The purpose of constructive criticism is to provide an analysis of a negative situation to its originators, at the very least increasing their consciousness or understanding of a situation, and ideally proposing a solution so that better outcomes can be achieved in the future.

Giving constructive criticism is a skill that must be practiced to improve. There is often a resistance to giving constructive criticism out of fear of generating negative consequences. Receiving constructive criticism is a different skill, but there is also a resistance to receiving it that varies wildly by individual. Some see criticism as a personal attack or a public humiliation even if it is clear that they are being approached in good faith and with the intention of improving a situation.

Constructive criticism is also the last resort before banning an individual from the community space. They are given the chance to change their behavior with the aid of reasonable understanding. If no significant change is made, they are banned without the option to appeal.

Organizational Goals
All of our goals are derived from the mass-democratic method described above. They are subject to change based on re-application of the method because, if correctly applied, the community's thinking evolves over time. This is the reason why we transformed from hobbyist endeavors, to internet activism, to social activism, to finally countercultural advocacy.

It is important now to proclaim that we no longer consider what we do as part of a web revival. We have progressed largely beyond such a characterization because what we have achieved and reorganized around in our final phase is something fundamentally new to the web. The "Yesterweb" is now an outdated and misleading term - we have grown to be far more "today" and "tomorrow" than we are "yesterday". There is a lot of significance and impact in words and we have to be careful when we say things like "old web" and "yesterweb" and "web revival" because it obscures the fundamentally new aspects of what is going on. The fascination with the old ideals and aesthetics had a real effect on our ability to advance towards a new web.

An overemphasis on the past will lead to a dead end. The good aspects of the old web have been brought into the present, the bad aspects have been left behind, but ultimately our actions and thinking represent a new web.

It is for this reason that we can more accurately be described as advocates for an internet counterculture that will one day supersede the pre-existing culture, first in the peripheral web and then in the core web. As the original Yesterweb staff transition away from community-building, we are calling for prospective organizers who believe in this mission to study the message we have prepared in this document and carry it out to the best of their ability, individually if necessary. The manifesto we have left only encompasses the countercultural spirit, and future advocates will have to find creative ways to put it into practice and improve upon it.

Organizational Structure
The staff is composed of those holding organizer, administrator, and moderator positions. As of this writing, all organizers are both administrators and moderators, and all administrators are organizers. Not all moderators are organizers, but some perform organizational tasks, making them semi-organizers.

The core organizers were trained to follow a rigorous democratic method. Their goal was to represent the progressive desires of our community, and carry them out to fruition to the best of their ability.

We have never taken applications. Moderators are selected from the membership if they have demonstrated that they are principled, self-disciplined, and recognize the importance of the community through a personal sacrifice of time and effort dedicated to serving them. Organizers are then selected from the moderation team who are consistently present and participate in organizational matters, when they have proven their democratic disposition, and when they have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the mission of the organization.

A moderator's only responsibility is to maintain a social space to a certain defined standard. They can do more than this and often do, but not always. An organizer has a much larger responsibility, simply put as carrying out the mission of the organization, but oftentimes that means to moderate the spaces when there is a short supply of moderators. There is overlap between the two positions, but it's pretty easy to tell when one is primarily a moderator or primarily an organizer.

Decision-making is discussed among the organizers and is based on the concentrated ideas derived from the long-term observation and participation of the community. Care is taken to ensure that these decisions head in the direction that leads to the fulfillment of the deepest needs of the community. Most decisions are arrived at by consensus, but in the case of not being able to reach a consensus in a timely manner, the minority opinion must carry out the decision of the majority opinion. Decisions are typically analyzed and reduced to a series of simple "yes or no" questions to reduce any potential ambiguity.

Once a decision is made, it is brought to the moderators for a second opinion. If the moderators introduce a conflicting opinion, the organizers reconsider the decision in light of the new perspective. In particularly difficult decisions (except for the decision to strike and shut down), the decision is brought publicly to the whole community for a third opinion. If there is no reason to reconsider, the decision is carried out.

Observed Phenomena

Cultural Propagation and Transformation
The culture of a community does not begin as a clean slate, it begins with the introduction of other cultures that inhabit the minds of the individuals participating within the same space. Through individual expression, cultures of other communities are propagated into the new space where they mix and collide with each other. Because some aspects of these cultures are diametrically opposed they cannot exist within the same space and are often the underlying cause of interpersonal conflict.

If dialogue does not resolve these cultural antagonisms, they necessarily require that one aspect of a culture is suppressed while another one prevails. Without moderation, this antagonism is resolved by the most dominant and resolute carriers of their culture. With moderation, this antagonism is resolved with the use of power as typically defined by rules or enacted at the discretion of the moderation team. If an individual community member feels that their culture is suppressed they will mostly either acquiesce or leave, with a handful becoming resistant and even hostile.

The culture of a community space over time is thus roughly the totality of the agreeable aspects of several cultures that have been allowed to be established within that space. However, even if it appears stable, it is always subject to change with enough strength and determination from new members, and with the disappearance or neglect of old members - particularly the moderation team.

With enough knowledge and experience it becomes possible to accurately guess which space a new member typically inhabits through clues that come out from their expression. In other words, whether it is from language or opinions or general perspectives and attitudes, we can tell if someone spends most of their time on Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, and the like. We are all not as independently-minded as we would like to believe: enough exposure to any social environment over time will cause us to adopt some of its established culture.

There is an early phase of acclimation when a new member enters a community space with a different culture. It is in this early phase where both the new member and the community are particularly vulnerable, because both cultures are attempting to resist  the transformation of one into the other. This is why if there are too many new members with too little effort to acclimate them into the community's culture, the established culture becomes destabilized and transformed into something different at the dismay of the established community members.

Community Splitting
Individuals permanently leave the community spaces often. The reasons are largely unknown but are sometimes because of decisions by staff members or due to disagreements and other negative interpersonal events. In some cases of major organizational decisions being made, the amount of individuals leaving is significant enough that they break off into new community spaces and form their own collective identity separate and opposed to ours. The irreconcilable differences that arise from our decision-making drive these splits which become defining events in the history of the community.

The first split was roughly driven by the decision to loosely organize the community space and give it a mission beyond hobbyism. Members who wanted to preserve the hobbyist aspect, and who were opposed to any sort of activism, left and formed their own spaces.

The second split was driven by the decision to move toward a solid organizational structure. This move to require study and training to make leadership decisions was the spark for one particular moderator to attempt a power-grab by starting a separate space without prior discussion. The use of the same name and the promotion of the same staff members to staff positions without consent gave the community the illusion that it was a collective decision, when in reality it was an attempt to siphon the community away into a space where this moderator had the highest authority. The addition of age-restriction and the permissiveness of individual advertising - changes that we would have been adamantly opposed to - was enough evidence to suggest that it was done due to irreconcilable differences in opinion over which direction to take the community.

The third split began with the announcement of the closure of our community spaces and is still in progress, so it is difficult to describe the potential outcome. Many are being subsumed into the community spaces following the web revival trend, with a couple expressing their desires to assume the Yesterweb name and carry it out based on our outdated ideas. We are hoping for the emergence of a completely new trend that is based on the countercultural mission we are laying out within this document.

With each split and creation of new spaces came discussions of disagreement or discontent with us. These spaces became the primary sources of disinformation about the staff, the goals of the organizers, and our community in general, and would increase in severity with each organizational decision made in opposition to their desires.

The Online-Offline Connection
Almost everything that we have experienced in building an online community has a similar experience in offline communities that it can be related to. After all, people communicating with each other through technological tools are still people communicating with each other - only its physical manifestation is different. Social and organizational skills learned in offline settings were readily transferable to their online counterpart, and we expect that our online experiences will go on to inform our offline experience (if it hasn't already).

We learned about the "extremely online": the section of people who are perceived to have a severe online-offline balance and out of touch with reality. Through dialogue we came to understand that it truly is their inescapable reality. We found no evidence of anyone making a decision to confine themselves indoors that wasn't severely affected by conditions outside of their control. It can be a disability, an illness, a dependency, a displacement, a remote location, a financial situation, a hostile environment, or a streak of bad luck. Being extremely online can be a temporary experience that lasts months or years - most will try to fix this imbalance if they believe in the possibility.

Several of our active members had gone offline for months and came back to visit for brief periods of time. Several others went offline and never returned. After the completion of this document, several staff members will greatly reduce their online activity or disappear entirely. In this hybridized world we are uncertain of where to draw the line, but we have learned to neither dismiss its importance nor overplay its significance. Understanding why active members may decide to go offline for extended periods of time is important to forming accurate analyses and conclusions. It is possible that a change in culture caused their departure or something else completely unrelated to the community.

The Role of Youth
Children between the ages of 13 and 17 have played an important role in our community spaces. They are often the section of people most deeply familiar with the problems of the core web in the present day. It is having a tremendous impact on their early development and their relationships with their peers. They are often the most rebellious and the most willing to transform the state of the web, and their perspective is invaluable to adults who are burdened with responsibilities that prevent significant self-study into the newest social and cultural developments. They ultimately inherit the earth, and should be treated with the respect that deserves.

We almost banned children from our community spaces because we wrongly associated certain behaviors as being characteristic of children in general. A closer investigation revealed that these behaviors (mistaken to be a mark of immaturity) were overwhelmingly performed by those between the ages of 18-25, even as high as 30 years old. We also visited an adult-only space with significant overlap with our community and noticed no significant improvement in the quality of discussions there - they were the exact same discussions. All of the evidence over time confirms that we were right in working to make the place safe and welcoming for children to the best of our ability.

Even under the context of having banned sexual discussion in the community for all ages, adults still express being uncomfortable around children or having problems with children for largely unspecified reasons. We can only speculate that they are afraid of being around children due to a lack of self-control in discussing inappropriate topics, or that they have a disdain for new cultures that they do not understand, or that they have an irrational prejudice toward children (even though they were once children themselves). We call for thorough self-reflections on this matter.

Socially-Marginalized Diasporas
A significant part of the Yesterweb userbase was what we will call "socially-marginalized diasporas". This label includes societally marginalized groups such as LGBT  + people, neurodivergent/neuroatypical people, and groups that are marginalized in more informal ways such as furries, otherkin/alterhumans, non-disordered plural systems, and more.

We believe a major aspect of this was the hobbyist creation of personal websites appealing to these groups. Since these groups are often unwelcome or otherwise mistreated in major swaths of the internet, the idea of a space for pure self-expression unable to be affected by third parties was greatly appealing. Another reason for this may be that these communities are common in spaces in which the "old web" aesthetic has thrived, such as Tumblr, Tiktok, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Many users interested in this aesthetic would end up drawn to Neocities, and by extension the Yesterweb due to the Yesterweb's presence on Neocities.

The third reason, and potentially the most relevant, was that the Yesterweb always dedicated itself to making it clear that bigotries towards those socially-marginalized diasporas was unacceptable. Due to our memberbase being majority queer at least in terms of the most active users as well as clear messaging from moderation that it was unacceptable to spread bigotry and hatred, we believe that this led to the Discord server becoming a comfortable space for socially-marginalized people to express them.

Unfortunately, this reputation would occasionally lead to us being targeted either in the form of individual trolls or harassers or very rarely in the form of larger online communities. In either case, members of these diasporas would be mocked or sometimes targeted for harassment through messages on several different personal venues. This would lead to members of these diasporas becoming uncomfortable and sometimes they would end up leaving Yesterweb community spaces to avoid being targeted further.

While most of this mocking occurred in social spaces outside of the Yesterweb, we would have instances of this behavior within the Discord itself. This occasionally took the form of blatant bigotry which would be dealt with, but it more often took the form of passive-aggression. For example, users would interrogate members of these diasporas on their identity as well as express disbelief or confusion on why users identified the way they did. While some of this was likely genuine confusion, most of this would be recognized (sometimes only after the fact) as an attempt to humiliate or cause confusion and self-doubt.

The large presence of these diasporas would later lead to accusations that the Yesterweb was overly focused on trans issues or that the Yesterweb was a "trans circlejerk" for these diasporas. We never entertained these accusations as we understand they rose from a discomfort to see people discussing their experiences with oppression and a discomfort being in a space in which these socially-marginalized diasporas had the largest voice.

Members of the community would typically introduce their online presence with either a  pseudonym or their real-life identity. Sometimes there would be a mix of both. Typically, those revealing their legal names were professional artists or tech workers.

Occasionally, someone using their legal name would express that they do not understand the point of using pseudonyms. They would claim that they chose not to use one because they had "nothing to hide". This line of thinking appears to come from an ignorance of particularly acute social conflicts, either from a lack of direct experience or from a lack of knowledge that it has happened to someone they know.

Pseudonyms are used online for a variety of reasons, such as being a more privacy-focused individual, desiring a separation between personas such as your "work" or "legal" persona as opposed to your "online" persona, for its own sake, or any number of personal reasons. However they are also a means of protection for socially-marginalized people. The anonymity that a pseudonym affords them protects these individuals in real-life ways.

Organizational Discontinuity
A large-enough community is always active at all times of the day. Significant events, discussions, and conflicts are completely unpredictable and are never convenient. Compounding this is that these happenings often require a timely response. Especially when the goal of the staff is progressive growth, it is often the case that such opportunities are missed or even go unnoticed due to floods of further activity. The staff needs time to read, to reflect, to discuss, to learn, and to act. If a staff member has to step away to handle life events, not only do they miss out on several developments, the rest of their team loses their perspective and it greatly affects the ability to do community work.

Moderation as Work
A significant amount of labor - particularly emotional labor - went into the moderation of the Yesterweb discord and, to a lesser extent, the Yesterweb forum. In both of these cases, organizers noted a schism in community perception of the role of moderation as well as the perceived labor that went into moderation. This division in thought led to an occasionally combative nature between the moderators and the community.

Many members of the community had never moderated an online space, or at least had never moderated a space as large as the Yesterweb. These members would thus have misconceptions about the labor going into making sure the Yesterweb ran smoothly. This lack of first-hand knowledge as well as the influence of online stereotypes on the job of moderation meant that many users had a radically different view of the work that a moderator does and what they assumed a moderator did.

This divide brought around conflict more than once. Several users expressed, at one point or another, a belief that moderators were "taking things too seriously" during public moderation work. Other users would, either within Yesterweb spaces or in spaces that detached from the Yesterweb, express disbelief that moderation work was as labor intensive as moderators would claim.

Unfortunately, part of this comes from a problem summed up with the following quote:
"When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all." Much of the moderation work was done behind the scenes such as answering tickets and occasionally pulling users aside to talk to them privately. Many aspects of moderation work are invisibilized to reduce the stress and mental-health impact they would have on the community. It would be difficult to express this behind-the-scenes work without revealing private information or discussing situations that were still in progress, especially when public revelation would exacerbate the problems and cause further unnecessary stress.

This disconnect between community and staff perceptions of moderation led to an interesting phenomenon in which, after the decision to dissolve the community spaces was finalized, several members would express that they "would have been a moderator had someone asked." Not only did these users often not fit the criteria mentioned above on how moderators are chosen, but their expressed perception of what moderating was like made it clear that the gulf between community and staff had grown wide.

The emotional labor associated with moderation also led to issues within the moderation team. Due to the burnout that moderation would cause, work would occasionally be slanted towards one or two moderators as the other moderators would be busy or inactive. Those few moderators would have to shoulder a significant amount of the emotional labor that was usually spread out amongst the team. This would lead to those active moderators having to work through severe burnout and emotional drain.

The drop-in, drop-out nature of moderation also led to inconsistencies with moderating certain issues. One moderator may more severely punish a rule break than another. This inconsistent moderation would lead to strain between community and staff as a behavior that was previously un-moderated due to going unnoticed or being considered a low priority. When this behavior would be addressed, users would push back considerably due to becoming comfortable in this behavior. One significant example was a handful of users that were overall negative for the community but moderation was split on how to handle these users. This split led to a large amount of mixed messaging that only made it more difficult to handle these users in the future.

The Serial Moderator
We have come across a certain type of person that can best be described as a "serial moderator". While the ones we have encountered have several years of moderation experience and tend to jump seamlessly from one moderation position to another, this title goes beyond being someone with a history of moderating a variety of communities. This type of individual is drawn to moderation roles because of the power these roles afford them. Though never explicit, it is revealed during acute conflicts with these moderators that they expect something in return out of their voluntary service for their community.

Serial moderators have a specially-curated identity. They value being in the spotlight. Their manner of communicating tends to be formal, non-controversial and managerial or "public relations" in character, even between their moderator colleagues. Generally, serial moderators want to protect their personal image at all costs, rarely revealing how they truly feel or what they truly think. It is only through careful and prolonged investigation that we find evidence of their underhanded and opportunistic nature that differentiates them from other moderators, sometimes selling out or taking advantage of their communities for personal publicity or career advancement.

Despite their experience in moderation, they often are a poor fit for moderating communities. Their dedication to be non-controversial and PR-oriented often means that they will make decisions that put the least amount of pressure on themselves, even if it is the wrong decision for the community. They have strongly anti-democratic tendencies and are vocally against making any decisions that could jeopardize their control of the situation. They quickly resort to abuses of power if it grants a personal benefit.

For example, it is a common practice of the serial moderator to delete or censor even the most mild controversial discussions, particularly ones in which they belong to the minority opinion (they never intervene in arguments where their opinion is "winning", even when the hostile attitudes of their proponents are deserving of moderation). This creates the conditions that ultimately lead to an ideological space that reflects the beliefs of a small group of people. In the case of the Yesterweb, a space in which we encouraged opposing opinions and disagreement within our community, this meant that valuable discussion would immediately become a target for a serial moderator who wished to avoid conflict all together. While we had few issues with this due to the overall democratic nature of the Yesterweb moderation, this can be seen in other spaces run by these serial moderators.

Class And The Class Taboo
Our experience with class in the community is very important, but very difficult to discuss. About one-third of humanity is still not online - that's over two billion people whose voices and culture are missing from the web. Of the two-thirds who are online, the advanced economies have had a significant lead in settling in and propagating their cultures in the core web. The peripheral web is probably worse; it requires more time, effort, and expertise to discover and participate in which, from a global perspective, is a luxury.

It is difficult to discuss class because it remains a taboo subject among the relatively, collectively, wealthy internet users. We have found so many willing to admit so many intimate details about their lives, going as far as publicly listing their mental illnesses or disorders without fear of consequence. Very few people in the peripheral web openly reveal information about their class. Most of the people who do so are professionals who benefit from the status and authority their credentials confer to their voice, or as a social identity that helps them network with other professionals.

Open admission to being lower-class is almost only found on core social media platforms among the people accessing the internet from the poorer countries within Asia, Africa, or Latin America. From our social investigations across many different areas of the peripheral web and within our community, those using the internet who are genuinely lower-class do not have the time to be online as they are busy trying to survive. They participate on average far less in online spaces than their middle-class counterparts. Our rare lower-class members spent far more time observing than participating and were more likely to drop out entirely because of their offline situations.

Open admission to being middle-class is far worse: middle-class internet users do not understand class, they often believe they are lower-class, or are ashamed of having wealth and thus rationalize or omit details about their lives to make them appear as lower-class. Most will take their relative poverty out of context, dismissing their dependence on wealthy family members. This is especially common of middle-class children and young adults, who weaponize their identity in order to elevate their voice and gain sympathy for their perspective while omitting how their generational wealth significantly colors their reality. Those who are openly, proudly, middle-class belong near-exclusively to the regressive section of the peripheral web: they have either never engaged with our community or have been discovered speaking negatively about the community on remote platforms.

We understand that, while economic class shapes our beliefs and culture, class position is not finally determinant of our thinking. Middle-class people can learn and adopt a lower-class mentality if they make a genuine attempt to do so, and some do. However, this still remains exceptionally rare in the peripheral web. Even those online who believe themselves to be class-conscious and advocate for the lower-class still hold a dominant middle-class perspective and make middle-class decisions. We are mentioning all of this because it was a determining factor in what we were able to accomplish as a democratic organization operating in an overwhelmingly middle-class community.

The middle-class mentality is derived from competitive capitalist needs. It is the default mentality learned from social media, mass media, and mass education. It is deeply a consumer mindset. It is highly individualistic - sometimes egotistic, cynical, and even misanthropic. More selfish than selfless, personal ends justify the means. Work is undervalued (unless it's one's own) and often delegated to others, and if it is ever done, there has to be a guaranteed return on personal investment. It solves difficult problems with money. Survival is solitary, exclusive, and cutthroat. It holds the masses in contempt.

In contrast, the lower-class mentality is derived from the needs of survival under the most difficult conditions of working life. It is learned either through participation or through investigation of lower-class life. It is deeply a producer mindset. It is cooperative and collaborative. It understands through direct experience that work is the source of all value and all creative development. More selfless than selfish, sacrifices for the collective well-being are made within reason: there is more to gain than to lose when working in the service of others. It solves difficult problems through effort. Survival is necessarily social. It sees the masses as their own.

It takes serious time and effort to cultivate a lower-class mentality, especially among those who have no direct experience with it. It is necessary for any truly democratic community initiative: we saw this to be the case when we called for community members to build the community they wished to see without relying on the work of staff. There was a collective silence. For those individuals or groups who tried to take the initiative there was a complete unawareness on how to collaborate, with many members starting their own projects in isolation, or without the foresight of added maintenance that implied the staff was going to eventually hold the responsibility of maintaining it. Projects were decided based on short-term personal interests rather than achieving the long-term goals of the community, worked on only at one's own convenience without shouldering any collective responsibility.

As organizers, we had no expectation that the community would take leadership if we called for it. The purpose of such calls were to prove that the community was unable to meet its own desires for expansion or progression. There were plenty of people with plenty of time, energy, and resources who believed in our community and wanted it to thrive, so why did only a handful rise to the task of organized, collective community-building, even after teaching by example and patiently explaining its necessity over several months? We believe it was because we did not have sufficient time to cultivate the lower-class mentality, but we tried our best under the conditions we found ourselves in.

The Professional-Managerial Class
A common group that often brought a change-resistant attitude is that of the members of the professional-managerial class. These people work in the tech industry or in related fields, either as specialized workers or managers. These figures have much experience in the overall industry aspect of the internet and often had their real-life identity tied to their Yesterweb presence.

Professionals and managers rely on a few things that made them oppositional to our goals:

  1. They highly value their label as skilled workers, and often express opposition to untrained or hobbyist work related to these fields as this would devalue their positions. The value of their positions is determined more by their exclusivity than their difficulty, reflected outwardly as academic or professional elitism.
  2. Their money is directly tied to things that we stand in direct opposition to: advertising, data-gathering, platforms exploiting users, etc. Oftentimes they are directly employed by the businesses which are responsible for creating the conditions of the core web. This leads to hesitations for pursuing any change that could threaten their income or even their capital.
  3. They are often anti-democratic in decision making and often believe that, due to their professional experience, they were the most qualified and valuable voice in any and all internet-related issues. Tech workers would occasionally spread misinformation that users would uncritically absorb due to their professional credentials setting themselves up as a uniquely knowledgeable source.

The most difficult aspect of dealing with the members of this class is that they would pay oblique lip service to our goals but they were privately opposed to the more radical ideas of what we believed. A deep investigation into their personal beliefs reveal that, more often than not, they will not give up the benefits offered to them by their class position. Their solidly middle-class outlook only takes them as far as participating in a subculture, with no genuine desire for generating a counterculture.

We reiterate that our economic classes do not completely determine our class mentality. In the end any individual from this class can reason that the class in general is terrible. You can be a tech worker and be consciously aware that your coworkers in general benefit too much from the current culture to make real fundamental change. It requires a psychological betrayal of one's livelihood, sometimes accompanied by the sacrifice of social status - very difficult, but not impossible. We remain open to the possibility that the members of this class in general will one day come around and see the long-term importance of adopting a lower-class mentality.

Digital Artists and Game Developers
A considerable amount of visual artists and game devs inhabited the community space and the work they shared became a definitive part of our creative culture. The way that traditional social media and other core web platforms were negatively affecting these trades was a common and popular topic. Many expressed a desire to leave their presence in the core web entirely, but could not do so because they relied on these connections for advertising, trade-related news, and networking.

As the community space grew at a rapidly-accelerating pace, we saw an increase in opportunistic behavior among those artists and game devs who viewed the space as another place to increase their visibility and their business. Several artists would join and only contribute by sharing their portfolio and links to their pages that advertised for commissions, sometimes putting in effort to briefly feign interest in the rest of the community. Game devs, though a much smaller group in comparison, operated in a similar manner. Like a chain reaction, marketing activity would trigger more marketing activity up to a point where artists would buy labor from web developers within the community to work on their websites.

Once we were made aware that a potential grifting had taken place, we took a risky decision to experiment with the suppression of bourgeois rights: we banned all commercial market transactions within the space. Many of our members were trying to escape from the marketing hellscape that pervades the entirety of our lives and we did not wish for our own space to become just another extension of the digital marketplace; it was killing the vibe. Banning advertising helped to improve the social atmosphere, reducing the quantity and improving the quality of messages being sent within the community space.It also reduced the number of opportunistic people who joined with the near primary purpose of using the pre-built userbase of the Yesterweb for personal gain. While some of these users would slip through the cracks, it made the number go down significantly.

International Issues
English has been used like an international language on the web, but it is still a limitation that shapes the culture of a shared community space. Like many spaces in the core web, the members of our community were overwhelmingly located in countries where English is the primary official language.

We often struggled with americentrism in our community spaces. We have noticed that it is common to refer to "internet culture" as a universal entity which really refers only to the English-speaking, middle-class and often American internet.

Americentrism, as we experienced it, is characterized by:

  1. A lack of awareness regarding technology and its adoption outside of America.
  2. A general disregard for members whose second language was English. This was expressed by an overreliance on slang in discussion, making no attempt to ensure all users could understand their messages.
  3. A lack of knowledge of any significant platforms from non-English-speaking parts of the internet.
  4. A general assumption, among some Americans, that everyone else in the space was also American, giving no context for political or cultural references and showing little interest in affairs outside of America.

Americentrism in our community has had an off-putting effect on non-Americans, causing a couple of members to voice discontent or leave. Efforts to keep the community oriented to an international perspective were futile.

Significant Errors

Handling Die-Hard Personalities
Out of every hundred community members, one will show up with a rigid, unchanging character. While not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes these characters carry within them toxic traits that slowly (and oftentimes subtly) poison the well-being of others within the community. This often but not always takes the form of attention-seeking or space-dominating behaviors. Like serial moderators their identity is curated, although not to the same refined degree.

What demarcates them from the rest of the community is their refusal to change what is harmful, or even acknowledge the harm that they are causing. If it is acknowledged and understood the problematic behavior is addressed by the individual, but over time it resurfaces as if nothing fundamentally had been resolved, only temporarily hidden.

We never removed them from the community because we still believed in their ability to change for the better, but after we announced the shutdown of our public spaces, several of these characters began openly expressing their long-held hostility to us. It revealed that their unchanging negative behaviors were not due to an inability, but to an active but well-hidden defiant resistance. They took advantage of our kindness, and we have learned our lesson to not to be so lenient in the future.

Community Space Overgrowth
It makes no sense to have over a thousand people in one chatroom and simultaneously have high standards for the quality of social connection and discussion. It is overwhelming for everyone involved and it leads to dehumanization, alienation, and ultimately a regression for any advances made in generating a new culture.

The overgrowth resulted in multiple conversations happening simultaneously in the same space, leading to people getting talked over and at worst ignored. We tried to combat this by creating more dedicated discussion spaces, but we found that this did not solve the problem.

In our community, the member count rising did not always correlate with an increase in activity, because the majority of the most active members were die-hard personalities who would take up much more space than the average member. In the Discord server, we had access to detailed statistics about the most active members as well as the number of messages they would send in a period of time. There was a wide gulf between the message count of our most active members and the rest of the community. That being said, there were some very active members that contributed to conversations in a constructive way, but this was generally the exception to the rule.

We watched active members become lurkers over time, and when interviewed, many would cite the space-dominating behaviors of our most active members as a reason behind disengaging with the community entirely.

Because of the community's size and activity, the organizers and moderators were never able to give everyone the time that they deserved.

Moderator Recruitment
We never established a solid process for accepting new moderators. We were choosing them by observing how they participate within the community and then approaching them about becoming a moderator. There were serious mistakes made in using this approach because we often rushed the process out of desperation to lessen the collective workload.

Since moderation is (typically unpaid) work, many moderators rationalize this sacrifice through non-monetary compensation. Many will realize this value in the importance of protecting and fostering the community that they believe in. Others will realize this value in their self-aggrandizement: an increase in their power, reputation, or potential future financial opportunities. This rationalization is not immediately apparent, which is why the moderation process should be careful and never rushed.

Moderators have immense power to shape the composition and direction of the community, and the community is obligated to scrutinize them. A moderator who resists scrutiny or who is not open and above board with their intentions is unfit to be a moderator.

We define elitism as a hidden power structure that exerts influence on individuals or organizations. In our Discord server, the roles of organizers were clearly distinguished from moderators so that the power structure was transparent. On the forum it was not so clear because organizers were not distinguished from moderators, which caused confusion among forum members who were not aware of the distinction.

We had several instances of members communicating through secret or remote channels to make decisions or plans affecting the community that the community-at-large still remains unaware of. Our proposed solution would be to request transparency from these hidden organizations, and if the request for transparency is denied then they should be publicly exposed.

One particularly significant case was that of a moderator's close physical proximity to her partner, who was also a member within the community but not a moderator. We remained unaware of the security implications of a relatively unknown community member having indirect access to moderator discussions for months because we never made time to think about it. Resolving it would mean either adding the member as a moderator or removing the existing moderator. Because the member in question had made negative statements criticizing the freedom of expression of transgender members in our community, we chose to remove our existing moderator.

Privacy and Security
Because of the highly noticeable presence of our transgender community sector, the biggest threat to our community was from hidden internal adversaries that were leaking personal data to incite bigotry on other platforms. This caused several of our most vulnerable members to leave out of concerns for their safety. Future threats were mitigated after enforcing stricter rules on personal safety, including measures to restrict the visibility of outsiders.

For example, earlier in the Yesterweb's history, there were channels that turned out to encourage unsafe behavior with regards to privacy. These were the venting channel, which encouraged individuals to vent their frustrations often about sensitive and personal issues, and the selfies channel, which encouraged members to share photos of themselves. Both of these channels attracted negative attention and had been scraped by third parties in order to mock the users that had posted.  The decision was made to remove both of those channels due to the fact that both were directly based around sharing personal information that could be used against users who posted.

A small but significant threat came from former members of the community, some who were removed for their antisocial behavior. A handful became vengeful for several months or longer, spreading rumors, gossip, and general disinformation among their peers that was often readily accepted.

While it was often the case that the best solution was to ignore these problems and not incite further conflict, sometimes they became too disruptive to ignore. Beyond practicing better transparency within the community we are still unaware of how to correctly handle this problem.

Free Software Issues
Throughout the lifespan of the Discord server we were constantly criticized over our use of Discord, being that it is a proprietary software among several other legitimate problems. Countlessly many people refused to participate out of living in accordance with their ideals. At one point we did try to accommodate them by setting up a Matrix room that bridged to the Discord server. This experiment was ended due to a lack of support and resources, and also because it produced poor results overall.

What was not understood at that time was that our mission was always primarily a social one; the technology was secondary. It was facilitated through technology, but it was about the people using it. From our time with the Discord refusers it became clear that the vast majority were more concerned about the technology (and, ultimately, themselves) and less concerned about its social implications. Discord was a conscious compromise of sacrificing our privacy to make connections with a wide variety of sociable people, without which it would have been impossible for us to accomplish in any significant manner what we had set out to do.

The use of specialized and obscure tools that require financial resources and maintenance work are still primarily in the hands of the people in the professional-managerial class. We wish that it were not so, but that is the current reality. We hope that in the future, more middle-class people will be interested in the mission we have laid out here, so that they can finally see, through their own organizational efforts, the adoption that free software deserves.

Sexual Discussions
Pornography and explicitly sexual discussion were banned early on in the community space. The space had no age restrictions, but we eventually decided to try creating a hidden and mildly-restricted 18+ area for topics which adults were not comfortable discussing around children. This was a popular decision and led to a lot of important discussions over aging, work, finances, relationships, politics, and other typically serious conversations.

Occasionally the topic of kink and fetishes would enter into the 18+ area; It existed in a gray-zone of our rules - being neither outlawed nor allowed (because the conversations did not start over specific kinks or fetishes, but about kinks and fetishes in general, particularly in their relation to internet and queer culture). The conversations would gravitate towards sensitive topics and generate heated discussions.

Particularly difficult was the fetishization of sexual abuse, which drew a lot of anger from community members who were victims of the abuse in question. The staff brought up the possibility of banning all kink and fetish discussion within the space and it was strongly resisted with the position that it would suppress the culture of the queer community. We originally sided with this position hoping that the community would have learned how to handle these conversations better, but the same discussion over the fetishization of sexual abuse reappeared and even started to spread into the greater all-ages section of the community space. We realized our mistake and enacted our outright ban on all sex-related discussion, including kinks and fetishes.

To this day we are still accused of being anti-queer and sex-negative for this decision, which couldn't be further from the truth. We speak from experience that such discussions should not be had with complete strangers because it can go very, very wrong, for reasons we mostly leave up to the imagination. We believe that these topics deserve to be discussed, but within a restricted space where a degree of trust, understanding, and consent is established among all involved. Adults and children should maintain completely separate restricted spaces for these discussions, which went far beyond our organizational capacity. Even in a securely adult-only space, there are adults who do not consent to being exposed to these discussions as they are often-times related to serious personal trauma. This is the state of our world and we should be mindful and respectful when discussing these topics among others, as it typically runs deeper than personal disagreements or ideological differences.

Misunderstanding of Counterculture
Our understanding of culture had evolved over time and we realized at the very end that there was a widespread confusion with members mistaking a counterculture for a subculture. We will provide our current basic understanding:

A subculture exists within the dominant culture. It coexists with the dominant culture and reproduces many of the dominant aspects within itself. It is eventually domesticated (all of its conflicting aspects are neutralized) and it ultimately becomes synonymous with the dominant culture.

A counterculture is born from within a dominant culture - sometimes with influence from other external cultures - and is fundamentally antagonistic to certain aspects of the dominant culture. The counterculture grows out of the struggle against the dominant culture. If it succeeds in convincing the society of its superiority, it will eventually overtake and become the new dominant culture.

Missing Transparency
We attempted to be transparent to the community with our thinking and our actions to the best of our ability. Beyond what was accidentally or carelessly omitted, we had difficulty with deciding how to be transparent with particularly sensitive or serious information. There is a time and place to have difficult discussions - that time and place can easily be missed.

Our biggest mistake was never disclosing that we had removed one of our moderators due to an abuse of power. We never announced it because we were largely caught off-guard by the events that took place and we didn't fully understand what was happening at the time. We came to understand later that it was an uncommunicated irreconcilable difference of which direction to build the community.

Our mishandling of the situation caused a significant split within the community that eventually became antagonistic, even leading to the creation of an alternative history of the community which is being propagated today as its faithful continuation. We disagree with that direction entirely, and this summation was created in part to convince the community of the necessity of making a course correction, and to take up the task themselves.

This situation, along with others in which users were removed from the community and ended up creating their own narrative regarding their removal, exposes one of the largest difficulties brought on by our lack of transparency. For many situations, we could have exposed information that would have made the true events clear. However, due to the sensitive nature of some of this information and our own difficulty in figuring out how to deal with these situations, we rarely did. In the future, a more proactive approach to transparency may reduce the chances of these alternative histories from being created and spreading.

Mixed Messaging
Because our goals transformed over time, some of our messaging on the website and other publicly-facing places became outdated. It was an oversight that was only corrected when it was pointed out to us by community members, sometimes months too late. This resulted not only from burnout but also from the failure to consolidate into a stronger organization.


Our primary accomplishment has been the generation of evidence that it is possible for a qualitative progressive cultural transformation to occur in an online space - under certain conditions and under the direction of conscious participants - even if only sustained for a brief moment in time. We are confident that under better conditions with more experienced and curious participants, the results would be more stable and widespread, with the potential of not only causing significant change to core web social spaces but to offline spaces as well.

Our secondary accomplishment has been the documented success of following a mass-democratic method in a purely online setting, across international boundaries and with only the simplest and smallest democratic structures in place (see Appendix IV). We can derive from our organizational experience that it is likely possible, under very specific conditions, for an individual to have the same successes with this democratic method in building a community or organization from scratch.

Our tertiary accomplishment has been making the movement conscious of itself and guiding it in a modestly progressive direction.

Following this, we have helped people understand the internet and their relationship with it, their underlying problems with it, and their desires for its future. We have provided welcoming spaces for people to learn, grow, and heal in. We have provided help and support in any way we were able to do so.

For those who have been on the receiving end of our mistakes, who feel wronged or have been hurt, or who have been left with unresolved tensions, we can only ask for forgiveness. We started from next-to-nothing and we tried our best, but we've run out of time. We can't be online forever. Hopefully one day, others will come along to make it right.

If we work hard enough, long enough, and smart enough, things will change for the better. There is no longer any doubt. The missing ingredient is genuine desire, so we leave with a final question: Why build a subculture, when a counterculture is possible?

This summary has been signed by the following organizers, moderators and/or members of the community:

  • Sadness
  • Madness
  • Auzzie Jay
  • Vincent
  • Iris
  • Grafo
  • Cinni
  • Tsvety

Appendix I: List of Personal Manifestos

If a link is dead, try using to see if an archive exists.

Appendix II: Yesterweb Convention Notes

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ FIRST SESSION OF THE YESTERWEB CONVENTION ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


~~~~~~~ IDEAS ~~~~~~~

!!! the future of the web is decided by an elite few, marketed as beneficial to everyone
!!! new technology is mostly meant to outmaneuver governments for monetary reasons with no regard to consequences (such as environmental impact)
!!! the premise that we will benefit is true in some sense, but in the bigger picture and in the long-term it will be overwhelmingly to our detriment
!!! it will continue to get worse out there until we do something about it (but we don't know what to do yet)
!!! better to get started as soon as possible
!!! massive, vaguely defined goals are what leads to the death of movements
!!! make sure a project doesn't already exist before you start one
!!! if we had our own effectual systems it would make the dominant systems obsolete

!!! remember that we are the internet oddballs
!!! some of us have to pretend to be normal to survive, which means we can't abandon the surface web entirely
!!! many people can't be arsed to read long paragraphs or design websites for several legitimate reasons
!!! many people, especially the younger and/or latecomers, have no idea that these kinds of personal/creative/social spaces have ever been possible

!!! corporate web subsists on unpaid labor of artists and other creatives
!!! be careful about approaching people who are already making money off of social media

~~~~~~~ ACTIONS ~~~~~~~

*** make a wiki
*** draft a yesterweb manifesto
*** collate a list of members
*** summarize the experiences of our previous projects and share them so we can get a better idea of what we can do.
*** have something of a formalized message
*** define concrete steps towards abstract goals

*** start a radio station
*** start a stream or video showcase
*** interview people about their sites
*** make newsletters

*** reduce the friction of migration
*** get more articles on mainstream news sites
*** make the accidental less accidental (in other words: deliberately intervene, actively recruit)
*** constantly encourage others to join us
*** actually talk to people "on the outside"
*** attract a wider variety of people

*** figure out who we should reach out to (some people are more receptive than others)
*** find out what people's issues are so we can help them fix those issues
*** help people with their problems and help them to see the bigger picture of why these problems exist
*** use the mainstream web to promote alternative content and get people out of their bubbles
*** expose people to good concepts like building shrines and help them abandon bad concepts like being haters
*** teach dangers of metadata / surveillance, not just in regards to privacy but also autonomy and control
*** convince people that having your own virtual space is a basic right

*** develop friendly tools to replace dependence on corporate web (like photo collections)
*** develop an email-based service for photo upload
*** develop more tools that interact between both worlds (like fraidycat)
*** develop a tool to generate websites through GDPR data exports

*** develop alternatives for people who rely on the mainstream web for income (such as artists)
*** challenge the culture of commodifying art (and commodifying ourselves)

*** promote a culture of accessibility
*** encourage static sites
*** if you can't make web design easier, make a new web (make html simpler)
*** make the personal web easy, comforting, pleasing, and desirable by helping people make that transition ourselves
*** make the personal web appealing enough that people will be willing to invest their time and energy into learning it
*** challenge perceptions on perfection and imperfection
*** challenge perceptions on what makes a website aesthetically pleasing

*** Form a cooperative
*** Secure our own resources
*** exploit corporate algorithms (turn it against them) like overloading harmful algorithms with garbage data
*** seize the means of production
*** impose mass surveillance on worldwide corporate activity and enforcing laws on boards of directors
*** find an alternative to money and monetization
*** topple the meat industry

*** start a cryptocurrency, a really bad one
*** smash your keyboards
*** agitate celebrities
*** ban your mom from the internet

~~~~~~~ QUESTIONS ~~~~~~~

??? what exactly is the goal / purpose of the community?
??? do we have a common "alternative vision" of the web?
??? how do we differ from those in the EFF and the IndieWeb?

??? does having people make personal sites contribute to the demolishing of the mainstream options?
??? are friction and barriers of entry actually a good thing?
??? can we develop a search or discovery method that works for everyone?

??? what would an internet space that works really well for artists look like?
??? how to bridge the gap between techies and creatives?

??? is this just a niche interest or something more?
??? are people uninterested or are there other factors at play?
??? how can people find us if they don't know we exist?

??? are algorithms (or even people who exploit others) evil?

Appendix III: Subculture vs. Counterculture

a graphic depicting the difference between a subculture and a counterculture

Appendix IV: Forum Shutting Down Topic

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