Subscribe to our newsletter

For the latest in self-hosted news, software, and content delivered straight to your inbox every Friday

Success! Now Check Your Email

To complete Subscribe, click the confirmation link in your inbox. If it doesn’t arrive within 3 minutes, check your spam folder.

Ok, Thanks
Revisiting Bad Faith Actors in the Self-Hosted Community 5 min read
Archive

Revisiting Bad Faith Actors in the Self-Hosted Community

Revisiting interactions with bad faith actors in the self-hosted community and a call for accountability

By Ethan Sholly

Like many selfh.st readers, I've been closely following this week's news regarding a certain media group's mishandling of publishing errors and interactions with developers. While I've found several aspects of the story intriguing, I've been equally as frustrated with reactions from members of the community who were quick to dismiss the initial findings under the guise of avoiding drama within the technology community.

In the initial video exposing these practices, the publisher anticipates some of this backlash yet stands firm in their decision to release their findings. To them, holding independent publications accountable for their actions – despite the ensuing chaos – is integral for a community of consumers and developers who depend on these publications to make purchasing decisions or for their own livelihood.

This aspect of the story has resonated with me personally, as I experienced a similar reaction from various members of the self-hosted community earlier this year shortly after launching selfh.st when the editor of Noted.lol – an existing publication also focused on self-hosting – threatened to dox me:

In Defense of Self-Hosted Competition, and How the Staff at Noted.lol Threatened to Dox Us
A response to online harassment and its presence in the self-hosted community

After sharing my experience across several self-hosted communities, I immediately received backlash concerning the drama this might create within the community and promptly pulled the post from the site (the link above is to an unpublished but still publicly accessible preview of the post). I remember feeling betrayed that the community was willing to ignore a prominent member threatening to reach out to my employer for creating content that might compete with his own.

The aforementioned events across other technology channels have inspired me to revisit my own interactions with bad faith actors – specifically Noted – despite how other members of the community may react. As a result, below is a brief summary of my own personal interactions with Noted, followed by a few negative interactions with other members of the community that I've witnessed and documented over the last several months.

A Brief Outline of Noted's Activities

If you haven't yet, please read the post linked above outlining my interactions with Noted the week I launched selfh.st (originally branded selfh.st/ed).

In short, the editor of Noted:

In a response to these allegations, Noted claimed a member of their staff misused a shared staff e-mail account to communicate with me and stated they've since cut ties with this person.

I don't find this particularly convincing. Noted occasionally features guest writers who post from their own accounts, but there's no evidence to indicate the site's operation is more than a one-person show. The About page featured the editor himself up until a few months ago, who is on record as publicly stating that Noted is not an organization. The staff e-mail account referenced in my original post is also a Gmail account that uses the same profile photo as the Noted editor in the site's About page.

Another of Noted's initial complaints was that selfh.st had copied their site's appearance. At the time I was leveraging the Basho Ghost theme, which doesn't share many similarities with the theme leveraged by Noted.

The most puzzling aspect of this accusation concerns OSSRSS, a FOSS RSS aggregation site curated by the editor of Noted. The site recently added the blog perrone.dev (which now redirects to selfhostit.dev) to its list of followed publications. Strikingly, the look and feel of the site matches Noted almost identically (Noted has a slightly different color scheme and includes a 'Featured Article' section above their posts that Self-Host It does not). It isn't clear if Noted is actually concerned about others copying their theme or if Self-Host It is just a blog written under a pseudonym of the Noted editor.

2023-08-26 Update: Noted reverted the theme pictured below to Ghost's default theme a week after this post went live.

Side-by-side screenshots of Noted.lol and selfhostit.dev

Regarding Noted's interactions with the broader self-hosted community, there are a few worth calling out.

The first takes place in a GitHub discussion for the popular Photoshop alternative Photopea. Upon learning that their only self-hosted version was part of a paid plan, the Noted editor very publicly expressed his discontent:

The GitHub account has since been renamed and the comment deleted, but the content has been captured via web archive for anyone looking to reading through the original discussion in its entirety.

Noted has also written favorable posts on software developed by their sponsors without disclosing as such. Take, for instance, this featured post on PikaPods. PikaPods is listed as a paid sponsor on the site's Sponsors page, but not disclosing this in the actual post is misleading as most of their readers likely never make it to the Sponsors page.

9/5 Edit: Since posting, I've had several readers reach out with additional instances of Noted not disclosing sponsors, such as a recent Reddit comment recommending PikaPods:

In a similar fashion, some keen Reddit users have also noticed ChatGPT-generated content on Noted – again, without disclosure or attribution. In the linked comment thread, the editor confirms this and commits to discontinue its use in future posts.

Conclusion

I'm still writing content for selfh.st is because the broader self-hosted community has been incredibly warm, welcoming, and encouraging. I understand that the negative interactions with bad faith actors and those who just want to sweep drama under the rug represents a very small portion of this community.

But that doesn't lessen the impact to those who participate in these interactions. I almost stepped away from selfh.st after receiving threats associated with the initial Noted discourse. As a publication dedicated to bringing attention to the amazing self-hosted content and software created by people across the community, I'd be disappointed to hear that someone else might have been discouraged from publishing content for similar reasons.

At the same time, I'll admit that I'm not always perfect and will commit to holding myself accountable to the same standards I hold others to. If you're reading this, I hope you'll consider doing the same.

Comments