Shot by Valentin Salja
So when I think about the moderation team I had the privilege of working with as the founder and co-admin of Play Vicious, I can't lie about how proud and grateful I was and still am about working with such a complicated and dynamic group of people. We were razor-sharp, engaging, organic, dangerous, and talented. Even today, I wouldn't consider myself the leader but rather a part of a team that was so well-balanced and potent that I have yet to duplicate that experience. It was just one of a kind, man, and far ahead of its time.
Let's talk about Deni, Jacky, and Mo.
I've already talked about how Marcia and I formed the basis for PV, and she was becoming a force in her own right, so I met Mo and Deni through her.
The first thing that stood out to me about Deni was her work. Her illustration work is incredible. I often ask specific questions about their work, and of course, I would express how much I just dug looking at the stuff they were putting out. We started to talk to each other regularly, and our politics aligned in several ways, so we quickly became cool with each other.
I reached out to Jacky as I knew him from my Twitter days and knew pretty early on that he was the younger, better-looking, brighter version of me. Watching what he was talking about and doing was a good idea. His technical prowess was formidable, but we connected around the why of technology rather than the how. In this sense, our answers to these questions were often aligned, so I knew he could be a great asset to PV and learn a lot from him and his compelling opinions about the culture of technology. I knew there was no technical issue we couldn't diagnose and fix between him and me, so his addition was huge to my peace of mind.
Mo was an extremely talented designer who became my go-to when looking for help with some of Mastodon's UI features and visual elements, namely adding and creating emoticons. As a designer myself, we would get into conversations about color theory and share our frustrations about being not white in the tech industry. We soon became friends as we regularly interacted to discuss the industry and talk shit. She was already cool with Marcia as they had been engaging for a time, so she was just a natural fit for the growing squad.
There wasn't some grand moment where we decided to be a dynamic and multifaceted collection of people with a stated ethos for how we wanted to run the instance. There was no formal declaration concerning how we tried to set the standards for PV. We were people from different backgrounds who saw an opportunity to work together with fantastic people we probably wouldn't have met any other way.
Yes, it was sometimes challenging. We were all talented and complex people embarking on an unlikely endeavor with virtual strangers. Each of us had thoughts, ideas, convictions, and reservations about what online space should be and represent. Ha, and to be quite honest, they rarely aligned.
I'm not arrogant enough to speak about what the experience was like for them. Still, these tangled interactions and conversations produced an unexpected area to explore and express many parts of myself that I usually kept to myself. I got to show the subtle elements of my personality that were generally painted over with narrow labels and identifiers that did not have enough space to encapsulate who I was entirely. This space affirmed parts of my sensibilities, and others were challenged based on our divergent experiences in the world. Many nights, I would stay up and think about thoughts and ideas from a perspective I had yet to consider.
And I absolutely loved it. It was a strange combination of raw, authentic honesty balanced with care and consideration born from a desire to create a space that would be a soft space to land. We didn't pull punches with each other, but it was never cruel or hostile. None of us wanted to hide what we were, but we didn't want that to hinder anyone else from expressing themselves.
The stringent moderation style PV would eventually be known for was a by-product of how the team interacted. We built a diverse and dynamic community because that's what we were inherently. We all knew what it was like to be marginalized in our own ways, and we were all invested in doing what we could to minimize that experience in this new and unexplored online space called the fediverse. And we were all determined to do it together.
I was honored to be a part of that. I didn't realize until after PV shutdown how unique we were and how special the team was.
If there is one thing I regret about PV, I could not create a wholly insular and safe space for those who had decided to join that instance. I set that instance up as an experiment I wanted to try with friends, but it became so much more. The pieces were there, but I did not expect the space to become as popular as it was, nor the amount of attention it received, positive and negative.
I did not realize how novel the experience of PV was to the point that I spent a lot of time trying to quantify it rather than discover better ways to preserve it. Of course, there is no way I could anticipate everything, but I often feel like I missed the forest for the trees, if you will.
But even with my shortcomings aside, I will be forever grateful for the people that helped me manage that place. Their candor, patience, and sheer brilliance opened me up to possibilities I had not considered because I usually worked in isolation and made me realize there are things I cannot accomplish alone.
And it made me better. Not just as a weirdo, creative dude that spends too much time staring at lines of code and color palettes. But also as a person.
It was a moment in time I will never forget.