Darius Kazemi runs Friend Camp, a small social network for about 50 people; it costs him about $30/month to run, and consumes about 2h/week to administer: in his guide to running your own social network, Kazemi explains how to run a network of your own, with no ads, no surveillance, and no feature changes without the consent of the community.
Friend Camp is a modified version of Mastodon; there are lots of these (Dolphin Town is a Mastodon fork where the only character you can use in posting your messages is the letter "e").
Kazemi runs down a soup-to-nuts guide for the aspiring online community founder: the tech details, how to adjudicate disputes, an emergency plan to keep the community running if the administrator is hit by a bus...
The main reason to run a small social network site is that you can create an online environment tailored to the needs of your community in a way that a big corporation like Facebook or Twitter never could. Yes, you can always start a Facebook Group for your community and moderate that how you like, but only within certain bounds set by Facebook. If you (or your community) run the whole site, then you are ultimately the boss of what goes on. It is harder work than letting Facebook or Twitter or Slack or Basecamp or whoever else take care of everything, but I believe it's worth it.
Let's go back to Friend Camp. While there are a hundred thousand people we can talk to from Friend Camp, there are only about 50 people with an active Friend Camp login. We call ourselves "campers" because we are corny like that. And campers have a special communication channel that lets us post messages that only other campers can see. If I make software that makes the lives of 50 people much nicer, and it makes 0 people more miserable, then on the balance I think I'm doing better than a lot of programmers in the world.
Because we're mostly all friends with each other, this extra communications mode is kind of like a group chat on steroids. For our community it ends up being a sort of hybrid between Twitter and a group chat. As a result of having a community layer alongside a more public layer, we have a movie night, a book club, and a postcard club. Campers visit each other when we travel, even if we've never met in person before. We correspond with each other about what we're making for dinner and trade recipes. They're the kind of mundane interactions that you probably don't want to have with perfect strangers but you cherish in a group of people you care about.
Run your own social [Darius Kazemi]