How to run a small social networking site with your friends

a LURK workshop at Varia, Rotterdam
(remote participation possible)
Friday 13th, Saturday 14th of May 2022

 rain cycle diagram that reads start a server, invite friends, have fun, teach others how to, start a server.
This is all there is to it, really.

So you want to run your own social network?

Whether it is because of online surveillance, doomscrolling, curiosity, the toxic dynamics, the lack of reach, the risk of accounts being removed, the desire for self-governance, etc, there have been multiple reasons to explain why the past years have seen a renewed interest in alternative social media platforms. New federated networked applications and protocols have been developed in tandem to provide similar services as platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. In particular, the free software Mastodon, has gained traction among small communities of practice interested in experimenting with social media under their own control, as it allows them to decide how to run it, why, and for whom. These self-organized spaces however can still be part of a larger network, called the Fediverse.

However, while installing such a software is not necessarily the most obvious thing to do, the real challenge only starts *after the installation*, when the software is up and running and all your friends, colleagues, peers, guests, are starting to make use of it.

This is exactly what is covered in this two-day intensive workshop!

What does it take to run a Mastodon instance? How does online federation work? What are the politics of the Fediverse? What does it take to moderate an instance? We will try to cover it all, from writing terms and code of conduct, to dealing with account reports or problematic users. But also, how to financially sustain your work? What are ways to make it fun and specific to you? What are further opportunities and threats when doing this?

The outcome of the workshop is very concrete: you and your community will have a server up and running and a working understanding of the system. Additionally, you will be part of a support network of groups doing the same, including us.

Who are we looking for?

We're looking for existing groups, collectives or associations who wish to run their own social network to host their communities, either publicly or privately (or both!).

We are looking for dedicated and motivated groups that are committed to keeping up with the maintenance work that comes with hosting such a platform. We are especially looking for groups who already tried to do so but found it hard to start.

Technical knowledge comes in handy, but is not required.

Who are we?

LURK is a collective which, among others, has been hosting an alternative social media site called We do this for communities focused on net- and computational culture and (experimental) (sound) (new media) (software) arts. We do this because we believe alternative cultural spaces should also exist online. This workshop is based on our experience hosting since 2018. For more information about us, see

What does it cost?

The workshop is free of charge as it is sponsored by the European cultural program Culture of Solidarity Fund of the European Cultural Foundation. There will however be costs associated to renting a domain name and hosting, which are not covered. These are described below.

What do we expect of you?

We expect one or two representatives to attend both full workshop days:

  • Friday 13th of May and Saturday 14th of May, either on location or on-line from 11.00-13.00 & 15.00-17.00 CEST.

    We expect you to do some important preparatory work in advance as well. Such as having a name and description for your server and identifying the needs and desires of your group. What do you want to get out of a self-organized social media server?

    On the technical level, to attend the workshop you are also expected to have a working version of Hometown installed, which is a modified version of Mastodon. This is what we run at LURK and during the workshop we will explain why. This software can either be self-hosted, if you know how to, or gotten through a hosting provider. Consider a monthly recurring cost of €10 at the minimum.

    In addition, you will need to have a domain name (i.e. If you already have a domain name, you can use a subdomain (i.e. Domain names can cost anywhere between 10 and 40 euros a year.

    How to apply?

    Places are extremely limited by design. We want to make it useful for everyone, so we will only select a handful of applications. To apply, send us a significant expression of interest by email, at lurk -at- bleu255 -dot- com before the 15th of April, describing :


    Feel free to get in touch at lurk -at- bleu255 -dot- com ECF logo