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Thinking about a Fediverse instance focused on fitness / exercise

TL;DR: would a Fediverse instance for fitness / exercise be popular enough to be sustainable? How would it work? More questions at the end of the post!

Image generated by DALL-E 2 of a fitness social network

As I mentioned on this blog recently, I’ve rejoined Strava. It’s pretty much the go-to social network for people into various types of fitness and exercise, with most of my network either being runners (like me), cyclists, or swimmers. Or, of course, a combination of all of this and more.

I’m wondering whether a federated version of the social elements based on a Fediverse platform might be interesting to people. By the results of a casual question via Mastodon this afternoon, I think it might…

Some history and context

In the early days of social networks, there was a trend of lifestreaming, where you’d literally share a firehouse of everything you were up to, everywhere. So if you did exercise every day, that would go on (for example) your Twitter stream, along with books you were reading, thoughts you were having, etc.

We’re in a different environment these days, with more awareness of privacy concerns, and even general-purpose social networks tending to skew towards certain types of content. For example, Twitter is more more about sharing news and politics than a decade ago. Instagram is less about generic ‘photo sharing’, more about following influencers and (from what I gather) buying what they recommend.

The situation on the Fediverse is different. This is mainly because there are not only lots of different kinds of software platform that make it up, but many different instances of each platform within the wider network. Niche interests for geeks are well catered for, and you can find everything from instances for people interested in co-operatives (like social.coop which I’m on), people into Open Source software (like fosstodon.org which I used to be on), to people interested in movies and obsolete technology (like laserdisc.party!)

What there seems to be an absolute dearth of, however, are instances related to fitness and exercise. This is a real shame, as I know there’s plenty of people tracking their activity in a multitude of different ways. Having a community around you to both compete with and encourage you is important. It’s about recognition of effort — which you don’t just get when you’re using an app that merely tracks your activity.

Some features we’d need

Strava is, as far as I’m aware, the mostly widely used social network related to fitness and exercise. I use it by connecting my Garmin account, which takes data from my smartwatch, to Strava. This is posted to a feed (with various privacy controls) whereby connections can ‘give kudos’ and/or comment on each activity. There are competitive elements based on sections, which is motivating. But just someone giving you a thumbs-up for having done the longest run you’ve ever done is sometimes enough.

While it would replicate everything that Strava provides, I’m wondering whether a specific Fediverse instance for fitness / exercise would be of interest to people? I can certainly see myself having an account where I just post such things and have discussions with others about both activities and gear.

It could just start with people posting whatever they feel comfortable sharing. For example, Strava automatically puts a geofence around my home address for privacy, so I would probably share this kind of thing that can be generated by my Garmin app:

I don’t tend to take my phone running, so I don’t take photos, but you can imagine that being a sweaty selfie!

Questions

The things I yet to figure out are:

  1. Is it worth my time to pursue this?
  2. Who else might be interested in moderation?
  3. Which platform would we use?
  4. What features do we need to turn on/off?
  5. Which languages would we support?
  6. How can we make it welcoming to people of all types, while allowing for an element of competition?
  7. Are there any custom features which would help differentiate it from just a vanilla Fediverse instance?

Answers and suggestions welcome in the comments below! 🏃 🚴 🏊

8 thoughts on “Thinking about a Fediverse instance focused on fitness / exercise

  1. I’m interested. My fitness is suffering with my reluctance to go back to classes at the gym due to COVID. I needed that expectation I’d be at class as a motivator. Not sure strangers on the Internet would be a replacement for that, but I’d certainly give it a shot as I need to get my butt off the couch and running again.

  2. We have some prior art on #IndieWeb stuff not that interoperable but the UX is the same.

    I think there is a large demand. Most people won’t care if it is federated.

    So if fediverse is the differentiator you are shrinking pool.

    You need people really nerdy into tech and super into exercise.

    I can take pics of the Garmin Connect app. Has UX features I like.

    1. Thanks Greg, as I mention in the post I use the Garmin app. You’re welcome to create an IndieWeb version! I think a Fediverse instance is going to be a much lower barrier to entry than everyone self-hosting…

  3. For what it’s worth I’d put myself forward as someone who would be interested in a Fediverse based fitness thingy. These days I get my exercise through doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a bit of yoga but as far as fitness goes I could stand to do more.

    As for the questions:

    1. I say yes! I’m not sure how much effort you were thinking of putting into this, but even if it was just a mastodon instance based around fitness it could be useful.
    2. I might!
    3. Perhaps one of the Mastodon forks like Hometown? The ability to have local instance only posts might be useful.
    4. Not sure!
    5. Hmm, I’d imagine just English at first depending on what languages the people moderating the site understand.
    6. Clearly defining what kinds of feedback are acceptable (with examples) could be helpful.
    7. I’d have to think more about this one.

  4. Think I can throw a few pennies in too.
    1. — I think yes, we are yet to see the fedverse instance built around exercising and fitness.
    5. — English should be a priority for the time being, after that I think there is a possibility of creating a crowd translation project for this instance. I would absolutely love to help with the Russian language for example.
    6. — Think something like collective statistics for your circle (be it friends or subscribers) and a highlight for the people who outdid themselves in their usual sports routine (sorta like Strava does).
    Collective goals, like adding up the totall number of ran kilometres of all users or your circle might also be a fun feature.
    Another big feature might be a shared by users programms for exercising (Feeel for example allows you to create your own workout and them blurs all of your photo for privacy concerns).

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