The Auckland floods this week got me thinking about how people organize on the Fediverse when there’s a natural disaster. This was easy on Twitter because it was centralized and everyone could see the important hashtags. But this doesn’t work so great on a federated platform. So, a proposal: hashtag-specific relaying.
• A bog-standard relay. Instances with users in a region (say, NZ) connect to it. Membership can be approval-only to prevent abuse.
• Instances don’t forward most posts to the relay, except a small, configurable set of hashtags reserved for emergency use like #nz000*.
Result: all posts with the hashtag get federated to all participating instances, helping people across different instances to organize.
This requires a change to Mastodon and other Fedi software. It could possibly be done right now without any changes by using a smarter relay but I think instance admins would prefer to be able to control locally what goes out to the relay.
* Deliberately misspelling the emergency number in NZ to not clash with actual use.