Fedivision 2024

This year I decided to listen to the songs and vote.

Bracing Myself

Look, we all know what the Fediverse is like. I did not have high expectations of this. I am allergic to cringe. I expected to not enjoy a pretty large proportion of these songs. But I really like the idea. The Fediverse needs something to talk about other than AI, programming languages, and bloody Elon Musk. Fedivision is a stellar example of how we can do better than that. So I determined to listen my way through everything.

I also decided to rate all the songs out of 10, same as I do for Eurovision. And with the same standards. A 7 in Fedivision should be as enjoyable to listen to as a 7 in Eurovision. Obviously there’s no such thing as objectivity or consistency in music. But since I’m not giving these scores in public, the only person to lie to here is myself. Also, Eurovision is not exactly the highest bar you could set.


Without giving too much away though, here’s the distribution of my scores. For comparison, I have included the distrubution of all recorded scores from Eurovision. Note that by policy, I am reserving 0 and 10 for the song that will end all songs, either way.

Chart with scores 0 to 10 on horizontal axis, with the vertical axis being the frequency of songs I awarded that score, separately for Fedivision and Eurovision.  Eurovision scores range 1 to 9, with peaks at 4 and 6, and a mean somewhere under 5.  Fedivision scores range from 1 to 7, with a peak at 3, which is also about the average.

First thing: Fedivision songs are, on average, not as good as Eurovision songs. I mean, duh. But it should be said out loud. Whatever pops into your head when you imagine any rando on the Fediverse submitting the song they wrote, well, to an extent that is in fact what it is. If you came here looking for the best songs in the world, you have made a wrong turn. Also, I hate to break it to you, but you will be little better off at Eurovision.

Second thing: the songs are way better than you would guess. There’s a lot of 1s, 2s, and 3s missing from that chart. Not one single white boy rapping about programming languages? Really? You are holding out on me, Fediverse. I know you are capable of much worse than this.

This is genuinely a bad thing. I want people to make music. I want this to be a normal part of life. And I hope that Fedivision would be an opportunity to put out there what you have, let a few people listen to it. But instead I’m seeing clear signs of self-censorship. People are being intimidated by the high quality of a handful of the entries. Too many people are making their decisions by comparing their own song to the best song in the competition.

It’s important that next year something is done to lower the caliber of entries. I don’t know how to achieve that, but the section at the end on voting systems might be relevant.

The Best Songs

Since I’m resolving to be a harsh critic, and also since I don’t have time, I’m not going to replicate the marvellous efforts of those who systematically said something positive about each of the songs. But a few words about the ones I played on repeat.

#4: Universaldilettanten – 7Lifes Part2

This would get me out on the dance floor, no question. It has one fatal flaw that cost it my vote: it just ends. 12 minute remix please! Meanwhile the few lyrics there are, plus the explanation, really resonate. I have tried clubbing since Covid, and it just isn’t fun. Poignant.

#3: Constellation of Kasterborous – Open Your Eyes

In the 80s I would have turned the radio way up any time this came on. Today it counts as a “guilty pleasure”. And screw that. This made me introspect a lot about what’s a good song and what isn’t, what’s timeless, and what it means to innovate. What does it mean that I’m just not listening to songs like this much these days?

#2: The Introverted Kingdom – She’s all of Me

I have politely applauded at more than my fair share of single hippies with guitars, so let me tell you, this is not my jam. But this song is just so raw. I have enormous respect for someone willing to put that much emotional energy into a song, expose it to the world, and pull it off beautifully. It had to get my vote.

#1: Lost Railroad Valley – Mare

Outstanding, far and away the best song of the competition. My biggest criticism would be that the rock and roll it all builds to feels like it’s built specifically to pander to one particular cheap and unsophisticated audience, namely me. I love a song that builds. Who came up with the idea that everything has to be verse verse chorus verse chorus chorus? This song fits together like a jigsaw.


One pattern that struck me: many songs are let down by the vocals. Singing is hard! I know this, I have spent a great deal of effort trying to record my own singing voice in a way that isn’t horrible, without any success at all.

I think about this a lot. A hundred years ago, for most people, if you didn’t sing, you didn’t get to hear music. You literally had to make your own entertainment. People sang every day, and they took it seriously. They sang at work, and they sang for fun. They sang spontaneously, and in organised groups. They sang when no-one was watching, and they sang in public.

But the whole of my life, I’ve been surrounded by speakers pumping out professional, recorded singing. There was no cause for me to sing, and on the few occasions I did, there was no feedback to tell me if I was doing it well or badly, or how I could improve. I expect that’s true for most people. As a result, singing as a common human experience seems to have just died. In the west, anyway. I bumped into some cultures in which singing is still normal, and it’s amazing.

Fedivision is important to me, as a chance to hear what people really sound like when they try to sing. Which is to say, often, not very good. I would hate it if people chose not to submit their songs just because the vocals sound bad. Getting your voice out there is probably one of the few chances you have to recapture what we lost.


Fedivision did perfectly replicate one part of Eurovision: the falling, dead sensation that soaks down through your nervous system when the results are revealed and you catch a glimpse of what kind of benighted degenerates you share a species with.

It would be a useful feature for the voting bot if, after the results have been tallied, it published a list of the handles of all the people who voted. That way I could block every single one of you appalling monsters forever.

Clip from dune, in which Baron Harkonnen gives the order "kill them all" and then slumps back into his vat of slime.  Overlaid is the message "defederate them".


It’s clear that Fedivision is an institution now. Certain heroes are driving it, but the bus factor is solid. And it is growing. Only a few hundred people voted, but those people mostly listened to 72 songs! And it’s still relatively obscure. There seems to be plenty of interest from people who just didn’t realise it was happening.

Projecting forward, this feels like the kind of thing where you remininsce about when it was just a spontaneous thing run by a couple of people. So the question comes up, how big should Fedivision be? Are you “big Fedivision” or “small Fedivision”?

Big Fedivision:

  • Lots of competitors taking things seriously, to the point of harm in some cases
  • Huge numbers of terrible entries, many deliberately so
  • Nazis trying to smuggle in dogwhistles, occasionally with success
  • People get irritated by all the “Fedivision talk” and loudly compare blocked keywords
  • Entries from well-known personalities and professional musicians
  • Organisers spend most of their energy securing funding

Small Fedivision:

  • Most competitors follow each other
  • Starts to feel like a clique, the same competitors each year, develops in-jokes
  • Constant bickering, accusations of trying to turn it into big Fedivision
  • Rival and alternative competitions start up
  • Honestly, each year, there’s only one or two songs you actually like

Myself, I like the idea of one giant open-mic night. Everyone should have a chance for their song to be heard, and everyone should take the time to hear other people’s songs. I would like to see the event grow. But I don’t want it to look like Eurovision, with a selected handful of songs built around the lowest common denominator. Eurovision is exciting, ultimately, because behind the votes every country has fought an artillery battle against at least one other entrant within living memory. This is the kind of dramatic tension the Fediverse could do without. The stakes should remain low.


I love the subtleties of voting systems. One of the great appeals of Eurovision is its hilariously convoluted and unfair voting system. That’s the last thing Fedivision wants. I wasn’t watching Fedivision in the early years, but it seems each person had just one vote. That really seems like a poor fit. That makes it all about the winner, the best of the best. It also invites strategic voting, choosing a song that isn’t really your favourite, but you’d prefer it to win than the other frontrunner. That’s a lot less fun.

Three votes is far better, and I enjoyed distributing my votes across a variety of songs. There was a poll about how many votes people would like, with the most popular option being 12. Thing is, as the number of entries goes up, so too do the number of votes you want. I’d set the mark at the square root of the number of entries. So that’s about 8 for 2023, but probably 10 next year.

However. 72 songs was already uncomfortably many for me. I don’t think I can keep up with 100 entries. Expecting everyone to listen to and compare every song doesn’t scale. If the competition stays as small Fedivision, I guess that’s OK. If it becomes big Fedivision, and I kinda hope it does, something has to change.

My Proposal

I think the desirable qualities of a Fedivision voting system are:

  • Doesn’t make me listen to so many songs!
  • Exposes everyone to a variety of songs, not preselected by a jury or something
  • Allows everyone to get invested in the outcome
  • Gives some validation to everyone – no null points
  • Encourages tight, exciting races, not blowout winners
  • Simple to participate in
  • Transparent, everyone understands how it works (sorry, ranked choice, you’re out)

So my proposal is two rounds. In the first round, each Fediverse handle gets a random selection of 12 songs, and their 3 votes can only be cast for one of those 12. In the second round, your 3 votes can only be distributed among the top 12 from the first round.

Of course this makes the voting bot more complex, and I have thought about this way too much. You don’t want a database of every handle and its allocated 12 songs. But you don’t need that! You can repeatably compute the list of 12 from the handle. For transparency you’d prefer widely available and simple algorithms to anything up-to-date. So you could CRC32 the handle string, use that to seed a Mersenne Twister 19937, Fisher-Yates shuffle the official song list, and take the first 12. That’s computationally cheap, simple to implement, and easily verifiable. So the voting bot can be stateless, recording only the actual votes as it does now.

I suggest 12 because that was a generous and satisfying number of songs on an album, back when music was something people spent money on. I suggest 3 votes because that hits my square root criterion, and because I enjoyed casting 3 votes this time. Overall, 24 songs is something I think I can commit to. That’s also about the number of songs in a Eurovision final.

A More Modest Proposal

As an alternative, here’s a terrible idea: replicate Eurovision. Instead of countries, people belong to instances. Each instance gets to submit only one song, chosen however that community wishes. People are not allowed to vote for their own instance’s song.

Like Eurovision, this heavily leans into making the voting system so silly and unfair that no-one needs to take the outcome seriously. It does allow for a pretty simple implementation of the voting bot.

Perhaps this could help provide a positive sense of community identity. There is the potential to lead to serious rivalry between instances. It would certainly be a fun experiment to inflict on the Fediverse.


I’m really impressed by what the organisers have managed to achieve. A new voting system driven by a bot on a new dedicated instance, separately a sophisticated home website, plus a popup radio channel, and a live video stream plus chat system. The raw elbow grease and community support that went into it shows, and paid off immensely. I had a great time listening to all the music, in various contexts.

And of course I’m impressed at how much effort and talent went into the music. I had a vague notion that there were people out there on the Fediverse taking music seriously, but the vein runs far deeper than I suspected. Congratulations all on putting yourselves on the line.

That was fun! Let’s do it again.

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