Every now and then I wonder about alternatives to Google+. I hardly go back to Twitter because I don’t know what I want from it. My following strategy has resulted in my feed being full of journalists and politicians, which ended up making it an unpleasant and exhausting experience. There are some friendly nicks I recognise, but really the thing I like about G+ is that I managed to get a feed full of conversation about role-playing games. This is great.
But there are all these weird changes to the user interface. And today I learned about yet another Twitter alternative. Mastodon.
If you want to jump ahead, take a look at the Mastodon User's Guide.
I like the creation story: “Eugen Rochko was annoyed with Twitter. The company had made a series of changes that he thought eroded the value of the service: limiting how big third-party applications could grow, for example, and implementing an algorithm-driven timeline that made Twitter feel uncomfortably similar to Facebook.” – Mastodon.social is an open-source Twitter competitor that’s growing like crazy
There are also some people that like how it is federated, allowing each server to use it’s own rules. Some people like this very much. “In fact, mastodon.social bans Nazis. Not even implicitly, but explicitly.” – Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis, So Why Are We Not Using It?
Other people don’t like how federation means that user names are not unique. Personally, I like that. I find it incredible how we keep implementing global names. This won’t scale for the next ten thousand years. Eventually, at some point in time, global names don’t make sense. First users get cool names like alexschroeder, everybody else gets awkwardnames like alexschroeder.1; federation helps. But not everybody likes it. See Taking A Ride On Mastodon.
Anyway, I created an account on Octodon, which is one of the servers running the software. I picked it from a list because it had a lot of users, and had an A+ for it’s HTTPS, and it was far up on the list. See Mastodon instances.
Also, the About page says: “Seriously though: It should be similar to mastodon.social. NSFW/any legal porn is allowed, but tag it as NSFW or make it unlisted or less. Trolls are only allowed if they’re quiet; you can shitpost but not harass someone, and my threshold is pretty low. I’m not Twitter, I’ll fuck up nazis and bullies for fun, and get an AI to do it if I get bored. I’m your nice cyberpunk queen and I intend to keep this place decent and safe for everyone.” – Octodon: More. I like her title.
Anyway, giving this a try using the following account:
Politics of Mastodon, I guess? What is GNU Social and is Mastodon Social a Twitter Clone?
Recommended reading: What I wish I knew before joining Mastodon. “Words in toots aren’t searchable yet, but hashtags are.” Users are also searchable, e.g. “@firstname.lastname@example.org”.
How to find new people to follow: Check your local and federated timelines, click on stuff you like and read the conversations. Follow people that seem interested, and the people they are talking with.
No global timeline, no followbots: To me, federation and “losing” stuff from other instances is what will rescue the local and federated timelines. It’s what will allow us to build different communities. And I have two Mastodon accounts on different instances in order to do precisely that. Conversely, I hate the followbots that “import” users from other instances even though nobody on the local instances subscribed to them.
No global names: Do you really like global names? Imagine a world that used global names for 1000 years. To me, it clearly does not scale. Some sort of context will always be required. I just think that the existence of other people called Alex does not limit us. Email addresses work the same. The appearance of big global namespaces like Gmail, Facebook and Twitter, and maybe AIM and ICQ before them, made all the difference. Suddenly people wanted global names. But IRC doesn’t have global names, mail doesn’t, people in real life don’t. The “problem” is expectation and the solution is expectation management.
For now, my multiple accounts on different instances are separate entities, like different email accounts. The fact that they belong to the same person is a property stored in contact databases of the people I know, or not. Which is as it should be. I might want to have a client that allows me to easily switch identities.
A FAQ of sorts, with interwoven comments, by “Dr. Edward Morbius”.
And some thoughts for the future: Mastodon Systemic Sustainability.
Thoughts about the project’s history: Mourning Mastodon.