Thursday, September 6, 2018


John Gordon:

Twitter will become a blend of home shopping network, daytime TV, and tabloid news. That might be quite profitable.

There is money in sane social communication, but there isn’t big money. In particular there isn’t publicly traded corporation money.

Joe Rosensteel:

The short version is that Mastodon clones features of Twitter with open source software that can be run on any server. Those servers talk to each other and form a larger world than any one server could. The default place most people land is but they have halted admissions because of the large influx of people leaving Twitter at the same time. You can join or any other server. Since your server can talk to the others, and you can move your account to another one, there’s no immediate pressure. There’s a timeline which is functionally like Twitter - or at least how it was back when it was chronological. You can mute, block, follow, etc.


Unfortunately, there aren’t polished apps like that for Mastodon. The majority of apps are wrappers around a webview - fancy browsers. They have certain features, or present user-facing data in a way that is more appealing that the web site. Unfortunately, none of them are much better than the website. I would really suggest getting started on the website just because options for things will be in places you can google or ask any other user about.

Joe Rosensteel:

The benefit of Mastodon is that it’s not a company, but a series of instances all run by different people. Think of it more like email. Anyone can host an email server (but why), and they can send emails to other people not on their email server. Just in this case it’s an “instance”. I can block instances I don’t like, and I can still communicate with others that I do. There’s an admin for each instance to moderate and shape the kind of conduct that’s allowed on the instance. I’m on a private instance with a few friends, after having an account on the large “” instance which is the default place most people start. You can redirect followers if you move to another instance. All your data can be exported, including follow, block, and mute lists. I can take my stuff anywhere I would like to go. A “federated” timeline view exists, which shows all the stuff people on your instance are interacting with and saying. I found it unusable on, but on a smaller, more focused instance it’s worth looking at.

Brent Simmons:

I’ve joined Mastodon, and I find myself constantly confused. It’s not the idea of the federation — I get that. Not a problem. It’s just that the apps I’ve tried (including the web app) are difficult to use and/or don’t do the things I want them to do, or do them confusingly.

Bob Burrough:

Wil Wheaton leaves Twitter for Mastodon because Twitter wouldn’t ban people, is promptly banned by Mastodon.

Wil Wheaton:

I thought that if I left Twitter, I could find a new social network that would give it some competition (Twitter’s monopoly on the social space is a big reason it can ignore people who are abused and harassed, while punishing people for reporting their attackers), so I fired up this account I made at Mastodon a long time ago.

I thought I’d find something different. I thought I’d find a smaller community that was more like Twitter was way back in 2008 or 2009. Cat pictures! Jokes! Links to interesting things that we found in the backwaters of the internet! Interaction with friends we just haven’t met, yet! What I found was … not that.

Brent Simmons:

The power of mobs in Mastodon reminds me of the power of mobs in baby Twitter of 2009. Which is to say: it’s entirely possible it will get worse and worse — as it did on Twitter — to the point where lives can be ruined and even threatened.

So I’m thinking about whether or not to stay.

David Chartier:

Like many other people recently, I jumped ship to Mastodon, an alternative, bite-sized social network with an odd name and some great new ideas. I’ve spent time learning about Mastodon’s mission and open-source, decentralized design, and I’m starting to think that this should be the way forward for social networks in general.

Previously: The Struggle for Twitter Alternatives.

Update (2018-09-14): David Anson:

Many of us are looking at Twitter alternatives and there are two services that stand out: and Mastodon.

These services take different approaches, so choosing one is challenging. This page highlights some of the differences and is meant for non-nerds who don't want to get bogged down by implementation details. Every attempt has been made to be accurate, but some technical details are deliberately glossed over.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter

I am always very disappointed to see so much of the Mastodon talk being centered around white tech nerd guys, because a huge appeal for a lot of people going to Mastodon instances is that it's a place that is MUCH more welcoming and open for LGBT people and people of color than Twitter has been of late. That's what happened with Wheaton - he's got some very questionable and harmful stuff in his history re: trans people (he says was unintentional, though he hasn't handled it well), and combine that with him going on a spree of reporting people talking about him (not even @-mentioning him) resulted in him getting banned from different servers.

But when I see the Tech Universe talk about it, it's HEAVILY skewed around the same Straight Cis White Tech Guys that run 95% of the discourse about everything. It's disappointing that few of the bloggers talking about this are seeking out any other perspectives than All The Other White Dudes I Know Who Make Apps.

Twitter (the product) isn't bad because of Twitter (the company) (or at least not mainly because of it), but because the whole concept of Twitter is fundamentally flawed. I was watching GDC videos recently, and they just uploaded this amazing talk about how you can build communities in games that foster friendships amongst players:

After about 20 minutes, it occurred to me that everything he suggested was the opposite of how Twitter works. At around 40 minutes, he explicitly acknowledged that Twitter was a living antipattern for creating working communities. Twitter is a bad idea, it's a fundamentally malicious system.

We need to stop trying to ape Twitter. Twitter is bad, and it's not bad because it isn't distributed, it's bad because the fundamental way it works creates a toxic user experience. The answer to Twitter isn't Mastodon. It might, though, be systems like Slack or Discord, so if you want to create an open alternative to Twitter, take these tools as inspiration.

That's a very appealing point. Maybe we are just doing it wrong. Will watch and digest your link. Thank you.

As a nominal WASP in the USA, I definitely understand that point. Even though I like to believe myself to be progressive, I do realize how my upbringing and heritage can distort how the world and I interact. Regardless of my own actual views on sexuality, religion, and society in general, which are often very radical, it's perhaps a luxury of my WASPness that allows me to be so vocal and not receive push back in the same way as minority groups voicing similar views.

Maybe, just maybe as Lukas posted, this type of social network design is supremely toxic in it's reinforcement patterns and we simply need to switch to something different. I am not a social media, as in Twitter, Facebook, old AOL, etc. fan, but I also recognize humans need communication tools and I'd like to see something more open displace the current platforms. Everyone should have websites, hyperlinks can be powerful following tools after all and federated protocols to actually communicate. Good look waiting for this Utopia of course. Sigh…

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