Joseph Hallenbeck
February 02, 2018

Week One on Mastodon

Filed under: Journal


Giant scattering of random thoughts over the first week using Mastodon:

  • God this interface is confusing. Local, federated timelines?
  • Local timeline is just everyone posting publically on the instance
  • Federated timeline is all posts on the instance plus any posts from federated instances that my instance are interacting with
  • This is actually quite fun. The local timeline really encourages me to just reach out, favorite, “boost,” or reply to any public post that strikes my fancy.
  • There’s a lot of really great conversation going on, particular about the nature of social media, technology, art.
  • Advertising this as a “Twitter” clone missing a lot of the point. This is more like an async or threaded version of IRC. There’s quite a firehose of comments on the local timeline, each inviting me to just hop in and start chatting away on the topic.
  • I’m actually having a lot of fun with this, more fun then I’ve had since the old BBS days. The social barrier (the thought that someone is going to judge you for hoping into their feed) is rather low.
  • I realize that my initial impression with Twitter was, this is a really boring platform. Everything is empty. The platform is encouraging me to follow some celebrities or news organizations. The emphasis was on becoming a follower high-volume “influencer.” It’s another consumption platform. I quickly felt like if I wasn’t a celebrity or obsessive interested in growing my following then I had nothing to say on the platform and should just shut up and listen. Most of the big names were insipid or posted so much that I couldn’t keep up. It took a long time to fine tune a list of eighty people to follow before I started to find the platform useful. I’ve probably posted more on Mastodon in a week then I have posted on Twitter in the two years that I actively used it.
  • People are nice. They reply to your random interjections into their threads. The community is generally friendly. There’s a progressive vibe, but not the kind where people are screaming their frusterations and outrage at the state of the world constantly.
  • You know what. Let’s just perma-block Twitter and Facebook. Still need the later for people stuck on Messenger, but if I’m going to be wasting time on a social network, I think I know which one I want to be spending time on. Love that multilingual is the default.
  • Traditional social media seems so balkanized – I have to intentionally leave the Anglosphere. As someone whose spent years trying to learn French and Spanish, its nice to not have to intentionally go hunting for it. Love seeing Arabic and the east-Asian scripts as well. Not turning them off. Can’t read them. But seeing them will make me want to try someday. Makes me feel much more cosmopolitan. The internet of the last decade has grown far too provincial. Whereas my early online friends hailed globally – the UK, Finland, Norway, Australia, Japan, France, Germany, Brazil the recent fashion has been to push people into regional or cultural groupings.
  • On one hand, don’t worry about federation. On the other hand, its all about the federation. Federation maintains the small community feel. There may be 1 million Mastodon accounts out there, but there will only be a small handful of active accounts on your instance. Names quickly become recognizable. Reputations, interests, etc. mill in much as they would on a small community bulletin board or an active chat room. What federation does though, is allows you or ot her community members to reach out to other instances and invite interesting people to participate in your local conversation. Thus if someone from your instances likes or boosts an article off the federated timeline, then it gets promoted to their local followers. And if someone follows a user from another instance, then that users public posts populate into your instance’s federated timeline. The dynamics of this system were not obvious to me at first, but quickly becomes apparent in it’s ability to create small social hubs, like a virtual pub where “everyone knows your virtual name.”
  • One thing that I now realize is just how tense my online precense has become with the fear of judgement, that words flung into the void would come back to haunt me. I have become very precise, almost shy in the expression of ideas. Mastodon brings back a kind of immediacy that melts away very quickly. Rapidly, I am posting off the wall thoughts, engaging in deeper conversations with people, offer to help, doing things that I never imagined on Twitter or Facebook which have both become such public-you-are-a-brand style interfaces
"Week One on Mastodon" by Joseph Hallenbeck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.