3x55: Don the Mast

Jeremy Garcia, Jono Bacon, and Stuart Langridge present Bad Voltage, in which we look, as has been threatened a bunch recently, at Mastodon. What’s it all about? Is Mastodon the new Twitter, and is it trying to be? And how far have we got into it?

Also, we’re now on Mastodon! @[email protected]!

This seemed like an extremely odd conversation. Two items come to mind.

First, the idea that Mastodon is “complicated” comes from people who want to keep everybody on the big-corporate networks. Journalists like to spread that, because they barely tolerate Twitter, because they’ve been shamed after not covering important stories too many times, so they absolutely don’t want to care about a world where you can follow someone who might be posting videos, pictures, or book reviews. But except for weird “why do I not see real-time updates?” edge cases, it’s not particularly difficult to figure out.

Yes, you need to pick a server from an indistinguishable mass of options. Has nobody ever bought insurance, before? Mustard? “Oh, there are so many choices, and I can’t tell which one, so I guess I’ll just skip it” isn’t how any part of the world works, except for Free Software.

Then, the design decisions. Before I stopped checking in, my Twitter timeline was invariably one-in-ten posts that were quote-tweets of some creep mouthing off in sexist and/or racist ways, with the tweet being “you know what to do,” looking to get that person reported until banned. Those people learned that behavior from organized harassment campaigns, where the goals were anything from direct harassment, to provoking a ban, to doxxing them for harassment off Twitter. But it’s not really tit-for-tat, because quote-tweets boost attention for the creep, so once they appeal the ban, the algorithm recognizes them as driving more engagement.

That doesn’t even get into the structural issues of quoting an entirely normal thing with a supportive (or unsupportive) comment, and then the original tweet gets deleted, so it’s now just a tweet that says “check this out” or the ever-popular “This”…

Getting back to the original question, though, nothing is going to replace Twitter (including modern Twitter), because Twitter managed to attract CEOs and politicians, who drew in journalists. Twitter was credible in a way that I don’t think that anybody else has a chance of doing in the near term. And that’s probably OK…

So, did everyone just assume the two biggest differentiators between Twitter and Mastodon (at least to me)? It seems strange that it wasn’t really mentioned that (a) Twitter uses some complex algorithm to choose which tweets to show, whereas Mastodon uses (gasp) a timeline; and (b) there are no ads on Mastodon feeds.

Honestly these two things are mostly driving me away; I just want to see the content from folks I follow, in the order they write it. I hate that the 3rd, 7th, 12th, 18th tweets are “Promoted” (e.g. an ad). SO MUCH CRAP.

Thirdly, but not by a long distance, is 3rd party app support. ActivityPub, being a protocol and all, means I can use a lightning fast app, like Tootle, instead of suffering all the web content.

To expand on the differences between Twitter and Mastodon portion, for me it’s when you leave the comfort of your following/followers discussion and venture out into the public.

Sticking to the Mr Lucky’s analogy, it’s like when you get up from the table with your friends to go to the bar but end up talking to some strangers who are also waiting to order their drinks. At your local bar it will be an interesting discussion whereas at some big chain bar downtown you will just nod politely, grab your drinks, and get back to your table.

Mastodon is like that, assuming your instance caters to your particular interests, the local feed will engage you in some interesting discussions and even the global feed will be pretty good. Whereas Twitter, outside your curated following/followers, is an instant reminder why society is doomed and the end of days is upon us!

The only thing I use Twitter for these days is to contact companies who stubbornly refuse to provide an email address. At least Twitter still has pretty efficient interface, compared to Facebook, so in the absence of email I will reluctantly use Twitter.