Thoughts on Mastodon
First, let's get this out of the way. I am on Mastodon, at:
I spend a little time there, and I am trying to build a product management curated community that is hopefully less chaotic that the Product Management community has devolved to on Twitter.
I signed up to the main server (mastodon.social) just as the exodus from Twitter was making it difficult to find a server that wasn't hammered. I joined on October 29th, 2022.
About that time I was actively trying to get my inner group of Product Managers on, and it had become chaotic. Servers were overwhelmed, signups were limited, and understandably this was due to the massive influx of Twitter refugees.
But later I read that their signup volume had grown exponentially to 70k per day.
Uh, if you really want to be an alternative to Twitter, you really need SCALE. Like able to sign up 500K per day without breaking a sweat.
But that is a teething problem, and can be solved with just money and some IT expertise called SRE (site reliability engineering).
I got some news for you, that is likely not going to help here because Mastodon isn't a single service. No, it is a federation of instances, that are run by different people, and you as a user can "join" any instance you want.
This is the first confusion that people emigrating from Twitter will find. There is one really big Mastodon server, @mastodon.social, hosted by the person behind the Mastodon system (sorta like Linus Torvalds is the person who began and still controls Linux) but there are hundreds of other instances, many with themes like LGBTQ, or Furry, or Astrophysics, or Scholar, so you can find one you like, and either join, or ask to join (the process is up to the person who administers the instance).
Of course, if you pick a wrong server for yourself, you can move by signing up for a different server, and then "porting" your account over. Simple right?
Then if you go to the instance's "About" page, and scroll down, you see two areas called "Server Rules" and "Moderated Servers"
Interesting. Expand them, and the rules seem normal, but having checked out a few instances, there is a lot of variability in them. And if an instance is a source of abusive or objectionable content, you can - as admin - moderate that server which means block them.
On the main Mastodon server, there are a lot of blocked instances (scroll a long way):
You will note that there are many that are blocked for harassment, misinformation, inappropriate content, hate speech, and much more.
Yikes. That is, not good.
My current account is here, and I am following about 60 people, so my feed is pretty tame, and easy to keep up with. But people I know say that there are plenty of misogynists, bigots, TERFs, and other horrible people that are out there.
This doesn't bode well.
If you dare to say that you find it confusing, lord help you. The tech bros will pounce to belittle your confusion, applying weapons grade condescension, and tell you that if you are struggling so much that you should just create your own instance (indeed, there is a one click installer on Digital Ocean) and make it your own.
If you can't find anything by searching, they will unhelpfully tell you to click the "Federated" link in the nav bar (which essentially turns your feed into a firehose of just shit (not shit as in abusive posts, but a raw, unfiltered flow - unusable).
Needless to say, for normal people, who are coming from Twitter, this is not helpful. Tone down your Alpha Male(tm) chops and dial back the condescension a tad.
Search & Algorithms
Love it or hate it, Twitters algorithmic engine does get a feel for what you like to see (lately, I have been in a bubble of musicians sharing stories and favorite riffs/solos, and it is glorious) that works. There is nothing like that on Mastodon. To find anything, you have to search, and the search isn't a natural language search (i.e. if I am looking for Blondie (Debbie Harry), I can't type in Blondie and find anything.) It only searches for hashtags. So, you are exhorted to use some of the 500 characters in a toot (instead of a tweet, how cute) to lard it up with hashtags. Thing is, I am horrible about using consistent hashtags, so I type toots that will only be seen by those who follow me.
This seems like a huge flaw in the system. Twitter makes it easy to find topics and specific items with searching, and that just doesn't work here.
I am at Mastodon, I spend some time there. I have a few people that I follow, and interact with. But, replace Twitter?
It is clear that one day I will stop participating on Twitter, and in that case, you should subscribe by mashing that button below to be sure you get notified of new posts.