(2017-04-04) Jeong Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis

Sarah Jeong says Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis, So Why Are We Not Using It?

So I quit cold turkey (okay, fine, cold turkeyish) for a week and replaced it with Mastodon, a decentralized, free and open source software version of Twitter.

The most interesting deviations from Twitter are privacy settings and the content warning feature.

The content warning (the "cw" button at the bottom) is basically a jump that hides the body of the post.

Many people even hide political discussion behind a CW, citing that a lot of users are exhausted about hearing about Trump.

Privacy settings are more flexible than they are on Twitter—privacy is set on a per-post basis, a little similar to how it is on Facebook.

The really interesting nuance here is between "Public" and "Unlisted." An unlisted post is viewable to the public, but it doesn't post to the local or federated timelines.

At this point you might be wondering what the difference between a "local" and a "federated" timeline is. It's… complicated.

for many years, there's been a small, devoted, and extremely unsuccessful niche of developers and activists trying to get people to adopt various forms of FOSS social media. One example is "GNU Social," a software that, in some respects, emulates the functions of Twitter. Mastodon is the most usable version of GNU social so far.

Remember Diaspora? No? Well, that kind of tells you all you need to know about the inevitable fate of most decentralized FOSS alternatives to Social Media.

New York magazine's Max Read wrote in early 2016: "There should be a 'public option' Social Network. The Open Web exists as a public and largely protected space, but it lacks the convenience or centralization of Twitter or other social networks. Let's build one! A public, open, convenient, centralized social network, dedicated to freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment." Mastodon isn't quite that. But it could be.

*The thing is, Mastodon isn't just a social network. It's a protocol that can be reimplemented into an infinite number of "instances" maintained by anyone and everyone. But instances aren't segregated and isolated the way chatrooms or Slacks or your group text messages are.

Many of the existing instances are "federated," meaning that members of awoo.space can find me, follow me, and boost and favourite my posts despite the fact that I only have an account on the flagship instance, mastodon.social.*

A bannable offense in one instance might be completely acceptable in another.

if mastodon.social and awoo.space had a serious falling-out—which is highly unlikely—the administrators could choose to break ties and blacklist each other.

Max Read calls for a public option social network that protects users based on the First Amendment. Mastodon.social is very much not that. Rochko—who lives in Germany, and is German by nationality—has no allegiance to American constitutional norms.

I watch as a new user makes a serious faux pas by complaining about mastodon.social's code of conduct.

"'Go start your own instance' seems like a pretty useful way to respond to complaints."

I am probably a little too mean for mastodon.social. Everyone is nice, but I nonetheless feel like a stranger in a strange land, a complete Twitter jerk stranded in a country of kind-hearted anime avatars. My relief at being on a social network that Julian Assange does not post on is almost perfectly counterbalanced by my regret that I cannot troll him.

But Mastodon's norms aren't set in stone. And mastodon.social is only one instance in a larger federation. There could be an instance with the fast-paced and hard-edged humor I've come to value from Twitter. There could be an instance propagated with news junkies and commentariat. There could be an instance premised on First Amendment principles—the social network that Max Read wants to see exist.


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