[LINK] EU Joins Mastodon

Karl Auer kauer at biplane.com.au
Sun Nov 20 22:19:54 AEDT 2022

Let e preface all this by noting that a HUGE amount has changed since
2017, when Max Eddy wrote the article I'm reacting to. This is in part
because I am also reacting to other articles that show similar failings
but were written much more recently.

So my spittle-ridden scorn for the article is based on me pretending it
was written last week :-)

Regards, K.


On Fri, 2022-04-29 at 12:47 +0000, Stephen Loosley wrote:
(actually quoted a 2017 article by  Max Eddy  

> No fees, no ads, no data mining.

No data mining that we no of, no distributed datamining, can't stop
scraping, can't stop rogue instances abusing user data, but federated
abuse would be hard bordering on impossible.

> Unique, federated design.

Unique? There are a whole swathe of things in the fediverse, and none
of the protocols are particularly unique.

> Tweetdeck-like web experience.

Depends entirely on what client you use to access it. The web
experience is apparently tweetdesk-like.

> Powerful privacy tools.

But simple. Not deep though - there is no encryption on the inter-
instance comms.

> Zero documentation or guidance for new users.

That's crap.

> Few mature clients.

That's borderline crap. How many count as "few" and how many count as
"many"? There are certainly more than enough to make choosing hard :-)
If there is a con in the clients, it's that the so called official ones
are bloody awful.

> Distributed design makes sign-up, user verification difficult.

Also crap. Sign-up is as easy as any other web-bases sign-up. Go to a
website, click on "sign up", follow the bouncing ball. Supports MFA
too, if you want it.

> Facebook and Twitter have defined a generation of the web, but free
> and open-source services like Ello and diaspora* have sought to
> provide an alternative.   Mastodon is the latest contender.

Mastodon has been going for several years. It may be the "latest
contender" but it's not exactly new.

> Unfortunately, some of its best features (ever heard of "federation"
> outside the realm of Star Trek before today?) are confusing to
> newcomers

The newcomers it tends to confuse most are those coming from Twitter.
The primary confusion is around understanding that they have not joined
another monolith. The second most prevalent confusion is around finding
people, though why the "search" function should so confuse people is a
mystery to me. The third is around some of the techniques used (and
sometimes enforced) in Mastodon to promote civil discourse. These are
often interpreted as "censorship" by ex-Twitter people (they are not).
The extremely rapid response that Mastodon has to people being dicks,
or instances permitting people to be disk, has to be seen to be
believed. The average Nazi lasts about five minutes (literally). An
instance that does not deal promptly with its scum will be suspended by
other instances and if they don't pick up their act, defederated. They
can hold their poisonous discussions amongst themselves. When an
instance is blocked, all the messages from all of that instance's users
vanish from the instance doing the blocking. Instance administrators
share information about blocked instances.

> , and it certainly won't eclipse other platforms anytime soon. It is
> a radical vision that suggests a different kind of internet—one that,
> perhaps, will gain converts.

Hm. It is gaining well over 100,000 users per day at the moment - and
that is just one group of instances that keeps records across it's
instances. It is likely much higher and we have not yet seen the impact
of Trump being allowed back on Twitter.

> Instead of Twitter's 140 characters, however, Mastodon offers
> you 500.

It's up to individual instances, and any instance will honour another
instance's limits. It's 1500 on plenty of instances. It's considered
polite to put a long messages behind a so-called "content warning" -
really just a sort of headline.

> reposting someone else's toot is "boosting" (not "retweeting").

It's not a repost. You can't "re-toot". All boosting does is deliver
the original message into your followers' streams. And a favourite is
seen by no-one except the original poster - it has no effect on
anything except the mood of the poster. It can mean anything from "seen
it!" to "loved it!". You favourite what you like, you  boost what you
think others should see.

> Placing a hashtag (#) in front of a word creates an ad-hoc category
> that you can click on to find all other instances of that hashtag. 

A little more than that. You can follow a hashtag s you would follow a

> These are features that Twitter users take for granted, but that
> actually didn't launch with the service. Being designed from the
> ground up in a post-Twitter world means that Mastodon's creator can
> deliver a product that benefits from Twitter's years of evolution.

And mercifully can avoid some of the worst mistakes. Like being a
monolith, being under corporate control, allowing likes and algorithms
to influence what people see, allowing advertisements. He mentions
later that you will see toots in strict chronological order. That's it.
You can bookmark toots to come back to them if you don't want to
concentrate on something interesting right this minute.

> Some features from Twitter haven't made it to Mastodon. Polls, quote-
> tweets, and analytics are just a dream.

Crap again. Polls are definitely a thing, analytics are there for
instances and in a limited sense for cooperating instances, but are
regarded (rightfully) and privacy hostile.

Quote-tweets have been intentionally omitted and very unlikely to be
implemented. They are regularly requested by ex-Twitter people. The
short short reason is that quote-tweets dissociate the text from the
original poster, allow misrepresentation, and are too often used to
instigate mobbing and dogpiling. You can still quote a toot by cut-and-
pasting it into your own toot and adding your comment; it's not common
precisely because it does take effort, and in Mastodon would generally
be frowned upon as discourteous. It's generally a lot easier, and
fairer to the original poster, to boost the original message and follow
it up with your own toot - which prevents misrepresentation, as anybody
can now click on the boosted toot to see all its context. And the
original poster (tooter!) can see who has boosted their toots, and can
see who that person follows, so they know where the boosted toot went
and who sent it there.

>  While you can view a toot and its responses at a static URL, just
> like on Twitter, it's harder to take action outside the web-based
> Mastodon client. Boosting and faving, for example, are difficult from
> a toot's static webpage.

I have no idea what this means. "Static page"? It reads not only like
crap, but like utter crap. Boosting and favouriting (and bookmarking,
controlling distribution, muting, blocking, reporting etc) are all
trivially simple from within any client and from the web interface. The
only serious deficiencies I have found in the non-web clients is that
they are a bit behind the latest features (you can edit toots in the
web interface, not yet in the other clients, you have to follow
hashtags in the web interface sometimes if your client doesn't support
that) and sometimes have trouble with setting up filters (though they
will honour them once set up in the web interface)

>  Searching, too, is difficult. I spent an hour searching through a
> timeline for a specific toot. Mastodon is surprisingly smooth and
> robust for a homebrew project, but the cracks show in cases like
> this.

It's not a crack, it's a feature. If someone has not hashtagged
something and you can't remember who said it or when, and you didn't
bookmark it, then you are stuck with a manual search, because Mastodon
deliberately does not permit free-text search (some instances support
it - it's regarded as a Bad Idea). Again, this is because one common
use of that feature in other places is to seek out the uses of certain
words so as to locate victims to abuse.

"Homebrew". Likes his little jabs, doesn't he?

> infinitely more flexible. However, that potential hasn't been fully
> realized on Mastodon.

Examples would be nice. Or does he see not bowing to Mammon as a

> Being open-source means Mastodon has a fundamentally different
> ideology than most social media services.

The fact that it is open source has nothing to to with ideology. Very

>  Mastodon is intended to be free and ad-free forever. Its creator has
> written that this lets the people working on Mastodon focus on making
> it better for users, without having to bow to Mammon. There's no data
> mining, no ads, and no rejiggering your timeline to show you promoted
> material.

But it's open, of course, so if someone wants to add such features they
can (and will probably end up defederated if they let them leak).

> Twitter and Facebook say this helps surface the most interesting
> content

Whereas in Mastodon, what surfaces interesting content is the
deliberate actions of users. George Takei joined Mastodon three days
ago. After five hours he had over 5000 followers. After two days he had
nearly 80,000 followers. It's three days now and he has nearly 130,000
followers. In other words he is averaging around 1800 new followers per
HOUR. Just because interested people boost and reboost a toot or two. 

> The Mastodon.social instance, for example, is the flagship instance
> of the service. It's currently closed to new sign-ups, meaning that
> users have to find another instance to join. This is a high bar for
> entry, made worse by the sheer dearth of explanatory documentation.

Really don't get where this "dearth" is coming from (but might well
have been truer in 2017). People can join any Mastodon instance they
like. Google "join mastodon" and you get servers that are specifically
there to help you find instances to join! Joining is no harder than
with any other web-based service. The client is relatively obvious.
Yes, you might need to explore.

> instance. That's allowed Mastodon to remain mostly operable, even
> after experiencing a massive spike in popularity.

"Mostly"? It has absorbed hundreds of thousands of new users over the
past few weeks with little more than the odd delay. How quickly people
have forgotten the Twitter "fail whale"...

> The confusion about where Mastodon "is" is only compounded by
> usernames. If you and another person are on the same instance, you
> can @ reply them as you would on Twitter. If that person is on a
> different instance, you have to include the username and instance.

Crap. You only need the entire name if you are creating a brand new
toot with no existing context. Otherwise you hit "reply" and it does
its thing. Pretty much exactly like email, come to think of it.

>  So @maxeddy becomes @maxeddy at mastodon.social. With the email analogy
> in mind, this doesn't seem so strange but, again, it's sure to be
> confusing to anyone more familiar with Twitter.

No, not really.

> This raises the issue of verification. Is @maxeddy at mastodon.social
> the real Max Eddy? What about @maxeddy at mac.tonight.biz? The blue
> verified checkmark on Twitter might be an artificial tool of class
> construction (and probably data mining), but it also helps ensure
> you're talking to the right person. And, more importantly, that the
> wrong person can't easily pretend to be you. Without a rock-solid
> method of verification, Mastodon isn't likely to attract the
> celebrity interest that drove the early adoption of Twitter. But that
> seems to suit Mastodon just fine.

What a load of bollocks. Especially given the Musky shenanigans of the
past week or so. What you CAN do in mastodon is prove that you own a
website, and by extension possibly prove that you own a domain. That is
decentralised verification right there. If Joe Biden wants to join and
the White House puts the right code snippet on the White House website,
a green tick will show in his profile. This is *way* better than the
pointless and now barely verified blue tick that Twitter has.

I won't bother taking issue with anything client-related, as it's all
changed since 2017.

> So far, Mastodon doesn't talk with Twitter.

No longer true, thou retweeting into Mastodon is majorly disliked.

>  You won't have an easy time finding tweeting friends who have jumped
> to Mastodon

Not true unless they have taken steps to be unfindable.

> quite happily. Then again, the kind of person attracted to Mastodon
> in the first place seems more likely to be a Signal user.

Might have been true in 2017. Now they are more likely to be an angry
ex-Twitter user.

> people." There's nothing about Mastodon, aside from its comparably
> low user base, that makes it resistant to the siren song of internet
> bullshit.

Wrong, wrong, wrong wrong. See my comments about this above.

>  Even as I saw new users embrace the platform this past week and make
> their inaugural toots, I also saw some of the same combative, angry,
> vitriol that's on Twitter or Facebook these days.

Not for long, you didn't.

> Mastodon also comes with a Content Warning tool. It's a flexible
> tool, and one that seems to have been embraced by Mastodon's early
> settlers.

And one that an inordinate number of ex-Twitter people seem to regard
and censorship. It hides/blocks nothing; it is no more than a tool to
permit civility and consideration on discourse.

> Still, all of this requires active participation from communities of
> users and admins, which is quite different from the rather passive
> experience of using Facebook or Twitter. No one said Utopias came
> easily.

It is stupidly easy for users to mute or block individual users or
entire instances. It is similarly easy for instance admins to do so.
Compare this to the effort required to get some rabid scumbag banned on

> The limitations of Mastodon are undeniable. It's unlikely to get
> celebrity interest

That's opinion, and poorly informed opinion at that.

> given that one of the most popular Mastodon instances is called
> Marxism.party, it's unlikely to gain traction among brands and
> advertisers.

There are 4000 plus instances now. Don't think that will be nearly as
much of a turn off for Mammon as some of the others. And of course
advertisers are delighted at the vast crop of nazis, rightwing nutjobs
and racists that Twitter cultivates.

> But some of those limitations come from its greatest strengths. Being
> federated means that the service has scaled surprisingly well

Why is it a surprise? That is the *point* of federation.

> different instances. Open-source projects don't make money

More crap.

> homebrew service.

"Homebrew" again.

> Mastodon isn't going to replace Twitter any time soon

Hm. Let's come back to that after Elon's had a proper go.

> Mastodon has 384,000 monthly active users

And MANY more that are not "active daily". And that number AFAIK
includes only instances sharing stats with Eugen. Remember George
Takei's 130,000 followers?

Karl Auer (kauer at biplane.com.au)

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