1. 52
    How Does Mastodon Work? web kevq.uk
  1.  

  2. 12

    Great introductory article! Both twitter and mastodon have their upsides and downsides but overall, mastodon generates a better experience, conversations are generally more civil. Having different timelines means you can have both diversity of content and content focused on your area of interest. No “shouting in a metropole”, instead “talking inside the village and between villages”.

    Do note I say mastodon and not fediverse. The fediverse itself is a large creature with many facets and there’s much to love about it. But mastodon is the closest the fediverse has to twitter, therefore I’m singling it out in the comparison above.

    1. 4

      mastodon generates a better experience, conversations are generally more civil

      I’d agree to an extend but how big of an effect do you think Mastodon has on this? I’d argue that Mastodon is very much capable of suffering from twitters issues and if you look into the biggest instance: mastodon.social you can see that the discussions there tend to be equally toxic as on twitter.
      I think the key difference here is the federation/fediverse itself. As you pointed out talking “inside the village” is what makes experience better than twitter and the village effect really falls apart in big, general instances.

      So I think the real strength is federated niche communities of subjects and that should be encouraged over mass general instances.

      Other than that I really liked how Diaspora approached this issue by putting emphasis on micro-blogging rather than “shouting to the void”. I believe that full formatting and high text limit allowed people to produce beautiful discussions and experiences and really enabled to constrast to weed out the screamers: someones well put together 1 minute read triumph over 10 character sentence any time of the day when put side-by-side.
      Another great lesson from Diaspora was emphasis of tags to create these niche villages where healthy experiences could be had.

      All in all I think Mastodon is only a slight improvement over Twitter and the fediverse itself contains much valuable implementations of micro-blogging idea.

      1. 8

        You are absolutely right. Simply put: mastodon.social is no better than twitter. That’s why this instance should, imho, be avoided as well as the new instance the developer is now promoting. Do a few minutes of digging and you’ll find an instance that suits you. And if you really have those like-minded people around you and you watch what they boost, you will find the good people on the large instances while filtering out the toxic.

        To some extent… No social network, be it physical or digital, is perfect.

        1. 4

          Do a few minutes of digging and you’ll find an instance that suits you.

          Honest question: where do I dig? Is there a repository for most instances along with a short description of their aims and policies?

          1. 3

            That is still the single most important issue with the fediverse: discovery.

            There are sites like: https://fediverse.network/ https://fediverse.party/ https://instances.social/

            Hope they help, but no guarantees.

            Personally, I made an account, ended up not liking the people and discussions there. I looked around, searched the hashtags I was interested in, looked at what instance most people were on who discuss those topics. Turns out most people who talk about #foss are on fosstodon.org, so that’s where I made my account, have been a happy camper ever since!

            1. 2

              Even if you do end up on the flagship instance (not that I recommend it) you can switch away later once you find a better place, and all your data and followers will go with you: https://blog.joinmastodon.org/2019/06/how-to-migrate-from-one-server-to-another/

              I moved from a medium-sized instance to running a Pleroma off the pi3 under my desk and it wasn’t really a big deal.

              1. 2

                Sadly, there isn’t really a place for this (somehow). instances.social claims to be good at this, though from my experience it isn’t worth the time. Mastodon’s Homepage has a list of about 30ish instances. Some other instances I can recomend are bsd.network, fosstodon.org, libretooth.gr, social.privacytools.io and also social.nixnet.services

            2. 2

              So I think the real strength is federated niche communities of subjects and that should be encouraged over mass general instances.

              Easier said than done when your instance doesn’t comply with what a lot of instance maintainers believe. Your instance may end up on a shared blacklist and get defederated from if it doesn’t defederate from other certain instances, essentially treating a majority of mastodon as its own network, just over volunteer-ran servers where fringe instances may as well be in their own unique bubble.

              1. 4

                There’s tiers of federation / blocklists.

                At one extreme is the relay; everything posted to instance A is on the public timeline of instance B.

                Next is the default setting for mastodon: if user@instanceb talks to user@instancea, all toots from both users will appear on the public timeline of both instances.

                Most shared blocklists are used for the next setting, ‘federate interactions, but do not publicise them’. user@instancea and user@instanceb can talk to each other but only people they tag will ever see it.

                Finally is the ban; instance B will never connect to instance A under any circumstances. This is absolutely required censorship functionality (consider ‘content posted to instance A is frequently illegal in the jurisdiction governing instance B so we really can’t host it’). Instance moderators are mostly unpaid, so it’s unsurprising you see them taking shortcuts to avoid trouble.

                The underlying problem is that last one: “Instance moderators are mostly unpaid”. Your options are to pay for censorship you like, or get censorship you dislike for free.

          2. 4

            Thanks for great write-up! I’ve been more and more curious about Mastodon and other federated solutions over the last several months to a year. Partly due to the attention-selling nature of mainstream platforms but also due to the censorship and low signal-to-noise of many discussions.

            Can you comment on any technical and process controls in the Mastodon community in this light?

            I did read something recently about exclusionary maneuvers including de-listing servers and modifying clients to not operate with certain servers. I don’t have primary data on those claims, but they certainly seem possible given my limited understanding of how it works. I.e. even in a FOSS context, I’m curious which solutions can prevent tyranny of the majority.

            Thanks!

            1. 1

              Hey dkmn! Are you referring to the measures some servers take to protect themselves from bad actors on the Fediverse (like Gab servers) or other measures? It sounds like F-Droid may come up in this context.

            2. 2

              What happens if one federated instance goes down. Will tweet from there also go down, so I loose all my conversations with other instances ?

              1. 4

                Your local server will keep a copy of it for a time; that’s configurable. I think it’s typically kept for many months. When you view the conversation from your server, you’ll see the whole thing, but if you click on a permalink, it will fail to load. But if it’s a conversation that you participated in, you can just share the link to one of your posts.

                1. 1

                  I’m honestly not sure about what happens when the remote instance goes down. I think the conversation will stay cached on the local instance, at least for a while. I can tell you with certainty that if the remote user deletes their account or gets suspended either on the remote instance or the local one, the toots from that user will be removed. You’ll have a thread of just you talking to yourself.