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My Mastodon Manifesto

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I'm in a love-hate-relationship with Mastodon since a couple of years.

My Twitter account still has more followers and publicity. My sympathy goes to the decentralized or federated open Fediverse. This the way to go to overcome the dependency on one big company, running Twitter and defining its rules.

Currently, you can follow me on Graz.social where I moved to after using Mastodon.social for a few years. To minimize my personal effort while maximizing the level of publicity, I decided to use a bi-directional Twitter-Mastodon-crossposter service.

Here are some thoughts on Mastodon: why it's great and what are the things I dislike about it.

The Good

I absolutely like the decentralized and federated concept. That's the way it should be and this provides independence from one big company with limited transparency. Of course, this requires an open source license model and active development and a strong community not only from developers but also from users.

Mastodon does not use a more or less secret algorithm that decides for me what I get to read and what not. I once read about an incident, where Twitter filtered all tweets from a person that got cancer. His friends did not learn about his illness until he had died. Unfortunately, I can not find this story any more. Please drop a comment below when you have a link to the original source.

On Twitter, the web-page is almost rendered use-less after more and more enforcing the Twitter-managed time-line in contrast to the time-line that shows every tweet of the accounts I'm following. It might not be as bad as with the Facebook algorithm yet, but the tendency is clear. Together with Atom and the older RSS standard, I am an efficient master of hundreds of personal information feeds, that span my personal bubble and not the bubble that Twitter decides.

Mastodon instances share feeds according to their account connections. This is a dynamic method to interconnect accounts and instances.

Each instance comes with their specific set of rules, the possibility of having specific focus and custom emoticons.

Mastodon offers a content warning feature for protecting punch-lines of jokes and potentially irritating content. The user has to click on a button in order to see the whole toot.

I am following topics and people via subscribing to user accounts, local time-line, global time-line (huge!), and hashtag-searches/columns.

If I want to ask my followers, I might as well create a poll.

For each toot, I can choose the level of publicity: public, unlisted, followers-only and direct.

Many settings are stored on the instance server. Mobile apps are able to sync with those settings: filters, notification preferences, and so forth. One particular setting is the language preference. This way, I could define that I only want to see German, English and French toots. These are the only languages that I can follow at least to some extend.

Almost not worth mentioning but nevertheless important are features for blocking and muting.

The Bad

As cool as Mastodon is, there are some issues I do have with it so far. Some are technical issues, some are social issues. Both are changing over time, I'm sure.

ZEITbot. (click for a larger version)

For example my personal impression is that there is a relatively high density of snowflakes on Mastodon. As long as they do not force me to this political over-correctness everywhere that results in an everybody's darling complex, I'm fine with them as long as they don't affect my freedom. Unfortunately, they do affect me more and more in a negative way.

For example, the owner of the ZEITbot account was asked to hide all toot content because there could be content that is conflicting with the nature of some people. To my disappointment, he did not want to start arguing with those people and gave in. This results in useless toots as shown in the image with content warnings (CW) added to all of them. One toot was open by myself priort to the screenshot.

A workaround is to disable content warning globally or ignore accounts that do not tell me about their toots until I click every single one of them. This stupidity is really upsetting me and I'm afraid this will trigger me in otherwise valid discussions with snowflakes more and more.

Of course, with every instance being able to define their own set of rules, there are instances out there with weird rules. Please do inform yourself before you create an account on an instance.

In contrast to Twitter, Mastodon does not provide search for keywords. There is just search for hashtags and accounts.

New Mastodon instances don't get much feed. That results in empty hashtag-columns which is almost a show-stopper. This might result in certain disadvantages for brand new instances.

Local time-lines are of questionable value on large Mastodon instances due to their volume and diverse topics. Some people like this, I don't.

It's Good!

Although I mentioned many disadvantages that arise from my personal point of view, I still do think that approaches like Mastodon are the way to go.

I'm looking forward when more and more people realize the huge negative impact that Twitter does have on our society and recognize that small, local communities with federated feeds to peer instances are a very good option to use instead.

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