Mastodon

I originally signed up at mastodon.gamedev.place, but quickly realized most of my content would be not gamedev related, so I migrated to @rileypb@mas.to.

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I joined Mastodon in 2018 and found it pretty ho-hum. In the past eight hours, merely following the above addresses changed it to a worthwhile experience.

I’ll add my Mastondon address to the pile: @_jimnelson_@mastodon.social

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Before I say anything, I’d like to point out that I largely agree with most points made here and that no one has a duty to not leave twitter, leave twitter, ever look at social media again, whatever. All this stuff is voluntary in ever way.

With that said, I can’t help but feel this points to a larger theme. With our actions and words, we treat social media like a public square or a common space, much like the hypothetical man on a soap box on a street corner; every social media account like a personal public soap box, billions in a row. In fact, we’re encouraged to treat it as such by the platforms themselves. But they really aren’t in public, they’re private, being owned entirely by private interests. The interests of those owners repeatedly conflict with the well-being of those users. Conflicts between Youtubers and Creators, questionable relationships between advertisers and Facebook, ah-hem, I mean Meta, profit motives increasing the drive to push engagement at the cost of users’ mental health, backroom deals with internationally condemned governments, the collection and selling of as much personal information as possible, etc, etc, etc. Basically, the general idea of what people hope to get out of social media seems at times at odds with the profit motive behind social media.

This brings to mind early for-profit fire companies (pay us first before we’ll put the fire out), or maybe modern examples like privatized prisons or healthcare insurance. If this is going to be a perennial problem for us as a global society, maybe we need to create social media without the profit motive? Maybe set putting the fires out first as a priority would be best for everyone?

Not sure how this would work, how it would be funded, and who administers it in a fair and equitable way, but we agreed on not letting stuff just burn to the ground, so maybe we can handle this?

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This seems right to me. Again, I’m largely a non-participant in social media so possibly I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I think to a certain degree the big platforms have pushed the idea that they are the public square because it gives them a certain presumed legitimacy and heft, when in truth they’re private actors with a profit motive, and the right to associate with whoever they want to associate with (this is one of the most frustrating things about the endless Twitter Free Speech debate – the people who want to like repeal Section 230 so that the courts will force Twitter not to engage in moderation are deeply misunderstanding how Section 230 works, but also get the free speech interests completely backwards!)

Having a clearer view of this would I think be helpful for how folks individually relate to social media, and clarify what a more sustainable path forward might look like, if such a thing might still be available – the multiple-linked-communities idea of Mastodon, to the extent I understand it, seems interesting. But of course the network effects of being so late to the party are a big challenge, which is why I think many folks are trying to make a coordinated push to all move off Twitter at once.

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Mastodon is non-profit AFAIK

Haven’t checked where the data goes or how moderation works. I’ve assumed (perhaps recklessly) that it can’t be worse than Twitter or Meta.

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Whatever moderation occurs is on a per server basis… and I don’t know that any of them have dedicated staff. Sadly, I expect that the influx of users is going to quickly tax volunteers’ enthusiasm for it.

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Right – the likelihood that the smaller, friendlier alternatives will exactly recapitulate all the woes and challenges of the bigger dogs if they get the same scale of users seems very high! Moderating at the scale of the personal blog is a manageable task; doing that for a small forum community is more challenging and requires some people to dedicate some focused time; doing it for any meaningful subset of the Internet probably requires many many millions of dollars at least!

EDIT: basically this: Hey Elon: Let Me Help You Speed Run The Content Moderation Learning Curve | Techdirt

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Yeah, the hope with Mastodon is that people eventually distribute themselves over smaller servers and make moderation a lot more manageable but I think any site that grows big enough isn’t sustainable. Even though I really like a new social media place that just started up called Cohost, it’s growing so quickly that I’m a little concerned that the moderation there might be tough for the small team. I guess we’ll see what happens

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This is a big part of why I still like the forum model for social media. (And why the IFTF is funding this site! So that the users don’t have to become a product.)

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On Twitter, a lot of game dev stuff is about corporate culture and scandals and grind/burnout, which is one reason I muted a lot of industry professionals and mostly followed IF people only. Is the game dev mastodon server people are signing up for also about those things (corporate culture and unions and scandal) right now, or are the main topics something else? And does one Edson run the server, or a company, or a non-profit?

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On my home timeline, I only see posts and boosts (retweets) by people I follow. I believe this is part of the design: there’s no algorithm that decides what you ought to see. This home timeline has nothing to do with the server I’m on: you can follow people on any server you want.

The local timeline is a timeline of posts on the gamedev server, ordered by recency. It seems mostly about actual development, and also a lot of people announcing that they’ve come to Mastodon. I’m not currently seeing any posts about industry grievances.

Given that there’s no algorithm steering you and others towards upsetting (that is: interaction generating) content, I also expect this to be a less common phenomenon than on Twitter.

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Hmm, that actually sounds nice! I peeked over at the public posts there and it seems like a lot of nice indie devs and some people from here like Drew Cool and John Ayliff. Maybe it’s not that bad…

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The task of moderating a Mastodon server is aided by the administrators’ ability to defederate from entire servers. So, in practice, local moderators ban bad actors on their own server. Those users are ultimately driven to servers that will tolerate their bad behavior. And as a server becomes known for harboring abusers, the well-moderated servers decouple from them so that their toxicity doesn’t spill over.

Recently, the non-profit even launched a “covenant” that spells out the parameters of good moderation, and while the covenant is strictly voluntary, inclusion on the joinmastodon.org server list is contingent on participation, so the servers that are most visible to new users will tend to be those that take moderation seriously.

None of that makes moderation easy, of course, and some of the admins have talked openly about how taxing it can be, but those tools help to make it more manageable.

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It’s very bad form to harp on a typo but this one made me laugh sufficiently hard that I had to point it out. @kamineko is cool!

On topic, this bit of discussion makes me realize that the idiosyncratic way I engage with Twitter might have accidentally turned out to be an effective way of limiting drama – I just click on like four or five people I like (you’re actually one of them) and read their posts in order, as though it were an old blog. No algorithms so no weird rage-inducing fights, so long as the people you follow are generally reasonable. And of course I never post. It’s not at all how the site is supposed to be used but I think it works reasonably well!

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That’s how I tried to use Twitter too, but then during all the Brexit shenanigans in the UK I started to question the integrity of the feed I was getting. I’d followed an economist who I felt had a particularly useful perspective. Then I found out he’d been posting regularly and I had not been getting any of it. So I deleted my account.

No human being owns Twitter. It has never repaid its capital investment. At this point it’s valuable only to the degree that it can carry more debt.

We all know where this is going.

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I’ve never seen any of the drama on Twitter because I don’t use it the way they want either. I don’t have an account; I use the Fritter app on Android, which lets you just follow the accounts you want to. I don’t see anyone else’s feed, or any ads. Because I only see what I asked for, I’ve never understood any of the complaints people have about Twitter. It’s a pretty sweet deal.

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Thanks, you two!

I’ve had some nice exchanges in gamedev. Engagement is higher than Twitter because the instance has a focus. There are only 6.3k users there. I would like to connect with more IF people there, but I only signed up yesterday. I’m sure that’s coming.

It isn’t a Twitter experience, but that’s ok. More folksy, less obnoxious. I will probably automate posts to Twitter when I publish new content. On the other hand, I may just dump it entirely. Haven’t decided.

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Did a lot of research on Mastodon after reading this thread. I have yet to find an instance I vibe with, but I love the idea. My only caution re: data privacy - based on what I’ve read, moderators in an instance have access to all content, including DMs between users in that instance, so it’s less private in that sense than other mediums like Reddit (which limits the power of mods, to an extent). Provided you discuss nothing really private, it seems like a great platform for meeting people with similar interests, although I tend to prefer forums like this one - though many of them are falling into disuse, the archive’s searchable trove of useful info gives interaction on here a bit more meaning than those more insular or ephemeral communities.

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It’s the single biggest thing I dislike about Discord and why I don’t like expending too much energy writing anything on any given Discord server. The time and impetus to contribute is limited and I hate seeing something I put effort into immediately sliding into irrelevance as soon as it slides up and past the horizon of what the average screen resolution displays at a given time.

Some people hate necromancy, but I love when someone can chime in months or years later on an old forum topic simply because they read something they resonate with. How many feet or minutes (hours?) worth of scrolling would one need to accomplish to even read a Discord post from a year or more ago, let alone the faux pas of actually replying to that post and interrupting the current discussion with something so irrelevant. Some of the folks reading that reply probably weren’t even members of the server when the original post was made, leading to general confusion and backlash. Necromance an old forum post, and only those who originally took part are notified, and the context to the reply is immediately available.

Anyway, I have similar frustrations with many social media platforms and find myself preferring a forum format more and more as time goes by.

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FWIW, end-to-end encryption is on the development roadmap for a future update. In the meantime, though, yes: nothing on Mastodon (or any social media app short of Signal, really) is genuinely private. The Mastodon devs recently changed the language around DMs (which aren’t called DMs anymore) to try and manage the perception that they’re private.

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