Using Mastodon: The New Twitter
The first time I heard of Mastodon was over a year ago and I really did not understand it. I had a few assumptions: it's a bunch of small disjointed twitters, it's invite only, and it's a pain to use. Wrong, wrong, and wrong.
Last week on Wired, Brendan Nystedt wrote and article, "Tired of Twitter? Join me on Mastodon" which brought Mastodon back into the public consciousness.
In this post we're going to tackle: 3 myths, 3 reasons to join, and point you to 3 articles where you can learn more. Ready?
1 — It's a bunch of small Twitters. It's a bunch of instances of the same software. They're all running independently of each other, but are connected by their protocol. What's most important for the user is that if I'm on the main instance mastodon.social I can still 'tweet' (or 'toot') to people on different instances like toot.cat. I will also be able to search posts from those instances, 're-tweet' (or 'boost') posts, and do pretty much everything I can do with people on my instance. Mostly true... read on...
2 — It's invite only. The main instance of Mastodon, mastodon.social, did stop taking on new users temporarily back in April 2018 because of challenges scaling the network. This kind of thing is bound to happen when new products see rapid and exponential growth. You can track their user count here: https://mastodon.social/@usercount and donate to help pay to run the servers on this Patreon account.
3 — It's a pain to use. Now, no one told me that it was a pain to use, I assumed that one on my own despite complements to the UI that I had read. I tend to err on the side of lazy, probably like most millennials, when it comes to software-use. The minute I heard the word 'federated' and started seeing propaganda-like imagery about joining 'the federation' I put on that glazed over 'what?' 🤨face. If all this talk about instances is too much to wrap your head around (like it was for me), you can just join the main instance: mastodon.social. In reality, it follows a lot of the patterns that Twitter and Tweetdeck follow and it's not hard to use at all.
Why to join:
1 — It's still small. If you're trying to get the attention of certain people, like some of the most well-known tech writers, this might actually be a decent way to do it. (see Hackernoon) There's not a ton of content on this platform yet, so dive in!
2 — The community makes the rules. This can go both ways.... there may be instances of Mastodon which are not censored at all. There can also be instances that are blocked by other instances which have deemed them 'inappropriate.' The censorship you experience is moderated by the account admins. If you don't like the censorship policies of the instance you're on, you can join another instance.
The culture is also very much determined by the users on the network. On mastodon.social there's a culture of sharing your desired Pronouns. I love this!
3 — You're a leader. The reality is, Mastodon might still fail, but if you're hating Twitter right now (Because well, in the words of Brendan Nystedt, "It's become a way to pervert the political discourse, to enable trolls, and to fuel the spread of conspiracy theories.") you have nothing to lose from giving it a try! Bring your friends with you, start your own instance. The worst thing that happens is that it never fully catches on.
Mastodon is growing pretty quickly as of late... August 10th there were 178,332 users on mastodon.social, as of August 20th there are 207,108.
1 — Post from Hackernoon about how to use Mastodon
2 — The most recent post from Wired mostly about why to use it
3 — It's always good to understand both sides; there might be some 'Gotchas'... check them out also on Hackernoon
In the meantime... I'll be here: