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Mastodon Is Better Than Twitter: Elevator Pitch (codesections.com)
467 points by codesections 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 375 comments

OK, here's the problem in a nutshell: no one among regular people cares. You guys are splitting hairs right now when talking about the difference between tweeting and boosting or public companies vs open source or what have you. None of that attracts users. If you have no users, then for regular people, your product is useless. Even the article is not really making a pitch for mastodon that indicates any features at all that would convince any of Kim K or Kylie Jenner's followers to go take a look at it. I'll even go a step further and say that Mastodon is probably more for fringe groups than for the unwashed masses those fringe groups are trying to influence.

Look, you want me to get excited about Mastodon? Show me something exciting I can do with it that I can't do with twitter, instagram, or Snapchat. Is there some triple-I indie game that Mastodon will allow me to play in my browser? (Or triple-A non indie? I'm not picky. Just don't show me a point and click please.) Post the link for that game, you'll get a lot more people trying Mastodon. Alternatively, is there some new and novel porn that Mastodon will allow me to access? Or is there a new generation of FIFA stars on Mastodon? Or new generation of NBA stars? I mean, even a new generation of "It" Girls chasing NBA stars would be better for attracting users than "thoughtful and local uncommented retweets". Which is not only what you're asking me to get excited about right now, but is likely not even true. Boosts will be no more thoughtful than retweets, likely a good deal less thoughtful since Mastodon seems to be on a road that relegates it to fringe groups.

Right now, it's like buying a large tract of land in Kansas and saying that you've started a new municipality. No we don't have beaches, or theaters, or parks, or much of anything else, but everyone here is more thoughtful. so we're much better than Miami, San Diego, or Minneapolis.

I mean, it might work? But I think Las Vegas hit on a much better method of populating empty area by just saying, "HEY! We've got gambling and naked women!"

I think you nailed the USP of Mastodon. Keeping out the marketers, advertisers, vanity metric chasing or fandom makes Mastodon that peaceful scenic beach where your fellow beach goers say hello and share some of their food with you.

I'll take Mastodon fringe over obnoxious Twitter or Facebook anytime.

People often forget that at the beginning none of the current giants were "mainstream", in fact what made them attractive was the fact that they had a unique audience that formed a strong community amongst each other.

The idea of "mainstream" is dying, and will continue to do so. What we're seeing is a deep cultural fracture where communities, ideas, and people do not form the kind of stardom or centralized propagation of ideas that the previous decades were known by. As production gets cheaper, and getting an audience becomes easier, people will begin to form seamless self-sustained communities that support each other (think patreon).

If video killed the radio star, then the internet killed the star, and fractured it into infinite pieces.

I'm a daily user of Mastadon. But... People were saying this on newsgroups and gopher, then on message boards, then about Friendster and all of the social platforms that followed. If the platform becomes popular enough to reach some sort of critical mass, then that mass will drag along all of the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram stardom with it. Some people actually like their celebrities and they expect to see those celebrities on their platform of choice. And, inevitably, the marketers will follow.

Yah. Some people like their celebrities, however those celebrities are also now facing competition by other stars which have far greater community outreach, and influence.

Who do the kids of today look up to? Those are your next celebrities.

I'm afraid that's "youtubers". Both big international ones like Pewdiepie, as well as more local (national) ones.

Many of these youtubers are actually somewhat surprised about the size of their following and the fact they can actually make a living with the profits from their channel.

I'm not sure if there's any other place besides youtube where they can monetize their channel in such a successful fashion. They don't really talk about how much one earns as a youtuber, and I suppose it varies wildly. But otherwise, they're not really tied to their channel, just tell the fans where you're heading and they follow.

You read it here.

It's hard to see how this is the future without experiencing it in some way personally.

Facebook Groups connected me with fans of a particular kind of fringe art about 4 years ago and made leaving Facebook really difficult. This might seem exceedingly anecdotal, and I get that, but you have to realize that, before Facebook, it would have been impossible for any of us to even know this interest existed; much less that there were others also into it. Nothing in the cultural canon quite sufficed, although some trends in music and literature had come close, none of them quite articulated the thing. Finding the thing was a necessary part of a certain stage of my life, and gave me a psychological grounding that something mainstream might never could have. I think admitting so actually devalues the spectacle in question, but I can't deny it. There was a value in the fact that this small group of people spoke this unique language. We became something like a tribe.

Attention economics are strange and only beginning to define our lives. Younger people will depend on fringe engagements to achieve a sense of self-identity that used to be a given. Life experience is going to take a new shape accordingly.

I think early evidence of this is in music scenes, which is haphazardly often the case with forms of sociocultural influence. No conventional wisdom can explain the proliferation of indie music and things like tape labels but these things are massive forces. They just genuinely don't care what you think. They have an audience and it's up to you to be a part.

Mastadon is strangely ahead of the curve and probably doing a poor job of meeting in the middle. I think it would benefit from shoving everyone into Mastadon.social at signup and letting them learn about instances from there. Finding a home is too difficult as it is. But, eventually, it does look like the future.

Why did the other reply to this get killed after only having been posted for eight minutes? Seems inoffensive and like perfectly valid discussion from where I'm standing.

Is drawing attention to the "attention economy" taboo here?

Users flagged it (I'm not sure why) and then the author reposted it using a different account. Normally we would unkill such a comment when we review the flags, since I didn't notice anything flaggable about it either, but we're not going to do that when there's a duplicate.

Here's a tip: general explanations like 'is drawing attention to the "attention economy" taboo here' are basically never the answer. It's almost always something much more mundane. You could also know the answer to your question by using HN search to find any of countless threads that discuss these questions extensively. Even "attention economy", though that isn't one of the more common phrases, shows up quite a bit: https://hn.algolia.com/?query=%22attention%20economy%22&sort....

just thought it strange since I often read HN comments when an article is just posted and rarely see longish, wholly inoffensive comments such as the one in question here get downvoted to [dead] within eight minutes; usually that's reserved for politics etc.

I have the options to see dead/flagged posts enabled and don't see anything, what do you mean?

So do I, the post has since been un-[dead]'d, which is why there's seemingly two duplicate comments now. It was really shocking to see the comment become [dead] within EIGHT MINUTES of having been posted.

That's so for me as well. I've never been able to stand Twitter. There are too many idiots, and even seemingly sane folk all too often act like idiots. But then, I can't stand Reddit, either.

Anyway, I've been tempted to try Mastodon. But I don't like the idea of joining a particular instance, and being unable to change later, without more-or-less starting over. If I or my instance got blacklisted, how would I be better off than being banned from Twitter? In either case, I could come back with an new identity, with new credentials.

The typical reply to your concern is that you have the freedom to initiate/manage your own instance. (Yes, there is also the possibility that you can join an instance and simply export your followers list, etc. But managing your own instance is far more resilient.) Now, as far as managing your own instance, admittedly, this requires skills, money, and time/attention...and if you lack any of those (or reasonably don't wish to invest time/attention), then managing your own instance isn't ideal for you - so I understand your dilemma. If, as you stated that preserving your identity (without having to re-create it often), is essential, there is no better solution to creating and managing your own instance. I do this myself; not because I care about re-creating my identity, but because i like to have control over the servers where i project myself, and also because I am admittedly a technologist and love to play with new software. It might be work - and it certainly is not free - but i do encourage you to at some point consider managing your own instance. Maybe play around a bit by first setting up a test instance with a fake/test identity for yourself, and connect with other users to test things out - for sure other users will definitely be willing to help. Then, you can determine if the investment (yes, in time ANd money) is worth hosting your own instance. Good luck!

That is kind of funny, because Twitter can totally be that, if you want it. You have to be liberal in your usage of the block button, but the advantage is that you have so many genuinely interesting people to follow and learn from. I wouldn't have 1 in 1000 of those on Masterdon, and with their doubling of tweet size, I don't see the problem with arguments.

Before anybody goes about the ecochamber: I ban obnoxious people, self-promoters, bad arguers, I don't ban for sincerely held, well argued politics. I follow a former cam girl, a couple in the rational altruistic movements and a Catholic, pro-life convert.

> I don't ban for sincerely held, well argued politics.

But that's subjective, so you'll just end up reinforcing your own opinions, which is exactly what an echo chamber is, unless I'm missing something...

I tried that, but I failed to learn anything interesting in 140 (or even 280) characters.

“Rational altruistic movements” puts a hole in your armor here.

You might. Most others won’t.

You say problem, I say advantage. Not everything has to be a massive public square! It's okay to be niche. Until the mid/late 2000s, the internet was far more decentralized and often much the better for it.

In other words: https://mastodon.social/@helldude/100572161034726032

The internet and a social network are two different things.

The internet doesn’t necessarily need everyone to be on it to be successful.

The whole point of a social network is that the majority of people are on it. That’s why Facebook is still successful despite being an absolute dump.

I don’t care about the technicalities, open source, etc (and I say that as a software engineer). I care about being able to lookup the person I just met at the bar and add/follow them. Until Mastodon can achieve that, I won’t care about it.

The large majority of people aren't on Twitter, FWIW. Every social media platform except possibly Facebook is globally niche, and most are locally niche too.

Twitter isn't niche when it comes to what matters the most for their platform: having all the most important attention getting users on there. It's dominant. Even Instagram doesn't have what Twitter does on that front.

Twitter has an immense collection of people that particularly matter in their given field, interesting famous people, and so on: celebrities, journalists, media personalities, musicians, authors, politicians, athletes, techies, companies, bankers, VCs, CEOs, entrepreneurs, famous bloggers and gamers, fashion people, etc.

Twitter has an extremely dense, active collection of those people. You can say that you don't personally care about that, however the majority of people very clearly do (and always will).

I don't think the majority of people care, most people don't follow twitter, they might have a user but they don't use it that much. In many non anglo parts of the world most of the conversation is in whatsapp groups which is part of facebook and telegram

"You say problem, I say advantage."

- What are you aiming for then? What is the whole point of that "elevator pitch" if not getting more attention for and grow it so it's not that niche anymore?

> What is the whole point of that "elevator pitch" if not getting more attention for and grow it so it's not that niche anymore?

I think the idea is that they want to use their unique design to grow lots more niches, not make any one niche bigger.

If Twitter is like Times Square, Mastodon is like Kansas City's town square. Mastodon's plan seems not to grow Kansas City into a Times Square sized competitor -- their plan seems to be to grow 1,000 more new-but-different Kansas City sized town squares.

At least, that's the impression I'm getting from reading the third and fourth header's paragraphs.

That is probably true in general. It certainly is true for some social networks. It is absolutely not true for Twitter. Twitter is supposed to be the "massive public square" of social networks. There are plenty of other social networks for interacting with specific and well defined groups of people. Twitter is for interacting with the world at large. If you want to replace Twitter you need a way to get the world at large to use your platform.

The problem is that there's a catch-22. Mastodon is actively trying to get more users when more users will inevitably mean a worse community.

Sidestep. That profile Pic (gif) made me have to read that post three times.

`We're sorry, but something went wrong on our end.`


Ah, there it is.

> Look, you want me to get excited about Mastodon? Show me something exciting I can do with it that I can't do with twitter

I don't think the advantage for Mastodon is being able to do anything that Twitter can't. Instead, it's being able to do everything that Twitter can without a lot of the negatives that come with Twitter.

My view is that, fundamentally, Twitter is a good platform, but it suffers from a number of toxic elements (dog piles, turning everything into angry politics, new "features" designed to increase engagement/number of ads you see, etc.). I'm guessing that "Twitter, but without everything you hate about Twitter" is enough to overcome the network effects, especially as Twitter keeps finding new ways to annoy its users for money.

But maybe I'm wrong about that. I guess we'll see.

Ideas for killer features:

Feeds. Creators collect and filter on subject, importance and volume. Follow a Feed instead of a person.

Locality. Connect people in an area, like Facebook starting in schools. Use age and membership (church, work, school) for getting people onto a server where they know people.

Events and Calendar. Instead of posts with date/time information, make a different type. Let people view aggregated calendars with multiple filters, and make Feeds for calendars.

Private chat groups with their own invite and moderation choices. Put keys on mobile devices so the server doesn't know; can't be available on a website client.

Minor suggestions: Make moving accounts dead simple, and with that, have a global registry/dns for names. Change the name "toot"; isn't "tweet" generic at this point? A tagline of "blow your horn" with a mastadon tusk as the horn.

Using “tweet” infringes on Twitter’s trademark.

(IANAL, but former tweep)

You'd have to think that the trademark would be sufficiently diluted by common usage by now that it was heading rapidly towards invalidation (cf hoover, xerox, etc.)

You go ahead and start selling copiers branded Xerox and tell us how diluted that trademark is. It may be a common term, same as 'googling', but the test here is whether the company is willing to actively defend the trademark. I can assure you that all of the companies you mentioned would certainly have lawyers ready to prove they hold a valid trademark.

What he's saying is that's not a good enough reason to switch. Regular users simply do not care about any of that, and that's where 90% of your base comes from.

I disagree with the argument though. By the same line of reasoning, you could have said in 1997 that Amazon is not a compelling idea because you can already buy books elsewhere. But Amazon allowed you to buy books without the hassle of going to the store. So, without making any predictions about Mastodon, I think that "like X, without the things that make X annoying" is a reasonable pitch if executed correctly.

Comparing buying books online vs at a physical location isn't even in the same universe as retweeting something but without a message attatched

Amazon made it easier to get books; you no longer need to leave your house. What does Mastadon make easier?

To simplify the issue here: Amazon made buying books 10x easier, and expanded the easily purchasable selection by more than 10x.

Mastodon doesn't make anything 10x better or easier. It will never gain mass adoption accordingly. Mainstream users will never care about it, not under any circumstances.

It'll languish as just another techie fantasy, with every other decentralized premise (not one of which has ever acquired mass consumer use, not in decades of trying). It's the standard techie failure to understand average users. The same reason techies for nearly two decades have been baffled as to why average people haven't adopted command-line Linux - they can't be objective and properly put themselves into the shoes of other non-tech people.

>>It's the standard techie failure to understand average users

You mean like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Shazam, Grubhub, Bell labs, Intel, Xerox Parc, Pixar, Amazon etc, just to name a few (and of course Twitter)? Techies have been doing just fine in the anticipation department.

Except those techies fail all the time. But they are big enough that the fails don't matter on the long run.

Everything I hate about Twitter is getting content pushed into my timeline that I don't care about.

I unfollow everyone who becomes overly political or comments on every outrage-du-jour. These people are inviting the bullshit. They're not making important contributions to political discourse. I don't care if they get dogpiled for it.

As a result, my Twitter experience has been smooth.

This has been my same approach lately. I'm noticing certain friends are constantly the ones either starting arguments, or their posts are the ones that frequently get bumped back up to the top of whatever the hell Facebook's "timeline" thinks its doing-because there's a small arms conflict going on in the comment section.

Even though in many cases, I would otherwise be in complete agreement with the core argument being made. The vitriol and vociferation is vexing though (sorry about that).

For all the shade I throw in its direction, the 'snooze' and 'unfollow' features have been more than welcome additions to Facebook as far as I'm concerned.

Gotta be honest, I never thought I'd see the day where "First day of school" pics and statuses actually get engagement from me--they're so much more pleasant and calming than "($CONSERVATIVE_PERSON| $LIBERAL_PERSON | $GROUP | $PARTY ) DID A THING, I HAVE FEELINGS ABOUT IT, AND YOU'RE GOING TO HEAR ABOUT IT".


This phenomenon is more concisely expressesd as "boo outgroup".

I suppose if you are beholden to oversimplifications, sure.

I see it more as reification of a concept than an oversimplification.

You've inadvertently highlighted part of the appeal of Mastodon here. People using Mastodon are the ones who see problems with platforms like Twitter. People who use Mastodon are often attracted to it because they care about issues like centralization, that most people don't care about. This becomes a filter for the community of individuals who share some common ethos that's not present in mainstream communities.

Personally, my reasons for using Mastodon are purely ideological. Companies like Twitter and Facebook go against the very principles of having an open and distributed internet. They centralize power, and get to decide how people interact online. They also create walled gardens that make it difficult for users to move their data between. Each of these platforms locks the users in.

With ActivityPub federation, you can have many different platforms interacting with each other seamlessly. For example, Mastodon already federates with PeerTube, so you can post a video on PeerTube and have it show up in your Mastodon timeline. This is something that will never be possible between Twitter and YouTube since they're run by different companies that have no interest in letting their users communicate with each other.

I think whether Mastodon can succeed or not is past academic debate at this point. The community has over a million users now, and it's growing actively. Mastodon is very resilient by it's very nature of being open and distributed.

A company like Twitter needs to make money to stay afloat, if it doesn't grow then it will go under. This is not the case for Mastodon since it's largely an open source effort, and the core team needs relatively meager amount of money to stay afloat. Meanwhile, the distributed nature means that the cost of running Mastodon is distributed across the community. Instead of one company having to run servers that can support millions of users, you have lots of small instances that each support thousands of users and federate together.

The big social media sites are in the process of evicting everyone who doesn't 100% agree with them. We've seen this kind of thing in history before, and the one thing we know about it is that it is a process without end. Once one group gets removed, another group becomes the outlier, and they become the next target, and so on. Heck, they're already banning political ads from mainstream candidates for US Congress.

This creates a demand for alternatives. Once a community moves to a system like Mastodon, that creates a demand for that system.

No one cares about myspace anymore. In 10 years, noone will care about twitter. That's the nature of technology.

Maybe, but I heard the exact same argument played out around Reddit and Voat, and we all know how that ended. Maybe if the future plays out in accordance with all of the hysteria and slippery slope arguments Mastadon will take off, but otherwise it’s not replacing anything. While I don’t doubt that eventually a replacement for current social media giants will emerge, I doubt we’ve seen them yet. At the very least, I don’t believe the replacement will be a more cumbersome version of an existing service that appeals to technically minded people, or raving ideologues. I’m fact I think it’s possible, if not likely, that people will outgrow social media as we know it today.

>The big social media sites are in the process of evicting everyone who doesn't 100% agree with them.

I think this is untrue. I think social media sites are removing people at .1% outlier belief system that most people deem disgusting enough to warrant taking action to not have associated with their brand.

Your "100%" implies that everyone on say Facebook has to have the same belief system, when that obviously isn't true. You can state many belief system on Facebook, except hateful ones that target swaths of people.

This won't create a Myspace situation, it'll create a 8chan/voat situation.

> I think social media sites are removing people at .1% outlier belief system that most people deem disgusting enough to warrant taking action to not have associated with their brand.

I don't think that's true. Tommy Robinson's beliefs about Muslims are held by a good deal more than 0.1% of the UK population, yet he was banned from Twitter.

> Tommy Robinson's beliefs about Muslims are held by a good deal more than 0.1% of the UK population

Do you have a source for that number?

My main reason for that claim is simply that I live in Britain -- anyone who has done so for a significant amount of time would know that sentiment against Muslims is is a lot more widespread than 0.1% of the population, so I don't think the claim needs defending, any more than the claim "people like sex and money" does.

But I had a look at specific opinion poll results and this one https://yougov.co.uk/opi/browse/Tommy_Robinson suggests that 17.4% of people see Tommy Robinson favourably.

> My main reason for that claim is simply that I live in Britain

Me too, currently coming up to 50 years.

> https://yougov.co.uk/opi/browse/Tommy_Robinson

That's favourability of Mr Robinson, not his beliefs though.

> That's favourability of Mr Robinson, not his beliefs though.

True, but 17.4% is a much larger number than 0.1%

Thanks for finding numbers, but I worry about this one confirming bias against Muslims. For example, one could assume that a 60% approval rate among Republicans of Trump means that 60% of Republicans don't like Muslims, but oftentimes in conversations in my home town in Texas I'll hear something like "oh, he's definitely a jerk about the Muslim thing" or "even if he's racist, he's at least doing something about the economy." So I hesitate to assume that "support" means "wholly support."

In any case, I feel this is splitting hairs over numbers. If 30% of the UK hated Muslims, Facebook still wouldn't be requiring "100% silicon valley values" to use the platform. You just can't post racist stuff on it. I.e. those racists have other aspects of their worldview they'd be welcome to bring to the table.

I suspect the number who hate Muslims is small, maybe 1-5% of the population. The number who have misgivings about the behaviour of some Muslims is clearly a lot higher.

>In 10 years, noone will care about twitter.

If they won’t care about Twitter, why should they care about an open source clone with no users?

It’s also not true of all tech platforms. It’s not true of desktop operating systems for example. Today the desktop is dominated by Apple and Microsoft. Who dominated it 30 years ago? So there’s nothing inevitable about these things.

> If they won’t care about Twitter, why should they care about an open source clone with no users? That’s the worst argument ever.

You’re just assuming the alternatives will have no users. That’s the worst argument ever.

It's actually in Mastodon's best interest not to attract users since users will rip apart their kind, loving, and neat little community limb from limb.

“The big social media sites are in the process of evicting everyone who doesn't 100% agree with them”

That is a flat-out lie, unless you disagree with the terms of service. Find me one person that was booted that wasn’t booted for violating the ToS.

You might want to get outside of your bubble a little instead of making accusations like that.

Perhaps you could explain the case of Elizabeth Heng, a candidate in CA of the US Congress?

I think you might need to get out of your bubble, if you think that most of these people are just "disagreeing".

As for your example, she violated the ToS. They then changed their minds. I'm not seeing the grave injustice you're claiming.

Take a step back and look at what you're justifying.

A candidate from a mainstream party for US Congress with mainstream views creates an ad about her past that is true and historical, and that gets banned.

Hiding behind vague TOS does not cut it.

If the TOS effectively forbids disagreement, what's the difference?

It doesn't. The question still stands.

Or is the nature of social media that people switch to get better filtering and a higher signal-to-noise ratio?

Certainly that got Google search and Gmail started.

If Twitter gets better at filtering, maybe they will be more popular?

One of the ways this ends is that people of different political persuasions set up their own (social) media platforms. This has happened before with print media, where the US used to have and most of Europe still does have media with expressly partisan positioning.

This has happened to some extent with Voat, and if there's really a demand for like minded people to communicate without having their discourse contaminated by opposing partisans then I'm sure the same could happen here.

And right at this moment, no one gives a shit about Mastodon.

Myself and many of my followers and the people that I follow are suddenly starting to adopt Mastodon, especially with clients that cross-post to both Twitter and Mastodon - because we just don’t like the official Twitter client and are unhappy with Twitter’s recent killing-off of third-party clients.

I remember when the www was the same and the CompuServe users said the same thing.

Mastodon has a similar feel in that the content is amateurish and free.

As an anecdote, I use chaos.social and they are throttling signups because there are too many new signups. Maybe you will be surprised.

Yeah, but I remember when the same thing was said about Diaspora. I remember when the same thing was said about various indie game consoles. I remember when the same thing was said about a whole bunch of social network alternatives that never went anywhere.

I get the feeling that regardless of how much more growth Mastodon gets, it's going to be around and in active use for a long time to come, if only because it's provided a space that is meaningfully different to Twitter.

Will it be the biggest social phenomenon? Probably not. But it already has the critical mass to keep funding its continued development, and lot of interesting voices, if you know where to look.

But you can hope right? Or are you happy with your communication, content, attention and ideas controlled for profit?

> Show me something exciting I can do with it that I can't do with twitter, instagram, or Snapchat.

Moderation and content quality.

You know the reason why people prefer reading the New York Times instead of checkout-counter tabloids? The reason why people like buying from Amazon instead of Ebay? I mean, Ebay usually has better prices. Why would anyone buy from a store just because it's able to (or at least claims to be able to) filter bad products and keep off scammers?

That's Mastadon's advantage. The userbase isn't crap. Twitter, so far, has shown no indication that its userbase is ever going to be anything except crap. I don't think it's possible for Twitter to even start fixing that problem. Moderation doesn't scale.

If you're on social media not just to connect to friends - if you're on social media because you want to actually consume cultural content or interact with new communities, then this is like comparing Youtube and Netflix. 90% of everything on Twitter is garbage, and it's suddenly your responsibility as user to sort through all of it?

People want a platform that just works. They don't want to have to download custom block lists off of Github, or turn off DMs whenever anybody gets mad at them. They don't want to have to curate their own timeline. They want somebody else to do it for them, and Twitter can't do that.

> Alternatively, is there some new and novel porn that Mastodon will allow me to access?

Probably? Twitter has policies about pornography - they're inconsistently applied, but they're there. You could make a dedicated Mastadon instance that allows whatever. You can also choose not to have porn show up when you search across an instance because, again, Twitter can't moderate and Mastadon can.

I would feel a lot more comfortable allowing a kid to sign up for a Mastadon instance than Twitter.

> Moderation and content quality.

Those are pretty much guaranteed to go down the more people would use the service.

If you want to attract a lot of people, you will have to accept a lot of people, wether you consider their content crap or not.

Mastadon instances are designed not to become large.

The platform is still in its infancy, but it's intended that people can migrate around the same way that you might move to a new neighborhood. And this is the feature that Twitter just fundamentally can't copy.

When you're talking about popularity, you have to distinguish between Mastadon as a platform/protocol and each individual instance.

I am (increasingly becoming) convinced that moderation does not scale - you can either have a single large community with no moderation, or you can have a small community with good moderation. This is what's clever about Mastadon. Moderation on Mastadon doesn't need to scale, because instances are fragmented.

Twitter will never be able to compete with that unless they split apart their service, which they will (probably) never do.

Maybe a little harsh on youtube. Not entirely garbage. Lot's of good content actually, you just have to tune out the noise to find them.

That's fair, but also kind of my point.

There's a lot of good content on Twitter too. You just have to deal with nazis to get at it. And a lot of good deals on Ebay as long as you don't mind being careful about scammers.

The question is, do users overall want to have to filter out all of this stuff on their own, especially if filtering means fighting with the platform that they're on? Youtube is a great example of this - tons of great content, but you have to put up with the recommendation engine. You either get horrible recommendations, or you constantly train the platform like a cat.

Getting Youtube to give quality recommendations on the homepage is work.

  >> You know the reason why people prefer reading 
  >> the New York Times instead of checkout-counter
  >> tabloids?
I'm not actually sure that's true. Upon a cursory check, People Magazine has a slightly greater circulation than NYT. Heck, a non-trivial number people on YouTube have greater circulation than NYT or mainstream TV News channels and shows, while filming their stuff in the living room of their apartment.

McDonalds serves more customers than a five star restaurant, but that doesn't mean the restaurant is a bad investment or won't be able to turn a profit.

You're talking about different target audiences. The question isn't whether or not Mastadon completely kills Twitter and literally everyone moves over - it's whether there's a compelling reason for a significant number of people to switch over. Is it viable to for Mastadon to become a Twitter alternative with a broad level of adoption?

What people bring up over and over on every one of these articles is, "Oh, the project is doomed because why would any normal person switch over? You're only ever going to have the idealistic tech people on it, and it'll die as soon as they lose interest."

But it turns out that quality has a wide mainstream appeal, and it is a valid strategy to compete with other businesses purely on the basis of "our content is better." If Mastadon grows to the point where it has a similarly sized (albeit slightly smaller) userbase than Twitter and then stalls out, I don't any of what I said above would be invalidated. ;) Quite the opposite.

Sure, but you did not narrow down the audience. People as a whole, it would seem, slightly prefer checkout counter magazines as opposed to NYT. Likewise, I'm not sure bite-sized bullshit regurgitation services like Twitter/Mastodon are even useful in the first place, let alone benefit from refined moderation.

> "HEY! We've got gambling and naked women!"

And for that reason there is a mastadon instance for sex-workers:


Probably blackjack somewhere too

> Show me something exciting I can do with it that I can't do with twitter, instagram, or Snapchat.

You can communicate with anything that supports ActivityPub. That means that you can get RSS-like feeds of blogs in your Mastodon timeline, or use Masto or any other AP-supporting platform to comment on a blog post (if it supports AP for that).

I find that exciting: your self-hosted personal site can now be just as much a part of the social network as something that was posted natively.

It's very much a work in progress but the promise of Mastodon is not so much replacing Twitter as it is a gateway to an internet-wide social graph with no walls.

Regular people do not self-host websites or know what RSS is.

What does Mastodon offer that regular people care about?

It's a nice place to be

No one has to care about which pair of celebs are arguing

No bloody advertising

People are building interesting stuff with it

Third party apps work

It's not run by a guy seemingly at war with his own users

edit: more

Your parents aren't there

The people who left twitter years ago because of all the harassment and you've been missing are probably already there

If you've got a feature request or something, you can just toot Gargron and you will get a reply

Fine, that was technical.

But regular people care about being threatened and hateful conduct. On twitter countless reports go unanswered, and it's pretty clear at this point that there is no intent to make the situation better. On Masto when you report someone or a post for being abusive you've got an actual human (your instance admin) who will look at it and actually do something about it (like blocking that user for the entire instance).

If the instance admin becomes abusive, or treats the server like his own petty little fiefdom, what can be done about it? Why should I trust an instance admin?

Hi, I run an instance.

If I start acting like a jerk, them my users will start leaving. Pretty soon I don't have anyone left except people who like being treated like that. In my experience that will probably mean they're jerks too.

And thus pretty soon my instance is "that instance run by that jerk who lets her users be jerks". At that point, admins on other instances stop federating with my instance. Eventually the only other instances who are willing to talk to mine are also run by and full of jerks, and I am amidst a hell of my own creation.

So that is, as I see it, the external forces acting on me to try and be a chill admin who's nice to her users. It's a lot easier for them to leave my server and stay in contact with people elsewhere than it is to leave Twitter.

I thought we were comparing Mastodon to Twitter where what you say is already the case

Moving instances is not a big deal and yes, know your admin.

One of the ways in which admins often treat instances like their own petty fiefdom is cutting off communication with other instances that don't toe the line. So sure, you can move instances - just don't rely on being able to contact your friends anymore if you do. (Some instances even have a whitelist of instances that are allowed to follow and interact with their users, with everyone else blocked.)

It's rare to outright block an instance (for not moderating child porn or something of course but not otherwise really)

Instead most "blocks" are just muting from the federated timeline, precisely so that you're not cut off from contacts.

How do my followers know to follow me to the new instance? How do they know it’s actually me?

You can mark an account as having moved and specify to where.

Not reliably, and unless your followers are watching for it, they might miss it.

In good old times we had IRC, where you could go to channel op and report an abusive message. Or to bot master, or to server admin. Depending on personality of that guy (usually they were guys, not girls), it could end with a ban for the offender or personal attack on you. The problem with actual human is that actually you cannot trust him to govern without being accountable, even if you know him and even if currently you are friends. When I checked several large Mastodon instances (>1000 users), I was not able to find any signs of a formal and legally binding policy, which means that their admins are not accountable and you have no more rights than a slave of a pharaoh. Mastodon instance may protect you, but is not required to do so and there's no guarantee that it will not support your offender or it will not suddenly abuse you.

> I was not able to find any signs of a formal and legally binding policy

Every single centralized service (Hacker News included) reserves the right to ban anyone for any reason. Twitter may have a policy, but in practice it's no different than anyone else's Code of Conduct. It's certainly not legally binding.

Regular users don't care about whether someone could theoretically become abusive in the future - maybe they should care, but they don't. They just look at the track record and decide if they trust that person right now.

And right now, Mastadon instances are better at moderation than Twitter. You're worried about an instance admin theoretically not protecting you in the future; Twitter already, today, doesn't protect you.

That's exactly the point: regular users don't care, so they won't consider Mastodon based on whether it can be trusted or not. For those who care Mastodon pretends to provide a trustworthy service, but in fact it's no better than Twitter or anything else. Even if current situation with moderation is better, it's the same as to advertise participating in some deadly stunt on the ground that "noone died yet". Where are the guarantees that an instance admin that is "out of patience" (you can find such example somewhere in comments here) would not decide to ban you from her instance in a bad mood?

But in practice small instances are better at this than large platforms, and in practice flexible moderation policies are pretty observably better at curbing abuse than ridged ones are. The point isn't that Mastadon is perfect, it's that it's better. In business, better is good enough.

A lot of people are OK with a middle ground where moderators remain, but are closely associated with their communities to reduce communication problems and increase their stake in doing a good job. Is it really crazy to believe that someone might want to trust other people, but also want to have more selection over who they trust?

You're here, so I would hazard a guess that you're OK with that middle ground too. HN admins could theoretically turn this site into 4Chan or Reddit if they wanted to. But we both trust them not to, and the fact that they theoretically have the power is not enough to make either of us throw up our hands and say, "well there's no difference, and nobody will care, and there's no reason for anybody post on HN instead of Reddit."

There are a lot of people here posting on a dedicated tech-community Reddit clone about why fringe Twitter is a bad idea.

Mastodon has literally no moderation tools. There is absolutely nothing to prevent impersonation or harassment.

That's incredibly inaccurate. There are a number of different tools available to users, and even more available to instance admins and moderators.

Source: I'm a moderator on anticapitalist.party. AMA.

significantly less toxicity and content they don't want to see in the first place. Twitter is like standing in the centre of a crowded mall on a hot summer day. Mastodon is a small friendly pub.

I guess what it offers them is social media that actually maintains your peace of mind to a degree.

Open anarchic communities are not toxic only while they are young and fresh. Eventually they will grow and either establish a set of formal and legally binding ceremonies with unsatisfactory result (actually I don't know any really good decentralized example here - Wikipedia is the closest one) or become toxic and die (IRC).

the point of mastodon communities is that they are not anarchic. The fact that they're human scaled and moderated is what allows them to impose sets of rules that actually make spending a few hours there palatable. (The same advantage that say, the smaller hackernews community has over a 500k population subreddit)

That's the advantage they have over twitter, they're able to set community rules that fit to the respective communities. It's twitter that suffers from the anarchy.

When twitter users are setting up filters and mass blocks to remove all the nazis and trolls and conspiracy theorists from their feed, they're essentially just trying to painfully recreate what you get in a mastodon sized community by design.

Can you give an example of mastodon community with clearly defined and legally binding policy, that protects rights of regular users? I could not find any (doesn't mean that they don't or cannot exist, of course) and highly doubt that any admin there has motivation or resources to develop it and properly implement. Pure declarations like "we are good fellas and don't allow abuse" mean nothing - they are not enforceable and regular user cannot sue instance admin for violations.

As a Mastodon instance admin, you just made an argument for me to never have a clearly-defined and legally-binding policy. Thanks.

The main thrust of my user agreement is "hi I am queer lady who is out of patience with people being jerks and wants a nice place to talk, if you piss me off you can go find a new instance or start your own". It's not much more formal than that, either.

Sounds more arbitrary and a lot worse than Twitter’s policy.


You want a more lawyer-like policy with tons of explicit rules for people to try and work around, then run it yourself.

You trust your admin to not screw you over the same way you trust, say, the people who run that chill coffeehouse you’re a regular at.

Coffeehouse is heavily regulated. There's consumer rights protection, all sorts of safety inspections etc. The only thing that requires your trust in a coffeehouse is the quality of their coffee and the only damage you'll get with the breach of that trust is the price of a cup. Being banned from a social network harms you more than that.

Spot on. I left Twitter (well left an auto bot behind) and took my live posts to Mastodon. It's so much more relaxing with masto.

Twitter has been banning people left and right. On Mastodon, you're in control. People care about that.

You're proving his point, count all the techie words you used in your comment, regular people don't know-care about all that.

Yes, that was technical. That's the stage we're in right now because AP is quite new. It will take a while for it to develop and mature to the point where interesting new use cases emerge for non-technical people. Personally I'm excited by the potential, even though all the answers aren't there and you have to use your imagination a bit.

To summarise what you've said in one sentence: "mastodon is a technology, not a product" - it doesn't have a business model, a way to scale and grow like a business.

And if it did, well it'd be just another commercial social network, and most of them completely suck.

Technology is not the solution to this problem.

> "mastodon is a technology, not a product" - it doesn't have a business model, a way to scale and grow like a business.

I'd agree with 2/3rds of that. Mastodon is a technology, not a product, and it doesn't have a business model.

But that does not mean that it can't scale and grow—it means that it doesn't have any way to turn scaling and growing into money. email is a technology; javascript is a technology, the microchip is a technology. All of those technologies have seen tremendous growth, and none of them have made money (though products using them certainly have).

I suspect that, if Mastodon grows, it will be precisely because it is a technology, not a product. Making money isn't the only way to grow.

Further: I just looked at Mastodon.social.

No, my non-nerd friends do not wish to "Join the Federation!"

Not to knock what Mastodon are doing, rather to criticise the idea that it's a social network for everyone.

Personally I'm looking at using this with my small network of friends and family and could care less whether or not Kim K joins. What you can do here (and with other similar applications) is share things with your friends without ads and without your data being owned and sold by a corporation.

Only if all my friends and family are on it, and they'll want all their friends and family on it, and they'll want their friends and family... etc...

It's like the value of a social media platform is in lots of people being on it

>Look, you want me to get excited about Mastodon? Show me something exciting I can do with it that I can't do with[…]

Have a healthy conversation? I know some people who stopped or reduced social media usage because that was pretty much impossible. Plus the local feed thing. Start an instance for your neighbourhood, follow people who are on there, and you've got all the neighbourhoodly gossip on there. Whilst still being able to follow whoever else you want (except Wil Wheaton because he went to a non-federated instance)

Last time I tried mastodon it was really difficult to find any quality content. Search was mostly unusable and local timeline was full of jokes and things that did not matter to me at all.

Fair enough. The current influx has made this worse (lots of metaposting about joining mastodon), but that depends on who/what you're looking for. Try another instance, maybe? That might be the greatest onboarding weakness, that if you settle on an instance that you don't like it kind of ruins the experience

It's a place you can go to talk with your friends and maybe make a few new ones, without constantly having things that show up that try to piss you off.

And as it grows maybe it starts to be a place where you have to go to find some of your friends. I mean, who the hell wants to be on Facebook any more? How many people still go there because that's where they can keep up with certain circles?

It's also a place you can run for your friends, and kick out anyone who comes in trying to start trouble.

We've got chill. We've got quiet. We've got a place to talk semi-publically without EVERY ASSHOLE INCLUDING A ZILLION BOTS being there, and we've got an overall structure that maybe makes it more likely for people to want to keep things civil.

Arguably, Twitter doesn't have much "regular users" either.

Most people have never logged in to Twitter, and have no idea how it works. Ask around among the normal people you know if they've ever posted there. A somewhat larger number will say they've used it to read messages from famous people but for most normal people, their Twitter consumption consists of media reports of what someone said on the platform.

As someone who uses Mastodon on a regular basis, I can tell you that it's usable right now, and that I have much better interactions there than anywhere else.

At the moment, Mastodon isn't Paris or London, and thankfully it isn't Las Vegas either. And that might actually be why it's such a nice place.

I see this as similar to a Windows vs Linux thing. Where as Mastodon might never be popular there's nothing to stop it existing. People can find their own communities however small and be content in those.

Regular people never used Linux and they still don't use Linux desktops. But there's still lots and lots of Linux desktop distros that people who use love. Not many people have genuine affection for using Windows, but when someone's installed their own distro they have genuine affection for using it. They'll donate hours and hours of their free time fixing issues.

People currently have genuine affection for using a mastodon instance. Genuine affection is a very powerful tool.

Honestly, to a first order, no regular people care about Twitter either. Only journalists, celebrities and a small cadre of tech folks who haven't quit yet still use Twitter. Twitter has only a tiny fraction of the users of Facebook or YouTube.

You realize similar dissmissiveness was levied against Twitter before it took off.

It's hard to predict the fate of social networks.

What if I told you that twitter can have celebrity engagement tooling mastodon can be for people actually talking to other humans, and that these are other use cases artificially slammed together by Facebook and Twitter to try and monetize services that no user asked to monetize.

Sit on your high horse until the heat death of the sun, for all I care. But don't think anyone's not noticing you're posting and talking here instead of on a reddit. There is clearly some benefits to sub-selection and partially isolated communities.

> Look, you want me to get excited about Mastodon? Show me something exciting I can do with it that I can't do with twitter, instagram, or Snapchat.

This, again and again. (And again; it seems I can’t stop writing the same thing on my own blog: https://davepeck.org/2015/05/05/twitter-mainland/)

By that logic, what did Facebook offer that MySpace didn't? What did MySpace offer that a forum didn't? What did all of these provide that a lot newspaper didn't? A lot of these platforms brought things to the table that weren't direct product features. People are motivated by more than features, though a lot of tech people seem to feel otherwise.

No "regular" person liked Twitter, at least not until it got critical mass.

The entire point of Mastodon is to ensure there is no single instance that can control every other instance. Twitter has real issues. For instance, due to their inability to police truly awful behaviour (in the name of freedom of expression) there is no way of limiting the very worst excesses of the medium.

However, if you localize instances, then you allow people to gravitate to those instances they feel most free to join. It also allows instances to reject other instances they really don't want anything to do with - so Fosstodon would presumably block anything from Stormfront.

Frankly though, your idea of "fringe groups" is wrong - it will probably allow for SIGs. In fact, I'd say that Mastodon in that regard seems to be more like a distributed reddit than Twitter, only it basically emulates Twitter features and UI.

Has anybody tried business models on top of Mastodon/ActivityPub?

For example, a premium instance. Costs 100$ per month. Gives you 24/7 phone support, a free iPhone X, and the opportunity to toot exclusively to other premium users.

This might not be quite what you described, but masto.host is a hosting provider that specializes in providing managed hosting for Mastodon instances (and they charge way less than $100/month!)

> I mean, it might work? But I think Las Vegas hit on a much better method of populating empty area by just saying, "HEY! We've got gambling and naked women!"

That's a bit the selling point of pixiv's mastodon instance. Artists post their art there, including NSFW material and it is more aligned with local moral standards.

Now if you just want discover art it's a terrible tool (just like twitter is) compared to dedicate art hubs like pixiv or dA, but for following individual artists it seems to work.

Mastodon is quite big in Japan for some reason, also sex workers have started using Mastodon as a platform where they can express themselves freely.

Eventually, it could attract the masses.

Meh. I see your points, they are all valid and true.

Mastodon might "win" just because it'll keep working after Twitter finally dies.

You put a lot of trust into twitter dying, but don't seem to concede that inertia is a gigantic part of what holds twitter above water. Users are already too well established on twitter to leave even in the worst of times (see: facebook incidents), meaning I'm quite doubtful it will die in our entire lifetime let alone soon. Social networks haven't been around long enough to be able to tell whether dying is actually even possible for them.

Nobody among regular people cared about twitter at first either, and it was far from the first social media site.

I miss the old internet when we trusted each other enough to trade star wars cards by posting on forums and exchanging mailing addresses. If I tried to do that on today's internet I'd have a SWAT team show up to murder me. And not even because my star wars trades are bad, but because of my support of women's rights. When you have One Thing For Everything, all the wires get crossed. It sucks.

The place where the people AREN'T and the kylie jenners AREN'T is a perk of mastodon to some, not a flaw. It's like the tech nerd version of kids not using facebook because it's their parents' social network.

I just want to share cool pictures of my modular origami and not constantly be two degrees of separation from Trump's latest outrage


From the article:

> Twitter Is in the Outrage Business; Mastodon Isn't a Business

I need to spend way more time thinking about this, but I feel like in some scenarios there is a competitive advantage to not needing to care about stuff like stock prices or insane prices.

If you can get a business or a project to the point where it's stable and competitive and it's funding you enough to keep going, then there's a whole bunch of stuff that you don't need to care about. That's obviously not universal, but there are clearly downsides to large businesses. There are things that large business will always be worse at then a small business or personal project.

Again, I haven't thought enough about this to make a cognizant point, but... it feels like something I want to think about more. Being a nonprofit or a small business or a completely non-commercial entity should in some instances give you a competitive advantage over other businesses. Facebook can copy every single feature and then some of Snapchat.

But Twitter can't really copy everything that Mastadon is doing, because some of the stuff that Mastadon is doing is completely contradictory to Twitter's entire business model. I feel like there's something to be said about (if you're in Mastadon's position) figuring out some way to tie at least a few public-facing features into that nonprofit model that you know, 100%, your largest competitors will literally never be able to do.

It's worth noting that one of the supporting points here

> And Twitter doesn't have any choice in the matter, either. [...] Twitter is a public company, funded by investor money; they thus owe a legal duty to make as much money for their investors as they can

is not, strictly speaking, true. This has been discussed a few times on HN recently. (And this book The Shareholder Value Myth is well worth reading: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17529520 .) There's no categorical legal requirement for a company to make share value the absolute, #1 priority. On the other hand, it may be that enough people believe this duty exists that it has a sort of ipso facto existence.

If investors feel that profit is not being maximized, they can sue or take other actions to punish those they see as not focusing on profit etc.

I mean, the point is that "you aren't prioritizing profit" has legal standing for investors. And "we don't prioritize profit in cases that involve harming the world" does not is not a legal stance for the company unless the harm itself is illegal or the entity is a Benefit Corp or similar.

I agree that investors may sue management for fraud or corruption. "Not maximizing profit" is neither fraudulent nor corrupt.

Investors who feel that profit is not being maximized can sell their shares or can vote to replace management. They can also buy sufficient shares from other unhappy shareholders to let them take control of the company altogether, and manage it themselves.

What evidence do you have that any shareholder has ever won a lawsuit against a company on the basis that the company was not maximizing profits?

It's true that investors can sell if profit isn't being maximized, but how often does that happen in privately held companies?

E.g. if startup X has the tech to take over a market, but is insufficiently pursuing a profit opportunity because of moral squeamishness, chances are relatively good that investors in X will simply replace the executives with somebody that will pursue those opportunities since that's vastly cheaper than building up competitive tech in a new investment.

Similarly with publicly traded companies, not pursuing profit opportunities can result in large sell offs of a stock. You see a lot of animus against short sellers that suggests that the "businesses must maximize profit" norm is thoroughly ingrained in investor communities even if it's not legally mandatory.

> ... even if it is not legally mandatory.

Do you agree, then, that there is no legal requirement for a company's management to maximize profits, and that you know of no cases where a shareholder prevailed in a lawsuit against management for failure to maximize profit?

Similarly with publicly traded companies, not pursuing profit opportunities can result in large sell offs of a stock.

That isn't obviously true. Eg, Amazon spent years actively doing everything possible to avoid making profits.

If investors don't like a company's strategy then they can try to get management changes or they can sell. But company strategy goes way beyond the blind pursuit of profit.

E.g. if startup X has the tech to take over a market, but is insufficiently pursuing a profit opportunity because of moral squeamishness, chances are relatively good that investors in X will simply replace the executives with somebody that will pursue those opportunities since that's vastly cheaper than building up competitive tech in a new investment.

That maybe true sometimes, but it is a lot rarer than you seem to believe (especially with early stage companies). The team running the company is a very large part of what people invest it. As a good counter example: Uber. Few would say that Travis wasn't pursuing profit every way possible, and it was the investors that moved against him because of his bad moral judgment.

With early stage companies, often what happens is investors subsidize an investment precisely because they know what the profit strategy is and because they think it's strong.

With Uber, Travis was attempting to undercut competition. Investors subsidize rides because when there is no competition they are in a better place to profit. Amazon (I believe?) was reinvesting the money in the business while subsidizing prices and package delivery to gain loyal customers. Many times an investor will subsidize a no-advertisement experience to gain an audience, and then switch on ads when the network effects are strong enough to retain the audience.

This is basically Machiavelli's advice that new princes should give favors to the masses when they rise to power, so that their positions are stronger later. But the real goal is always to turn profit aggressively, even if investors are patient for a few years while they maneuver into the right position.

Also just to be clear, no investor wants a business to pursue every profit opportunity. They want the business to focus on a strategy that will maximize profit given their strengths, and that always involves focus rather than being distracted by every possible opportunity.

"Legal standing" isn't quite the right phrase. I think you're saying the board does in fact have a legal duty to prioritize profit above all else?

If so, are you sure, and do you have sources? wool_gather said that "There's no categorical legal requirement for a company to make share value the absolute, #1 priority", despite a widespread belief to the contrary. And you seem to be just flatly contradicting him, without making any argument or providing any sources, which is... not the most helpful way of moving the conversation forward.

I think the parent meant something closer to legal standing (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standing_(law)) than an obligation.

The investors have actions available to it than can punish executives for not pursuing profit opportunities sufficiently aggressively. Many of these don't involve the court, but some may.

Conversely, a founder that loses his/her business because investors punished them in this manner has no legal basis to fight to retain the business.

Well, your wikipedia link seems to confirm my layman's understanding of the term "standing", which is that it is about a party's right to participate in a court case. I am no closer to seeing how the English phrase "you aren't prioritizing profit" could "have standing". I think quadrangle is confused in his phrasing, if not in his underlying ideas.

Of course investors may do various things. But we're particularly interested in the question of whether the company must legally maximize profit, even if not directed to do so by a majority of shareholders. wool_gather says no, quadrangle says yes, I wonder whether quadrangle in fact knows what he's talking about.

You say "Many of these don't involve the court, but some may." But the "some may" is kind of what we're trying to get into: if you like, the question is "can a shareholder successfully sue the company for not maximizing profit, even if a majority of shareholders haven't directed it to do so?". As far as I know, that's equivalent to asking whether the company has a legal duty to maximize profit.

To have standing you need to show that you are an injured party. I believe the original commenter was saying that not attempting to maximize shareholder value is in some cases an injury that is sufficient for an investor to bring a suit. I don't know whether this is true or not, but I believe that's what they were thinking when they referred to standing. In the case of a fiduciary, investors do have recourse to legal action if the fiduciary fails to put your financial interests first.

In general, I agree that a company is not legally obligated to make a profit. For example, there are many little shell companies whose main goal is not to turn a profit but to do something else. There are also B Corporations that have special legal protections for investors pursuing goals that are not strictly financial.

So in that sense, wool_gather is correct. A company is not legally obligated to maximize profit. But as a practical matter, if you raise money from professional investors, the strength of agency theory and the norms of ordinary business suggest that you can get into legal or financial trouble if you don't put the financial interests of the investors over nearly all other interests.

> A company is not legally obligated to maximize profit.

Well, if we agree on that core point - which I think is all the point that wool_gather was trying to make - then that's great! And I think there's no point in the two of us investing any more time in picking over quadrangle's slightly confused reply.

I'm afraid I can't resist pulling on one more little thread, though :-) You've sort of hand-waved "legal or financial trouble" together, but it seems to me that legal consequences are very different from other consequences, in that there has to be a legal basis for legal consequences. "agency theory and the norms of ordinary business" can't condense and resolve themselves into a law: there either is a law on the books or there isn't.

I understand that shareholder lawsuits are a thing that can happen under some circumstances. But if the law doesn't make "not maximizing profit" sufficient grounds, then it doesn't, surely?

Well I think taken literally, "not maximizing profit" can't possibly be sufficient grounds for an action. Nobody really has any idea of whether any particular strategy is profit-maximizing, so it's hard to believe a company can be sued for not following a profit-maximizing strategy.

But shareholders can sue over alleged harm to a corporation. I'm not a lawyer, so I really have no idea what the standard is here. But purely speculatively, I suppose someone could be sued for repeatedly missing obvious profit opportunities because the executives objected to them on ethical or other grounds.

I get the impression, though, that shareholders are more likely to sue for committing an active blunder (like selling off a division for an insanely low price) rather than for missing an opportunity.

There's a list of some famous shareholder actions here: https://www.dandodiary.com/2014/12/articles/shareholders-der...

More charitably, I think what people like quadrangle are really meaning to say is that there is a significant legal framework that very strongly incentivizes and is inspired by the idea that the first obligation of a corporation is to maximize profit. And if that was the point, then I think that's pretty close to the truth.

Sure, you won't be arrested for not maximizing profit, but remaining in business without attempting to put profit first is sufficiently hard that it typically requires special legal protections (as in B corporations).

Ah, I finally begin to see what you mean. Sorry if I've been a bit boneheaded in this thread. I finally started googling instead of speculating, and I found this thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/law/comments/3pv8bh/is_it_really_tr... which seems to confirm your ideas about the significance of benefit corporations. It looks like the key legal case happened surprisingly recently - 2010.

Apologies again: you were right and I was blinkeredly literal.

Thanks for the deeper back-and-forth. I did mean "standing" as brought out here. I.e. simply that failure to focus on profit can create a situation where investors can file a suit that won't just be thrown out.

I'm saying that there's enough legal premise around the idea that the business is working for profit. The investors buy stock with the premise that the business is aiming to provide a return. If they don't aim for that, they can be accused of not running the business in good faith or of misleading the investors…

I'm not saying there's an absolute legal imperative to maximize profit. I'm saying that investors are given enough legal tools in our bureaucratic world that they really can use the legal system along with other tools to bully companies into focusing on proift above other values.

A company just saying in court, "X would bring more profit, but that wouldn't be as good for the world" isn't going to get a suit dismissed if the suit is based on a bunch of complex legal allegations about the company misleading investors or I don't know what other wide range of possible legal arguments are available…

But for Benefit Corp or similar, investors would have less have legal standing to bring suits based on the companies following the social priorities laid out in their Benefit Corp bylaws etc.

Yes, this seems to be broadly true. TIL about benefit corporations. I deeply apologize for my repeated rudeness towards your original post.

Profit is not the same thing as share value.

> they can sue

Not, as far as I know, with any likelihood of success, no. There's a doctrine called the "Business Judgement Rule", which says that -- generally speaking -- boards/officers are not liable for bad stuff happening to the company as long as they act in good faith, without conflict of interest, and using their honest judgement of what is best for the company -- which doesn't mean the shareholders.

If they sacrifice what is "best for the company" in order to do better for the world, they can be accused by investors as not acting in good faith on the premise of pursuing business success etc.

You can always be fired for doing a ‘bad’ job, however your employer/shareholder defines bad. The law gives management really broad authority to define “good” and “bad,” though typically that’s easiest to measure and quantify through profit. (Especially for shareholders, who have alternative uses for money —- if the shareholder cares about Cause A, he has less to give to it if his investment underperforms.)

You can’t intentionally waste assets, you can’t put personal interests above the company’s interests, and there’s another set of rules when you sell the company — but “prioritizing profit” is an economic argument about what’s good and best, not quite so much a legal standard.

In USAmerica (at least) you can sue anyone over anything. That doesn't imply a legal obligation per se with regard to whatever your claims might be.

Exactly correct. The federated model is what makes this possible. A centralized service like Twitter has huge operational costs to serve their audience. But by distributing the load on thousands of independent operators like Mastodon does, each instance keeps their costs low and can easily be funded by their users. It has a local community feel, not a corporate mass-appeal feel.

Beyond incentivising revenue and profits, it also incentivises growth. Twitter gets punished when it’s account growth or activity numbers drop (or fail to meet expectations). Which leads to perverse incentives for the platform such as tackling spam accounts / low value interactions, high volume / low value mobile notifications (I find twitter the worst for this), the whole re-ordering of the timeline controversy. This is what I feel turns products into skinner boxes, because the need for growth incentivises those kinds of features, and the numbers go up. Those numbers can mask the decline in quality. That’s where I see mastodon having a huge advantage.

This may be a culture thing more than anything else, and more deeply how certain environments affect culture.

For example, in my career I’ve seen nonprofits, large and small, being very hawkish in competition for government contracts. So much so that I developed a saying - “Nonprofit is a tax status, not a business model.”

I think Wall Street is another business environment that creates these very hawkish business cultures, even in (relatively) smaller businesses (biomed for example).

Just thinking along with you here... not sure where I’m going with it. But I know I’ve worked with nonprofits that were very hawkish and sharked the competition all the time.

What’s your view on the “not-for-profit” structure, I wonder?

Most of the time I see “nonprofit” and “not for profit” being used interchangeably. Profit, or “fee” in the government contracting world, is almost always being earned. It’s a question of purpose.

Theoretically nonprofits focus on some other purpose first (but not exclusively). “For profits” businesses have the primary purpose of making profits.

That’s the theory. In application, lots of nonprofits are loaded with business people trying to make money under the tax shelter of that tax status.

The competitive advantage to "X is a protocol versus a license" is it's inherent proclivity to being bootstrapped. It's no different than Bitcoin spawning a million nodes from a single white paper.

The big worry is how do you maintain that early adopter culture as the service scales. Some will adopt invitation-only gatekeeping. Others an onboarding process that emphasizes customer development.

Mastodon makes its culture explicit up front and in its design. And it seems to be working.

Say you manage to create something the world wants to use. We’re talking 100k+ users.

If you don’t have funding, a team will get some and blow your bootstrapped app out of the water.

In the case of Mastodon, not really, it's main advantage is federation and investors are not going to want to give many to any app that people can host themselves. They want centralization for ad tracking etc. so at most said team would end up with a Twitter clone.

understanding the money flows and their influence on the direction of the business/non-profit/managing entity - are really really important here (and non-trivial imho).

The money flows that direct mastadon's development and subsequent proliferation could be very good for its competitive edge (vis-a-vis twitter) or they could land it right in the same "outrage" territory as twitter. If they don't really have a good set of hypotheses on how twitter ended up where it did, they won't be able to test solutions that solve for those.

Its really hard to say what will happen from our current perspective and at this point in time. I hope the mastadon maintainers are developing a strategy to keep it in the problem-solving territory they desire.

You would think that non-profits could be more competitive than corporations. Imagine a non-profit Facebook clone that shared its advertising profits with the users. How could Facebook compete with that?

I went to the Mastodon website and clicked "Get Started" and was brought to a menu where I needed to choose a server. Many of them focus on niche interests, and it was not very clear what to do if I wanted to be a member of more than one of them.

I'm a techie; I could figure it out. But it is too much to ask of the general public to wade through many niche servers they won't understand, e.g. the one for BSD fans and multiple furry-themed servers. And there seem to be several overlapping Chinese-language servers -- which one should a Chinese newbie choose? And what prevents each server from devolving into a petty little fiefdom where the moderators abuse their power?

Compare that to getting started on Twitter: pick a username and password, boom, done!

The Mastodon project is clearly designed for a technical audience, whether or not that is what they actually intended. Outside of the techie bubble the usability is just not there.

Yeah, I agree that this is the biggest usability hurdle, and its actively being worked on.

That said, there are plenty of good general-purpose instances and it's not that different from picking an email host. Sure, you can spend hours figuring out which email host to use, but most people go with a name they've heard before (e.g., Gmail) and don't need to think much about it at all. I could see Mastodon getting to a similar point once it gets more established.

Except that the established big-name corps probably don't have an interest in running a Mastodon instance. (And if they do, they'll do it in the similar way that Google Talk and Slack used to support XMPP: Once they have a significant-enough userbase, they burn down the bridges ^W federation.)

> But it is too much to ask of the general public to wade through many niche servers they won't understand, e.g. the one for BSD fans

What is the general public though ?

Most people have niche interests. Grand parents can go fishing, and registering to a fishing centric server could be great for them.

The network I like the most is a place for people to show their drawings. It’s as niche as you can get, I don’t know if these people fit your “general public” label, but they’re not “techies”, they just like to draw.

In that sense I think it doesn’t need to be an ocean of content, small ponds are fine as long as they are discoverable, and most niche communities are good at sharing these kind of technical resources.

> Most people have niche interests. Grand parents can go fishing, and registering to a fishing centric server could be great for them.

That sounds great in theory, but (1) I have a dozen different niche interests, and there's not going to be one instance with even half of them, and (2) AFAICT there is no "fishing centric server", and even the "Mastodon instances wizard" doesn't provide a way to search for them -- it's only about whether I want to allow porn/spam/ads.

Are my grandparents supposed to start their own Mastodon instance, just so they can hang with their fishing buddies online? Am I supposed to get accounts on 10 different instances, one for each of my interests?

I just don't see how this is supposed to work. Everything I read about Mastodon in the abstract is great, and then as soon as it gets into any specifics it falls down.

There’s actualy a fishing centered mastodon: https://hebinuma.com/2017/05/08/basstdnjp/

In japanese though, and I have the feeling mastodon is working better in japan than some other places.

About the lack of aggregation...well, it’s sure easier to be on facebook or twitter to get info from a lot of places.

The other side of the coin is it’s a PITA to manage, there is “contamination” between the groups and anonimity is pretty hard.

A way to strike the balance can be to have a dedicated network for things one really cares about, and twitter/facebook for the rest.

You make a good point (and one that's being worked on being overcome, better onboarding and whatever).

But consider twitter:

>Compare that to getting started on Twitter: pick a username and password, boom, done!

And then what? follow some celebs? Figure out if you know anyone? On mastodon you can use the local feed to find people interested in the same subjects (or same culture), and then you start talking. I've seen many people be surprised that within an hour or two on mastodon they've had more and better interactions than years on twitter. The experience once you're there tends to be quite good (from my completely unbiased and scientific viewpoint, of course)

> On mastodon you can use the local feed to find people interested in the same subjects (or same culture), and then you start talking.

People have no problem doing the same thing on Twitter.

Wait, so once you've overcome the off-putting insanely technical (who in their right mind thinks about "servers" outside of tech circles?) onboarding, mastodon is a lot better?

It does not make an iota of difference.

>who in their right mind thinks about "servers" outside of tech circles?

the way a lot of subreddits are used, for example, is intuitive enough to people who get used to the concept. 'servers' or 'instances' as a word might be too technical, but the concept of different groups you join, while still being able to talk to others? Of course my experience is 99% people who have persisted and joined, but they seem to enjoy it.

Mostly because you join, you think "this is confusing but I've arrived" and there's a few hundred people on the same instance who are interested in similar things, who know people from other instances who have similar interests, etc. I think it might help build a network quicker (or at least, that's what I've heard from a lot of newer people that have joined since I've been there!)

But you can only create your account on one server. It feels limiting compared to subreddits, which you use a centralized account to subscribe to several.

You can follow anyone on any other Mastodon server with that one account, so it's basically the same. That's what the federation is for.

I had to stop using Reddit with the recent redesign. There's no way to get at a community you like without being stuck on the platform. The growing ActivityPub ecosystem is different. I can hop over to another instance and still talk to the same people.

I can't do that with /r/DaystromInstitute. It's lost to me because I don't want to deal with Reddit. Maybe it's less intuitive--and I think nerds give average users way too little credit--but I prefer it to losing access to a community over platform decisions.

To combine what two sister comments said: you can create multiple, but you can follow people anywhere. So you don't _need_ to create multiple, but you could. Like subreddits. Some people have their "meme/funny stuff" account for reddit, and a nsfw one, and a 'news/serious stuff' account. Likewise you _could_ do that all from one account, but you don't need to.

You can have multiple accounts on multiple servers.

The general public already understands that one can have multiple email providers. Maybe just word this better, but I don't think the concept itself is that hard to understand.

To be fair, it's very similar to email, you select a provider like Gmail or Yahoo and go, it's not like you can't talk about music on a car-oriented instance.

> One of the most pernicious parts of Twitter is how people will retweet something dumb, offensive, or awful that an opponent said, along with a message mocking that opponent. Over time, this leads people on all sides of an issue to see only a distorted caricature of their opponents, comprised of an amalgam of all the worst features of that group.

> How does Mastodon solve this issue? Well, Mastodon doesn't have retweets; it has "boosts". Boosts are essentially like retweets, with one key difference: there's no option to add your own commentary.

I think "Right problem, wrong solution". The reason people mock bad ideas on Twitter is probably because Twitter has a character limit. Refuting bad ideas often takes longer than 240 characters. In fact, putting forward bad ideas takes less time and energy than refuting them. This is why, usually, burden of proof is placed on the one making a claim. Otherwise people who value truth will be exhausted from the approximately 10 times the effort it takes to refute false claims and truth will never win out.

Showing bad ideas to be bad is very important in civil discourse, not being able to point out bad ideas by "retweeting" them with commentary will likely make this social network an echo chamber devoid of intellectual curiosity

> I think "Right problem, wrong solution". The reason people mock bad ideas on Twitter is probably because Twitter has a character limit. Refuting bad ideas often takes longer than 240 characters.

It's not even the right problem.

The problem is not mocking people, disagreeing with them or whatever (incidentally the twitter character limit doesn't preclude external links or tweet chains, which are extremely common at least in science twitter). It's that doing so through a retweet (or a boost) is a signal to followers, and that can send hordes harassing a single person, because it's very easy for followers to click on the RT/boost and reply, and they're not going to see that thousands of people already did exactly that.

And the person at the other end of the pipe has to deal with a flood of burning garbage.

And more generally that kind of crap is easily weaponisable, twitter provides few tools to deal with it, and they don't usually apply their own rules. I don't know that Mastodon is any better.

Fundamentally, social platforms are only good so long as they've not reached their eternal September yet, or are actively prevented from doing so through active and unforgiving moderation — which can have its own issues.

> And more generally that kind of crap is easily weaponisable, twitter provides few tools to deal with it, and they don't usually apply their own rules. I don't know that Mastodon is any better.

The key difference here is that, once we've noticed that this lack of context (ie..."has someone already made the point about $G_OUTGROUP_MEMBER_23049 or $G_OUTGROUP_234 that I'm going to make?")...we can actually change the code to Mastodon/whatever fediverse server/client to provide solutions to it(see, for example, pleroma's "did you type 'open source' when you mean 'free software'?). Technical measures could be considered and tested in small instances and then scaled up as they are found to work/not work.

With birdsite you just throw up your hands and say "well, the corporation doesn't think it's a priority. ¯\\_(ツ)_/¯ "

Is this really such a big problem, especially for the average user, to make it a key feature of the platform?

Sure, occasionally an otherwise obscure person might find themselves at the end of an unexpected shitstorm, but otherwise it generally affects more prominent users, who are well aware that anything mildly controversial can turn into lots of angry replies.

Is that even a real problem? Isn't it actually valuable information to know that people get really angry about this-and-that? Aren't researchers able to use this data to learn something about human behavior?

Seems to me like people want to blame technology for something that's really amplified human nature. A rehashing the old story of the "basically good" human corrupted by some foreign evil.

> Sure, occasionally an otherwise obscure person might find themselves at the end of an unexpected shitstorm, but otherwise it generally affects more prominent users, who are well aware that anything mildly controversial can turn into lots of angry replies.

And that's supposed to be a good or even neutral thing… how?

> Is that even a real problem?

Very much so.

> Isn't it actually valuable information to know that people get really angry about this-and-that?

Not really, and that isn't even relevant to the issue of it actively harming people.

> Seems to me like people want to blame technology for something that's really amplified human nature. A rehashing the old story of the "basically good" human corrupted by some foreign evil.

You're the only one talking about "basically good human". The amplification of human nature is the very issue at hand, "human nature" has not evolved in that context and while it may work at small scales it demonstrably does not at the scales we're involved in. As a result it is ethically and functionally necessary for the tool to mitigate human nature since they're the ones amplifying it to downright and outright harmful levels.

It might be human nature and interesting from some perspective, but that doesn't mean it's good or fun to be a part of. It may be human nature for everyone in Thunderdome where a sign says "only one man leaves alive" to choose to fight brutally to death, but that doesn't mean we should continue or promote hanging out in Thunderdome over alternatives that encourage other parts of human nature instead.

>Sure, occasionally an otherwise obscure person might find themselves at the end of an unexpected shitstorm, but otherwise it generally affects more prominent users, who are well aware that anything mildly controversial can turn into lots of angry replies.

People often join social networks to follow, interact with, or become prominent people, so it is a problem for them if all of those prominent people are continually sacrificed.

CGPGrey has a great description of this problem with his video "This video will make you angry":


The gist is that pithy, low-effort strawmans of an opposing tribe are highly attractive and contagious memes.

I don't think it has anything specific to do with Twitter. You see similar issues everywhere: Facebook, Reddit, and of course meatspace. It's a human problem.

Twitter and the short character-limit may magnify it a bit, I'll admit that. But the actual problem can't be solved on Twitter or Mastodon. Each individual needs to be aware of this human problem and to constantly make an effort to notice and counteract it in their own brain (which is very difficult and error prone). Perhaps if enough people start doing that more, then cultural change will take place. I don't know.

>But the actual problem can't be solved on Twitter or Mastodon. Each individual needs to be aware of this human problem and to constantly make an effort to notice and counteract it in their own brain (which is very difficult and error prone). Perhaps if enough people start doing that more, then cultural change will take place. I don't know.

Twitter has a profit incentive against people solving this problem. Places like Mastodon at least have the possibility of designing against the issue or somehow encouraging education about it.

> I think "Right problem, wrong solution". The reason people mock bad ideas on Twitter is probably because Twitter has a character limit.

Well, I didn't mention it in the post, but Mastodon also ups the character limit to 500 characters (really, even more, because links always count as 24 chars, regardless of actual length). So if you're right that that's part of the problem, then it's also partly addressed.

But I think the bigger issue is that retweets encourage you to try to refute/mock/engage with bad ideas in a tweet. With Mastodon/boots, users tend to just ignore bad ideas (or, if they're really bad, respond at length in a blog/medium post)

You're right that it could become too much of an echo chamber, but it will at least avoid becoming a rage-generator.

"Rage generator"

I've been calling certain social platforms and areas "hate lasers" for a while.

> Refuting bad ideas often takes longer than 240 characters.

Not necessarily true.

> Showing bad ideas to be bad is very important in civil discourse, not being able to point out bad ideas by "retweeting" them with commentary will likely make this social network an echo chamber devoid of intellectual curiosity

Theoretically yes, but the problem with Twitter is not "properly" refuting ideas, because there is no such thing as absolute truth when it comes to human interactions. People will tend to believe whatever they want, independent of facts. Furthermore, people may interpret the same fact in completely diverging ways, depending on their prior conceptions.

Not allowing awfulness to spread could be more efficient than helplessly trying to refute it.

> Not allowing awfulness to spread could be more efficient than helplessly trying to refute it.

Didn't you just basically say that what is "awful" is subjective? You're basically saying "maybe echo chambers are better".

I generally agree with "people will tend to believe whatever they want", but many people do change their minds, especially as they age. Pushing people into the underground just makes them more extreme.

Also, don't underestimate the power of public mockery. What makes Nazism most unattractive isn't the fact that it's abhorrent from some moral perspective (that not everybody shares), it's the fact that most actual Nazis are total losers by every measure.

> Didn't you just basically say that what is "awful" is subjective? You're basically saying "maybe echo chambers are better".

Yes, I did. Instead of retweeting, you let the awfulness die out instead of getting more attention, i.e., don't let opinions escalate. Awfulness here doesn't have to be what I consider to be awful. And I don't see what this has to do with "maybe echo chambers are better".

Now, I don't know whether that would be more efficient or not - it could, right?. Neither of us know, so perhaps the Mastodon experiment may teach us something.

Twitter didn't used to have retweets with comments but people did basically the same thing using manual retweets or . replies. I imagine if Mastodon develops a big partisan political community the same thing will happen there.

Yeah, that particular criticism dances right up to "The problem with Twitter is that people are using it".

The number of people that will take the time and effort to verify the things that they read or hear pales in comparison to those that cherry pick whatever fits their biases, and everyone is limited in time and attention span. It's a signal to noise problem, and while technical people have a mental model of this problem in the concept of DDoS attacks, I would guess that many people lack awareness of how bad information can simply clog their attentional pipeline and exhaust motivation to verify.

Mastodon defaults to a character limit of 500. Instance maintainers may change this - mine's got the highest limit of any I know at 7777, for instance. (And mechanisms I won't get into to make it so that you can't spam someone with really long toots.)

You can talk about bad ideas without retweeting them, too, you know.

It's not really a solution. Screen shot; toot with your mocking comments.

The posting from a few days ago that reimagined email as a social network really got me thinking how much our approach to social networks has been led by the webbification of everything.

The spirit-of-the-nineties approach to recreating mastodon would probably look like one or two dominant native apps and something like a newsgroup server. Or maybe something like a really great RSS reader.

Questions about federation vs a walled controlled servive would be silly, because technologists are fighting it out to sell the best app. And of course a walled-in service is stupid because that would be as obsolete as Compuserve.

We’re all fighting it out on the web now. Well, except possibly on iOS and (grudgingly) Android. In some ways I think the web was how we geeks made survival on Linux possible, as we never had the mass to demand desktop apps.

Part of what I liked about the reimagining of email as social media was that it allowed for the return of the app. In the case of Mastodon, the protocols are presumably open and don’t preclude interaction via apps. So here the question of web or heavy client is not technical but one of point of view or preference.

This is all to say I kind of miss when we were chasing “the killer app” as opposed to competing for service share. When the focus was on the user’s desktop, any associated service was more or less seen as boring plumbing—-certainly nothing to have brand affinity for.

EDIT: Case in point, there’s another comment explaining that Mastodon doesn’t let you move instances and retain followers. In the 90s app-centric view of the world this is a non-issue, because following other people is the client’s job, for better or worse. Your computer crashes, you lose who you were following. If you want to publish who you’re following that’s you or your client’s job.

Giving up your social network graph to the service provider isn’t an issue in the heavy client model, because the 90s service isn’t going to pay to store that information on your behalf anyway. It wasn’t because the service viewed that personal information as “oily rags”; it was because they simply didn’t want to expend the resources to store it.

> In the 90s app-centric view of the world this is a non-issue, because following other people is the client’s job, for better or worse. Your computer crashes, you lose who you were following. If you want to publish who you’re following that’s you or your client’s job.

If all the state related to following is on the client, then the client has to either consume the stream of all messages (on a push model) or regularly poll its sources across its entire follower set (on a pull model), both of which are extremely inefficient. Some pressure in the direction of centralization is intrinsic to the problem.

In the 90s app-centric view of the world this is a non-issue, because following other people is the client’s job, for better or worse.

In the 90s, if you moved from your universities' mail server to Lycos, you also lose all the people who you were following, since they still had the previous email address.

Mastodon just happens to work in the reverse (you have a list of people you follow, rather than of people who follow you, as in email), but the issue is the same.

Yes, though it was hypothetically possible to buy a domain and host your own email. Not a solution for most people in those days, certainly!

That’s gotten harder and easier today. It’s never been harder to properly manage a mailserver yourself. On the other hand, registering a vanity domain and hosting with a neutral 3rd party like (my current) Fastmail has never been easier.

Someone should make a startup that suggests and registers a vanity domain on users’ behalf and then configures the email hosting provider of the user’s choice, spelling out the costs and tradeoffs of each. Work out the billing with a handful of providers and take a small monthly cut. It’s probably a beer money startup :-)

Come to think of it, given this problem is so old, I’d be surprised if nobody has made this.

I’m surprised FastMail hasn’t made it.

Many webhost deals will include a domain and a webserver. I guess the main thing they lack is marketing: people in the market for a vanity email will not now to look for those deals.

I’ve been saying the same for a long time. Email gives you both a distributed delivery mechanism to unlimited users and a data storage platform. If you want things available in more than one place, leave it on the server and sync with IMAP.

All you really need to turn it into a social network is an app that can read it, parse it and arrange it in a more convenient manner than clicking on individual messages.

Something like Delta Chat?


This is a good article. I just wanted to take issue with this claim: "Twitter is a public company, funded by investor money; they thus owe a legal duty to make as much money for their investors as they can."

This is a common misconception. While public companies have some duties to shareholders they are not required to maximise profits as such: https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/04/16/what-are-co...

It's important to be aware of this so that corporations cannot use this excuse to get off the hook for otherwise immoral behaviour.

Thank you for battling against the "must maximize profits" antipattern.

>Finally, with instances, you keep control: if you find that you don't like the moderation policies or culture of a particular instance, you're always free to pick up and move to a different one.

Last I heard, Mastodon didn't support migration between instances while still keeping followers, etc. Instead, you have to essentially start from scratch with a new account on a new instance. This is a serious problem because it strongly discourages exodus; Twitter itself shows that people will put up with a lot of nonsense before leaving to alternatives because they've cultivated a brand and a following and don't want to lose it all. Moderators of instances are not a static thing; like any political system it shifts with whoever is in charge over time. An instance that seemed friendly to a user initially can over time become more oppressive to them, but the user has invested so much into that instance that they would have to leave behind that they'd put up with it when they shouldn't have to.

Yeah, I spent a few weeks (months?) on Mastodon, and even though I was on a cooperatively owned and operated instance[0] it just wasn't a substitute for a fully p2p social network.

I found another network called Scuttlebutt[1] that I've been using almost daily. It has a few neat features:

- your account is just your public key

- your profile is an append-only feed of JSON messages, each cryptographically signed

- when you follow people you replicate their profile on your device

- messages are transmitted with an eventually consistent gossip network, which is fast and resilient

- you can assign nicknames to yourself and others, and since there isn't a central naming authority (if you have two friends named Matt, you get to disambiguate however you would in real life)

- all data is downloaded locally, so you can view all the same content whether you're online or off-grid

- you can reply while offline and your messages will sync when you peer again (again, think gossip networks)

- there are tons of different clients and implementations and applications running on the network

  - Twitter-like posts  

  - IRC-like chat  

  - blogging  

  - Signal-like private messages
  - image search  

  - chess (!)  

  - secret sharding among friends (!!)  

  - mutual credit  

  - by far the best community I've ever been a part of

Anyway, if you want to love Mastodon you might look into Scuttlebutt.

[0]: https://social.coop

[1]: https://scuttlebutt.nz

EDIT: having trouble formatting the list, did I mention that Scuttlebutt supports full Markdown?

Giving scuttlebutt a try - thanks! Here are my experiences:

1. App seems quite unpolished for Windows, it looks best not maximized. I was asked to provide a name and was a little disconcerted by the message that this is going to be public and cannot be deleted.

2. I've now joined a public server. This required going to a github page, following a link and copying and pasting an "invite" into the Patchwork application. The first one I tried threw and error that I didn't understand, but the second one worked and connected me to over 700 people.

3. The channels page is completely empty.. it seems like all I can see is a feed of people following one another.

4. Problem above solved by re-starting the app! Now taking a long time to download information, but I can see actual content.

5. I posted my first reply to someone's message. You get the prompt reminding you that everything is public and forever every time it seems.

My overall impression after about 30 minutes doing the above is that this is potentially really cool, but a few steps away from being immediately usable by someone who isn't tech oriented. Going to try a few more Scuttlebutt apps as I'm curious how well my identity can transition across different clients.

I'm not a user, but I have been watching it (and its related projects on github). I believe Patchwork[0] is the social network you joined, and it is based on scuttlebutt[1].

It seems like very early times for most people even considering the downsides of centralized 'social media,' and it will take time and hand-holding to demonstrate the alternative possibilities. A great client app that could unify the user experience, but offer power-user features could go a long way. Most people that I know (older) are not overtly interested in participating in any public social network (i.e. Twitter).

I wonder if one could build a more closed, private, white-list-default (triple opt-in!) type of social network on top of SSB with the right client software?

[0] "A decentralized messaging and sharing app built on top of Secure Scuttlebutt (SSB)." https://github.com/ssbc/patchwork

[1] "A database of unforgeable append-only feeds, optimized for efficient replication for peer to peer protocols" https://github.com/ssbc/secure-scuttlebutt

Yep, Patchwork is a Scuttlebutt client that implements some of the most common funxtionality: pubs, following, blocking, posts, likes, replies, and some profile data.

Other clients like Patchbay do that plus more experimental features, but it's all running on top of Scuttlebutt and you can change clients at any time.

If you're familiar with cryptocurrencies, these clients ate like wallets -- there are a ton of different ones with all sorts of pros and cons, but you're still on the same network with the same append-only feeds.

With that said, these are rough around the edges, especially when it comes to entering the network for the first time. We've got a lot of work to do. I appreciate the feedback!

Sounds very nice, but Scuttlebutt seems to be for desktop computers/servers only. I can‘t use it on an iPad or on the smartphone...

This is delightful. Scuttlebutt appears to be very much the sort of approach that I was talking about in another thread about 90s app-centric approach.

And here we see the downside of that approach: “it doesn’t support my platform.” The irony being that the unsupported platforms are arguably the last bastions of “I expect a native app.”

All told, I think I’m coming around to the idea that this problem is better than the problems of walled services. This one is fundamentally technological, while the Facebook / Twitter service problem is corrosive to individual privacy and society.

You can export the lists of people you follow, block, or mute, and then import them into your new account at your new instance.

With regards people that follow you, you can mark an account as migrated and leave a forwarding address. People are starting to do this, and it seems to be working reasonably well, although it's obviously not ideal.

This is a difficult problem to solve and people are actively working on it. If you have a suggestion as to how one could create and sustain a presence on one instance, gain a body of followers, and then migrate all that to another instance, then I'm sure people would be interested to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Would it be interesting to have sort of a signed "302 moved permanently" message that signals to other clients to automatically follow the other account?

But what if the original instance shuts down, or becomes malicious and doesn't cooperate?

In any kind of distributed system there are failure modes you can't protect against, the best you can do is create a mechanism that will work in most cases and go with that.

When you leave you can export the people you follow, and it's likely that without too much trouble you can get the list of people who follow you. I've just done so, and it didn't seem to hard. There isn't really a simple interface for it - I just listed them and saved the HTML, then extracted them from that.

Having got your list of followers you can then ping them to let them know you've moved, and I suspect someone somewhere is working on a way of doing that semi-automatically.

It also discourages from joining smaller instances in the fear that they might go away.

I recently joined Twitter and I have to agree that Retweets are the most cancerous part.

Accounts with many followers act like schoolyard bullies with their gang of yes men.

I still see federation as being too niche, but it doesn't have to be that way! I think in an ideal situation, federated servers would rely more on physical location than on deviant niche hobbies or addictions.

The Smith family should have a server (or your neighborhood should) rather than cyberpunk.furry.foxes. Because the reality is that people are more than just one thing and the concept breaks down when you start discussing action movies or cryptography on your @steve@luddite.peace account.

I think secure-scuttlebutt goes for more of the real world location-based server concept a bit. But I think most people prefer the peace of mind of some kind of administration being possible if needed.

ISPs could even provide the federated services like they provide e-mail. Another way it might work is companies that sell people federated service servers as products that they can deploy for example in their home or let the company host it. In any case maintenance must be included. I don't see how federated will take off without commercial support. The Smiths might be technically capable but I doubt the Jones's who are not are willing to let the Smiths control their service. That kind of defeats the point.

There is at least one[0] company providing mastodon hosting as a service. There really should be more though. The more Mastodon becomes compliant with Activity Pub, the more you could potentially replace all social media with it. Then both email and social media would be properly federated.

I agree that the Jones' wouldn't want to be hosted by the Smith's instance. But I can forsee something like a local co-op managing an instance for all neighbors. But personally, I'd rather just pay a company that I know is subject to various laws and consumer agreements, etc.

[0]: https://masto.host/

Do people use ISPs email anymore?

Yes, and it keeps people locked in to their ISP because switching would involve updating the email address in all of their online accounts and notifying all of their contacts about the change.

I finally convinced my parents to bite the bullet and switch to Gmail so they can switch to a better ISP. It's a real problem.


I think the term "toots" is spectacularly bad, and could majorly hinder broader uptake of their service.

Word of mouth (or 'word of text') is a major way services like this spread. Imagine discussions of Twitter in the media but where the words "tweet" and "tweeted" are replaced with "toot" and "tooted".

I love open source software, I hate Facebook and I dislike twitter. People in my community want to know what I think about technology, and I’m strongly inclined to recommend stuff that isn’t FB, Google, Apple, etc.

But a mastodon “tweet” is called a “toot”? Honestly? Am I insane? Is it just in the USA that that means “fart”? It truly is spectacularly bad. Branding and naming matters, and it’s not shareholders that care. Users care.

The free software movement likes silly things like these.

The main dev of Mastodon is not American. Toot just means the noise that is made with a trunk, like tweet is supposed to be the same for birds. It's only in the U.S. that 'toot' is some kind of synonym of 'fart' or whatever and I'm honestly tired of Americans imposing their own cultural thinking on everything, instead of trying to actually understand it. The majority of people do not live in the U.S.

Nobody is imposing anything, but I don't think publishing something that about half a billion people would read as "I just farted about history of labor relations in 19th century UK" is a very bright idea. The majority of people indeed do not live in the US, but a lot of people do, and even more people share enough of cultural context to know what the meanings of "toot" are to completely overshadow any original intent. If the word has several meanings and one of them is bad, that's the one people would remember.

It's not just the U.S. I'm from Australia and it's the same here. I would imagine it's also like that in other countries.

In any case, even just considering the US market, it's clearly a very large and important one for any software system. And, what a word means there has nothing to do with Americans imposing things on others.

Why is nicknaming Richard as Dick ok, but toot isn't? Seems way more offensive to me.

I hate cockroaches and yet have deployed CockroachDB in production. The insistence on being puritan seems shallow to me, considering the real problems this world is facing, but to each their own.

In the context when you're clearly referring to a person, it's clear the meaning is "Richard". It's common for words to have multiple meanings and it's easy to navigate those from the context. With "toots" as a verb describing what someone does "Joe tooted about his plans", for many people, the meaning of that word in such a context would normally mean that bodily function. So the difference is in the kind of context-sensitive meaning that comes to mind.

> In the context when you're clearly referring to a person, it's clear the meaning is "Richard".

It's not anymore clear than toot - if I say, "Hey Dick", it might be the insult depending on the context. Now it's unlikely to be if the name is Richard, but since you can't really fart about stuff, it's unlikely that you're farting about your plans.

Ever wonder why "git" isn't very objectionable? Because it is an obscure British insult, not an American one.

In every one of those cases the context makes the meaning clear.

Nobody uses the phrasing "Hey Dick" for the insult. That would be either "Hey, you dick", or "Hey" followed by a long pause and then "Dick".

"Git" -- as a name for the software -- is unobjectionable because it's obviously not calling anyone a git. The term "git" by itself isn't offensive.

All very different from saying that someone tooted, or referring to their toots.

Even if it's "Richard tooted about politics" the thing is that the only prexisting use of the verb "tooted" that applies to a person is the bodily function, so that association is always going to come up -- and remember also that for Mastodon to grow it has to bring in new people who are not familiar with it or its terminology, and first impressions are important.

If I were targeting a global audience, I would still avoid words that are completely benign in the US like "bloody" and "fanny". It's just common sense to make your language more globally accessible.

Surely a short message is a tweet, I can tweet you on Twitter ... but also on FB messenger. You could also just call it a "message" if it's not got a low character limit.

You don't need a new name on every new service.

People thought precisely the same thing about "tweet" when Twitter first came out.

I never heard "tweet" being a word for a bodily function largely considered indecent and/or hilarious. Is it?

It's not in Australia. I have only heard it used as a word for a noise birds make.

Can you elaborate on the problem you see with the word "toot"?

It's an onomatopoeic term for briefly sounding a horn, but I almost never hear it used for that. In my experience, there are two primary uses of the word in American English:

1) In the expression toot [one's] own horn, which means to praise oneself. Often in the form "I don't want to toot my own horn, but [...]".

2) A cutesy word for a fart, used primarily when talking to young children.

Notably, an elephant using its trunk to make noise is said to be trumpeting, not tooting.

So I'm born and raised in the US Midwest, and in my entire life 'toot' was never used as euphemism for 'fart' except in the context of the elementary school rhyme. I can perfectly understand people not liking the sound of the word or even how it looks, but the fart connotation seems like a manufactured rationale to me. Actually, for the population that would possibly use the word that way, i.e. 8 year-olds, the usage would be a positive feature, not a negative.

It may not have that meaning for you, but it does for others. It's nothing manufactured.

And, for many people, it's the only meaning that naturally comes to mind in phrases like "I tooted" or "Joe tooted".

Isn't 1) exactly what tooting and tweeting both are really about, though?

Tooting is a more wholesome activity. Tweeting is an inherently performative act due to the nature of the platform. To toot is to be.

> Notably, an elephant using its trunk to make noise is said to be trumpeting, not tooting.

So if Mr Trump was on Mastodon would we say he was tooting or trumpeting?

Beans beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot.

Aside from "toot my own horn" the only other uses of the term I can think of are:

Kids impersonating the noise a train horn makes.

A word for farting.

The only context in which you'd normally say that someone "tooted" is the latter.

It's clearly an attempt to make people think about "tweet" without infringing copyright/trademark, much like the way the generic Dr. Pepper at the grocery store might be called "Dr. Skipper". Mastodon should come up with its own concepts.

Nope. Hbomberguy suggested it jokingly, and then it was done.


Not everything is a cynical ploy. There are still pure and wholesome things in this world.


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