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From GNU social to Mastodon (sdf.org)
186 points by panic on Aug 26, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 138 comments



I've become more and more annoyed with Twitter (the company) and Twitter (the things people are tweeting) and I've been looking for a replacement. I really like the way that the Fediverse has all kinds of different groups/instances/neighborhoods. For example, I joined https://ruby.social this week and I've had some interesting discussions about Ruby programming. Twitter is a mess of everything because anything and everything is a topic.


I like it too, but having used it casually for about a week, I'm wondering how you visit different communities without creating multiple accounts? It should be as easy as visiting a different subreddit.

(I do know that you can subscribe to individuals in other instances, but haven't done that yet.)


There's a tension here between different views of what Mastodon should be. Is an instance more like an email server (where it just acts as a gateway) or a web forum (with a community of people on each instance)?

It seems like the ActivityPub protocol itself is designed from the "email server" perspective, but as different instances try to differentiate themselves and attract users, I bet the platform will swing more and more toward "web forum". It'll be interesting to see how it turns out.


Even if each instance has its own community, that's no reason to force users to create a different account at each instance.

Given the federated protocol, it's a reasonable expectation carrying around the same identity across instances.


I feel like the product signals a strange mix of the two, which has to at least be resolved in terms of what's user-facing (e.g. UX-wise)


There’s a beta iOS app called Toot that solves this by letting you add timelines for instances you don’t have an account on. If you try interacting with anyone on that timeline, it asks you if you want to use one of your other accounts to handle that interaction. Don’t know if any other clients offer this.

Link: https://mastodon.social/@tootapp


10,000 prototype apps/mockups sprung up (a good thing) after mastodon.design popped up. Some of them are bound to launch with this feature.


Mastalab on Android seems to do the same now, based on recent release notes. But, I haven't figured out how to do that yet.


The only thing that creates an instance's community is the local time line. Everything else is federated. So what you're really asking for is to be able to easily view another instance's local timeline I guess. There's some work being done in that area, currently focused on merging multiple instances local timelines, but the same technical infrastructure could easily be used to be able to show another instances local time line in the frontend.


Let me see if I understand the problem.

alice register on instance "music"

alice wants to see what's up on instance "books"

Is the problem that the default behavior of Mastodon requires alice to register a new account on "books" just to see that instance's timeline?


I wouldn't say that's the problem. You do not need to register a new account to see an instance's timeline.

For example this page shows the instance's timeline without logging in: https://mastodon.sdf.org/about

If you like someone's toots there, you can follow and message any user on SDF's instance from your account on any other instance.

As mentioned elsewhere, the only thing you would gain by creating an account on sdf.org is to have your toots appear by default in the local timeline of other sdf.org users.


Yes, that is exactly the problem.

Although it might be better to say that that's the manifestation of the real problem. The real problem is that I want to be able to talk about books sometimes, even though I'm a musician so I registered on the musician instance. If there's a way for me to have conversations about books, I don't care whether it's an "instance" or not. I just don't want to manage two separate accounts. (As an end-user, none of my end-goals mention the word "instance".)


Yeah, I guess I'm confused about why an instance has any topic whatsoever associated with it.

For a federated design I'd assume the main difference among instances to be code of conduct/ToS.


I've been on one Mastodon instance and one Pleroma instance. Neither really had a set topic, and both pulled in some toots from other instances that were "similar", but my posts are about anything I want, as they would be on Twitter.


Slack also have this same "problem" but strangely enough, it didn't stop them from growing as they are now.


There is a limited "A look inside" view in each Mastodon instance's web interface, but it doesn't compare to reading a subreddit anonymously where you can basically read everything without joining.

More generally, my question is how do you meet people who are talking about something interesting to you? (Considering that there aren't many people using Mastodon yet, I don't expect to chat with people I know.)

The web forum/subreddit model makes it considerably easier to find interesting subject-based communities. This doesn't seem to be what Mastodon was designed for, but it seems like a good idea.


My tool unmung.com/mastoview let's you peek at local and federated timelines on other instances (by default the homepage view is federated, which is less useful in a large instance)


Yeah, I've been wondering if I can write a bot that signs in to other accounts and aggregates things for a primary account.


A number of instances in the Fediverse run bots whose sole purpose is to follow "interesting" accounts that they find on other instances in order to beef up the bot's instance's Federated feed. It can be a useful tool for small instances to still see a wider view of the Fediverse without any individual user themselves following a lot of people.


I assume you can't and this is a fundamental problem of federated systems.


In Mastodon, I believe you can -- but it's more of a Twitter-dump than something as well-separated as subreddits. Each time a user follows someone from a new server, that server's "federated feed" is added to the homeserver of that user. It's not perfect, but it does mean that federated feeds do spread organically (and it does result in single-user instances spam-following everyone so that you can get a more cohesive feed).


> Each time a user follows someone from a new server, that server's "federated feed" is added to the homeserver of that user.

Wait, is this a thing? I've been using Mastodon for months and have never seen this in the UI.


The "federated timeline" tab should be what I'm describing -- though to be honest the last time I talked to any of the mastodon folks about this was more than a year ago (the semantics might have changed).


we're working on it ;)

there are a handful of proposals for doing SSO on fediverse, but it isn't super high priority since creating multiple accounts (alts) is a pretty common practice here.


> but it isn't super high priority since creating multiple accounts (alts) is a pretty common practice here.

Then you'll only end up with users that are willing to put up with that, and you will not get users that perceive this as a major inconvenience (I'm in this camp, and I suspect many, many others are too.)


As a long time Mastodon user, I've never done the alt-account thing. If I'm interested in another community... I follow a bunch of people from that community. You don't need to have an account on every server, and I never have.


On the android app I use, switching between accounts is as simple UI wise as switching to different instances (or spaces or whatever the top level division is called) in Slack. In two taps I can switch between tech themed and social themed for example.

I agree some platforms make multiple accounts hard to the point where you're registering multiple free email accounts, installing multiple browsers and using incognito mode, etc.

That is not inherently the case, and can be quite the opposite when allowing users to control multiple accounts is part of the software's design.


But tying accounts to instances, and then instances to topics, is bad design. The purpose of multiple accounts from a user perspective should be for having separate identities, not separate topics of conversation.

If you're forced to create one account per instance, there's no way to do something as simple as "merge comments from two instances into a single stream", which supposedly was the selling point of federated systems like Mastodon.


I'm of the opinion that tying instances to topics is the mistake here. Since the software is mostly following the email provider model, I think it makes more sense to base instances along other lines of trust model/ownership model/hosting provider than "topics".

Obviously "topic" is the easiest way to differentiate instances today, but when was the last time you choose an email provider based on "topic" (or even domain name, for that matter)?


growth isn't a huge priority for my fediverse neighborhood/instance cluster. we welcome new people, of course, but it doesn't really matter if you sign up or not.

that said, you don't actually need multiple accounts to join conversations on other servers/topics. any account can talk to any other account on whatever server they happen to be registered on.

alts are more about identity than topics, in any case. in some cases, the topics you interact with are different, but that mostly depends on how much your want to differentiate your various identities.


I am really really don't want to sound like an troll, but didn't you folks basically invented phpbb forums?


It actually sounds like a really bad USENET implementation to me.


People who downvote me without providing any counter-examples, please.


For any kiwi twitter refugees, I'm setting up https://mastodon.nz. Very quiet so far, but fully functional and federation is working well. Come on over!


What I don't understand: Why do they promote the software instead of the protocols?

News and e-mail had different server software and clients and were both used around the world.

Mastodon uses standard protocols, too.


People use software, the value add Mastodon has over GnuSocial is that it's software that advertises itself to users on its own merits. (Well that and a moderation policy that's stricter than Twitter's, supposedly.)


GNU social was never supposed to be a brand seen by end users. The idea was “take our software, make your own network”


Yeah, but I'd like to use software that isn't written in PHP or Ruby (for a variety of reasons, some valid, and some not). If the protocol was better documented, there might be more choice.


The protocol is pretty well documented and even has a tutorial section: https://www.w3.org/TR/activitypub


There is pleroma which is written in Python and functions with the mastodon web interface natively .



I probably remembered wrong... still not Ruby or php!


Either the techbro journalists dont understand that, or they do and know their readers wont understand or care.

Most Mastodon articles fail to even explain that its a server software anyone can run and talk about mastodon.social like that is the whole thing.


Because protocols need implementations to be appreciated.


They still are.


I tried Mastodon early on and it was pretty slow, which I assume is due to it being a Ruby on Rails app that probably wasn't heavily optimized. Probably also partly due to there only being a handful of popular instances so the inrush of users weren't being spread out very much. Anyone still encountering that?

A fairly popular instance also crashed and lost all accounts, toots etc.: https://web.archive.org/web/20180325132625/https://mastodon....


The choice of Ruby for a platform that is supposed to enable decentralization does not make sense.

Most Ruby apps have tens to hundreds of dependencies and require a build environment which immediately limits access to a smaller group of developers familiar with Ruby build environments and debugging their way out of any dependency hell. Customization also becomes a problem.

There is also no particular design in Mastodon itself to enable more transparency and prevent any arbitrary behavior and abuse of power.


Really?

There's official Docker images that I've been running sucesfully for a while, the deployment of Mastodon is really no different from any other self-hosted app these days.


This is even worse. Now you want the average user to know to now only know Ruby but also Docker? These are technologies for technical folks, the kind of troubleshooting required is not trivial.

And just packaging something in Docker does not make the need to understand it go away, what happens when things needs to be configured, when database connections don't work, when things go wrong? You still need to understand the software stack pretty well if you want to run it with any degree of confidence.


> This is even worse. Now you want the average user to know to now only know Ruby but also Docker?

Docker is not a requirement, it's an additional deployment option. Sure, having a static binary might be easier, but with Docker is pretty much equivalent, you get one, static download.

Had Mastodon been written in Go, this would not solve the problem of having to know Go if things go seriously wrong and you need to debug the actual software. Do you need C knowledge to run Linux? No, but it is certainly helpful.

For what it's worth, I've never had to touch anything Ruby-related in my several months of running a Mastodon instance.


Ruby comes by default on most systems and/or package managers. Bundler has basically eliminated dependency hell. Ruby is one of the easiest environments for new hackers. Rails is capable of being fast enough and scaling enough for most applications (early Twitter was Rails) and also has no particular issues in an SoA or distributed system.


Have you ever written a Rails app? Currently working on an enterprise app with about 15 gem dependencies. If I we we're rewrite it in say Go, it would likely require more dependencies.

Rails is performant, but like all languages and frameworks, if you aren't writing good code, it's going to be slow.


if anyone is averse to the column layout on the default Mastodon UI they should check out https://pinafore.social for a more Twitter like layout.

rather than being a mastodon instance you simply use pinafore as your portal to your existing mastodon account.



Can't really figure it out. I try to login and put mastodon.social in the Add instance field, but I get an error:

> Error: undefined. Is this a valid Mastodon instance? Is a browser extension blocking the request?


You'll see that error if the Service Worker failed to register. Check your browser console?


I think I've cracked it: it does not work in Firefox Private mode.


Author of Pinafore here. Yes, ironically for an app and userbase that is so focused on privacy, things like private browsing, Privacy Badger, adblockers, etc. can cause compat issues with Pinafore.

Interestingly, the reason is (as I discovered) that most of these tools consider cross-origin requests as a signal of a third-party tracker or ad, and therefore block it. Pinafore works by talking directly to the instance's API, and so the instance itself is suspected to be a third-party tracker. ‍️


I decided to join Mastodon when it first came out. I planned to stand up my own server, but I kept.putting it off...

Flash 2 years later, last week I finally got a Mastodon instance up, and I don't host it myself. I'm using https://masto.host

They let you used your own domain.

My thought process is to not waste my time writing automation to stand up a server until I know I really want to use it.

So far I love it even though I only have 3 followers. I'm "micro blogging" more frequently than I used to on Twitter.

Of you have been meaning to stand up a Mastodon instance but just have not gotten around to it, maybe give mastodon.host a try.

They provide the ability to export and self host.


I was wondering if they allow export. I poked around the website for a bit and didn't see anything. That's the primary selling point for me. I want to run my own instance eventually but I'd love to start with something hosted.


https://github.com/kensanata/mastodon-backup/ allows you to backup your mastodon data.

It also allows you to expire your toots, boosts, etc. The idea is that you don't want people searching your timeline to find gotcha's.


I really miss something like thematic "groups" or "channels" in Mastodon, i.e., a mechanism for making sure that all the people subscribed get all the messages published in it.

That's the #1 feature that allows separate communities to grow, which makes places like Usenet or Reddit or ICQ to become a global conversation where anyone can participate, and where private conversations between restricted communities can happen independent of a central server.

The "timeline" model where everyone publishes their own stream, and anyone subscribe to individual persons, is good for fast propagating of ideas and news; but it doesn't create "clusters" of like-minded ideas that you can follow, and forces everybody to curate their own inputs. This makes it really difficult to jump in, as building a subscription list that provides interesting content and avoids noise has a lot of friction.


You can do that with hashtags, but it is only going to show up within your instance's federation. Gnusocial has ! Groups which do propagate all posts, but mastodon didn't implement that bit.


Yes, the article mentioned that and that's what made me think about it; it's a different model, close to Twitter but different from other "thematic" social platforms.

Matrix.org has a good model for channels (called rooms), groups of channels [1] (called Communities), and distributed identities. I only hope that Matrix.org will become the common background middleware for all federated services, and all these will tend to implement the same features for interoperability.

[1] https://medium.com/@RiotChat/communities-aka-groups-are-here...


So I was curious and went to look at a few of the servers online. The top server was an unending stream (like, more than once a minute) of Richard Stallman automatically posting political references from some other service he apparently runs. Another server was just some guy who I have never heard of complaining about various things. I came across a group talking about current and passed times they had a beer.

That content will not inspire others to join.


Are you suggesting that the early days of Twitter were better? Heck, that even describes a large portion of current Twitter.


>Some guy who I have never heard of complaining about various things

You just described 90% of the content on every social media platform


Yeah, I'm a part of the 90% I suppose. :)


To get a list of mastodon isntance https://instances.social/ is pretty neat



I would love to remember to which instance I signed up with. This is a problem that is harder to solve than email was in the 90's. I knew that it was myNickname@myISP.myCountry. For mastodon I guess I'll have to go through the list and find the exotic instance i signed up with.


Wouldn’t you have received a confirmation email from the instance you signed up with?


Every social media platform is an echo chamber but it's interesting to see that Mastodon is the first where that's the main selling point


So very tempting to post in every single Mastodon-related thread emphasizing it's MastOdon, not MastAdon.


More proof we are living in the Berenstain Bears universe, forever disconnected from our original Berenstein universe.


Also recently felt a need to leave Twitter and search for an alternative. I initially began using mastodon.social, and have now moved to my own instance https://mastodon.zone as I wanted to setup something in a closer geo location, join if you're around SE Asia!


The problem is abuse of power and arbitrary behavior that affects many when they have even a little bit of power. This is what leads to censorship, suppressing views, bubbles and lack of accountability.

Mastodon does not solve this in the slightest, just enables thousands of arbitrary admins. At least with Twitter there is one source and its easier to seek some kind of accountability and put a global spotlight on them.

With platforms like Mastodon this becomes impossible. We instead quickly develop 'ingroups of admins' quietly suppressing others and not amenable to transparency or accountability. Decentralization is about diffusing control not empowering a super group of admins. If that is what you seek why not just stick to twitter.


Be your own "arbitrary" admin in that case?

The decentralized nature certainly allows for "competition" between "ingroups of admins". Don't like your current admins? Move to an instance elsewhere. If you have friends, encourage them to follow you in the move.

Different instances have different transparency/accountability metrics, and the good ones tend to have that posted in the Instance About page/terms. Many of the "ingroups of admins" people decry have all of their silences/suspends posted publicly and transparently on GitHub repositories and offer suggestions/propose fixes as GitHub issues and PRs. That's certainly way more amenable to transparency/accountability than anything Twitter has ever offered.

The things that lead to censorship/suppressing views/bubbles/etc on Mastodon aren't power-hungry admins in a secretive cabal, but instead the same powers that be in the world of email: signal-to-noise management (spam management, "newsletter" management, "fwd: fwd: re:" management). That's as much a user opt-in choice/need as any sort of admin opt-out "power", and if other users think you are more part of the noise rather than the signal, then that's more of a "you" problem, isn't it?


If the solution is to do your own thing, how exactly is this better than Twitter? Any Twitter user can do that right now, doing your own thing can hardly be presented as a solution. Really, what are the benefits for current Twitter users?

This is just replacing the admins of twitter with random others. So you are not solving the problems of Twitter or decentralization, just promoting your own solution on misleading grounds.

For the average users at least it easier to trust the admins of twitter and expect some accountability and standards of transparency than random others with no accountability.


How is it easier to trust the admins of Twitter for the average user? It's a closed, for profit corporation that intentionally obfuscates its moderation practices and in general distrusts direct engagement with admins/moderators.

Every Mastodon instance lists its admins on its frontpage, including how to @ mention them. Most instance admins respond to feedback directly. As I mentioned in the previous comment, particularly good Mastodon instances list their moderation policies and accountability/transparency standards on their frontpages, too, with many of them linking to GitHub repositories or similar where they conduct their business in the source-controlled open.

It's not "random others", because you have the option to choose your instance(s), and can often form personal bonds with the instance's admin(s). Some good instances like toot.cafe and friend.camp are making that a focus that you know who your friendly neighborhood admin is/are and should have a good relationship with them. Sure, your local admin probably talks to other admins or follows other admins, but at the end of the day the admin accountable to the instance is still the one running the instance. There's no central cabal secretly running the show behind the scenes because the admins are already as diverse as the users.

One of the few ways I can see people trust Twitter better is that at least as a for-profit company, it has a business model, and accountability to shareholders (if really, no one else in modern corporate America). There's nothing stopping Mastodon instances from incorporating and forming "proper" business models/governance models to get that additional level of government-blessed transparency. In fact, I've advocated for just that and think that something like a non-profit/charitable Mastodon Foundation to help instances run the business administrivia would be a good idea.


It does enable you to be your own admin. Sure, it doesn't work if people sign up with arbitrary admins with arbitrary (ab)use of power, but even with an alternative that does "solve" it - it only works if people sign up there.


With all of its faults, I'll take Twitter and its almost free speech over Mastodon any day. Many people say they are quitting Twitter because of the algorithmic timeline and so on, and they are going to Mastodon where a cabal of people choose to ban opinions that are perfectly legal.


I follow people on blacklisted instances and have no problems viewing their posts. Counter Social seems to be a walled garden but it suits their mission statement.

EDIT: the article mentions shitposter.club as a blacklisted instance. I've been following https://shitposter.club/moonman for years with only minor migration issues.


> Counter Social seems to be a walled garden but it suits their mission statement.

It's not, but counter.social users are blacklisted by Mastodon folks who don't like how th3j35t3r[1] is running his Mastodon node.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jester_(hacktivist)


not entirely true. they prevent veiwing of posts from anonymous users. I have no doubts that the blacklisting isn't helping them debug that issue. I just keep an account on there and cross post when it's relavent.


I can't help but notice that you, complaining about “free speech”, have “88” at the end of your name.

Wonder what kind of speech (which you only defend by its supposed legality) you're concerned about being banned.


Maybe they were born in 1988?

Maybe they play the piano (88 keys)?

Maybe they're a ham radio operator ("love and kisses")?

Maybe they're a big Kill Bill fan (Crazy 88s)?

Maybe they think it's a lucky number (Chinese culture)?

There's a million possibilities[1] besides this baseless ad hominem attack in which you're implying they're a neo-nazi. This moral panic over white supremacists supposedly hiding under every bed is really tiring.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/88_(number)


TIL "88" stands for a neo-nazi thing. Lucky 10000 I guess.

A little bit of trivia: turns out in France a "département" is a country subdivision which receives two-digit codes, and it's quite common for people to include that in their online identity pseudonyms as a suffix. 88 is the Vosges department[0].

EDIT: Given the ambiguity, I do not support the use of the "88" thing at all, yet one cannot detract from the fact that cultural context and localization is a tricky subject. Even as a location thing I was not supporting it anyway as it's a terrible practice, being leaky information-wise.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vosges_(department)


Are you seriously implying that someone is a nazi just because they have the number 88 in their name? I have the number 87 in my name, what does that tell you about me?

You're a perfect example of what they're complaining about. They've said nothing even remotely offensive, just that they don't agree with shared block lists, and you've already decided that they're wrong and a nazi. I've seen people get added to shared block lists on twitter just because they commented on a thread saying that they both political parties in the US should work together instead of being so devisive, so it's not like only trolls and abusive people get added to those lists.

I hope you enjoy your self-imposed bubble, where everyone you disagree with is a nazi.


I don't think everyone I disagree is a Nazi. It's just… easy to lose patience with the “free speech” line of argument when so many people invoking it are doing so in bad faith.


> easy to lose patience with the “free speech” line of argument when so many people invoking it are doing so in bad faith.

Many, many people believe in unfettered free speech. You should assume anyone who supports free speech is doing so in good faith as it's historically been the norm.

"I may not agree with what you say, but I'll fight to the death for your right to say it".


Also, not everybody you disagree with acts in bad faith. Nazis, communists, anarchists, you name it: most of them believe their views of society will lead to a betterment of it. They don't adhere to their principles just because they want to fuck with others.


Nazi ideology is explicitly about fucking with others. It is about separating people who they disapprove of and killing them. If you're trying to normalise Nazis, you are one of them, and the 88 dogwhistle doesn't look good.


I think all ideas should be discussed in an open forum. If you think some people may become nazis, communists or pastafarians because those ideas appeal to them, it's because you're afraid the ideas you're trying to push on aren't that good to begin with. (Posting from another account because that one has been banned for no reason I can discern.)


>Nazi ideology is explicitly about fucking with others.

It's about building a national socialist state. Some people might feel that it's the best way to organize large number of people. Just because they hold that view doesn't mean that they are somehow bad people or have bad intentions. By itself it doesn't require any fucking with others but since most such people are also authoritarians and fascists it has lead to that in the past.

>It is about separating people who they disapprove of and killing them.

It doesn't necessarily require killing people you disapprove of. But one of the goals of nazis is to remove people of other ethnicities from their sphere of influence.

>If you're trying to normalise Nazis

Discussing something isn't normalizing it.

>you are one of them

Discussing national socialism doesn't mean that one supports their cause or shares any of their beliefs.

>and the 88 dogwhistle doesn't look good.

The 88 in his name could be reference to literally anything. It could be some athlete's number or birth year. It could be just because he likes the number. Could be anything really. You automatically assuming that it means that the guy is a nazi is just pants on retarded.


>I don't think everyone I disagree is a Nazi.

Just everyone who values freedom of speech then?

>so many people invoking it are doing so in bad faith.

You really think people who support freedom of speech are doing so in bad faith?


You say that as if supporting free speech was somehow part of the nazi platform.


Free speech is of course not something fascists want, but they will weaponise it to their own ends while it exists in law or in concept.


You're perfectly free to run your own instance and post whatever you like. Others might not want to read it, but that's your problem - you don't inherently deserve an audience, you have to convince people that you're worth following.

Luckily for you, there's also https://pleroma.social where they might align with your values[1] a lot more.

1 - I am pro free speech, however many on the right these days seem to think that free speech means they should be free to insult, abuse, impose their religion etc. on others, while also being free to ignore people's right to kneel, protest, worship Satan, support Palestine or whatever else they might want to do.

If that is the sort of "free speech" you're looking for, Mastodon might not be for you, otherwise it's a perfectly free speech tolerant place.


You basically said that you're pro free speech unless you disagree with said speech. It's quite apparent that you actually aren't pro freedom of speech.


> You basically said that you're pro free speech unless you disagree with said speech.

Where did I say this? I said I am pro free speech, especially one that I disagree with, that's the whole point. However I do not think me speaking means that people HAVE TO LISTEN to me. I do not want to be banned from speaking, but I do not demand an audience for my speech, therefore if someone blocks me because they find me annoying, that just means I haven't convinced them to be a part of my audience, as long as I can still speak freely, that's their personal choice.

My problem is with people who pretend to be free speech absolutists, but really aren't in that they'll make a fuss if you disrespect the flag, kneel etc. even as those are very clearly protected by freedom of expression. They're free to not watch someone do these things, (akin to blocking on social media), but not to go beyond that, in my opinion.

I am saying two things:

1. If someone blocks you, that does not violate your free speech, they don't have to listen. As long as they don't take action beyond blocking you it's within their right to do so and they do not violate your free speech.

2. That you should only complain about lack of free speech if you yourself respect speech you disagree with. If you think it's free speech to throw your stuff at people's ears, but then disagree with other people saying stuff YOU don't like, then you should not complain about anything free speech related, (see the whole NFL kneeling controversy for an example of what I mean, or people complaining about a statue of Satan, yet wanting to have In God We Trust in public schools etc.)


Why not just join an instance that matches your needs or start your own instance and make it whatever you want?


Because most of the bigger instances have shared blocklists. I am not interested in Mastodon as a tech stack, I am interested in joining a social network. But the truth is that it's all aligned to the political left. And I'm sad because I think Twitter is very politically charged and its alternative should be neutral. You can create your own instance or join a small instance you like, but that would be like IRC. I already use IRC every day, I don't need another IRC.


I agree. No single person or group should have the capability to "censor" anyone. On an individual basis, any single user should decide to block, hide or completely ignore anyone they want at will. And here's the thing, Mastodon already has all kinds of controls like that for all users. Why the need to have a "benevolent dictator" that can by popularity or influence can decide what an entire group gets to read or see. That's censorship in my book.


people have the freedom to associate in communities that censor if they are okay with it. You don't curse in a church, yet plenty of people find them pleasant to visit.

People definitely should have the ability to put restrictive rules in place in place if the association with that community is voluntary, and nobody forces you to use mastodon.

I find strictly moderated communities very pleasant because I have no interest in debating trolls, nazis or whatever else crops up on the internet, and many mastodon instances as a result of this, especially the smaller ones are a lot more pleasant and feel more like a community than twitter.


> people have the freedom to associate in communities that censor if they are okay with it.

You'd think, but no. Some instances are run by "free speech absolutists" (in quotes, because they're really not) who block instances which, in their opinion, are "too aggressive" about blocking spam and bad actors. For example, mastodon.social blocks counter.social, preventing all counter.social users from federating with mastodon.social users.

In other words, Twitter users have to deal with the opaque decision making of one @jack. Mastodon users have to deal with the opaque decision making of a bunch of @jacks.


Uh no. Counter.social broke themselves off of the federation.

Also: your Mastodon admin could well be someone you know personally, rather than @jack.


> Counter.social broke themselves off of the federation.

Ah, assuming that's true this is the first I'd heard. My guess is that we'll see more of this as a handful of instances dominate and (in at least some cases) consolidate.

My point about @jack is that, for now, you're trading one benevolent dictator for many. The result is a Tower of Babel of moderation and federation standards. Maybe that's a feature and not a bug?


I think it's a feature. Benevolent dictators motivated mostly by what's most likely to pay rent in the Bay Area are not very benevolent in practice.

----

I run a Mastodon instance and I sure am not blocking counter.social and I sure do not see a single toot from them anywhere in my database. Mr. Actual The Jester followed me for a day or two and then just vanished from federation along with the rest of his instance.


OK, I'm convinced that Mastodon is evil. I'm quite able to avoid what I don't like. And I don't want anyone else deciding for me.

Edit: Damn, that was a stupid comment, but I'll leave it as penance. I just wasn't seeing that Mastodon is perfectly setup for compartmentalization. So my Mirimir persona would have an account on some instance that focused on privacy, security and anonymity. And I would be protected from off-topic trolls. But I could have other unlinked personas on other instances, with different topics and blocking criteria. That's very cool.


Exactly. I get your point. But mine is: Mastodon shouldn't be publicised as an alternative to Twitter because it's not. It would be like publicising HN as an alternative to Reddit. HN only works as an alternative to Reddit for a very, very reduced group of people. People who share the same interests more or less, and with similar ideas about what flies in tech, politics, social movements, etc.


Mastodon isn't a monolithic thing. That's the entire point. The moderation policy of the server at mastodon.social has no bearing on the moderation policy of social.wxcafe.net or switter.net. Your complaint of "it's like irc" isn't quite true, because of a number of obvious technical and user experience differences. "Everyone should be able to reach everyone else" is proving to be less and less desirable.


Sure, Mastodon isn't a monolithic thing. But the massive influx of Mastodon users to the fediverse changed the culture to the point where I didn't see any reason to stick around.

I like the "make the internet weird again" stuff, revivals of Geocities and tilde clubs and so on. My impression of the Mastodon-era fediverse is that the culture is about as far as you can get from that - it was designed by people who thought Twitter wasn't sanitized enough.


Moderators of highly restrictive instances (the most populous ones) blacklist all the instances they don't like. In fact most of those instances use a shared blacklist. So you have to make a choice: either you choose a restrictive instance and you can't talk about whatever you want (because with so many rules, where are they even drawing the line), or you go to a free instance and can't talk to anybody in the most populous instances (most of the network).

Or you simply get the best of both worlds and stay on Twitter.


I don't want to spend my time manually figuring out who I should block, work that I suspect a lot of people with similar values have already done; that's just wasted and repeated effort. I'm on the Mastodon instance I'm on because I trust my moderators to have values pretty close to mine and there are network effects in sharing this load (all of the users can mention things to the moderators), and then we have more time for the things we actually want to do on the site.


I'm willing to bet most of the instances that a large group of instances have blocked federate with each other. There's definitely kinda a split among Mastodon instances, between free speech instances and fairly moderated instances. I wonder if you could find an instance which plays well with both sides.

There is no overarching authority on these instances, so there's a lot of options, it may just be hard to find the one that meets your needs.


Freedom of association is the dual of freedom of speech.


I run a Mastodon instance. And to be honest the reason a lot of us tend to block right-wing instances is because there is a heavy crossover with trolling behavior. Or at least that’s mine.

If a right-leaning instance showed up that actively cracked down on people who hang out on the federated timeline looking for people to argue with, and other trolling behavior, I wouldn’t block it. But I haven’t seen such a thing. It’s just an endless sea of Pleroma installations with an admin who has an anime girl avatar and posts shit like “watch me get blocked by twenty more instances: [ethnic slur]”.


I am appreciating this comment, not because I agree or disagree, but it contains some views I had not considered and they may be important for others who I might want to attract to a mastadon instance if I set up one.

I've been keeping on eye on this project for many months, and it's been very interesting. A recent post about moderation and mastadon was very nice to read, but I had only considered the info there from my personal perspective.

I had not considered the network affects of shared blocklists, and now I wonder if this is put up front and center on each instance - are people who sign up notified of the blocklists each instance has?

It's also interesting to consider the end user who does not care about the tech and it's possibilities, and instead just looking for a social network that is easy to use and different than the other big networks in one way or another.

I do not see how creating an instance is like IRC, and I have not seen anything about joining small instances and how that would be like IRC. To me IRC is like a download and run, with mastadon you have to host an instance. I guess it could be just run on someone else's though.

If it was self hosted as an app or browser extension, I suppose it could run something like scuttlebutt and just re-sync when it re-connects - that would be interesting.

That makes me wonder what it could be like if it was installed on a million routers like nextcould is doing(?) - not sure I read that recent post correct.

I am still interested in mastadon, my idea is to somehow make it, or something like it has various bouncers you can follow / make part of your stream. So rather than depend on or have one block list server wise, you could have open servers and subscribe to different bouncer lists, kind of like the adblock lists - and that way some people could choose bouncers that block certain types of material they may want to avoid and be comfortable with certain people or groups making those kinds of, for example left or right leaning, or even block all trump and kardashian news, or all kinds of neat bouncers that could be created.

The future looks interesting and more possible to be less non-federated, I think the world is more ready for that now.


MastOdon. Not Mastadon. It's the same word as the giant ancient mammal.


there's definitely instances that serve as a DMZ between "opinions-banned-social" and the pleroma free speech "almost-everything-goes" types.

or just make your own and associate as you please.


Pleroma doesn't lack content moderation options[0]

Pleroma culture, on the other hand, is generally geared more toward free speech.

[0] https://git.pleroma.social/pleroma/pleroma/wikis/Message%20r...

- marking incoming messages with media from a given account or instance as sensitive

rejecting messages from a specific instance

- removing/unlisting messages from the public timelines

- removing media from messages

- sending only public messages to a specific instance


For the social part to really work, you need a community to adopt it. Not just an internet community. Good to see alternatives to Twitter however.

Generally don't like AJAX, it's JS and XML, and in the latter case Twitter services don't require Stylesheets or XLS as it's called -- without -- XML is bloated and creates metadata for sale. In addition to AJAX allowing Orwellian advertisement influence.

Edit: this gets downvoted? reasonable technical criticism or dialogue.


> Generally don't like AJAX, it's JS and XML, and in the latter case Twitter services don't require Stylesheets or XLS as it's called -- without -- XML is bloated and creates metadata for sale. In addition to AJAX allowing Orwellian advertisement influence.

...what?


In addition to tagging data with XML, I wont go into the misguided use of it in configuration files as its not really quicker creating checks using XML and XLS as a programmer in the "zone" :)

Point is that albeit nice, there is no need for something like this to even be in a browser. But by using AJAX it kind of have to be. In addition to advertisers being able to know due to Javascript that the user is present. And since the data is tagged arbitrarily in XML in addition to hashtags and the like, it's a lot less hit and miss for suggestions and advertisement.

For example getting flooded with bad things about people working or the US state just because they're in the vicinity of Trump to either reinforce or encourage guilt by association. After you've made a Trump pun for additional effect.


What are you even talking about? Modern web apps don't even use XML anymore, barring a few outliers.


"Ajax (also AJAX /ˈeɪdʒæks/; short for "Asynchronous JavaScript And XML")"

Is this wrong? Only worked with HPC and mostly hardware-software layer.


I think you have a misunderstanding of what AJAX is. I have no idea what you are getting at with the political rambling about metadata and Trump.


Perhaps, but I know the implications of javascript. This allows mouse and keyboard events from the browser and is the most insecure language known.

What concerns Trump is merely that this technically allows political manipulation by having a short and cheap route to be able to do just that.


>and is the most insecure language known.

Hyperbolic nonsense. Javascript couldn't even aspire to be as insecure as C.


>Hyperbolic nonsense. Javascript couldn't even aspire to be as insecure as C.

If that's hyperbole, I'm in stable orbit around earth.

https://deadliestwebattacks.com/2013/01/22/know-your-javascr...

https://www.cnet.com/news/faq-javascript-insecurities/

Wannabe "fiddlers" love JS as everything works.

"They should peruse their Web site for cross-site scripting flaws and fix those."

Every site is now cross-site with FB and Google, even using them as JS service providers. It has shot security that inherently dead.


do you know how many queer furries are on mastodon right now holy crap, that is definitely a community

Also um I think pretty much the entire fediverse is free of ads right now.


Twitter as a media form to participate with the choir in the ether is perhaps more suitable to you than hacker news.


I've probably seen more furballs in ~2 years of Mastodon than I did in years of furry Twtter.


> Edit: this gets downvoted? reasonable technical criticism or dialogue.

I'm quite sure the reason is that it's for me impossible to parse your message, even though I know what AJAX, Javascript, XML and Stylesheets are. If there really is a point in your message, you might want to try to reformulate it - perhaps in terms of how you as a user are actually negatively affected? (e.g. does Mastodon deplete your mobile subscription more quickly, and if so, why?)


Is it lack of adjectives and positive or negative extensions that throws you of? This is hacker news, I'm talking about technical things. And you want me to limit myself to user experiences rather than back and forth on nerdy technicality?

Edit to reply to the the reply below, apparently speed is frowned upon in HN:

> Maybe this analysis helps:

This is hyperbole :)

>> Generally don't like AJAX

> Not quite sure what AJAX has to do with this - I don't think Mastodon differs from Twitter here? In the sense that it has webpages that make requests to servers without reloading the page.

AJAX is said to be an improvement, exactly why? The implications is that it "improves" the platform. The reason why is well, pun intended, objectifying "documents".

>> it's JS and XML

> This is confusing as well. You refer to XML, which is probably due to the first method of sending HTTP requests without a full page request being the XMLHTTPRequest DOM API. I'm not sure if XML was necessarily involved when that was the only method, but I'm quite sure no XML is involved at all in Mastodon. But even if it was, it's not quite sure what the problem of that would be for you as a user.

Let's perhaps agree that hashtags suffice. Value add for opportunities in the backend does nothing for the users. For it's the enforce "internet bubbles".

>> Twitter services don't require Stylesheets or XLS as it's called

> This one is really hard to parse. My intuition would be that you're talking about Cascading Stylesheets (CSS), the method commonly used to define what a webpage looks like. But then you also mention XLS, which I assume does not refer to Microsoft Excel's file format, but I'm not quite sure what it does refer to - maybe you meant XSLT? But both Mastodon and Twitter use CSS (and I can't imagine you being against that), and neither uses XSLT?

XML is in a family of initiatives for preserving text an data across platforms and formats. Stylesheets allow you to EXPLAIN in a parseable way what that tagged data is supposed to look like as presentable information.

>> XML is bloated and creates metadata for sale.

> As far as I know XML only contains the data the developers put in there, and the same would be true for alternatives such as the more commonly used JSON. And again, there's no XML in Mastodon.

It's tagged data and information, as in metadata and widely abused in the "semantic web" that mostly has value to those that sell user data for-profit. Try and follow the thought train from the premises in the technology and the industry of today.

>> In addition to AJAX allowing Orwellian advertisement influence.

> So I guess your point is that somehow there's more advertisement influence at Mastodon than at Twitter? Again, it's entirely unclear how that would be the case.

Because of these technologies, it can be sold to investors as such. It may just be there for being told it is better due to to easier route to as a paid-for service.

> To sum up: it's probably downvoted because there doesn't appear to be reasonable criticism in here, and in fact, there doesn't really seem to be any content that one could even technically criticise.

Really?

> I hope I at least made clear why I was unable to understand your post, or even to criticise it. I might have misunderstood, in which case do enlighten me, but it can at least explain why people downvote you. Hope that helps.

Not in the slightest, but this dialogue is far more useful than having to ask why something is down voted prior to there being an exchange of arguments.


I don't want you to do anything; I'm just sharing that I can't make sense of what you're saying. I don't know why - it just looks like a list of words strung together.

Maybe this analysis helps:

> Generally don't like AJAX

Not quite sure what AJAX has to do with this - I don't think Mastodon differs from Twitter here? In the sense that it has webpages that make requests to servers without reloading the page.

> it's JS and XML

This is confusing as well. You refer to XML, which is probably due to the first method of sending HTTP requests without a full page request being the XMLHTTPRequest DOM API. I'm not sure if XML was necessarily involved when that was the only method, but I'm quite sure no XML is involved at all in Mastodon. But even if it was, it's not quite sure what the problem of that would be for you as a user.

> Twitter services don't require Stylesheets or XLS as it's called

This one is really hard to parse. My intuition would be that you're talking about Cascading Stylesheets (CSS), the method commonly used to define what a webpage looks like. But then you also mention XLS, which I assume does not refer to Microsoft Excel's file format, but I'm not quite sure what it does refer to - maybe you meant XSLT? But both Mastodon and Twitter use CSS (and I can't imagine you being against that), and neither uses XSLT?

> XML is bloated and creates metadata for sale.

As far as I know XML only contains the data the developers put in there, and the same would be true for alternatives such as the more commonly used JSON. And again, there's no XML in Mastodon.

> In addition to AJAX allowing Orwellian advertisement influence.

So I guess your point is that somehow there's more advertisement influence at Mastodon than at Twitter? Again, it's entirely unclear how that would be the case.

To sum up: it's probably downvoted because there doesn't appear to be reasonable criticism in here, and in fact, there doesn't really seem to be any content that one could even technically criticise.

I hope I at least made clear why I was unable to understand your post, or even to criticise it. I might have misunderstood, in which case do enlighten me, but it can at least explain why people downvote you. Hope that helps.


Here's a reply to your edit, I guess.

Again: AJAX and XML have nothing to do with Mastodon. You keep going into those, claiming that people say that it's an improvement, but it's not even relevant. Your entire posts appear to build on that, but it's a premise that is faulty.




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