Mastodon social network review time!
Today we’re going to be covering a social-network application called Mastodon. From a marketing stance it’s an odd choice to choose an animal that is slow, big and extinct for thousands of years. But hey! I’m not the one with a marketing degree! I’ve talked a lot about social networks in my collapsing internet rant but Mastodon is a little different from that. After about a week of using this social network we have found ourselves liking this software despite finding the occasional flaws. Read on for more info!
In the beginning.
In order to understand the thought process behind Mastodon we must first have a brief understanding of what it was like to grow up on the internet.
Shell accounts, baud rates and modems.
You get older you marvel at how different other people and objects also grow around you. The internet is a great example of this. Starting off with it’s infancy where it was just a rudimentary form of global communication. allowing you to send 7-bit text-only messages to people around the globe for just a cost of a phone call. With giant walls of UUEncoded text can be downloaded,merged, and converted into binaries for usage on your 8 and 16 bit computers. This system to some was difficult because you had to learn a few Linux commands in order to get by. But it was worth it to get information from around the globe.
Witness the glory that is GeoCities through the WayBack Machine.
Fast forward to the mid-90’s to it’s uncomfortable teenage years of the ICQ/AIM/MSN messager wars, WinAmp (which we still use to this day!), and ushering in a new form of entertainment the Mosaic/HTTP protocol. Allowing us to witness the Internet’s awkward teenage years of the free web-server extravaganza. Where any user can run off and grab that GeoCities or AngleFire server and put up their own little slice of the internet if they just learned a little bit of coding. it’s was the growing years of the internet where ideas were being born as to how to shape everything moving forward. Granted there was a little bit of corruption going on during the late 90’s such as the over-reach of AOL. However it was a learning phase for everyone on what is to come.
As we approach present day, the unlimited imagination and possibilities of the teenager transgresses into adulthood. Where money and power is then introduced into not only our lives but the internet as well. The willingness to be open and to experiment vanishes. Replaced by the need of necessity and responsibility. It’s no longer marketable to have individuality. Also no longer financially viable to exercise free will! We are then faced with a conflict with our own creative imaginations versus the vision of others which hold the money. Your freedoms are limited to a false facade of choices that your provider gives to you. Reject those choices and face obliteration. Accept, and be fed the table scraps of their ad-revenue while showing you a pyramid scheme of a handful of people who have made it. That you could be next. Just like winning the lottery. Guess who wins? Most end up taking the money not really out of choice but necessity. Sure! You can achieve your goals without them. But not as fast as those with the money and power. For those who are not faced with an adult life like what is described above; Then congratulations! You’re incredibly lucky! When money is injected into any form of social thought forum or communication. It typically seeks to control the path of what social society does for its own monetary gain. Ultimately, This is what’s going on with every social network that you can think of. That in the minds of the psychopathic investor which is behind these organizations. You the social network user are not a person! You are just a number on some accounting ledger. $17(USD) a year to google.com . $12(USD) a year to Facebook.com . Experimentation dies and apathy replaces the thought process here. Why change the course of the gravy train when the money keeps on pouring in? This is what trillion dollar internet companies want you to believe the internet is all about. Some homogenized parody of mainstream media. But that is not what the internet is at its foundation. It’s about sharing all information. Not just information they want you to see. I could go into further detail about the overall psychological state of control vs. social networks but my friend already did an awesome job over at medium. You should check it out.
Enough with the convoluted history speech already!
What the hell is a “Mastodon”?
Mastodon Mascot found on Wiki.
Mastodon starts to model itself as a social network but with the one exception to the rule. According to the Wiki they want to say “Micro-Blogging” but Twitter is not categorized like that. Why should Mastodon? You don’t have to stop at just being a user of said network. You can run one yourself or you can even submit code to it as its open source to change the way Mastodon operates for you. Mastodon is as feature rich as the big social networks but without a giant corporation looming over your head. Mastodon takes what we learned as an adult but then applies the breaks on the aspects that were wrong with “Adult Internet.” That the internet is not about how much a celebrity pays to be at the top of the social pyramid. What random-sports-person does in his bathroom. Or what news network wishes to diabolically sway public opinion. Mastodon is a social network that focuses on you in which no other application in a long time has ever focused on before.
How it works.
Mastodon describes itself as a “Federated Network” which means instead of the traditional centralized model where you login to a single end-point run by a corporation. The social network is comprised of a cluster of servers known as “Instances” replicating data between each other. The Federated Network is traffic that is being broadcasted globally provided the server instance chooses to receive such traffic. Think of Mastodon a lot like an e-mail client and the instance is your server.These servers can end up talking to each other such as sending “Mail” back and forth between them. Depending on your community these instances can also limit the amount of participation and communication with the federated timeline in an effort to filter and be more inclusive to the community they may cater to.
This step we wish that we knew a lot more about prior to joining Mastodon! But instances are what you would consider the local communities of their social network world. We just decided to google “Mastadon Social” and found the address for mastodon.social and joined. Not realizing that there’s communities that may have been better suited for us. The good news of joining the primary server is that you have a large user base to talk to. This instance talks to almost all of the servers out there. So in a sense it’s a great starter server for those who are unsure what community they wish to join. You can click here to go to instances.social and pull up a brief questionnaire of what you want out of an instance and it attempts to find the closest that matches you. You can also checkout mastory.social to pull up statistics of each instance as well as do user searches to find out what groups you like or where your friends are. Joinmastodon.org also has a mini-search system which focuses more on the topics you like and attempts to find a server accordingly. These lists are also handy because in the past mastodon.social turned off new user registration due to its load so even if you don’t get on the main server or if for some reason the main server disappears from the net that does not stop your mastodon experience.
In order to prevent the Mastodon social network from devolving into a state of pure spam and anarchy. Rules are often put in place by people who run the Instances. These rules are not governed by money or a huge oversight committee. They instead reflect the personal beliefs of whatever the operators that Instance supports. In many respects it’s almost like a throw-back to the days of IRC (Internet-Relay-Chat). Many of the instances support the same rules run by the federated network however with exceptions such as art servers tend to be more liberal on pornography as it’s a necessity to draw anatomy in the art world. This is why it’s important to read the rules of each of these Instances prior to joining!
The instance home page.
Joinmastodon.org may be their primary website. But when searching online for trying to join mastodon you’re sort of left spinning between news articles, opinion pieces and other instances. This is because search engines and web-crawlers loathe redundant data. The only thing that really changes between most of the instances is the introduction paragraph and perhaps the rules in the FAQ section of the site. That’s about it. This forces the search engines to take you to places OTHER then a mastodon social instance. This is the penalty that a decentralized network has to take to be on the modern internet where everyone assumes centralization.
Pawoo’s instance does a pretty good job changing up their front-page.
This does not mean that it’s impossible to break away from the standards that Mastodon puts down. Everything is Open Source this means the home page can be changed as well. Given that there are a lot of writers and artist that exist out there getting some unique websites should not be a major issue over time.
Login and get an account.
Getting an account was rather easy on the Mastodon network. With just a few e-mails back and forth for confirmation I was in without having to give any real personal details about myself. This is almost refreshing versus some of the other social network platforms that exist out there.
The web interface.
I’ve taken the liberty of blurring out names of individuals. Leaving bots and group accounts in place. Hope that is okay guys!
When you first login to your Mastodon instance the first thing you’ll notice is it has an incredibly eerie look to TweetDeck and this is completely intentional! This group wants to show you the user that their open source network is just as capable as a multi-million dollar organization like Twitter itself. Lets go through each of these options here.
Column 1: Control Panel.
Your first column is typically going to be your control panel. Giving you access to your preferences, search bar, and what profile you are logged in as. It also gives you the option to “Toot” something out which is the same as “Tweet”. Some people believe that “Toot” is dumb. Those people are probably sucking twitters ass for being marketing geniuses about their terminology while hypocritically condemning the other. We personally do not mind the terminology changes because at least people would turn their heads as anyone starts talking about it. Which is really what is important!
Self-Warning and Self-Censorship.
We have mixed feelings about this one.
Middle-Fingers all around!
The Mastodon system has an option where you can “CW” or Content-Warning a toot to it. Meaning, that if you have something like a movie spoiler, or a political rant, etc. Anything that would be a hot-button item that would earn you an instant UN-follow or mute depending on who it is. You can actually hide it so only the bold would have to click and see what it is. Allowing users to self-moderate. The theory is content warning allows for a far more civilized society then throwing your opinions in peoples faces or ruining stories. This feature is actually annoying for people such as ourselves. We’ve been on the internet a while and have seen the best/worst an online community can throw at you. We wish that Mastodon had a “HARDCORE” mode where the client auto-maximizes every cut and unmasked every picture be it NSFW or not. We must have clicked at least 20+ CW’s in the federated timeline which clicking that much to get the whole picture sucks. This feature also speaks about how our society has evolved. That if we have to put more and more of how we truly feel behind content-warning tags. What does that say about us as a society with our ability to cope with free-speech in general?
Column 2-3: Home and Notifications.
Second “Home” and Third “Notifications” are rather self-explanatory to anyone using a social network. Basically the timeline of people you’re following and the notifications of when someone likes, “Boosts/Retweets”, replies, or “Toots/Tweets” something directly at you.
Column 4: Search results.
The forth column is a rather common one as well but somewhat important to learn about in any social network scene. That when you start off of Mastodon unless you know a LOT of people who are already there. It may feel a little lonely at first! So to remedy this problem you can use the search option in column 1 to find a subject you like using a similar hashtag meaning that twitter uses. In the example above we’ve chosen #furry
because we are trash…… oh crap! Er, because it has a lot of great art in it! Chances are you will find a lot of cool people to follow and even talk to.
Because a lot of instances enforce a “Safe For Work” hide policy you can browse anything on Mastodon without having to worry if one of your friends starts an After-Dark account without warning you and goes ballistic with the porn into your timeline. Unless of course you join a hyper-liberal instance. More power to you if you go that route! Like content warnings it would be nice if this feature can be disabled as well to stop the perpetual clicking we were facing.
Column 5-6: Local and Federated timelines.
You see, this is where the real sauce of Mastodon kicks in. Is These two timelines! You see in the twitter-verse this would normally be reserved for the “Trending” catagory which is reserved for only the “hottest news and celebrities!” to which we vomited a little in our mouths saying that. As twitter trending becomes more and more dominating on both your phone and the web. Trending does not exist on Mastodon. YOU are the celebrity! YOU are important. This these two timelines help promote that you are alive and ready to talk on Mastodon. Unlike twitter. You can talk into clouds and unlike twitter there’s a good chance someone in those clouds will talk back. If you don’t want to share every single moment with the rest of the federated universe you can turn that off as well in your account preferences. It’s completely up to you how much you are willing to share with the community. So in this regard they are doing far better then other networks I’ve reviewed.
The only downside with using the mobile clients are the fact that unlike the twitter mobile app which allows the ability to create an account right on your phone. The Mastodon mobile apps assumes that you already have a profile and that you’ve chosen your instance via web-browser first before downloading the app to your phone. There’s still plenty of work to go when it comes to seamless integration into the mobile community. However once logged in everything works great! Again, because of its decentralized nature or Mastodon there is no such thing as the “official” Mastodon app for I-Phone or Android and there may be a client you may like better then the ones suggested above.
Mastodon has of course come under fire about their social networking for being so different and because certain blogging chains seem to rip into this software we’d like to address their complaints.
Have you looked around at your fellow silicon valley friends and how they name their products? As addressed at the top of this article Mastodon is an odd creature choice to go with but it’s legitimately no different then twitter. Kind of a weak argument to throw.
There’s no single Mastodon, Mastodon broke the cardinal rule of social media: it separated them into silos and made it hard if not impossible for them to all socialize
By who’s rules? Yours? Some businesses rules? Ones that are based off of centralization? While I do admit that getting into this social network can be a pain as the joinmastodon.org site often does not come up as the first hit within the typical search engines. That is a problem! However, did you ever consider the possibility that some communities really do not want to talk to others? That perhaps they don’t want to be completely slammed with sports updates? Or what your child-like politicians around the world are doing at the time? I do follow friends on different instances and receive their updates without issue. Also local and federated timelines are operating perfectly. We’re socializing just fine!
Rochko chose the dumbest and most ridiculous post name possible: Toots.
Woo-boy! The weak argument train just keeps on rolling! It serves its purpose in separating itself from the social network they modeled from. Honestly tweet/tweeting/twit’ing is rather dumb and ridiculous as well. Everything is stupid! Welcome to the internet!
Where is everyone?
Here we are. That wasn’t so hard now was it?
The search feature has improved massively over time so maybe there was a bug that made it hard to search when this man joined. We’re out here! Check the federated timeline if you don’t believe that.
This app feels like a science project!
*Sarcasm* Yeah! Fuck art! It’s all about the business and money and being big and controlling things! *sarcasm* Evolution is a beautiful thing and we’re sorry you’re too much an ‘adult’ to lack any flexibility in understanding this. Because of it’s open-source nature the instances of Mastodon are always going to be trying new things. The best part about it is these new features won’t be behind some picket fence where only as hand-selected few get to see like some assholes. No, they are all out there in the wild for you to play with and join.
The article goes on about how celebrities from Star Trek are butt-hurt over the fact that they can’t use their star-power to climb the social media ranks as fast as they did on every other platform. That people can make parody accounts and there’s nothing they could do about it there-fore rendering that popular TV and movie stars on the same playing field as a random anonymous individual. Finally ending with the notion that Mastodon will be a complete failure.
We have to respectfully disagree with these web experts about Mastadon being a dying social media platform. The politics and policies behind a centralized social network model is ultimately what will empower Mastodon. This article will be published in 2018 and during this time a new social platform called “Vero” is coming out soon which is the total opposite of Mastodon. Using a pay-to-play model for it’s users to push themselves up to the top of the boards provided of course you have the cash to do so. During all of this they collect your number and information and sell you off to marketing agencies to exploit you the user. Vero is effectively the direction Facebook and Twitter want to go but are too much of cowards to do so. If Vero becomes a successful model of true pyramid scheme social networking. Then you bet your ass Facebook and Twitter will follow suit.
The censorship issue is probably going to be a bit of a hot-button for us here. Even though Mastodon remedies the notion that some evil corporation is censoring your free speech it is replaced with communal censorship. Where you can censor yourself, your instance could censor you, and even then you could get muted anyways because there’s no defining standard of what is or is not considered a ‘triggered’ topic. Mastodon takes away the ‘evil corporation’ agenda that most including ourselves go on and now we must look in the mirror as a society to determine how free speech is conducted. Despite all of that we do still like Mastodon because it’s a social network that is back in the hands of the community. Which means no more seeing fake people in my timeline trying to sell me some crappy vacuum that is promoted by said company. There are of course some features we’d like to see improved and if we had enough time we would sit down and make our own instance of mastodon to implement them such as our “hardcore” mode. It’s nice to know that even on a social network there’s the option to take your ball and go home if you want. We are fully aware this article is starting to sound like something adbusters would write. But we came to the internet to have our voice heard. If we wanted to see a perpetual onslaught of commercials we would purchase a cable-tv package. Commercials do not make up anyone’s identity. They shouldn’t exist in your timeline of thoughts and memories. Take your existence back. That’s all we have to say. Until next time, server protect you. +++END OF LINE