Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter


Day 314

Just a few thoughts on Mastodon. Not the technical kind of thoughts, but just … reflections. I’ve been on there for nearly a week now, and I’m finding it fascinating, though I don’t really have the time to thoroughly explore it.

The conclusion I’ve come to so far is that it’s strengths are at the same time it’s weaknesses. Headline – the best code of use says you ought to use its content warning (CW for ease of use) if you’re posting political content, and anything ese that might offend others. The political thing, though, is the biggest, and I must admit that lots of twitter refugees aren’t using it, and in a way that annoys me. It’s like going to a non-smoker’s house and insiting on having a cigarette in the middle of the living room and dropping ash on the floor. That’s why I’m not reblogging any political posts that don’t have the CW on them. I should add here that the CW gives you the opportunity of adding what I’d call a headline which explains what your post is actually about so that folk can choose to expand it and actually read its contents. Although this means my political posting there is almost non-existent (a function of time and needing to think), I think this is a great idea. And it shows respect to use it, and a lack of respect not to use it.

Having said that, I think this is Mastodon’s main weakness, too, because it makes it feel to me, like the good man who doesn’t speak out, and by not speaking out, allows evil to proliferate. Not on the platform itself (although I have heard that right-wing extremists and white supremacists are finding their way onto the platform, too), but in the world at large. There is an argument that we should do our politicking and polemicising on another platform if we can’t abide by the CW code, and that’s an argument I find acceptable. However, and it’s a big however, I get the sense that it can be a community with its head in the sand, and that the CW is not a defence mechanism but merely a mechanism of avoidance. And that one day (and one day soon), the inhabitants of the fediverse will wake up and find that it has entirely changed, that it’s been taken over (not commercially as in an acquisition) by exactly the kind of people it didn’t want to be taken over by. Maybe overrun is a better word. Sleepwalking into disaster is the phrase, probably.

Of course, the admins of the individual servers have the power to pull the plug. But there will be new server admins with new servers who will be quite happy to backfill the gaps left by those who withdraw. And we might find ourselves with none of the original population, the population that make the platform such a good place to be, left, and it will become an increasingly lawless and disrespectful place to be. Naturally, I hope this doesn’t happen, but as a writer I’m very good at painting worst case scenarios.

All the servers are run by volunteers who pay the server running expenses out of their own pocket (or by crowdfunding). And if those original good people withdraw, what then? And if it is the political, non-CW-using twitter refugees from all sides of the political spectrum are the ones who chase them away, force them out, and take over from them by setting up their own new servers that don’t adhere to the code of conduct, what then?

I have no answers to any of these questions, no expansion yet in my head to any of these thoughts and scenarios. All I have is the hope that we’ll find some middle ground somewhere. The Bible might tell us that the meek shall inherit the Earth, but at the moment Mastodon is becoming a place where those who shout loudest (and again, they are left and right-wingers) are the ones being heard the most, and some other, founding voices, are slinking away into the background, because shouting is not their modus operandi.




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