Richard Pierce


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.



In the end, Aggie just picks him up, carries him in her arms like a baby, and wanders into the hotel with him like that. She puts him down on the floor in reception gently, much too gently, she thinks, bearing in mind how obnoxious he has been, how dangerous his master is, and what they both expect her to do. She grabs a bundle of English bank notes out of her pocket. ‘Mr and Mrs Smith,’ she says. ‘A room, any room. He needs to rest. Overdid it, as usual.’

‘Certainly, Madam,’ says the young man behind the desk.

He looks like a boy to Aggie. She loses herself in her head at fast speed, pictures, reels, she has never seen before, of boys and boys, of her running around in some place, a place she can’t describe or understand, where there is nothing but terror and blood and mayhem, and where, finally, she is on her own, because all the others are either dead or gone. It passes in a flash, and she has an electronic key in her hand, and finds herself on the way to the lift, pushing the button for the fifth floor. The boy didn’t even ask for their passports. He must be used to couples like this – what’s she saying, couples? – coming in all the time, wrecked from drinking too much on a flight from nowhere to nowhere, from paradise to this grey plague island where they will have to acclimatise to real life again, but just don’t want to face it, will have planned not to face it for another day. Perhaps they will only have met on that slave transport for the first time, and just have decided to make it last for one more night and a part of a day, here in this hardly oasis of a hotel, where the atmosphere is sterile, and where the odds are that no-one will know them. She drops the robot onto the double bed as gently as she can, finds her way to the toilet so she can sit down and think. Her brain feels tired, slightly overwrought.

In the toilet, door locked although it will offer minimal protection if the robot goes manic, she gets out the primitive phone Cassandra gave her, the phone that buzzed once before she took off, and has been buzzing incessantly since she landed here, and checks it. A ream of messages. One from Marion – where are you? Aggie types, lightning fast – In London. No point staying. Infinite ones from Cassie asking the same question – Heathrow. With a robot. Need to think. Don’t go to Norwich yet. She hopes it will buy her some time. Nothing from Lily. That doesn’t surprise her. She’s put her trust in the right person, and although she’s tempted to text her, she doesn’t. Too dangerous.

Aggie rummages in one of her other countless pockets, pulls out some bits and pieces her fingers find in there. Within a moment, she has reassembled a smartphone, one made of material none of the airport scanners will have been able to pick up. She logs into her bank account. The money is there, as she thought it would be. A few button presses later it’s not there any more, but in another account, somewhere over an ocean or two, untraceable, untouchable. She takes the phone apart again, drops the parts back into her pocket, stands up, looks in the mirror, washes her face with cold water, sets her hair straight, takes a deep breath, and prepares for the moment she’s dreading.

Get notifications of new posts by email.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Leave a Reply