So, the fediverse has become basically about half of my social media uses, with reddit, facebook, and twitter occupying the balance.
One thing I’ve noticed on the fediverse, is a lot of people who really think that “Mastodon would be so much better if…” and their wants are things that well… Aren’t all that important to people who use mastodon (Or the larger fediverse, if we’re to be honest). And many of them are in fact what people ran to the fediverse in order to escape from.
Some of the more mentioned ones are:
- Algorithmic timelines
- More/better account portability
- Better onboarding experience
So, let’s cover some of these.
I see a lot of people wanting this, thinking it helps “promote” and helps with “discovery”. I’ve found that the people wanting this are usually in the tech sector. They are usually in a marketing type role, or executive type role. Basically, the bulk of people preaching this are not looking for a social network, but rather looking for an ad delivery network, like Facebook and Twitter are.
So, be wary of people promoting this idea that algorithms are the best, or even a way, to get more people looking at your content. It’s the same idea with people who promote “Search Optimization” for websites.
If you want your content to get out there, and spread: make good content. Stop tailoring your content to an algo, just make good content. People will find it. And spread it for you. Do you think Cory Doctorow worries too much about making his content fit some algos? No. He makes good content, and people find it. Because it’s good. Do you think Stevie Nicks worries about her song lyrics fitting into an algo? No. She makes good music, people find it, and it endures long past it’s creation.
Better/More account portability⌗
I suppose this one has some justification… If you keep thinking about the fediverse as a unified platform, that you use. However, it’s not that at all. Its a set of protocols, server software, and client software that interoperates, and was created to facilitate people communicating in a somewhat near-real time manner that isn’t completely ephemeral.
This is where the analogy to email shines. Can you export your emails from one provider to the next? Yes (Sorta, most providers have limits in place to prevent this). You can also do the same thing on the fediverse as well. There’s an api to retrieve every single post you’ve made, and you can them upload them into a new system somewhere via an api. People will get irritated if you do this, because they all show up as new posts on the new system (Because they are new posts, created by a new identity). This is akin to re-sending all of your past sent emails. All of your contacts will get very mad about this, if you do it.
So, yes, accounts have limited portability. But that’s fine! Social media posts should probably be more ephemeral, so we stop crucifying adults for things they did when they were 14 and posting stupid crap on facebook. And it’s not like we wrote down conversations or party events as we go through life, and that’s what social media networks are: Semi-ephemeral conversations.
They are not “content” per se, and we need to stop acting like every word everyone writes needs to be saved and archived.
Better Onboarding Experience⌗
Maybe this is the one that has the best justification, even though I blame this on dumbing down technology to the point where people think “The internet” is facebook or twitter, and that email == gmail. We did this to ourselves.
Yes, I know this comes across as gate-keepy, and maybe it is. But, people should understand (Somewhat) the technology they are using.
That said: I did not find it any harder to pick a fediverse server to call home than I did to choose which email provider(s) I use. I can, however, see my mom being somewhat confused about it, but its also something that if I sit down with her for a couple of minutes to explain, I can do so. I may not be the best person for this analysis, though.
However, I do think the JoinMastodon site has made great strides on this effort.
I think there’s likely some truth in all three of these. Maybe there can be some “simple” algos for individual feeds to make them better for the individuals. If so, I look forward to someone coding one up, testing it out, and showing people that their solution is better than just reverse chronological. Maybe someone can figure out a smooth way to migrate accounts from one instance to the next? I look forward to their PR to do it, or their coded app to do it. And maybe there is a better way to get people up and running, and once again, I look forward to the people wanting that, doing that.
However, showing up to a space, and demanding change, like you’re entering a Burger King and building a custom burger… This is a community, and its a participatory community. Open and decentralized communities are rarely a spectator sport.