Ash Furrow

Mastodon is a microblogging platform, often compared to Twitter. If you’re not familiar with Mastodon, you can probably skip this interview. You’ll find a good explainer here. Ash Furrow is the administrator of one “instance” of Mastodon. In this 25 minute interview he answers the questions below.

  1. Would you mind telling us a little about yourself? What do you do when you’re not feeding and caring for Mastodon.Technical?
  2. How did you get involved with the Mastodon movement?
  3. When did Mastodon.Technical go live? Do you recall who was Tooter #1?
  4. Are you (now or previously) active on other social media platforms?
  5. While a lot of people are apparently happy with Facebook and Twitter, many others are fleeing and looking for something else. What’s happening?
  6. What are the important differences between Mastodon and the more established social platforms?
  7. There have been no shortage of Twitter “replacements” but few have gotten traction. Is Mastodon different? Why?
  8. The “federation” concept seems pretty simple to me but I keep reading about users who find it confusing. Is this a problem?
  9. Are there instances operated by hate groups? Have you had to ban users from your instance?
  10. What is the biggest misconception about Mastodon?
  11. How much time do you invest each week working on your Mastodon instance?
  12. As it grows, do you feel trapped in any sense?
  13. As the admin for your instance, you are — I assume — all powerful. You’ve published user guidelines, have you had to exercise that power?
  14. What would you like the Mastodon Federation to look like a year from now?

Mastodon is a federation

This is the best explainer of Mastodon I’ve found. Aptly, it’s by the creator, Eugen Rochko. Here’s an excerpt:

One of Mastodon’s fundamental differences to Twitter is federation. To bring that word into context, the United States of America are a federation. In a more technical context: E-mail is federation. It means that users are spread throughout different, independent communities, yet remain unified in their ability to interact with each other. You can send an e-mail from GMail to Outlook, from Outlook to someone’s private e-mail inbox. Mastodon’s federation is similar: users from different sites (let’s call them “instances”) establish connections between these sites by following each other and sending each other messages like on any other social network.

What does federation mean for the user?

  • You can have the username your desire, as long as you can find an instance where it is available
  • You can pick an instance run by someone you trust and whose content policies you agree with, or run one yourself with some technical knowledge
  • Users are spread out, so individual instances are smaller, and as such communities are easier to build and moderate
  • No monopolies, if one instance ever shuts down, you don’t have to convince your friends to switch to a different social network, you just let them know to follow your new account on a different instance

I’ve never used Facebook and stopped using Twitter six months ago. Still cruise by Google+ a couple of times a day but spending more time at Mastodon.Technology these days. You can search for @smays@mastodon.technology

Mastodon

I’ve been hanging out in a new social media neighborhood for the last week or so. It’s called Mastodon and it’s sort of like Twitter that you made in your garage with a glue gun and some Gorilla tape. This article will explain it better than I can. Or this one.

I created my Twitter account on February 21, 2007 (account #786,471). When I stopped using Twitter last November I was following 176 people and 118 were following me (but I never saw any evidence of that). In those ten years I tweeted 11,565 times. Twitter was where I got most of my news.

But in 2016, nearly every single tweet, from every single user I followed, was politics. A solid fucking year of politics. And while I haven’t been back to my account, I assume that has not changed and will not for the foreseeable future. So I moved on. No idea if I’ll ever go back.

This Mastodon thing is fun and interesting but I’m not sure I can explain why. Where there’s one Twitter, owned and operated by a big corporation… there a thousand (?) Mastodon ‘instances.’ Maybe like 1,000 Twitters that can talk to each other?

I liked Twitter’s 140 character limit but Mastodon’s 500 character posts are growing on me. I’ve always leaned more toward writing something than throwing up one of the annoying goddamned animated GIFs (you an do that on Mastodon, too). There’s a bit of a Wild West feel for now but I suppose that will change.

I’m meeting new people and that’s a breath of fresh air. I’m reading the businesses don’t like it and that is a BIG plus for me. I do not like being “monetized.”

Mastodon is just confusing enough to keep your grandmother from showing up, another plus.