Lets Talk Mastodon

Lets Talk Mastodon

Why it reminds me of the golden age internet communities

Let’s talk Mastodon! This won’t be a how-to as there have been plenty of those over the past few weeks, but I wanted to make some observations based on my past experience and how it triggered my nostalgia.

I joined about a week ago (the hachyderm.io instance – an awesome community!) I was very reluctant to join Mastodon at first, because I couldn’t see the value. It felt too complex and segmented, but after a chat on Twitter on the subject I decided to give it a try and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the experience!

What has resonated with me since I joined was how much it reminded me of what I consider the golden age of the Internet, which for me is the pre-social media era.

I ran several video game fan sites back in the late 90s and 2000s. I was also big into Tribes and was a member of a competitive gaming team or two during that time. One of those sites had over 50k members and active forums with a team of moderators to keep things going – it was a lot of work! But also, very rewarding. It’s how I really learned a lot about things like web servers, networking, streaming, how to manage an internet service and an online community. I met MANY longtime friends I still talk to today.

Mastodon reminds me of that time period, before algorithms and massive websites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. A time when your small community mattered and discussion was relevant and fun. A time when you got to know the people who helped to moderate your community and got to know the people you conversed with on a regular basis.

A great example was a post I made this past Monday asking people for their suggestions on backup solutions for my local NAS. I got a half dozen replies suggesting options and learned about a few things I hadn’t heard of before. If I made this same post on Twitter, it would have been like shouting into a void. Despite having over 2k followers, it’s unlikely anyone would have seen it much less respond.

But in addition to your local community, you are also federated to OTHER local communities! This wasn’t possible when the internet was thousands of forums, if someone left and you wanted to still talk to them, you’d have to have another account on that forum. Not so with the fediverse (Based on ActivityPub) which lets you connect across instances. Best of all there are no algorithms to deal with, you can curate your timeline how you see fit. And your engagement isn’t based on retweets or likes but what you have to say. People can’t search for text across the fediverse but only hashtags, so your chances of being bombed by trolls for mentioning a certain CEO are slim.

On Mastodon the community has control over their public square, not some narcissistic CEO or board room trying to maximize profits. Communities run on donations and volunteers that help to maintain the square, just like it used to be before social media. This means there may be growing pains on some instances as there was on my forum in the past – but it’s a great tradeoff from what we have now.

I can confidently say I’ll be here for the long haul and at some point, would love to help with the hachyderm instance. I highly suggest you give Mastodon a try and check out the thousands of available instances to create an account on. And remember that you can move to another if you don’t end up feeling at home, I’ve already done this once! I’ll remain active on Twitter, for now. But who knows what the future holds for that website.

You can find me on Mastodon @[email protected]