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Connection, not Commodity

As I jumped into Mastodon and thought of ways describe the difference between Mastodon and Twitter, a phrase came to my mind, “Connection, not Commodity.” For me, it feels like Mastodon, and the Fediverse as a whole, is about re-establishing connection between people as opposed to the marketing platform that Twitter seems to have become.

I talked about this the other day, and recently, I came across a post by @atomicpoet@mastodon.social in response to @jon@social.lot23.com about algorithms and monetization goals. I reiterated the same idea I presented previously, with additional nuances. “While I recognize the need for financially sustainable models, it seems like the goals that really need to be discussed are different, such as improving accuracy in reporting, improving mental health of participants, and supporting a stronger, more stable democracy.”
All of this reminds me of Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson's EPIC 2014 from years ago:

“At its best, EPIC is a summary of the world—deeper, broader and more nuanced than anything ever available before. But at its worst, and for too many, EPIC is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue. All of it narrow, shallow and sensational. But EPIC is what we wanted. It is what we chose. And its commercial success preempted any discussions of media and democracy or journalistic ethics.”

Meanwhile, there are some interesting and exciting developments around connection. I’m already using tools to connect WordPress to ActivityPub. Simple Mastodon Verification has been upgraded to include verification for specific authors on a WordPress site. I’m testing that out.

Tumblr has announced plans to add ActivityPub and Flickr is considering it. The latest version of Mastodon now supports RSS feeds so you can subscribe to streams on Mastodon from your favorite RSS reader, including Microsoft Outlook.

Yet as we connect more, we are confronted with how we connect. This, I believe, is where some of the real hard work around Mastodon is being done. We saw some of this in the discussions around @parkermolloy@masto.ai and journa.host. We are now seeing this in discussions around whether episcodon.net should allow partisan politics and how specific it should be about not allowing hate speech.
I posted various comments, including:

I am wondering if the toxicity is part of the human condition and if Anglicanism has anything to say about it, especially in terms of the Via Media and the Elizabethan Settlement, especially when it comes to issues around moderation, banning, public discourse, and politics.

I am wondering if there are other ways of thinking about this, perhaps along the lines of our #Anglican Via Media.
For example, can we think about #AntiLGBTQ and #ProGun policies in a nonpartisan way? It seems as if we should oppose such policies no matter what our political affiliations.

In fact, I wonder if we might be more effective in combating such policies by moving away from demonizing people from a specific parties because many in the party support abhorrent policies.

I also wonder if we need to be thinking about how we can not only be a safe space, but also a brave space where we confront our own internal and structural biases.

I wonder if instead of dismissing the instance as not a safe and pleasant community, it would be possible to work together to address some of these issues.

For example, I believe that "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" means "No racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, or casteism" and this should be part of the server rules.

I also wonder if we need to be thinking about how we can not only be a safe space, but also a brave space where we confront our own internal and structural biases.

@perigee@toot.party responded, “yes. But with my years of work in social justice and civil rights activism, advocacy, and teaching, I must warn you that many people start this work but few stick with it. It's very difficult to confront and deconstruct internalized, colonized bias, and lots of folks figure they can handle it but ultimately find excuses not to stick with it. Let alone bear that torch and constantly bring it to others' attention.”

I think that is the challenge we face as we explore connections and community in Mastodon and the Fediverse.

Finding One’s Self on the Fediverse

In 2004, I set up my blog, Orient Lodge, as a place to gather material I was post various blogs and social media platforms around the internet.

In 2006, I set up my account on Twitter and have been activity there, to various levels, ever since.

In 2008 and 2009, I was doing a bit of experimenting with open source microblogging sites and pubsub protocols. I had set up Laconica servers and Google Wave.

I started a new job in 2010, and had less time for this.

In 2017, I found a bunch of traffic coming to my blog which seemed to be related to Laconica and Mastodon, so I set up a Mastodon account on one of the main servers. Then next year, I set up another Mastodon account on a different server.

With the latest migration of users from Twitter to Mastodon has led me to go back and explore some of my earlier writing, reactivate my old Mastondon account, keep the other one idle, add a new one that I am contemplating how to use, set up a Friendica account, set up a BookWyrm account, set up ActivityPub on a church WordPress server, ponder other fediverse sites, and how to time them all together.
With that, here are some of the place I can be found on the Fediverse

  • @ahynes1@mastodon.cloud This is where I’m most active. I set this up back in 2017. Most of my activity will be here.
  • @ahynes1@mastodon.social This was the second account I set up, back in 2018. I’m keeping this account for the time being, but doing very little there.
  • @ahynes1@episcodon.net An Episcopal Mastodon server. Currently, my use there will be limited to Episcopal discussions, mostly on the local server
  • @ahynes1@books.theunseen.city This is my BookWyrm account, sort of like GoodReads. I’ve ported over much of my GoodReads reviews and have been posting a little there, mostly together with my Mastodon.cloud account to test and illustrate how they interact. I haven’t really hit critical mass there yet, but I hope to.
  • @ahynes1@friendica.me This is my Friendica account. I’m using this for posting some of my longer form posts, in addition to posting them on my blog.
  • @aldon@gracehartford.org This is my WordPress account on the Grace Church website. I’ve installed ActivityPub on the website and have been testing how WordPress behaves on the Fediverse.

Going forward, I hope to updated or migrate my blog to a platform with Fediverse integration, explore XMPP pubsub to ActivityPub integration, and explore other sites native to the Fediverse. Stay tuned.

Negotiating a New Distributed Digital Social Contract

I just boosted a post on Mastodon by @jon@social.lot23.com describing his experiences as a former designer for Twitter. The discussion about algorithms and reverse chronological posts is fascinating and is worthy of much discussion. There has also been a recent discussion about moderation and the experiences of @parkermolloy@masto.ai. These are the discussions to be had around negotiating a new distributed digital social contract.

One thing that particularly jumped out as me from Jon's thread was, "The data told us we were making a better product." I wondered, what data and how do we define 'better'? I'm guessing better is being measured in terms of number of tweetviews or number of interactions, or something like that. This probably makes sense if the focus is monetizing the platform.

But, what if we went for other metrics? More accurate reporting? Improved mental health? A stronger, more stable democracy? What do you think makes for a better microblogging platform?

About Mastodon and the Fediverse

It has been a long time since I've blogged here. Between seminary, work, family, and everything else, I've had limited time. However, the recent interest in Mastodon has caught my attention and I've reactivated my blog. I've gone out and looked at my earlier work in Laconica, set up ActivityPub on a Wordpress site I support, and am thinking of redoing this site.

I've been meaning to share some thoughts about Mastodon and the Fediverse, and I find each day slips away without me having time to write in the detail I'd like, so I'm just free writing a quick post.

Mastodon is part of the Fediverse. It is much more than a replacement for Twitter. It has its own culture, based on federated servers that anyone can set up with whatever moderation rules they want. Don't come to Mastodon as a colonist from Twitter.

Be sure to explore other parts of the Fediverse. For example, I'm exploring books.theunseen.city, a Fediverse alternative to Goodreads.

I'm finding the activity on Mastodon much more engaged than on Twitter. I think a good way to think about Mastodon vs. Twitter is Community, not Commodity.

More later....

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