Darius Kazemi
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I think the idea that a new Mastodon user is supposed to pick an instance based on affinity/interest is the number one thing that prevents people from joining. I think there needs to be a retooling of the messaging to make it about trust.

People don't join email services because of affinity. They do because they trust. They trust Google will be around for a long time. Or that hushmail won't sell their data. Or that Hotmail is easy to use. Etc etc.

What I'm saying is I think I'm going to start hosting an instance for my IRL friends, because they trust me.

The ones who are skeptical about Mastodon will at least try it if I'm their sysadmin and moderator.

@darius "pals, this is mastodon! i think you'll find it's a lot of fun! just 1 small thing: you can only talk by making dolphin sounds"

@darius

👏 👏 👏 :blobcheer: 👍

Seeing more would be great, not just for Mastodon but all open alteratives.

@darius this is one reason why I host Pdx.social under Panic's banner.

@darius Agreed. The primary reason I chose my instance was because it’s run by people I know irl and trust.

@darius I think this is a really good idea, and is actually functionally the only most important motivation for picking an instance imo. but maybe I'm saying this because I'm on mastodon.social and I never look at the local timeline (which is supposedly the main benefit of picking instances based on affinity)?

@aparrish @darius
This is also a reason why I pushed to set up an instance at work. I believe social networks are also an excellent professional tool, or at least in some cases. And for the same reason of trust, I can now tell my colleagues to experiment with Mastodon from the trusted company infrastructure. It also makes the local timeline very interesting because it's only stuff posted from colleagues.

@darius @aparrish For sure. I don't see any of your bots in there though ;)

@aparrish @darius can confirm that on oulipo.social, local activity is an important tab (in my opinion)

@aparrish @darius depends on if you're in a smaller marginalized or threatened class and face internet harrassment for it too

@aparrish @darius what i mean is, some people join instances and interact almost entirely within them for safety reasons

this is supported by federation and moderation tools

@aparrish @darius I pretty much agree re trust, having experienced instance death.

But while I too am on m.social and never look at the local timeline, I do sometimes search for a hashtag. That’s where the big-instance advantage resides from my standpoint.

@darius agreed - I recommend people join one where they trust the admins.

@darius

Maybe. But one of the first things people do after joining is look for their tribe, which is often interest based. So maybe you need a reworked message encompassing both.

Another observation, more in favour of your suggestion: few ‘theme’ instances actually have strong themes, as far as users go. A theme is just a conceptually easy way to hop into the rapids (i.e. a place to create an account). But once there everyone rides the same river (fediverse), more or less.

@darius The 'trust' word gets used an awful lot and is close to becoming meaningless. It means three different things in that last message. We should be more careful over it? Don't we *expect* an app to have a good UX, not 'trust' it?

As it happens (trusting, of course, that Mastodon won't sell my data) I'm one user who did choose social.coop because of afffinity.

@darius At same time being able to spin up an instance around affinity groups (or geofenced for locales) would be awesome.

I look at how educators use Twitter with dozens and dozens of hourly chats scheduled around the week.

Trust alone will not overcome the empty network.

Trust, aligned with values, combined with value of service.

Now were talking (to more people)

@darius I think that's a learned behaviour and potentially flawed logic.

Back in the early 90s bulletin boards were specifically about people with related interests. Then people moved onto fan forums, then later joined groups/pages on social networks like Facebook.

The entire premise of Mastodon is that you're following people that are tooting things you're interested in hearing about. It makes logical sense you'd join a server with the kind of people you're likely to follow.

@darius if you only direct people to "the most stable" communities than that becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

We will end up with only a handful of very large instances that are well-funded, and the rest of the fediverse would effectively be a ghost town.

This would ultimately lead to a social network that's less resilient. If one of those big servers closes or "goes rogue", you lose a large swathe of the network.

@darius Hmm. I see where you are coming from, but I think too much of the world now expects mobile services for "free." The affinity/interests model is great in my opinion because it seems more sustainable. We all love the same interest and will, as a community, keep it going. That is, I trust you, a human with the same interest as me more than a group of shareholders in a vacuum that is only concerned with profit.

@darius people make email addresses as signifiers, gmail used to mean you were savvy etc. That kind of flexibility comes when you understand the underlying decentralization, which people do at some level, but can’t seem to apply it beyond one circumstance

@darius this gets back to one of the biggest things complicating broader adoption, for a normal user coming in with little context choosing an instance isn't some fun decision, it's like choosing a health plan. early adopters don't understand that because they find the tech / implementation inherently interesting and think everyone does.

@darius "join a topic specific instance and enjoy the focus of its local timeline!" is infuriating to me because it's promising filter quality at the cost of an infrastructural commitment. it's a recipe for non-technical users feeling burned when they realize what they're locked into. (because afaict people are STILL bikeshedding about seamless perfect account migration, jfc)

@jplebreton @darius For users like me, who basically only read posts from people they follow, it's basically irrelevant what instance you're on. Better to recommend an instance that's stable and well-moderated than to try to get people to pick their own on the basis of affinities.

@jplebreton @darius honestly rather than seamless account migration i'd be much more interested in seeing Masto acknowledge that people have multiple identities, that they can exist in different communities at once, that one's identity is manifold and always in flux, rather than singular and immutable.

@jplebreton @darius one bitter irony of Masto to me is that that it chose to emulate the UI of Tweetdeck (which i don't really like) but not the functionality of Tweetdeck (the ability to wrangle multiple accounts, the reason i use it regardless of clunkiness). this also means i can't, say, see notifications on my bots without logging in to them in a separate session

@jplebreton @darius TD;DR i think choosing an instance would be much less of a commitment (and less of a paralyzing experience for some) if the cost of existing in multiple places as multiple identities was much lower, was acknowledged as part of how things naturally worked.

@six @darius I guess I wrote about this some a long while back: mastodon.social/@jplebreton/14 I think I still stand by my statement that it's a mistake to insist new users care about federation or instances, which are essentially implementation details.

@six @darius Definitely agree that identity is prismatic and that painless management of and posting from multiple accounts would be very positive.

@six I knew there was something off-putting about the push for a unified blockchain identity people were pushing. This is it. They talk of anonymity and censorship, but not the need for multiple identities. I don't doubt their solutions can accommodate this, but that it doesn't seem to be considered in their discussions makes me think it's also not considered in the design and engineering.

@six @jplebreton @darius something I noticed after a short time using Mastodon was that a lot of people seemed willing to actively manage several separate identities, despite the difficulties and overhead involved in doing so.

At the time, I attributed it to childishness, having done similar when I was young online, but I'm reconsidering that judgement now. Maybe there is something useful or intuitive about maintaining personas.

Either way, better account mgmt is worthy.

@rubah @jplebreton @six Yes!! I actually mostly use Twitter right now for my private alt account on there because it's just me and a tight knit group of friends. I would've left Twitter long ago if I didn't have multiple identities there

@darius trust creates monopolies. which is the exact thing mastodon tries to avoid.

@darius This topic was a major stopping point for me for a while. Instances all seem to sell themselves like topic-based forums, even though they're not.

When I was first shopping for an instance, I was pretty shocked that none of them (at the time) had any mention of their data use, security, etc. Most had a standard "no nazis" moderation policy, but not a lot of information besides that.

@darius I'm the data point that doesn't fit (there's always one). I joined when a friend ( @woozle ) pointed me at an instance geared towards one of my hobbies. Admittedly, now, I probably would be more concerned about longevity of the instance, but my friend runs one too, so I suppose I have somewhere to fall back on :)

@darius I totally agree. This is because the "local timeline" is such a useful tool, and things like groups and hashtags are coming later.

@darius I completely agree. I think it's because of the convolution of the account and the instance timeline. If you could just as easily follow an instance timeline from any other instance then all of a sudden it doesn't matter which is your home instance.

@aaronpk Haha so says another self-hosted instance-of-one user :)

As an aside, do you experience weird caching things? I do think most beginners should join a populated server because otherwise they are going to be seeing a lot of seemingly-blank profile pages when they click through to profiles of people who are mentioned that their instance hasn't interacted with before

@darius Yeah that's definitely a Mastodon caching issue. If Mastodon went and fetched a few posts from someone's profile it would fix it. I'm not actually sure why they haven't done that yet.

My software isn't even Mastodon, I made my site interact with the protocol directly. So when I click on someone I just visit their profile page on their instance directly, so that avoids the issue for me.

@aaronpk Ah nice. Are you using something homegrown or Pleroma or is there another ActivityPub compliant thing out there I haven't encountered?

@darius Totally homegrown, I decided to see what it would take to write as little code as possible to interoperate.

There are a few other alternatives out there right now. This is a fun site that tracks instances and different projects: https://the-federation.info

@aaronpk oh awesome. Can you share the code with me? I am writing my own extremely stripped down server that is meant for bots *only*, so it lets you create new accounts, make/delete posts, and it accepts follow requests, and that's basically it! (also allows the creation of new accounts via API because bots) Anyway, another dirt-simple reference implementation would be a huge help since there are not good "here is what ActivityPub messages should look like" resources I can find

@darius My site's source code isn't public, but I might be able to throw the files up just as samples.

I started off by reading this post https://blog.joinmastodon.org/2018/06/how-to-implement-a-basic-activitypub-server/ as well as the followup, https://blog.joinmastodon.org/2018/07/how-to-make-friends-and-verify-requests/

But ultimately those only got me so far, I had to eventually hop in the IRC channel and ask Mastodon and other developers about some of the details. Even the ActivityPub spec doesn't tell you enough to make it work right now. I wish it was simpler!

@aaronpk Yeah I am working off those, currently at the IRC/Discord stage. I got the stuff in the blog posts working but weirdly I'm having problems where Mastodon likes my keypair signing for most things except for an "Accept" follow message. Even though it's the same keypair and code. (Messy reference code would be great, even if you just emailed me a zip or something)

@darius haha okay! I will unapologetically send you a pile of code, with the only documentation being the inline comments! 😆

@darius @phildini I think another good criterion might be control - like, what are the rules? can you have a say in the rules/how the place is run?

@nev @phildini Yes! Although to me that is implicitly a part of trust, it probably makes sense to make it explicit.

@nev @phildini @darius I’m not sure... When I lived in a small northern town and travelled to a small city, I needed socks. In my small northern town, the choice would have been easy: socks or no socks. But when I went into city’s local Zellers (when there was such a thing). They had a whole wall of socks, different styles and colours, even a men’s and women’s section. I was so overwhelmed I left without any socks at all. Choice can be hard when you’re not used to it.

@darius "Ideal" approach would be people running trusted instances of their own. And I think we need to get closer, here, to a reality where people either don't want or can't have instances of their own so they need access to something "trustworthy". Maybe the whole instance management and user "sharding" across instances could be handled in a more innovative approach... 😉

@darius Looking into setting up an Idle Thumbs instance for anyone interested. We may not put out podcasts that often at this point but we’re good at hosting and keeping things online for a long time. (Eg our forum which has been kept alive on modern hardware and software, with all history and accounts preserved, for 14 years)

@darius But email isn’t something one would ever think of in terms of affinity. Social media sort of is? I think this would be a non-issue if there were true account portability across instances. Then people could join the “default” but move easily when they find where they really want to be.

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Tiny Subversions Mastodon

This is a private Mastodon instance just for Darius Kazemi. It wasn't all that hard to set up! I used this guide.