By now, anyone even vaguely interested knows “Mastodon” isn’t a thing, it’s not a system or a single website, unlike twitter, Instagram etc. It’s a set of software code, rules, interfaces and participant in something called “The Fediverse”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fediverse. You don’t register for the fediverse, you register for a specific server (called an “instance”) that runs the Mastodon code.
It didn’t end well for me, this post is a word of caution for all those thinking “yeah, it’s not twitter, but it’s an open, independent version of public messaging”.
Let’s talk about that…
How Did You Get Started?
I created my mstdn.social account at the end of October 2022, before a couple of more local servers had been created. It seemed like a good server; had a good local community – which is important for Mastodon timelines; it allowed open sign-in. I was “https://mstdn.social/@4mc”
I quickly found people to follow, a lot of my tech’ contacts were already there and many joined around the same time. By November 11th, 2022 I was ready to write the somewhat expected account of my early experiences. Of course, I posted a link to twitter.
On December 2nd, not only was I “all-in” it was time to send my first voluntary payment to the server host (Stuxhost), I sent $25.
By mid-December I was having discussions with a hosting company about offering to host Mastodon instances. I set-up this blog, my twitter account, and another website so they showed as “verified” in the Mastodon way.
I was answering questions about tech’ (mostly twitter) layoffs on Mastodon. Based on 25-years as a non-resident tech’ guy and sometime executive at IBM and Dell, both places we employed temporary and permanent tech workers, and terminated them. It was all going great.
I started up a couple of things I’d done circa 2007 when we got started on twitter. I started posting #chinposin Tuesday pictures based on what I was doing/thinking. I even posted a short video of my public Mastodon timeline to combat the meme that “there was no one on Mastodon“.
I even started posting updates to twitter about some really good new mobile Mastodon apps and User-Interfaces.
By January 11th, 2023, I had 117-followers, following 40-accounts and had “tooted” 514 times. Phew…
What Went Wrong?
As anyone who knows me well, one of the things I’ve been doing since stopping work is digitizing my vinyl record collection. As an offshoot of that, I have some big side projects, one being an almost fulltime job researching and writing about the music, musicians and albums that producer Creed Taylor madehttps://www.ctproduced.com/.
I’ve done a few commercial research projects and have also tripped over some others. I have nearly 100 public broadcast vinyl records from a previously unknown, to me, US Government program series called “Voices of Vista”. I’ve also managed to collect from shops and record fairs, a number of pretty unique voice/radio broadcast vinyl records.
On January 11th I wrote two toots about one of the sets.
Vinyl Records were the podcast of their day. Most people assume records = music but there are tens of thousands of talk only records. I’m listening to one now, and am both mildly amused and fascinated by the 1971 ideas. (This one was accompanied by a picture of me in my home office, chin in hand, #ChinPosin)Jan 11th, 2023 toot by @firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a series I’m collecting and archiving and will post to the Internet Archive at some point this year. There is a 3x record series catled “Sex For ****” where *** = Adults/Teens/Children. The Adults is mildly soft porn, while the childrens record is “meh” as it should be. The Teens record though is mildly progressive and medical, but also carries the baggage of 1971 thinking. Here is a worksafe segment from the teens album to enjoy for yourJan 11th, 2023 toot by @email@example.com
#Chinposin minute. It deals with masturbation.
Attached to the second toot was this audio file. Since my account is suspended I can’t link to the file, but trust me it was exactly this short humorous clip, nothing else.
Juvenile Boy: Boy, you hear weird stories about what will happen to you if you masturbate. Dr Stanley Z Daniela MD: Like you'll go blind, hair will grow on your hands? You become an idiot? It's all rot, It's not so. Juvenile Boy: I'm glad to know that, I hate feeling like an idiot. Juvenile Girl: Idiot!
Next time I tried to login my account wasn’t there. Many of the UI’s got nothing but an error “You don’t have permission to view this page.” I logged on through the primary web interface to be greeted by:
You can no longer use your account, and your profile and other data are no longer accessible. You can still login to request a backup of your data until the data is fully removed in about 30 days, but we will retain some basic data to prevent you from evading the suspension.
I submitted an appeal, asking if they’d read the post or listened to the audio, telling them that no body parts were named, mentioned or discussed, just the word masturbate.
Did An Appeal Work?
Nope. Nothing. I have no idea what happens when you get suspended on twitter, since it never happened in 15-years, having tweeted more risque tweets and with links to articles covering much worse material. Also, yes I’m sure for a period twitter allowed audio posts.
As I approach the 30-day deletion mark, I’ve been thinking about my next steps. I’d considered creating a Mastodon server focused primarily on jazz music, which would make the local timeline really interesting. As I said earlier I was even talking to a hosting company about spinning up Mastodon hosting.
Well, for the same reason that “Stuxhost” hasn’t reviewed my appeal. I have no idea if “Stuxhost” is one person or a team of people, and don’t care. I’m not prepared to enter into the wildwest of Mastodon, dealing with other people and becoming the judge over their posts. I’m sure it can be a lot of work and sometimes disturbing and upsetting.
According to the excellent Mastodon documentation center, leaving and moving accounts is a simple process, just download your archive, and upload to your new serverhttps://docs.joinmastodon.org/user/moving/.
Of course, your handle/name will change, but it should also redirect your followers and your follows will be added to the new instance, and because it’s federated “As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden”Chance the Gardner in the Movie “Being There.
What’s The Lesson?
The first thing everyone writes about Mastodon is, It’s not centralized. It’s just a bunch of instances around the world sending data to each other using a publication/subscribe software protocol. Those instances can go away at any time for any reason.
- The instance admin might just get bored
- The instance admin might die or forget to pay the server/ISP charges
- The Instance admin might sell the server instance to another company who shut it down and mine it for data
- The instance might get blocked by an ISP (oh yes it can!).
The lesson for me is that I’m not joining another Mastodon instance to spend months building up my reputation, only to find the instance go away. I’m also not going to set up an instance where other people can register, or at least the general public.
The only way I’m likely to go back to the fediverse is when I have time and a hosting company that’s willing to host a personal server. That’s not going to be anytime soon.
It seems that the Financial Times (ft) Alphaville tried to run a Mastodon server for a while and had an bad experience, they came up with some more issues. The original article is behind a paywall. The following tweet has a good summary though.
This just confirms to me that a local or hosted server with maybe just myself and trusted friends and family is the way to go. This isn’t a bad thing, it just shows perhaps a way forward that I certainly hadn’t thought about when I jumped into the #fediverse .
Jan 26th, 2023 9am minor tidy-ups, typos.
Jan 28th, 2023 10:30am – changed intro to “an impending collapse” from simply “twitter started to collapse” – based on comment received. Added heading an detail on ft alphaville article.
May 15th, 2023 I’ve always needed a good editor and Gabe Goldberg has been an infrequent proof reader and editor for me since at least 1991. Minor changes, thanks Gabe!