There is a lot of noise about Mastodon and if it’s up to the task. It probably isn’t, today. Neither was twitter at the time, if you remember the frequency of “failwhale”. Early twitter was a rough and weird place, and Mastodon is in a similar spot currently.
And I get it. Mastodon is different. It can be a bit unpolished. It can be slow. There are some confusing parts of it, in comparison to other social platforms. The DM system is … not a DM system – it’s also something different, and it’s own unique feature, but the usability for a DM experience for users, it is not.
Moving to Mastodon will require learning a new system and re-building your network and recreating lists and and and… There is absolutely privilege in having the time to bother with this all.
But look, first off – you don’t have to use it. I too am sad about what is happening to twitter, but it will probably (OK, maybe at this rate?) limp along for quite some time. There are other options out there if you’re OK with a more photo- or video- centric life.
Mastodon is not a drop-in twitter replacement. It shouldn’t be. It’s a federated group of server admins banding together to give something that’s currently algorithm, tracker, and ad free. Will that work out? I dare not hope. There is such a vast opportunity in this moment.
Is there more to fix? Oh hell yes. Will it have scale problems? Yes. Will trolls, spammers, and more complex adversaries come and cause problems? Way more than most realize. Will we have harassment, sexism, racism, and all the rest, targeting women, BIPOC, LGBTQIA¸ and vulnerable and under-represented people using the platform? Yes, and it’s already happening. Mastodon is still just technology, and won’t fix these problems by being different technology.
But Mastodon deserves our patience, support, and a bit of grace.
Today, it is a lot of burnt out mostly or wholly volunteer sysadmins, working long hours, trying to manage the user influx while also patching code and optimizing systems, funding server hosting costs from their pockets and donations.
But, here we are, using a community managed and owned, open source social network. This is happening. And, it is with tool that has a strong focus on code of conduct, content warnings/consent, user and admin-level content moderation tools already built in, accessibility tools, decent translations, and a path to try and sustain this by keeping each server’s community to a manageable size (theoretically).
All these things we as human rights advocates have been hoping for and asking for, and here we have an open source platform which listened, and which is facing a daunting onslaught of people trying to replace twitter with it all at once.
It is on all of us to help support and shape it to be the platform we want. Let us not give up this incredible opportunity because it is not delivered as immediately perfect.