One week ago, I created my first Mastodon account @firstname.lastname@example.org and used it as my primary microblogging service, which was Twitter (@stevenschwenke) until now. In this article, I summarize my conclusions so far.
Multiple reasons brought me to trying out Mastodon. The Prime event was Elon Musk buying Twitter and what happened afterwards. Although I’m a big fan of his hugely important successes with SpaceX and Tesla, he makes more and more authoritarian decisions and breaking his promises. I don’t want to go too much into detail, you may find more information in this (German) article. The summary is that right-wing extremists grow in numbers and strength and liberal voices are blocked. In general, an important global communication infrastructure such as Twitter should not be controlled by one man alone.
Besides this motivation that leads me away from Twitter, I always wanted to try out Mastodon. The events described above just gave me the last nudge I needed to try out the federated network of Mastodon.
In a moment that was not occupied by other work, family stuff or errants, I created an account on Mastodon. I recommend reading articles like this one to understand the most basic concepts before creating an account. Because I read nothing about the concepts behind the platform, “creating an account” wasn’t as easy as I thought. Mastodon is a federated network, comprising several instances of the Mastodon software, communicating with each other. Each instance hosts several users. Hence, from the user’s perspective, the first decision is which instance to create an account on. I wanted an organization I could trust and that hosts the instance professionally. Because I’m already a member of Digitalcourage, I know from experience that data protection is highly important for them. Hence, I created an account on digitalcourage.social.
The second surprise came when my account needed to be activated by the admins while you can use other social platforms immediately after registration. I assume the sheer number of users is paramount for these platforms. In contrast, the Digitalcourage instance focuses on constructive and respectful conversations of their users. I assume that the admins at least have a look on the user-provided biography and look out for cues of extremism or illegality.
However, access-control doesn’t stop here! I was surprised that Digitalcourage actually charges 1 Euro per month for their Mastodon instance. You actually have to pay for using Mastodon! Only on a second thought, this makes sense: If you don’t pay for a product, you are the product. The reason Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and others charge nothing for their services is that all of their users are just the customers for advertisement broadcasted into the platform. I enjoy supporting Digitalcourage with this small fee.
Once activated, the actual setup of my account was pretty easy. In the web frontend, I used the same text and images for my profile as I did on Twitter.
The next step was choosing a client for my Android phone, which proved to be more complicated. Currently, there seem to be multiple clients in different stages of development, including incomplete applications. My choice fell to the standard web frontend of Mastodon. Being a progressive web app, it can be “installed” on the screen of my phone and is always up to date, feature-wise.
Although I wrote a lot of text just to describe the setup of my account, getting into Mastodon was actually not that hard. This setup should not be counted as a negative impression.
My first really good impression was the whooping 500 characters per message compared to only 280 characters on Twitter. I noticed I write more fine-grained and refined texts on Mastodon.
Maybe because of this, discussions on Mastodon are way more constructive, helpful and respectful. I enjoy reading my Mastodon timeline.
I also liked that most of the Twitter accounts I got my news from are present in Mastodon as well, so as a news platform, Mastodon works for me. However, there are not so many individuals - yet.
I’m going to use Mastodon as my primary microblogging platform and am already thinking about moving my other accounts like HackTalk and Developer on the Stage as well and maybe even delete my Twitter accounts.