Six Years of Federation
Blah blah Twitter is a shrinking ship and everyone is wondering where to go next blah. You’re tired of reading about this and I don’t particularly wanna write about it. So I won’t!
This morning while pretending to work I was thinking about my very first Mastodon account and if the instance it was on still existed. The answer: yes! But then I noticed the date under the Joined field: April 4th, 2017.
Six years ago are you kidding me. God, I know Covid really did a number on our perception of the passage of time, but SIX YEARS?! In addition to rocking me to my core, now I’ve suddenly gotten introspective about the whole Mastodon thing. So uh, indulge me, I guess.
I’ve moved instances four times in the six years I’ve been on Mastodon. My first was Targaryen House, a general server themed vaguely around A Song of Ice and Fire. I picked it because in addition to enjoying the book series, I didn’t want to jump onto the flagship Mastodon.social instance. I moved after four months when I realized several instances I liked had defederated with Targaryen House. Apparently TH was considered very lax with the stuff they allowed on their instance and their moderation, and many instances in the Fediverse didn’t want to deal with that and chose to drop ties. You see it all the time on the Fediverse nowadays, but at the time I found it very disorienting to one day wake up and realize I couldn’t see several people I followed because they were tired of my server’s shit. So I bounced.
My second home was cybre.space, another all-purpose server that had a very tongue-in-cheek cyberpunk/online theme. Instead of toots and favorites, you had pings and florps. The website had a lofi glitch aesthetic, with an optional Windows 95 theme. Here is my review of cybre.space:
Cybre.space ruled. But @chr, the admin of the instance, decided to shut cybre.space down at the beginning of 2023. I can’t blame them. I don’t know a lot, but I know running a Mastodon server is hard work and potentially very expensive. Chr will never read this, but you worked tirelessly to make a great website and community. Thank you.
Before cybre.space shut down I moved to weirder.earth. Weirder.earth is a great instance and I’d highly recommend it because they will absolutely not tolerate any of your bullshit. In an era of just the worst kinds of people overtaking Facebook and Twitter, it’s great to see mods that stop that before it can even start. The only problem I found is that they’re a little too effective.
And this is entirely a me thing, I still applaud what they do. When mastodon.social started getting far too big for its mods, weirder.earth chose to silence .social, meaning you could still interact with people on mastodon.social you follow, but the federated timeline wouldn’t show any .social accounts. Great idea. But eventually after more waves of mastodon signups, mastodon.social became even bigger, and the weirder.earth mods decided to defederate entirely. Suddenly I had people on my following list I couldn’t see at all, but I decided it was an acceptable loss. But as time went on weirder.earth defederated with several more larger instances housing people I liked to follow.
And I get it! You gotta protect your users from servers who get very big very fast and don’t scale their moderation team up to handle the rapid influx of new people. In a perfect world, maybe I could convince these people to move to smaller, better-moderated servers. But in reality, telling someone “please move your entire account, otherwise a server of just over a thousand people won’t be able to see your posts” doesn’t hold a lot of water. As time went on I started thinking about making a separate account elsewhere so I could still interact with the defederated folk. This all came to a head a week ago when I was reading the RSS feed I had made of people I like to follow but can no longer access on weirder.earth when I had a “what am I doing?” moment.
So I have once again moved, now I’m at dragonscave.space. It seems nice there, the mods are friendly, and their solution seems to be not to defederate, but to silence all boosts on the local timeline, and silence a large number of instances on the federated timeline. So I can still follow the people I like on the big servers, not bother my neighbors on the local timeline with all my furry art boosts, and I rarely ever look at the federated timeline regardless of what server I’m on. Sounds like a win all around. I’d love to stay here as long as I did on cybre.space, or even longer.
I feel like at this point I should say something about my overall time on the Fediverse, but I’m not really sure what would be worth saying. Mastodon is neat (I can’t go back to a system with no content warnings), but at the end of the day it’s basically Twitter, circa 2010 or so. Discoverability is mostly done through boost and hashtags, and nothing on the system is going to suggest you new people or things to follow. Some people (me) like that. Some people don’t. For the record, I’m not really a ~content creator~ so I care very little if people are able to find me. I know others out there are just trying to keep the lights on and that requires a large amount of people constantly (and reliably) seeing their posts.
Some people treat Mastodon and the Fediverse at large as some sort of internet revolution in a very early 90s Wired techno-hippie sorta way. Some people just join it to thumb their nose at the big companies. Both are probably valid. I’m just here to post metal songs I like and boost furry art. Y’know, the important shit.