Toots, boosts, fediverse and Mastodon: It's like homecoming

Blogging, July 2009. Bloggers are a vanishing breed.

Let’s get two things aside right away. This is not a tech blog, and there is no data or coding to show the observations here. Everything is an opinion of just another longtime blogger who has understood a little bit about how social media, especially serious blogging, perhaps works.

Mastodon, that friendly thing everyone has been talking about, feels like it’s back to 2006 when blogging was fun, fresh and innocent. Everyone is welcoming and giving high-fives. But we know what happened to blogging later on.

So it’s possible Mastodon may take an entirely new shape in time. The kinds of safeguards it has, however, are likely to help resist negative changes when compared to traditional social networks that have become big brands.

You will find more than a handful of detailed explainers on Mastodon on Google Search, so let’s skip that part. This one is good (YouTube link). It is highly recommended that you memorise the words commonly used on Mastodon - “toot” for tweet, “instance” for server or group, “boost” for retweet, “fediverse” for the entire universe where Mastodon resides, etc.

In short, Mastodon is a Twitter-like service without ads and abusive people. Even the user interface feels at home after switching from Twitter. Mastodon has a limit of 500 characters.

But there’s a fundamental technical difference between how Mastodon and Twitter work. Mastodon has hundreds of different servers on which groups are hosted and every server has its own rules. A server may say don’t post racist comments, another may say don’t post “ma-behen ki galis”, yet another may say “rabid trolls not allowed”.

Peeing human: Good behaviour is appreciated on Mastodon.

These protections offer a space for people to have decent conversations - something that we used to do back in the heyday of blogging, roughly between 2006 and 2010, maybe till 2012. (I have made good friends from blogging, some of whom I have never met, but have been in touch for 10 years. Our blogs and work have evolved, and it’s a rich experience to have lived through that.)

A group on Mastodon is called an “instance”. So when you sign up, you are joining an “instance” or a group. There are several “instances” with vastly different names, but all are on Mastodon. People in one “instance” can communicate with another “instance” - though both may have different rules.

For example, trolls may create an “instance” to harass others, but that “instance” can be blocked by the rest.

My experience in using Mastodon for about two weeks has been very encouraging when compared to Twitter. The engagement rate on Mastodon is very high because the number of people on every server is not high (but growing) compared to the massive user base of Twitter.

Mastodon has no “blue tick” culture, so nobody cares who’s your daddy. Everyone is happy talking stuff. It’s a perceived thing that influencers on Twitter tend to follow only their flock and ignore “aam aadmi” conversations. Once in a while they may retweet an “aam aadmi” and that’s it. Even that would also be likely for a reason, like drawing attention of news websites. An auto industrialist comes to mind.

Below are some screenshots to explain the findings on the engagements on Mastodon and Twitter:

Cherry blossom on Mastodon.

Cherry blossom on Twitter

The cherry blossom flower post (top) on Mastodon has 16 boosts (retweets) and 22 favourites (likes). Twitter gets zero “likes”, though it has 297 impressions, which is meaningless.

Tree on Mastodon.
Tree on Twitter

The tree post on Mastodon (top) has five boosts and seven favourites. The tree post on Twitter gets one “like”, and 409 impressions, which again means nothing.

There’s another interesting thing about the tree post - the comments. They don’t end abruptly like on Twitter, and people talk genuinely useful stuff. A reason could be pegged on the absence of a race (for now) to impress - the who-has-the-biggest syndrome - which is often seen on Twitter.

See the comments below for the tree post on Mastodon:

Got to know of a useful link on a specialised matter.
Yet more useful advice. With 500 character limit, more than Twitter, the context is clear.

I will sum up by saying Mastodon is a great start from scratch for those common, non blue tick folks on Twitter who want to network, discuss stuff, share stuff, like in the nicer days of blogging. Too much dependence on dominant opinion-makers on Twitter has become tiring. Tweets by common folks get buried there. We are forever floating on small boats in a big ocean while the big cruise ships go about their business.

But on Mastodon, it’s such a nice homecoming to be able to really talk to other people on the World Wide Web again.

The privacy, ethics and ideological battle between Twitter and Mastodon are different debates. There are experts out there who will be able to explain these things better.

I am out of here.

PS: All this is an everyday user's opinion. You're welcome to help explain any technical or analytics side of this observation.

Follow journey basket on Mastodon, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.