Mastodon So White


This is longer than a standard toot by about 12X. Since it is originating from WordPress I have no idea what it will look like on Mastodon clients so … sorry, I guess? Using excerpt in the template gives you “Show More” and strips all links so f it.

I acknowledge there is a debate about quote tweets in Mastodon. I’m too dumb to really understand the arguments for or against, and I don’t know if what I’m doing here is effectively the same. So, if you don’t like it – I’m dumb, not a dick.

That said.

This morning, I saw this toot boosted by someone I follow. There is a thread and much discussion but the first sentence of the first toot is this:
“TLDR: Mastodon is very white, male, status quo, global north, and designed in a way to limit its potential for use in social movements.”

I don’t know Naunihal at all. His experience is his experience, and mine does not negate his. However, I do find this statement perplexing. I mean, I am white, male, global north and the status quo is pretty friendly to me, sure. My interpretation of his points is that he thinks Mastodon is a pretty closed-loop, echo-chambering system. He finds discovery of topics and people difficult. He refers to this episode of On the Media (which I ain’t planning on listening to) with one Mastodon community member basically as canonical of the Mastodon mindset against virality and for niche interests. That is his experience.

Here is mine, cis white male middle-aged uppper-middle-class dude that I am. I joined Mastodon two months ago really out of an anti-Twitter impulse with no real plans. I barely used it until the holiday break. Before late December, I was following fewer than 10 accounts (and two were the same guy.) Over the break, I played with it more.

I did not dump much effort into replicating my network. I followed a few people I found and as I tooted here:
“Early in the Mastodon journey. I am bootstrapping my experience by following a few interesting people and hoping like hell they @ reply and boost other interesting people. I don’t have the energy to hunt the Mastodon world for people I already know.”
That is literally what I did. As I saw boosts and @ replies I would follow. In some places they were people I already know and recognized. In some cases they were completely new strangers that I knew only by the content of their toots. The network built.

Around new years I found this article on Techdirt with some migration tools. I used Movetodon to find Mastodon accounts of people I followed on Twitter one single time. I went through FollowGraph a few times, which shows the Mastodon accounts most commonly followed by the people you follow. I did this multiple times but quickly got into diminishing returns as the top of the list became filled with well known personalities in whom I am not interested. All of this was around New Years, and I haven’t touched any other tools. I have no plans to touch any again.

Given what Naunihal thinks, I should have a pretty white bread tech bro feed. I scrolled down enough Tusky pages to see around 75 accounts and did a rough headcount. Take none of this to the bank, it’s an estimation of a sample.

Roughly 1/3 were institutional type accounts or had no discernible demography. Roughly 1/3 were male and 1/3 female. A number of these accounts are strangers to me. Of the ones with identifiable characteristics, about 40% were non-white and about 10% were trans, nonbinary or flew some sort of non cis-het flag. The interesting thing about this is at no point did I every make any effort to find BIPOC people to follow, or trans people or anything. I looked for my friends and then let it sort from there, following anyone that ran across my radar and posted interesting stuff.

Earlier today I was having a conversation about using Zigbee on Home Assistant with @TprevoJr and @emily@hackaday.social  . I did not know either of these people before yesterday. We were organized around the #homeassistant tag and started chatting about our setups. From what I can glean from profiles, T is an African American man and Emily is a trans woman. We are just three strangers who now mutually follow each other nerding out about home automation. I will share what I can with them and hope to learn what I can from them.

This seems to be what Naunihal is saying doesn’t happen, or at least hasn’t happened for him. Again, I haven’t done anything but seed some basic data and watch the content flow by. Everything else is organic. My experience is quite different than his and frankly far better than I expected. @evoterra indicated to me early that he figured that Mastodon would make me “a cranky mo’ fo’ ” (verbatim quote), which knowing me as he does was a reasonable prediction. Hell, it was my prediction as well. I hated the day 0 experience, especially having to pick an instance as the first thing you do when the reasons for the decision are kind of impenetrable. I picked an LGBTQ+ friendly one because in my experience they throw the best parties. Had I had Paul Stamatiou’s Mastodon Primer available back then I would have been much less grumpy about even that decision.

My summation is that the Mastodon experience, early as I am in it, is more inclusive, more positive and more fun that I would have predicted and absolutely better than Twitter ever was for me – even in the early days. It remains to be seen if this is a side-effect of the relatively low users compared to other sites or a permanent and durable aspect of this medium. I’m prepared for the former, hoping for the latter and riding it out either way.

Feel free to follow me at @geniodiabolico for my main account. This blog/podcast is followable via @dave as long as the WordPress ActivityHub plugin stays operational. Laissez les bon temps rouler.

#mastodon #dayZeroSucks

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dave

Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

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