The Mastodon Experiment


It’s been several months that I have completely stopped Twitter to switch to Mastodon as a microblogging tool. To be honest I was never too hot about Twitter: my timeline was mostly garbage, irrelevant, making it a waste of time to go through. Add to that I have never been to fond of centralized services, and having something federated like Mastodon sounded like a good idea on paper.

The experiment has been quite successful. I am not sure of the total size of the Mastodon network (it’s growing every week and I think there is a couple of millions users) yet I have secured a small following already, and there’s sometimes conversations occurring beyond my posts: not just only one-way. For me that’s what matters the most.

I have found a few interesting folks (mainly Linux users) to follow as well who post useful information instead of the latest piece of food they ate 5 minutes ago. Private Messages make it possible to get in touch directly with them, which is a nice bonus as Twitter has put a lot of restrictions there.

When you go on the “local timeline” you get exposed to all public messages that go on your instance’s network, and sometimes there’s weird stuff like porn and prostitution services (pictures are hidden by default until you click on “sensitive content” so at least it does not get to your screen directly). I am not really sure what is the point of checking that local timeline, as messages flow very quickly and you are unlikely to find something you care about unless you are very lucky.

On Android, I use the Fedilab client. It’s well made, has many features, and gets updates several times a week. You can really see that’s probably where most users are when a client gets so much focus. It has a “Art” tab where it only displays pictures created by Mastodon users - if you are into drawing/design there’s some really good folks out there posting pictures of their creations.

Client-wise, on desktop Linux, it’s rather disappointing at the time of writing (March 2019). Tootle is a GTK3 client for example, but it does not have the most basic features I would expect (like edit&repost message) and the UI choices are debatable. It keep breaking on Arch too (some compatibility issues) every now and then, so it has not been a reliable solution. Then there is Whalebird, based on Electron - same thing here, no too many features, but at least it works and is functional. It also updates your feed real-time, a useful feature. Sadly I don’t like the idea of Electron-based applications so as soon as a native client (GTK or Qt) emerges I will probably stop using it.

If you don’t mind command line clients, then it looks like madonctl is a decent one to work with (complete support of the 2.3 API), while I need to spend more time with it before I can pass a proper judgment.

So where do things go from there? I will keep using Mastodon, that’s for sure, and I have no plans to return to Twitter. It’s definitely a good replacement, and as the community around Mastodon keeps growing it should become more and more useful to spread and exchange information out there. In the Fediverse, Mastodon is one of the most usable products for now (and with the largest following by far) and the best example of a success story in that field.

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