I’ve been seeing people discussing leaving Twitter with their mutual followers, but oh no we can’t leave Twitter because no one actually leaves Twitter, but we need to get off Twitter, again… and I’d like you to consider that amidst the current supersaturation of chaos, it might be worth trying something that seems weird — switching, instead of staying.
Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, “Do you want to pick door No. 2?” Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?
Your reasoning might incline you to think it would make no difference, or that staying would have better results. If you look at it as a 50/50 chance when you’re asked to pick a second door, it is completely understandable why you would think that. But the choice is not independent. And in lengthy simulations and tests over the last century, it’s been proven that you have 1 in 3 chance of getting the car, if you don’t switch, and a 2 in 3 chance of getting the car if you do switch. It’s a common stochastic mistake, but absolutely worth considering. You can read more about the Monty Hall problem here.
Even as I watch these conversations pop up on Twitter time and time again, even with the infrequency I check it at this point, I see others disabling their accounts, or locking their accounts, to deal with the worst parts of Twitter (both with regards to addition and other people). It’s as though people only see two choices, use Twitter, or Don’t. But there’s a third choice; switch.
The Fediverse is not one server, or one network. It is over 9000 independent servers, with independent rules, moderation, management, topics, and communities, who are federating their local communities together to allow connections between the servers, and an ever-broadening federated social media universe.
And it’s not just a Twitter clone. PeerTube is a program using the same technologies under the hood to provide a federated version of YouTube, for example, and you can subscribe to channels on PeerTube from your account on Mastodon or Pleroma.
Which brings me, finally, to the two most common server softwares for hosting a fediverse instance. Mastodon is the most prevalent software, and has a very innovative interface, but also limits messages to 500 characters. Pleroma is a more efficient and pure ActivityPub/OStatus server, allowing the server administrator to manage the server with much finer-grained controls, and it provides a fork of the Mastodon interface if that’s more to your liking.
But how do you join? Every server has different rules; some have Terms of Service or Codes of Conduct that you will want to make certain you’re alright with following, as some server administrators can be absolute Nazis. Figuratively speaking. But for every delusional authoritarian utopia, there is a free speech nightmare-in-the-making to match, and everything in between. There are just too many to list here, but check out the following sites to get yourself started:
- fediverse.party – learn more about the fediverse
- fediverse.space – find an instance that meets your needs.
If you’re impatient and would like to just get started, get in contact with me and ask for an invite to my server; if there’s great enough demand for my server, I am considering setting up a public server that isn’t branded with my name. Let me know if that interests you as well.
Whether you’re using the Pleroma frontend, Mastodon frontend, or something else, you should have access to a number of useful features that distinguish the platform from Twitter.
First and foremost, you should know there are multiple types of posts: Public posts, which are shared to your Profile, the Local Public and Federated Public timelines, Followers posts, which are only sent to your followers, Unlisted, which only shows up on the Profile and for your followers, and Direct, which is only sent to people tagged within the post.
While security has greatly increased over the last couple years between servers, it’s important to remember that you always have to take your own privacy seriously. In the words of the developer of Pleroma:
In the end, I’d suggest treating these settings as recommendations only. They have a similar security to a meeting with your friends in a cafe. Someone might overhear you, but generally, only the people you want to address will hear what you’re saying. If you have something truly private to say, don’t do it on the fediverse or use actual end-to-end encryption.
Don’t worry. I’ll be discussing direct, end-to-end encryption for truly private cases in a future post.
In addition to post types, you are able to write your posts using different forms of mark-up languages, including Markdown and limited HTML. If you were a fan of making threads before, between the much larger character limits available and the support for Markdown, you’ll be able to greatly improve your microblogging.
Expanding the Toolset
You needn’t only use the website of the fediverse instance you’re using; there are apps for Android and iOS, and a plethora of different web frontends for mobile and desktop, depending on your style.
More clients: https://docs.pleroma.social/clients.html
As with the servers, find a client that suits your needs best; some are better at some things than others, some are more refined, but the more any of them are used, the more they will be improved (providing you let them know).
There is far more to the fediverse than I could ever summarize in 500 words and a few images; to really understand why it’s worth making the switch, you have to spend a few days with it yourself, immersed in the federated feed. It’s like Twitter’s Firehose of old; every server to which you have access, scrolling by and bringing information from every corner of the world and in every language. It can be overwhelming at first, but stick with it. You’ll start to see much better information than can be found on Twitter, you’ll start seeing like-minded and utterly mad servers you’ll want to look out for, or ignore, and you’ll see what the rest of us saw.
Federation is the future.