The Twitter-to-Mastodon migration is like going from beta testing the Fediverse to production. Just like a public beta always turns up issues that were missed during development, when going to production you suddenly have a *huge* pool of new users who are going to use the system in ways you didn’t anticipate and haven’t already accustomed themselves to its quirks.

And that turns up a lot more things you need to fix!

Some thoughts on features/user experience for Mastodon and other Fediverse software, based on usage and discussions I’ve seen lately:

1. Missing replies aren’t just an inconvenience, they’re a big problem. Instances really do need to reach out and check for additional replies when someone views a post. I’m not sure how to balance the extra network traffic. Maybe just have a manual “check for more replies” button.

2. Quoting is better than screenshotting. I can read quotes on any size screen. So can screen readers.

3. Lack of quoting hasn’t prevented flame wars or dogpiling, and it there’s no indication it reduced them either. If you don’t want to embed an entire post, at least generate a preview like you would to a website with suitable metadata. And let any third-party clients know they can fetch the message themselves and not hand it off to the web browser.

4. If you really want to keep some friction in the quoting process, don’t add a button, but add the preview/embed on display.

5. Link previews should be generated and displayed during composition, without interrupting typing. Whether the preview gets federated along with the post or re-generated at the destination is another debate.

6. User discovery on third party clients needs work, and autocompletion really needs to be part of the composition UI.

7. Remote interactions on posts that aren’t in the app *really* need work.

8. Basic interactions (profile, follow, like, boost, reply) should Just Work(tm) between different federated software, even if they don’t recognize all the same post types or display them nicely. You can always fall back to displaying a link to the source, like Mastodon does with Article types.

9. Mastodon ought to at least *try* to display Articles as long as the formatting isn’t too complex or the length too long.

10. Mastodon’s “Your admin can read your DMs” notice should make it clear that *most* messaging software has this issue, not just Mastodon.

11. Federated hashtag searching is also more important than the inconvenience I used to think it was.

12. I’ve seen several mentions of the need for local-only posts (which some platforms have) and mutual-followers-only posts, and I totally agree with both.

13. (Added 1/23/23) I want to be able to bookmark profiles, so I can mark people/groups that I want to occasionally interact with, but don’t want to follow all the time – but when I do want to look them up or mention them, I can be sure I got the name right.

Making the blue check mark mean “This person can afford $20/month” instead of “This person is who they say they are” is only the latest way Twitter has downgraded its signal/noise ratio over the years.

Word is that Twitter’s new owner is planning to charge $20/month for a blue check mark.

Which of course, means the blue checkmark will now be useless. Well, useless to the users of the site, anyway. It won’t tell you which of several accounts is really the person you’re looking for, just who has $20/month to spend on it. (Not that it was perfect, but at least it was a signal.)

It’s sort of like when SSL certificates went from being expensive and needing verification — so they were a sign that you were on the right website — to cheap and later free. Except an SSL/TLS cert still tells you something: your connection is protected from eavesdropping. The checkmark doesn’t tell you anything valuable.

But Twitter’s been messing with the signal/noise ratio for ages.

Downgrade the Signal

Ads themselves (or promoted tweets, or whatever you call them) are already adding noise. Then they started showing you other people’s “likes,” removing some meaning from the action and adding noise to the stream. These days they even show you tweets from people that people you follow are following.

On Mastodon I’ll sometimes get distracted from something I wanted to do or look for, but I can almost always get back to it. I’ll pop onto Twitter for 5 minutes to look for something and I’m there twice as long because I can’t find it in all the attention-grabbing “features.” The other day I decided to unfollow all the corporations and organizations and only keep the actual people on the list, and I still had trouble finding things.

I suppose from Twitter’s perspective it worked, because I was there for 10 minutes instead of 5…but it makes me less interested in coming back later.

Every bit of noise you add to a signal cuts down on how much value the listener gets out of it. Eventually the ratio is no longer worth it, and all that attention you managed to extract from them by ratcheting up the noise drops to zero.

It’s been four years since I described the 2018 Social Media Experience. Let’s see what’s changed in that time!

#Twitter is still like a train crashing into a burning dumpster. The old owner wouldn’t let firefighters in because they did such a brisk business selling marshmallows, and the new one thinks it needs more gas because the flames aren’t hot enough and it would be unethical to keep the fire down to even marshmallow-toasting levels.

#Facebook…TBH I haven’t been there in a while, but I get the impression it’s still like a large family gathering, only now conversation is mostly drowned out by your racist uncle/in-law’s soapboxing and the TV commercials for things related to his screed instead of just being interrupted by them, unless you can hide out in a different room, where you’ll still get interrupted by commercials for things related to your own conversation.

#Tumblr is the weird coffee shop you used to hang out in but you’ve outgrown. It was bought out by a national chain and homogenized into the ground, but they offloaded it to a smaller chain and now each location is allowed to have its own personality again.

#Mastodon is like a building with a lot of small parties going on: Not as many people in each room, but you can actually hear each other talk, and people will sometimes hang out in the hall or move to another room, connecting conversations together. But finding a good room can be tough.

#Pixelfed is like Mastodon, except everyone’s brought photos and made the room into a gallery.

#Instagram is like checking out your friends’ vacation photos, but every other photo is an advertisement, and half of your friends’ pics are full of product placement.

TikTok…from what I gather, it’s like being in a crowd with people you don’t know, and someone keeps pushing other people at you that they think you might want to talk to.

Of course, all of them have people who will Judge You because You’re Doing It Wrong.

Amazon is shutting down their Drive service. “What Drive service?” you may ask? So did I. It’s a cloud drive like Dropbox or Google Drive, and I’d completely forgotten about it until I read that headline.

According to the FAQ, it was being used by apps for photo and video storage (I assume on Fire tablets) and those have all been moved to Amazon Photos (which I’ve definitely never used).

But something jogged my memory…not just of when Google moved all their Google Plus photo features over to Google Photos, but something else involving music.

So I looked. And it turns out I actually have some files on there after all:

Two folders.

One was “Archived Music”, all albums from 2011 that I’d imported from my CD collection. I’m not sure, but I think the service might have been integrated with Amazon’s online music player way back when, and when they disconnected them, I didn’t have anything else I wanted to use it for.

The other was “My Send To Kindle Docs,” and it was full of ebooks and PDFs from 2015-2016, most of which I recognize from Humble Bundles.

I guess I should look through and see if there’s anything I don’t have a local copy of anymore. That I want to keep, anyway.