Drawing of a silver person standing in the desert in front of a flying saucer.I really enjoyed the original run (Saucer Country) at Vertigo and the second run at IDW (Saucer State)…that ended on a cliffhanger, and I’m really looking forward to being able to read the conclusion!

The crowdfunding campaign launched today (perfect timing) and runs through December 8.

Saucer Country is a dark thriller that blends UFO lore and alien abduction with political intrigue, all set in the hauntingly beautiful Southwest.

The comics by Paul Cornell & Ryan Kelly follow a presidential campaign whose candidate believes she has been abducted by aliens, what that means to her and the country, and weaves through every aspect of UFO conspiracy mythology you can think of.

The first volume ran from 2012-2013, and the second volume picked up in 2017…and it was really weird to see how prescient the first run had been, as well as how the 2016 election season influenced the second part.

I’ve been on Mastodon for several years now, and it’s almost completely replaced Twitter for me.

It is a shift in perspective on how social media works, so here are a few tips to help wrap your head around it:

1. Mastodon isn’t a single company or service. It’s software. It’s a type of service.

Policies, moderation and admin are handled separately by each site. Just like there’s no central Email administration, but Gmail and Outlook have their own policies, spam filters and admins.

2. Picking a site seems challenging because we’re not used to doing that anymore. Each has its own community flavor, but you can still follow and talk with people on other sites, and you can migrate to another one anytime you want. No need to stress out over where to start!

3. Once you’re in, it’s almost a Twitter clone, with some key differences due to:

  • Accounts being spread out.
  • Design choices.
  • Culture.

Dive in, by all means, but read the room!

4. It does take some effort to get started. Twitter throws a lot at you, but on Mastodon you have to look for people. Fortunately there are lists of interesting posters like fedi.directory and curators of recommendations like @feditips@mstdn.social.

5. Think of Mastodon as a type of account (like email), and the server you sign up with as where your account lives (like Gmail or Yahoo). Ex. I’m @KelsonV@wandering.shop, so I have a Wandering.Shop account that speaks Mastodon. (Mastodonian?)

6. Finally, There’s a whole “Fediverse” out there of other software that talks together. Pixelfed is a photo service like Instagram, Lemmy does link sharing/forums like Reddit, PeerTube does videos, etc. And you can do things like follow & reply to Pixelfed accounts on Mastodon.

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.