I made a huge mistake in my article on how to post to Mastodon through IFTTT.

I gave the wrong directions on what to put in the Application Website field in Mastodon. It just needs to be https://ifttt.com. It isn’t used for identifying the source to your Mastodon server as I thought it was, but appears as a link when the post is viewed by itself on the web. If you followed on my mistake, I highly recommend (1) removing the URL from your Mastodon config and just putting in ifttt.com and (2) going into your Webhooks settings at IFTTT and generating a new key. I feel horrible that I messed this up, and I am so sorry to everyone I steered wrong.

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.

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.

One of the things I like about Mastodon and Pixelfed and the rest of the Fediverse vs commercial social networks is that they don’t TRY TO GET MY ATTENTION every time I open the page or app and offer ALL THESE THINGS I SHOULD BE LOOKING AT that might be relevant to what it thinks my interests are, to make sure I stay online and don’t stay away again for sooooo long! (Even if it’s only been a few days.)

Seriously:

  • I opened Instagram for the first time in at least a month and I was bombarded with more ads and recommendations than photos from people I was actually following.
  • I opened an alt profile in Twitter yesterday to post something off the cuff, and all the trending topics, pushing new features, etc. were like walking onto the Las Vegas Strip when all you want is a sandwich.

Never mind the normal “You haven’t logged onto Twitter in a few hours, here’s all the stuff you missed, and look, people are posting new stuff while you’re catching up, you’d better keep scrolling! What, you switched to another app for five seconds? Here, I’ll scroll it for you!”

Compared to Mastodon just showing you the latest that you’re actually following. And if you want to fill in what you missed, that’s up to you.

(There’s also the posting culture. On Twitter, people are used to discussing DOOOOOM all the time, so even curating your timeline isn’t always enough if you want to follow people talking, I don’t know, astronomy or whatever, because they’re also talking doom. And the algorithm reinforces it at both ends in a vicious circle, encouraging doom-posting and encouraging doom-scrolling.)

Choice Complaints

None of these complaints is inherent to the structure or functionality of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc. They’re deliberate UI design choices to optimize for the company’s targets. A third party client could bypass it all (which of course is why they basically don’t allow those anymore).

Similarly, Mastodon and Pixelfed and so on could implement UI like this, but they don’t. The project goals aren’t engagement at all costs. And each instance can have its own goals.

Or someone could add an ATTENTION-GRABBING EXPERIENCE on top of the code and launch their own service. And those of us on other instances, running different software, wouldn’t be affected. Unless the site injected ads into the ActivityPub streams going out to people following its users, in which case I imagine a lot of instances would block them really quickly.

Or they could write an app that adds extra popups and keep-scrolling incentives to the phone experience!

I’m not sure many people would consider that an improvement.

Then again, people do use Yahoo mail. 🤷‍♂️

Expanded from Mastodon.

Purism’s explanations for removing various safety features from Librem One’s social network sound like someone explaining why they removed the mirrors, brakes, horns, seat belts, airbags and signals from the cars they’re reselling, because they know those cars are only ever going to be driven on a track where they’ll never have to change lanes or negotiate with other drivers.

Even though there’s a bunch of driveways on that track, connecting to the public road system.

If a collision does happen, we can call in the tow trucks and ambulances. But giving drivers tools to avoid collisions or reduce injuries? That would be interfering with their freedom!