How To Make the Least-Worst Mastodon Threads

(An opinionated guide) (for the perplexed).

Cory Doctorow
12 min readApr 16

--

The mastodon mascot tangled in a snarl of thread.
https://www.gnu.org/licenses/agpl-3.0.en.htmlEugen Rotchko, AGPL, modified Apr 15 2023

There’s only TWO! DAYS! left in the Kickstarter campaign for the audiobook of my next novel, a post-cyberpunk anti-finance finance thriller about Silicon Valley scams called Red Team Blues. Amazon’s Audible refuses to carry my audiobooks because they’re DRM free, but crowdfunding makes them possible.

Everyone Can Change Mastodon

Mastodon is great. I love it. I love that it’s based on an open protocol, ActivityPub, which is designed to prevent lock-in and thus enshittification.

Now, that doesn’t mean that I agree with every decision that went into Mastodon’s design, and that’s okay. Unlike, say, Twitter, if I don’t like Mastodon’s design, I can change it, by creating a new client or a server extension, or by convincing someone else to do so. Mastodon is an open, generative platform, built on software that is free-as-in-freedom —everyone can modify it.

Now, it’s true that “everyone can modify Mastodon” is a statement with a lot of baggage. “Everyone” in this case, is “everyone with the skills to write software” or it’s “everyone with the capital to hire engineers.” That may be everyone, but it’s not anyone.

However, it’s a much larger pool that “all the people with the power to modify Twitter.” That’s a pool composed of a single individual — a mercurial narcissist who is speedrunning the enshittification cycle while lighting tens of billions of dollars on fire.

Billions of bytes of text have been posted about the public dismantling of Twitter, but one factor that has gone largely unremarked-upon is the change in the relationship between Twitter users’ innovations and Twitter management.

Twitter was the original “minimum viable product,” a tool for posting 140 characters of text for delivery over SMS or an API. That made it a blank slate onto which users could project their own choices.

For example, users invented retweets. They typed “RT” and then pasted in the text of a tweet they liked. The practice became so widespread that Twitter turned it into an official feature.

--

--

Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr