MASTODON mistakes I...
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MASTODON mistakes I made and content warnings

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Now that the great Twitter Migration is underway, and we have the rumours that Twitter may become bankrupt, I thought a cultural management guide might help.

I moved over to Mastodon on 28th October 2022 and must admit I made a great many mistakes during my settling in period. So I'm going to share my two major learnings in the hope you benefit. Even if you don't benefit, you might have a laugh!

Join a server you like!  

The first thing I did was to join what I perceived to be the biggest and most authoritative server, which is led by Eugen / @gargoron who essentially founded Mastodon. While I knew there were lots of instances (servers) I had no real clue how to find any and impulsively joined his.

As one of my first posts, and being totally twitchy about Twitter, Musk and a safe alternative, I made a complete berk of myself. I saw an article on Der Postillon that said Mastodon had also been sold to Musk. I was dumbfounded and perhaps a little tipsy, so I messaged Mastodon's founder.

Oh, dear. I never knew it was a satire website and I'll never, ever live that down! But, I'll keep that episode alive, so I'll never forget to check all sources. Mind you, at least I asked @Gargron!

As I started to do more exploration I found an instance I liked the look of. I wasn't too keen on defining myself purely by my sexuality and inhabiting an LGBT server, although there's nothing wrong in that, I just felt that I wanted to define myself by other interests such as podcasting, current affairs and left-leaning politics. So I joined the Free Radical Zone. This seemed to be a technical, geeky, infosec-related left-leaning home. Little did I know I would start to get into trouble!

Don't be the Content Warning Police

The days passed, and I was getting more into the swing of things. I noticed a lot of people were giving advice about Content Warnings and other aspects of using Mastodon. I saw some long time Mastodon users policing the posts of others (toots) so I naturally thought it was the culture. Can you guess what happened next?

I started being a CW policeman and reported several people for what I considered to be grave violations of the server rules. Internally I'm thinking that they'd been warned; yet they were tooting here exactly like this did on Twitter, how dare they! Furious now and thinking I had the Fediverse behind me, I carried on reporting. Then one of the server mods told me that they couldn't moderate the entire Fediverse for me. Whoops. I'd been an idiot. Different instances have different rules and frankly, content warnings are more of a cultural behaviour guideline than an actual rule.

Mainly, CW's are good and do help protect people, but there's a balance to be had. And for those not using CW's there is a price to pay.

Egene / @gargron explains:

Having been here since 2016, I can tell you there is definitely no such thing as a consensus on usage of content warnings on the fediverse. It's a decentralized network that doesn't belong to any one party, so by definition there is no single culture on it. Different corners have different expectations and customs.

For my part, I've always seen them as something at the discretion of the author. As the reader, you have a plethora of tools to disengage from unwanted content on Mastodon—with even better filters coming in 4.0—and harassment is not one of them. People who are arriving now have as much right to be here and bring their own culture as the ones who came before them.

It's important to note he is saying a lot of power rests with the reader and what he doesn't want to see is CW police, as that can be harassment. But, he's not saying that you shouldn't use CW's, he's just saying there's no overall consensus so there's no actual rule, as their use is subject to circumstance.

I follow several people that I think should use CW's more often than they do. I do enjoy their content, and I've made a conscious decision to follow them, warts and all. What I won't do is inflict their content on others. If they have a Content Warning when I subjectively think they should, I'll boost. If not, I'll consume their content and be on my way. 

So that's an incentive for those posting without CW's, you'll tend to get more reach if you use them, less reach if you don't.

Here's an excellent summary of actions you can take as a toot consumer!

From softest to hardest:

  • Tolerate, but don't boost
  • Temp mute: maybe they just need to get it out of their system
  • Word mute: maybe they're better if you just avoid that one topic
  • Unfollow: uninvite them your Home timeline
  • Permamute: drop them from all of your timelines
  • Block: keep them from interacting with you at all
  • ️Server block: Them and what army?

I doubt that will ever be the end of discussions about Content Warnings, but I'm happy to use them where I think someone might suffer a little anxiety from a topic, and I find it no bother to click "show more" to opt-in to content. 

If you want to follow me on Mastodon and join Free Radical Zone, use this link:

Feel free to add your thoughts below or hit me up with a toot! 

“I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”

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