Global Column | Illusion about open-source Twitter ‘Mastodon’

Watching them convince people to replace Twitter with Mastodon gives the impression that they’re falling again for a long-standing trap in the open source world. Most of these people have the attitude of trying to solve anything with more technology, especially more open source technology.
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Problems with the open source social network ‘Mastodon’

I’ve been involved in open source for almost 20 years. Open source is my home and my country. But we open sourcers have an unfortunate tendency to value the privilege of choice more than convenience. The Mastodon case is a prime example. Mastodons are making their own ‘social networking that doesn’t sell’ claimdo. As an open-source, decentralized social network, it tells its users to “copy, study, and change as they please.” It also says that “each Mastodon server is a completely independent entity”.

For social network users who just want to post a tweet (a ‘toot’ in Mastodon parlance), this technical structure doesn’t matter at all. On top of that, there are two things about Mastodon that the average user might not like: This is a part that almost everyone, except for the open source core group, can be repulsed by.

  • Mastodon is built on the user’s own infrastructure and can mutually follow other Mastodon servers online and is not controlled by anyone other than the user.
  • Each server creates its own rules and regulations, and these rules and regulations are enforced locally, rather than top-down like corporate social media.

When you sign up for Mastodon, you must choose a server. However, the process of understanding the server selection feature can be difficult even for longtime Twitter users and tech savvy users. Mastodon comes with a message that says “any server you choose is fine,” along with lengthy instructions on how to select a community that suits your interests through server selection. The scope of ‘interest’ here is quite narrow. In any case, the fact that user guides are needed is already an obstacle to the influx of new users.

“There seems to be a large divergence between servers that work well and servers that don’t,” said biologist, professor, and mastodon user Paul Knoeffler. It also causes more problems on certain servers. There are many servers that require a separate application to use, which is difficult to understand. Decentralized ‘structure’ makes work uncomfortable and messy.” reviewleft Even though Dr. Knoeffler is a person who usually understands difficult systems and structures, he encountered many obstacles in the process of using the mastodon. It’s not just Knoeffler’s job.

Mastodon supporters may want to promote Mastodon as “Twitter without Musk,” but that’s certainly not the case. Mastodons may or may not be searched across multiple servers, depending on the server and search status. It is not clear which server is a good fit for a particular individual, and it is not convenient to switch servers later. The more users think about the technology underlying the Mastodon platform, the less likely they are to use Mastodon.

After all, Mastodon users should think about the technical structure first. People just want to have a conversation, and you have to think first about the technology being used to have that conversation. This is especially true in a situation where some of Mastodon’s popular servers are down due to the load caused by the influx of users. Of course, in the early days of Twitter, there were frequent notices that the system was paralyzed and under maintenance due to excessive user activity. However, the way to solve this is a problem unique to the Mastodon. This is because each server has to solve the problem independently for some time. Mastodon designers consider this a feature, but it’s not a feature, it’s a bug.

Sometimes convenience is more important than freedom

Let’s compare the Mastodon’s skills with normal skills. If you think back to the early days of the cloud industry, companies like AWS have long emphasized that you no longer have to worry about infrastructure management, the ‘non-differentiated hard work’. But developers still had to figure out how much storage they needed and how much processing power they wanted to use. While the cloud has changed the culture of purchasing physical servers to support future workloads, developers still have too much to plan for.

Let’s take a look at the latest cloud services. The direction is clearly towards serverless, a world where you don’t have to care about the underlying technology. When a developer creates an application, the infrastructure side becomes natural. Those who are more obsessed with ‘freedom’ express serverless as “the worst form of private subordination in human history.” But the enterprise world doesn’t seem to care much about those claims. They care more about other things, such as “providing applications that help meet customer needs in a difficult economy.”

Coming back to Twitter and Mastodons, you can always idealize the good old days of Twitter, but the truth is that Twitter has long been a mud fight. Someone saw this and described it as “Twitter is not a site for hell, it’s hell itself”, and I somewhat agree. From the start, Twitter has been full of rude people pouring out their anger. People can get angry and be rude by nature, but the more they talk without seeing their faces, the more they show that anger. Do you think Mastodon can avoid rude people just because it’s open source and decentralized? Fully experience the Linux kernel mailing list. Your mind will change.

Tech pundits celebrate a sort of utopia of hand-picking everything. However, it should not be forgotten that most people do not need a lot of options, but rather want technology that is well-infused with convenience. We don’t want to choose a server, and we don’t want to think about the back-end technical structure. I just want to chat, tweet, and toot.
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Source: ITWorld Korea by

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