Twitter, the Mastodon functions that the social network should copy

Twitter, the Mastodon functions that the social network should copy


I'm not sure Elon Musk has ever been to a city square. It seems that the images are places where people argue loudly to attract maximum attention, ideally by renting megaphones from him.

Personally, I wouldn't go to such a square. I prefer a place where I can sip a beer and chat with my friends, with as few Nazis around as possible. The ideal square, from my point of view, is a place where serious things are occasionally discussed, but above all it represents a quiet space in which to spend time, which does not belong to a person or a company.

The good The news is that Twitter doesn't need to become a public square: Mastodon is already there for that. Musk knows the platform well: he recently blocked its Twitter account and started marking all links to the service as spam.

Without me wanting to give free advice to the until recently the richest man in the world, Musk would do well to take a look at Mastodon: the platform offers a lot of features that they make an excellent square. Below, we list some of the ones Musk should copy (which he won't).

N.B.: Mastodon is connected to a larger network of services, commonly referred to as the "Fediverse". Many of the considerations in this article apply to the entire network, which we will, however, refer to as “Mastodon” for simplicity.

Deleting old posts

The nice thing about real squares is that my conversations aren't stored forever on the servers of a big tech company. That's why I recently started using a service called Semiphemeral to delete my old tweets. Seeing the total number of my posts go from an embarrassing level to a more reasonable figure was like a breath of fresh air. Besides, it's nice to know that quick conversations with friends and strangers won't be part of the public record for the rest of my life, which as I recently realized is one of the quirks we all give our consent to for some reason. It's strange that I'm forced to rely on a third-party service to delete my old tweets: it would be nice if I could do it directly on Twitter.

Mastodon, in contrast, already offers this function. From the settings it is possible to have the platform delete old posts after a certain period of time. You can also set exceptions for posts with a particular number of likes or boosts (the equivalent of retweets). In my opinion, Twitter should have no qualms about copying this feature from Mastodon: the platform would be improved.

Labeling your content

As a Canadian living in the United States, I sometimes post post about hockey, a habit that confuses my American friends. Thanks to Mastodon's content tagging system, I can flag  “hockey/mental health" as the topic of a given post. Anyone interested in reading my reflections on my ancestral love for the Toronto team, and how this aspect connects to my inability to believe that good things can happen in my life, you can decide to click on the post to read it. Those who don't have a heart for hockey (or my psychological well-being) can continue scrolling.

Everyone wins, because each user only sees the content they are really interested in. It is now possible to use this feature to tag any type of post, such as political, pornographic or potentially problematic. The feature allows me to speak more freely, since I no longer have to worry about everyone liking every post Any platform that supports free speech should have a similar content flagging system to that offered by Mastodon. But I bet Musk won't adopt it.

Silence “on time”

Sometimes it happens that a person we follow starts publishing posts only on a certain topic. We don't want to unfollow her, but we don't want to put up with the things she's ranting about these days either. Maybe she's endlessly discussing a movie you'll never watch, she's live-tweeting a sporting event, or she's pissed off about a political issue. On Twitter there aren't many options: you can only unfollow, mute or block it. However, each of these changes is permanent.

Mastodon allows you to silence people for a pre-set period of time – from five minutes to seven days – which should be enough to allow the user in question to overcome any what drives him to compulsively post at any given moment. It's a great compromise, which should be complemented by Twitter as well.

Simple (and free) verification

The purpose of Twitter's user verification system, at least in the early days, was to to confirm that a particular account was actually managed by a particular politician, celebrity, journalist or organization. The system for obtaining the check, however, was not very transparent and meant that the symbol became a bit of a status symbol. That said, the first attempts at "reform" introduced by Musk have proved to be a boon for scammers .

Mastodon, on the other hand, has a system that allows for quick verification of users at no additional cost , of which find an explanation here and that it is a quick way to confirm your identity without creating a lot of work for the moderators. Twitter could take a cue from this strategy for its "official" accounts. Elon Musk, however, won't do it, presumably because he wants you to pay for it, even though he calls the system "democratic."

A (free) edit button

Twitter users want from time a button to edit tweets, but they can only get it if they're willing to pay $8 a month. For Mastodon users, however, the function is free.

Support for third-party clients

Once upon a time, the best way to use Twitter was to rely on third-party clients, which usually offered a much smoother and more customizable experience than the official app and site. TweetBot, for example, is a much nicer way to use Twitter on Mac than any other Twitter client. The problem is that a few years ago Twitter decided to limit its APIs, and consequently also the things that external clients could do. It is no longer possible to receive notifications for likes or retweets. Polls don't work. I could go on.

Mastodon doesn't have this problem. Third-party clients can do everything official website and applications do, and in some cases even more.

Following hashtags

If on Twitter it is possible to follow accounts and search for hashtags, Mastodon allows users to follow them directly, so that all related posts are displayed in the platform home screen. I don't know if Twitter would do well to add this feature, but it is appreciated by many people and is a great way to find users who post regularly on the topics that interest you .

No ads or subscriptions

The squares are open to everyone. They don't charge admission and aren't plastered with advertising. While one may come across a few commercial businesses, a plaza remains primarily a non-commercial space. If it really were a public square, Twitter would be like that too.

Mastodon already is. There is no company involved in managing the platform, which is an open source program owned by a non-profit organization. The network is run by volunteers who build servers for their friends and communities. Anyone can set up a server and connect with others, and moderation is also done by volunteers.

I don't think Elon Musk wants to eliminate the commercial dimension of Twitter. The social network is a company while Musk is an entrepreneur, not an engineer, an advocate of free speech or an individual who really cares about the community (despite the public statements). He is a person who loves money and would like to make more of it.

The problem is precisely this: a city square, by definition, cannot be a company. It must be a space owned by the people. And while Elon Musk's Twitter can never become one, Mastodon already is.

This contribution originally appeared on US.

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