Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The room in the elephant

Mastodon — or to be precise, mastodon.social, which is the only part of the 'Fediverse' I've explored at all — feels a lot like early Web.

Before 'social networks' were named thus. Before Ryze or Orkut, which for many Indians were their first steps into the ocean. Before even blogs. When there were communities, and it felt… right. When "assume goodwill," to steal friend Udhay Shankar's advice to members of a certain list, seemed perfectly natural. (To be clear, I only met Udhay comparatively recently. When I did see that succinct phrase, those words leapt out at me; they described what I had been looking for then — and often I found it — and continue to search for today.)

These communities of choice formed in ad hoc ways. Lists (which of course were pre-Web, and to which I came late), chat rooms (which I jumped into enthusiastically, over-enthusiastically), even comment sections when they came up. And, as someone pointed out to me, guest books and the like. It took some time and effort to find your peeps and keep track of them.

Geocities was the first, if I recall right, to create infra of a sort for this. (Raise hands if you had a homestead.) Then came LiveJournal, which I totally missed out on, and then other early purpose-built networks and the "blogosphere," which I put in quotes because it already feels like a bygone era. And now, of course, social media seems ubiquitous, inescapable.

In this deluge of information, Mastodon.social feels calmer. Like starting over. The rules of engagement, formal or informal, are sane, and moderation is firm and decisive. I see 'influencers' fumbling around, some adding 'verified' symbols to their handles because Mastodon doesn't have them. I also see folks who are confident in their worth, being helpful, reaching out, not standing on their celebrity dignity. I see names from long ago, people who sort of withdrew from the hurly-burly (or maybe just from my ken, as I morphed).

Perhaps, this won't last.. Perhaps server loads will get too high to keep membership free. Perhaps traffic will be too frenetic for moderators to keep track of. Perhaps.

For now, this is refreshing. And fun.

If you haven't tried the water yet, come on in.

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