Audio Futureland New Technology

Federated Stigmoidoscopy


David, Hawthorn, and Tim dis­cuss our inter­view with Eugen Rochko — new­born tech celebri­ty (as of yes­ter­day,) and orig­i­na­tor of Mastodon, the new fed­er­at­ed, open-source social media plat­form.



Between the night of our first emails to the time of our inter­view, his instance has dou­bled in users. Less than two hours after we said our goodbye’s, his name was on The Verge’s front page, just under the new iPad review.

The Design

Twit­ter has just inte­grat­ed the fea­ture they announced last Spring that exempts @ names from the 140-char­ac­ter lim­it in replies along with media links, which came first, in Fall. 
Mastodon, how­ev­er, allows Toots” to con­tain up to 500 char­ac­ters. Aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly, a writer is mea­sured by his/her brevi­ty, which - on Twit­ter - is not option­al. This has been a pri­ma­ry com­plaint regard­ing the ser­vice for near­ly its entire life­time. As a long­time user, I’ve always resist­ed increas­ing the cap because I believe it - and the pure­ly lin­ear time­line - to be the main pil­lars of Twitter’s iden­ti­ty. Per­haps to their cred­it, the com­pa­ny has found ways of tweak­ing’ core fea­tures with (annoy­ing­ly-default) options and selec­tions. I can still main­tain a pure’ lin­ear time­line if I remem­ber to check my set­tings peri­od­i­cal­ly for addi­tions of default-on fil­ters and/or pri­va­cy tools.
The hard lim­it has also encour­aged (or forced, per­haps) me to become a more delib­er­ate and con­cise writer. 
That said, a sim­ple open-source clone of Twit­ter would be awful­ly redun­dant, but it’s worth ask­ing - is more heav­i­ly user-influ­enced design as potent as we’d like to think it is?
The ques­tion of whether or not we actu­al­ly know what we want is prob­a­bly too abstract for the con­text, but I don’t think some diminu­tive of it would be unvi­able.

The Future

Social ser­vices are always idyl­lic in the begin­ning because the prime major­i­ty of orig­i­nal users are gen­uine­ly moti­vat­ed & reward­ed enough by social­iz­ing to cir­cum­vent obscu­ri­ty and cum­brous expe­ri­ences. (Though Mastodon’s seems impres­sive­ly well-flushed.)
The same incen­tive keeps them engag­ing in pro-social, pro-dis­course behav­ior and dis­cour­ages abuse because func­tion­ing human beings are intrin­si­cal­ly avoidant of iso­la­tion, no? 
I’m only stat­ing old news because it prompts a ques­tion: how high would the bar­ri­er-to-entry have to be, real­ly, to cul­ture a user­base of major­i­ty inter­est­ed par­ties?
What sort of req­ui­site would make tox­i­c­i­ty uneco­nom­i­cal?
Could it be as sim­ple as… a pay­wall?

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