This post has next to nothing to do with the old Sticks and Stones microgame, other than perhaps the tribal aspect, and the image of the great beast on the cover. It has everything to do with Mastodon decentralized social media.
Like many, I’ve abandoned Twitter under Musk’s management. And like most, I’ve cast about for some sort of Twitter replacement, with new accounts at Hive, Post, and Mastodon.
Hive is the nearest to Twitter in feel, and I love the fact that it’s the personal work of two college students. I wish them huge success. But it’s clear they’re struggling with the surprise influx of Twitter deserters. The platform itself feels unfinished, loose, and rough around the edges. Its only interfaces are Android and Apple apps, and the Android version is extremely buggy. I’m currently unable to do more than log in.
Post Social has a nicely professional feel to it, and I’m encouraged to find Dan Rather posting there, but I just can’t get enthused about diving in and exploring. To be honest, part of that lack of enthusiasm is there’s no integration with WordPress. No hyperlinked icon to display in my sidebar. No Post Social auto-post checkbox on blog entries.
Which brings me to Mastodon, which has both, making it just as easy to integrate with that account as with Facebook. That’s becoming increasingly important for communicating with a widespread community of family, friends, and fans, because not all of those people share any particular platform. The cross-posting efficiency allows more time for a bucket list (ever-lengthening) of writing projects.
So I’ve been settling into this “Decentralized, Open Source, Not for Sale, Interoperable” community. And I have to say it feels pretty good to participate in a neck of the webs again with no ad-driven algorithm pushing stuff across my screen, nor news algorithm funneling me into an increasingly myopic selection of stories.
Mastodon feels something like a party spilling through the many chambers of some community owned palace. People gravitate to different rooms based their own interests and experiences, but you can still hear other people chattering in other rooms and can wander as you like, meet who you like, and hang out with who you like.
It’s different enough from other social media to require some getting used to, but it’s been around for awhile (since 2016), so its structure begins to make sense as you settle in. And for the first time in a long while, this here extrovert forced into an introverted lifestyle by a focal seizure disorder feels like he’s wandering through a crowd again. An honest-to-god, elbow-to-elbow, sea of people with one thing in common: the desire to communicate under their own terms, as “Citizens,” not a crop of “Consumers.”
Open source, community supported technologies like this are the Information Age’s best chance at a more egalitarian future. They’re sort of a barter economy, allowing us to be a global tribe, working toward a common good.
Oh, and if you come across a copy of Sticks and Stones, definitely give it a try. It’s one of my favorites from the early years of tabletop gaming.