First off this morning you are getting a picture of Dolly and Dot for no apparent reason other than the fact that they are adorable and they should be your best friends too. Secondly this is going to largely be a Mastodon/Fediverse related topic, so your mileage may vary. Last week I started off the week with a post about my adventures in the “Federiverse” at that time. After some digging around I apparently used the wrong term, which was confusing given that both got used in equal parts as far as I could see. It turns out Fediverse as a concept dates back to at least 2008, whereas the Federiverse thing doesn’t have its own Wiki page and only really links to hashtags on mastodon… so I have edited my vocabulary to adopt the correct term.
Now I went through this little dance with the naming of the thing, largely because this is a sequence of events you are ultimately going to get used to if you truly blend into the culture on Mastodon and all of the other services using the ActivityPub protocol. Like me you will likely be coming from a background built upon using Twitter or “Birdsite” as a lot of the denizens of the fediverse refer to it as, and that came with a bunch of cultural norms. Mastodon and related services also have a lot of cultural norms and it can be sorta confusing getting adjusted to them. For the most part however folks seem to be genuinely nice about helping new users along the journey.
In gaming there have been several times where I was asked to join a guild or a clan with their own well established doctrine of “normal” behaviors. In many cases the choice was either to adapt to how things worked in that structure or to ultimately branch out and do your own thing. When I go into one of those situations I try and be hyper conscious about my actions and how they might impact others. Similarly I try very hard to not take anything for granted, and ultimately ask for permission rather than assume that I have it. This is also a complimentary mindset for joining Mastodon and making sure that you largely fit in with the flow of things. This morning I am going to talk about a few things that it took me a bit to sort out.
Gaming vs Gameing
One of the things that you are going to encounter as a gamer on Mastodon is that they regularly use an incorrect spelling of the word gaming. It took me a bit to sort this out, because for awhile I thought maybe this was a US English vs UK English sort of thing and maybe some people actually DO legitimately spell it with that E. Eventually I did what I have often done to learn things on the network… I asked the Fediverse and in response it spit back more than a few comments. Ultimately what it comes down to is “Gameing” is sort of their reaction to the “hardcoreification” of the “gamer” identity. There are folks that felt like that identity was co-opted by the super serious and elitist, leaving little ground for the more casual players who just want to enjoy gaming to its fullest without getting caught up in too much epeen braggery.
As a result they started using the misspelled and nonsensical “Gameing” to represent the more pure aspects of the joy that is discovering new and interesting things through video games. Understanding this now you will see me also adopting that hashtag at times when advertising my posts since I am not really the most serious person in nature. I lead off this post with a picture of Dolly and Dot afterall, so I am not exactly hard edge. This honestly dates back to a discussion that has sprung up numerous times in the blogosphere about how to identify a gamer, and if there is such a thing as “casual core”. Instead we can just skip past all of this and use the #gameing bit to indicate which side of that gulf we happen to reside on.
Caption Your Images
One of the things about Mastodon and the Fediverse in general is that they seem to really care about accessibility. What I mean by that is that your content is accessible by both sighted users and the visually impaired that may be using a screen reader app to check their social media. You will hear people talking about making sure to caption your images, but it took me a long while to actually sort out how that works. I thought by simply including text along with my image I was doing that. However once you have uploaded your image you can click on it with your mouse, or finger on a mobile client… and it brings up a box allowing you to had an explicit caption of what the image represents. It is a good habit to get into, but folks are understanding when you simply rush to post something and forget.
Delete and Redraft
Now say you post an image… and you want to fix the fact that you forgot to add a caption. Mastodon has this wonderful feature that is called Delete and Redraft… that is sorta like editing but not quite. Essentially it does what it says… it deletes your original toot and pulls the contents of it back into the editor so you can fix that typo or add that caption. This will of course nuke any interaction that has been done with a toot, but you are going to find that Mastodon is a network of people that don’t place quite as much emphasis on how many “favorites” or “likes” something got.
Using CW/Content Warning Tags
Another thing you are going to see a lot of is the wide and varied uses of the CW tag, or the collapsible [show more] [show less] blocks on posts. I am honestly still sorting out how I want to best use these, because there are a lot of different ways that they get used in the community. Firstly they should always be used if you are going to post NSFW content and when you click the CW button in your client it brings up a box that allows you to describe what sort of content is being posted. Additionally the community prefers that you use these in any situation where your post might trigger someone. For example I used them when I posted a picture of cookies yesterday, just in case someone out there with an eating disorder might be negatively influenced by that posting. I denoted in the description line “food, cookies” as a sort of short hand so people can understand why the tag is happening.
The other usage you will see an awful lot that I also have attempted to adopt myself, is using them to shorten long posts. For example the above image is of my Actively Playing pin on my profile. Without expanding it you just see the text “Actively Playing 2018-08-25” but then if you expand it shows all of the games mentioned and their equivalent hashtags. The interesting thing about CW is that if someone were to search for #MonsterHunter for example… they would eventually find my pinned toot even though the hashtag itself exists behind the block. The only negative of a CW is that it also always hides the visibility of the image. Basically this is the sort of thing you need to play with yourself to determine if you want to use it or not. However you are going to be urged gently (most of the time) to adopt some sort of regular usage of them by the community.
I have to admit here, I have never really put my pronouns in a social media profile not because I am oblivious to the need of such things… but more along the lines that I didn’t really mind whatever pronouns someone opted to using for me. If you want to call me She, it isn’t really going to bother me nor is referring to me as the more neutral Them. However in the middle of a conversation I had someone explain that seeing pronouns in your profile just makes them more comfortable, especially in situations where someone is trying really hard not to make any assumptions about anyone. Again this goes back to trying to ease into the water of a pool that is already full to the brim with people… and if it makes others more comfortable I will absolutely adopt that stance going forward. Similarly I suggest you move in that direction as well, and as such I am also going back and shimming the “he/him” bit into my older social media profiles as I come across them just to help ease the comfort levels of others.
The other thing of interest about the Fediverse is that no one seems to consider it creepy if you just start commenting on random posts. That is absolutely a thing that happens due to the federated nature of the timeline… people who have no connection to you will find your posts and occasionally comment and no one takes offense to this. You are having a very public conversation and it is accepted that you are basically shouting into an open room, in part because Mastodon gives you the option to post privately or only to your followers along with the more public options. If you can see a post… it means it is perfectly fine for you to chime in on it. It is also perfectly normal to follow random people or boost their toots. This is one of the more refreshing things about the Fediverse in general is that there are not as many weird hangups about interactions. You are expected to branch out and meet new people through interactions, and generally speaking people seem to be way more open as a whole because the various content controls that Mastodon Instance owners have… tends to make it a much safer place for open discourse.
It has been an interesting experiment getting involved with this network. It feels more natural I guess the more I use it, and you too will go through a bit of an adjustment period. Granted I still very much use Twitter and I am not really looking for Mastodon to be a replacement. It is however a vastly different experience and as such I sort of treat it as its own thing. I’ve only scratched the surface of things I could say about my experiences but I figure at this point it is a long enough blog post. I would be curious to hear all of the little idiosyncrasies that you have found in getting adjusted.