MMORPG Social

mmorpg-social

mmorpg-social

Over the last few days I have found myself playing around with Mastodon quite a bit more.  For those who remember I wrote a series of posts about Mastodon, talking about its potential as a twitter replacement.  The two posts of note are probably “Adventures in the Federiverse” where I largely botch the agreed upon “Fediverse” name, and a later one where I talk about the customs I wish I knew about going into it.  I still have a lot of hope about the concept, but I also found myself largely falling out of frequency in using it.  Nineties.Cafe had this great run of regular activity and then almost simultaneously we all sorta wandered off more than likely because we got busy.

This recent flurry of activity has in part been do to the very excellent Gazimoff aka Gareth Harmer and creating the MMORPG.social mastodon instance.  At first I thought this was something connected to MMORPG.com since well you know… he is one of the writers there.  After some digging however I guess the root is with the loss of Wildstar, the idea seems to be bourn out of trying to create a neutral non-game based MMORPG community that lets people continue to stay in touch.  This is something I can definitely get behind, plus the launch of a new instance is an awful lot like the launch of a new MMORPG itself… and everyone appears to be happy and busy and active.

The only negative is that I seem to be leaving ground strewn in my wake full of past instances.  For those who have not followed my madness I have ended up unintentionally being a bit of an instance jumper.  Thankfully Mastodon by default has a system that allows you to forward users from one profile to another… but they are effectively disconnected personas.  MMORPG.Social is my fourth experiment with the platform…  let me run through them all.

  • @Belghast@Mastodon.Cloud – my first attempt and I only started here because Mastodon.social the flagship was full
  • @Belghast@Elekk.xyz – I rapidly realized that this instance had way more of “my people” on it and jumped because of its game focused local.  I still sub to the Patreon to help support it.
  • @Belghast@Nineties.Cafe – I jumped yet again when my good friend Liore founded this instance to create a permanent niche in the mastodon network that we had a bit more control over.  The truth is I don’t plan on abandoning this but over the last several months it has become pretty inactive.
  • @Belghast@MMORPG.social – Finally I am here because I thought this was a really interesting experiment and thusfar has been a very charming local to hang out and talk MMORPGs with.  At the moment it seems to be very FFXIV focused, but folks have commented on some of my Destiny related posts as well.

Now can I say with certainty that I won’t jump again?  Nope not at all, but the cool thing about Mastodon and the ActivityPub based Fediverse is that you don’t have to care much about it.  You can export the people you follow from one instance and move them forward with you to the next.  You are by no means limited to communicating with your local pool of users, but can instead drink from the firehose and go out into the much larger global fediverse and interact with hundreds of other instances each with their own specific goals and purposes.

I think the biggest challenge that Mastodon has is we keep looking to it as a replacement for Twitter as a whole.  That is a lot of responsibility to be placing on a fledgling network, especially given that personally I have been actively using Twitter since April of 2009 and racked up in that time some almost 58,000 tweets.  My gut reaction when something happens is to still hop on Twitter and say something about it.  There is a lot of inertia there to overcome, and if you go into it expecting it to be the new thing that everyone is going to use…  it is more or less just setting it up for failure.  Instead I am largely angling for the stance of “This is something else fun to use” and setting myself for those expectations.  I know that I will never convert the critical mass of twitter folk to take up the banner of tooting…  but instead I am finding it interesting to branch out and meet some new and interesting people there instead.

I have goals of sorta tweaking each of the four profiles I have on Mastodon to be different things, because I still want to use Nineties.cafe, but probably as a more personal account, and MMORPG.social will become the account I use more to talk about gaming stuff.  I know several users who have done an excellent job of separating the streams, and each account gives me access to a totally different Local feed.  I just need to sort out a better Android client to use that has good multi-account support since Tusky as much as I like it… requires you to log out completely to log into another instance.

 

Fediverse: Things I Wish I Knew Earlier

worldofwarcraf080002

worldofwarcraf080002

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

mastodon-caption-image

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

mastodon-cw-for-sensitive

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.

mastodon-truncating-a-toot

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.

Pronouns

mastodon-pronouns

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.

Interact Freely

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.

 

Adventures in the Federiverse

anelekk

One of the things that you probably already know about me by reading my blog… is that Twitter is my social media home.  It is where with the release of this blog I carved out a place for myself online and then filled my feed full of other awesome gamers and bloggers.  It was for years my happy place, where I came to get new ideas or interact with others about my own.  Then something happened along the way that started to darken the environment.  More politics started filtering their way into these discussions and with the introduction of the Gators, there was a massive chilling effect on this community I so loved.  So it is a world that I still feel very connected to, and is still the primary source of communication I have for a lot of my friends…  but the day to day interactions just don’t feel as good as they once did.

The above tweet was sort of a catalyst for an interesting journey I have been on this weekend.  Initially my thought was “why the hell does the metal band have a social network?”.  It seems like I have been behind the times and another network sprung up without me knowing about it.  Mastodon is essentially the latest not-twitter to show up on the block, but in truth by latest I mean it has been out in the wild since October of 2016 in one form or another.  Twitter is the most readily available comparison but in truth it is doing a lot more than that, some of which honestly is a bit of a detriment to easily on-boarding new users.

Mastodon is a distributed and federated social network that is by nature decentralized, and while there is in fact a Flagship site called Mastodon.social, there are a ton of smaller communities that have downloaded the open source software and are running their own instances.  The largest of these is the primarily non-English speaking Pawoo.net with around 400,000 users, and the smallest ones somewhere in the sub-100 user range.  No one person controls the network as essentially all of the instances out there have control over the code base of their own server…  pending they don’t tweak the general network protocol settings.

So you are probably thinking to yourself, what use is a social network if it is a bunch of disconnected islands?  This is where the Federated part comes in allowing users on different island states to talk to each other freely as though they were on the same network.  That means I can take my @Belghast@Elekk.xyz account and talk freely to @Tamrielo@Tabletop.social or @x1101@social.nasqueron.org.  The naming following an email like scheme with @Username and then @Instance following it if they are not also on your local instance.

mastodondefaultweb

The user interface has a very “I swear I am using TweetDeck” feel to it, but it is just subtly different enough to trip you up a little bit.  However it was extremely easy for me to shift over to using it comfortably because a lot of the things I was used to doing were also here.  Instead of a Tweet you have a Toot since Mastodons…  and instead of a Retweet folks call it a Boost, which in some ways is a more pleasant way of thinking about it given you are trying to share someone else’s content with the world.  Significantly different is the fact that you can change the visibility of a given “toot” so that it shows as public, unlisted, follower-only or is instead a direct message to a specific user or users mentioned.

There is also the Content Warning tag that allows users to hide anything that might be sensitive behind one of the Show More walls that you are seeing in the screenshot above.  Each community uses this a little differently, and a lot of people will simply use it as a way of truncating a long post so that it doesn’t clog the feeds of others with a wall of text or something that is image heavy.  For example this weekend when I syndicated my podcast, I was able to give a little longer of an intro to it given the 500 character limit instead of 140/280 and hid most of that behind a CW tag for making life easier on the folks reading their timelines.  The only thing that seems to be missing is the ability to add a comment along with a boost similar to the quoted retweet functionality that I use so often.

elekkxyzintro

One of the other interesting things about the Federiverse as a lot of people call it… is that you can effectively start on one server and uproot and move to another.  For example I started out on Mastodon.cloud because I simply did not understand at first how this network worked.  It was a more general interest instance and quite honestly was still very awesome with a very nice admin.  However the longer I used it, the more I realized that maybe I wanted to be on an instance that was more drift compatible to my own interests.  I had a lot of great interactions with folks from Elekk.xyz and that lead me to investigate it closer…  and when I saw the above image I knew that it was probably the right place for me.

One of the things that separates Mastodon from Twitter is that you have the ability to read essentially every public toot that comes across the server.  You have a local timeline that shows you everything happening on your own instance, and a federated timeline showing you everything happening on all of the servers your local is connected with.  It is probably best to think of this in MMO terms as your Local Timeline is your Guild Chat and your Federated Timeline is Trade or General.

The other thing that it feels like to me is an old dial-up BBS.  During Fido.net era when they were loosely connected through a hub and spoke relay network, a user on one BBS to communicate with a user on any other connected BBS.  However it sometimes took four or five days for the round trip depending on when you sent the message and when the person on the other end received and replied to it.  In the Federiverse each of these instances is like your local BBS where you get to know everyone, with the ability to reach out and make friendships with anyone else in the larger connected community.

anelekk

I feel like I have spent an awful lot of time talking about the hows and not much about the whys this morning…  but unfortunately the WHY I am enjoying myself is going to have to come another day.  Essentially the short version is… it feels like a throwback to a simpler time in the internet when we all were much more open to talking freely with each other.  Thusfar everyone I have encountered has been charming and helpful in me getting settled into their neighborhood.  There are a handful of us from the blogging space that have made a home for ourselves on Elekk.xyz, but there are so many other instances that I highly suggest you start out on JoinMastodon.org and see some of the other instances.  I am finding out it is weirdly customary to have multiple accounts on multiple instances.  Tam for example has one on TableTop.Social, Elekk.xyz and some Game Dev related one that I don’t know the address for.

Does this mean I am leaving twitter?  Probably not, but I do find Mastodon to be a much more engaging network than the current state twitter is in.  If you too sorta miss the days when the internet and social engagement was simpler, or have a hankering for an even older time of BBSes and IRC Servers…  then maybe it might too feel comfortable.  It is more than likely always going to remain a niche thing, but I think in the grand scheme of things that is its strength.  We talked about this at length on the podcast, but maybe having a bunch of fragmented islands leads to a better community than having one mega server as it were.  I know we have commented as such in various MMO communities, so why would that same theory not apply to the broader social media?