We tried Mastodon for two weeks (we are happy to stop)


It’s the social network everyone is talking about. Finally, especially Twitter users. Mastodon (that’s his name) is nothing new. This social network created in 2016 uses a good part of the codes of Twitter. But it has nothing to do with the blue bird.

In any case, this is what circulates on the web while some of the disappointed Twitterers have migrated to Mastodon. So inevitably, we who are used to using the network recently bought by Elon Musk, we wanted to try Mastodon. Badly took it from us.

What is Mastodon?


Screenshot on mastodon.social, the server managed by the creator of the social network. © Eugen Rochko

Before going into the heart of our experience, let’s briefly recall what Mastodon is. Like Twitter, this social network created by a German engineer is a microblogging network. It is therefore expressed with a limited number of characters.

On Mastodon, tweets are “pouets” (toots in English) and are limited to 500 characters (compared to 280 on Twitter). You can associate media with toots (images, videos, gifs, audio, polls, etc.). A priori, Mastodon is nothing but a copy of Twitter.

In reality, this social network is quite different. Firstly because it is a open source network, that is to say that its code is accessible by all. Above all, it is decentralized: users are not all gathered on the same servers owned by the creator of Mastodon. When registering, you choose a server owned by a person or organization that administers this server. User data is stored on this server.

It is this freedom and decentralization that have attracted some Twitter users. Worried to see Twitter in the hands of earthy Elon Musk, some feared for their freedom of expression, others for the possibility of seeing the blue bird become profitable.

So we also migrated to Mastodon for a few days, just to see if it could establish itself as a serious alternative to Elon Musk’s network. Conclusion: Twitter still has a bright future ahead of it.

Ugly and complicated

Mobile Plan

© Lemon squeezer

No need to go through four paths, Mastodon’s interface is ugly. The graphic charter dates from a not so distant time, yet it feels like going back more than 10 years. This first bad impression immediately cools.

Ignoring this questionable aesthetic, Mastodon is mostly of a complexity making it inaccessible to anyone not familiar with new technologies. And even for those who know a little about it, its operation is a happy mess.

From the first use, you must choose a server among the 3,300 servers available worldwide. You can register according to your interests (sport, art, technology, gaming, etc.) or geographical criteria. Then, an account is created with an identifier and a password which will therefore be associated with the chosen server.

And this is where it all gets complicated. By sticking to one server, you are limited in interactions with other servers. Also, the home page only shows us the toots of server members. The posts published on the other servers remain accessible but you have to either go through the search for a user (we must therefore know his identifier) ​​or (simpler) use the hashtags that interest us (gaming, tech, art, painting, photo , etc.).

If we realize that the server chosen at the start is ultimately not interesting, we will then have to choose another server. But be careful, for this you will have to create another account, brand new, hosted in the new server. But it will still be necessary to keep the old account at least temporarily. You will need it to transfer data from the old account to the new one. Very intuitive isn’t it?

There is someone ?

This complexity in network design has a major problem: it limits interactions between users. A shame for a social network. During our two weeks of testing, however, we multiplied the squeaks in order to try to hit a wider target.

Some users have advised us to use hashtags, to increase the reach of our publications and to provoke other interactions. No matter how hard we tried, nothing happened. If you have chosen a server that is a little too generalist or poorly targeted, the range of your toots will be even less important.

To try to get the ball rolling, we tried to find contacts we already had on other social networks. Finding them was no picnic. If these friends are not on the same server, the search can be complicated.

In effect, Mastodon is also full of bugs. For example, our rare notifications took forever to arrive. Updating certain personal information as well. The publication of a toot also sometimes requires a certain time before appearing. And these bugs can be more or less present depending on the chosen server.
Basically, it grinds.

What about moderation?


A directory of Mastodon servers. © Mastodon

If those disappointed with Twitter have left it for lack of freedom of expression, they will be served on Mastodon. Moreover, it did not take long for certain groups with conspiratorial hints to find their playground there.

On Mastodon, moderation hardly exists. Freedom of expression is therefore total. Finally, it depends mainly on the person or organization that manages the server on which you are registered. Finally, Mastodon could very well be piloted by 3,300 Elon Musk that no one would know.

This total freedom is therefore only smoke and mirrors since it depends on the state of mind of the person managing the server. If your remarks do not fall within the rules it imposes, then your account can jump at any time. At least on this server. You will then have to try your luck among the other 3,299 servers.

On Mastodon, moderation does not exist. There is a bit of everything and anything, sometimes on the same server. On the one we have chosen, information from media recognized as Mediapart Where Days were mixed with sexual and pornographic photographs. And as long as the administrator deems that the content poses no problem, then it remains visible to everyone.

In a world where it is already difficult to differentiate fake news from real information and where some influencers advertise miracle cures for cancer (which obviously do not exist), a platform without any moderation can quickly become dangerous.

In summary, Mastodon is a social network with questionable aesthetics, very complicated and where interactions are limited. In any case, this is the experience we have had. So if you were thinking of leaving Twitter for Mastodon, two possibilities: stay on Twitter anyway and take things more lightly.

Otherwise, try LinkedIn. It seems that the professional social network could finally be the best alternative to Twitter. Even more so if you love the bullshit posts of certain entrepreneurs. But let’s not get lost, this subject will be the subject of another article.

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