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The Great 2022 Mastodon Migration

My God, you’d think the world was ending. The screaming, yowling, weeping and rolling on the floor in the wake of Twtter’s acquisition by Elon Musk is something to see. I’m interested in Twitter because for me it fills a need: quick announcements, wisecracks, indie book promo, Odd Lots-style links to things I find interesting or useful….so what’s not to like?

One thing, and one thing only: disagreement.

But that’s the viewpoint of the bluechecks, not me or most of my friends. The bluechecks are fleeing Twitter. Where to? Mastodon, mostly. Poor Mastodon. Gazillions of new users are arriving, with so little computer smarts that they can’t figure out how to use the platform. Mastodon has a lot of promise. This is their chance to make the bigtime, instead of lurking in the shadows of all the monumentally larger social networks. I’m very curious to see what they make of it. I wonder if they understand the demands that will be made of them: Forbid disagreement with…anybody I don’t like.

There was a time when disagreement was a learning opportunity. Or most of it, anyway, at least disagreement among reasonably intelligent people. But that was way back in the ’70s. As we slid into the ’80s, disagreement became insult. I avoided disagreeing with people of a certain psychology, knowing that they’d just get bright red and scream at me before I ever had a chance to make a case for my own positions.

The ’80s were the era when, little by little, I stopped going to SF conventions. Why hang out with people who’ll jump down your throat at the slightest hint of disagreement? I missed the social element of conventions, but by 1985 or 86 cons had gotten so toxic I just stopped going.

(These days I go to one con a year: Libertycon, where I know I won’t get screamed at for having ideas at odds with the bluecheck zeitgeist.)

Now, in the Groaning Twenties, disagreement is first-degree murder. Or genocide. Or maybe the heat-death of the universe. Does it bother me? No. It makes me giggle. I’ve been called a racist and a fascist and a few other more peculiar things. Like I said: I giggle. It’s all so silly. I still write subversive hard SF and program in Pascal. I am what I am. You can’t change me by screaming at me.

Why have I gone on at such length about the disagreement phenomenon? Easy: After years of being a staunchly defended echo chamber, Twitter is now trying to become a profit-making enterprise. I used to pay for CompuServe. If Twitter becomes a paid service, I will pay a (reasonable) price for a subscription. I get the impression (and admit I could be wrong; we’ll see) that Twitter will moderate people who use dirty words to denigrate other people…but won’t ban those posting links to peer-reviewed research showing that Ivermectin is an effective broad-spectrum antiviral.

That would be a tectonic change in the social media universe. It’s going to take a few years for Elon Musk to figure out how to do it. But that dude can orbit 52 telecomm satellites in one damfool rocket…I’m not willing to speculate on what he can’t do.

So. Has Twitter changed since the Great Mastodon Migration? A little. In scrolling down through my Twitter posts over the last month or so, I see a few replies have gone missing, doubtless originally posted by people who are now tooting their little hearts out over on Mastodon. With only a few exceptions, the bluechecks have very little to say that isn’t abject fury at people who disagree with them. (And to think I almost majored in journalism, sheesh.)

Musk is laying off thousands of people. The firm can either survive without them or fold. Me, I’m pretty sure the whole damned operation could be run by a thousand or so good, smart, devoted staffers. The trick is to find and motivate such staffers. I suspect Elon Musk can do it.

In the meantime, the bluechecks are fleeing. G’bye, guys! Have fun over on Mastodon! Here on Twitter we’re still having a wonderful time! (I’d say, “glad you’re not here,” but I’m too nice a guy to do that. What else could you expect from a Pascal programmer?)


  1. Eric says:

    My (extremely) limited understanding of Mastodon is that it’s explicitly designed to forbid interactions with people you don’t like.

    For example, many, many, many Mastodon instances will explicitly block anyone who doesn’t conform to the politics of the instance.

    Gab, for instance, is based on Mastodon, and re-‘tooting’ something that came from Gab will almost certainly get you booted from the instance.

    And Mastodonites think this is a good thing.

    1. Well, it’s good for them because now they have a place to go that will make them (nominally) happy. The smarter and more insightful ones will be disappointed, because outside of Mastodon (and who besides me ever even heard of Mastodon before Musk bought Twitter?) none of them will be heard. They can talk to each other all they want and never be disagreed with, but they won’t be demigods with a voice that reaches hundreds of millions.

      In the meantime, Musk is doing what tech insiders call “whaling and culling.” I’m pretty sure this is exactly what any bloated venture-funded firm needs to do to turn a buck and thus have a chance at sticking around long enough to make a difference. See:

  2. Bob Walker says:

    In the meantime, Musk is having $44 billion of fun. The picture of him with the two fraudsters that trolled the left-wing media by claiming they had been laid off by Twitter has the biggest grin I’ve ever seen.

    Off-topic but of interest, I need to vent about ebook prices by the big publishers. You wrote a column a few months ago about this and since then the big publishers have doubled down. My reaction is to open accounts in as many libraries as I can and try to borrow the book there. The waiting lists are long but I need to learn patience.

    1. Musk is having an absolute riot. He’s also doing what seems (to me) like necessary readjustment of the Twitter organization. “Too many people managing and too few people coding.” That’s been fatal to a great many other corporations. I have high hopes that he can make Twitter work. Driving off many of the bluechecks was a solid start.

      As for trad ebook prices, you have to understand one very important thing: The New York model of book publishing depends on hardcovers–and people willing to pay hardcover prices as soon as a book is available. Ebook originals can’t make money for them; their fixed costs are too high. Amazon has pretty much taught the reading public that ebooks should cost no more than $10. So the hardcover continues to drive New York publishing.

      The best thing that New York City publishing could possibly do is get the hell out of New York City. But you know how likely that is.

      People I trust have told me that they wait a month or two after a popular hardcover is issued, so they can get it for half price or less on the used market. Apparently a lot of hardcover buyers who get in early read the book and then sell it (in “like new” condition) on Amazon Marketplace or EBay. This is also doing the hardcover business model no good.

      Your point is one that many people are discovering: Patience pays. It does.

  3. Tom Hanlin says:

    Well, don’t tease us. What opinions do you have that are so odious you can’t even go to a con?

    It sure looks like Elon has caused Twitter to crash and burn in record time but, let’s watch.

    1. I was called a “denier” back in the late 90s for questioning the usual climate-change narrative. (Interestingly, that happens less often today.) There were other things long past that I won’t talk about at all anymore, in part because I was wrong about a couple of them, and in part because there’s simply no point in it. Most of the issues could be gathered together into a category I call “hatred of the Other,” which was with us (to a lesser extent) in the 1970s and utterly dominates political culture today.

      My best example: A couple of years back, I was doing an egoscan looking for reviews of my books and stumbled into a discussion in the comments of some forum I’d never heard of, where the topic was a call for providing Wikipedia entries for all Hugo Award nominees who didn’t already have one. I was pointedly excluded because I wasn’t a loyal progressive. That doesn’t bother me, really, but it shines a spotlight on the pointless viciousness of the SF fan culture.

      I was treated badly by Tor books in a way suggesting they didn’t like the political culture in my novel The Cunning Blood, which they gave me the OK to submit after I did the expected query.

      Now in retirement I don’t feel like dealing with that sort of shit anymore. I’ll go to a Worldcon if it’s in Chicago, but beyond that, it’s Libertycon or nothing.

      1. Bill Meyer says:

        Some of us are old enough to remember the Time magazine cover story (1976?) on the “Coming Ice Age.”

        And those screamers are now AGW screamers. Or ACC (anthropomorphic clime change) screamers.

        Chicken Little never dies.

  4. Rich Rostrom says:

    Something has happened over the past fifty years which I think underlies the trend.
    I may have linked to this here before, but I’ll do so again. Charles Murray found it in 2009 in data from the General Social Survey. The quick take is:

    All major population segments were politically centrist as of 1973. From 1973 to 2008, all segment moved slightly to right of center, except “Intellectual upper class”, which moved far to the left.

    The White House and the Pauline Kael Syndrome

    Murray has also noted that the substantively “meritocratic” culture of academia and business led to assortative mating and other social separations, while assimilating nearly all of the most capable people in newer cohorts, regardless of background.

    My own research showed that during the 2016 presidential primaries, 92% of contributions from employees of large elite universities went to Democrats (Clinton and Sanders), and only 8% to the 17 Republicans (including 8 governors and 5 Senators).

    IOW, the intellectual class has become a left monoculture, and has absorbed all the smart people.

    Here’s an example of how poisoned the culture is:
    Cancelled in my own home…. (British mother is continually lectured at by her “woke” children”.)

    I see no way out of this. The “ruling class” remains functional enough to avoid spontaneous rebellion by the masses, and it assimilates all the people who would lead any organized rebellion.

    1. Jason Bucata says:

      If I’m connecting the dots correctly, the book he was writing at the time, and from which his post was roughly excerpted, is his book “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010” which was published in 2012 or so.

  5. Jason Bucata says:

    I noticed the same pattern while trying to find people I Twitter-follow over on Mastodon: The liberal-leaning ones were headed off to various Mastodon instances but the more conservative folks… do I dare coin the phrase “red checks”?… weren’t headed to Mastodon, or anywhere else that I noticed.

    The red checks are either optimistic that Twitter will continue, or their attitude is “welp, it was fun while it lasted” and aren’t making public moves to another public platform. Perhaps they’re trading contact details amongst a few trusted fellows at best.

    I don’t understand why the red checks aren’t making a parallel exodus to other Mastodon instances, though. While the vitriol maybe wasn’t always spread symmetrically, it’s always seemed to me that the self-sortation into echo chambers was extremely bipartisan.

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