Software

Alternatives to Twitter

I joined Twitter in May of 2008. Now I’m seeking alternatives to Twitter.

For the first few years Twitter was fabulous, even though it was frequently knocked offline. There were a lot of people I knew in real life, and members of communities I was active in like other Medievalists, SF and F fans and writers, stationary ad fountain pen users, Apple users and developers.

By 2016 the Twitter mob had evinced itself. People I knew were being impersonated by trolls, there were bots . . . Lots of the people I used to interact with have left, or moved to locked-down private accounts, and lurking — it wasn’t as pleasant a neighborhood. I ended up reducing my presence more and more; now I follow a handful of people I know, and use lists and DMs.

With Musk in charge, I’m gone. I don’t want to participate in his ad revenue or help his numbers. His acquisition was the nail in Twitter’s coffin, for me. I’m lingering just long enough to let people know where to find me, but suspect I’ll be essentially gone by 2023. I’m not deleting my account; I don’t want someone to claim to be me (and yes, that’s been tried). I’ve been checking out alternatives to Twitter for quite some time. You might find one that suits you, but I suggest a cautious exploration first.

Mastodon

I’ve been using Mastodon for about 5 years now. Mastodon, inspired by Twitter, is a distributed Federated social network, part of the “Fediverse.” No one person or company “owns” the entire network. You join a Mastodon server, sometimes called a “Channel” or Instance; there are lots, some of them based on a theme or interest like gaming, or development, or a country, or the main one, Mastodon.social. There is a writing interest server called Mastodon,writingexchange. Mastodon.wandering.shop caters to SF and Fantasy fans; like most of the special interest servers, at present, you need an invite from a current user. There’s even a server for former Twitter employees, or Tweeps. A new Mastodon server for writing, creativewriting.social just started.

Keep in mind that Mastodon is not a company in the sense of Twitter or Facebook. It’s a good idea to read for a bit, and check out the moderation via the About page on a given server, before joining, Each is an independent server, with local TOS, but all are part of the Mastodon network (and the much larger Fediverse).

In most cases, each Mastodon community, each Instance or server, is maintained by a couple of people, at most. They don’t make money. There is no ad revenue. They pay the costs of hosting the site out of pocket, though some use Patron or ko.fi for donations, and you can donate to the primary Mastodon group that writes the software that runs on servers and the “official” iPhone and Twitter apps. Because the servers or Instances are managed by individuals, some have only a handful of users, people who know each other from work or school or a shared interest, while others have thousands. Just this week a new server for Linguists started, Mastodon.lingo.lol, and one for archaeology. In most cases, a single individual runs the server, and pays the cost of hosting and bandwidth.

I have a veery rough Mastodon Starter Guide with some basic tips and links to other resources.

 

Micro.blog

Another alternative to Twitter is micro.blog. This is a blogging service created by Manton Reese. I started using a free account several years ago. The idea is that you can post “micro posts,” rather like tweets, but that while people can follow you and respond, there’s no “liking” or algorithm deciding who or what to promote, or what you see. It’s really a blogging service with a timeline. You can pst directly to the Timeline, or create standalone Posts and Pages.

It’s $5 a month for a basic account. You aren’t limited to 500 characters per post, and during NaNoWriMo post sizes have been increased, You can post images, too, or use a custom domain

If your blog is hosted elsewhere, (or you don’t blog) you can register for an account and participate in the community at no charge. There are premium hosting options, too. For a little more, if you want to have a podcast, for instance. One of the features I like best is the Bookshelf. You can track the books you are reading, plan to read, have read. There’s  even a free app for iOS  and Android app, Epilogue, to make book logging  easier. Plus, I really like the Micro.blog Community Guidelines. This is a service truly interested in community.

Micro.blog Resources

Welcome to Micro.blog is a guide designed particularly for people familiar with Twitter.

How to customise Micro.Blog is a group blog, with multiple contributors. There are plug-ins, tutorials, and videos about creating and modifying templates.

Tribel Social Network

I’m not sure what to make of Tribel. At a bit over a year in age, Tribel describes itself as a “pro Democracy” social network, and makes self-comparisons with Twitter and Facebook. In addition to making micro blog style short posts, you can Follow people whose posts interest you and Friend people you know (they have to OK it). You can create Groups for communities of shared interest, and they can be public or private. There are a lot of groups now (cats, dogs, animal lovers, lots of photo groups, politics (strong Liberal/Democrat leanings), books, Star Trek, foodies, gardening, LGBTQ+, Stephen King, NaNoWriMo, etc.

When you post, you need to select an audience for that post; either one or more pre-set Category (there are a bunch, with many sub-categories, like Writing/FanFiction, or Animals/Birds), or Personal, which limits the audience to your Friends. Posts can be either narrowly directed, highly focussed or quite broad in terms of audience. There are apps for iOS/iPadOS and Android. It’s free. Tribel caught my attention as a possible Twitter alternative because I saw it being excoriated for censorship and for being “Liberal” and “Leftist.”

According to Tribel:

We’re an innovative pro-democracy Twitter alternative that’s free of hatred & fake news. Download our iOS or Android app to join! App download link below

They have a ranking algorithm. Basically, Tribel says they don’t censor but hatred and bigotry are downrated and fail to thrive. I’m not seeing that; there some pretty vile posts about Musk, Trump, and Lindsey Graham, for instance, and I’m not the only one noticing that. Moderation, whether human or algorithmic, needs to be even-handed. There’s an FAQ/How Tribel Works guide. The Tribel TOS and Privacy statement are here.

Post.news, now Noam and Hive are security and moderation disasters. I want no part of either. I have some fairly serious concerns about data privacy, safety and moderation on Counter.social.

Conclusions So Far

I’ll be updating this page for a while.

Mastodon still seems a bit scatter-shot to me. I’m contemplating re-opening my own Slack; I’ve had it for years, and used it lately mostly for consulting work. My interest in Twitter and social media in general is to keep in touch with people I already know, from other contexts, and to follow book reccs from people I trust. I don’t see Mastodon being used for threaded conversations much; I miss those. That pracitce of course is derived from blogs with their comment threads,  and forums, which is why I’m encouraging friends to blog.

I like micro.blog a lot. While you can certainly use it for standard blog posts or pages, the Timeline works really well for short posts, or quick updates to share a book or a link or a photo.


SetApp: A Suite of macOS Apps for a Single Price Affiliate link for a great collection of 200+ macOS apps for a single price—now with iOS apps too.