Bonfire in woods

Town Squares

Elon Musk and his “gang” celebrating taking over Twitter this month. Jason Calcanis is the dude in the white jacket with the dance hands, right?

If Twitter is a “town square”, then the last month has been like a western movie where some bad guy and his band of hoods rode into Twitter Town, bought it and the locals freaked the f&%k out. Many of us have fled to the dense woods of Mastodon or opted for the sparsely regulated “free town” of Hive. Some of us are waiting for access to the new gated communities of or Cohost. While others have regulated to posting only on Instagram, the “Vegas Strip of social”. Even old social ghost towns like Tumbler who promise to adopt the Activitypub protocol are getting new signups from the Twitter fallout.

Oblivious to all of this drama are the twelve remaining friends I have who keep using Facebook and my kids who use TikTok.

The point is that there have always been a bunch of “town squares” on the internet, and gloriously, it seems like we’re going to get even more of them. I’ve long been down for decentralization and going back to smaller communities where maybe things aren’t so dissonating and hateful. So has my friend Ben Brown who has been literally going back in time to set up a community using the 70’s era Finger protocol to let people self-publish and network over at HappyNetBox. As we were texting yesterday(80’s protocol!), we joked that what’s happening now feels more like a real web 3.0 moment as compared to the blockchain/crypto hype, but we’ll probably have to call it “web 4.0” because…. I dunno, just to make sure federated identity and communities are not conflated with the crypto meltdown? Whatever is driving this sudden burst of interest in decentralized and federated technology is going to create a lot of interesting new communities and products. It’s a good time to get in and check out these nascent communities and products, which is what I’m doing.

Image by Per Axbom on all the apps using Activitypub in the “fediverse”.

Here’s what I’m doing

I’ve decided to mostly publish my content on this blog, then have it echo out into all the places. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

  1. I added the WordPress Activitypub plugin to this blog, so that @mt serves as my publishing feed for Mastodon or any other platform that uses ActivityPub. I still use RSS too, even though I crapped on it 10 years or so ago. (Sorry, Dave, I was wrong.)
  2. I set up Jetpack to auto-post to Twitter, Linkedin and thinking about adding Facebook. Just not sure that my Facebook friends will get as excited about my once-a-year posts on activitypub, music recommendations, or other assorted nerdom that compels me to write.
  3. I used TweetDelete to delete all my old tweets, which I’ve done for the second time over the last 16 years. I know that’s maybe bad form and I never tweeted or retweeted something I was ashamed of. It’s more that it’s my work and I don’t want it there anymore. I’ll just post links to it that redirect here or one of the other places where I choose to publish content that I own and control.
  4. I did set up my own Mastodon server at using this guide at DigitalOcean. I did it because it just feels weird to start a community under my own name.
  5. I downloaded the Mastodon app for iOS and try to make a habit of checking it before Twitter. It’s actually a really well-done app and fairly easy to follow new people once you have a few people followed who point to other people. There’s also Fedifinder that will help you find the people who have already migrated over. That said, it does have some wonky features that take some getting used to. See the screen recording below…be sure to wait for it:
I thought the Mastodon app was broken, but turns out this is how it handles a long post that is “hidden” due to sensitive content.

I’ll update the site as I see how this system evolves. It’s a bit kludgy trying to figure out how to publish once and disseminate everywhere, but I kind of like that. A lot of the interesting stuff starts that way.

So start your own town, er, Mastodon server, or join mine. Or build a site or app that uses Activitypub. Just because some dude bought your favorite online hangout doesn’t mean you have to put up with their nonsense. I’m kind of excited about web tech for the first time in a long time.

Also, follow me on Mastodon if you’re already there.

Post updated for grammar and clarification on 11/29.







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