Locally boring

In relation to the previous post, it may well just be that I’m in an instance that is for lack of a better description, “locally boring“.*

This can obviously deadly to the growth of a social network, and it may be something fixable or perhaps endemic to the other ABNs** extant on the Internet of today.

Reflecting local or “desired” content back at the user can be useful for retention, as the user can see a lot of stuff they like, but it may not allow for much in the way of outside influence. It leads to filter bubbles and echo chambers and directional pipelines to more of the same.

And if it is the first experience for the user, if their first taste of the network (or universe, multiverse, or Fediverse) is “locally boring”, then they might not be inclined to stay.

There are steps that can be taken to ensure that a given (zone/verse/fed/clique/instance/field/dimension/whatever) doesn’t become locally boring, or at the very least stay that way for long. I think perhaps that TikTok managed to do that better than most, hence the popularity and stickyness. (The dual drivers of the feed and the semi-regular replacement of the hamsters powering the database helped too.) There are also some user-driven processes, practices, and protocols that can help as well.

In the interest of being helpful, here’s a quick folksonomy of tips, some useful heuristics that served well at least once:

  • follow lots
  • follow back
  • cultivate an empathetic view
  • like liking things
  • boost community participants
  • block toxicity
  • don’t dogpile
  • don’t boost negativity
  • mute content thieves and LVAs
  • remove the “I”‘s and give credit where due
    (- no profanity)***
    (- no political commentary)***

This might not be everything, but it feels like a good start.

These are the practices I intentionally engaged in as a TikTok user. And that intentionality was key: I treated TikTok as a new forum and decided to change my practices around interaction to see if it led to a different experience.

(Pace the old Einstein quote about insanity being doing the same thing and expecting different results.)

So I didn’t have a full Costanza “opposite day” moment, but I did go into it with a change to my practices, and the results were impressive. So with a datapoint of one, based on the half-remembered folksonomy as listed above, I’ll treat Mastodon similarly.

Now, the affordances of the Mastodon are very different than those proffered by TikTok, and more in line with what Twitter had to offer on launch, so interacting with it may be difficult. There may be more “pull” or “gravity” or “inertia” or “cultural form” something acting as a drag on positive behaviour there.

We’ll see how it goes.

Stay tuned, and have fun.

* with luck, present location excluded.

**: Have I discussed this yet on live, or is still in drafts?

***: The rationale for both of these probably requires further explanation. Bookmarked for later, perhaps.

What is the opposite of ‘sticky’?

Not slippery, obviously, but rather something else. Like an anti-engagement field.

I mean, congrats to Mastodon for replicating that Authentic Twitter ExperienceTM that has caused me to bounce off it every time I’ve tried to engage with it over the last 15 years.

Like coagulated ideology or something, a thin veneer of ick that coats everything, so even the morsels that I might find interesting are kinda obnoxious and repellent. The same thing that makes it tasty to those who cling to the Twitter platform as it sinks beneath the waves of the internet is the same thing that had me looking for the eject button and lifeboats two hours into the ocean cruise and well before the iceberg was visible in the distance.

Now I realize in this* tortured analogy it might be working as intended, that “it’s me, I’m the problem it’s me”, and the Authentic Twitter ExperienceTM** continues to function as DEET to the Kafka-esque dopamine-hunting mosquito that I function as on the internet.

Or it could be indicative of what makes other media forms attractive. Why is TikTok tasty and Twitter (and analogues) not?

I’m not some internet trendsetter here. I wasn’t wearing flannel back in ’88, before it was made cool in ’91***. But I have been floating around the margins of the internet since before it was a thing, on the BBSs piggybacked off C64s and 300 Baud modems back when every character mattered.

Which brings me back to microblogging. (Which is the term which will have to do for “Twitter a/o Mastodon a/o ‘whatever FB makes to try and crunch into the space'”. The short, presumably pithy text-based format that operates close to the iron of SMS that allows it to masquerade as infrastructure relative to the internet.

I mean, there’s a place for it. But it feels like this infrastructural position was co-opted by those who chose to ride close to the edge, and liked the tingle that being next to the signal brought, in much the same way that TikTok’s function as a “teens dancing app” has gradually been overtaken by “content creators” emigrating from FB and Insta and all over, following the wave of Tumblr expats who found a home there are carved out a niche.

That tingle of the signal is attractive, sure. Very tasty. But the hum of the wires signals a danger too.

And I think that’s what makes it the opposite of sticky, a warning sign to those not attuned to whatever it’s wavelength happens to be.

It may be well taken to not engage then. We’ll see.

*: the fly one, not the Titanic one
**: I know, define the acronym and then use it throughout, but I thought I’d drive the point home. Repeating bears and all that.
***: I have been informed by Implausi.Corp HQ that I was in fact wearing lots of flannel in ’88. Currently looking for confounding variables.