How many people here have heard of mastodon? Almost every hand in the room goes up! (Of course, a self-selecting sample :) )
Starting with the origin story: @Gargron starting up the software and mastodon.social.
Lots more Mastodon history at https://medium.com/a-change-is-coming/mastodon-14-perspectives-on-a-breakthrough-month-521ce46baa71
@cyrinsong talking about background with Quirrell: even a few years ago, lots of dissatisfaction with Twitter. Friends are drawn to Mastodon not so much because of its decentralized needs, but the cultural stuff and the alternative to Twitter. Many of the early devs were queer and trans, it very much has that feel.
for @polymerwitch, it was Twitter's change to @-reply that pushed her over. checked out mastodon.social, thought it was pretty cool, decided to set up an instance. toot.cat was available, so she snagged it. so naturally the site was about cats!
put up a code of conduct, based on Audrey Eschright's work, the Citizen Code of Conduct, and some earlier anti-oppression work
@cyrinsong highlight the difference between a conference code of conduct, which is active for a few days, and a social network's CoC which is 7x24x365
when you start having long conversations, need to get very specific about what you mean by anti-oppression. e.g. "no nudity" is a problem for sex workers. so expanded that to a four-paragraph section. also worked to get NSFW tag changed to "sensitive image" - just came out yesterday!
multicultural issues: woke up one morning and there were lots of Japanese users. would it be a problem? no, it turns out they loved cats!
different instances have different feels. toot.cat is portland tech; witches.town is european. contrast with "black twitter" - there's no single feel to it, it's broader. federation makes cross-cultural communication more structured
if a user signs up at your instance and starts spewing hate speech, it's easy: ban them. when an instance wants to federate with you that's all about hate speech, you can block the instance.
two different kinds of blocking - silencing vs. suspending. also, can reject media from an instance (like the one that allows sexualized pics of children)
but, it's still challenging. suppose an instance has been running for a while and has local followers. now the admin starts breaking their own code of conduct and allowing harassment. can try diplomacy ... it's hard! need a "NATO of Mastodon admins", multiple tries to do that - probably the hardest situation
different spaces have different norms. in a kink space, nudity is fine - but that wouldn't be on our public timeline. you can have a diplomatic relationship with that site.
hardest situation: site has similar rules, but interpret the words differently. "no harassment" means different things to different sites. "i understand your position, but i don't see this as harassment." long conversations needed.
if you have the conversation in private, feels like backroom discussions. but if you have it in public, then it's a thousand people on each instance joining in. a challenge! it went on for four days.
overall though it's a positive - these are interactions that aren't possible on FB and Twitter
silencing and blocking isn't fundamentally about "good" or "bad" content. it's okay for people to disagree!
some people in the network don't accept the differences, think there should be a single policy for everybody. "they call us fragmenters. i'm okay being a fragmenter!"
Q: how to decide what instances to federate with?
A: great queston! witches.town, glitch.social, and toot.cat had similar positions in the big brouhaha, realized they have similar interpretations. could go further and make an aliance - functionality that doesn't exist yet
Q: what's the protocol?
A: based on Gnu Social, with some extentions (CW's). Moving towards activitypub. (audience: w00t!)
Q: what about privacy?
A: tricky. when you send to another server, the privacy info is there; need to trust that they're enforcing it. basic functionality you'd expect: specific users, followrs-only, local timline, everywhere. when you send elsewhere, no guarantee they're enforcing it.
need to trust admins - they potentially have access to everything in the database. if you DM somebody on another node, you're warned that it's not safe
Q: is federation commutative?
A: technically, not necessarily. culturally, it's moving that direction.
Q: how to find info about federated instances?
A: mastodon.xyz has info.
A: most effective way is to use hashtags, ask questions
A: #introductions helps too
A: GnuSocial has it, but not yet
On the internet, everyone knows you're a cat — and that's totally okay.