Things I'd like more people to understand in 2024
7 January 2024 | 11:24 pm

We find ourselves in a peculiar place. We are more interconnected, yet more misinformed. At ease with more advanced technologies, but more easily mislead by them. “Doing our own research”, but ending up deeper in conspiratorial rabbit holes.

When discussing complex topics — pandemic, war, the housing crisis, or some thorny family affairs — it is surprisingly easy to jump to conclusions, to oversimplify, ignore crucial nuance, and thus get untethered from reality. To label someone as “evil”, “unethical”, fall back on tribalism. Our brains are always looking for a shortcut, and many of these shortcuts lead us astray. Sometimes we get fooled, sometimes we fool others. Neither helps in the long run.

I am as guilty of this as anyone else. But I also feel the only way we can deal with problems we’re facing, on any level, is by talking them through. Here’s a list of a few rules of thumb I find particularly helpful to keep in mind when thinking about and discussing complex politics- and society-adjacent topics.

They are not absolutes, and do not always apply, but they can help avoid some pitfalls we fall into all too often.

Explanation is not a justification

The fact that there exists an explanation of an action or decision does not automatically mean that the action or decision was justified. Explanation is only about being able to understand why somebody did something. Justification is about the moral judgment over that person and what they did.

It is chillingly easy to fall into the trap of assuming that a person is justifying an unethical act of someone’s just because that person is trying to understand or explain it. Making such an assumption easily leads to dismissing that person as a “supporter” of that unethical act, and thus unethical themselves. This in turn makes it very difficult to talk about causes of a given situation, and about making it less likely it happens in the future.

We have to be able to discuss reasons behind a specific decision or action, regardless of how we  feel about the morality of it. If we want to make sure something bad does not happen again, understanding the reasons it happened is often more important than passing moral judgment.

The flip-side of this is that providing an explanation of something is not the same as providing a justification for it. “This is why I did it” is not the same as “this is why I was in the right doing it”. If by explaining an action somebody is be trying to deflect blame — they probably should get called out on that.

Of course, this is not to say that an explanation can never be an important element of valid justification.  It can, and it often is. But explanation and justification are different, even if one can support the other to some degree.

Hanlon’s razor

We humans are great at ascribing agency and intentionality where there is none. We love to make things about ourselves. We see faces in the clouds, deity’s wrath in volcanic eruptions, and targeted, premeditated malice in somebody else’s decisions or actions — especially ones that affect us in a bad way.

Hanlon’s razor states:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

I personally expand it to also include incompetence, laziness, and other lesser vices. It is, basically, a tool for assessing explanations of a given set of actions or decisions. In many cases, there is no need to assume malice in order to explain a problematic action or decision. In some cases assuming malice is actually counter-productive.

We don’t need to assume maliciousness on part of civil servants in the Netherlands who deployed the (as it turns out) racist system for flagging “suspicious” use of childcare benefits to know this was unacceptable. Pondering whether that was malicious on their part or not is in this case moot, and can distract from a broader and more immediately important question of: how to fix the broader system such that this never happens again, regardless of malice or incompetence?

That’s not to say that there is never malice, of course. Sometimes there very much is. But in the end, in a lot of cases it might not matter much — bad outcomes are bad regardless of whether they are caused by malice, or by incompetence. Important systems, especially ones on which our livelihoods or health and well-being depends on, should be resilient to either.

Or, as Grey’s law puts it:

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice

Which is closely related to…

A system’s purpose is what it does

Let’s say we have a complex system — technical, political, social, whatever the kind. And let’s say that it keeps having certain bad outcomes. Everyone involved in creating and maintaining it keeps insisting that these bad outcomes are accidental, and keep promising this can be fixed, but somehow it never is. At some point it just makes sense to treat these bad outcomes as the actual purpose of the system. If they really were not, surely the system would have been fixed already!

Coined by Stafford Beer, of Cybersyn fame, this rule is an great way of cutting through elaborate excuses given about any unacceptable outcomes of a system.

For example: if a government policy supposedly meant to fight the housing crisis (say, by guaranteeing low-interest loans to prospective buyers) ends up raising apartment prices but not causing actual improvement in the overall housing availability, at some point it’s reasonable to say that the purpose of this policy is not to fight the housing crisis — but to funnel free money to real estate developers.

Or: if a policy intended to combat drug abuse ends up predominantly incarcerating only a specific part of the population (say, young Black men), but in no real reduction in overall drug use, then it is reasonable to say that the purpose of the policy is not reduction of drug use — but persecution of a specific group.

Mind you, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the system in question was deliberately designed to be like this! It doesn’t necessarily mean its designers and maintainers are intentionally lying about what its purpose is or was supposed to be, maliciously hiding the fact that the purpose was different (see Hanlon’s razor above). It might be accidental, or related to incompetence, or to the fact that we’re all a product of the society we grew up in and the circumstances we inhabit.

In the end it doesn’t really matter what the original idea for that system was. If a system is allowed to stay in place even though it is clearly ineffective in its stated purpose, then it is fair to say that the actual purpose has to be something else.

Life is not a zero-sum game

There are situations which are a zero-sum game. Trying to get tickets to a popular concert is an example: if you get your tickets, I might not get mine. The resource is strictly limited and we are competing for it. Your win is my loss.

But in a lot of cases, things that are talked about as if they were a zero-sum game — are not. Take immigration: it is often talked about in “us vs. them” terms, with an implied assumption that there is some kind of resource that is strictly limited, and that the migrants, once let into the country, will compete over it with its current residents.

This is simply not the case. Yes, people coming into the country might need education, healthcare, social services — but they will also create more demand for local goods and services, strengthening the economy. Often they might be willing to work jobs that nobody else wants to take. They will pay taxes. They will bring their culture and cuisine with them, enriching the lives of everyone.

This is true for a lot of thorny political and social issues that are portrayed publicly or talked about as if they were a zero-sum game. Sometimes this becomes outright absurd and almost self-parodying, as with the so-called “Schrödinger’s immigrant”, who supposedly “steals our jobs” and simultaneously is “too lazy” to get one, hanging on unemployment benefits instead.

Two things can be true at the same time

In a way, truth is also often not a zero-sum game. For example, it is true I work a lot, but it is also true that I am quite a lazy person. It is true that Titanic’s captain’s actions can be considered reckless by today’s standards, and had contributed to the catastrophe, but it is also true they probably did not appear reckless to him or his peers at the time.

This perhaps sounds obvious, but becomes much less so when strong emotions come into play.

Are COVID vaccines a miracle of science, developed and tested in impossibly short time and saving countless lives? Or are they another vestige of Big Pharma’s flavor of neo-colonialism, based on who gets easy access to them and who doesn’t; who gets to manufacture them and who doesn’t; and who gets to profit from them? Both are true. We should be able to admire the former while insisting the latter is outright unacceptable.

This became particularly stark (and somewhat personal) to me when Putin’s Russia launched a full-scale invasion against Ukraine in February 2022. A lot of left-leaning, anarchist-y people seemed to defend Russian aggression by pointing out atrocities committed by US and NATO in Iraq or Afghanistan. How dare I “take side of NATO” here, have they not done enough evil?

But two things can be true at the same time — the US and NATO should be rightfully made accountable for their actions, of course, but that does not make Russia’s invasion and the atrocities it brought on civilians in Ukraine acceptable or justifiable in any sense.

This is a form of a false dichotomy, making it seem as if we have to “choose a side” out of a limited set of options. But the world is more complex than that. We have to be able to walk and chew gum.

These are not absolutes

All of these are guidelines, not absolute and unshakable rules. In some cases they might even run against one another. That’s okay.

An explanation can be an important part of a justification of some action — it’s just that it should not automatically, always be assumed so. An action or a decision can be underpinned by malice, and in some cases it is important to establish if it is — it’s just that it’s not necessarily always so, and it’s not always worthwhile to get stuck on that question.

A system’s outcomes might misalign with its stated purpose temporarily, and a fix might be on the way — question is, how long has the system been allowed to remain broken, and will it actually get fixed? Even if some problem is not a zero-sum game, resources are rarely truly unlimited and it might still make sense to ask about how they get allocated. And sometimes we do have to choose a side.

To me, these guidelines act as useful safety valves when thinking and discussing complex subjects. They help me notice when an argument might be going astray.

Bringing it all together

I find it startling how easily, how eagerly we retreat into tribalism when discussing important, complex, emotionally charged subjects. How quickly we decide there surely is malice involved, how quickly we can be manipulated into thinking something is a zero-sum game and we better, in our own interest, deny somebody’s access to some perceived “limited resource.”

And once we do, we gleefully dismiss “the other side” — suddenly there’s an “other side”, as if every problem only ever had two possible solutions! — as unethical, outright malicious or at least woefully misinformed. Then we don’t have to consider arguments that go against our strongly-held convictions anymore, we don’t have to deal with the fact that the world is more complex than “us vs. them.” After all we are “us”, and if “they” are not with us, they’re clearly against us.

The complexity, however, does not go away, regardless of how hard we try to ignore or hide it.

Mastodon monoculture problem
7 May 2023 | 12:23 am

Recent moves by Eugen Rochko (known as Gargron on fedi), the CEO of Mastodon-the-non-profit and lead developer of Mastodon-the-software, got some people worried about the outsized influence Mastodon (the software project and the non-profit) has on the rest of the Fediverse.

Good. We should be worried.

Mastodon-the-software is used by far by the most people on fedi. The biggest instance,, is home to over 200.000 active accounts as of this writing. This is roughly 1/10th of the whole Fediverse, on a single instance. Worse, Mastodon-the-software is often identified as the whole social network, obscuring the fact that Fediverse is a much broader system comprised of a much more diverse software.

This has poor consequences now, and it might have worse consequences later. What also really bothers me is that I have seen some of this before.

As seen on OStatus-verse

Years ago, I had an account on a precursor to the Fediverse. It was based mainly around StatusNet-the-software (since renamed as GNU social) and the OStatus protocol. The biggest instance by far was — where I had my account. There was also a bunch of other instances, and there were other software projects that also implemented OStatus — notably, Friendica.

For the purpose of this blogpost, let’s call that social network “OStatus-verse”.

Compared to the Fediverse today, OStatus-verse was miniscule. I do not have specific numbers, but my pull-numbers-out-of-thin-air rough estimate is, say, ~100.000 to ~200.000 active accounts on a very good day (if you have the actual numbers, do tell and I will gladly update this blogpost). I do not have exact the numbers for either, but my rough estimate is that it had between 10.000 and 20.000 active accounts.

So, around 1/10th of the entire social network.

OStatus-verse was small but lively. There were discussions, threads, and hashtags. It had groups a decade before Mastodon-the-software-project implemented groups. It had (desktop) apps — I still miss the usability of Choqok! And after a bit of nagging I was even able to convince a Polish ministry to have official presence there. As far as I know this is the earliest example of a government-level institution having an official account on a free-software-run, decentralized social network.


Then one day, Evan Prodromou, the administrator of (and the original creator of StatusNet-the-software), decided to redeploy it as a new service, The new software was supposed to be better and leaner. A new protocol was created because OStatus had very real limitations.

There was just one snag: that new protocol was incompatible with the rest of OStatus-verse. It tore the heart out of that social network.

People with accounts lost their connections on all OStatus-compatible instances. People with accounts on other instances lost contact with people on, some of whom were pretty popular in OStatus-verse (sounds familiar?..).

It turned out that if an instance is 1/10th of the whole social network, a lot of social connections lead through it. Even though other instances existed, suddenly a huge chunk of active users just vanished. Many groups fell mostly silent. Even if one had an account on a different instance, and contacts on other instances, a lot of familiar faces just disappeared. I stopped using it soon after that.

From my perspective, this single action set us back at least five if not ten years as far as promoting decentralized social media is concerned. Redeployment of fractured the OStatus-verse not just in the social connections sense, but also in the protocol and developer community sense. As pettter, a fellow OStatus-verse veteran put it:

I think a bit of nuance on the huge-blow thing is that it didn’t only impact by cutting social connections, but also in protocol fragmentation, and in fragmenting developer efforts into rebuilding basic blocks of a federated social web time and again. Perhaps it was a necessary step to them come back together in designing AP, but personally I don’t think so.

Of course, Evan had all the right to do that. It was a service he ran, pro bono, on his own terms, with his own money. But that does not change the fact that it crippled the OStatus-verse.

I believe we need to learn from this history. Once we do, we should be worried about the sheer size We should be worried by the apparent monoculture of Mastodon-the-software on the Fediverse. And we should also be worried about identifying all of Fediverse with just “Mastodon”.

Cost of going big

There are real costs and real risks related to going as big as has. Those costs and especially those risks are both to that instance itself, and to the broader Fediverse.

Moderation on the Fediverse is largely instance-centric. A single gigantic instance is difficult to moderate effectively, especially if it has registrations open (as currently does). As the flagship instance, promoted directly in official mobile apps, it draws a lot of new registrations — including quite a few problematic ones.

At the same time, this also makes it more difficult for admins and moderators of other instances to make moderation decisions about

If an admin of a different instance decides’s moderation is lacking for whatever reason, should they silence it or even defederate from it (as some already have, apparently), thus denying members of their instance access to a lot of popular people who have accounts there? Or should they keep that access, risking exposing their own community to potentially harmful actions?

The sheer size of makes any such decision of another instance immediately a huge deal. This is a form of power: “sure, you can defederate from us if you don’t like how we moderate, but it would be a shame if people on your instance lost access to 1/10th of the whole fedi!” As GoToSocial’s site puts it:

We also don’t believe that flagship instances with thousands and thousands of users are very good for the Fediverse, since they tend towards centralization and can easily become ‘too big to block’.

Mind you, I am not saying this power dynamic is consciously and purposefully exploited! But it undeniably exists.

Being a gigantic flagship instance also means is more likely to be a target of malicious actions. On multiple occasions over the last few months it found itself under DDoS, for example. A couple of times it went down because of it. Resilience of a federated system relies on removing large points of failure, and is a huge one today.

The size of that instance and it being a juicy target also means that certain hard choices need to be made. For example, due to being a likely target of DDoS, it is now behind Fastly. This is a problem from the privacy perspective, and from the perspective of centralization of Internet infrastructure. It is also a problem that smaller instances avoid completely by simply being smaller and thus less interesting targets for anyone to take down with a DDoS.

Apparent monoculture

While the Fediverse is not exactly a monoculture, it is too close to being one for comfort. Mastodon-the-non-profit has outsized influence on all of fedi. This makes things tense for people using the social network, developers of Mastodon-the-software and other instance software projects, and instance admins.

Mastodon is neither the only instance software project on fedi, nor the first. For example, Friendica has been around for a decade and a half, long before Mastodon-the-software got it’s first git commit. There are Friendica instances (e.g. operating today within Fediverse which had been part of the OStatus-verse a decade ago!

But calling all of Fediverse “Mastodon” makes it seem as if only Mastodon-the-software exists on the Fediverse. This leads people to demand features to be added to Mastodon and to ask for changes that have sometimes already been implemented by other instance software. Calckey already has quote-toots. Friendica has threaded conversations and text formatting.

Identifying Mastodon with the whole fedi is also bad for Mastodon-the-software developers. They find themselves under pressure to implement features that might not entirely fit with Mastodon-the-software. Or, they find themselves dealing with two groups of vocal users, one demanding a certain feature, other insisting it does not get implemented as too big of a change. Many of such situations could probably be more easily dealt with by clearly drawing a line, and pointing people to other instance software that might fit their use-case better.

Finally, Mastodon is currently by far (measured by active users, and by number of instances) the most popular implementation of the ActivityPub protocol. Every implementation has its quirks. With time, and with new features being implemented, Mastodon’s implementation might have to drift further away from the strict spec. It’s tempting, after all: why go through an arduous process of standardizing any protocol extensions if you’re the biggest kid on the block anyway?

If that happens, will every other implementation have to follow it, thus drifting along with it but without actual agency in what changes to the de facto spec are implemented? Will that create more tensions between Mastodon-the-software developers and developers of other instance software projects?

The best solution to “Mastodon misses feature X” is not always “Mastodon should implement feature X.” Often it might be better to just use a different instance software, better suited for a particular task or community. Or to work on a protocol extension that would allow a particularly popular feature to be reliably implemented by as many instances as possible.

But that can only work if it’s clear to everyone that Mastodon is only a part of a bigger social network: the Fediverse. And that we already do have a lot of choice as far as instance software is concerned, and as far as individual instances are concerned, and as far as mobile apps are concerned.

Sadly, that seems to go against recent decisions by Eugen, which go towards a pretty top-down (not quite vertically integrated, but gravitating towards that) model of official Mastodon mobile apps promoting the flagship instance. And that is something to worry about, in my opinion.

A better way

I want to be clear I am not arguing here for freezing Mastodon development and never implementing any new features. I also agree that the signup process needs to be better and more streamlined than it had been before, and that plenty of UI/UX changes need be implemented. But all this can and should be done in a way that improves resilience of the Fediverse, instead of undermining it.

Broader changes

My laundry list for broader needed changes to Mastodon and the Fediverse would be:

  1. Close registrations on, now
    It is already too big and too much of a risk for the rest of the Fediverse.
  2. Make profile migration even easier, also across different instance types
    On Mastodon, profile migration currently only moves followers. Who you follow, bookmarks, block and mute lists can be moved manually. Posts and lists cannot be moved — and that’s a big problem for a lot of people, keeping them tied to the first instance they signed-up for. It’s not insurmountable — I had moved my profile twice and found it perfectly fine. But it is too much friction. Some other instance software projects are working on allowing post migrations too, thankfully. But it’s not going to be a quick and easy fix, as ActivityPub design makes it very hard to move posts between instances.
  3. By default, official apps should offer new people a random instance out of a small list of verified ones
    At least some of these promoted instances should not be controlled by Mastodon-the-non-profit. Ideally, some instances should run different instance software as long as it uses compatible client API.

What can I do myself?

And here are things we ourselves can do, as people using the Fediverse:

  1. Consider moving off of if you have an account there.
    That’s admittedly a big step, but also something you can do that most directly helps fix the situation. I had migrated years ago, and never looked back.
  2. Consider using an instance based on a different software project
    The more people migrate to instances using other instance software than Mastodon-the-software, the more balanced and resilient Fediverse we get. Hearing a lot of positive opinions about Calckey, for example. GoToSocial is also looking interesting.
  3. Remember that Fediverse is more than just Mastodon
    Language matters. When talking about the Fediverse, calling it “Mastodon” is only making the issues I mention above more difficult to deal with.
  4. If you can, support projects other than the official Mastodon ones
    At this point Mastodon-the-software project has a lot of contributors, a stable development team, and enough solid funding to continue safely for a long while. That’s great! But same cannot be said about other fedi-adjacent projects, including independent mobile apps or instance software. In order to have a diverse, resilient Fediverse, we need to make sure these projects are also supported, including financially.

Closing thoughts

First of all, the Fediverse is a much more resilient, more long-term viable, safer, and more democratized social network than any centralized walled garden. Even with its Mastodon monoculture problem, it is still not (and can’t be) owned or controlled by any single company or person. I also feel that it is a better, safer choice than social networks that only cosplay decentralization and pay lip service to it, like BlueSky.

In a very meaningful way, OStatus-verse can be said to have been an early version of the Fediverse; as noted before, some instances that had been part of it then are still running and part of the Fediverse today. In other words, Fediverse had been around for a decade and a half by now, and survived the Identipocalypse even as it got badly hurt by it, while observing both the birth and the untimely passing of Google+.

I do believe Fediverse is leaps and bounds more resilient today than OStatus-verse had been before the redeploy. It’s an order of magnitude (at least) larger in terms of user base. There are dozens of different instance software projects and tens of thousands active instances. There are also serious institutions invested in its future. We should not be panicking over all I wrote above. But I do think we should be worried.

I do not attribute malice to recent actions of Eugen (like making official Mastodon apps funnel new people towards, nor to past actions of Evan (redeploying on And I don’t think anyone should. This stuff is hard, and we’re all learning as we go, trying to do our best with the limited time we have available and restricted resources in our hands.

Evan went on to be one of the main creators of ActivityPub, the protocol the Fediverse runs on. Eugen had started Mastodon-the-software project in the first place which I strongly believe allowed Fediverse to flourish into what it is today. I really appreciate their work, and recognize that it’s impossible to do anything in social media space without someone having opinions on it.

That does not mean, however, we cannot scrutinize these decisions and should not have these opinions.

Update: I did a silly; is behind Fastly, not CloudFlare, of course. Fixed, thank you to those who poked me about it!

Update 2: Heartfelt thanks to Jorge Maldonado Ventura for providing a Spanish translation of this blogpost, published under CC BY-SA 4.0. ¡Gracias!

BlueSky is cosplaying decentralization
27 April 2023 | 7:15 pm

Almost exactly six months after Twitter got taken over by a petulant edge lord, people seem to be done with grieving the communities this disrupted and connections they lost, and are ready, eager even, to jump head-first into another toxic relationship. This time with BlueSky.

BlueSky’s faux-decentralization

BlueSky differentiates itself from Hive, Post, and other centralized social media newcommers by being ostensibly decentralized. It differentiates itself from the Fediverse by not being the Fediverse, and by being funded by *checks notes* Twitter. Oh, and by being built by Silicon Valley techbros, instead of weirdos who understand consent and how important moderation is.

I say “ostensibly decentralized”, because BlueSky’s (henceforth referred to as “BS” here) decentralization is a similar kind of decentralization as with cryptocurrencies: sure, you can run your own node (in BS case: “personal data servers”), but that does not give you basically any meaningful agency in the system. Quoting the protocol docs:

Account portability is the major reason why we chose to build a separate protocol. We consider portability to be crucial because it protects users from sudden bans, server shutdowns, and policy disagreements.

And here:

ATP’s model is that speech and reach should be two separate layers, built to work with each other. The “speech” layer should remain neutral, distributing authority and designed to ensure everyone has a voice. The “reach” layer lives on top, built for flexibility and designed to scale.

So the storage layer is “neutral”, accounts are “portable”. That to me means that node operators will have no agency in the system. Discoverability/search/recommendations are done in a separate layer, and the way the system seems to be designed (nodes have no say, they just provide the data) effectively places all the power with these “reach” algorithms.

Secondary centralization in “reach” layer

The rule of thumb with search and recommendation algorithms is: the bigger, the better. The more data you have and the more compute you get to throw at it, the better your recommendations will be. So it’s a winner-takes-all system that strongly avantages whoever starts building their dataset early and can throw as much money at it as possible.

And once you’re the biggest game in town, people will optimize for you (just look at SEO and Google Search). It won’t matter much that people using the network can freely choose a different algorithm, just as it doesn’t matter much on the Web that people can choose a different search engine. And the more I read about BS’s protocol, the more I think this is done on purpose.

Why? Because it allows BS to pay lip service to decentralization, without actually giving away the power in the system. After all, BlueSky-the-company will definitely be the first to start indexing BS-the-social-network posts, and you can bet Jack has enough money to throw at this to get the needed compute. I guess decentralization is a big thing lately and there are investors to scam if you can farm enough users and build enough hype fast enough!

Another pretty good sign that BS’s decentralization is actually b.s. is the fact that the Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) used by BlueSky are currently “temporarily” not actually decentralized. The protocol uses something imaginatively called “DID Placeholder”. If I were a betting man I would bet that in five years it will keep on using the centralized DID Placeholder, and that that will be a root cause of a lot of shenanigans.

Externalizing the work

Finally, as a good friend of mine, tomasino, noticed:

it decentralizes the cost to the central authority by pushing data load onto volunteers

A similar observation was made by mekka okoreke, too. To which I can only add: very much this, while planning to keep control by being the biggest kid on the “reach” block.

Of course, fedi could also have some search and discovery algorithms built on top. Operators of such algorithms (there had been a few attempts already) would also benefit from being first and going big. But their potential power is balanced by the power fedi instance admins and moderators have (blocking and defederating) and by the fact that fedi is perfectly usable without such algorithms. And by strong hostility of a lot of people using fedi towards non-consensual indexing.

Jack’s BS

BS is the brainchild of Jack Dorsey, which is no surprise to anyone who’s been paying any attention to BS. Jack Dorsey is of course the former CEO of Twitter, who famously said:

Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness.

This aged roughly as well as fresh milk out in the midday July sun in Portugal.

Jack also heavily promoted cryptocurrencies, scammed people using NFTs, and donated a bunch of BTC to Nostr, a “censorship-resistant” social media platform, because of course.

And finally, there’s this comment of his (posted on Nostr; BlueSky not good enough for Jack, it seems). Crucial bit:

Likes are superficial and exist only to inform an algorithm. Relevance algorithms have their place, but they are best informed by a truly costly action.

No, you stockholder-value-optimizing-robot, likes exist to inform the author that you liked their post. They exist to infuse some warm emotions into the cold machine. They exist so that we can connect on a human level without trivializing it by putting into words. You know, as us humans do.

With all this considered, let’s just say I question Jack’s judgement and his motives in anything related to social networks. And since, as I said, BS is his brainchild, I would be very suspicious of it.

Modeled after Twitter

In a pretty meaningful way, “speech and reach” is the model of Twitter today. You just don’t get to choose your recommendation/discovery algorithm.

Elon Musk, the self-described “free speech absolutist” (unless it’s criticism of him) has re-platformed a lot of nasty people with the idea that anyone should have a Twitter account. But only those who pay get to play with any meaningful reach.

What actual difference would being able to choose between different recommendation/discoverability algorithms make for at-risk folks who are constantly harassed on Twitter? There is no way to opt-out from “reach” algorithms indexing one’s posts, as far as I can see in the ATproto and BS documentation. So fash/harassers would be able to choose an algorithm that basically recommends targets to them.

On the other hand, harassment victims could choose an algo that does not recommend harassers to them — but the problem for them is not that they are recommended to follow harassers’ accounts. It’s that harassers get to jump into their replies and pile-on using quote-posts and so on. Aided and abetted by recommendation algorithms that one cannot opt out of being indexed by in order to protect oneself.

The only way to effectively fight harassment in a social network is effective, contextual moderation. The Fediverse showed that having communities, which embody that context and whose admins and moderators focus on protecting their members, is pretty damn effective here. This is exactly what BS is not doing. And I do not see much mention of moderation at all in its documentation.

In other words, “neutrality” and “speech” and “voice” and “protection from bans” is mentioned right there, front and center, in BS’s overview and FAQ. At the same time moderation and anti-harassment features are, at best, an afterthought. As fedi user dr2chase put it:

I’m getting a techno-Libertarian aroma from all this, i.e., these guys won’t kick the Nazi out of the bar.

People like shiny!

Of course the sad reality is that people will buy the hype, build communities under the everloving watchful eye of Jack “Musk is the singular solution I trust, likes are superficial if not paid for” Dorsey. And then do a surprised picachu face when inevitably, sooner or later, some surveillance capitalist robber baron enshittifies it to a point of complete unusefulness.

It fascinates me how quickly people forget lessons from the whole Twitter kerfuffle, and just fall for another Silicon Valley silly con. Without even skipping a beat.

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