"Mastodon Is 'Antiviral' Design"

My essay on this:

Twitter (and most big social media) is laser-focused on creating virality -- i.e. training the joint attention of millions of people on one hot post/meme/story/event happening *right this instant* ... and doing it over and over and over again

Mastodon really isn't -- for lots of rich and interesting reasons

It's why some emigres from Twitter find Mastodon so baffling

This place embraces slowness and useful friction


The concept of "useful friction" is important. It's a form of blasphemy in the era of optimization. But it's not unlike the Slow Food movement. By infusing more time into the process, perceptions and understanding changes.

@cgerrish Yep yep -- there a lots of interesting analogues to this IRL!

@clive Although is does have implications for batch versus real-time architecture. It's unlikely that there will be a reversion to batch and the RSS reader approach.

@cgerrish @clive that's what I thought of too--the Slow Food movement.

@clive Great article. My first day of being on Mastodon was awesome. I went "Wait, only retweets actually show up on other people's feeds, holy shit. Wait, there are no ads, holy shit. Wait there are no quote retweets, holy SHIT. Wait, there's is no algorithm at all HOLY SHIT. Wait, there.... "

Amazing platform. Feels like the old late 90s/early 00s internet. All about actually connecting with people/hobbies, not about being a disgusting Skinner Box hellscape. I love it here already!

@Natsu_Kaze Yeah, I like all those features myself! Very old-school vibe, I know what's going on, no stuff being shoved at me to increase "engagement" ...

@clive Yep, it's pretty rad! I hope Mastodon keeps on growing and gaining more servers to cater to more niches. I love the gamedev one on. Would be cool to see a bunch of other hobbyist servers pop up, too! Feels a bit like browsing Geocities or something somehow, hahah!

@Natsu_Kaze I follow several folks on gamedev -- it seems like a super fun mastodon server!

@clive @Natsu_Kaze I’m really enjoying my time here. So many interesting posts and people are actually kind and respectful of each other. It’s very refreshing.

@MarkCodesTheWeb @clive Loving it here so far, too. Really does feel nicer than Twitter. I think Mastodon is really smartly designed. 👍

@clive good read! I like the “you do you” conclusion

A great post on fediverse and twitter! 


Thanks Clive.
IMHO, this is a must read post for _anyone_ who wants to understand #fediverse and #birdsite.

May I take the liberty with your permission, Clive, to suggest those who may find themselves behind Medium's paywall to use `` in place of '', 🙂

A great post on fediverse and twitter! 

@arinbasu Sure, absolutely!

The more readers on this one the merrier

Great post, really enjoyed reading it and the fair nature of Fediverse is what I enjoy a lot.

@boynux Same here

I really like having no virality-goosing algorithm in the feed

@clive I think this is probably why I interact here much more than I ever did on twitter.
More interesting and diverse stuff comes up in my feed.

@clive I don’t think it actually takes a lot of work to create something that’s hard to use. Just my two cents.

@clive Thanks for this. I like the idea of a human interaction instead of a rushed vibe.

@clive I enjoy learning something new from what I take my time to read. Very well written piece. 👏

@clive Very helpful to understand conceptual differences between the two platforms and to reflect on my own behavior when using them.

@clive Great article, thanks for sharing. I think you are absolutely right about the surges/waves. I also think that a great many people post in a way that is intended to create a surge, maybe even subconsciously now. Overall that reduces nuance and considered opinion. And it generally results in the same pattern of outraged responses either for or against. I have read more thought provoking articles on Mastodon in the last few days than I have in a long time on Twitter.

@duncan Yep, the quality of shares on Mastodon are *really* high for me too!

@clive @duncan but that could be solely due to the fact that the population is still mainly early adopters. Usenet was full of great discussions back in the 1980s too, but as its popularity grew its signal:noise ratio worsened.

It'll be interesting to observe how the new influx of users changes things. Something else I noticed a lot on twitter was "influencers" posting junk broadcast-only: no comments allowed, or no replies to comments. Pointlessly non-interactive. Narcissistic, I think.

@duncan @hyc yep, agreed — it’s difficult to figure out how much of this is about the design and the early community versus how much will change if it grows seriously in popularity

Usenet is an excellent analogue

@hyc @clive I would agree that the signal:noIse ratio will increase as more people join. I think all social media platforms probably follow this pattern.

@clive@saturation.I am setting up here in anticipation of my time on twitter coming to an end, and I am enjoying it hugely.


This was really helpful for clarifying how this place does feel different. I found it was a huge relief to not feel any need to chase fave-hearts. People seem to actually talk to each other here rather than constantly performing.


All that being said, the message that people of colour on here are sending very clearly is that all this talk of how much “nicer” masto is than Twitter is at the very least ~frustrating~ when they’re dealing with racism that’s at least as bad as Twitter was.


I get that that’s not what your article is about, and it’s an interesting article! I just felt it needed to be said among all the positivity. Racism is a white people problem, so we need to take it on. (Not assuming you’re white! Talking about myself.)

@OrionKidder yep yep — and it’s also why, as I noted that piece, Mastodon may not be anywhere near as good as Twitter was as letting ignored groups and issues bring their voices to a bigger audience

@clive just felt so after closing twitter and opening mastodon. however i fear that‘s just because some trolls haven‘t arrived yet here? the idea of spreading brief info-bites is practically the same, right?

@clive that’s a really useful distinction, and it helps me to realise why I’ve stopped raging since being here.

@clive Thanks for the post - very interesting. I've noticed a lot of reminders to people that likes don't share a post in your timeline, only boosts do, with the assumption that ppl were getting confused, rather than doing that deliberately. Showing appreciation without necessarily filling up the timeline. Even though there was a lot of discussion on Twitter about that change and how uncomfortable it made people feel.

@clive as a very recent emigrant from the bird, this was very helpful


Another bonus is you explore the long tail of the content and less on the "head". You still see the big news items reflected in your feed. The results of the US midterms, you won't miss out on any discussion of things like that you simply see less of it.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

A small group of people who remember when social media was more social, and less media.