Making TracksNovember 13, 2023PMUG has been a Twitter member since April 2010, but now we are ending our posts there because of both practical and philosophical reasons. Here is what PMUG is doing, our thoughts on this situation, and what our next steps will be.
A controlled exit for practical reasons
When Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October 2022 and renamed it “X,” the following days saw many changes — one less publicly mentioned was possibly putting the service behind a paywall (1). He presented a clarified suggestion during a livestream in September (2) of requiring members pay a small fee in order to post — all with the stated intention of reducing Bot traffic (although one could counter larger Bot operators would easily absorb the fee and consider it “the price of doing business.”) But at that point, this was just talk.
A step beyond talking happened in mid-October (3) with the start of a small-scale trial in New Zealand and the Philippines of its “Not A Bot” program. This was done in a minimal and easily avoidable manner — it is only for new users through the Web interface, and not its APP. One might question the effectiveness of this move, but it did at least show Twitter was (somewhat) ready to act. The troubling thing was that the announcement happened suddenly and without warning. Under the limited conditions mentioned, users were then required to pay-to-post.
Right now, It looks more certain a payment requirement will happen for everyone. At some point. The question remains if Twitter’s next step will again be gradual (like doing a more widespread test in larger/less remote countries,) or happen suddenly — and be required for all users everywhere. We won’t know until that actually happens.
PMUG’s Executive Board discussed the issue, and made the decision not to pay should a fee happen. This was made on philosophical grounds as a result of Musk’s inaction on curbing hate speech, spreading of disinformation, and more.
For PMUG, it is better to make a controlled exit right now, than to discover the test has ended and the fee is extended to everyone. At that point it would be too late, and members would need to pay even to post a “goodbye” message.
Elon has undeniably innovated and pushed several industries forwards with his Tesla (4) and SpaceX (5) companies. His acquisition of Twitter is another story, and has revealed his darker side. Twitter started as a quick source for sharing news, but the service has devolved. More could be said about this, but others have already provided more detailed observations (6).
Twitter was supposed to be a forum for communicating news and ideas. It existed because of its members, and low barriers to communicate and receive those ideas. At the very least you needed a smartphone or computer, and an account on the service. Then news and ideas could flow between members easily.
Musk proclaims himself a “free speech absolutist,” but his actions towards journalists (7) and those who link to their Mastodon account — among other social media Websites — have proven otherwise. (8) These should not be the actions of a “free speed absolutionist.”
Since Twitter’s new owner took over, many members have left the service for varied reasons ranging from Musk’s showing his own social views into parts of the service, to the promotion of hate speech (9).
PMUG will not be the last to leave Twitter, and more members will go when a pay-to-post requirement comes into effect for everyone. Only those who pay will then have speech.
As long as free Twitter account members may log in and reply to messages, PMUG will do so. We will not be posting though. That leaves the question of what is next for our micro-blogging activities.
PMUG is making Mastodon tracks
PMUG has for years enjoyed all that Twitter offered, and shared information about itself and interesting industry developments there. Unless the turn of events reverses itself — and it doesn’t look like it will — then Twitter’s competition offers most of what Twitter had with some advantages.
BlueSky has potential, but it hasn’t been made public yet. It will likely have technical issues to work out when it becomes open to everyone and the load becomes felt on the service of an increased magnitude of users. The just-launched Threads social network from Meta (a Facebook-created parent company) has given some pause as it has the same privacy and dependency issues found in Instagram (also owned by Meta.)
The most viable and ready-now service at this point seems to be the Mastodon social media service. Some have said it is more technical to use than Twitter, and to an extent that’s true — but that has been changing. Guides to using Mastodon have become more available on the Web (including better explanations of its distributed nature.) Admittedly, it still has a number of “rough edges” still to smooth out, but the service in general has been revising itself to be more user-friendly.
The Mastodon service also has several advantages over Twitter:
We hope you will join us on Mastodon for PMUG’s latest news and information. Unlike (for most of) Twitter, you will not need an account just to read posts — so non-service members may see our posts (unlike Twitter.)
- Mastodon is not located on centralized Website or server, but is available from many servers — just like e-mail is available from different service operators, and messages are passed between servers. This also frees it from being controlled by the service’s owner.
- Mastodon is non-commercial. Its goal is not to make money from its advertisers or members. The service is instead funded by donations.
- There no algorithms promoting posts according to an agenda or trying to lure members to keep using the service.
- Mastodon’s server code is free and open-source. Anyone can help contribute to add future features — although you will need coding skills to do so.
- Mastodon has built-in RSS feeds. Members can be alerted to your new posts when they are published through a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed. Just copy the Web address of a user’s account page, then add “.rss” to its end. To use the RSS feed, you will need an RSS reader plug for your Web browser, an e-mail program which accepts RSS feeds (like Thunderbird,) or a stand-alone RSS program (or smartphone App.) Please see the example below with PMUG’s Mastodon page address.
PMUG’s Mastodon address: https://mastodon.social/explore
PMUG’s Mastodon RSS Feed Address: https://mastodon.social/explore.rss
Click a line’s starting number to return above.(1) "Musk discusses putting all of Twitter behind a paywall"
(2) "Elon Musk might charge everyone for Twitter/X next"
(3) "X, formerly Twitter, rolls out US$1 annual fee for new users in New Zealand and the Philippines"
(4) "10 Ways Tesla Has Reshaped The Automotive Industry"
(5) "SpaceX’s Impact on Space Technology and Innovation"
"SpaceX Is Leading the Rise of an Entirely New Industry"
(6) "Opinion: Twitter Gave Us an Indispensable Real-Time News Platform. X Took It Away"
(7) "Twitter suspends journalist accounts without explanation, angering lawmakers and those affected"
"Elon Musk Is Absolutely an Enemy of Free Speech"
(8) "Twitter abruptly bans all links to Instagram, Mastodon, and other competitors"
(9) "For the Birds – Eight Twitter users on why they finally quit Elon Musk’s social network"
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