Guest post by Lou Peck, The International Bunch.
When Elon Musk bought Twitter " to help humanity", did he envisage a mass migration to other communication channels? Does he even care? It's not like Twitter was not-for-profit before Elon Musk bought it, so why the sudden migration? Maybe it was the final push to kick people into gear and look at what alternatives are out there. Elon refers to Twitter as the 'digital town square', but are the new kids on the block actually the new place to be?
We have been monitoring Twitter in the research ecosystem, and clients have been reaching out, asking us to research and help them learn what the word on the street is. So we thought we would compile some recent research to help you to decide whether you need to include Mastodon or any other social channel in your strategy, as well as Twitter.
What even is Mastodon?
Mastodon takes its name inspiration from a large elephant-like extinct mammal of the Miocene to Pleistocene epochs (10-11,000 years ago) that belonged to the Mammutidae family. Living in herds, they roamed North and Central America and were predominately forest dwelling.
|By Dantheman9758 at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4289640
Mastodon is a software development non-profit from Germany founded in 2016 by Eugen Rochko and offers microblogging in an open source realm. There are currently four members in the core team - Eugen, Claire, Felix Hlatky and Dopartwo and 1.8m monthly active users (+385% as of 14 November 2022). Funded by sponsors, there are three packages to support Mastodon, with the lowest already sold out. You may notice the logo in blue, but this is being phased out as part of their new rebrand to purple. I haven't been able to yet find out why they named their business after an extinct mammal, especially one whose name (named by French naturalist Georges Cuvier in the early 19th century) translates to 'nipple tooth' because of their distinctly shaped small teeth!
The four key positioning statements for Mastodon centre on being decentralized, open source, not for sale and interoperable. Not limited by commercial strategy with algorithms to show you what they think you want to digest, and no ads to 'waste your time', Mastodon shows you anyone you follow in chronological order on your feed to 'make your corner of the internet a little more like you'. Choose from any of the community servers (AKA instances) that best fit you as an individual (or host your own) and join Mastodon.
Businessinsider reports a 657% growth in downloads for Mastodon in the last 12 days (1-12 November 2022).
Whilst authors are using it to share and talk about their work, interestingly, a number of preprint bots have already been set up to follow:
A researcher's perspectiveDavid Brückner has a really interesting thread on Twitter from 30 October 2022, where he concludes the pros and cons of using Mastodon over Twitter, and practical tips for transitioning to Mastodon from Twitter for #ScienceTwitter:
- decentralized: run on a federation of servers
- no ads!
- no attention-algorithm: the timeline is chronological!
- 500 instead of 140 characters in each "toot"
- key features that we need conserved: mentions, hashtags, retweets, likes