Happy Friday, you fine people. I don’t really have a lot to say, but figured I’d say something because as I sat down at the computer this morning and was checking into the happenings on Mastodon last night, I came across this double-shot from the War and Peas account that made me start talking to myself.
Of course Mastadonians and Fedivercitizens know that there is no algorithm in the Fediverse. The system does not decide what you get to see; you get to decide what you get to see, and your friends (to an extent) get to decide what you get to see. With every fresh wave of recruits, a new round of reminders goes out through the timelines to hammer this point home — almost to the point of becoming a ridiculous echo you can set your watch to.
Like so many other things, though, “The Algorithm” is often thrown out with the bath-water as an “intrinsic evil”. The Algorithm surfaces the worst posts and people of social media. The Algorithm keeps showing you things that are popular, not necessarily what you want to see. The Algorithm is responsible for the milk in my fridge going bad, my car’s flat tire, and the fact that I have to make a phone call later this afternoon.
But then again, some people really suck at social media. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen people talking about A Thing That I’d Like To Know About, but they never post a link or any way to touch grass on the subject, almost as if they’re assuming that if they have seen something about it in their feed, that everyone has seen something about it in their feed. I’ve never been shy about asking point blank WTF they’re talking about because if it’s important or interesting enough to comment on, then it’s important or interesting enough to make sure that people you are talking to/at know what you’re talking about. Sometimes the Algorithm can work for us, and sometimes people rely so heavily upon the Algorithm that they cede those community touchstones to some back-end process, a decision which can inadvertently leave people in the dark.
I am glad to hear that War and Peas are enjoying their time in the Fediverse, because that means that the Fediverse is doing what the Fediverse is designed to do: allowing the users to elevate quality content. U2U is the only way to get content in front of people in this space. Despite claims to the contrary, Mastodon specifically is not that hard to understand…so long as people stop trying to view it through another social-media-shaped lens. In the Fediverse, it’s silly to assume that anyone will see your content beyond the people who you know follow you, which means that we are all the Algorithm here. I’m sad to hear the anecdotal evidence that some creators haven’t found the same levels of success on the platform that W&P have, and I could be really mean and opine about why that might be, but I’ll just leave it at that: Mastodon and the Fediverse at large are not perfect, but they are working more or less as intended as the antidote to being told what we should care about. It’s up to us, the users of the platform, to share what we think is important and what we think our peers might like to see. That’s how content is distributed here — through the interests and excitement of Real Live People.