The network grew to over 1 million accounts, about 150,000 of which are active right now. And there’s a pattern. Gargron makes a unilateral decision, writes a feature very quickly, another dev reviews it and approves it, it gets merged, a release candidate comes out, he updates his instance with the feature (one of the largest and busiest)… and people either like it or they don’t. If they dislike it for safety reasons, there is an understandable strong and sustained community objection. There are many users who have been harassed and abused on Twitter, have reported people to no avail, and moved to Mastodon because they were told it would be safer. Often they have nowhere else to go, so they have to fight.
In the face of that objection, instead of listening Gargron tends to dig his heels in and argue details and dismisses problems that he doesn’t want to think about. He ignores people’s experiences. It’s his view that Mastodon is his personal project that he can handle however he wants, and the nearly $4,000 per month that he gets through Patreon and Liberapay are kind donations from people who support his decisions. Two months ago it was a “people you might like to follow” feature, before that it was whether CWs should hide sensitive content when a post is embedded elsewhere on the internet, and in the past couple of days it was a “trending tags” feature. Someone made a Trending Tags mock-up that he liked, and even though he’s said in the past he would never implement anything like that, he wrote the feature, merged it, and put it on mastodon.social, the flagship instance with 160,000 accounts.
Anyone against the idea and who understood how to use Github went to the issue list and objected there. They said that trending topics on Twitter is used to attract and abuse vulnerable people. It was all quite vague, but instead of asking for specific examples of abuse so that he could judge whether the software can prevent (or be made to prevent) abuse of members, Gargron dug his heels in. Then he made fun of the victims of social media abuse, making it clear that he doesn’t take their concerns seriously, while also complaining openly about people objecting vocally to his decisions and boosting toots by people publicly supporting him and condemning the wave of objection. He was petty and passive-aggressive. He complained that people were taking his words out of context and using them to attack him. That may be true, and if it is it’s unfair, but it’s also clear how he feels about the anti-abuse goals in the mission statement: he will only recognise abuse if it happens to him, because he is only building a social network for himself.
And all that @firstname.lastname@example.org stuff just seems like incomprehensible nonsense designed for a geek audience. But, one should expect that. It’s geeks — I’m one of theme — who are designing ALL of these social network experiments. Perhaps that’s why they eventually all have the same problems.