the loss of my global town square

the loss of my global townsquare

from twitter to mastodon? … well, how does this feel like?

“This is the beginning of the end for twitter!” say many and leave — either completely or with a packed bag, while simultaneously opening accounts on Mastodon, counter.social or even starting alternative ideas.

And yes, this is what it feels like — the declining end. A narcissistic egomaniac with arrogant attitude buys a social network and thinks, he can change it “on the fly” without a plan or strategy, because — well, because he can just throw money around and doesn’t care.

photo by ilgmyzin on Unsplash

But this article is not about him (“whose name will not be spoken”) and not about the much more likely assumptions and background stories, you can find for example here (how @Jack is part of the problem) .

This post is about how it FEELS, that one of my favourite toys is taken away by the rich kid and while most of us cry and feels betrayed, he just doesn’t care. Worse, he may just play with it for a short while, before tossing it away like the spoiled rich brad he is…

Well, it feels like shit. I have used twitter since 13 years on and off, but for most of the time as a “news reader”. Following organisations, journalists, experts and interesting individuals in my Culture & Media bubble. I listened to conversations, heard about events, read about papers, was informed about announcements … and all this within my own choice of niches and with the opportunity to join a discussion, to comment, to share and share with comment (!), especially, when I was liking something.

For me, twitter was a good place — and no, I was not blind and know exactly about all the bad sides, how people got attacked, how racism & antisemitism has always been much too rampant; how activists or people from the LGBTQ community got singled out and placed in the middle of “shitstorms”; how investigative journalists and researchers about the right and neo-fascist movements needed to close their accounts for a while or even change them. Yes, and unfortunately this is now going completely overboard, as the new boss fired the “moderation team”.

Nevertheless, twitter has had its good sides. The quality of direct exchange between people and organizations was often special. The SUS (stumbling upon (interesting) stuff) ratio quite high. You take the app and walk into a town square, where so much is happening, yet you can go into your little corner, have a chat with a few people, turn around and listen for a few moments to the loud tooting politician, before focusing on a news article from a favourite journalist.

love twitter

Twitter is unrivalled in the directness and speed. As such, it has been quite instrumental in keeping the world informed about so much of the events in the last decade. Not surprisingly, most of the people, who want to share “words” on a daily basis — like journalists and politicians — love twitter for its easy & direct approach to sharing news. And as a user, listener, audience member, I can tune in or not, I can mute or block — and chose carefully, WHO I want to listen to…

Migration ?

So, how can we migrate from this tool? How can we change our too often addictive habits of scrolling through the feed, with its multitude of interesting stuff? Personally, I chose various periods of #digitaldetox, including for example 8 weeks in the summer — and it felt good. But this does not mean, that I would not miss this toy, this tool for fast information.

Even worse, how can I take this group of people and organizations, I am FOLLOWING in my own organized way. Over 10 years of news reader curation would be wasted. I would have to start from scratch, because facebook or LinkedIn for example are much too slow.

Clearly, there is no cure (yet). There is no well-grown alternative. Competition never manifested, because the functioning idea behind twitter would rather fit a non-profit organisation, dedicated to the free (but moderated) exchange of information. Twitter should have turned itself around from a capitalistic business model long time ago and there have been numerous voices suggesting this. The town square and the importance for decent free speech in functioning democracies was and is too important to leave it to a business model, which can not work, because there in no profit in it. It is a community function — not run by any government, but a self-governing, non-profit, morally intact NGO for the benefit of all…

But the last remains of this dream are shattered. The medina with its dozens of squares, hundreds of alleys and thousands of hidden corners will be bulldozed over by a non-caring tycoon, who wants to build a new shiny office-building on top of the rubble.

Yes, it has been a rough ride sometimes. Twitter never really appreciated the incredible amount of sometimes even sophisticated conversations happening in between scientists, journalists, politicians, NGO´s and citizens. This (still) happens in the belly of the beast, often far away from the loud surface, where the trends and outcries are happening. One just had to dig deeper and find ones own corners.

Mastodon ? Fediverse ?

Will there be a new twitter? Will there be a chance for a new global town square network? We will see. For now, we all should prepare for the total closure of our beloved toy maybe even within the next few weeks (worst case scenario), the slow but steady decline & demise … or — I´m a notorious optimist — the small chance of an eventual drop & take-over by some more idealistic leadership.

In any case, many people from the CCI (Creative & Cultural Industries) have already moved to the decentralised Mastodon-network in the Fediverse. (Here is a thread by Jon Worth, how to…) .This new “network” may sounds foreign & strange (as it did to me just a few weeks ago), but at least, it is a chance to save a few behaviours and even more important, save some connections from twitter.

The first steps are the most difficult and I must admit, I have not “tooted” much in the new network yet, but at least I keep the options open. I may soon write in more detail about the new networks, how to migrate and/ or recommend a few servers, which we found after some research and which may be good for the #culture & #CulturalHeritage field for various reasons. Please send me a line, if you KNOW of any specialised server/ instance, which is focusing on art, culture, cultural Heritage, music, dance, etc. — or on Journalists & independent media.

And who knows, what else may be growing in the near future. The micro.blog network for example also connects to the fediverse, as will Project Mushroom…

Good Luck with the beginnings, see you out there.

my Mastodon handle (for now): @wigbert@c.im

updated: #Twitanic & #RIPtwitter

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Wigbert Boell

Wigbert Boell

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Culture🗿& Media 🎤 // Creative Industries // #WorldCulture 🌍🏛