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3. Other Things Authoring Media Consumption

New Shiny Thing…what the heck is it?

(crossposted from a public post on my Patreon)

Okay, so, Mastodon. 

I’m “on Mastodon” now.

What’s that mean? Damn, I wish that was an easy question.

I’ve had my account** on Mastodon dot social for a month, which in no way makes me an expert, but the way I process new information goes like this:

  • Discover new thing, by which I mean “Dive in heedless & headfirst”
  • Research new thing exhaustively
  • Write. Everything. Down.

I’m in stage 3, which means so I need to hammer out my thoughts for myself to organize them, & that means leaving them lying around where anyone can stumble across them. Lucky you, huh?

I’ll be doing more than this one post. It’s a BIG new thing. This time around, I’m offering meandering general impressions.

Vital Disclaimer: These are all my impressions & mine alone. YMMV. (Your Mastodon May Vary) All my information sources come from the internet & thus suspect. Some of the data might be wrong. I hope not, I’ve done due diligence, but no guarantees.

Also, there’s no particular *point* to this. I’m just moving the new mental furniture around in my head until it fits better. So. Here goes.

——————————

The main thing that’s intriguing me about Mastodon is this: it isn’t what many people seem to want it to be. It definitely isn’t what most people think it is. 

It isn’t a social media platform like Twitter or Facebook, or an online blogging community like Tumblr or LiveJournal,  or evenan interconnected, interacting collection of individual online communities,” which is a mouthful of a description I remember seeing somewhere but unhappily forgot to bookmark for later linking.

Mastodon isn’t a thing at all.

It’s open source server software that can be used anyone with the hardware, the know-how and the energy to make an online community (hereafter called an instance)  and also connect with people in other such communities if you want.

A lot of the think pieces I’ve read about people leaving Twitter for other places use “Mastodon” as shorthand  to describe the larger, overall interconnected internet presence of all the instances running Mastodon or other open-source software.

This is driving me buggy because there’s already a word for the world-wide collection of interconnected open-source servers. It’s called the Fediverse, and it’s been around lots longer than Mastodon software. Check Wikipedia for a fairly decent if technical history and a list of other server software types supporting Fediverse communities. 

I get why media explainers are conflating the two. 

Mastodon is a catchy name, and Fediverse…isn’t. “Mastodon is the new Twitter” makes a catchy headline even though it’s wrong from every possible perspective. 

It’s still driving me buggy. Any time people jam square words into round holes, it grates on my nerves.

So to me, what I’ve joined is the Fediverse not “Mastodon,” and the Fediverse is too sprawling, too complex, too multi-systemic, to be encompassed by the word “platform,” too active to fit under the umbrella term “media,” social or otherwise. 

Even if I only look at the instance where I’m currently roosting, Mastodon.social (one of the largest) it’s nothing like Twitter. Or Facebook. It’s not even like even LiveJournal or Usenet, which I feel at least share neighboring evolutionary branches.

This is a whole, huge, new WORLD.

I picture Mastodon.social as thecyberpunk megalopolis spaceport, all neon & noise, flashy crowds, 24/7 parties, trash, and clutter.  But! The Fediverse is a whole world, remember? There there are also quiet neighborhoods in the same city, and farms, and communes, and even little homesteads of one person alone (if you have the hardware & a domain address, I’m told you can self-host your own little “instance” aka server) There are party islands & mountaintop retreats.

And! I can get to know people in those other places! Best of all, it’s easy for me to close my doors & windows, so to speak, and not have to see anything. There’s nothing encouraging me to click one more thing, no trending topics, no suggested posts, no damned algorithims or endless scroll. I have the tools to find quiet even in the city. 

Someday I’d like to move somewhere quieter in the Fediverse, where I can talk tea & books & cats with likeminded souls locally and not have to hide my home feed &  the local instance to avoid overwhelm. 

(Next post will be about how I set up my account so it would NOT be the pointless, empty timesuck Twitter & Facebook were. Sorry, friends who found friends & community on Twitter, I never felt like anything but a rejected, shunned, & unvalued nobody there.)

ANYway. I comprehend, intellectually, why many new arrivals to the Fediverse don’t like it. Setting up an account is simple, but it isn’t frictionless the way getting started & finding people on Twitter & Facebook is easy. Very little is immediately obvious or familiar. There’s a reason for that, though.

Twitter & Facebook are corporate-owned worlds, to bend my own analogy a little. Everything is tightly controlled, because their success is measured in users, data gathered from users, and ad revenue generated by users. They profit from making things simple & doing everything they can to keep people from leaving. It takes a lot of energy to escape those gravity wells.

The Fediverse isn’t about profit, it’s about existing. Humanity is complicated.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of people who’ve been on their servers for YEARS. Servers have their own cultures. People have developed community standards & traditional Ways Of Communicating. Some of these are shared by most or all servers. Some are not.

It’s worth mentioning that lot of early servers and the core norms of the Fediverse were established by queer, disabled, and otherwise marginalized members of the tech community. Inclusion is A Thing. 

Are all these cultures and traditional norms healthy? Ha. No. Truth.social is an instance, for example. It’s an island practically no one else connects to/federates with, but it exists. But there is a foundation level commitment to trying to make space and center marginal voices.

But.

When any existing inhabited space gets flooded with new arrivals who have their own ways, their own needs, their own ways of doing things, friction is bound to result. When the influx outsumbers the existing population by multiple orders of magnitude…there’s all kinds of culture clashes going on in the Fediverse right now.

Grief makes us crave the familiar, the comfortable, the known. Many people arriving from Twitter are grieving, involuntarily bereft of connections and communities they spent years building, escapees from a walled city being torn apart at the whims of an asshole billionaire.

Problem is, in the Fediverse, there is no One Way & it isn’t all One Big Place. What’s acceptable behavior on some servers is unwelcome on others. That’s disconcerting. It’s frustrating. It’s not welcoming, the same way The World can be an unwelcoming & confusing place.  

That brings up another factor of discontent: all the pains and frustrations of being in a strange new place get amplified for people who start off in instances that are not a good fit for them or the way they want to interact.

Differences in communication norms shouldn’t lead to flaming rows over fragile, institutionally racist liberals silencing marginalized voices, but those fires are already lit. It’s happened multiple times, in multiple instances, large & small. Some high-profile newcomers have declared with conviction that “Mastodon” is not a good community and may never be safe for them.

Which is…a conclusion I am not qualified to judge.

There are some seriously robust protocols for reporting bad actors locally & across the Fediverse, but it’s hard to tell whether they’re enough or not when there literally aren’t enough moderators to keep up with the incoming flood in many instances right now, and when mods only human, are new, make mistakes — or in some instances may indeed be intolerant bigots. 

Bottom line, there’s no effective difference between hostile fire & friendly fire when you’re the target of it, and people are finding themselves targeted when they are at their newest and most vulnerable.

I expect there will be a lot of instances slamming defensively shut and others being defensively blocked in the days & months to come. I hold out hope it will all settle in time. A lot more listening & work needs to happen, that’s for sure, and there’s definitely room for changes and improvement.

But. Um. I still like it here a gazillion times better than any online outlet for creativity I’ve used since LiveJournal. (I still miss LJ, sigh) I’ve gotten more response & feedback in my 3 weeks on Mastodon.social than in two years on Twitter. Not even joking. And despite still feeling like the biggest no-talent loser kid in the writing world whenever I post, I feel less that way, plus I don’t get sucked into depressive doomscrolling.

I suspect a lot of Twitter migrants will migrate right back out as soon as they can find a singular platform that’s more like the social media they’re accustomed to, one offers them the safety and comfort features they know, want & need. 

Me, I will keep hunting for a little house somewhere far from the Big Server noise and clutter here in the Fediverse. I like it here. People say nice things about my cat pictures.

—————————————

** Minor disclaimer/digression (because I am made of digressions) I am not exactly new to Mastodon. See, I opened an account way back in 2017, invited by a friend who was on a very small Mastodon-based server. I never did much other than set up an account & follow that server’s local feed, though. The friend died later that year, I never logged in again, & sometime between then & 2022 the server went dark & took the account with it.

Categories
Media Consumption Writing Life

After-Capricon post

Yesterday morning Spouseman gave me a cheery “You’re up early!” for getting my ass out of bed before 10 AM.

For context, I usually wake up 7:30ish this time of year. I often go back to bed to snuggle for an hour or two, but I wake up within an hour of sunrise when I’m healthy. (Even with blackout curtains.)

Except after cons. Sometimes I’m in bed as late as 11AM for a day or two or three after getting home.

And I usually get 7+ hours of sleep per 24, but I am rarely in BED for more than 6 hours at a stretch because my joints hate me lying still.

Except after cons. I’m in bed as much as 10 hours the day after a con.

Two data points. It’s officially a trend, right?

My brain pretty much shuts down for a reset after leaving high-interaction events. Unless I crash a few hours before leaving. That’s a simmering hot stew of awkwardness when it happens, so I try VERY hard to avoid it. I was home, unpacked & washed up after Cap before I crashed hard with a cat purring on my lap. Good times.

I had a fabulous time at Capricon this year. It’s always a great convention, but this time was extra-special because, well <waves vaguely> YOU know. Things. I had the most panels I’ve done at a con ever, and I enjoyed every one of them, despite 3 of them being in a room with a CAMERA POINTED AT ME.

And I moderated three panels (two in the Camera Room Of Doom, one in a room without microphones because tech difficulties) and I only screwed up a few times in each panel, so big yay and confetti and buckets of self-congratulatory happiness right there.

The Dealer Room was like a bookstore smorgasbord, books were sold, things were bought, plans were made, and fun was had. Evenings included hallway chats, hotel room haircuts, and late night conversations.

New friends were made (I think, I hope) and I enjoyed getting to reconnect with old friends too! (although not NEARLY as much as I wanted. Sorry to alla y’all who only got bits & pieces of my time, my energy was low & I had roommates & I didn’t feel comfortable crossing the streams or mixing up groups and, well. Anyway.)

Some of us should get together soon, masked & safe indoors. That’s all I’m saying. Soon.

Now the con is somehow a week in the past, Thursday is over, (it’s technically Friday morning wee hours tbh) and my biggest accomplishments since getting home have been…hm. Unimpressive:

  • laundry! Yes, it deserves the exclamation mark
  • dusted my home desk
  • dusted my work desk & did sundry library tasks over 2 shifts
  • put away con stuff, updating inventory & sales records
  • brushed the cat two days in a row (he forgave me both times)
  • reread 2 romance novels, ignoring the stack of lovely new books I really do want to read
  • surfed on Twitter & Facebook more than I’d like
  • played a lot of Absurdle
  • filled out a Con Feedback survey, gushed about my fellow panelists & praised other moderators
  • watched episodes of 2 TV shows and 2 movies (finished Stranger Things rewatch, started Mythic Quest, big thumbs up, sat through Free Guy & Venom: Let There Be Carnage, meh x2)
  • booked 2 hotel rooms & 1 plane flight for 2 separate future events. This involved multiple conversations, negotiations, and consultations over a couple of days.
  • read one whole chapter in the nonfiction book I’m trying to chew through. Stolen Focus. There’s irony to be found in my inability to concentrate on a book about all the ways modern systems demolish our attention spans, but I’m not appreciating it.
  • cooked a spicy chicken casserole from scratch. Well. From a boxed rice dish plus leftover rice from Chinese takeout, and various other add-ins. So, kinda like Stone Casserole instead of Stone Soup?
  • sliced up a cucumber I’d forgotten was in the fridge & set it to soak w/onions & brine for fridge pickles.
  • and wrote this blog post

It looks good written down, but hey, I’m a writer. I’m expected to make things looks good in words.

When measured against my days of otherwise unemployed time, the accomplishment level is…meager doings. George Carlin had a bi about stuff filling the space available. Tasks fill the time available, I guess.

Has it been restful? Oh, yes. And have I enjoyed myself? Mostly, when I’m not ambiguously frazzled, or second-guessing every recent interaction (at the con & since, online & off) and/or draaaagggggggggging myself through daily routines in pursuit of basics like personal hygiene.

It’s silly, all this listing I do, but it’s also soothing. In one sense it’s a long, wordy version of, “Look at me, I can do the bare minimum to survive!” And in the world I grew up in, making much of nothing is tacky, selfish attention-seeking nonsense.

But in another sense, these lists are the vital opposite of making much of nothing. They’re making much of things overlooked and undervalued. They’re balancing the meaningfulness scales.

I am proud of others when they do what I am doing, so it’s only fair I make note of the important basics too. Besides, even just thinking, LAUD ME, FOR I HAVE DONNED CLEAN CLOTHES & INGESTED SUSTENANCE! makes me smile, and smiles are always good.

So I shall feel proud of myself now that I’ve noted all I’ve done. I mean, I didn’t spend the WHOLE time surfing or reading articles about dairy cow milk production and teaching dogs to pull wagons. And I did get in a little good writing time. A teeny bit. But as the That Counts As Writing bot on Twitter points out out, it’s all progress.

So. Here we are, at the end of another meandering life post. That’s all there is to it. Except for a cat pic.

Until later!

Categories
Media Consumption Writing Life

And then this happened

That could be a title for every blog post, eh?

Sipping tea and sitting in sunshine with the cat on my office couch was a fabulous way to spend a Sunday morning. I spent a lot more time there than I originally intended.

My one brief peek at the internet was a mistake because along with the wildly irresponsible fear-mongering, scientifically-dubious, hand-wringing over the Omicron surge, I learned there are folks claiming that vaccinated people who minimize human contact and wear masks are doing it because we’re scared of getting sick. That we’re pathologically anxious. That we’re frightened out of our wits and suffering from a mass delusion, even.

OH FFS. That’ll teach me to open up my browser on the weekend. I MEAN. Beyond the WTAF aspect, there’s the projection part (accusing someone of having a trait you actually have.) It really torques me off that the assholes who spread disinformation to undermine public confidence in all information sources do so much better a job than the have reached a new record in Awfulness.

Keeping other people’s germs out of my face when infection rates of anything are skyrocketing is a sensible way to avoid getting sick. Always has been. I hope wearing masks during seasonal virus peaks becomes normalized tbh. And with a novel disease the reality is that eventually I will get sick, but the longer I stay uninfected and the more I can train my immune system beforehand, the better.

That isn’t delusional. That’s common sense — unless you also believe the disease itself is essentially harmless. And to believe that, you have to dismiss hundreds of sources in dozens of countries who have nothing invested in lying about its badness.

Liars who spread disinformation to erode public trust in all existing sources of information? REALLY TORQUE ME OFF. HARUMPH.

ANYway. End mini rant. That’s a big grump, but it’s my only one from today, so…yay? And it ties into the books I’m starting the new year with. One’s on reserve at the library and I’ve recommended purchase of the other. Cultish by Amanda Montell, about the language of extremism, and Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention by Johann Hari, an examination of the many ways the modern environment demolishes our ability to concentrate and learn.

In other cheerful moments today, there was snow-shoveling in the sunshine. Spouseman and I even made a tiny little maze in the snow on the patio because, hey, we have a patio! We also took Pippin out for his first walk in snow. I wasn’t sure how he would react to the cold and wet.

He loved it. I shoud’ve known.

That adventure was followed by returning some movies to the library, then coming home for a victorious supper of soup, crusty garlic bread and baked apples.

Tonight’s viewing of Howl’s Moving Castle went very well. I’d seen it before and love it. Spouseman loved it. He also looked at me afterwards and said, “I am proud of myself for being very good about not asking questions.” It isn’t typical Chekov’s gun plotting with every surprise foreshadowed and every character perfectly pigeonholed in a type. It skips merrily along and

Which is a thing I love about Mizaki storytelling.

Then I made more cookies and watched Hawkeye. Good fun. The banter, the complications, THE BROADWAY SONGS AND POSTERS ZOMG. And the scenes with Yelena Belova/Black Widow were extra super fun.

Now I am caught up on the MCU except for the new Spiderman, which I will eventually see. And The Eternals. Is that MCU? I’m not sure. But I have its release noted so I can watch when it hits streaming.

We have one more day of “winter break.” On tap: more Studio Ghibli and a movie called Encanto, which is a Disney thing. And Boba Fett. That should be interesting.

And that is that. Have a sleepy cat photo. Until later.

PS: Pssssst. I almost forgot. Books! I write ’em. You can read em. There are links. I’m not putting one in here because no one ever clicks them anyway.

Categories
Media Consumption Writing Life

First Caturday Saturday

First day of the Gregorian calendar year. For me, a snow day, baking day, sleeping-in day, rest day.

New Year’s Day is not about productivity for me. Things usually get done, many things actually, usually enjoyable ones, but it’s rarely focused goal-targeted labor or anything society recognizes as Useful — not because I have a superstition about the day setting the tone for the rest of the year, no.

No, I avoid being productive on NYD because it’s a day off. Luckily, having a cat means I have help remembering days off are for relaxing now. Pippin has been sleeping like a champ all day today.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions (pointless to give extra weight to an arbitrary annual calendar changeover date, resolutions should be meaningful and embraced whenever a need for one is identified, blahblahblah) but if I DID do them, I would resolve to pitch the word (indeed, the entire concept of productivity) into the trash bin of reality where I would burn it with the fiery destructive force of a thousand flaming suns.

Since I’ve been resolved on that point for years already, it doesn’t count against my “no New Year’s resolutions” resolution, right? (Is that a paradox, to have a resolution about not having resolutions? ANYway. It’s definitely a digression.)

After being awake until 3 AM, we rsolved to wake up whenever and successfully enticed Mister Pips into snoozing with us until nearly 11 AM. Fancy brunch was had here at home, courtesy of frozen foods purchased back when the world wasn’t so viciously contagious. There was lounging, and reading, and a long walk in the falling snow. Napping happened. Also a teeny little bit of writing, (in addition to this, I mean. Serena and Parker are walking puppies and not talking. It’s fun. And funny.)

In fits and starts between other activities I made split pea soup, no-rise bread, and baked apples. We’re now enjoying the feast with a split of Sauterne (yummy sweet French white wine) while watching Jungle Cruise. Which is much better than I expected. Perplexing and occasionally bizarre, but fun.

Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Paul Giamatti, and a bunch of other people who look vaguely familiar navigate a convoluted screenplay that has some major African Queen meets The Mummy vibes. Good actors chewing up scenery through a quip-heavy actionfest with some pleasnat surprises? Yes, thanks!

Along with everything else fun today, there is popcorn. Because this is a popcorn flick for SURE.

This one has some extra fun running gags and better than average dialogue, too. So I’m happy.

Back when my dad took my to Disneyland for my birthday, ( we lived in SoCal at the time) I would ask to go on the Jungle Cruise multiple times because I loved it. I also loved the Undersea adventure, the Pirate Island, and the Haunted Mansion. And yes, It’s A Small World.

BTW, a father who’s willing to go through It’s A Small World multiple times a visit multiple times a year is a parent who truly loves his daughters. (My younger sister used to alternate between IaSW and the Mad Hatter’s Teacups all day long on her birthday trip, or so the family story goes)

A second digression! And it’s only the first day of the year. Go, me.

My other not resolution for the year is to be Very Direct and Talkative about my projects and how proud I am of my existing books. So. Please buy my books, read my books, review my books, recommend my books if you love them–and I’ll keep writing books regardless.

That’s all for now, until later!

Categories
Media Consumption Writing Life

Today in random ranty observations

1. Overheard: “That isn’t an isolation bubble. That is foam. Foam is full of holes.” Evocative. Except for the part where it’s true for most people and thus an underestimated source of risk.

2. There is a difference between rationalizing denial and accepting mitigated risks. I’m having a hard time articulating that difference, but I’m certain it exists.

3. OMFG enough of accusing people who get covid of “letting down their guard.” Stop with the judgy moral superiority nonsense. JUST STOP. Look. Precautions are not magic. Exposure happens. All of us will eventually face down this virus armed only with our immune systems. It’s inevitable. No one likes to think about that, but it’s been true since the moment this virus escaped Wuhan. You can be careful and cautious and still catch Covid. Illness isn’t a mark of moral deficiency or personal failure. It can’t be overcome by having a pure heart or warded off by Doing All The Right Things. Sitting up on a high horse and sneering at the sick is pride headed for a fall.

4. BUT WAIT. I’m equally annoyed with the other type of magical thinking, the kind that makes people think they somehow earn a free pass from environmental dangers as a reward for good behavior. I’m really tired of actively risky behavior being excused because people are “tired of taking precautions.”

FFS, does no one ever engage in analysis by analogy anymore? Every winter I get hella tired of putting on a heavy fucking coat and other extra layers of outer protection to keep from freezing. But I rarely say, “I am so tired of wearing a coat, I’ll go without.” Rarely, but not never. I weigh the risk of freezing against the potential for frostbite or death and act accordingly. Short trip to the trashcan when the temp’s in the teens? I might run barefoot w/o a jacket. Hour walk outside when it’s -10 degrees? NOPE.

This is called risk evaluation and mitigation.

Here’s another one. Every time I drive a car and come to a red light, it’s an annoyance and an aggravation and I get VERY tired of the delays to my travel. BUT I NEVER GET TO SAY, “I’M TIRED OF STOPPING AT RED LIGHTS, I’LL JUST BUZZ THROUGH THIS ONE INTERSECTION.”

Four years spent in science labs working with various poisons and caustics left its mark on me. I cannot imagine saying, “I’ve worn goggles, aprons, and gloves every time all semester and it’s a hassle, so Imma go without today.” And despite diligently taking precautions every time I was in the lab, I went home more than once with acid-eaten holes in my sleeves or a yellow dot of nitric acid on my skin. And others had worse accidents. BECAUSE SHIT HAPPENS.

So I can have both annoyances at once without cognitive dissonance. If someone’s doing all they can, weighing risks, taking the ones they deem worthwhile, being responsible about accepting and mitigating the consequences of mistakes? I’m all over empathy and ready to support in any possible way.

5. Um. But my opinion of people who thoughtfully, deliberately refuse to take precautions against infection because they are misguided, distrust all expertise except their own, and are breathtakingly selfish? Yeah, don’t come at me with the sympathy pleas. I’ll save my energy for others.

6. Didn’t get much done today because I was here ranting (and elsewhere researching) but hey. At least I’m wordsing, not mutely doom-scrolling through Facebook & Twitter, right?

7. We’re watching Shang Chi at home tonight instead of Spiderman in a reserved theater because multiple people got exposed to Covid over the holiday weekend and that news boosted the risk of 3 hours in a public place w/people outside my bubble over my comfort threshold. I mean. I could’ve stayed double-masked through the movie and felt comfortable, but that would’ve diminished the experience below my enjoyment threshold. Risk evaluation. Risk mitigation. Choices.

So. It’s Christmas cookies and comfy jammy pants ftw tonight. And this second viewing of Shang Chi affirms my memory that I LOVED this movie bunches. Top 5 in the whole MCU for me.

ANYway. That’s all for now. Until later.