On Mastodon

screenshot of my Mastodon profile

I joined Mastodon this week, sensing like a lot of people that Twitter was in a death spiral. Here’s my profile.

I’d noticed about a week ago that the official Twitter app for iOS removed the functionality that let me toggle between different accounts. Which made me reflect further on how dependent I’ve become on a platform I have never really liked, and only went along with because I could never get more than a handful of people to try open-source alternatives back in the day. I chose the instance I did because of their long history with the Fediverse, as it’s called. (Because you don’t even need to be on Mastodon to interact with users there. Other options abound.)

For those who find the whole concept of a federated social media experience hard to grasp, think about email, and how you can communicate with someone on Yahoo Mail if you’re on Gmail or whatever. That’s how social media was supposed to be from the beginning. I once had a long conversation with the life partner of Twitter’s original lead developer. He left when they turned their back on the then-mostly-theoretical concept of federation with other microblogging platforms.

Somewhat to my own surprise I find I’m actually enjoying Mastodon, because the UI and the way everything works is so well thought-out, it makes the case against corporate overlordship better than any manifesto could.

I certainly understand the reluctance to learn how to use and navigate a new social media network, especially since it isn’t just one site, and you have to go to some extra effort to find interesting people to follow, and to reconnect with contacts from other social media platforms. I felt this reluctance so strongly, I avoided joining Mastodon for years. But without the distorting influence of the need to make money—each Mastodon instance apparently gets by on regular donations from users who can afford it—it’s possible to have a fully social social media platform, actually serving people in our intertwined communities, not investors. There’s no algorithm, y’all!

And one of the cool effects of that is the standardization of best practices, such as content warnings and descriptions of images for the visually impaired. It’s so easy, I’ve been converted from indifference verging on hostility to the very concept of content warnings to full acceptance, because when it’s just a routine click of a button to add a content description, why would you not, if you know (for example) that some people prefer not to see politics in their feed. So more sensitive or traumatized users have the option of minimizing posts by default, so that if there’s anything with a content warning/description, they’ll just see that description, and can decide whether or not to click to expand, while those of us who are coarse, insensitive bastards can opt to see full content every time. Problem more or less solved.

I’ve taken to using content warnings for poetry too, because a poem that doesn’t challenge people in some way isn’t much of a poem in my opinion. Plus I have friends who just don’t like or get poetry, and that’s perfectly fine. If I do post a poem with rape allusions or something like that, I’ll endeavor to post additional, more explicit CWs… as long as they don’t mute the impact in some way. But having that as a built-in feature makes it much more likely that I’ll be mindful of it. Well done, tech geeks. Long live open source software!

Rachel Barenblat on the power and importance of blogging

cover of "Waiting to Unfold" by Rachel BarenblatSometimes I get depressed by the behavior of my fellow U.S. poets: our obsession with hierarchy and prestige, our endless preening, our myopic focus on print publication, our willingness to perpetuate a system of gatekeepers in a world of nearly universal access (at least in the global north) to abundant free content abounding with self-publishing tools; the disconnect between our generally progressive social/political values and our stodgy conservatism when it comes to the form and content of poetry itself. Then I see things like this brief summary of the power of blogging from my friend R’ Rachel Barenblat, and I remember that there are in fact lots of good poets who are writing the poems they need to write and forging their own paths. Rachel has published two full-length collections drawn largely from her popular (and not poetry-centered) blog and has another on the way, not to mention several chapbooks. More importantly, she has a readership, and it’s not just other poets (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And she’s figured out a way to make poetry, blogging, and motherhood support rather than conflict with her career. I admire the hell out of that.
Velveteen Rabbi: On being a blogging rabbi

New author page on Goodreads

I finally got around to joining Goodreads, the social network for readers. If you’re a member, please send me a friend request. Here’s my author page.

Hard to say yet how I’ll use the site, aside from promoting my own books, but I hope to link to all my book reviews at Via Negativa going forward. I’ve also taken the time to add some favorite books to my virtual shelves there. And I imagine I’ll be using the blog feature from time to time. (I have a post there now announcing that Breakdown: Banjo Poems is due out in September.)