The infamous, twitter 'Fail Whale'.
The Twitter Faq
Saturday, 19 November 2022 20:26 Hrs
❝ The current status of Twitter, the risks and what you can do about it.

This FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) is primarily for @PureAusten users. A list of common questions and answers related to the #TwitterExodus. [0]

The FAQ covers three areas, the current status, the problems it will cause. Finally what you can do about it.

  • What Is Happening At Twitter?
  • Why Is This A Problem?
  • What Can You Do?

What Is Happening At Twitter?

  • A new owner has purchased Twitter.
  • The owner sacked / forced 88% staff, mostly technical to leave.
  • Twitter is a complicated system and requires specialist staff to maintain its services. Those staff are no longer there.
  • As a result Twitter Users are leaving

Read this report by Reuters, Sheila Dang: Twitter is losing its most active users, internal documents show [1]

Why Is This A Problem?

The Leadership instability at Twitter is creating a perfect storm of increasing risk to users and Twitter itself.

The Risk Of Doing Nothing?

There will be an increased risk relying on Twitter into the future including:

  • Increased chance of spam
  • Increased chance of social disruption by trolls and other distruptive groups
  • Increased chance of criminal activity
  • Potential unreliability and degradation of services
  • User focus in Interface and Human saftey measures down graded

For a technical explanation of what can happen if you reduce your technical staff, read this exellent twitter thread by technical expert: I've seen a lot of people asking "why does everyone think Twitter is doomed?". [2]

Where Are My People Going?

Where the majority of your users end up, is the place you gain the most utility. The most important issue to consider is "Where are my people going?"

What Are The Alternatives?

Here are some social media alternatives. Twitter has different uses for different people. Economist Business notes ironically "Are any, a suitable substitute?" in Fleeing the nest [3] ⚠ (Turn off JavaScript to read).

Will the alternative you choose match Twitter in terms of:

  • Reach
  • Audience
  • Usability
  • Utility
  • Stablity
  • Security

Here are the main Social Media services I can think of:

  • Email
  • Blogging
  • Mastodon
  • Instagram
  • Reddit
  • Tumbler
  • Facebook
  • TikTok
  • Zoom
  • WhatsApp
  • Discord
  • Commercial Services
  • New Startups
  • Instant (DM) Direct Messaging

Read what Guardian—Tech Journalist Alex Hern, has to say: How to quit Twitter – and where to go instead [4].

Read what Bill Buddington of the EFF says about the privacy and security of Mastodon: Is Mastondon Private and Secure? [5].

What Can You Do?

❝The engine that drove Twitter was the people. Nothing more. Nothing less. [6]

Questions you should be asking:

  • Where Are My People Going?
  • What Are The Alternatives?

The value of Twitter is its Users. Take note of what your friends are doing. You have the choice to:

  • Stay (by not doing anything).
  • Leave (and look for alternatives).
  • Stay And Leave (on Twitter and find an alternative).

I would advise the third option, "Stay and Leave". Maintain your existing Twitter presence and explore alternatives. However there are some implications that you have to consider even if you stay. Have you used Twitter to authenticate some other third party website? If Twitter is compromised, these logins could also be exploited by bad actors.

Security Check On Sites That Have Used Twitter To Authenticate

There are security implications should consider even if you stay.

Have you used Twitter to authenticate some other third party website?

If Twitter is compromised, these logins could also be exploited by bad actors. To verify if you have used Twitter to Authenticate other websites:

  • Go to https://twitter.com, Log In
  • Locate your Twitter Options (...)
  • => Security and Account Access
  • => Apps And Sessions
  • => Connected Apps
    • Are there any connected Apps?
    • Do they need to be connected?

Also check:

  • Security and Account Access
  • => Connected accounts
    • Are there any connect accounts?
    • Do you need these accounts connected?
What is Mastodon?

I have decided to replicate @PureAusten at Mastodon. [7] To do this I have created multiple accounts on Mastodon. Let's dig deeper.

  • What is Mastodon?
  • Who Is In Charge?
  • What is the relationship between Users, Instances and the Fediverse?
  • What is an Instance?
  • What is the Fediverse?
  • Why is the Technology and Communications Protocols imporant?

Mastodon started in 2016. It's a Social Networking service allowing Users to interact with each other. Mastodon has Users. Users are members of Instances (think of them as little Twitter servers). There are many Instances that make up the Fediverse.

  • When you join Mastodon, you become a User
  • Mastodon has many Users
  • Users are members of Instance, again think of an Instance as a little Twitter
  • Instance Users can talk to other Instance Users
  • The Fediverse is the sum of all Instances

The Fediverse is a collection of many different Instances (little Twitters) that Users can both join and communicate between.

Who Is In Charge?

Twitter is being run (badly) by one person. The Fediverse is a form of decentralised control. No one person controls users.

  • Nobody is in total control of the Fediverse.
  • Instances has influence on its Users. Instances can moderate other Instances.
  • This is how the Fediverse governs and moderates.
Users, Instances, The Fediverse And Technology

What is the relationship between Users, Instances and the Fediverse? What is important to know about the choices of technology Mastodon has made?

User

Remember, when you join Mastodon you become a User.

  • A user can follow another user
  • User posts appear in a timeline
  • Users can talk to each other
    • in their own Instance and other Instances
    • unless other Instances deny this activity
  • Users have access to Privacy and Moderation
  • Messages are not encrypted or private
  • Users are able to search for other users
Instance

An Instance is a fancy word for a Computer servers that runs multiple pieces of software that make up Mastodon. System administrators tend to these computer systems. People are in charge of planning, costs, administration for all Instances.

  • An 'Instance' is run as a service that Users consume
  • Responsible for all aspects of administration
  • Made up of computer hardware, software, Users and Administrators
  • Administration and moderation takes plae at Instance level
  • The Instance is where Moderation and rules may be applied
  • Instances can block Users from interacting with other users
  • Instances can block access to other Instances
  • Instances costs money to run
Fediverse

What is the Fediverse? [10] The Fediverse is the collection of many Instances. To date there are 7,717 Instances in operation [11] and growing. The key to the Fediverse is interoperability. Instances talking to each other using computer communications protocols make this possible.

  • The Fediverse is interconnected and made up of many Instances
  • Connectivity is possible because Instances utilise open standards
  • No one person or organisation is in control of the Fediverse
  • Instances talk to each other
    • This allows cross Instance communication possible.
  • Instances can block other Instances
    • This is how Instances police rules across the Fediverse
Technology And Standards

The three most important aspects of the technology used to build Mastodon:

  • The software is "Open Source"
    • you can contribute, download, build it and run it
  • The communication used is an "Open Standard"
    • the openness of the standard, allows mass communication between users
  • "No Algorythms" are involved
    • there is no underlying algorthymic engines interfering with you data and interactions
    • you own and control your data more than you do/did on Twitter

Read this excellent article on the advantages of a decentralised Mastodon by Kathy Reid, "What's Mastodon and what's it got to do with cybernetics?". [12]

Mastodon Instances, the Fediverse have the following characteristics:

  • Algorythm Free
  • Able to Scale
  • Control is managed at Instance level
  • There is no centralised Owner of Fediverse or core technologies
  • Multiple de-centralised owners make up the Fediverse
  • Instances must be funded to run
  • Technology is based on open source software
  • Software is based on W3C Internet Standards
  • Software development must be funded, to continue
  • Instances enforce Instance rules through the moderation tools developed in software and Administration staff in Instances

References

[0] wikipedia, #TwitterExodus, "Acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk" [Last Accessed: Saturday 19th, November 2022] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acquisition_of_Twitter_by_Elon_Musk>

[1] Reuters, Sheila Dang, "Twitter is losing its most active users, internal documents show" <https://wreuters.com/technology/exclusive-where-did-tweeters-go-twitter-is-losing-its-most-active-users-internal-2022-10-25/> [Last Accessed: Saturday 19th, November 2022]

[2] MosquitoCapital, "Semi—retired SRE: I've seen a lot of people asking 'why does everyone think Twitter is doomed?' As an SRE and sysadmin with 10+ years of industry experience, I wanted to write up a few scenarios that are real threats to the integrity of the bird site over the coming weeks." <https://twitter.com/MosquitoCapital/status/1593541177965678592> [Last Accessed: Sunday 20th November, 2022]

[3] ⚠ Turn JavaScript off to read! Economist Business, "Fleeing the nest: Alternatives to Twitter see an influx of users. Are any a suitable substitute?" <https://www.economist.com/business/2022/11/17/alternatives-to-twitter-see-an-influx-of-users> [Last Accessed: Sunday 20th November, 2022]

[4 Guardian Technology, Alex Hern, has to say: "How to quit Twitter – and where to go instead" <https://theguardian.com/technology/2022/nov/08/how-to-quit-twitter-and-where-to-go-instead> [Last Accessed: Sunday 20th November, 2022]

[5] EFF, Bill Buddington, "Is Mastondon Private and Secure?" <https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2022/11/mastodon-private-and-secure-lets-take-look> [Last Accessed: Sunday 20th November, 2022]

[6] Wikipedia, Mastodon, "What is Mastodon?" <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastodon_(software))> [Last Accessed: Saturday 19th November, 2022]

[7] pwnallthethings, Matt Tait, "If you’re terminally online—and let’s be honest, if you’re reading this you are—you’ll know all about Twitter’s new management." <https://www.pwnallthethings.com/p/twitter-was-special-but-its-time> [Last Accessed: Sunday 20th November, 2022]

[8] Mastodon, Search, "Mastodon's full-text search allows logged in users to find results from their own toots, their favourites, and their mentions. It deliberately does not allow searching for arbitrary strings in the entire database." <https://docs.joinmastodon.org/admin/optional/elasticsearch/&ght; [Last Accessed: Sunday 20th November, 2022]

[9] Wired, Justin Pot, "How to Find Your Twitter Friends on Mastodon" <https://wired.com/story/how-to-find-twitter-friends-on-mastodon/> [Last Accessed: Sunday 20th November, 2022]

[10] Wikipedia, Fediverse, "" <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fediverse> [Last Accessed: Sunday 20th November, 2022]

[11] Mastodon, "Mastodon Instances statistics" <https://mastodon.help/instances/en> [Last Accessed: Sunday 2oth November, 2022]

[12] ANU, School Of Cybernetics, Kathy Reid, "What's Mastodon and what's it got to do with cybernetics?" <https://cybernetics.anu.edu.au/2022/11/10/whats-mastodon-and-whats-it-to-do-with-cybernetics/> [Last Accessed: Sunday 20th November, 2022]

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