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I've been doing experiments into Mastodon and GNU Social for about two months now, with my own GS instance running for about two weeks. In that time I've become pretty familiar with the OStatus protocol that powers both, the differences between the two, how they inter-operate, and the political issues that both led to the division, and continue to spark contention between the loyalists to the two. Sadly, I made the decision today to close my GNU Social node and instead do my microblogging on a Mastodon server a friend owns. I think it important to share why for people confused about the state of the "Fediverse" in the future.

A bunch of history )

What does this mean for a user/admin?

This is the important part. If you're thinking of either hosting or using an OStatus-powered service and federating, there's some decisions to make that aren't as obvious as technology choice. Also some things to be aware of:

First, whether you use GNU Social or Mastodon, some instances will refuse to federate with you. You won't be able to interact with people on those instances. The reasons for this are wide and varied and I don't feel this is the place to discuss their merit. Just be aware that's a thing. With the boiling political climate and coming changes in Mastodon 1.5, I expect this divide will only grow. If you absolutely have to reach someone on an instance that refuses to federate with Mastodon, you'll have to use GNU Social and vice versa.

Second, if you choose to host or use a GNU Social instance, you will already be missing several features that let you see the posts from Mastodon users as they were intended to be seen. Due to this missing context, you may chime into threads you're not supposed to, see images that you may not want to because their content warnings have been stripped, and miss parts of messages because they were part of OStatus tags GNU Social just ignores. This feature gap will, again, only grow with time.

Third, by the same token, Mastodon users should be painfully aware that the privacy features are merely suggestions. Not only will a GNU Social instance ignore them and blissfully blat your followers-only posts into the public timeline where they're world-readable but at this point it's trivial to mod a Mastodon server to also ignore privacy controls. You should carefully vet people who follow you before making a followers-only or unlisted post because once someone follows you from either a GNU Social, or bad-acting Mastodon instance, your posts may become world-readable via that instance.

Fourth, as an extension of the above but deserve of its own point. If you use a GNU Social node to follow a Mastodon user, you will be implicitly violating their expectation of privacy due to how GNU Social handles (or rather mishandles) follower-only posts. That should weigh on your conscience a bit.

Finally, no matter which software you use, enforcing Mastodon's privacy model will require sending fewer messages to GNU Social nodes. This means just by merit of using GNU Social you may start being forced out of certain threads and conversations or certain message types. This is a guess and only time will tell. 1.5 will bring the start of this and we can see where it goes from there.

As for my experience with GNU Social...

I'll be honest. I prefer GNU Social's default UI over Mastodon's Tweetdeck clone. I like that GNU Social is simple scripts while Mastodon is either a Docker container or a huge Rails and Node.js stack. I like GNU Social's admin tools and its simplicity stays out of my way. GNU Social better exposes groups as a feature while Mastodon hides them. In almost every way I prefer GNU Social, and yet I'm closing my node and moving to Mastodon. Why?

Looking at the list of people I either follow or want to follow, they all use a Mastodon instance. Every single one. This means a few things for me. First, that they have an expectation that private posts will be private, and by receiving them I'm violating that expectation because of GNU Social dishonoring privacy tags. Second, some of those people are on instances that don't federate with GNU Social or are considering ceasing federating with GNU Social; simple enough. Third, I'm incapable of posting content warnings from GNU Social while my peers expect it-- so I'm just unable to post certain content. Fourth, the GNU Project's mission is fundamentally incompatible with what I want from a social service and, while I can work around that, do I really want to support them implicitly? Finally, no matter how I feel about Mastodon's execution on implementing the OStatus extensions, they are a net positive for the health and usability of the fediverse and by merit of that I am obligated to support that endeavor.

So while I like GNU Social, to continue to socialize with the people I came here to socialize with, and to support the people I feel are actually working in benefit of my peers and friends, I should move to the Mastodon side of things before the inevitable split happens.

What would I like to see happen? I'd like to see Mastodon just fork OStatus, drop compatibility, and implement all the things the devs want to implement. At this point GNU Social users are in the minority; I feel Mastodon would survive if they did this. This would address the criticism that Mastodon showed up to an established party and tried to change the rules on its own, and would free the devs to do what they want without the shackles of backward compatibility.

We'll see what happens I guess.
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I took a second go at setting up GNU Social tonight, after Twitter's round avatar-gate set a bunch of people into clamoring for an alternative. It was a much easier experience this time around-- likely because I didn't break my federation with major servers while fumbling around in setup this time. I think I'll keep it around. If it's still working in a few days I'll declare my Mastodon account deprecated. I've already updated my contact page.

I also set this up as my official blog from my website. Nanoblogger is neat and all, but I think it's better to use this. I may port over the old posts to backdated entries here; unsure as of yet.

I probably won't drop Twitter because as of right now I have 6 mutual follows on GNU Social and about 170 on Twitter. Just social space issues... Blah.

Work-side I've had the most productive week I've had in awhile, even if it was a week of setting up alpha-quality software to talk to an alpha-quality storage backend I know nothing about, with no documentation on either available to me. I got it done... somehow. Just the life of a sysadmin grunt I guess. Now I get to transfer a metric boatload of data into the new system and hope it doesn't keel over. The transfer will run over the weekend without any management from me, so I expect to just relax this weekend.

Four Job Fiesta starts tomorrow. I'm excited, though I expect I'll only do one run this year instead of the 2.5 I did last year. We'll see I guess. Everyone should join in though!
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When I was a wee thing I went to a private school. In fact, I went to a private Christian school for my entire K thru 12 education. One of my main pains of the time was trying to integrate with a peer group that followed a belief system I was only tangentially a part of. My high school class fluxed between 15 and 8 students, all the rest boys, and most of the final 8 were there the whole ride. I didn't have many options for branching out socially.

One of the common sources of social strain was the difference in opinion on consuming media. I loved first person shooters, kung fu movies, heavy metal, and D&D. Most of them found FPSes excessively violent, modern movies needlessly secular and sinful, heavy metal the music of the devil, and D&D to be satan worship. The rare few times we found an interest that aligned between us, I cherished it. Music was an especially rare and special one, especially since we were permitted to play music during our computing classes.

We learned of POD and Creed. Yeah I know, Creed. It was a different time back then, cut me some slack. Neither of these bands scratched the itch for me that the likes of Spineshank, and Drowning Pool did, but they gave me some opportunity to connect with my peers. I got into them, we played their stuff during study hall and computing class, it was nice to have something we had in common.

One day I walked into class and plunked down and started to fire up Winamp (dating myself, right?). I'd gotten my hands on Creed's newer album and wanted to show that off. To my shock, the student next to me turned his head, looked at me, and said "Oh we don't listen to them anymore". What? The reasons pretty much boiled down to one of the songs ("Bullets", if you care) on their recent album had violent undertones, and they had declared Creed to be "Not Christian", ergo they were instantly dropped from consideration. This baffled me, though it was an ongoing theme through most of my high school years; the first sign of secular tendencies from a media source instantly dropped it from the minds of my peers.

What's this have to do with anything? Well the title of this post refers to a specific tweet made awhile ago. This is a tongue in cheek description of a very real thing that happens when someone is catapulted into fame and people begin to peer into their history, whether that be their Twitter history or meatspace history. If something is found to violate the sensibilities of a community, they usually then self-police to remove that person's content from the group consciousness, much like my group censured media they once enjoyed because of (to the external observer) unrelated concepts.

To someone in the thick of it, they're not unrelated though. If someone expresses a viewpoint that is objectively harmful to a group of people, there's definitely an onus to apply pressure to them to change; or to remove their voice from their presence. I definitely don't blame anyone for wanting to do that-- I guess what makes me headtilt a bit is the pressure on said peers to also remove said media from their own consciousness. I've seen a few people flat out say "Stop faving the low resolution shadow pic" because the originator made a transphobic comment 16 months ago. (To be fair, from what I hear they're still kind of awful, so time isn't a factor here)

I guess what it boils down to is if society is required to discard the creations of a person if they find they do not want to interact with that person or consider that person harmful to their structure. I always felt no. I continued to listen to Creed after learning they were no longer appropriate for my peer group; I still find that shadow picture hilarious. I probably wouldn't post it in any circle of my friends that are especially sensitive to trans issues, but it doesn't bother me that the originator of a specific piece of media is a "bad person".

I used to use Orson Scott Card as an example of this. At this point we're aware he's a pretty bad dude but does that erode the quality of his unrelated works? If not, am I causing harm to anyone by engaging in those works? If I bought Ender's Game, or saw the movie, he'd get a few cents off me in royalties... so probably not unless he was contributing financially a cut of his take to DOMA lobbying or something. Conversely, am I sending any message by boycotting his work? Is he likely to understand his viewpoints are causing him financial harm? Would that be likely to change anything? I don't know.

To further muddy the water for me: if someone creates something I enjoy, aren't they deserving of the recognition and financial gain for that based purely on that, irrespective of their political views and things they may have said in the past? That's a very capitalist way of thinking, and that used to be a solid "Yes" for me back when I thought mostly in terms of economics; now I'm not so sure.

At the bottom of all of this though is my personal enjoyment and the enjoyment of my peers when engaging in media. I wish I could attribute it properly, but it floated by on my timeline awhile back... Someone wiser than me expressed this very nicely: You will find problems with any media, or any creator, you look at. If you censure and boycott everything "problematic", you will be starved for media because true intersectionality is a never-ending journey. As we find more ways to identify ourselves, we need to include them in media. At least at present, no one gets that right. Not a single creative outlet. To me it seems the better solution is to consume that media and identify the problems, using them for points for improvement rather than engaging in censure.

I guess above all I find it amusing that I walked all the way across the political spectrum only to find the same behaviors going on on both sides.
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This is more a rant than anything. I started to spew it on Twitter but when I realized it'd span a ton of tweets, well...

In recent years I've begrudgingly accepted the online-only nature of Blizzard titles but something I'll never get past is their social network. For those who haven't touched a Blizzard title since about 2008: being logged into any Blizzard title they don't call a "Classic" involves being logged into the social network. You appear online to your friends, you can be messaged or invited to parties. That's pretty cool. What's not cool is your status options: you can be available, or flagged busy. There is no offline, there is no invisible. For varying definitions depending on the title, if you're in a game, you're visible to your friends list. Period.

Some days I just want to sink into a game for an hour or two and keep my social stuff off in another window. That's how I enjoy gaming, and I'm by far not an unusual case. So it's frustrating to be forced to announce to my friends list that I'm playing a specific game. More often that not that is immediately followed by someone else (or many someones) logging in and sending party requests. Requests I feel obligated to accept or I'll be forced into a long awkward conversation instead of gaming anyway. Sometimes the people asking to join don't want to do what I want to do; more awkward conversations.

So solutions? Don't add anyone to my friends list? No can do, or I can't party with them when I DO want to. You have to add before you can send invites. Set myself busy? That just moves the long awkward conversation to another medium like Discord or IM. Tell every person sending me an invite I'm not interested? Why should I have to do that? Tell people that busy = don't contact me? Why should I place the burden of remembering that, or playing guessing games about my status, on them when this could be fixed with a simple toggle?

I know the answer to why this is: Blizzard wants to use the friend list system as advertisement. "Oh four of my friends are playing WoW, maybe I should dust off my sub"... They lose some of that if people can go invisible. Still, on the other side of the sword, I've literally wanted to play a game and held off because I didn't have the spoons to deal with the social aspects that would be forced on me by the lack of invis option. It's frustrating.

I guess all in all it feels like my comfort in using their products doesn't matter. I know it doesn't but usually companies don't go out of their way to make me FEEL that way, you know?
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I just got in from jogging in the rain. That wasn't my intent, but what can you do? I walked up to the 7-11 to get drinks and when I emerged, a medium drizzle had appeared out of nowhere. It was the warm, misty kind of rain that falls on you and just kind of immediately disperses into a slick tepid coating that feels more like a layering of residue than actual water. So I double-timed it back home, towing along a double gulp of what I thought was Dr. Pepper but turned out to be... well I don't know what.

So now I'm at home watching the start of the Sunday morning bar closure circus of bad driving on the streets outside my patio door, sipping this mystery concoction that tastes of little more than carbonation, aspartame, and perhaps just a twinge of Pepsi. I suspect the soda fountain at the local 7-11 needs cleaning, or perhaps the hoses are just entirely mixed up. I guess that's one way to make sure I don't binge on soda and end up staying up all night.

I will admit it feels strange spouting off into a text input box on a website anymore. When I was in high school and college, it was a ritual I engaged in every night... sometimes twice daily. I had maybe 60 or 70 people interested in what I had to write, though it was usually just ramblings of whatever came to mind at the time-- a sort of debug log for my brain. It wasn't enough for me though to ramble and attach a mood to the post, I attached a color to every post, recoloring the whole thing by wrapping the entire content in HTML tags. It was a sort of synesthesia in that I assigned a color to my mood at the time, and that color to the post. In retrospect it probably wrecked the reading experience of anyone not using a dark background colored theme, but it's a thing that was special to me.

I had been reflecting on those times again after a conversation about old identities. For years I'd chosen the moniker "Lonewolf", or more frequently some permutation thereof because someone had always beaten me to the name. I was an edgy kid, telling people I didn't want friends or a girlfriend, I didn't want to socialize. I wanted to be seen as the silent, wise type though most of the time I was anything but. More importantly though, I wanted to create things. Writing, game design, etc. I spent most of my time in high school administrating and designing for Mithica, and I do miss the ease of which I could just turn ideas into reality there. Sadly Mithica folded, and I doubt Graal even hosts servers for free anymore like they did back then.

I kept that name, and that attitude, through my Sophomore year of college. It was the gateway that got me into totemic spirituality really. Despite the name initially being more about the "Packless loner" persona than literal identification with wolves, I came to accept the wolf as a totem and guide in my Senior year of high school. Imagine the confusion that resulted as at the time I was still deeply mired in a Christian household, school, and church life. Still, it did me a lot of good; it opened the door to alternative ways of belief and thought that eventually congealed into the amalgamation of appropriated beliefs that I consider my current spiritual canon.

I guess the point of all of this is I'm just now coming to realize and accept that I never had that breakthrough moment where I "became a different person" despite embracing half a dozen (exactly) specific unique identities through my life. It was always a gradual change, an evolution. There are of course moments where I changed my name, changed my guide, but they were moments of realization of change that had already occurred, not moments of sudden change on their own.

Maybe that in and of itself is a valuable lesson, especially now in this time where I'm expecting change from people in my generation. That change isn't a magic epiphany moment where a person suddenly becomes different in every way; it's a series of small events pushing toward a different end. Even if you can't drive a total change for good in the people around you, you can be one of those small pushes. They add up eventually; they did for me.

Long story short, a person is the sum of their experiences. Big or small, those experiences add up to make a different person going forward.
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It's 01:30. I had intended to go to bed half an hour ago as my sleep schedule is still on the mend from being particularly irresponsible over the past few weeks, but I also have the desire to just write something. I should be working on the story stuff, but I almost feel like over-planning is a thing that'd hurt the creative process just as much as under-planning, and I have a very solid and extensive outline of the serial and how I want it to go down. Furthermore, I don't want to do any real work at the moment, so there! :P

Just working with a social journaling system again has brought up some rather interesting memories centered around when and how I used LiveJournal. One particular such memory involves my last days at UCF and sitting up at 6am reading back over old posts and writing one about not knowing the path my life was on and feeling extremely out of control and directionless. For anyone who doesn't know (not that anyone reads this drek yet), I lasted 3 terms at UCF and then was placed on academic dismissal for low grades. This didn't happen because I lacked aptitude, but because I found "Finding myself" to be a far better use of my time after 17 years of hyper-religious upbringing from my parents and private school-- a story for another time to be sure.

At the time I was unsure I'd made the right decisions. Failing was, obviously, no help but at the same time I had filled the time I would have been in class and studying with an immense amount of social, emotional, spiritual and *ahem* sexual growth that I would have missed out on if I had been studious. A better balance could have been struck, but in retrospect I think those events lined up to make a me that is a far better me than the one that would have stuck to the books.

My navel-gazing at the time didn't last long though. Another memory of those times: the night before the semester closed, I was messaged by a friend I had made at a local anime event. He had quietly carried the torch for a lady in the same group, and had confided in me this a few times over our time together. He wanted to tell her during her birthday party that night, but events conspired to not let him go, so he asked me to give him a ride. Now, I know... if not then, he would have had ample other opportunities to break the news to her, so it's not like some movie fairy tale where I swooped in and saved true love when all hope was lost-- still, it was quite exciting to haul ass down the highway, with half my stuff already packed in the back of the van, to get him there on time.

I wonder if they hit it off and how they're doing now. I like to think I got them to connect and they forged a relationship and sometimes think of me now. I lost contact with them shortly after I moved away.

Diversion aside, soon after that I decided Computer Science and a life as a coder wasn't for me. I liked being a maverick too much; couldn't regiment myself properly to work in a team, under a project manager, on a project. This is a conclusion I would have reached one way or another, but let's just say failing out of UCF was no harm done and the separation from my roots did a lot for my growth. This was a pretty expensive way to "Branch out" with nothing concrete to show for it, but I'm grateful for the experience.

To cap off the story: part of my explorations at UCF eventually led me to meeting the local furry fandom, which led to meeting furry types nationally, which led to forming some relationships that gave me the ability to move and try a life in California. This was literally a demo basis: my home-life in Florida was in shambles and they worked to find me a job and a place to stay to see if I did better in a different locale. Needless to say, I never left California, so I suppose that worked out for the best. Again, that wouldn't have happened if I'd stuck to the books at UCF.

These retrospectives though... Of course I'm going to say "I turned out okay", because I don't know for certain what the other side of the fence really looks like. Maybe if I'd finished the CS program I would have found a great job and been happy; who knows. All I know is how I ended up so far ain't that bad and I can't really imagine any major point being different, and I only carry one or two major life regrets-- and they're not related to my education.

What's the point of all of this rambling? Not much. I felt like waxing reminiscent I guess. I do that quite frequently on late, quiet nights. Is there a moral? College ain't everything? I guess that's it; but most people are realizing that without my long-winded retrospectives. :)
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It's been awhile since I've seen the post field of a Livejournal-like service. Way back when, I hopped onto LJ back when you needed invite codes or a paid account to get on. Being able to vent my thoughts in a journal was what got me through school, in all honesty. It's how I met people who later became instrumental in my life. All in all blogging was a pretty big part of my existence for many years.

I shut my LJ down in around 2010. I'd become a different person and I wanted to detach entirely from the identity that wrote those 8 years of posts. I feel that maybe that was a mistake, not because I shouldn't have detached but because journaling has a profound therapeutic and cathartic effect on my feelings and thought processes and maybe some of the harder moments of my adult life would have been easier if I had that access and feedback mechanism. I opened a personal blog hosted on my domain, but never felt right venting more personal thoughts on it because it's also the front for my more "professional" ventures.

I don't typically like providing my content to a centralized service, but I do think the nature of social blogging does have some merit, so here I am I guess. I have no idea if I'll be nearly as prolific with this as I was with my old LJ, wherein I was writing 10-20 posts a week, but we'll see.

I'm also considering spinning up a fiction serial blog. I have the actual prose all planned out, I'm just debating the best platform for it. Maybe a simulcast to Dreamwidth and a homebrew solution on my site. Nothing says I can't do both.

Alright... let's give this a try. It feels comfortable and homely already.


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Trysdyn Black


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