Rethinking Mastodon

Read Im Seriously Rethinking by Brent Simmons (
I’m seriously rethinking being on Mastodon over this. Life’s too short to be affiliated with this kind of mob rule.…

I’ve been pretty interested in Mastodon as a Twitter alternative, at least until I noticed Brent Simmons’ post.

He linked to Wil Wheaton’s post titled “The world is a terrible place right now, and that’s largely because it is what we make it” in which Wheaton described a particularly unpleasant, and unexpected experience on Mastodon:

I thought that if I left Twitter, I could find a new social network that would give it some competition (Twitter’s monopoly on the social space is a big reason it can ignore people who are abused and harassed, while punishing people for reporting their attackers), so I fired up this account I made at Mastodon a long time ago.

I thought I’d find something different. I thought I’d find a smaller community that was more like Twitter was way back in 2008 or 2009. Cat pictures! Jokes! Links to interesting things that we found in the backwaters of the internet! Interaction with friends we just haven’t met, yet! What I found was … not that.

I’m sure that Wheaton’s experience of Mastodon doesn’t describe all Mastodon interactions. The same could be said of Twitter. In both cases, the trollish elements spoil the experience for everyone else.

His experience doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in Mastodon as a more civil alternative to Twitter. This isn’t because Mastodon is fundamentally bad, it’s just being used by people who are behaving much the same as other people on Twitter who I’d prefer to avoid having to deal with.

I’ll just stick with my blog, and some sort of hook for now.

When Even Planetary Scientists Are Driven From Twitter

Not too long ago, I wrote about how I was seeing so much value in Twitter because of the people I choose to follow. One of the highlights of my Twitter feed has been Dr Sarah Hörst, a Planetary Scientist at Johns Hopkins University.

Sarah is an inspiration, and I enjoy her tweets tremendously. She tweeted recently that she briefly left Twitter, only to return to be faced with renewed abuse from repulsive examples of our species.

Dr Hörst tweeting about abuse

Reading tweets like this leaves me feeling a little more disgusted with Twitter (the company). Despite all of Jack Dorsey’s assurances, regret, and promises, incredible people like Sarah feel like they should leave the service because remaining on Twitter means exposing yourself to relentless attacks and abuse.

It's not like Twitter doesn't see this stuff

I keep hoping for alternatives. I still believe that something like Mastodon is an answer but, for that to work, it needs to have the sort of community that Twitter still delivers.

I have this sense that I still need to use Twitter because the people I admire and want to follow are there, even though using Twitter increasingly leaves me feeling like I’m giving up part of my humanity in the process.

Juliet’s campaign against United and breastfeeding trolls

You may have read my post about 10 days ago titled “Breastfeeding trolls” about Juliet Thompson who was harassed on a United flight when she was breastfeeding her baby. If you haven’t, here it is:

Breastfeeding trolls

Juliet since emailed me with an update after she read my post which she said I could reproduce here:

Dear Paul,

I wanted to write and personally thank you for publishing my content on United and breastfeeding. I sincerely appreciate it.

So this is how it’s going.

The other day I launched a hashtag campaign #MonsUnitedAgainstUnited this is a rallying call for all pro breastfeeding advocates around the world. Focusing on more then just my experience and raising awareness that a change is what needs to take place in our society.

The next day united wrote me a letter of apology for what had happened. I will be writing a response in the days to come and I will make this available to you.

Where before I was set on taking legal action, now I’m hoping to settle out of court. My request is a complete policy change from the loose regulations that are now to a stricter pro breastfeeding and child friendly airline, that offers assistance to families and not a $14 gift vouchers and a “see ya later”, that doesn’t kick a mom and her toddler off a plane etc. etc. My view is that united needs a serious boob job in this department. They’re becoming notorious for mom shaming and it’s time to shape up. Together we can make it happen.

I need your continued help with this. As women and men, as mothers and fathers, as people, this is our challenge together.

Thank you for your continued support of our protest. It means so much to me.

View this post on Instagram

This isn't a war about myself, or over only my bad experience, but it's for all the other women who have come before and that will come after me. I want this court case to make a change, I long to see mothers and fathers and children looked after on flights, assisted by the cabin crew and airline staff and not talked down to or pushed aside like unwanted baggage. These things 👆🏽 have got to change, if we don't change it then who will? and if not now then when? These stories are heartbreaking and sadly enough, they were all completely avoidable. Putting myself in the shoes of these moms, I'm spurred on in my decision to take legal action against United airlines. And maybe you don't agree, good- keep scrolling. I'm speaking to a generation of moms that want the freedom that this country has promised them, that want their kids growing up with no shame or perversion of basic things, of anything. "All civil liberties go hand in hand and when one goes the others are weakened." That's the reason I am not willing to let this go. Over the last 2 weeks I've read so many comments on this subject of breastfeeding in "public", mom against mom, gross stuff, bad stuff, sad stuff. It's time that moms make a stand together. Airlines like @united need to come to a basic conclusion, a commitment: families that travel with us (United) are to be looked out for, helped, cared about- not talked down to or shamed or bullied. And then you, #United, need to make all the steps necessary to insure that stuff like this 👆🏽 never happens again. An apology won't suffice. I don't want to hear that the stewardess "didn't know" about your breastfeeding policy or how to clam down a verbally abusive passenger … Does she not know how to open the emergency door either? How long does this list go? And ultimately it's your responsibility, United. It's time to be a big man, to face the facts and change the policy for good. You haven't called us back United, I know you must be busy, losing bags and all… But we have a voice and we're not afraid to use it, moms let's unite. For ourselves and the many generations after us. #MomsUnitedAgainstUnited #changethepolicy #breastfeeding

A post shared by Juliet Summer (@julseyjules) on

Thankfully, women breastfeeding in public doesn’t seem to be much of an issue in the parts of Israel I tend to be in although, like most of the world, I imagine there are communities where women are victimised if they feed their babies in public.

I don’t think this is the last time we will see a story about a mother being victimised for feeding her baby in a public space. At the same time, I hope that we will continue to see more and more support from those mothers’ communities that drowns out the breastfeeding trolls.

Photo credit: Breastfeeding by Nicolas Michaud, licensed CC BY NC ND 2.0

Breastfeeding trolls

I’m still amazed that breastfeeding in public is still a controversial topic. I just read a post in Scary Mommy titled “‘Go Tell Her To Put Some Clothes On’: Breastfeeding Mom Harassed On United Flight” about another mother who was harassed on a flight because some troll was deeply offended by her discreetly breastfeeding her baby.

Somehow it is 2016 and despite the fact that it is legal for women to breastfeed, uncovered if they want, women are still being harassed and shamed for feeding their babies in public. That happened to one mother who was quietly nursing her baby on an airplane this week, and she was so upset about the experience that she posted about it to Instagram with the hashtag #MomsDontFlyUnited.

Sure, it is 2016 and you’d think we have evolved our sensibilities to the point where this is not a problem (maybe, just look at how much support Trump has and you may be forgiven for thinking we have regressed). At the same time, breastfeeding isn’t a new thing. Humanity was pretty much made possible by breastfeeding so why are people still disgusted by it?

If anything, the United aircrew should have told the passenger who had a temper tantrum about Juliet Summer breastfeeding her baby to behave, not ask Summer to cover up. If you want a little more context:

… no skin was actually visible below her collarbone, so she assumed everything was fine.

Not that this should matter but it just highlights how crazy the passenger’s objection was.

The Daily Maverick’s response to trolls

SkinHead by JonasMF, licensed CC BY-ND 2.0

The Daily Maverick informed its readers that it is shutting down comments on its site in response to an unfortunately common phenomenon: trolls. It isn’t the first publication to do it and won’t be the last.

Over the past six years, we have worked painstakingly hard to build a legacy brand of which we could be proud. Unfortunately, our comments section is tarnishing that brand. As of today, we are suspending our comment section until such time as we can either moderate away those who feel entitled to spew hate speech on our property, or come up with some other solution that fosters genuine engagement rather than reductive trolling.

Shutting down comments won’t stop trolls from being trolls but it will force them out into other fora and deprive them of the opportunity to spoil an otherwise valiant enterprise.

As disappointing as it is, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t take better advantage of the comments section in the past to share my non-trollish thoughts about the great stories TDM publishes. That said, there are other ways to share your thoughts with the editorial team and The Daily Maverick’s readers. You just won’t be using the comments section.

When you are the troll


There are days when the filters between impulse to tweet and actually tweeting stuff take a break and I behave like a self-righteous ass. Today was one of those days. I was at Pick ‘n Pay Norwood where I am practically conditioned to be agitated and found myself in long queues with cranky kids and I started posting photos and tweets about the queues and lousy service. I was annoyed that I was standing in queues which seemed like they just weren’t moving (people were reading books while waiting) so I did what any person with a smartphone, access to a public medium and a sense of entitlement did: I posted two updates complaining about the store and the queues.


Pick ‘n Pay’s long suffering social media people responded almost immediately and didn’t express the tired frustration I must inspire and I received a call from a shift manager at the store (Duncan, I think) about an hour later who even apologised for the queues. If I were him I would be thinking that queues are really not unreasonable at lunchtime on a Saturday and yet he still apologised. By that time I realised that I bore a strong resemblance to the trolls we all try avoid and had deleted my tweets.

Today reminded me that Pick ‘n Pay’s management really are trying to improve service levels in their stores and the social media team is passing feedback along to the branches really quickly. They are also serious about engaging because they even engage whiners like me despite me sounding like an mp3 on repeat (I think the “broken record” analogy will be lost on most people these days). Second big lesson is this little one: just because you can tweet about something that pisses you off, doesn’t mean that you should. Tweeting about every niggle increases the amount of noise and reduces the likelihood that brands will pick up on and do something about the important signals. It’s basically a case of not seeing the signals for the noise.

An appropriate response to Richard Catto's tweets

General consensus when it comes to people like Richard Catto online is “don’t feed the trolls”. That usually means you don’t engage or even acknowledge their existence. I adopt that approach for the most part but after reading some of Catto’s tweets in Sarah Britten’s post about free expression on Twitter, I chose this option:

Appropriate response to Richard Catto

Trolling is one thing but tweeting that rubbish goes too far.