The Mastodonian Church

Mastodon is not a church, but I’m going to explain Mastodon and the Fediverse with a church analogy. I think this analogy should work, especially for my people in Suffolk, Virginia, a lot of whom are more familiar with their church than social media. So here goes.

Imagine Facebook is a megachurch.  Image the same about Twitter and other social media giants.

Now imagine a smaller church. Maybe it’s a church with no more than a dozen members.  Except here’s the thing: They have a networking system which connects them to other churches.  So with this technology, they can join millions of other members in different churches all over the world, almost as if they’re part of a big megachurch

There is no authority dictating membership in the network. Any organization that installs the necessary equipment can join. Since any organization can join, they’re not all the same religion. They’re not even all churches. Some organizations are small and some are big.

For the most part, this variety is good, but it means that some of the organizations have beliefs or practices that others find offensive. There’s an answer for that. Your church can choose which other organizations it wants to hear from. So if there’s some racist church or club out there on the network and your church doesn’t want to hear from them, they don’t have to.

Wrapping up this analogy:  The Fediverse is the network that connects all of the organizations. Mastodon is one type of ‘equipment’ that your church can install to be part of the Fediverse. Mastodon is not really equipment, it’s software. When one person or organization uses Mastodon to connect their users to the Fediverse, that installation is called a Mastodon server or Mastodon instance.

Mastodon is free to download and if I wanted to, I could set up my own Mastodon server. There are plenty of guides out there, including this one. But for now, I’m a member of someone else’s server, as most people on the Fediverse are.  I’m a member of a Mastodon server called assortedflotsam.com.  

Who runs assortedflotsam.com? A regular guy as far as I can tell. He calls himself “Smeg” on line but I don’t know his name. He lives in the United States, has a job that he sometimes complains about, and he mentions his son on occasion. Other than that, I don’t know much about him. I know he runs a Mastodon server with about 40 users and doesn’t ask for anything in return. And I’m grateful for that. I once asked if he needed help with the server costs but he said he didn’t. Still, I’m pretty sure he’s not wealthy or he wouldn’t have that job he complains about.

Other servers are run by organizations or groups of volunteers and some have hundreds of users. Some are easy to join, others are closed, and others are by invitation or have wait lists.

When you sign on to a Mastodon server, you’ll see a column of toots, which are analogous to Twitter’s tweets, from everyone you follow. This is your Home screen. Honestly, I don’t remember what happens when you first sign up and aren’t following anyone yet. I think there’s ‘getting started’ screen to help you.

On the right side, you can see a few menu items including Local and Federated. If you click Local, you’ll see toots from other people on your server. If you click Federated, you’ll see toots from everyone on your server plus toots from everyone that people on your server follow. The federated timeline is a good way to connect to others around the world.

There’s also a multi-column option that you can get to in settings, which allows you to see all of those columns at once.

Screenshot from assortedflotsam.com showing the multi-column layout.

Assortedflotsam.com is just one of thousands of Mastodon servers, and since it’s very small and run by just one person, it’s not taking on new members except by invitation. You can find a list of others at https://joinmastodon.org/servers, https://instances.social/list, and https://fediverse.party/en/portal/servers. That last one doesn’t just list Mastodon because Mastodon is just one way to connect to the Fediverse. From whatever server you join, you can find and follow me, bnmng@assortedflotsam.com. And if later you decide that you don’t like the server you’re on, you can join a different one.

Mastodon is more chaotic than big, commercial, social media because there is no algorithm designed to serve you more of what you’re addicted to. I found it harder to find conversations about what I’m interested in and it took a while to connect with users that I enjoy interacting with. But that slowness is worth it to me, because I know I’m not being force-fed content.

We’ve seen the damage that big social media can do. If you want to connect to people in a non-commercial environment run by volunteers, with no technology feeding you what they want you to see, then give one of those many Mastodon servers a try.

Updates:
  • 2022 10/30: At first I only described the multi-column layout because I didn’t realize Mastodon changed it’s default format for new users to the single column layout. Thanks to https://mstdn.social/@feditips for letting me know about the change.
  • 2022 10/30: I added the note about the mastodon set up guides and made some other small changes throughout the post

A Facebook Argument about Gaza Gets Nasty

I’m not sure if there is much value in re-posting this, other than a desire to vent and a vain desire to hear what others think. But sometimes it’s helpful to share.

This started when a FB friend of mine posted a video make by a FB user named Ali, who also calls himself “Neat Man”. Ali lives in Gaza and I don’t doubt the distress that he must be in right now. Ali placed the following caption on his video:

My rage just shows that this is bad and that its what it is its a genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians..
Ali
Gaza, Palestine

I responded to my friend’s repost of the video.

Me: Israel’s goal is not genocide. Israel’s goal is to stop the attacks. While I don’t approve of the way Israel prevents the people of Gaza to live a normal life, I can’t blame Israel for every casualty when Hamas fires rockets from populated areas then tells people to remain in those areas to await the missiles.

L: Stop listening to the mainstream media Ben. Zionist have even stated that genocide is their agenda. The Jewish people (not Zionist) have also told the world that they do not support the Zionist hijacking their religion to further their political agenda. Zionist Israel is a terrorist organization who have used the media to advance their political goals. ANY country that locks people into an area where they cannot escape and then bombs them is trying to ethnically cleanse the population. The Zionist goal is to get rid of all Palestinians and they have said this numerous times. Don’t let the media convince you that human right violations are justified. It is never ok to kill innocent people and then to use power, money, corruption to cover up the crime…. GENOCIDE.

Me: I try to listen to a verity of media. I recommend that you occasionally hold your nose and visit news agencies that you find offensive because sometimes your enemies are telling the truth. It’s hard to learn when you decide that anyone telling you what you don’t already believe is lying. I don’t believe Ali is lying, for instance. But I believe he is being used as a pawn. Hamas fires rockets from populated areas and awaits Israel’s wrath. Israel is too happy to comply. The rockets won’t stop because too many Muslims want Arabia to be clean of Jews. And every time a terrorist attacks Israel, Israel attacks Palestinians like Ali. I don’t support everything Israel does, but they don’t want Genocide. They want the rockets to stop.

L: It seems Zionist supporters in the US are all watching their TVs cause all of you keep repeating the same Zionist spun media reports. Collectively you are some of the most hate filled people I have ever known. How you can justify mass murder of people held captive is beyond me. Ben no one can force you to care about human rights. This massacre in Gaza is NOT about rockets. Please refrain from telling anyone what they should do or not do to conform to your value system and thought process. Ben, ALL of Gaza is a populated area. Israel is now firing on Hospitals. Do you actually believe that Hamas is using the Hospital to hide a stash of rockets? Israel destroys Hospitals because that is what angry, hateful Terrorist do for revenge. The world’s Jewry has made it very clear that they too oppose Zionist Israel and the hijacking of their religion to further the Zionist political agenda. Part of which is to secure the Gas reserves off the coast of Gaza…. A multi billion dollar find that the greedy corrupt Israel wants all to itself. As I keep saying…. This massacre is not about rockets. Zionist always think about two things…. Money and Power. What is that saying? Money and Power always lead to…..

Me: Instead of addressing anything I’ve written, you dismissed all with a baseless implication that I get all of my news from watching Zionist spun media reports on TV, which is extremely false. It’s as if you barely read my post beyond discovering that I don’t agree with you 100 percent, and decided that I must be brainwashed or hateful.

Yes, I actually believe that Hamas is using hospitals to stash weapons. You see, I can believe that the Israelis are evil enough to destroy a hospital out of hate but I can also believe that Hamas is evil enough to turn a hospital into a target. You seem to be only capable of believing the Zionists are evil.

Even if the Zionists could be evil enough to destroy a hospital for no reason other than pure hate, how could they be so stupid? Not only did they fire upon a hospital, they broadcast their intentions well enough in advance to allow a large group of Palestinians to gather around and watch. “Hey look everyone, we’re about to destroy a hospital. Grab your smartphones, you won’t want to miss this!”

Hamas is not stupid either. Hiding weaponry in a hospital is a win win situation for them. They either get to store their weapons in a place that Israel won’t dare destroy, or, more likely and more lucrative, they get the publicity of showing Israel’s wanton destruction. So the the next question is if Hamas is willing to sacrifice Palestinians to further their goal of destroying Israel. Considering they used to train people to blow themselves up on buses and in markets, and only stopped because suicide bombers were bringing bad publicity, I have to think the answer is Yes.

They are both capable of evil. I am not as pro-Zionist as you think. But the Israeli strike on the hospital would be completely against Israeli interests if there wasn’t a tactical reason for it, and creating a tactical reason is very advantageous to Hamas.

L: I know you personally Ben and I know what your other personal friends say about you…. It’s not something I would repeat on social media but I am well aware of your political agenda. Your lack of care and concern for the human rights of the Palestinian people and the internationals in Gaza suffering at the hands of Zionist Israel is deplorable.

Me: That is bizarre. We met twice. There is only one person who we know in common and I am sorry if I ever offended him. You know what my personal friends say about me? That’s hard to believe, since you have me characterized so incorrectly. You think I watch TV News. You think I’m repeating the same things as all the other Zionists. You think I have no compassion for the Palestinians.

I believe you are compassionate but I also think you are vengeful, stubborn, and sometimes out of control with your anger. And you don’t fight fair. But this is more important than how we feel about each other personally. I simply don’t believe that your characterization of Israel as genocidal is going to help ease the suffering in the Middle East. Your heart may be in the right place but your refusal to explore information that doesn’t comply with your beliefs is counter-productive. It may not be your intention but you are promoting hate. I believe that Hamas is at least as responsible for Palestinian suffering as Israel is, and I don’t think that anyone who refuses to explore that fact can help stop the carnage. I don’t expect you convince you here. But I ask that you explore points of view that differ from your preconceived notions.

I do not intend to reply to any more personal attacks.

L: You sure act just like a Zionist Benjamin Goldberg hateful, mean and nasty. You come to my house (my wall) and you attack me, my family and friends then just like a Zionist you want to spin it around as if I attacked you. You have a habit of doing this to people you disagree with and we have all seen you attack people and then pretend you are innocent. I didn’t ask for your comment on my wall posts so don’t think I am going to take your foul behavior and just shut up. You pull that on everyone. Attack Attack Attack and you never stop until you get the last word. Please go play your games elsewhere Benjamin.