Welcome to the Mastodon Era

While everything seems to be in meltdown mode on Twitter, a lot of users are jumping ship to Mastodon.

Mastodon is not new. It’s actually been around for a handful of years but operating in smaller, dedicated circles as an alternative to “major” social networks like Twitter or Facebook.

I had been thinking about exploring more about Mastodon a few years back but never found the time to dig into it. Of course, now that I’ve made my jump on board, I’m somewhat regretting that I haven’t explored it sooner.

I understood that it’s a “federated” social network but never really grasped what that meant until I got into it. Hearing someone say it is a lot different than actually getting hands on so that your brain can fully comprehend what that means.

And it’s awesome. Yes, it’s a little difficult to understand at first, and there is a lot of terminology and functionality that is mostly the same but different from those mainstream social networks that you might already be familiar with.

The one thing I really like about Mastodon is how decentralized it is. There are pluses and minuses to that concept, but this is what could make Mastodon a really great, evolutionary step in all things internet.

Because “federated” is something everyone is more familiar with than they know. The roads you drive on are federated. The phone you talk or text on are federated. Email is federated. There is an established method for how all of these things work that is managed on various levels but generally provide the same standards.

When you drive across the country, at least in the US and Canada, you subconsciously expect that there will be at least a two lane highway that is wide enough for two cars traveling in opposite directions. Every state or province has their own methods for how those roads are constructed and maintained, but they are all built to a standard that every driver tends to understand. From signage, road markings, and speed limits, there are established protocols that remain fairly the same from location to location.

That’s what is meant when it is said that Mastodon is federated.

There is an established method that allows islands of servers to exchange data in a predefined, open source protocol, which is pretty much the exact same way email already works.

And just like email, anyone can setup a server or find an existing service to sign up on to start interacting with the world. But once you control a server, you can decide who can have an account on it, what other servers can interact with your server, and so on.

That is where the power lies in Mastodon for me. It might not be perfect and need some work to make these protocols efficient as more and more people jump on board, but the idea of having control over your social network is a massive concept to a more free and open internet.

Exploring the open source road

For the longest time, there have been two main programs that I have used when it comes to doing a lot of my web-editing stuff. BBEdit and Fetch have long been staples in my application library, and that’s pretty much the same two tools that I have been using since I was in high school. I’ve tried my hand at other things, but nothing felt right or as good as lines of code across my screen.

Mmmmm… code.

I decided to venture down the Google way and see what else might be out there in the open source world, specifically for the MacOS. Well low and behold, Open Source Mac was the first site to show up on the list and had the answers I was looking for. I went from just checking a few applications out to making the following programs a part of my permanent library of web tools.

Vienna Finding an RSS application, plugin, or whatever makes reading my feeds easier has been a battle. Safari is good, but not great. Firefox has some good plugins, but nothing has made me happy. Vienna is my first experience with using a stand-alone application to monitor RSS feeds. It works well, imported all of my feeds without a hitch, and looks really nice. “Smart Folders” are super handy, and it’s MacOS native.

CyberduckIf the name doesn’t get you, then the application icon will. Cyberduck is a really great concept for an FTP program. It’s got a simple look to it, but I was instantly hooked with it’s ability to do everything that I needed it to. Let’s be honest though, what more do you want from an FTP program? Upload, download, surf directories, change permissions, and so on. I could use some neat, quacking sound effects though, especially when a download is complete or something.

SmultronSmultron. My final verdict is still pending on this one, but it is a huge step in the right direction. I love the single window with the ability to do split screen editing, and you can trade that for tabs instead. Managing so many files with one program is tricky for any code ninja, but the ability to highlight text to apply a tag is a bit lacking(or maybe I just haven’t discovered that element yet). One cool thing is that it recognizes functions, which makes jumping around your CSS super snappy.

There are more applications that I’m curious about trying out, but these were three that were very impressive to me. Those other programs I mentioned cost money. These other three don’t, and I get a little tired of having to pay for those upgrades, especially when you can get open source stuff like this. However, donate to the developers if you can and give them feedback so they can make this stuff better.