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@donmccurdy donmccurdy/mastodon_crossposting.md Secret
Last active Jun 24, 2019

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On cross-posting to Mastodon.

Yesterday I received an email from mastodon.social, copied below in full:

Warning

You are receiving this message because you have an active Twitter cross-poster set to copy your tweets into your Mastodon account. Please consider the impact this has on our community. Unlike Twitter, Mastodon is more community-oriented, with features like the local timeline which lets you browse all public posts by members of the current Mastodon server. This is where your cross-posted tweets pop up. They have garbled text, mention people who are not here, and bring topics and conversations that are irrelevant to Mastodon. Consider also when other Mastodon users reply to such posts, unknowing that it's automated and nobody monitors the notifications.

Many have chosen to use a cross-poster with the intent of a smoother transition onto Mastodon. However, cross-posting from Twitter to Mastodon defeats that purpose, since you are not using or getting used to Mastodon, and your friends do not have an incentive to switch just to get your 2nd hand reposted content.

Consider turning off the cross-poster service, or using it the other way around: Be on Mastodon and cross-post to Twitter. That would be better for everyone involved. Thank you for your time.

First, a few comments on this email:

[cross-posted tweets] have garbled text...

This generalization does not seem to apply to all cross-posters. My own posts appear as intended, with the exception below.

[cross-posted tweets] mention people who are not here...

Yes, this is frustrating. I would welcome an option in a cross-poster tool to skip tweets that mention Twitter users.

...Mastodon users reply to such posts, unknowing that it's automated and nobody monitors the notifications.

Use of a cross-posting tool does not imply that no one monitors notifications. It implies only that someone dislikes re-typing the same message twice on a regular basis. I have a Mastodon mobile app installed, and receive notifications.

Of course, these complaints do apply to some cross-posting tools and affected users. But if you're going to send a "warning" directly to your users from an official account, accusing them of having a negative impact on the community, false-positives are going to be received poorly.

Moreover, there are other ways to address the underlying problem, and certainly some of those steps could have been taken before a broad email like this. For example:

  1. Encourage cross-posting tools to omit retweets, mentions, and anything else considered to negatively affect Mastodon.
  2. Encourage Twitter/Mastodon users to use the settings above. Some tools already have enough settings to avoid most (all?) of the criticisms above.
  3. Send something other than a "warning" to the community members using these tools.

That third point is the most important. I set up a cross-posting tool because, while I have no incentive yet to switch over from Twitter, I'd like to support the project by not posting exclusively to Twitter despite that. If the Mastodon admins have determined that this does more harm than good, that's fine. But there were better alternatives to sending warnings to the community, such as: (a) send a survey asking why they use a cross-posting tool and what alternatives they'd consider, (b) send something with more nuance and an opportunity for discussion, (c) simply disallow cross-posting, rather than using a guilt-inducing email.

I've disabled cross-posting on my account, and I do not expect to be posting on Mastodon regularly in the future. Feel free to follow me on twitter or on my blog.

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