Mike Stone

Mostly The Lonely Howls Of Mike Baying His Ideological Purity At The Moon

A Complaint About Mastodon, Solved?

25 May 2020

Day 31 of the #100DaysToOffload Series:

I’m going to guess that most of the people reading this know that I’m one of the admins of the Fosstodon Mastodon instance. If you don’t know me explicitly from there, I still feel like I talk about it enough that most people have figured it out by now. I want to talk about one of my complaints with Mastodon.

Mastodon is what you’d get if Twitter and email had a baby. It’s a distributed micro-blogging platform that spans thousands of servers with millions upon millions of users. No single person is in charge of the whole environment.

Mastodon improves on the offerings of Twitter and other social networks because it’s not ad driven, and because of that, there’s no reason for instances to be tracking you. We don’t have algorithms that prioritize one post over another, and software doesn’t decide what you see. It’s all there in chronological order.

We also take pride in the fact that Mastodon is more privacy aware because of the fact that we’re not trying to sell you anything. This is where my complaint comes in.

Direct messages. Many people get the impression that a direct message is a private message, and that’s not the case. It doesn’t show up the timeline, that’s true. Only the people that are mentioned in the message can see the message.

And the admins.

That’s right, we can read your direct messages. They’re in plain text in the database, and if we so chose, we could go out and read them.

I want to clarify at this point that, at least on Fosstodon, we absolutely don’t do that. I have no desire to read your direct messages, and neither does Kev.

It annoys me that there’s really no alternative for this other than you taking my word. If you want to use Mastodon, you need to choose an instance where the admins are trustworthy. If you don’t trust them, then you can never be sure tha they’re not reading the things you’d rather they not read.

That’s why I was super excited today when I read this.

I don’t know when(or even if) this feature is going to be available on an instance near you, but it super exiting to me that this is even being worked on. It looks like this is going to be here soon.

I could totally be reading this wrong, and forgive me if I am, but I’m really looking forward to the standard being where you don’t need to take what your admin says on faith when they say they’re not reading your direct messages, even if that admin is me.

Fingers crossed that this is in the next release.



Looking for comments? There are no comments. It's not that I don't care what you think, it's just that I don't want to manage a comments section.

If you want to comment, there's a really good chance I at least mentioned this post on Fosstodon, and you can reply to me there. If you don't have a Mastodon account, I'd suggest giving it a try.

If you don't want to join Mastodon, and you still want to comment, feel free to use my contact information.