Ask Mike Anything
In light of the 5th Anniversary of Fosstodon, I thought I’d give the community the opportunity to ask me about anything they wanted to know more about. Any question is fair game, and I’m going to do my best to answer honestly where I can.
Brandon had a few questions.
Is there a point where, with enough recurring funds, you guys would be interested in being a little more prescriptive with the way donations are made? eg: These funds are being donated with a request that XYZ feature be implemented in ABC software.
Kev and I have never talked about this particular question, probably because the point where it would become necessary to have a discussion about it is so far in the future we’ve never felt the need. While I can’t speak for Kev, I would be very doubtful that we’d ever want to tie support for the project to particular features.
What are the plans for the future of Fosstodon? Branching out to host an instance of Pixelfed? Starting a Wiki? Organizing an in person event? What are some ideas on the backburner that you two have had lately?
I think both Kev and I have kicked around the idea of expanding offerings. Pixelfed is a great project, but I can’t see where it would fit well from a content perspective with our particular subject matter. It would probably just end up being an instance full of screenshots. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t see a huge benefit in it for our community. I’d be more interested (personally) in other things like PeerTube or Lemmy. I could see benefit in both of those, but then it quickly becomes a matter of whether Kev or I have the time to do it right. While I’m interested in those projects and I can see where they’d offer value to our community, I just don’t think we’ve got the metaphorical bandwidth to pull it off.
What are some things that have happened in your lives that couldn’t have happened if Fosstodon hadn’t been around?
I think Fosstodon has been really good for my mental health. It has its moments where it’s stressful, but we have such an amazing community I’m much happier dealing with issues directly related to Fosstodon than I am to my day job. When I’m starting to get stressed at work, I check the Fosstodon timeline or I go for a run. Without Fosstodon, I’m not sure where I’d have found my outlet for those moments.
Has your presences in Fosstodon changed the way you look at things in and around the FOSS community?
I’ve been playing around in the FOSS community in at least a tangential way for more than two decades now, but like most people I got my start in proprietary software. When you’re dealing with proprietary software, the source of that software is a black box. You have one source for it and how things work inside the box is usually a mystery. I think I carried that impression over to FOSS software when I started using it, and it’s never really gone away fully. Fosstodon has let me have some interactions with individuals in the community that are responsible tools and software that I really respect. It lets me see that there are people behind the code, and they’re very much like me. They have needs and obstacles just like I do. I guess the TLDR version of this answer would be that Fosstodon really helped put a human face on FOSS software for me.
If you two were starting Fosstodon today, what would be something you would do differently?
It sounds arrogant to say “Nothing”, but other than a few little nitpicks that’s what I’d have to go with. I feel like Kev and I stumbled into such a great place and community with Fosstodon that I’d be worried about messing it up by changing the formula.
How painful is it being an admin?
Most days it’s not painful at all. There are of course moments that stress me and the rest of the team out, like pretty much every time Elon Musk opens his mouth about Twitter, but all in all being an admin on Fosstodon is pretty painless.
If Google+ had never died and stayed as good as it was, would you have founded a mastodon instance eventually?
That’s a hard question. I liked Google+ so if it never started sucking and then dying, I imagine I’d have stayed there. There’s an argument to be made that I may have reached a point where I was uncomfortable with Google’s privacy invasions, and despite the fact that I liked Google+ I may have looked around at that point. I kind of found Mastodon by accident. I think I heard it mentioned on a podcast. I’d joined other social networks in the past and never stuck around, so it’s not too crazy to point out that Mastodon was already a special case for me in that I actually stuck with it long enough to drag Kev along for the ride. Starting our own instance was his idea initially, so if he didn’t join me I probably wouldn’t have done it on my own.
If a new social media was made with the same style and polish as Google Plus would you change to that instead?
No, I don’t think that I would. The best part of Fosstodon is the community we’ve built. I might consider changing the software Fosstodon was based on if a G+ styled federated solution came out, but I wouldn’t do it without our community.
How tall are you?
Well, last time I officially measured I was 6’1. I’m probably still pretty close.
Exactly how many decade+ old screenshots do you have?
Ooof, I don’t know for sure. Dozens?
What is your computing history? Why did you start running Linux?
Well, computers have always been fascinating for me. When I was a kid I loved going and playing with the Commodore 64s in the store. I begged and pleaded with my parents to get one, but they never did. There’s some complicated dynamics going on here that I’m not going to go into detail with, but long story short I was legally forbidden to use computers or play video games until my 18th birthday for reasons. Despite that, my parents let me buy my first computer (with massive amounts of disapproving looks) when I was 16.
My dad was a WW2 vet, and he made no secret about the fact that he thought computers were a passing fad, and spending money on one was a complete waste. They made virtually no effort to find out anything about them and really looked at them like you’d look at a fully armed bomb stored in your bedroom. So, of course when I went to college I majored in Computer Science. Woo, that was a conversation. Disappointment and anger and all sorts of bad feelings.
In college we did all our computer programming courses on a Digital Unix mainframe. To stay in college with parents who didn’t have a lot of cash and disapproved of what you were doing, I had to work my way through. I got a job selling computers, and spent time helping fix them. I did that for a year and then moved to a level 2 type onsite computer support for my University and I did that for three years. An endless supply of computers that you were going to reimage anyway inevitably leads to playing around.
My roommates at the time were also computer people, and they toyed around, and they had me come look at their Mac one day to show me “Windows” running. It obviously wasn’t Windows, but it was a version of Linux that was themed to look like Windows 95. When I found out it was free I just had to know if there was a version of it that would work on a PC (ha!). I installed Redhat Linux and quickly realized that I could do my programming homework on my local PC and not have to dial in to the mainframe on campus. Immediate advantage, right out of the gate.
After that, I did a variety of different things. My work history lent itself to IT jobs, and my education got me into programming jobs. I did both on and off for years and years. Now I have one job where I do both. There was a time in there where my parents figured out that I could actually make a good living with a computer even though it was a job where I spent the entire day sitting, and while they never really got over their fear and distaste of them they didn’t look down on it so much later on.
Why do you use the one you’re currently using?
Well, I’m not really locked into “one” even now. I’m using Zorin on one of my laptops because it was recommented by my cousin, and it’s a very smooth and easy distro. I use Manjaro on another because it’s fun. I have Fedora on a tower because I wanted to try it out and now it’s running services in my house that I don’t want to rebuild. I have several Raspian installs running around the house on Pis.
Well, that’s it. Day one anyway. If I get more questions tomorrow I’ll put up another post. If I didn’t answer something or didn’t elaborate enough (on stuff that I’m willing to elaborate on), let me know and I’ll do my best to correct it.
Day 12 of the #100DaysToOffload 2022 Series.
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