When It Comes to Twitter, Have a Plan

TL;DR: You can find me on Mastodon at @commonsguy@androiddev.social.

You might be a fan of Elon Musk, or you might not. However, it is hard to look at the past two weeks and conclude that Twitter is now in a more stable position than it was previously. Even Mr. Musk himself has hinted at bankruptcy as being a potential outcome in the coming months.

Plenty of social networks have fizzled out: Orkut, Friendster, MySpace, and so on. Some are able to survive the transition and simply become smaller editions of their former selves. Others die out “gradually, then suddenly”, in the words of Ernest Hemingway. In the case of Twitter, to me, the latter course feels more likely. From failing to be able to pay off their loans, to FTC action for violations of a consent decree, there are cataclysmic ends that we on the outside can see, let alone ones we cannot.

The question then becomes: what happens to you?

Maybe you just use Twitter for cat pictures, memes, and the occasional bit of Android developer knowledge. If so, Twitter’s possible demise may not impact you all that much.

However, plenty of people rely on Twitter for more than that:

  • For reaching out to others for help, personally or professionally, such as for Android development concerns

  • For keeping tabs on announcements, such as Ian Lake’s tweets about Jetpack releases

  • For keeping in contact with friends and family

  • For promoting themselves or their services

  • For alerting others of risks and dangers

  • And so on

If you use Twitter for these sorts of things, what will you do if the whale fails permanently?

If you are already part of other social networks that can fill the gap, great! If not, you may want to find an alternative.

Right now, the alternative that seems to be getting the most attention is Mastodon, in part because it offers a fairly Twitter-like experience:

  • Short posts, optionally with attached media

  • Follows and followers

  • Hashtags, such as #JetpackReleaseNotes for Ian’s Jetpack release announcements

  • Equivalents for some Twitter behaviors (e.g., retweets -> boosts)

Mastodon is not Twitter, and so some behaviors are skipped intentionally (e.g., there is no equivalent of the Twitter quote-tweet).

Because Mastodon is federated, it also lends itself to having layers of networks. In particular, a common pattern is to join a Mastodon “instance” that is tied to some subject of interest to you, as you can then monitor the “instance feed” for that instance. This gives you access to posts from peers in your instance, without manually following them.

We in the Android developer community owe a world of thanks to Mike Nakhimovich. Mike set up the androiddev.social Mastodon instance, aimed at Android developers. While you can still follow people from all over the “fediverse”, you have more immediate access to fellow Android developers. Signups on that instance are limited, and you are strongly encouraged to donate a few dollars to help with upkeep, but it is still a leading option for Android developers.

However, as with many Mastodon instances, androiddev.social is not a business. In essence, Mike is inviting you to a party and is asking you to contribute a bit towards the cost of food and drinks. While Mike is friendly, Mike is under no obligation to invite everyone, and Mike can kick anyone out. There are thousands of Mastodon instances out there, and many people (including some Android developers) have simply set up their own personal ones. I am very grateful to Mike for letting me come to the party, but there are lots of parties, and you should choose one that best fits you and where you best fit.

Mastodon may or may not be right for you. But, one way or another, you should be starting to chart your post-Twitter future, should Twitter collapse.