Jeff Johnson (My apps, PayPal.Me, Mastodon)

Mastodon postmortem

February 6 2023

My previous blog post described how Mastodon instance with over 4K users suddenly broke. After 6 days of breakage, and 6 days of no word from the instance administrator, an automated email arrived yesterday from stating that my archive was ready for download. I had started an archive of my data the same day the breakage began, but the archive was stuck, unfinished, another consequence of the breakage. What the email stated was indeed true, and I was finally able to download my data. Moreover, later that day my followers finally transferred automatically to my new instance, a process that, again, was initiated 6 days prior. I've heard from other refugees that their followers were transferred to their new accounts yesterday too.

I wouldn't say this episode ended well, though. Besides losing my followers for a week, I permanently lost all of my posts on my old instance. In that respect, I still had to start over from scratch. I've now archived those posts, but for some reason Mastodon provides no way for me to import them to my new instance.

The administrator never replied to my email inquiries, even now. However, he did post a short statement: "Looking into an issue with at the moment." And then… nothing. That was the entirety of the administrator's communication about the issue. Today he continued posting (boosting) about a different subject, as if a 6 day outage and absence were nothing, a mere blip. There's been no explanation whatsoever of either the outage or the administrator's absence.

Jonah Aragon

Needless to say, this behavior is unacceptable, the administrator has proven untrustworthy, and my previous recommendation still stands that everyone on this administrator's two instances and ought to move to a new instance ASAP, while they can, before another incident like this, or worse, occurs again.

According to the Mastodon Server Covenant, "All Mastodon servers we link to from our server picker commit to the following… At least one other person with emergency access to the server infrastructure". Nonetheless, Join Mastodon is actually where I found back in December, when the covenant had the exact same language, and there's no sign that or has an emergency backup admin, otherwise the outage wouldn't have lasted for 6 days. Thus, it appears Mastodon doesn't follow its own server covenant. Caveat emptor!

Mastodon is run by a bunch of amateurs, literally, and this shows in many ways. The flaws and shortcomings of Mastodon are pretty obvious. But when I've mentioned them publicly, I've drawn the denials and the wrath of a number of Mastodon "fanatics", especially over the past week. As with Apple fanatics, I find Mastodon fanatics annoying, tedious, uninteresting. They typically take an "us versus them" attitude, where them in this case would be Twitter. They act like my criticism of Mastodon is promotion of Twitter, which is strange because I'm off Twitter and on Mastodon. I left Twitter for a reason, and I'm not going back. However, I didn't leave Twitter for Mastodon. In a sense, Mastodon was an afterthought for me, and I'd be happy to abandon it in favor of a superior Twitter replacement, if one arose. I am a fan of decentralization—after all, I've been blogging on my own web site and following RSS for over 15 years—but I'm not a committed ideologue, a decentralization fanatic. I remain on Mastodon now, despite the dismaying experience of the past week, not because I'm committed, not because Mastodon is great, but because the people I know happen to be on Mastodon. The same reason I was on Twitter. It's too bad that both services turned out to be disasters.

Jeff Johnson (My apps, PayPal.Me, Mastodon)