Bluesky Is For Techies!

Since joining Bluesky, I’ve learned more about developers (coders, programmers, tech bros, whatever they’re calling themselves these days) than I ever imagined.

Let me make clear, up front, what I expect from a Twitter replacement: a forum like Twitter but without the Nazis and other moderation problems. I do not want to moderate a server, nor do I want to have to put up with some of the nonsense that goes on at Mastodon.

The first day I was on Bluesky, three or four weeks ago, it was mostly developer-speak. The next day, a large number of users arrived, and the developer-speak was drowned out in a sea of body parts and shitposting. Everyone was giddy not to have to deal with the mess that Elon Musk has been exacerbating. It was fun, but the sort of thing that ages quickly. The wave of euphoria crested. Now people are trying to figure out what comes next.

The federation that the developers were talking about as imminent on my first day has not happened. What “federation” means is that Bluesky will eventually be multiple linked servers, each with its own, um, well, we don’t entirely know, but maybe rules and moderation? This is how Mastodon works, but Bluesky hopes to make it less onerous.

Things have slowed down at Bluesky. My guess is that it’s both technical and moderating issues. It looks like the developers thought that all the moderating issues would be solved by federation, but now they are beginning to realize it’s going to be more complicated than that.

Invite codes are handed out arbitrarily, and the developer team is unwilling to explain why some people have so many that one developed a computer code for managing them, while others have not received any. There was a promise that each user would receive one invite code every two weeks, and that’s not happening. A team member said they’re not giving out invite codes any more, just admitting people from the wait list, but the invite code moguls are still waving their wealth around. One of the people she listed as having been given lots of invite codes to assure diversity came into the conversation and berated me for a number of things she misunderstood.

It appears that yes, the early admits were selected for demographic diversity. But they seem to be mostly developers and people adjacent to that community. I occasionally see offers like “i have invites for scientists and researchers, link me to people who should be here.” This is from a tech person I don’t know and is probably not qualified to gatekeep scientists.

The national security and political science community on Bluesky is very under-represented, I would guess maybe 20 out of several hundred on Twitter. That would include people reporting from the ground in Ukraine, conventional media reporters, OSINT analysts, professors, think-tankers, freelancers, and scientists. We need input of video and each other’s papers, articles, and threads. The lack of video support on Bluesky is a difficulty, but not a bar to inviting others of this community.

One of the Bluesky team produces an engagement-based social graph for Bluesky. At the top of this post is a grab of the graph for May 17. If you’re interested, I am located between the ends of the labels “Trans and Queer Shitposters” and “Hellthread Metacluster.” The clusters, I am guessing, represent a way that the team might federate the existing users, with each cluster becoming a server.

The clusters seem an odd group. It makes sense to work with multiple languages if the plan is to become worldwide, but, given the political difficulties of social media in Iran, I wouldn’t have chosen Persian language to start. A Japanese language cluster is at the bottom, not visible in this screengrab. I’d like to know more about why these languages were chosen. It would also be helpful to know how the other divisions developed. Besides national security, there are no history, sociology, climate change, epidemiology, public health, gardening, foodie, nature, pets, or media  clusters.

It looks like the Bluesky team invited developer friends who invited their friends. Occasionally someone who is close to that group, like LGM commenter Faine Greenwood, invited someone from further away, like me. (Thanks, Faine!)

There are TPOT and Web3 clusters. I’ve asked people who the TPOT cluster are and have gotten a lot of stammering in response. They may be the folks that Erik Loomis wrote about the other day, from this article. Developer types again.

I am beginning to think that the developers had little if any plan for the site. If they have a plan, they have not revealed it. It seems to have been

  • Write code
  • Open site to trusted few
  • Federate
  • Open to everyone

The site is up to something like 70,000 users. A few identifiable Nazis have signed on and have been removed by the team after screaming and hollering by users. Scraper accounts and auto-follows have shown up and have not yet been removed. This kind of moderation is done an account at a time, with apparently a great deal of discussion behind the scenes.

The developers partake of the Silicon Valley adolescent view of free speech, that good speech drives out bad and blah blah blah that Twitter and the regular media have shown privileges Nazis. There seems to have been little planning for moderation – federation would take care of that!

The team is not forthcoming about their plans. I would like to know how they plan to expand the user base and what might delay that. I would also like to know more about moderation – what their baseline is and how they plan to deal with both the obvious and the edge cases. How do they plan to avoid Mastodon’s issues when they federate?

In the past week or so, Jimmy Fallon was mobbed because of the way he is treating his workers. Neil deGrasse Tyson also showed up to a fair bit of criticism, but I don’t know if he was mobbed or not. I understand the disapproval, but the mobbing is not different from some Twitter behaviors.

So we’re kind of milling around wondering what comes next.

Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money

One comment

  1. Carol · 11 Days Ago

    Looks like the ant hill effect


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