UPDATED: Twitter, Mastodon, and Ned Segal’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

PLEASE NOTE: You can find all my previous blogposts about Twitter and Mastodon here (including, of course, this one; just scroll down for the rest).

Over the past six months, I have become enamoured with Mastoson (picture by doodlebrink)

It is a grey, sullen Thursday afternoon up here in Winnipeg, and I am taking a sick day from work, feeling both literally and figuratively under the weather. I slept in till the crack of noon, dragged my raggedy ass out of bed, and my only plans for today (other than pounding out this somewhat cranky editorial while coughing up a lung) are to go to the pharmacy. So be it.

I have other blogposts that are simmering away on the back burner (go ahead, call the Metaphor Police, I dare you), but today I wanted to write about the big news in the world of social media, which is, of course, Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. (Standard disclaimer: Auntie Ryan has OPINIONS, and is not afraid to share them!)

Six months ago, when Elon first announced that he was buying the popular microblogging platform Twitter, I decided to set up a couple of accounts on Mastodon, a federated microblogging platform, to get a feel for the place and to set up a Plan B in case I needed to flee Twitter.

Some Mastodon statistics at the six-month mark: I have made just over 1,000 posts, and I am following a little over 700 people, of whom 343 are following me back (many added within the past week). If you follow me, I will follow you back, unless you have a blank profile (i.e., no icon, no banner, no profile, no posts, no comments).

My Mastodon profile

As for Twitter, I have now unfollowed all but 25 people, plus I am following about 125 people using the highly-recommended website and app Feedbin (which I wrote about previously here). I have installed a plug-in for my WordPress blog to automatically post any new blogposts to my Mastodon account, and I am also using Renato Lond Cerqueira’s Mastodon-Twitter crossposter website to automatically crosspost any public posts (or “toots”, as they tend to call them in Mastodon) to my Twitter account. I find that between Feedbin and these two other crossposters, I have no need to actually go onto Twitter, and be subject to its algorithmic whims, trending hashtags, and advertising!

If you’ve been following the news media or social media at all this week, you will already be well aware of how things have changed (for the worse) over at Twitter since Elon trudged onsite, ridiculously lugging a kitchen sink, with a team of Tesla engineers in tow: the firings and resignations of most of the executive team; reports of workers being forced to work 12-hour days, 7 days a week, at the risk of losing their jobs if they do not meet artificially-imposed deadlines; major advertising firms advising their clients to pause advertising as Elon himself retweets QAnon conspiracy theories in response to Hillary Clinton, and bargains with Stephen King about the cost of a blue check mark (Twitter’s user profile verification symbol):

I could go on and on, but you get the idea: Elon is sowing chaos, and with recent reports that he is planning to fire half of Twitter’s workforce, the microblogging platform seems to be turning into a very different, and very worrying, place.

As I said, I was part of the wave of Twitter immigrants who came over to Mastodon six months ago, which led to a bunch of new users. The events of the past week have led to almost 200,000 new Mastodon accounts being set up October 27th, 2022, an influx that temporarily bogged down many Mastodon servers (called “instances”), and forced instance admins to scramble to add new servers and tighten up the code which runs the Mastodon service. Despite these pressures, I have found that the service works well, a testament to its distributed, federated nature.

I think I’m moving rapidly from bargaining to depression in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief, about the impending demise of Twitter (or at least, the Twitter I knew and loved). And I am still trying to decide what to do about my stub account over at Twitter, although I am now leaning towards deactivating my account and deleting it completely. The Washington Post has an excellent article outlining how to back up your Twitter data, delete your tweets, lock down your Twitter privacy and anti-harassment settings, and even deactivate and delete your Twitter account (if you hit a paywall, here’s an archived version). I will let you know what I decide, but do not be surprised if I leave Twitter completely by year’s end.

As for Twitter Spaces, Twitter’s version of the Clubhouse social audio app, I am now firmly of the opinion that social audio as a whole is dead. When I first joined Clubhouse in February, 2021, it was at the height of the hype cycle, with people desperately trying to obtain an invitation to join. Now, the few times I do go onto Clubhouse, it’s crickets. And, by and large, I have found the same with Twitter Spaces. Most social audio spaces seem to be about sports or crypto, and I’m not especially interested in either, so I will pass.

Ironically, it was as a result of a Twitter Space that I participated in that I became acquainted with Ned Segal, the Chief Financial Officer who was recently fired by Elon Musk (he still has his Twitter account up, and is still following me). I was sorry to see him go; in my chat with him, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and he posted an awesome chocolate chip cookie recipe to his Twitter, which I share below (in case he decides to shut down his Twitter account, which, after what happened to him, I wouldn’t blame him in the slightest for doing):


Ned Segal’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

(Note: sorry it’s not in metric; Ned’s an American! You’ll have to do the conversions yourself.)

Image taken from Ned’s tweet

In a large bowl, mix in 2 1/4 cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of baking soda

Beat in with handheld in order:

  • 1 cup of room-temperature butter (don’t melt it)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 room-temperature eggs
  • 3 cups of Nestlé’s Tollhouse semisweet chocolate chips (feel free to substitute if you’re boycotting Nestlé for being an evil company)

Put the bowl in the fridge to cool for a few hours.

Place heaping tablespoons of batter onto a baking tray, they should be tall, not flat or wide.

Bake for 9 minutes at 365°F. Every oven is different, so this is trial and error.

Remove from oven and sprinkle immediately with sea salt (I actually cheat, and add a bit of salt to the bowl before refrigeration).

Remove the cookies from the tray to cool (although they are also delicious warm, especially with a glass of cold milk to wash them down!).


I leave you with my initial thoughts and impressions of Mastodon, after having used it for six months. I have, by and large, found the difference between Twitter and Mastodon to be like night and day; I find I get much more engagement on my Mastodon posts, even though I have five times as many people following me on Twitter! (I also suspect that Twitter is probably downplaying or not displaying my posts about Mastodon, which might factor into this.)

I have found the people I interact with on Mastodon to be interesting, intelligent, lively, considerate, and (like me) opinionated. However, you will have to do a bit of work to get up to speed, like setting up a full profile with hashtags, posting an introduction post tagged , and actively searching for other people who share your interests to follow (again, using hashtags, or looking at who other people follow). I have made the conscious decision to boldly follow as many different kinds of people as possible, and I have found that when I favourite or boost somebody else’s Mastodon post, I inevitably go read their profile, and land up following them! I can always prune back later.

I have also set up my main Mastodon account so that it is “locked”, which means that other users have to make a request to follow me (I accept these requests 99% of the time, denying them only if they have zero information in their profile: no icon, no banner, no profile, no public posts, no public comments, zip, nada, bupkis). Like Twitter, the more people you follow on Mastodon, the livelier your feed! But keep in mind that there is no automatic recommendation algorithm like Twitter (some would see that as a good thing).

The two biggest issues you might face in getting started with Mastodon is picking an instance/server to join, and picking a mobile client (although you can certainly use the default Web page; it even has a TweetDeck-style interface if you like multiple columns, with your favourite hashtags in a separate column!). For example, while I do have an account on the https://scholar.social instance, just to be able to see the local feed on that server, I have my main account set up on the biggest and most popular Mastodon instance, https://mastodon.social.

I use an iPhone and an iPad, and I have been very happy with a Mastodon client called Toot! It is very intelligently designed, and it makes clever use of animations in particular (you can turn this off, of course). My favourite part of using the Toot! Mastodon client on my iPad is this cute animation when it takes more than a few seconds to post a toot (which has been happening a lot this week, while Mastodon accepts a surge of new users). You can even toss the spiralling notes around with your finger! (I know, I know, I’m easily amused.)

One of the features of the iOS Mastodon app Toot!, which I did not know about until very recently, is that you can follow the local and federated feeds for a Mastodon instance without having to set up an account on that instance (I’m doing that right now with https://fediscience.org). If you favourite or boost a toot on an instance you’re not on, up pops a menu of your existing profiles to select one. Very cool, and it’s a great way to keep track of what’s going on in the local feed of other Mastodon instances, and (of course) finding new people to follow!

However, one of the drawbacks of Toot! is that sometimes I miss requests from other people to follow me, which can be annoying. This is easily resolved by using an alternative Mastodon client (many of which are free or cheap), or the web interface. (And, of course, you can set up your Mastodon profile so that people can follow you without sending you a request.)

So, that’s it for today. As I wrote previously, I’m still percolating. This whole Twitter/Elon Musk situation has really made me think about my social media habits, and I can see that I still need to make some more adjustments.

I love Mastodon and the community I have found there, and I’m not going back to Twitter.

UPDATE Nov. 5th, 2022: Late Thursday evening, I decided to deactivate my Twitter account, which I did Friday evening. The final straw for me was Elon’s truly appalling letter which was shared on social media and via the news media, outlining how the staff layoffs were to take place:

I vividly remember the day when I went through something like this at my first job after graduating from library school, working for Geac, a now-long-closed library automation firm. In my case, in my department of six people, two people were called into the manager’s office, one by one, and fired. I was the third person to be called in, as the first two were cleaning out their desks. I was told that I could stay. After that, I left as soon as I could, and I swore I would only work in a unionized job (and I am).

Hence, my decision to delete most of my tweets, and deactivate my account (it will be deleted in 30 days, according to Twitter). Elon Musk can go fuck himself.

Editorial: Between Mastodon and Feedbin, I Now Have All the Tools I Need to Avoid Using Twitter While Following People’s Tweets

It’s time for a rethink on how I use Twitter (image source: PC Magazine)

As longtime readers of my blog know full well, I have already severed all ties to Meta hardware and software, even going so far as to vote with my wallet and replace my trusty Oculus Rift PCVR headset at home with a Valve Index. (My final link to Meta was cut in August 2022, when I replaced my work VR headset, a second Oculus Rift, with an HTC Vive Pro 2.) This means that I am not on any of Meta’s social media: no Facebook, no Instagram, no Whatsapp. I shut down my Facebook account a couple of years ago, asking the company to delete all the personal data it had collected on me. I am done.

So, when Elon Musk announced earlier this year that he was going to take over Twitter, I already had some experience in cutting social media platforms out of my life. I responded by setting up an account on Mastodon, which I talk about here, here, and here.

Mastodon is a federated, FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) microblogging app, quite similar to Twitter, but it is decentralized, and not subject to the capricious whims of billionaires! It’s free, but I choose to support it financially through Patreon. If you are curious and you want to kick the tires yourself on Mastodon, start here. You can also watch this two-minute YouTube introduction video:

I unfollowed 90% of the people I was following on Twitter, sending messages to most of them that I was moving to Mastodon, and inviting them to join me. Of course, most didn’t. I get it; change is hard.

So, while I was now posting to my Twitter feed automatically via my blog and via my new Mastodon account, I still found myself having to sign in to Twitter to follow certain people. I grew weary of dealing with Twitter’s algorithmic feed, with its pernicious advertising, and its suggested posts and topics, and its trending hashtags (usually an echo chamber for whatever the latest outrage happens to be). I looked for a solution.

I found it via the recommendation of someone I follow on Mastodon, named Per Axbom. who had posted a link to a blogpost he had written, titled Why I left algorithm-based social media and what happened next. I read about the process Per took to free himself from algorithmically-driven social media and take control over his own newsfeed, and one of the tools he talked about was Feedbin.

Feedbin is a newsreader with a website and associated mobile apps (to set up an account costs US$5 per month or US$50 per year), but it’s more than just that! In addition to following RSS newsfeeds, you can also use it to follow people on Twitter, as well as your favourite YouTube channels. In addition, it gives you a special email address to be used in subscribing to your newsletters, so that they feed into Feedbin, too. You can also use it to follow podcasts. I’ve been using it for a month, and it’s great!

Here are some of the features:

Twitter: Stop mindlessly scrolling through tweets. Feedbin fully unpacks media-rich tweets. If a tweet links to an article, Feedbin will attempt to load the full article and display it alongside the tweet.

YouTube: Follow your favorite creators, with channels and playlists. There’s no algorithm or confusion about what you have already watched, just the videos from your favorite creators in chronological order.

Newsletters: Get newsletters out of your inbox and into Feedbin. Every pro account gets a unique email address to subscribe to and follow newsletters.

Updated Articles: Articles are updated whenever the original changes, so you don’t miss any important changes. You can even see the differences to know what changed.

Full Text: Feedbin can extract the full content of an article for feeds that only offer partial-content. This way you can keep reading without leaving.

Search: Feedbin supports a powerful and expressive search syntax to find exactly what you’re looking for. Save frequent searches to always have the results a click away.

So now I only post to my Twitter account via Mastodon, and I only read tweets from people I follow via Feedbin. This means that I spend next to zero time actually on Twitter—no advertising, no trending hashtags, no outrage machine! My Twitter feed on Feedbin also pulls up any items retweeted by people I follow, and in many cases, any linked articles in the tweets will have their full text loaded, saving me a click. It’s not the same as quitting Twitter entirely, but until more people come to their senses (and when/if Elon Musk drives Twitter into the ground), it’s a fair compromise.

As for YouTube, I can finally browse through only the channels I follow, without YouTube’s irritating suggestions for what it thinks I want to watch next. (And suggestions of music mixes based on my YouTube Music listening habits.) And no advertising unless, of course, the videomaker has a sponsorship in the video! I may never visit the YouTube website, or use the YouTube mobile apps, again. I should have done this years ago, folks.

Feedbin is the greatest thing since sliced bread, in my opinion, and well worth the subscription in alleviating the aggravation of having to deal with Twitter and YouTube algorithms! And, if Elon Musk goes through with his plans to lay off 75% of Twitter’s staff and the platform becomes overrun with toxic content and spam, I already have one foot firmly planted in Mastodon, and between it and Feedbin, I barely have to interact with Twitter at all, aside from keeping my account there.

If Elon Musk buying Twitter doesn’t sit right with you, there are tools and alternatives!

A Few More Thoughts on My Move from Twitter to Mastodon

HOUSEKEEPING NOTICE: My proposal (and budget!) for a virtual reality lab for my university library system is almost done, and soon I will be able to get back to blogging “news and views on social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse”, as the tagline of the RyanSchultz.com blog states. Thank you for your patience!

It’s been almost one month since I first decided to jump ship from Twitter after Elon Musk announced that he was buying the microblogging platform, and it seems like a good time to share with my readers my thoughts about the move.

In only 3-1/2 weeks, I have 150 followers on Mastodon, and I am already following 300 people!

The culture and ethos between Twitter and Mastodon are completely different, like night and day. There is a blessed absence of advertising and “influencers”, people are politer, there is a relative lack of trolls, and the lack of a quote feature means that people tend to talk to each other, instead of about each other. Partly, these differences are because Mastodon has a much, much smaller network of users than mighty Twitter. (Some stats: Mastodon has about 4.4 million users, while Twitter boasts over 396 million users.)

One thing I quite like in Mastodon is the ability to put a content warning (CW for short) on a post, so that the person reading it has to read the content warning and decide whether or not to click through to read and/or see the actual content. Here’s an example of a recent post I made with a content warning:

One person whom I am following on Mastodon, Rachel Sharp, wittily summed up the difference between Twitter and Mastodon as follows:

Tonight I spent a little time scrolling both Mastodon and Twitter, and I gotta say, the tone difference is just STAGGERING…

Mastodon: I put a content warning on my dinner in case anyone doesn’t feel like looking at food right now.

Twitter: THE WORLD IS BURNING AND SO TOO SHOULD EVERYONE ON THIS HELLBIRD SITE, AAAAAH!!!

After kicking the tires on a number of iOS apps, I have settled on a paid one, called Toot!, which I quite like (I tend to use it on my iPad while I am relaxing on the sofa in the evenings, before I go to bed). In addition to my main account on the mastodon.social instance, I also have an account on the scholar.social academic-themed instance (an “instance” is the term for a Mastodon server). I have discovered, much to my dismay, that for some reason, my employer blocks the former site, but not the latter. I also can use Toot! to monitor the local/community timeline on scholar.social, choosing to follow people from my main account on mastodon.social.

One of the things that I really like about Mastodon is that it is possible—and, in some cases, even encouraged!—to switch instances. For example, I could decide that I prefer the local, more focused community over on scholar.social, and move my main account over there. While your “toots” (what Mastodon calls tweets) do not follow you over to your new instance, the social network of people you follow can be carried over! So you’re not starting off from scratch every time you move, like you do on Twitter. I quite like the flexibility this offers!

All is not perfect, however. One thing I do miss is the ability to following certain Twitter accounts that are essentially feeds of tech news (e.g. Ars Technica). While Ars Technica does offer many RSS feeds, it looks as though I will have to learn a bit of Unix (or pony up for a premium IFTTT account) in order to set up a bot to automatically post Ars Technica news items, which I can then follow on Mastodon. (The good news is, that once I set this up, anybody can then follow it! Or, I could just bug Ars Technica to set up a Mastodon feed…) I am already keeping abreast of news sources like WIRED, the Guardian, and The New York Times via Mastodon, using bots that either the publications themselves or other users have set up.

And, let’s face it, every change does take a bit of adjustment. I have discovered that, while I have severely curtailed the amount of time I now spend on Twitter, I now find myself checking my Mastodon timeline several times a day! I seem to be just as addicted to the dopamine rush of getting my toots favourited, boosted (i.e. retooted), and commented on! I’m just glad that I am conscious of this, which is, of course, the first step towards addressing the problem of how I use social media in general.

I have retained my Twitter account, to (automatically) cross-post new items posted to the RyanSchultz.com blog, as well as any public toots I make over on Mastodon. And, of course, I will still use Twitter Spaces social audio, as it seems to be taking market share away from the Clubhouse app, which appears to be slowly circling the drain as it bleeds users, even as it adds new features. So, you might still find me on Twitter from time to time, even as I try to wean myself off reliance on the service.

This picture still makes me laugh whenever I see it!

If you are intrigued by Mastodon and want to try it out for yourself, please go to joinmastodon.org, pick an instance/server, and create an account. It’s easy and free, and then you can follow me at @ryanschultz@mastodon.social—follow me and I’ll follow you back! Please note: If you follow me from an account with zero information (no icon, no banner, no profile, no posts, no comments), I will most likely block you instead of following you back.

I Have Moved from Twitter to Mastodon

Image courtesy of Stux and 0xd9a on Mastodon: used with permission

Reacting to the unexpected announcement last week about Elon Musk buying Twitter, I have been working on a near-seamless transition away from Twitter to Mastodon, an open-source, federated system of microblogging servers. Just as any Twitter user can follow, mute, and block any other Twitter user, any Mastodon user can follow, mute, and block any other user on any other Mastodon server (called an instance). Here’s a handy seven-minus YouTube video which explains Mastodon and this federated system, called a “fediverse” (please note this video is three years old, so the stats given are out of date):

I have unfollowed hundreds of people on Twitter, sending out messages explaining what I was doing, and I was met with positive responses overall. And I was surprised and delighted that 20-30 people have actually followed me over to Mastodon, setting up new accounts! (If you’re interested in joining us on this adventure, please go to joinmastodon.org, pick an instance to create an account on, and follow me at @ryanschultz@mastodon.social. I will follow you back!)

In only one week, my new profile on the Mastodon instance mastodon.social has gained 50 followers!

I’m not leaving Twitter entirely; I know that many of my over 1,500 Twitter followers will not make the switch. Therefore, I will be (automatically) cross-posting new posts to my blog (like this one!), and I have set up a system where public “toots” (what Mastodon calls tweets) will also automatically be cross-posted to my Twitter account. I just tested it out this evening, and it works like a charm!

So, over the next few months, I will be spending less and less time on Twitter, and more and more time on Mastodon. Mastodon is actually part of a whole suite of interconnected, open-source federated software programs; for more info, please go to https://fediverse.info.

One thing I already love about Mastodon is NO ADVERTISING! Most Mastodon instance owners have a Patreon or Ko-Fi page where you can provide one-time or monthly financial support if you use and like the service. Another thing I like is the community! There are some really interesting people doing some wonderful things on Mastodon, and already I am following my first hundred people!

I have feeling that many other people will also be exploring their options, now that Twitter is owned by a rather capricious billionaire!

Every time I see this picture, it makes me laugh