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.

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.


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—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.

UPDATED WITH AUDIO LINKS! Philip Rosedale: Second Life Stories, and Designing the Metaverse—Some Notes from a Wide-Ranging Conversation Multicast on Twitter Spaces, Clubhouse, Callin and Second Life

Today at 11:00 a.m. CST, Philip Rosedale (the founder and former CEO of Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life, and the current CEO of High Fidelity) hosted a discussion titled Second Life Stories, and Designing the Metaverse, where people had an opportunity to ask him questions. Dr. Fran Babcock and Dr. Hayman Buwaneswaran Buwan from the MetaWhat? The Metaverse Show were key organizers. Philip is always an engaged, articulate, and informed speaker, and if you missed this event, I will update this blogpost with links to an archived version which you can listen to via Twitter Spaces, Clubhouse, and Callin. UPDATE 7:14 p.m.: Links are at the end of this blogpost.

Philip was on Twitter Spaces, with well over 100 listeners in the room, but the conversation was also extended to the social audio apps Clubhouse and Callin, plus there was a virtual auditorium set up in Second Life, with almost 50 avatars present! Participants in all four spaces could both hear and ask questions. To my knowledge, this is the first time something like this set-up had been attempted.

Philip shared a couple of “first stories” from his experience with Second Life, real stories from the early years of the company, both pre- and post-launch in 2003, e.g. Steller Sunshine’s beanstalk. He talked about how it was a challenge to provide backwards-compatibility, and how this affected the design of SL over time (for example, changing the friction elements would affect how people could climb the beanstalk). He talked about how he was able to drop a virtual pebble into the virtual water to create ripples (something which was later taken out because it was so computationally expensive!).

When asked why Second Life did not create mobile apps, Philip says that SL, when launched in 2003, predated mobile devices like the iPhone (introduced in 2007) and apps like Facebook (launched in 2004). While Philip is an advisor to Linden Lab, he is not a member of the executive team running the company day-to-day. He says that running SL on a mobile app is a “hard problem” to solve (I agree).

I asked Philip about his opinions regarding Meta’s surveillance system to enforce good behaviour, which includes constantly recording what happens in Horizon Worlds in case someone wants to send an abuse report to the moderators to act upon. Philip talked about his misgivings about AI-based surveillance and targeting systems in the metaverse, and how they could be used to gather information about us in new and disturbing ways, such as using how we are feeling to decide what ads to show us.

Philip has grave concerns about a business model of metaverse designed around advertising and surveillance. Talking about moderation, Philip wants the metaverse to be designed largely driven by the actions of the (human) people who are there, rather than implementing an automated behavioural surveillance and reporting system.

In answering a follow-up question, Philip said he felt that it it is indeed possible to have a metaverse with consequences for trolls and griefers, while still building strong social connections between people, citing as an example banning a person from a public place such as a restaurant where they were misbehaving.

Philip mentioned, in an interview he gave to a media outlet earlier today, that Second Life still has a higher revenue per person per year than YouTube does, with most of that income coming from fees: fees on sales and fees for virtual land (tier). He feels that a business based on fees (as opposed to surveillance advertising) is most definitely scalable, citing the approximately one million users in Second Life.

Philip talked about how presence can change communication dynamics, such as how how walking up to another avatar, and being physically near another avatar, triggers a response where people tended to be more civil than they might be in a text-only environment like a chatroom, and how quickly such presence could help defuse potentially negative communications.

Among the speakers present were Avi Bar-Zeev, the person who created SL’s primitive system, the digital atoms used for building anything and everything in the early days of Second Life! In fact, many content creators in the metaverse got their start by prim-building in SL. (One SL historian remarked that today was the 20th anniversary of the first-ever created prim in Second Life, made on January 25th, 2002.) Philip talked about how Second Life’s prim permission system could be seen as a forerunner of newer digital asset systems being considered for the metaverse.

Avi also talked about the necessity to design the metaverse to be human spaces, a place to rehumanize rather than dehumanize those who participate.

Philip talked about how VR headsets are still not affordable and accessible enough (i.e. uncomfortable if you have to wear them all day), to be able to have the kind of social community that we experience in virtual worlds like Second Life. He said (and I was transcribing madly while he spoke, so this is a paraphrase!):

It’s difficult to get people to communicate normally in a virtual world. It’s easy to forget that this is an experience that most people would not be comfortable with, yet. We’re not there yet, and the way we get there is to make avatars more visually expressive, which is a tough problem to solve.

—Philip Rosedale

Philip talked about spatialized audio products such as High Fidelity’s 3D audio as an aid to community-building, but adds that we still need to work on nonverbal communications (the listener leaning in to the speaker to indicate engagement, etc.).

There was a lot more discussed, including Philip Rosedale’s thoughts about virtual economies and NFT real estate, which unfortunately I did not have a chance to transcribe. Philip is always an articulate and informative speaker, so you will want to listen to the recording if you missed this event.

I will, however, provide a link to an archive of this wide-ranging and fascinating discussion on Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces, and Callin, once Dr. Hayman posts it! He is to be thanked for juggling everything in order to make this multicast such as success.

UPDATE 7:14 p.m.: Here, as promised, are links to the recordings made:

Twitter Spaces recording 1:43:44 (Dr. Hayman tells me, “this recording has less of the interruptions from Second Life, as I muted the mic when feedback and keyboard noises were present in SL”)

Callin recording 1:40:08

Enjoy! I know I will be relistening to portions of this.

Editorial: The Competition for Social Audio Is Getting Interesting

Twitter versus Clubhouse: who will win the battle for social audio?

I’ve written twice this week about Clubhouse (here and here), and I remain endlessly fascinated about social audio apps in general, and the two leading apps, Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse, in particular. It would appear that the competition between Twitter and Clubhouse is beginning to heat up, with Twitter working aggressively to add users and features while Clubhouse seems to be experiencing some growing pains. While Clubhouse has the early lead, Twitter is making slow but steady progress, particularly in support for Android users.

Late this afternoon, I listened to a Twitter Spaces room where the future of Twitter was discussed at length, and it is clear that the new push is towards attracting content creators and providing ways to effectively monetize the platform for them. Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour tweeted today about just how far Twitter Spaces has come in only four months:

Anyone of Twitter with more than 600 followers can now host their own Twitter Spaces room, which anybody on Twitter can listen to and join in, without any limit on how many people can be in the room (Clubhouse rooms are capped at 5,000 people). Also, Twtter Spaces supports both iOS and Android devices, although Clubhouse is expected to roll out Android support sometime in the next month.

Also, Clubhouse does not have a direct message ability, relying instead on people putting Instagram and Twitter links in their bios so that people can contact each other. Of course, Twitter already has direct messaging built into the platform (although celebrities and other people can choose to turn that feature off).

All this means is that social audio is still anybody’s game to win. While Twitter Spaces is lagging behind Clubhouse in terms of overall features, Twitter has something that Clubhouse does not: a much larger potential audience (192 million users). In other words, once Kayvon and his team work out some of the bugs and add more features, they could potentially have a hit on their hands. And Facebook, with 2.8 billion user accounts and deep pockets full of profits from advertising, has the potential to come in and steamroller over both Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces.

(By the way, the Twitter Spaces room I was in crashed abruptly…it would appear that there are still quite a few bugs to iron out!)

Stay tuned; things are about to get really interesting!