The lack of an account migration idiom on Mastodon really is fatal, it is sincerely a thing that keeps me from recommending Mastodon to people. The http://witches.town evaporation to me was kind of like a disproof of the fediverse and I feel like maybe the fediverse dev community should have treated it as such. There needs to be a way to recover your account, "toots", and follower network if one instance goes away.
If an instance goes away, or you decide you like another instance's UX/features more— well, you can repost stuff, you can shrug off content that's lost, you can let your friends know, ~oh, did you hear? I'm on fuckspace.industries now~. You can do these things *IF* Mastodon is a fun little side thing where we do our low-pressure social networking. This is not feasible or adequate if Mastodon is actually meant to be a *replacement* for Twitter.
A few people have let me know instances now have features for backing-up and importing old toots and follows— okay, if that's automatable, that's a fix for half the problem, cool! But there needs to be some idiom for pushing to your ex-followers "@mcc is now @email@example.com", and have instances know they need to either correct the follow or present a "refollow?" popup.
(And unfortunately, there probably needs to be a way of taking that back, because this is a security attack surface the size of Alaska.)
@mcc There IS technically a way to backup your instance data beforehand, but if the instance goes down then :man_shrugging: that's just one of the fundamental struggles of a platform like this.
@Senil888 that's not gonna help with follow networks though, is it?
i mean, as an engineer, i don't really take "you can't do that" as a real concept. if the parameters of the problem make a thing you need impossible then you need to either think harder and make *sure* it's impossible or you need to change the parameters of the problem
@mcc You can't guarantee that your followers will follow you to the next instance either way - what if that instance doesn't grant them the same topic breadth that they want to experience? It's a fundamental flaw of any decentralized network like Mastodon because of the structure. Mastodon isn't a Twitter replacement - it's a different entity that just so happens to function very similarly to Twitter in some aspects.
@mcc Oh, I even did some more digging. You can backup your individual following list as part of the data archive, saved as a .csv file. This isn't a perfect solution, but if an instance is known to be closing down in some timeframe it allows people to backup that follow data and refollow on another instance.
Not the "perfect follow network fix" because it relies on users backing that file up and importing it, but that's decentralization for you.
@Senil888 "what if that instance doesn't grant them the same topic breadth that they want to experience"
Eh? How would one of your follows moving to a different instance affect the "topic breadth" you experience?
@mcc oh look a way to backup your data and you can even do it weekly so you won't miss out on too much AND you should be able to import that backup anywhere running Mastodon.
@Senil888 okay, but follower networks?
@Senil888 that's cool tho
@mcc @Senil888 I think the current problem is there probably shouldn't be a way to force people to follow a new account. I'm sure it's technically possible to be able to export and import a list of followers to a new account, but is it ethical? What sort of security could prevent that file from being shared and used by accounts that the people on it never originally followed? Is it ok to force another person's account to do something?
@adamk678 @mcc This is exactly why that file can't be backed up. What use would it have anyways? So you can keep tabs on those users? Kinda off to be frank, and it presents its own host of issues that are difficult to really resolve in a structure like Mastodon. The best one can do is backup the list of who you follow and import on new instances.
@Senil888 @mcc There is already account backups and redirection. If you go to my old profile @adamk678, you will be redirected to my current account.
Plus, at the end of the day I think the fediverse SHOULDN'T be considered a replacement for Twitter. It is an alternative with similar features but an entirely different set of goals. I think Mastodon should always be a low-pressure, fun thing. Why would you want it to become the thing that people are trying to get away from?
@adamk678 ok but i want/need a replacement for twitter or at least Twitter 2013 so if Mastodon can't be that thing then I want to start exploring technologies which can
@mcc hell yeah. It seems like a difficult but doable thing too, I really hope it gets done.
@lain @mcc supporting 301 redirection has worked for sites, blogs and feeds, and could work for mastodon. Yes, the key signing business makes it more of a faff, but supporting 301 is a solid basis and the web, feeds and Websub all support it already. https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon/issues/8465
@mcc fuckspace.industries is a really good domain
@catleeball it's available to register!
@mcc I wish it was just completely automated. Yes, there's a way to export a few things (including who WE follow) and move to another instance.
But I wish there was some kind of authorization handshake + handoff where it just automatically updates all our followers.
Just like if we ever change our username on an instance, they still follow us. I don't want followers to have to manually do anything.
the reverse is kinda tricky b/c you can't ensure all of those following accounts are still around. I had a little chat with @thegibson about this just now https://hackers.town/@thegibson/101190431070128309
@mcc Someone wrote a tool that will DM people on your exported follower list to tell them you’ve moved but it’s considered a bit obnoxious because it can flood your notifications if a lot of people are migrating at the same time.
@mcc see https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon/issues/8465 and the notes on setting up mutual rel=me first here https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon/issues/177#issuecomment-291688638
(the rel-me support is in now, which makes this clearer)
@mcc if part of the problem here is "oops my instance suffered catastrophic existence failure", then I don't think account migration is enough? it's not like you can migrate from an instance that doesn't exist anymore.
maybe a solution that involves linking accounts on multiple instances to a single identity? all your posts go to all linked accounts, people can follow any one of them, all your connections aggregate back to one "main" identity? something like that
@jbradfield So imagine there's some way of registering a public key that you later cash in on to say "that site? that was me. this is me now". Or a centralized site that tracks "A moved to B". There's no really *good* options but there's 100% options.
@mcc why is fuckspace.industries not a thing yet?
@meena apparently i am not as widely hated as rudy giuliani. do i need to work on that
@mcc a life's measure can be friends and enemies, indeed.
but you decide which ones you want have more of
@mcc there is an automated way to send a DM to all of your followers letting them know to follow your new account, and there's a way to mark accounts as redirecting to a new one. it's still not a complete solution but we're a lot closer to there than we were last time you checked, i think
@lavender that's pretty cool, it would be nice if the instances could automatically interpret the DM and do [[something]] with it.
@mcc there's not really anything stopping instances from doing that, but i wouldn't actually want to be automatically signed up to follow someone without manual intervention
@lavender sure, but it doesn't seem hard to make that a feature you can turn on and off?
@mcc security 'attack surface the size of Alaska' applies to just about everything in mastodon
@mcc you can export and import who you follow
@ChrisTalleras should be some way to do the reverse tho. an automatic forward pointer for your followers
@mcc you can also put your account to like moved and it will redirect to your new account.
If you want to have a backup of who you follow you can save the export on your computer.
But backing up who follow you seems difficult to me. Maybe if there were like a system where people can agree to be able to do it.
@Gargron what are your thoughts?
@mcc @Are0h Gargron has more incentive to grow his instance and centralize mastodon around it. https://mastodon.starrevolution.org/media/REpDugsQGSd-IA25ex8
@mcc also many of the proposed solutions depend on backing up and restoring, while a cool robust thing would be replication without visible duplication, so I could have my toots and relationships on mastodon.social AND toots.passcod.name or whatnot and if one goes down the other is still there.
@passcod that sounds hard.
backing up and restoring is hard but i feel like the solution to THAT is to just make an automated tool / standalone separate site. mastodonglacier.social
@mcc It sounds hard to start with (lots of work at protocols levels) but the experience would probably be better? in the long term, and at scale
@mattbk nnno, specifically not. (privacy should not be opt-in!). I mean, you could do something like that, but that's not what I'm talking about.
@passcod I meant you would opt in to such a decentralized automatic backup.
followers aren't yours such that you can redirect their attention at will. I mean, maybe functionally it's *possible* but it has a similar ethical valence as subscribing someone else to an email list.
it's a mutual albeit asymmetric relationship initiated by the follower, made in the context of a specific instance. to move that relationship to a new instance imposes a new context.
@deejoe You can automate notification of a move, and you can give people the option to automate responding to such notifications by automatically refollowing.
Mastodon apparently has the ability to mass-DM people now. One solution would just be a slightly glossier UX over that feature that acknowledges this isn't a DM, it's a system message, like a follow request.
That UX smoothing would at least be follower-facing. So often so much of this discussion puts things in terms of the person moving between instances.
Even more, the whole discussion seems borne of the centralized, siloed, unified-identity world many of us are trying to avoid, leave behind, or at least complement. A world where things are smoothed in the same way a cattle trough is smoothed--so nothing impedes the way except to hide the view of the killing floor.
@mcc maybe there could be a program developed that, after downloaded and you've fed in your account details, automatically pulls, signs, and encrypts your data at custom-set intervals for storage on your own drive.
at the same time, instances could incorporate an account import section that takes that data, authenticates the signature, and on confirmation, reconstructs the account on their instance.
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