If Twitter does collapse, it spells difficulties for those who get their news from the service. Our recent Tradfolk survey may be less than 48 hours old, but already the stats show us that Twitter plays a very big part in how people stay in touch with our corner of the folk scene. So far, 43% of respondents have said that the stricken social platform has a role in the way they find out about new folk artists, customs and traditions, and similar topics.
In the last few days, with news of the chaos and confusion pouring out of Twitter HQ, people have started looking at alternatives. A number of our social media followers have asked us if we might consider launching a folkie Mastodon server (Mastodon being one of several Twitter competitors that have grown in profile over the last month – slightly more complicated than the original, more about which below). The answer to that question is currently “no”, simply because we are a small team and we have too much going on already. However, we do recognise the desire to find somewhere new to share news and discussion, and that not everyone wants to while away their hours in Zuckerberg’s dominion.
The alternatives we’ve noted below are all based around the Tradfolk website, but you can obviously adapt them to suit your own purposes. Hopefully you’ll find it useful.
In this article, well be looking at…
Discord is what is known as a VoIP (Voice over Internet Platform) and an Instant Messaging Social Platform. Put more simply, it’s a service that allows you to communicate instantly with other users, either by text or by voice – your choice.
Essentially, it’s an online public forum where users can discuss whatever they like. The main difference is that each forum tends to have a specialist subject. For example, we recently created a Tradfolk Discord where people discuss things related to traditional folk music.
Basically, yes. For those old enough to remember them, Discord servers are a bit like the internet chatrooms of yore. You can join as many as you like, meaning that you can dip in and out of different subjects whenever you like. The servers are run by moderators who are there to keep things on track. The obvious benefit to all of this is that you can be involved in social media without being dragged by the more toxic elements that have soured the Twitter and Facebook experience.
Discord is an app. It can run on your phone, on your laptop (either as an app or via your browser) or on your tablet. In that sense, it’s no different to Twitter or Facebook. So, the first thing to do is to download the app, which you can do via the Discord website. Once you’ve created your account, you simply find Discord servers (chatrooms) to join.
Well, yes, as it happens, there is. We opened a Tradfolk Discord server a month or so ago. It currently has over 120 eager folkies chatting about gigs, ceilidhs, events, customs, folklore, festivals, new releases… all sorts. Basically, once you’ve joined, you’ll be dropped into a ‘general folk chat’ channel, after which you’re free to explore all of the other folkie topics listed down the lefthand side of your screen. So, create a user account and then join the conversation by clicking here.
Mastodon is, “free and open-source software for running self-hosted social networking services”. Put simply, it’s a way for people to create mini-social networks, providing they have the wherewithal to operate a server. If that sounds far too complicated, don’t worry – more techie minds than ours have done the hard work for you. In short, it’s the most Twitter-like of all the contenders, but there’s a bit of legwork to be done to get yourself set up.
Once you’re past the hurdles of creating an account, everything should seem pretty familiar. Retweets are called boosts, likes are called favourites, replies are called… er… replies. You can ‘at’ people in the same way you did on Twitter. In short, it’s only really the initial confusion of signing up that might put you off. Once you’re in, you’ll feel like an old hand.
Whereas Twitter was run as one big community, Mastodon is run across a bunch of different servers (again, think of them like chatrooms), each of which is ‘administered’ by whoever set the server up. In theory, these moderators can monitor the behaviour of the server members. However, unlike Discord, people can cross-post onto other servers, so you might find a large amount of conversation creep. As we’ve just said, once you’ve got past the initial confusion over choosing and joining a server, you’ll probably feel a certain amount of de ja vu.
OK. The first steps are the confusing bits. Keep at it and you’ll get there. Start by heading to the Mastodon site and creating an account. You’ll instantly be asked to select a server from the list the site shows you. As you’ll see, these tend to be broken down into areas of interest, so you’ll have to spend some time picking the one that you think suits you best. (If you want some help with that, a separate website called Instances can help you narrow down your options.) Once you’ve selected a server, it’s fairly self-explanatory and you should be set up within a few minutes. The service then runs on your browser or on a mobile phone app, just as Twitter does.
Your Mastodon username is made up of two parts. For example, my Mastodon username is @email@example.com. The first @ is my name and the second @ is the name of the server I’ve joined. Once you’re on Mastodon, however, your name will just display as the first @. Hope that makes sense!
We haven’t seen one yet, but these are early days. The English Folk Dance and Song Society have been putting out feelers to see if anyone would join if they launched one, so… watch that space. In the meantime, if you do join, you can find Tradfolk by clicking this link: @firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clubhouse is great, and has been used by digital folkies since the pandemic forced musicians online (Eliza Carthy runs an occasional discussion room, and Piers Cawley runs a weekly ballad singing room). But, no, it’s not like Twitter. It’s a VoIP (see the Discord discussion above) that feels like an online conference. Imagine it as Zoom without the video. Lots of people get together to discuss (using their voices, not through text) the things they’re passionate about. As such, it’s not always on (which is probably a good thing). The chatrooms are only open when the moderators want them to be.
So have we, but we don’t use any of them, so – our apologies – we can’t help you out there.
Well, quite. While the media would have you believe that Twitter is moribund, you’d be right to wonder why Elon Musk spent $44 billion just to close the thing down. It may be too soon to jump ship, and we’ll certainly be keeping our Tradfolk Twitter account open for the foreseeable. Similarly, you’ll find us on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube – none of which we believe to be going anywhere. But we do sympathise with anyone feeling new platform fatigue. How many of these social apps do we actually need? We reckon a spot of social dancing at your nearest ceilidh is your best bet.
I was one of those who suggested Mastodon on the survey (and I just followed Jon and Tradfolk there) but I hadn’t explored this Discord server when I did so. I think it is great actually. Too many choices can be as bad as none; splits your community. However, I’d love to see EFDSS on Mastodon.
Great article, but you didn’t really mention the lack of adverts and algorithm on mastodon, which is the main difference I think. This seems to be what makes it more social and less angry.