Tom Dickinson's Internet Thing, November 2022 Edition
Hello friends and neighbors!
Happy Belated American Thanksgiving, and a Happy Belated Doctor Who Day to those of you who celebrate that.
I for one am thankful that you've decided subscribe to this newsletter, because... hoo boy, connecting with other people on the Internet is starting to get more complicated.
Is the bird dead yet?
For over a decade, Twitter was the center of the Internet for me, and I met a lot of great friends through it. I do miss that, but nothing lasts forever, and just because it was important to me for a while doesn't mean it needed to stay in my life forever.
Now, as its current owner seems ever more determined to plunge the site into right-wing chaos, and with thousands of the employees who kept it running suddenly fired, laid off, or resigning, nobody really knows what the future of that site is. I'm now a few months past the process of weaning myself off Twitter and grieving for its place in my life, and for that I am glad. But I know a lot of people are still in the thick of that. I hope they manage to find the answers that work for them.
Personally, I find that all this "death of Twitter" panic validates my feeling that we should never have put all our eggs in that one basket to begin with. So the chaotic lack of consensus on "what can replace Twitter" is actually kind of pleasing to me. In my opinion, no one thing should!
If you and I have caught up recently, you probably know that I'm really into Mastodon, the decentralized social network that's currently being talked about as one of the primary alternatives for Twitter.
It's been a strange and exciting time on Mastodon these past few weeks, as its active userbase has ballooned from a few hundred thousand to a couple million. The rapid growth has exposed a few problems, but overall I've been having a lot of fun with it.
I could go on about Mastodon for thousands of words, and actually, I already have. I think my blog post "What is Mastodon? Why is Mastodon? How is Mastodon?" is a good resource for people who know nothing at all about Mastodon, or only know a little about it, and are curious to find out more.
As for the other Twitter alternatives out there, I'm not so sure they'll be for me. Some people are really into Cohost, a site built by a small team of developers with some very strong opinions about how social media companies could be run better. I like a lot of their thinking, but the site they've built, which is more like Tumblr than Twitter, isn't quite my style. Still, whenever I poke my head in to see what's going on there, it seems like cool stuff is happening and I'm definitely rooting for the project.
In the past week or so, Hive Social came out of nowhere as a major contender, getting lots of attention from some high profile users on other platforms. But personally I'm not feeling it. Like Cohost, it's also built by a small team, but unlike Cohost, it seems short on interesting ideas and long on venture capital. Plus, it has no web version, no content moderation team (yikes!) and asks you for access to your whole camera roll when you only want to share one image. None of this necessarily implies nefarious intent, but I don't think it's a great first impression.
With a venture-funded startup like this Hive, I really only see three ways things can go: it runs out of money and fails, it gets bought up by one of the bad guys, or it gets huge and becomes itself the bad guy. I think it's good for people to have more options, but it's hard for me to root for Hive at this point.
Ultimately, I hope none of these becomes the Twitter replacement. I don't want a single replacement, I want lots of replacements. And not just social platforms, but blogs! And newsletters! It's an old-fashioned pipe dream, I know, but I would love to go back to a version of the Internet where people had more ownership over their own online presences, and I like to think that with this newsletter, I'm doing some small part to be the change I want to see.
Doctor? Doctor Who?
How about that Doctor Who? Weird and exciting times in that fandom. We're almost a year out from the new run of specials next year, which, in case you have not been following the news, will feature David Tennant and Catherine Tate returning to the show for a run of three specials, ahead of the debut of the new Doctor, Ncuti Gatwa, all of which will be airing globally on, of all places, Disney+.
My enthusiasm for Doctor Who, and for participating in its fandom, has kind of been at an ebb for the past year or two. That's partly why my podcast Doctor Who: The Moment has been on hiatus for so long. There are other reasons for this, but my lack of interest in the show has definitely sapped my motivation to work on the podcast.
But suddenly, things are exciting again! David Tennant's appearance at the end of Jodie Whittaker's final episode was a thrill. And the big marketing push, with old favorite David and new favorite Ncuti, has buoyed my fannish hart. Which has gotten things moving again with the podcast. I really hope to have more info on the podcast soon, it's been too long!
In the mean time, here's a less ambitious Doctor Who project I've been working on: a series of blog posts unraveling the truth about Taylor Swift's songs and how they are secretly about Doctor Who. The first post is up now! Even though THE MAN conspires to hide Taylor's fandom from you all, I will show you the truth.
I dunno, not much else. Social Distance Warriors, the podcast I do with my friend Rat about the pandemic, is still happening, although I am still very backed up with editing episodes. Also, I've been posting videos from my playthrough of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 over on my NowWeAreAllGames gaming channel. I hope to have more there soon!
As ever, I have no idea who is reading this newsletter, so I like to encourage replies. This time I guess what I want to hear about is: what are you doing about the apparent decline and fall of Twitter? Sticking with it and going down with the ship? Migrating to another site? Taking this as an off-ramp to just stop being so damn online at all? Or watching at a distance because you didn't even use it anyway?
Please respond telling me! (If you're not reading this via email, send your missives to tom [at] nowwearealltom [dot] com). Also just let me know how you're doing. If you enjoyed receiving this newsletter then it only stands to reason that I would enjoy hearing from you as well.
I'll send the next dispatch in... let's say January or February. How does that sound?