I have long been a fan of slow news.
This is a fairly consistent rule: The lower the update frequency, the higher the information quality. You get to know what is about to happen, why, and who is involved.
The higher the frequency, the more flicker. This just happen. And now this just happened. And another thing. Unending, and devoid of context.
This traps you in a moving vehicle where all you can see is through the rear window.
What applies to news, also largely applies to social media. Of course often we do want and need immediacy. Brainstorming might not work as well if you had to wait a day for each participant to respond (or wouldn’t it?).
One trick for heated discussions is a cooling-off period. A thread is closed for a day, or people can only post once a day. There is a risk the discussion will die, but at least the participants won’t kill each other.
You can even formalise this more, in the style of an academic or parliamentarian debate. Here the rules can be very strict both on how, when and how long each participant can participate, like in an Oxford Union-style debate.
Friction is your friend, and may let you keep them
A formal debate may not be your thing, or that of most people for that matter. However, it has a few advantages. Everyone have to clarify what they mean, in fewer words, and they discuss the topic, not each other. Done right, everyone will have a say, and nobody can hog the debate. It can be a lot of work, and it might be boring.
It is also an example of friction. Friction is a lot of things, but here primarily what slows you down. The faster you go, the more friction you will encounter. The opposite of friction is going viral. By reducing friction to a minimum, some content can create a positive feedback loop that will infect myriads of others before it slides to a halt.
If you have a message you want to deliver, friction may be the last thing you want, but it might still work for you in the long run.
I have described the Mastodon communities, as I have seen them this far, as “nice neighbourhoods”. And they are that. Participants are nice, sometimes emphatically so, there are rules, and people behave according to them.
But another thing Mastodon has going for its “niceness” is friction. Some intentionally, you can’t search for that or those that upset you directly. Sometimes unintentionally, the current growth spurt has led to massive lags.
Commercial social media have instead gone for engagement. The more engagement, the longer people stay, the more money they make. Friction works against engagement. On the other hand it also works against trolling and feuding.
This is an opportunity. What if we maximised friction (within reason)? Mastodon is a “microblogging” service (though with a character limit of 500, four times original Twitter 140, it might be edging into “miniblogging” instead). The attraction of microblogging is its immediacy, but does it have to be?
Slow bridges to cross
Here I need some help: I am still novice to the underlying protocols and Mastodon software, but assuming there is no spec violation anywhere, and that Mastodon supports it, would it be possible to have an instance that does not block other instances, just slow them way down? I am thinking something like 12 hours or next day delivery.
Could such an instance happily coexist with more hurried instances around? And if you publish on this platform, is it possible to make you wait 12 hours as well?