Mastodon was one the largest beneficiaries from Twitter’s ongoing meltdown. Since I began seriously using Mastodon late last year, it has won me over. Mastodon is the new home I use to shortform post. While Twitter is still useful for news monitoring and occasional sources, it’s not my primary source of information. Mastodon’s problem is that it can be very frustrating to find the things I love.
I don’t mean “discoverability” as in a tailored suggestion algorithm. Mastodon’s servers are scattered and obscure by design. On Twitter, I kept several columns open for search terms — some for serious topics, others for personal interests such as my favorite games. All of these could be a gateway to an exciting new area of the service. Mastodon explicitly prohibits plaintext search. Despite several attempts to create an opt-in system, hashtags are the only alternative.
Mastodon allows you to search hashtags and keep columns open for tracking them. You can also post topics like #politics and #music. People use tags such as #LawFedi for legal posts, #lawstodon to introduce people to the service, or #CatsOfMastodon to… well, you get the idea.
Unfortunately, I hate in-post hashtags.
Hashtags are a mess on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Mastodon. They can clutter up posts and consume valuable characters count. This is less problematic on Mastodon than Twitter’s shorter character limit. However, they are still very present. These hyperlinks can be clicked, making them appear more prominent and important than the text of the post. This is the exact opposite of what they were intended to do. And they can pose serious annoyances for accessibility tools like screen readers, both because they add a long list of extra words and because they can render as #longincomprehensibletextstrings (that’s “long, incomprehensible text strings”) if people forget to #CapitalizeEachWord.
#please #stop #making #me #do #this #in #posts
In-post hashtags are also thirsty. After 10 years of using Instagram and Twitter, I have come to associate them with spammers and #blessed #clout-chasing thinkfluencers. They #shoehorn that #pound #symbol in the #middleof #sentences to reach even more #eyeballs. Mastodon is a great example of this. You may have to add many variations on the same topic hashtag in order to avoid spammers.
Tumblr can be described as a mix of a social network, old-school blogging platform and a social network. Every post includes a section for category tags. These tags are usually displayed in a smaller font, but they are clearly visible and separated. A tag might include the name or fandom of a loose community, such as #writeblr. It could also be used to help people navigate your blog. Although Tumblr hashtags serve different purposes, they are more specific to the site’s culture and design. You can subscribe to tags to find people not already in your network. However, Tumblr’s interface recommends that you add tags. They feel less self-promotional, and are, in my opinion, far more popular than a Mastodon hashtagsearch. You can also put spaces between words.
This is a system that I would love to see at the very least considered for Mastodon. Fortunately, it’s not something I have suggested. recently submitted an official request for the Fedi.Tips account to seperate tags from posts. The request noted that Mastodon’s hashtag search system was pulling people in completely incompatible directions. “Mastodon should use a WordPress-style or Friendica style method to list tags apart from the content of the posts, with a separate limit for the tags.”
While I am sure there would be some downsides and unintended effects, the submissions’ responses show support for the idea. Others point out that separate hashtags have been implemented by other decentralized systems, such as Friendica, which is another part of decentralized fediverse. Some others point out that although it may have the most impact on screen readers users, it could also improve the user experience for everyone. It’s not possible to imagine search on Mastodon. However, I have a better shot at making the platform more user-friendly. I may feel less embarrassed about tagging photos of my cats.