Rethinking Google Circles with Mastodon

Like a lot of people, I have been trying to figure out my Twitter/off-Twitter strategy lately with the uncertainty around both the technical and the philosophical future of the product. And like a lot of people, I have been using Mastodon a lot more lately (though I did create my Mastodon account in 2022 before it was cool 😁).

Compared to Twitter, Mastodon is a harder experience to get into, but tbh, so was Twitter during its early days (I still remember the “Why would I tweet” conversations from back in the day). One of the biggest issues is that there doesn’t seem to be a great answer to “which instance should I join”. It kinda comes down to the community you want to belong to, but most of us belong to various communities.

Thinking about this a bit yesterday, I was reminded of Google+’s Circles idea (which I actually loved). The ability to publish your content to selective communities based on a tag or a drop-down list and then only subscribe to others’ content that I am interested to seems like a good idea.

I mocked up a couple of screens on how this could appear. The way I imagine is that there is a “root” account where all your posts are published and people can follow you right there to get every update (pretty much like how things work today). Additionally, though, you could publish to certain other communities based on a tag in your post. Users only interested in following your topic-specific updates could just follow you there.

The image on the left is a “follow” widget that lets others either follow every update from me. The image on the right is the post/toot widget which allows you to either post an update without a tag or with a specific tag.

Mastodon circles concept

If it sparks an idea among the Mastodon developers or community managers, that would be worth the 30 mins I spent on it. I do have a few other ideas I’ll share soon as well, but in the meanwhile, you can follow me on Mastodon here

Author: Arpit Mathur

Arpit Mathur is a Principal Engineer at Comcast Labs where he is currently working on a variety of topics including Machine Learning, Affective Computing, and Blockchain applications. Arpit has also worked extensively on Android and iOS applications, Virtual Reality apps as well as with web technologies like JavaScript, HTML and Ruby on Rails. He also spent a couple of years in the User Experience team as a Creative Technologist.

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