Mastodon is a new(ish), decentralized Twitter-like social network that’s grown quite a bit in the last few months. Mastodon allows individuals to host their own “instances” (i.e. run a full suite of the software on a private server in order to distribute the network), which connect to the larger universe of open-source social networks. This means that, unlike Twitter and Facebook and pretty much every major social networking platform, there’s no one person in control of Mastodon (though the largest instance is run by Mastodon’s creator). Accounts from any Mastodon instance can follow any account from any public instance.
So what, there’s another social network we have to check now?
This is Southern Fried Science. We like to push forward into new digital ecosystems and create places for marine science and conservation. In that spirit, I’ve created oceansocial.us, a Mastodon instance specifically for marine professionals working in science, education, conservation, policy, and management. Craig McClain’s latest science communication paper, Practices and promises of Facebook for science outreach: Becoming a “Nerd of Trust”., I want to see if there’s value in having an instance that makes it easy to find experts talking about the ocean. For the moment, anyone with an oceansocial.us Mastodon handle is immediately identifiable on the network, making is easier for journalist and the public to find ocean experts.
This, of course, is contingent on Mastodon actually taking off. It could still totally crash and burn and be dead as Google+ in 3 months. Mastodon is still growing, and my experience watching new social networks form (and often fail) is that’s there’s a tremendous first-mover advantage in getting something new and novel running right out the gate.
What counts as a “marine professional”?
Anyone who works, broadly, in a marine related field qualifies as a marine professional. This includes, but is not limited to, ROV technicians, artists who feature ocean artwork, science writers who write about the ocean, professors in marine science disciplines, consultants in ocean of marine fields, practitioners and managers, commercial fishers, and conservationists affiliated with NGOs. Professionals working in freshwater or coastal terrestrial ecosystems are welcome, too.
Can oceansocial.us users only talk about ocean stuff?
Of course! We want to build a community of marine professionals, but people contain multitudes and no topic is off limits.
Will this instance ever be open to non-professionals interested in the ocean?
The ultimate plan is to create a resource for everyone interested int the ocean. To accomplish that, we must first create a critical mass of engaged expert users. At some point in the near future this instance will be opened for anyone to join.
In order to make this work, we need a critical mass of users. If you are a marine professional and want to help grow this little experiment, please head over to https://oceansocial.us/about and follow the instructions for creating an account. If you already have an account on another instance, you will have to create a new one at oceansocial.us to enter the instance. Since our instance is still quiet, I also recommend creating an account at the largest instance, mastodon.social to get a better feel for how the network works when there are more users.
And, of course, send me a toot! once you create your account so I can follow you (Yes, Mastodon tweets are called Toots, because the internet is sometimes a silly place). I’m @DrAndrewThaler@oceansocial.us . Because of the way registration is handled in Mastodon right now, there will be a lag in creating your account, so keep an eye out for an email from me this weekend.
If you’d like to help support oceansocial.us and help cover administration and server hosting fees, please consider making a small monthly contribution to Andrew’s Patreon campaign: Andrew Thaler is creating tools for ocean science and conservation.