Celebrating One Year of the Portlandish Mastodon Server


As of today, November 25th, 2023, Samantha and I are celebrating a full year of operating our Mastodon server, pdx.sh. In this time, we've grown to a community of 27 active users! This journey has been incredibly rewarding, as we've watched our local community flourish gradually, with minimal marketing or promotion. It's fulfilling to offer this little corner of the internet—a space free from sponsored posts and advertisements—where people can freely engage. We hope our volunteer efforts inspire others to contribute their time and resources towards making a positive impact in their own unique ways.

Looking back, our decision to start pdx.sh was partially a reaction to Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter. I still refer to my ex-employer as Facebook, its original name; perhaps this is what getting old feels like. Since Twitter's takeover, we've seen several waves of new sign-ups, following each new change on that site. We're happy to provide a haven for those seeking an alternative. While many continue to use Twitter because it's where "everyone" is, we see Mastodon's smaller reach as a feature, not a bug. "Everyone" includes some very toxic elements, which any social network is better off without. Over the past year, I've noticed more people on Mastodon and the Fediverse in general embracing this idea. As I see it, you don't have to change the whole world—just your small part of it. If you improve one life with your efforts, you're doing good work.

Initially, much of our server's discussion revolved around Twitter and the features people expected from it—like "quote tweets." However, I've seen the conversation evolve beyond this preoccupation to a wide array of topics. Scientists and academics are discussing their latest discoveries and theories. Artists and musicians are showcasing their talents. The diversity of voices, including people of color, LGBTQIA, and neuro-diverse individuals, is showing signs of improvement. We are all passionate about something—be it the environment, human rights, civil services, volunteering, or cats. This server feels like a place to express that love, rather than to hate. I'm committed to fostering these good vibes in whatever way I can. In the past, this has mostly involved boosting or favoriting your creations. Moving forward, I plan to put myself out there more and drive more conversations.

I don't have any grand announcements for this anniversary, nor do I envision a drastic change in direction for our server. I've never been one for pomp and circumstance. My message today is simple: a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has joined and continues to shape this community into a welcoming and enjoyable space.

You might have noticed my low profile on the server. That's intentional; I find joy in providing a platform for others to express themselves, amplifying their messages and fostering engagement. However, if there's a desire for more active community management or engagement, I'm open to exploring these possibilities with our community. That said, taking on such a role might require me to find assistance, as it stretches beyond my natural inclinations.

Being a software engineer, I often dream about what direction we could take with the server. One idea is to create a service using an LLM to curate a daily digest of the most interacted-with posts. This could benefit those who don't want to miss the action across different timezones, or those looking to avoid doomscrolling. I'm also considering LLMs that could act as editors or sounding boards for new posts, although OpenAI may have already cornered that market with the release of "GPTs" (which I'm using as an editor for this post, full transparency). I am finding that having "someone" to discuss this post very helpful, as it helps me keep a consistent tone, improves my grammar, and prods me to add more detail where I'm lacking. If anyone is interested in my process here, I'm planning to write up another blog post on the topic so keep your sense organ or automated system of choice out for that.

On a more practical note, I'd like to optimize how I run the server to reduce our Google Cloud expenses. This might involve exploring other hosting providers or offering paid Fediverse hosting to achieve economies of scale with our collective server needs. If you're interested in discussing these ideas further, please DM me.

Looking ahead, I'm excited to see how our community evolves and hope we can continue to be a modest yet meaningful force for good. If you support our mission and wish to contribute to our sustainability, please visit our OpenCollective. A huge shoutout to Fénix and Micah for your support! Your feedback, concerns, and ideas are always welcome—I'm just a message away and always eager to engage in a conversation.

So, tell me—what are your favorite memories from this first year on Portlandish or the last year on the Fediverse in general? What memories do you want to create in the next year? Do you have any ideas on how we should celebrate this occasion next year? Do you think we should do more marketing for the server to spread the love to more local folks?

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