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Nov 19, 2022 4 min read

🎙️ Podcast #13: Mastodon, The Infinite AI Conversation, BigTech Surveillance, & Citizen Smith

🎙️ Podcast #13: Mastodon, The Infinite AI Conversation, BigTech Surveillance, & Citizen Smith

Rick and Shaun dive into the world of Mastodon: what it is, how it works and what other alternatives are available for ex Twitter users. Also, the AI-powered Infinite Conversation, spooky coincidences vs surveillance capitalism, Christmas plans and Citizen Smith.

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00:00 Preamble

Rick and Shaun open episode 13 by talking about a village in Spain called Salto de Castro that’s up for sale. The asking price is €260k (or £227k). For the whole village! To put this in perspective, €260k will get a one-bedroom apartment in Madrid or Barcelona. Plus, £260k is the average house price in the UK. According to the BBC, Salto de Castro includes 44 homes, a hotel, a church, a school, a municipal swimming pool and a barracks building that used to house the civil guard.

🗺️ Find the village here using What3Words.

What tech caught our eye recently: Is it spooky goings-on at the Huckstep residence, or is it a case of surveillance capitalism in action? Rick and his wife experienced an odd case of the coincidence collywobbles recently. If you’re interested in this, or the fact that that it may be digital surveillance at work, or you’re simply a fan of The Chase, this segment is for you.

Shaun talks about The Infinite Conversation – an AI-powered discussion between the film director Werner Herzog and the philosopher Slavoj Žižek. It’s fabricated, but interesting to observe the never-ending conversation. The concept is quite powerful, especially as voice technology is used to match the speech patterns of the two men.

Further reading

Researchers find Amazon uses Alexa voice data to target you with ads (The Verge)

Herzog and Žižek become uncanny AI bots trapped in endless conversation (Ars Technica)

08:47 Tech News

  1. Sam Bankman-Fried’s empire collapsed after a run on deposits left his crypto exchange, FTX, with an $8bn shortfall, forcing the firm to file for bankruptcy.
  2. Google will pay $392m to 40 states to settle an investigation by 40 state attorneys general into whether the company misled users about location tracking.
  3. 1Password has acquired ID authentication startup Passage. Jeff Shiner of 1Password said: “We believe that passkeys or passwordless is that next evolution of staying safe online.
  4. A new French law will require parking lots to install solar panels. The government says the plan could generate up to 11 gigawatts — the equivalent of 10 nuclear reactors.

09:44 Mastodon

From tweeting to tooting, today's discussion is about Mastodon, a social network that on the face of it is a viable alternative to Twitter. As writer Craig Grannell says: “The service is named after an extinct beast and looks a lot like Twitter, but in much the same way Linux looks a lot like Windows. Take that as both a warning and a compliment.”

It may be an alternative social media platform to Twitter, but is it missing a trick in not being easier to onboard?

Mastodon has experienced a huge influx of new users recently in the wake of the Twitter-Musk meltdown.

  • Tooting vs tweeting.
  • Why is everybody flocking to Mastodon in particular?
  • Decentralised – what does it mean?
  • Open source, what it means and why it’s an important element of the Mastodon experience.
  • The Mastodon onboarding process.
  • The fediverse and what it means.
  • You need to know what your server is.
  • Twitter creator Jack Dorsey’s next social media project.
  • Is Twitter over?
  • Why Rick likes Mastodon over Twitter.
  • The celebrity incentive no longer applies.
  • The media’s role in regurgitating social media.
  • Leaving social media behind.
  • Data, content and the ad model.
  • Citizen Smith from Tooting!

How to find Rick and Shaun on Mastodon.

🦄 Rick’s handle is @rickhuckstep (@fostodon.org)

🦄 Shaun’s handle is @shaunweston (@mastodon.social)


Development began in 2016 by Eugen Rochko, who was disappointed with Twitter.

His project manager left in 2018 (and hasn’t posted as Maloki since then).

Rochko developed Mastodon with crowdfunding through Patreon and OpenCollective, and an open-source development grant from Samsung.

Further reading

36.05 Thinking of switching?

There are other alternatives to explore, such as …

  • Bluesky isn’t ready yet. Maybe spring 2023. It’s by Jack Dorsey, who created Twitter.
  • Tumblr lives on. Around since 2007. Hosts more than 529 million blogs. Cleaned up its act after Apple removed it from the App Store.
  • Tribel seems overly political. Positioned by the media as left-leaning. Musk might buy?
  • Cohost says no ads and no tracking.
  • uSync doesn’t look pretty.

40.04: Christmas

What are our hosts up to in the run-up to Christmas? Are the decorations up yet? Shaun reveals his travel plans, which includes German Christmas markets, and Rick says it will be 22ºc in Spain, which doesn't deter his neighbour Simon 🎅🏻

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