Being smaller is not always a bad thing, or at least it doesn’t need to be. Too often I believe that we think that the massive size of something (service, company, etc.) is somehow intrinsically good instead of a tradeoff or a net negative.
This has come to the forefront recently as Twitter continues to devolve into various stages of anger and disillusionment, Google continues to drop the ball as it relates to some of their products (Hangouts Chat continues to disappoint), Facebook continues to act as an Internet overlord, and Apple has broken the $1 trillion market cap for the first time. These are all massive, large, huge, monstrous organizations.
Within the maelstrom small groups of people have been breaking off in various ways and finding new homes in smaller corners of the Internet and technology sphere. Some have moved back to their own blogs. Others have migrated to paid services like Micro.blog. Still others have started breaking off from the large social network services into smaller communities hosted on Slack or onto Mastodon instances.
I’m not going to get into what Mastodon is, but I have found a temporary respite over at Fosstodon and I am enjoying the smaller (just over 1000) community and the new people I am bumping into. I don’t know what the future will hold, but trying something new out has at least broken me of some of my worst habits when it comes to Twitter.
This brings me to the title of this post and how small isn’t bad. A good portion of my “growing up” on the Internet focused on participating on writing forums focused on Star Trek. While I thought the community was large, it was tiny in comparison to the Twitters and Facebooks of the world. However, I was able to meet and talk with a more diverse group of people when we were all gathered around the subject of Star Trek than I ever have on Twitter.
I was also able to have considerably better relationships with those people, in whatever way and extent that can happen over the Internet. I even met a few face-to-face after years of talking only on those forums!
These smaller communities might be just what the Internet needs today. Allow people to break off into smaller groups, enable individuals within those groups to also converse with individuals from other groups and see what forms from there. Mastodon enables that, even though it is not perfect, and I am excited to see what that federated concept might be able to do in the future.
Maybe, just maybe, it can help us all to break things down into smaller chunks so that we can work within our limitations.