What began as a conversation about selective …

What began as a conversation about selective cross-posting on Micro.blog somewhere along the line became a conversation about community norms and an understandable nostalgia for the old Usenet-era rule of thumb that you “read the room” (or, often, the FAQ) before posting—a switcharoo that nags because, for the life of me, I don’t know how these supposed Micro.blog community norms are meant to be discovered, which mostly leaves me the impression that they don’t exist in the sense that’s being offered.

Unlike a Usenet group where everything can be seen, there’s no firehose of a public feed on Micro.blog. There’s your own feed of who you’ve chosen to follow, and there’s the various feeds under Discover, some of which are automatic based on use of “tagmoji”, some automated based on content, but where the primary feed is curated by hand.

It’s true that if you look at the list of supported tagmoji it’s almost entirely lifestyle topics, or hobbies. There’s no, say, Ballot Box emoji for a Politics topic (although an “In the News” has been suggested by users). So when people argue that Micro.blog has community norms that shun political discussion, this is as close as one might get to evidence, but it’s really just evidence that the powers-that-be prefer the public-facing feeds emphasize certain kinds of topics and ignore others. Nowhere is there a suggestion that Micro.blog users somehow are defying community norms by posting about politics, only the implicit suggestion that it’s not the sort of topic Micro.blog prefers to offer up for a public glimpse.

Which is, of course perfectly fine. What isn’t perfectly fine is to suggest that a lack of public emphasis equals a community norm against posting.

Off in the realm of Mastodon, for example, sites do have a public feed (and so there’s a way to “read the room”), and many sites do tend to have some fairly specific if not outright elaborate codes of conduct and clear guidelines for topics deemed either off-limits or that should be hidden behind content warnings (and so a way to “read the FAQ”).

That’s not the case for Micro.blog, which has community guidelines against hate, violence, harassment, doxing, and illegality, but doesn’t have a true public feed (or even a full, “all-posts” members-only feed) or any communication of “norms”.

Absent, then, a community-wide sense of purported “community norms”, what’s left is a combination of user choice of what to post and whom to follow and system choice on what to highlight to present to the public. These in no way are incompatible, but we cannot mistake what a system chooses to be public-facing with what the community overall considers to be its internal norms.