A new feature was added to Mastodon, and that was account migration. I moved accounts from mastodon.social to elekk.xyz 1.5 years ago and I was wondering how my followers would look like if I migrated them over. Prepare for epic mistake, a realization of unintended consequences of the migration feature, and what we can try to learn from it?
I did not reflect on this until after I saw how many accounts I was forcing to follow my “new” account this morning while I was pressing accept on them. I had started the process last night mostly thinking “it can’t be that much can it”. Watching all the follow requests (because my current account is private) made me realize that I was forcing a lot of accounts, who may have chosen to unfollow me or not follow my new account, to follow me. In light of that I decided to use this opportunity to write a blog post about it, to actually share my findings and thoughts about the whole process.
Important things to note: Mastodon.social does not seem to purge old accounts, at any point. (I don’t remember if this is a software issue that it’s not available, but the admin of mastodon.social is also the main developer of the software.) I think maybe because people use it as a backup, which makes sense. But I still strongly believe that they could send out a warning email after 3-6-12 months saying that the account will be removed if they don’t log in within say 3 months from that email. This would mean that I probably wouldn’t still have access to my old account, which I don’t use and haven’t really used for 1.5 years, and I would not be able to do what I just did.
What is Account Migration on Mastodon?
Simply put, it’s a built in feature, where on your new account you tell it that you’ve moved from another account.
In a few steps: Account A is my previous account, Account B is my new account. Account B sets “I have migrated from account A” in it’s settings, and allows for the ability to migrate in followers. On Account A you start the migration by saying that you’ve now moved to Account B. As soon as you start the process the Account B’s server will probably chug for a bit as it starts processing the requests from Account A’s server (I’m unsure in which way it’s doing it exactly).
Account Migration is Good
Being able to migrate your account is great. And a few days ago I noticed it when someone wrote “I guess I’m posting here now” and I was already following them. I was first a bit confused, and then realized that they had used the migration tool, and I was pleased to see that I was following that new account immediately and not missing out.
Recently, I had caught someone’s “This is my last post from this account, if you haven’t already you should follow my new account”, I can’t remember if it was on Twitter or Mastodon. But it happened, and I was happy they reminded us, because sometimes you just don’t see those things.
These are some obvious cases where it’s good as we’re able to keep following people we’ve chosen to follow. But what happens if we chose to not follow their new account, or later unfollowed it, and they do this migration late?
Malicious by Mistake
What I ended up doing last night is definitely malicious use of this current feature, even if this was never my intent when I started the migration. I was mid-through accepting followers when I realized that this was turning into a very malicious use of this feature. I want to apologize for that, I’m sorry that I ended up doing this, and following through with it. When I realized, I did still followed through because I felt it was an important part of the process, and would yield useful data as allow me to process what was happening, and what to write in this post about it.
It is possible that you saw the link to this post when I posted it after having accepted the follow requests that you did not make. Because as soon as it hit me, I realized I needed to not post anything until I had finished off with this blog post, so you could read about what happened.
Lessons to Learn
I will definitely not do something like this again, where I migrate very old account followers. Why did I not just stop immediately when I realized? I think I was mechanically just going through the process, and doing so allowed me to figure out all the things that was wrong with it. And being half way through my brain kept insisting that we finished, because there’s no other way to remove follow requests.
Do migrate your followers, when you’re on an active account. But do not migrate your followers from an account that has been inactive for 1.5 years.
There’s a few improvements that I’ve been mulling over with regards to the follower and follows management of Mastodon, and in some regard they also apply here.
- Do not migrate followers that are other migrated accounts (I’m not 100% sure if it does this, but it seemed like it may have.)
- Offer option to only migrate mutual followers.
- Allow Account C (the follower account) to receive a follows suggestion or request instead of doing it “seamlessly”
- Do not allow accounts that have been inactive for 6-12 months migrate their followers.
- Do not migrate inactive accounts (maybe allow user to set a time frame, 3 – 6 – 12 months.)
- Allow private accounts to mass reject follow requests (because right now I’m stuck with a long queue.)
Do you have any suggestions for improvements?