We know how people can be on the internet. Someone can be wandering around their feed, find your random post, and decide that this is a good time to reply to someone they don’t know with some negative, argumentative, or even disrespectful comment.
Mastodon, the biggest decentralized social media service, knows this. They’re also hoping that nudging users in a more respectful direction might help. Mastodon CEO Eugen Rochko announced in a blog post that the company is rolling out a new experimental feature for the Mastodon app on Android called Reply Prompts.
If a user goes to reply to someone that they are not connected with for the first time, they’ll see a prompt that points this out, explains a little about the person they are replying to, and encourages them to be respectful.
While we’re exploring multiple different avenues to tackle this issue, the idea we’re experimenting with today is simply reminding people when they’re about to respond to a stranger. We also believe that by showing a bit of information about the person you’re about to talk to, we can prevent some awkward situations, such as explaining something to an expert in a given field.
The company is also working on a prompt that alerts users if they are replying to a post that’s over 3 months old. Rochko says that most of the time, users do this by mistake, so they are hoping to curb this before users throw a comment into a black hole that no one engages with.
We’re also going to remind people when they’re about to reply to a post that’s over 3 months old. Posts from long ago are rarely a part of an active discussion, so such replies usually happen by mistake. These features will be coming to our iOS app soon, where we’re currently working on a big performance update. If they prove successful, we’ll be bringing them to the experience on the web as well.
Rochko says that they hope the features will “curb unnecessary negativity that comes from being on the Internet” such as using an “overly familiar tone, offering unsolicited advice, or starting arguments that are completely besides the point.”