Goodbye Twitter, Hello Mastodon

I’m leaving Twitter, for obvious (to me) reasons, which I’ll explain. Essentially, I don’t like what’s happening to it.

Twitter, YouTube, personal blogs and Mastodon servers are full of accounts and opinions of the calamitous start to Elon Musk’s first weeks at the helm of what he hopes will become Twitter 2.0. I’ve listed some links at the bottom of this post to back up the tale of woe. I don’t like Musk, I don’t like the sound of his politics, I don’t like what he’s doing to ‘turn the company around’. I’m guessing he’ll fail sooner rather than later.

Twitter was bought with borrowed money and now has a debt of around $13bn costing $1bn a year to service. It’s revenues are plummeting as advertisers abandon the site. Half of the workforce of 7,500 has been fired (illegally), and whole departments have resigned, refusing to go ‘hardcore’ (including the HR payroll department, apparently). Of the 3750 or so of employees who were not fired, 75% did not respond to the ‘click to be hardcore or be fired’ email from Musk.

No one knows how many of the original 7,500 employees are still at the company. It could be just a few hundred who remain. It seems likely that many more people remain at the company because there’s no HR staff to terminate these employees. And so on.

What does this mean for Twitter?

The general view expressed by experts, Twitter-watchers and ex-employees is that when (not if) Twitter has some infrastructure failures, there may not be enough (or any) people with the skills required to restore the service. Twitter will always have had hackers trying to penetrate the site, but, given the vulnerability of the service they’ll be trying extra hard to bring it down. Forever.

It’s when they deploy larger software or infrastructure upgrades when the fun will really start.

Musk has also admitted, if Twitter can’t get it’s revenues up it may have to file for bankruptcy. It really is that bad.

So, I’m leaving (not leaving) Twitter

I won’t close my account because, you never know, maybe it’ll turn a corner or something and become both viable and an attractive, friendly place to be. But I’m not holding my breath.

Introducing Mastodon

Mastodon seems to be the main game in town for people wishing to change platforms. Compared to Twitter, it is still small – around 8million accounts according to – but growing fast as most people leaving the ‘bird site’ need a new home and land on the federated, decentralised service named after the ancient ancestor of elephants.

Lots of blogs and YouTube videos explaining what Mastodon is and how you use it have appeared over the last few weeks. You must choose and register on a specific server (often called an instance), but that server is one of (today) about 3,500. At the time of writing, around 200 servers are being added per day. You can think of a Mastodon server a bit like an email server. You have to toot (or post) rather than Tweet through your home server, but it can connect with every other Mastodon user or server on the planet. (Unless they are blacklisted – and some are).

I have set up a Mastodon Server

It’s not as easy to find people you know, and of course, it’s early days and most people aren’t on Mastodon yet. But it’s growing steadily as people join, experiment and learn how to use the service.

Mastodon accounts are like Twitter except, like email, you have to specify a service that you are registered with. For example, my Mastodon account is – a bit like an email address. Click on my address to see my profile.

I’ve been using Mastodon for about a month now, and I’ve found and followed Mastodon accounts of 70-75 testing-involved people I follow on the bird site. That’s nearly a quarter of the 325 I follow (and I follow quite a few non-testing, jokey and celebrity accounts). So I’ll risk saying, 25% or more tech-savvy people have made the move already. If you look at who the people you know follow, you will see names you recognise. It’s not so hard to get started. And enthusiastic people who follow you on Twitter will be looking for you, when they join.

Why did I set up a Mastodon server?

Good question. On the one hand, I like to try new products and technologies – I have been running my own hardware at data centres since the early 2000s. At one point I had a half rack and eleven servers. Nowadays, I have three larger servers hosting about twenty virtual machines. If you want to know more about my set up, drop me a line or comment below.

I’ve hosted mail and web servers, Drupal and WordPress sites, and experimented with Python-based data science services, MQTT, lots of test tools, and for a while, I even ran a Bitcoin node to see what was involved. So I thought I’d have a play with Mastodon. I used this video to guide me through the installation process. A bit daunting but with open-source software, you have to invest time to figure things out that aren’t explained in documentation or videos. is hosted on a 4 cpu, 16Gb memory, 1 Tb data virtual machine and uses Cloudflare R2 as a cloud-based object store for media uploads etc. From what I’ve seen of other site setups it would easily support 10,000 or more registered users. But, I’m going to monitor it closely to see how it copes of course.

It’s an experiment, but one we will support for the next year at least. If it takes off and we get lots of users, we may have to think carefully about hiring technical and moderation staff and/or limiting registrations. But that’s a long way off for now.

If you want to join, please do but…

Be aware that when you register, you will be asked to explain in a few words what you want to see on the site, and what you’ll be posting about. Your account will be reviewed and you’ll get an email providing a confirmation and welcome message. This is purely to dissuade and filter out phoney accounts and bots.

We will commit to the Mastodon Server Covenant and hopefully be registered with the Mastodon server community which today numbers just over 3,000. Nearly 2,000 servers have been set up since Musk took over the bird site. Mastodon is growing rapidly.

I don’t know anyone on Mastodon, how do I find people I know?

If you are on Twitter, keep an eye out for people you know announcing their move to Mastodon – follow them, and see who they follow. And follow them. And see who they follow that you know and follow them and…

If you are not on Twitter, follow me. See who I follow and follow those you know. You’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.

I don’t want to leave twitter yet, but want to experiment

Firstly, you can join any Mastodon service and use a cross-poster to copy your toots to tweets and vice versa. All new post on either service will be mirrored to the other. I found this article useful to learn what help is out there to migrate from Twitter to Mastodon:

For example, there are tools to scan your Twitter follows and followers for Mastodon handles, and you can import these lists to get you started. I used Movetodon to follow all my Twitter follows who had Mastodon accounts. Over time, I’ll use it again and again to catch people who move in the future.

I registered with – it synchronises my posts on and Twitter in both directions – so I only have to post once. I post on and the tweet that appears on bird site isn’t marked as ‘posted by a bot’ – so that works for me.

I found Martin Fowler’s Exploring Mastodon blog posts on the subject very useful. He talks about his first month of using the service. Which is where I am at the moment. Sort of.

A few FAQs answered. Sort of

What if I don’t like the service I register with or prefer another service? You can always transfer your account to another Mastodon service. Your follows and followers will be transferred and your posts, blocks and so on. You have to create a new account on the target service and may have to change your account name if your current name is taken on the new service. A redirect from old to new account is part of the service.

I hate advertising – can I avoid it? Mastodon servers do not display advertisements. Of course, companies might post commercials, but if you complain, it might be taken down and the poster be advised to leave the service and blocked in extremis.

What are toots and boosts? A toot is equivalent to a Tweet, and a boost is the same as a Retweet.

Are there apps for Mastodon? Yes of course – you can see the IOS and Android apps here. there are also a number of 3rd party apps. Don’t ask me what they do – I haven’t explored.

Why is the web interface better than apps? If you use the web interface, you can turn on what is called Advanced Web Interface in your preferences. In this version, you can view and pin multiple columns at the same time – each column having your toot window, home timeline, local timeline, federated timeline in parallel. You can set up what appears in each column in your preferences.

What are toot window, home timeline, local timeline, federated timeline? The toot window is where you post new messages. The three timelines are:

Home: like on Twitter, it shows all the posts of all the people you follow on all Instances
Local: it shows all the posts of the members of your Instance
Federated: it shows all the posts of the members of your Instance and also the posts of people on other Instances that are followed by people of your Instance.

If you want more help – and I’m sure you do, try this site: – it seems to cover all of the basics and quite a lot of the advanced stuff too.

If you join and need help; have a question?

If you need help mention @questions in a post and it’ll reach us. We’ll try to answer as soon as we can.

References (Twitter does not meet EU laws)

Critical Thinking – An Example


Michael Bolton recently posted a message on LinkedIn as follows

“Low-code testing tools” are really “low-testing code tools”

In what follows I infer no criticism of Michael or the people who responded to the post, whether positive or negative.

I want to use Michael’s proposition to explain why we need to be much more careful about:

  • How we interpret what other people say or write
  • How we assess its clarity, credibility, logical consistency or truthfulness
  • Whether we understand the assumptions, experience or agenda of the author, or of ourselves as the audience
  • And so on…

This is a critical thinking exploration of a phrase of a ten-word, five-term sentence.

I’ve been reading a useful book recently, “The Socratic Way of Questioning” – written by Michael Britton and published by Thinknetic. Thinknetic publish quite a few books in the critical thinking domain and you can see these here:

I’ll use a few ideas I gleaned from the book, describe their relevance in a semi-serious analysis of Michaels’ proposition and hopefully, illustrate some aspects of Critical Thinking – which is the real topic of this article. I don’t claim to be an expert in the topic. But I’m a decent reviewer and can posit a reasonable argument. I’ll try to share my thought process concerning the proposition and take a few detours on the overall journey to expand on a few principles.

I’ve no doubt that some of you could do a better job than I have.

The importance of agreed definitions

The first consideration is that of definition. How can you have a meaningful discussion without having agreed meanings of the words used in that discussion? Socrates himself is said to spend at least half of his time in argument trying to get consensus on the meanings of words. Plato’s Republic, the most famous Socratic dialogue spends most of its time defining just one term – justice.

Turning towards the proposition, what do the terms used actually mean? Do they mean the same thing to you as they mean to Michael? Is there an agreed, perhaps universally agreed definition of these terms? So, what do the following terms mean?

  • Code
  • Testing
  • Tools
  • Low-Code
  • Low-Testing

Now, in exploring the potential or actual meanings of these terms, I’ll have to use some, perhaps many terms that I won’t define. Defining them precisely in a short article is inevitably going to get very cumbersome – so I won’t do that. Of course, we need an agreed glossary of terms and their definition as the basis of the definitions at hand. But it’s almost a never-ending circle of definitions. The Oxford English Dictionary, when I last looked, has compiled over 600,000 definitions of words and phrases covering “1000 years of English” (

Recently, I have been doing some research with ‘merged’ regular English dictionaries and some of the testing-related glossaries available on the internet. I now have some Python utilities using open-source libraries to scrape web pages and PDF documents and scan them for terms defined in these sources as well as detection of phrases deemed ‘meaningful’. (What meaningful means is not necessarily obvious). I’ll let you know what I’m up to in a future post.

We have a real problem in the language used in our product and service marketing, and sadly our exchanges on testing topics in discussions/debates.


Here goes with my definitions and sources, where I could identify and/or select a preferred source. I have tried to use what I think might be Michael’s intended definition. (I am surely wrong, but here goes anyway).

Code: generally defined as a programming or script language used to create functional software to: control devices; capture, store, manipulate and present data; provide services to other systems or to humans. In this context, we’re thinking of code that controls the execution of some software under test.

Testing: …is the process of evaluating a product by learning about it through experiencing, exploring, and experimenting, which includes to some degree: questioning, study, modelling, observation, inference, etc. (Source: – there’s a security vulnerability on the page by the way – so use an incognito window if your browser blocks it).

Tools: Oxford English Dictionary: a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function. Merriam Webster: something (such as an instrument or apparatus) used in performing an operation or necessary in the practice of a vocation or profession. In our context – software test execution automation – we refer to software programs that can: stimulate a system under test (SUT); send inputs to and receive outputs from the SUT; record specific behaviours of the SUT; compare received outputs or recorded behaviours with prepared results. And so on.

Low-Code: There is no agreed definition. Here is an example relating to software-building which is reasonable “Low-code is a visual approach to software development that optimizes the entire development process to accelerate delivery. With low-code, you can abstract and automate every step of the application lifecycle to streamline the deployment of a variety of solutions.” I’d substitute software test development for software development. In the context of testing, the terms ‘codeless’ is more often used. This definition appears on a tools review website ( “Simply put, codeless test automation means creating automated tests without the need to physically write codes. It provides testers lacking sophisticated programming skills with project templates for workflow, element libraries, and interface customization.”

Low-testing: I’m pretty certain Michael has invented this term without defining it. But we can guess, I think. There are two alternatives – either (a) the quantity of testing is lower (than what?). We don’t know. But let’s assume it refers to ‘enough’… or (b) the quality of testing is lower than it should be (by Michael’s standard, or someone else’s – we don’t know). I suspect (b) is the intended interpretation.

Interpreting the Proposition

Since we now have some working definitions of the individual terms, we can expand the proposition into a sentence that might be more explicit. We’ll have to document our assumptions. This carries a risk: have we ‘guessed’ and misunderstood Michael’s purpose, thinking, assumptions and intended meaning?

Anyway. Here goes:

“Using test execution tools that require less (or no) coding means the quality (or quantity, possibly) of your testing will be reduced.”

Here are our assumptions in performing this expansion:

  • The ‘low-testing’ phrase implies the lower quality or quantity testing is achieved. (Does it matter which? It would probably help to know, of course).
  • Only using such tools causes this loss of quality or quantity. Does having such tools, but not using them, not?
  • Having knowledge of some of Michael’s previous writings about tools and testing justifies our (still ambiguous) expanded phrase, I believe.


We have several ambiguities in our reformulation of the original proposition:

  • Do low-code tools have the effect of lowering the quality/quantity of testing or do ‘high-code’ – that is, all tools – do this?
  • Do tools lower the quantity, or do they lower the quality of testing? (Or both?)
  • Lowered compared to what? Testing without tools? (Or see below… tools with ‘higher-code’)
  • What is meant by ‘the quality of testing’? How is that defined? How could it be measured? Evaluated?
  • The quantity of testing might be reduced – but might this be a good thing, if the quality is the same or improved?
  • There’s no mention of the benefits of using (low-code) tools – but is the overall effect of using tools (low or high code) detrimental or beneficial?
  • There is no mention of context here. Is the proposition true for all contexts or just some? Could using such tools possibly be a universally best practice? Or a universally bad one?

Why This Proposition?

Is this proposition making a serious point? Does it inform a wider audience? I don’t think so. It’s clickbait. Some people will (perhaps angrily) agree and some (angrily) disagree. These people will probably be driven by preconceptions and existing beliefs. Do ‘thinking people’ respond to such invitations?

It’s a common tactic on internet forums and I’ve used the tactic myself from time to time. Although I think it’s a lazy way of starting a debate because the ‘thoughts from abroad/musings/worldview/the toilet’ (strike out what doesn’t apply) – tend not to trigger debate, they just cause some folk to extol/confirm their existing beliefs.

So, don’t ask me, ask Michael.


I’ve written over a thousand words so far, analysing a ten-word, five-term proposition. I’m sure there is much more I could have written if I thought more deeply about the topic. A word-ratio of 100 to 1 isn’t surprising. Many books have been written discussing less complicated but more significant propositions. Love, justice, quality, democracy… you know what I mean.

The lack of agreed definitions of the terms we use can be a real stumbling block, leading to misinterpretations and misconceptions hardly likely to improve our communications, consensus and understanding. Even with documented definitions there are problems if people dispute them.

Before you engage in a troublesome conversation of a proposition, ask for definitions of the terms used and try, with patience, to appreciate what the other person is actually saying. You may find gold or you may demolish their proposition. Or both.


Am I suggesting you apply critical thinking to all conversations, all communications? No of course not. Life is too short. And surely, if you analyse all your partner’s words you are bound to land in scalding hot water. So, like testing and all criticism – it has its place. A weapon of choice, in its place.

Critical thinking, like testing, should be reserved for special occasions. When you really want to get to the bottom of what an author, speaker or presenter is saying or a supplier is supplying. How can you agree or disagree without understanding exactly what is being proffered? Critical thinking works.

What’s my Response to the Proposition?

“After all this circumlocution, what do you think of the proposition, Paul?”

I think there are more interesting propositions to debate.

Is Leadership Innate or can it be Learned?

It’s a common question. I need to lead, but do I have the ability to do that?

There’s lots of talk about ‘born leaders’ but what if I’m not a born leader? Can I still succeed?

In this video, I suggest leadership can be learned and enhanced with practice and support.