"toot" Origin Story

Updated 04272023-153112

Developing Mastodon, I strive to use terminology that is familiar to as many people as possible so as to not put up unnecessary barriers in understanding. For this reason I am happy that we went away from calling posts "toots". It has always been a point of friction for people. Not that I dislike branding, quite the opposite, but in my experience receiving feedback over half a decade, it had a negative effect on the platform for little benefit.

Probably not a lot of people know this now, but Mastodon's web app started out with "Publish". In 2016 a famous YouTuber jokingly offered to support Mastodon's Patreon forever if I changed the button to say "Toot" instead. Needless to say, this was a really early, and not very informed decision. The first glimpse of attention and financial support. As a non-native speaker I had no idea there was another meaning.

I like that I was able to go back to "Publish" in the official iOS and Android apps. It may be less whimsical, and less branded, but after using the platform for such a long time, I'm perfectly happy with a button that just describes what it will do without trying to be cute (not that I dislike cute, I'd never part with our elephant illustrations). I have seen enough "Dr. Doom toots as he pleases" quotes in the first two years of Mastodon to last me a lifetime.

With the greatest of respect, sir,
I will be calling them toots forever.
🐘 💨

@RL_Dane @Gargron +1

@RL_Dane @Gargron Toot(s) it shall be. In any case, there is no going back. @artskorps and I already decided the name in French will be "re-toot" and the verb "re-tooter".

I think it's already in the Bescherelle. 😂

@zoran @RL_Dane @Gargron @artskorps i have my Becherelle handy! I shall check!

@lifewithtrees Ha ha ha. Me too. I'll call them again. They hung up one yesterday. 🤭

I like the location of your office, BTW. 👍

@zoran ahh yes, thats a nice spot that only now exists due to the recent hurricane!

@zoran @Gargron @artskorps

Zut alors! Retouter! I love it!

I often think of (1)(https://fosstodon.org/tags/Boosts) as (2)(https://fosstodon.org/tags/ReToots), so creating a (semi-)formal french verb form is fantastic!!!

@zoran @RL_Dane @Gargron non, je ne l’ainpas trouvé mais je pense on va le trouver (un jour) dans le 1er groupe
que j’eusse été retootée…

@RL_Dane : honestly... yes.

@RL_Dane @Gargron I will retoot this.

@teirersias @Gargron

@RL_Dane @Gargron I will retoot this.

Re-tooting because you said (3)(https://fosstodon.org/tags/retoot) X-D

@RL_Dane @Gargron

Same. I like it and it remind me of the sound bullfrogs make at night

@RL_Dane @Gargron agreed, they are toots to me, it helps to specify what people think they are using. But it's also cultural, each instance or other fediverse network, could call them something different. Over on @cybre.space (may it rest in peace) the admin renamed every button to cool cyberpunk things like 'jack in', 'florp' and others. What it says on the button is one thing, but what we all call it, isn't up to anyone to decide.

@Gargron That's a funny story actually :blobcatgiggle:

And ofc this was a logical decision back in the day! :toot: Personally I really don't mind how the button is being called as long as it makes sense, and in this case it totally does!

I have had nothing but positive replies from people online and AFK about it :blobcatgiggle: It uh.. takes the edge off or something :mastolol2:

This is one thing I really liked when I used friendica for the first time, their terminology is very clear. They have "like" and "dislike" buttons, where mastodon has a "favorite" button that acts as a like button. And they use the term "reshare" instead of "boost", it makes so much sense.

I'm glad you changed the name from toot to publish. Also a gentle reminder that (4)(https://fosstodon.org/tags/fediverse) is a lot bigger than just mastodon, so every post you see on your timeline is not actually a "toot" 😀

@futureisfoss @stux @Gargron
Are there friendica posts on the mastadon feed? How do you know where they came from?

Yes, Friendica is one of the platforms in the fediverse, so you may see Friendica posts on your timeline. I use the mobile app https://fedilab.app and in it I can see which platform a user is from by simply visiting their profile. But you can also manually check which platform they're on by visiting their instance and checking the about page. For example, my mastodon instance is https://fosstodon.org but I also have a Friendica account on https://social.trom.tf

@stux @Gargron

@Gargron Sorry to cut your posts off with a question but will Mastodon have a "repost" button that we can comment on, something like a retweet with quote?

@felipeorleans @Gargron That would be a nice feature.

@alternative_be @felipeorleans @Gargron yeah, although I'd limit that option, like, only being able to quote toot people who enable that option, and having it disabled by default (and require bots to have it enabled?)

@alternative_be @Gargron @felipeorleans @PelayoNastaviek I don’t think that’s a good idea. You can read more about this design decision here: https://blog.joinmastodon.org/2018/07/cage-the-mastodon/

@ilyess thanks for the article. I Read, I understand and I agree with the position of Mastodon.

@PelayoNastaviek @alternative_be @felipeorleans @Gargron Well... you can repost a toot as an image.

@derbruesseler @PelayoNastaviek @felipeorleans @Gargron That would be an option.

@PelayoNastaviek @alternative_be @felipeorleans @Gargron the possibility of quote-post only posts from bots would be cool! No ugly discussions, lots of fun memes

@alternative_be @felipeorleans it was a deliberate decision by @Gargron to not include this. He once posted/tooted about this but I can’t find it. The idea was that it makes the platform more toxic because it causes people to talk about each other instead of with each other

@felipeorleans @Gargron @alternative_be this is the post I mean: https://mastodon.social/@Gargron/99662106175542726

@felipeorleans @Gargron has stated in the past that it is a deliberate omission to keep people from talking about eachother rather than with eachother

@gustav @felipeorleans @Gargron
That's a very apt and succinct explanation! 👍🏼👏🏼🍻

@felipeorleans @Gargron It's used on the Birdsite to bully people, so no. It also fractures the conversation.

If you still want to quote something, you can add a link to the post you're referring to, just like a link to any other website.

Understood. In fact that's a great reason.

@felipeorleans @Gargron I think it was done intentionally to protect people from the type of nasty interactions you see on the birdsite.

@cwdolunt @Gargron that's right. I didn't figure that. Some good Samaritan over here shared with this kind of thought and it's very reasonable, in my opinion.

@cwdolunt @Gargron thanks for you, too.

@felipeorleans no, it is a deliberate decision to not have quote toots.

@felipeorleans @Gargron quote toots promote pile-ons

@felipeorleans @Gargron this feature was purposely removed because its use on twitter is utterly toxic

@felipeorleans @Gargron Eugen explained here why this is not a thing, but some server instances apparently do have a similar feature enabled (although I think it just embeds a toot when you link) https://mastodon.social/@Gargron/99662106175542726

@felipeorleans @Gargron I’m cool with the design decision not to do this, but I’d love gif integration what is on so many platforms, rather than having to save them and upload them as images.

And my client has a Toot button 😃

@felipeorleans @Gargron In case it will be implemented it should be called retoot! But I would not recommend it as feature. On Twitter it is often abused by adding some insulting comment or some look-how-stupid-this-user-is-statement to the original toot. Not good…

@felipeorleans @Gargron that's intentionally been avoided as it can foster toxic discourse and harrassment.

@felipeorleans @Gargron Hopefully never ;)

@Gargron Free software has traditionally had a major issue with off-putting names.

I've been very impressed with the prudence of your leadership of this project, and I would like to say that I 100% support you in this decision.
It's a solid choice that I think will help lead the project to wider adoption.

@Gargron i'd love to see it made customizable via the admin interface. a lot of people fork the software to modify superficial things like that, or the post length limitation, or the words used in notifications ( ed your ). if it was easy for admins to customize, i think it'd be less of an issue to anyone what it's called. bigger, general instances could use the more generic "publish" or "post", and smaller communities could add flavor without much extra effort

@Gargron settings-> “replace publish with toot”

Now Dr doom gets to be satisfied :lul:

You should change it from "toot" to "honk" and start calling users "honkers". You can even have different options for character limits (big) and integrated markup style (natural) so some instances will be "big natural honkers".

This will get more eyes than any YouTuber endorsement.

@Gargron fwiw I always found the word toot a little embarrassing. Not because of the other meaning but just because it felt a bit too jokey. Is there a reason you chose "publish" over "post"?

@tomharris @Gargron ... why not make it customizable text, so each instance/node can choose?

@tomharris I mean sure but back in 2008 when twitter was about as big as mastodon is now (and growing a lot slower) saying tweet felt a little embarrassing. It's the use of the word in modern culture that matters, and as the platform grows and toot becomes normalized it will stop feeling strange and be as natural as saying tweet. I mean after all the mascot is a mammoth and they tooted

@CEbbinghaus @tomharris this my argument but the decision was made. I’m all for idiosyncratic language that creates a culture/vibe. Toot is funny and playful and you immediately know what you’re talking about. “Publish” or “post” is generic and boring. Imagine if tweets were “posts” or “published statuses”. Which raises a problem with “publish”: no good noun form!

@minuskelvin We will continue to call it Toots. The publish (or hopefully post) button can stay but we will forever refer to the content being published/posted as a toot. You are publishing a toot

@CEbbinghaus excellent.

@CEbbinghaus ah cool! My client, Metatext has it as a preference. Can choose toot or post!

@minuskelvin See that is the ideal. People being able to choose themselves not limited by the instance admin

@Gargron I think a better alternative would be “Post!”, especially for non-public posts and direct conversations.

@Gargron I think "post" would be better. "Publish" is a little heavy for a tiny 500-character piece of text, it sounds more like you're putting out a book or an academic paper or something.

@sky @Gargron Agreed 👍🏻

@Gargron I hope all software engineers think the same way

  1. Boosts  ↩︎

  2. ReToots  ↩︎

  3. retoot  ↩︎

  4. fediverse  ↩︎