What's Your New Address?
An allegory about getting an account on an instance of Matrix, Mastodon, the Fediverse, or any federated messaging system.
I make no pretence at good story-telling; this is just me practising making up analogies for issues I care about.
friend: I hear you're moving house to New Town.
Julian: Yes, I'm buying the new house on the corner of River Road.
fr: I've been around there. It's a nice area. I'll send you a welcome card. Where should I write you? What's your new address?
J: Well, I haven't quite made up my mind where to receive my mail. I suppose I'll do what most people do, and go to the nearby McDonalds: their mail boxes are free for life, open 24/7. It's properly free, you know: there's no obligation to stop and buy their food every time I go in to collect my mail.
Or would you recommend choosing a small institution where I know someone personally? My daughter-in-law works at the bike shop, a family business. I can get their free special offer. Their mail box is smaller than McDonalds, but still big enough for a bunch of letters and a few small parcels. Feels good to support them. I'll do that. You can address me as
Mr Julian @ The Bike Shop, New Town.
fr: Um, never mind all that, I'll just send a postcard to your house.
J: What do you mean? You can't send anything to me directly. I don't run my own mail box. I don't think I want one. I'm not into do-it-yourself. I don't know where I'd buy one. I've never installed one. I suppose I'd need to label it, paint it, maintain it, fix it when it breaks.
fr: Oh, I get it! You've never had your own mail box — you've been living in rented accommodation ever since you were a student. You always had to collect your mail at somebody else's address, and could never take your address with you when you moved.
Well, I can help you get your own mail box. It's not hard. You don't have to buy it and fix it up yourself. You can rent one from the postal service. They'll fix it up outside your house for you. They'll maintain it. All you have to do is take your mail from it. Does that sound good?
J: That's not free, right? How much will that cost me?
fr: You can afford to live in a house? Maybe one thousandth of what you're spending.
J: Hmm, that sounds OK.
fr: Great! I'll call them and get it started. What's your address?
J: It's on River Road, like I said. The new house on the corner.
fr: What's its address?
J: I haven't registered the house. It hasn't got an official address.
fr: Um... Really? Where do you get your supermarket deliveries? How do your friends find you to meet up? What about the electric company, the government officials, the police?
J: The supermarket? Click-and-collect. Friends? We meet in McDonalds or in the sports centre restaurant or in the Face Club. Electric, water, police, government: they've got my map coordinates.
fr: How does that feel, living without an address, always meeting your friends at a shop or a club or a café? They can't ever come to your house. You go to a shop to get your post, too. Everything. Does that seem fine to you?
To be continued, maybe.
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