An interview with Manton Reece for 2024

I interviewed Manton Reece about his journey with in 2018 and again in 2019. They’ve been fun to look back on as the service matures, grows, and changes. I’m a big fan of and the community there (follow me there, if you’d like) and Manton was very gracious to agree to be interviewed once again.

If you’re unfamiliar with their homepage and Welcome areas are a good place to start.

Two quick notes before we jump into the interview:

  • All links in Manton’s answers were chosen by me. It is my hope that the links provide some context and make it easy for people to learn more on their own.
  • Both Manton and I keep up with what each social networking platform offers, the decisions they make, the mistakes they’ve made, and their policies. Both of us work in the social networking / blogging market as our day jobs. So some of our discussion is fairly “inside baseball”. If you’d like context on anything discussed, feel free to reach out to me or him.

Thank you for doing this interview again. Hard to believe how much time has passed since our previous interviews.

How is going?

It’s going well! We’ve seen a lot of steady growth since you and I talked last. We’ve rolled out new features and apps. I’m really happy with where the platform is right now, but of course there’s always more to improve.

I’m glad to hear it is going well. In our 2019 interview I asked you about how you prioritize your time working on so many projects with such a small team. You have multiple apps, the website, support, servers to administer, etc. And it has only grown since then. Back then you said “I think good things can come from trying to do a little too much, but it’s not usually sustainable. Eventually it catches up with you and you have to simplify and wrap up or delegate some tasks.” How are you doing on that?

It hasn’t caught up with me quite yet, and I think over the last couple of years I’ve done a better job of focusing on the most important parts of — the core platform that affects everything from the web interface, to blog publishing, to federation with other services. It feels less stressful as we mature as a company. And now Vincent Ritter is helping with both server code and the native apps, including the bulk of our new app Strata for notes. That is a huge difference, not needing to do everything myself.

I’m glad that the number of projects you have going at once hasn’t overwhelmed you. I have noticed though, from time-to-time, may have some downtime. Or, syndication to other services isn’t so reliable. Of course, this type of issue plagues any growing platform. But I’m wondering, if you didn’t have so many codebases to manage, would the core product benefit from your entire focus? Or, have these issues been mostly one-off issues?

After some downtime last year, I took a fresh look at our servers and what upgrades we could do. Luckily the last few months have been really solid. There were some growing pains for us when Mastodon got popular too, because extra traffic from all the new users on the fediverse might reveal performance problems that were never a problem before. Of course, we should’ve caught that in testing, but some things are difficult to plan for until you see how it works in the real world. I expect this is partly why Meta is adding ActivityPub support in phases to Threads.

For distractions on the core features, the problem is everyone has a different view of what is core. has a lot of features. If we paired that down to the absolute minimum and only focused on that, those features could be as reliable and fast as possible. But then the product might not be as valuable or interesting, and we’d have fewer customers, and maybe not even enough customers to have a business that could sustain itself. There is always the balance of fixing bugs and taking care of the basics while also expanding what it can do.

Have there been any interesting or unexpected uses of that have surprised you?

Not exactly surprising, but it has been interesting to see how people use the various pieces that we’ve built, often beyond how I use the features myself. For example, using email newsletters to connect with their readers and wanting more control over how that works. Or using our external feeds support to plug in services like Letterboxd so their movie reviews show up on their own blog. Or taking the Hugo themes and customizing a bunch of the built-in assumptions in’s templates.

The citizenry of the social web are a passionate bunch. I consider myself among them! All social networks experience some turmoil based on the decisions of those leading them. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, Mastodon have all had their share. Is this something you worry about with Do you have a decision making process that can help you to avoid a mutiny or revolt?

We don’t have a formal process for handling a potential mutiny, but it is something I think about whenever there is a heated discussion about the direction of Because we are small, a few loud voices that get traction could have a real impact on our business. Thankfully that is very rare. I remind myself not to take it personally because has always attracted people who have very high expectations. They want something different, more open, more civil, just better, otherwise they’d stay on Twitter or Reddit. If we fall short, I want to know about it, and most people are patient if we mess something up, as long as it’s fixed quickly.

I also often see the other side of this as we welcome new customers who have been frustrated elsewhere. Recent examples just in the last couple of months include Substack and even Automattic, because of controversy with selling user data to AI companies. When a company burns goodwill, it is really hard to get it back.

How do you see the future of AI and playing out over the next few years? Both in terms of how it might be implemented into features and whether or not the data on the platform should be included in these datasets.

I’m fascinated by AI. We’ve added two AI features to our Premium subscription plan: podcast transcription and summarizing web pages that you’ve bookmarked. I love the summarization feature, because I’m bookmarking pages often but maybe don’t read them right away. Now I can tell at a glance what the basic idea of the article was, then read it later. is about personal blogs and human-generated content, though. We’re never going to have AI features that write blog posts for you.

For how content is available to companies like OpenAI and others crawling the web, we will never sell user data. When we were working on our terms of service, I made sure that we spelled out that all content is owned by users, not us. We have no rights to that content beyond being able to display it in I believe the web should be open by default and personally for my own blog, I’m fine if AI bots crawl it, but there should be easy ways to opt-out. There are a couple of plug-ins to exclude OpenAI, so it’s essentially just a couple clicks to set that up. has intentionally omitted some social features that are commonplace on other platforms; such as likes and boosts. I know for me personally, I occasionally wish I could easily boost a post to help someone get a bit more exposure. Have you ever regretted omitting those features? Is there any consideration to adding them someday?

I try to reevaluate these decisions occasionally, but no regrets. For everyone who wishes worked a little more like Twitter or Mastodon, I think there are other users who would be disappointed if we changed it. The goal was to minimize a lot of the noise, judgement, and outrage in other platforms that are partially given fuel by public likes and boosts, especially when combined with algorithmic timelines and trends. can also work as a companion to other networks, so if someone wants those features they can can use Mastodon or Threads for the social aspect, and use more for traditional blogging, or for handling cross-posting.

Speaking of cross posting, supports a nice range of services and protocols. Do you have a favorite? Or a protocol that you think may stand the test of time and be here 40 years from now?

40 years is a long time! The oldest formats that supports are probably RSS and the MetaWeblog API, and those are “only” a little over 20 years old. For cross-posting, a lot of it has to use proprietary APIs that I do not expect to be around forever. Posting to services like Tumblr, Medium, or LinkedIn is not based on standards. I like the IndieWeb’s Micropub and Webmention APIs. I also expect ActivityPub to be with us for a long time. Those are all W3C Recommendations.

HTTP will turn 40 in just 5 short years. We are old men Manton! 😂 Thank you for taking the time for this interview. I really enjoy catching up. I think is a bright spot of the open web. Is there anything you would like people that are new to to check out or anything new for existing members to look forward to?

Thanks! Great talking to you again. For anyone new to, the platform isn’t just one thing: it’s a social network with fediverse compatibility so people on Mastodon can follow and reply to your posts, but it’s also a full blogging platform, similar to what you might have with WordPress. We are always making it better… I’m currently working on improvements to our web post editor and support for Threads. It’s going to be an exciting year for the open web.

My thanks to Manton for taking the time to do this interview. I hope we do it again in a year or so.

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