… one piece of the time. Really. Don’t worry about it – it’s similar to eating an elephant.
While Discord and Slack sites can be places to go for communities with the faill of Twitter – they are closed systems. You need an invite and communication closed within the instance. This is good for closed discussions you want to gatekeep. Mastodon seems to be the place for serendipity and cross-collaboration across topics and communities. It’s not new, the framework started in 2016 gaining 1 million users in 2017. There are a number of great and extensive guides – one of them is fedi.tips. Another great guide is Mastodon Lessons Learned by Lisi Hocke (@firstname.lastname@example.org).
Signup and Servers
For Mastodon, you create accounts on a server (or instance) in the Mastodon-based network. Through a shared protocol the people on the servers can communicate with posts, threads, likes, and resharing as known from other platforms. Mastodon is really the software framework (on GitHub) and the network called “Fediverse” – but people mostly call it “on Mastodon”.
Someone wrote that picking a Mastodon Server feels like selecting a character in a new video game. You don’t really know what you’re looking into and how you will play the game. Luckily you are not fixed to one account on the Mastodon network. You can have multiple and easily redirect from the old to the newer. I have tried jumping profiles myself, as the first one I made was on a server with too few general topics. One of the elements of Mastodon is that each server has a timeline – besides the ability to communicate across.
Some servers are topic-based on Open-source software, others on art and LGBT, you can pick a specific server and expect the local content mostly on that topic. Or you can pick a general-purpose server – if one topic doesn’t define you. There are some tools, like debirdify that can help you in the process – but not yet a 1-click tool to move over.
Two ways to select a server:
- Browse the directory at https://joinmastodon.org/servers
- Use https://pruvisto.org/debirdify/ to see where your Twitter people have moved
People can and will move to many places – there is yet to be a primary test community instance.
Profile and Settings
- Your username is text-based, but you can go crazy with emojis in the profile name field
- Create your profile with a picture, banner, and profile text
- Profile meta-data and hashtags will help people find you and recognize you
- Add 2-factor authentication and save the password and keys
- If English is not your native language, there are other languages available (German is rather prominent). Selecting a language seems to give you more content in that language.
- Enabling the “slow mode” setting is recommended. It forces you manually to reload the feeds and not have the dreaded firehose.
- Make an #introduction post and write your favorite hashtags, that will help people find you.
- Write your Mastodon username @email@example.com in your Twitter bio so that others can follow you
As there is no algorithm to drive engagement, so use hashtags and reshare content from others. Likes are only posted to the author – so reshare/retoot great posts. Similarly to following people you can follow hashtags like #MinistryOfTesting and #TwitterTestingPeople. The culture of Mastodon is to be inclusive. Use Content-Warnings and hide images as a common rule – and ALT-text on images as a general rule.
Mastodon has free apps (Android, iOS) for casual use and some pay-to-use apps. Currently, it seems you can’t follow hashtags in the iOS app, so I tend to use the browser more. There is a range of choices – see what bests fit you. You can get a long way with just the primary site.
Servers are run by small teams of admins, so in peak periods there might be suboptimal performance. Most servers seem to be funded by patreons or similar fundraising.
In theory, an instance could close down and take everything away. If you have content that is more permanent and you want to own, put it somewhere you control. The same challenge is true for ad-based social media (Facebook) and subscription-based platforms like Medium.
If you feel like organizing the content coming your way, enabling the advanced web GUI setting will give you columns like “TweetDeck” – but the setting is global for your login. Sometimes I just want a quick read over the timelines, other times I want to monitor specific topics. To monitor topics I have set up columns in Sengi https://sengi.nicolas-constant.com/. It’s a per-browser setting, so it’s more of a topic radar that can be different across my devices. Personal lists are a feature too, but it seems based on people not so much on topics.
Do notice that direct messages aren’t private messages. All the people you tag can read the messages. So don’t tag the people you want to rant about.
The visibility of a toot/post follows the flowchart below.