Hit the road @jack send toot
August 26, 2018 8:28 AM   Subscribe

If Social Media is a part of your life but you're also sickened by nazis you've probably considered Mastodon as an alternative. But rather than a straight-up Twitter clone based on the open standards Mastodon has some real and significant differences that may be confusing at first. Fortunately this video should help get you up to speed: Intro to Mastodon 101
posted by Artw (132 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
 
Previously
posted by Artw at 8:28 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


What I found to be an interesting aside in relation to Mastadon and how it is federated, was this write-up from April 2017 about the spread and popularity of Mastadon in Japan, and how a Japanese culture interest in sexually suggestive drawings of minors (something which isn't illegal in Japan) showing up on the Mastadon feeds of a large number of Western users (where that something is quite illegal). It also touches on how language affects the culture of an online space, and some instances of English-speakers "pushing back" when other languages (Japanese, Spanish) begin dominating their feeds. In other words, federation may not be the straightforward solution that it seems.

I should also emphasize that much of the value of pawoo.net to Pixiv users in particular, and therefore of the entire Mastodon/GNU Social/OStatus ecosystem to Pixiv as a corporate entity, comes from the fact of ロリコン being allowed on pawoo.net. It is an important minority of the content on Pixiv as an image-sharing site, it's not going away from there, and it isn't allowed on Twitter, creating a demand for a Twitter-like thing where it would be allowed, and that is pawoo.net. Anyone on the English-speaking side who thinks there is a real possibility of somehow shaming Pixiv into banning ロリコン locally on Pixiv's own instance really is a delusional foreigner; much sooner Pixiv would just disconnect pawoo.net from the network entirely (or accept the rest of the network's decision to impose that on them from the other side) and go their own way, and this was true even on the 15th when pawoo.net alone was not yet a significant fraction of the entire network.

Around midnight at the start of Sunday the 16th: Gargron announces that he is silencing pawoo.net on mastodon.social; that is a less extreme form of blocking that prevents pawoo.net's public postings from appearing to mastodon.social users who haven't deliberately subscribed to them, but still allows users on social to make their own connections to users on pawoo. At the time "silencing" isn't available as an option for admins through the standard UI; he does it by manually intervening in the backend database, but quickly adds support to make it an available option through the UI for other administrators.

TODO needs more detail, but starting to be an issue circa the 16th: English-speaking Mastodon users, especially on Blue instances, talk very seriously about how there ought to be an "advisory board" or similar to make sure that the network remains respectful of social justice and inclusion (which notably does not include "including" the Japanese, let alone English-speaking dissidents); they circulate shared block lists attempting to exclude Red and GNU Social instances from the federation. I think, and say at the time, that this looks like an attempt to assert English-language hegemony over a system that will very soon be majority Japanese if it isn't already, as well as asserting Blue power over the pre-existing GNU Social federation and continuing the Culture War that destroyed Twitter. That's what I was afraid of when I first joined, though the rapid Japanese ascendancy offers me some hope that such efforts will simply fall into irrelevance.

...

Monday the 17th: the terminology of "free speech" versus "safe speech" becomes popular in English-language discussions for describing the growing ideological divide on how instances ought to be run. I first encounter it in this item from Spacedragon but am not sure if that's the first (or only) place it came into use. Free speech instances are generally aligned with the Red Culture War faction (hence also with GNU Social and the older parts of the network) and safe speech instances with Blue (hence Mastodon proper). However, I think it's significant that when we had the same fight on Livejournal ten years earlier, it was the opposite way: fictional "child pornography" in the form of explicit Harry Potter fan art and therefore "free speech" was a Blue/Left/aGG/SJW thing, with the Red/Right/Gamergate/MRA side taking what we'd now call the "safe speech" position. For that reason I'm inclined to think that the link between Culture War sides and free/safe speech is more a matter of historical accident than anything naturally flowing from whatever defines these sides.

...

Around April 19/20th (I don't have accurate information because it was mostly happening on mastodon.social, where I don't have an account): People on mastodon.social suddenly start speaking Spanish, a whole lot, pushing the English speakers even further into the margins. Since registration on mastodon.social is closed at the time, it appears this is not new people, but existing users (largely from South America) who were previously using English and switched by common consensus. I also hear some complaints, but see no direct evidence, that the Spanish speakers are posting a whole lot of gay porn (photographs of adult men) without warning tags. I'd appreciate readers forwarding me (@mattskala@mstdn.io) links to items on the network describing this situation - as I write this paragraph it's a few days later, and now without any search engine support I'm having a hard time finding good documentation of it, or remembering what I read at the time.

posted by deadaluspark at 8:47 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


It’s a real shame that one of Mastodon’s huge unique assets — separate instances — is also what causes people to bounce off of it so hard. It takes a while for it to click; for me it was the launch of a philly-tech-scene instance founded by someone in my extended social circle.

Many people have pointed out that a techy name like “instance” is a lot less intuitive than what it ends up being in practice— neighborhood or community would be better. Also the first time I looked for an instance I tried to find a large one. I only see now why that was a bad goal.

Local feed is local, federated feed is delightfully leftist, queer, and memelordy, home feed is friends. It’s working for me.
posted by supercres at 8:49 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


In retrospect, the Mastodon.social instance becoming a Twitter like hell makes perfect sense. Highly recommended to pick a smaller instance; you can still connect with all your friends from other instances.

I'm currently on octodon.social, which I only joined because a number of members here were on it. But it's been totally fine.
posted by selfnoise at 8:54 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


By coincidence, 101 MeFites have Mastodon in their profiles. I think my own Mastodon following list is almost exclusively MeFites gathered out of previous Mastodon-related threads--at a glance, I only see 3 out of 223 accounts that I know aren't from here--so that may be another convenient place to add a bunch of people.
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:56 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


I ended up in Octodon by accident. It's mostly queer/trans, leftist, tech people who like video games and cats. I'm not queer/trans, but I love the chill space that I exist in on Mastodon. I have been quite active on it and I find myself hopping on there far more regularly than Twitter.

I have a sizeable portion of friends who won't let go of Twitter because they feel a bit overwhelmed by Mastodon no matter how many times I try to explain or ease them into it. But I also kind of like knowing that I have my own chill space away from my friends. It feels like those early weird days of Twitter where everyone was just learning about each other and how to be online. I like this feeling.

Find me @sonicbooming@ocotodon.social.
posted by Fizz at 8:56 AM on August 26 [7 favorites]


Also, I've mentioned this before but do yourself a favour, don't follow any NEWS/MEDIA accounts on Mastodon. I mean, do you doing you but this is me recommending you don't. Following just other humans has been a god-send. I think one reason I dread so much of twitter is that I've followed too much news/media accounts. And yes, that's on me, I sort of turned Twitter into my own news feed and as helpful as that is in keeping me tuned into the goings on of all things cultural/political, it's also just too much sometimes.

Making Mastodon a place where it's about social connections and humans has been a godsend for my mental health and for just smiling and laughing and having interesting convos with randos on the web.
posted by Fizz at 9:17 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I tried getting into Mastodon but I’ve been through the social media cycle with Livejournal, Myspace, Friendster, Facebook, and Twitter over the past 15 years, and I think I’m just done. It all peters out or becomes toxic.
posted by Automocar at 9:23 AM on August 26 [18 favorites]


I wish the federation aspect was something which actually worked in practice. They clearly want to be there but if you’re not using mastodon.social things just break enough that the initial experience hit my “why repeat the cycle?” threshold.
posted by adamsc at 9:28 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


From the very beginning of the video:

"If you're anything like I was a few weeks back ..."

Is it just me or is there a problem with someone going from ignoroid to explanatory expert in ... a few weeks? Could be just a middle age thing, but I'm growing suspicious of these things that grow so very fast.
posted by philip-random at 9:31 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


adamsc, what kind of issues did you run into on a non-mastodon.social instance?
posted by jcreigh at 9:34 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Also, I've mentioned this before but do yourself a favour, don't follow any NEWS/MEDIA accounts on Mastodon. I mean, do you doing you but this is me recommending you don't. Following just other humans has been a god-send. I think one reason I dread so much of twitter is that I've followed too much news/media accounts.

For me, the only reason to use Twitter is as a news feed. I don't really have any friends on there and almost never participate in any kind of dialog or conversation; I just see it as a less useful RSS feed.

I had a few Mastodon accounts that I created after a thread here on the Blue but I deleted them after a few months because I couldn't figure out what to do with them. I don't know anyone IRL who's on Mastodon so I didn't really have anyone to talk to.
posted by octothorpe at 9:35 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


By coincidence, 101 MeFites have Mastodon in their profiles. To be fair, I occur on the list three times. @canageek@cybre.space, my main account, and @canageek@tabletop.social, my tabletop account being my two main ones.
posted by Canageek at 9:39 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


In other words, federation may not be the straightforward solution that it seems.

It's almost as if changing a few things about how the software works doesn't prevent human beings from behaving the way they already behave...
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:40 AM on August 26 [7 favorites]


Is it just me or is there a problem with someone going from ignoroid to explanatory expert in ... a few weeks?

He cites a bunch of guides in the YouTube description, might be worth checking those out.
posted by Artw at 9:41 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


FWIW I joined mastodon.social as the sort of default generic instance you don’t eeally have to think much about choosing. So far I’m mostly hanging out with comics and Mefi folk on home and ignoring Local, which is a bit jumbled and random. Federated is just a matrix style blur I’ve no idea what to do with.

I, uh, did join Octodon back in the day (in the first rush of enthusiasm when mastodon.social was flooded) but managed to bugger it up to the point where it’s unrecoverable. A pity because it sounds pretty cool.
posted by Artw at 9:45 AM on August 26


Here's a short list of instances that Don't Suck, hand-curated by a queer orc. Mine is on it but currently closed to new users.

And here's a longer list of instances that suck, curated by the same queer orc. I have had things happen like have a user on my instance report a toot on one of these for being "hey watch me get banned by twenty more instances for saying [ethnic slur]", then discovered that was the person running that instance, and just told my instance to never talk to that one again.

FWIW deadaluspark's link is pretty outdated and missing some fundamental concepts. Mastodon now lets an admin say several things about how to treat a remote instance - "don't take any toots from there at all", "only show data from here to local users who are explicitly following a person over there", and "don't make local caches or thumbnails of any images over there", which is a direct response to the problem of Pixiv's site being chock full of drawings of naked children.

As an instance admin, I feel like there is pressure forming that will split the Fediverse (Mastodon + other social network programs that use the ActivityPub protocol) along a line that that person refers to as "red/blue", but I tend to refer to as "trolls/civil people". It goes like this:

👉🏾 Let's say I decide that I am going to run a FREE SPEECH!!1!11!1 instance.
👉🏾 Users on my instance start behaving badly in all the wonderful ways we've seen on other wonderful platforms that refuse to moderate their user's behavior: arguing in bad faith, trying to get people angry to entertain themselves, being "ironically" racist and letting actual racists join the conversation without censure, promoting Trump for teh lulz, etc.
👉🏾 Users on other instances hit the 'report' button on my users's toots. The admins of those other instances act on that, and forward those reports to me.
👉🏾 Because I have decided to be a free speech absolutist, I do nothing to discipline my users.
👉🏾 Pretty soon other admins decide that, wow, they sure get a lot of rude-ass problem users from my instance, and I sure don't do a damn thing about it. So they tell their instance to ignore my instance, and every one of their users stops hearing anything from my users.
👉🏾 Users who are capable of treating the Internet as a place for civil discussion start leaving my instance so they can talk to their friends on other instances.
👉🏾 Eventually the only other instances willing to see anything from mine are also full of trolls, "ironic" racism, people who decry any request to STFU as censorship, and other absolutely wonderful people like that, and I have become a proud administrator of a part the fediverse's incarnation of a glorious lineage that stretches back through places like Reddit, 4Chan, Something Awful, and LJDrama. My instance shows up on the second list I linked to, and other lists like it.
👉🏾 I probably start posting impassioned rants about how all the nice instances closing their door to the horde of badly-behaved users on my instance is "harming the fediverse" or "censorship". I may mention "echo chambers" in these as well. I have become an administrator of a node of the Social Internet of Jerks.

In practice I do the diametrical opposite of this; if I get reports of someone being a jerk, I take action, because I would like to be able to continue to talk to my friends who are on other instances with admins who are quite happy to block buttheads.

I'm @anthracite@dragon.style, right now my toots are mostly me muttering about the process of getting my local development instance upgraded from 2.0.0 to 2.4.4 so I can do the same to the live site.

😍 yes, you can have accounts on multiple instances
😍 yes, you can move from one instance to another - it's not the most elegant process right now, improving that is definitely on the roadmap
😍 if you want to interact with a toot on a remote instance it's still a bit of a hassle; paste its permalink into the 'search' field above the 'toot' box on your home Mastodon. I think a fix for this is landing in like the very next version.
posted by egypturnash at 9:48 AM on August 26 [30 favorites]


I'm still on . social like a newb, but it's really nice and yeah I don't pay attention to anyone I don't follow. I may try out some other instances if I find one that feels cool.
posted by emjaybee at 9:49 AM on August 26


well that got long
posted by egypturnash at 9:49 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Anything to get people leaving Twitter is a good thing.. but to me this seems like replacing your need for 8 cans of Coke a day with 8 cans of Diet Coke.

You're still addicted to Coke.
posted by kmkrebs at 9:59 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


I wish the federation aspect was something which actually worked in practice. They clearly want to be there but if you’re not using mastodon.social things just break enough that the initial experience hit my “why repeat the cycle?” threshold.
posted by adamsc at 9:28 AM on August 26 [+] [!]


This is untrue in my experience? I've got accounts on a number of instances and have never had a problem. I started on octodon.social, quickly moved to cybre.space. There was a kerfufal over some comments the admin of cybre.space made, so I moved to wandering.shop (where my girlfriend hangs her hat), but the admin of cybre apologized and I found I fit in with the people there better, and moved back. I've also had accounts on three rpg themed instances (One that closed down, tabletop.social and dice.camp). Oh, and mefi's own dialmformara runs a Magic The Gathering themed instance wubrg.social

I've never had a technical issue on *ANY* of these instances, and really no issues at all. Things CAN be buggier when there is a huge wave of new users, when a post about leaving twitter goes viral for example, but it usually is ironed out in a few days as the flood of people running searches, following new people, spinning up new instances, etc dies down and other people upgrade things to handle the flood of new users.

Note:
cybre.space, wandering.shop, and wubrg.social are all invite only right now. However, any user (ie me) can invite you to the first two. Toss me a MeFi mail or ding me on Mastodon or Twitter. wubrg.social is smaller, and they have had spam issues so you have to apply to the admins for membership. One of the two admins is on twitter, so you can ask her for membership by memail, or by messaging her on Mastodon or twitter.
posted by Canageek at 10:06 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


The thing that frosts my goat about Mastodon is how dude is absolutely rigid about his visual design aesthetic and I find the damn thing near impossible to read.

Anyway, I'm on .social and .art if anyone gives a toot.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:07 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


(Also: Hi Anthracite! Somehow I didn't know you where on MeFi. Excellent post.)
posted by Canageek at 10:08 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


You're still addicted to Coke.

As a committed Mastonaut, I'm gonna say that you're replacing your 8 cans of Coke a day with 8 glasses of lemonade you buy at 50 cents a glass from the elementary schoolers who live across the street. It's by no means perfect, but it's more hydrating and you feel better about it.

PS If you've been avoiding Mastodon because federation sounds complicated, I apologize on behalf of the Fediverse and lay the blame squarely on the tech-shits who insist on making a big deal out of it. You don't have to understand it unless you're an admin, or really want to know how your admin goes about keeping the Nazis away. All you have to know is "make an account on an instance where you trust the admin; you can follow anyone you can see from your account; and if you want to move to another instance you can export and import your follower/following lists."

Love and pineapples,
A wubrg.social admin
posted by dialMforMara at 10:10 AM on August 26 [14 favorites]


eustacescrubb: "It's almost as if changing a few things about how the software works doesn't prevent human beings from behaving the way they already behave..."

Sure. But conversely: humans often act in not great ways. Software design can amplify those bad aspects, or it can minimize them. It's never going to make us angels, but design *does* matter.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:10 AM on August 26 [9 favorites]


It's never going to make us angels, but design *does* matter.

Exactly. Best example I can think of is Mastodon's implementation of content warnings. It's considered good manners to CW politics, sex, violence, and other common triggers and/or sources of stress to allow people to interact with these things on their own terms at times they're ready to deal with them. The goal is to make Mastodon a place where you're not angry all the time (as is so often the case on Twitter).
posted by dialMforMara at 10:13 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


To me, Mastadon is like being invited to a party by your friends at a hotel, except that the friends are all spread out over the hotel, some are in different rooms, some are at the pool, and some are hanging out in the lobby or bar. Everyone that you want to be with is there, but it's one hell of a poor party when you have to wander around (from instance to instance) trying to talk to everyone.

Having said that, I'm on masoadon.social, octodon.social, and tabletop.social as @William_Mize.

Which, I think, means I'm at the pool, in the lobby and in room 346.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 10:15 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


So far as I can tell, federation gets rid of the main benefit of a centralized system (discovery) while doing little to nothing to address its main drawbacks (non-transparent moderation at the whims of some admin I have no reason to trust, lack of privacy).

Mastodon seems to do little for me as someone who:

* Doesn't strongly belong to a niche.
* Uses Twitter more as an RSS feed than a community.
* Reads much more than he tweets.

I would (in fact I did) end up on the same generic Mastodon instance as most everyone else, swamping admins' capacity to manage.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 10:20 AM on August 26 [13 favorites]


At least the coke doesn’t have nazis in it.

Though at this precise transitional moment right now I’m chugging both the Mastodon coke and the Nazi coke which is probably not all that healthy.

Got a new job coming up which will probably be a good point to downscale my consumption of one of them... it’s not looking good for Team Nazi at the moment.
posted by Artw at 10:23 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


At least the coke doesn’t have nazis in it.

Isn't Nazi Coke just Fanta?
posted by dialMforMara at 10:25 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


I came here to say essentially the same thing as cichlid ceilidh did just now -- Mastodon isn't very interesting because there are not many users so far.

I have little interest in talking with people I don't know all that well, and instead use Twitter to follow the news or specific interests.

For example, because so many journalists use Twitter, it's a great way to get some meta-analysis of the news in order to judge or assess veracity and credibility of stories. In fact, I rarely read the actual articles and instead just rely on listening to how journalists or subject-matter experts respond to specific stories.

If I want a closed community to interact with people in a structured way, well, that's what Slack is for.
posted by JamesBay at 10:28 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


The thing that frosts my goat about Mastodon is how dude is absolutely rigid about his visual design aesthetic and I find the damn thing near impossible to read.

Anyway, I'm on .social and .art if anyone gives a toot.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:07 AM on August 26 [+] [!]


As a note, each instance can theme itself. cybre.space defaults to a purple and green theme.

I've made a post with some examples. There are also alternative web clients that exactly duplicate twitters UI, to ones that sort of copy it, sort of not, and some really excellent android clients (Subway tooter is everything I've ever wanted out of a social media UI). I've put some screenshots up on imgur Note: These are just instances that I have accounts on, and clients I've used. There are about a dozen more clients that have different UIs, just for windows and web. Each has its own UI. Its like twitter, back before they decided to insert ads into your experience, and thus had to kill off the clients to ensure you saw the ads.) So really, you can make the UI look how you want.
posted by Canageek at 10:28 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Great analogy about "instance," it's the equivalent of mmo servers.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:31 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Last time I joined a "new revolutionary social media network", it was ello, and we all know how quickly that one fizzled and died.

That being said, I joined mastodon.social and tabletop.social (as ossiangrr, my newer standard nickname) and will probably forget about them and never post there quickly as well. But if you feel like following me, go ahead :)
posted by jozxyqk at 10:32 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


To me, Mastadon is like being invited to a party by your friends at a hotel, except that the friends are all spread out over the hotel, some are in different rooms, some are at the pool, and some are hanging out in the lobby or bar. Everyone that you want to be with is there, but it's one hell of a poor party when you have to wander around (from instance to instance) trying to talk to everyone.

Except you can follow people from any instance. I'm not even on the same instance as my girlfriend: I'm on cybre.space and she is on wandering.shop. But we still see each others messages and chat with one another. The only thing instances do are a) Who the moderator and b) what is in your local timeline.

Now, the local timeline is a great way to meet people, that is why I have accounts on tabletop.social and dice.camp, but I follow people from something like two dozen instances from my main account. Its like email: I can send someone on gmail a message from my ISP email or my university email, and they won't notice the difference.
posted by Canageek at 10:36 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


So far as I can tell, federation gets rid of the main benefit of a centralized system (discovery) while doing little to nothing to address its main drawbacks (non-transparent moderation at the whims of some admin I have no reason to trust, lack of privacy).

Well, I can't say it is better at privacy, admins can see any message posted to their instance, even private ones. On the other hand, your admin is probably one or two people that you can meet in person. I've met my main admin at a party that dialmformara hosted. Heck, I've got an account on an instance that is run by my girlfriend and her friend Brye. I've also met Anthracite in person, and they also run an instance. So if I have a problem with my admin a) I can sit down with him and have a chat about it, and b) I can move to another instance, since you can easily export the lists of people you follow, people you block, and people you mute from one instance to another. So if your admin turns out to be a dick, you can pick up your stuff and leave without loosing much. Having done it more then once: Most people who follow you, if they see you move, will follow you at the new place. The people that won't, are those that are usually dead accounts that don't post anymore. Since Mastodon is (for now) more a place where you go to talk to people, not build huge followings so you can get money by being an 'influencer' or whatever, this is generally a good thing.

Actually, since it is hard to verify accurate follower numbers on Mastodon, we don't have the problem of people trying to get X milliwheatons of followers and such (yet).
posted by Canageek at 10:43 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Now, the local timeline is a great way to meet people

That's why I don't get all of you complaining about not having friends on Mastodon. Read your local timeline and say hi to people. We're all (in theory) there to make friends and have fun.
posted by dialMforMara at 10:44 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


I don’t think the analogy about it still being shadowy admins making decisions holds. Or, if it does, find a smaller instance, or more aligned instance. This intro, and this list of woman-run instances, is a big part of what got me back in (just before that Philly instance got spun up).
posted by supercres at 10:56 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Read your local timeline and say hi to people. We're all (in theory) there to make friends and have fun.

Yes, this.

Also a good reason to check out the smaller instances, the local timeline is more manageable and it's easier to get started meeting people, kick off conversations. I switched to Mastodon (and deleted my twitter account) over a year ago and I have not had any trouble finding interesting people to follow, and I think I have better interactions with people as well, vs when I was on twitter.
posted by selenized at 10:56 AM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Is it just me or is there a problem with someone going from ignoroid to explanatory expert in ... a few weeks? Could be just a middle age thing, but I'm growing suspicious of these things that grow so very fast.

I've been on Mastodon over a year now. I was going to write a guide, but as I was researching to make sure I didn't miss anything, I encountered one that said everything I was going to say.

That said, I don't think you can become an expert so fast due to it growing that quickly. I think you can become an expert pretty fast due to it being a really shallow pool. There isn't that much stuff to be expert *in*. The average user doesn't need to know all the complexities of how two instances interact: I can follow you, you can follow me, the rest is all stuff the techies take care of. Do you know how twitter works? You are 85% of the way to understanding Mastodon. Do you know how email works? Great, now you are at 95%.


Basically, for all the articles on it, I can summarize it pretty fast:
Like twitter, but
-Your username has two parts. Your handle and your instance. @canageek@cybre.space. That lets me follow people from other instances.
-Instances exist. If there are issues with another instance your admin will take care of it
-We have social standards we expect people to follow. These change from location to location, but generally don't be a dick, don't be a nazi, put community warnings on things that need it.
-We have community warnings, these let people take a break from politics, things that stress them out, etc. We normally put them on anything with politics, violence, sex, nazis, racism or images of food. You pick it up pretty quickly. Some instances also expect you to put a CW on posts over a certain length or large images to avoid flooding the timeline.

-You've got a local timeline. That is every post that is posted to your instance. This is useless on places like Mastodon.social, and boarderline on places like cybre.space at busy times of day, but otherwise a great place to meet people. For example, I'm on tabletop.social and there are only a few dozen posts a day. So I can glance over at it and see someone else it talking about D&D. Well, I like D&D, possibly I'll want to talk to them about that adventure.

-There is a federated timeline. I've never found it very useful as it moves so quickly, and people make a big deal of how posts land in it. Basically, the more users on two instances interact, the more posts from the other instance show up there. Sometimes you'll glance over into it and see cool art, or a post on something you care about and get talking to someone. More useful on smaller instances as it moves more slowly, and can serve as a replacement for the local timeline in such places.
posted by Canageek at 10:59 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I like glancing at the federated timeline for a reminder that lots of people sure are different from me.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:06 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Not really seeing any #brands on there.

Good.
posted by Artw at 11:21 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


seanmpuckett > The thing that frosts my goat about Mastodon is how dude is absolutely rigid about his visual design aesthetic and I find the damn thing near impossible to read.

You might enjoy Pinafore, an alternative web client. There are also iOS and Android apps though I haven't really kept up with them.
posted by egypturnash at 11:27 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


#brands aren’t there yet, but @rands is, so expect to see Merlin Mann, Scott Berkun and the like soon.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:36 AM on August 26


Eh, Mastodon doesn't really give me what I like in Twitter, and doesn't really solve the things I don't like about Twitter.

I mean, it sounds like someone tried to recreate Usenet, except more complicated and restrictive. I don't want to have chats with randos in an interest group, I want to follow specific people I'm interested in like Cat Valente and Ursula Vernon, participate in conversations with the people following them, and not worry whether I have to change my instance because the admin or some rando in the instance is a dick.
posted by happyroach at 11:39 AM on August 26 [7 favorites]


If you could change instances as easily in Mastadon as you can in, say, WoW, that would be appealing. I know the system doesn't work that way, but having to pack up your tent and find an instance that isn't closed/invite-only and change your whole dang username and get everyone to re-follow you if your admin turns out to be an asshole is a major downside. And you have to do it again if the new instance proves to be a bad fit as well. Like, I didn't have to re-roll my Druid every time Barrens Chat got to me, you know?
posted by halation at 11:48 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Highly recommended to pick a smaller instance; you can still connect with all your friends from other instances.
Maybe, maybe not. For example, apparently the owner of mastodon.social doesn’t personally approve of how the operator of counter.social (aggressively) handles spam and bad actors. As a result, counter.social users can't connect with their friends on mastodon.social.
I wish the federation aspect was something which actually worked in practice. They clearly want to be there but if you’re not using mastodon.social things just break enough that the initial experience hit my “why repeat the cycle?” threshold.
This. Mastodon simply replaces the "benevolent dictator" model with a "benevolent dictators" model. It's not centralized, but it's not distributed—it's a "worst of both worlds" model, if you ask me.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 11:50 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


> ArmandoAkimbo:
"it's a "worst of both worlds" model, if you ask me."

Sarah Jamie Lewis has been arguing as much.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 12:15 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


As a result, counter.social users can't connect with their friends

That is a result of counter.social deliberately splitting from mastodon. It's a fork, basically. Not the fault of anyone but that guy who runs counter.social. Or so it stood as of the previous mefi mastodon thread which got me to try it out.

It was okay, but I didn't stick with it. Seems like an awkward intermediate between irc and a blog, not one that I feel the need for.
posted by sfenders at 12:21 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


having to pack up your tent and find an instance that isn't closed/invite-only and change your whole dang username and get everyone to re-follow you if your admin turns out to be an asshole is a major downside.

It is at least easier than whatever you'd have to do if your account was instead on Twitter and, somehow, to everyone's great surprise, the admins there turned out to be assholes.
posted by sfenders at 12:24 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Mmmm... I still don't get it.
posted by runcibleshaw at 12:35 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Twitter and the like mean that, unless you're in the 0.1%, you cannot know or rely on those running your instance. Mastodon, Pleroma, et al mean that, if it's important to you, you can know and trust those running your instance. Not that you will, but that you can.

Federated systems aren't inherently perfect but they're an important step in solving an immediate problem. The gains they gives us are considerably larger than the costs (for most but not all people).

Some folks talk like federation is broken, dangerous, etc., despite the mountains of evidence that the history of the Internet gives us: web sites are inherently federated; email is inherently federated; etc. I block a lot of nazi and CP and trash servers from my mail server. Odds are pretty good that your mail provider does, too, but if it turns out that you disagreed with them you could go off and find (or make) another server.

The system aren't perfect, by any means, but they're much closer to community-run communities than centralized systems can be.
posted by introp at 12:35 PM on August 26 [6 favorites]


It being based on an open standard is the thing that’s in the way most interesting. Gets it out of the walled garden model where it’s all or nothing.
posted by Artw at 12:44 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


1. Pinafore has been a great UI for Mastodon. Basically turns the look into a stripped-down Twitter feed, and once you start scrolling it stops live updating. Makes the federated feed readable.
2. If you go, join a random group that's small and of interest. Mastodon.social is like joining "Team NYC" and thinking you're going to get all the cool shit about underground parties without the bad shit about failed subways and police brutality.
3. In that vein, Mastodon is its own geography. You move into a neighborhood that has some character and maybe stretches you a bit, but you're not forced to hang out in the suburbs with your crazy racist uncle on the weekends. Instances intersect like geographical communities based on common values - your PTA or library or super niche gym irl. Those can branch out into other spaces, which makes the entire enterprise feel less like a garbage pile of inane chatter plastered with ads, bad news about world events, and self-important celebs that you have to constantly prune to see only the nooks and crannies you care about.
4. Unfortunately, instances can also die.
@zxqwd@todon.nl
(Same on the tweet space, but I don't really go there anymore for my sanity.)
posted by ptfe at 1:06 PM on August 26


So I made an account just to see what's up.

There is a "home" timeline. I don't know what it is or where these people came from. According to this mastodon tutorial:
The Home Timeline – This is a simple one. It’s basically the same as your Twitter timeline – it’s the Toots from all the people you follow from across the Fediverse.
But, I just made my account and haven't followed anyone. Who are these people? How do I get rid of them if I don't like them? No idea. (On another look it looks like all the posts are from the same account. I still don't know who this person is. I did not follow them)

If I click the icon that looks like three abstract armless torsos I can see my "local" timeline. This is supposed to be my "instance". I was not paying close attention when I signed up so I don't know what my instance is. It updates too frequently and I don't know what anyone is talking about.

The federated timeline is worse. How am I supposed to figure out that I want to follow someone from this non-stop torrent?

How do I change "instances"? Again, no idea. How do I even search for other instances? There seems to be nothing built into the web interface to do this.

I thought mastodon would be like twitter but where I had more control over what I saw and who I interacted with. Instead it seems to be like twitter but more obscure and harder to use.

How do I find people to follow? Twitter generally does a good job of suggesting people I might want to follow. I mostly follow comedians, activists, and scientists. I have no idea how to find those people on mastodon.

Basically if it wants someone like me to use it, it needs a lot more friendly introduction and how-to's. Even more so than the ones linked in this post. And if it doesn't want someone like me to use it... it succeeded.
posted by runcibleshaw at 1:08 PM on August 26 [12 favorites]


Re:problems, as an example, I tried the most natural thing for someone leaving Twitter (https://bridge.joinmastodon.org/) and that failed for everyone who wasn’t on the same node. Trying to remote follow other people is possible using the web UI but it’s several clicks per person and I got bored after a few minutes, especially since everyone else did the signup-and-never-post thing.
posted by adamsc at 1:11 PM on August 26


I've been trying to get into Mastodon every few months, and it just isn't working for me. I'm not connecting with anyone, and there just aren't a lot of people.

I'm active on Twitter (among other platforms), and for all of its problems it just works better. There's a far huger population, for one.
posted by doctornemo at 1:14 PM on August 26


I'm still on mastodon.social, in part because I can't be arsed to switch, and in part because there's no specific interest I have that I need to be in a community with.

There's _plenty_ of people on Mastodon. You need to find them, but they're there, and it's not that hard to discover them. If you're on a smaller instance, watch the Local timeline. If you're on a larger instance, like mastodon.social, it's probably harder, but start by posting an #introduction post.
posted by SansPoint at 1:17 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


There's _plenty_ of people on Mastodon. You need to find them, but they're there, and it's not that hard to discover them.

Yes, but how?
posted by runcibleshaw at 1:21 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


runcibleshaw: The Local timeline is good for finding your neighbors on a smaller instance. On a bigger instance, you can still do it that way. Search #hashtags. Make an #introductions post. Go start tooting and interacting. And bring people over from the shitty networks over to Mastodon.
posted by SansPoint at 1:23 PM on August 26


Another thing about Mastodon is that I approached it with the intent of finding cool, new people to follow, not the same stuff I was looking for on Twitter. More of my old Twitter mutuals are moving over, and that's changing how I use Mastodon a bit—but it's still the place on the Internet I go to for fun, like Twitter and IRC were in the old days.

Don't approach Mastodon as the New Twitter, approach it as a new thing, and go make new friends along with trying to bring your old ones over.
posted by SansPoint at 1:28 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


You build a network in a federated system like you do in real life: find one or two interesting people, either by listening to the room or by personal recommendation, and see who they talk about (in Mastodon's case: who they boost). Some of those people will be interesting to you and you'll follow them, too. And so on and so forth.

It's a lot slower growth than Twitter's machine-fed algorithm but the general consensus is that the resulting network is much healthier.
posted by introp at 1:37 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


As is often the problem whenever I ask a question here, y'all are giving me the what but I'm asking for the how.
posted by runcibleshaw at 1:41 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


In retrospect, the Mastodon.social instance becoming a Twitter like hell makes perfect sense. Highly recommended to pick a smaller instance; you can still connect with all your friends from other instances.

I made this remark in IRC birthday post;

I know that trolls are to be expected wherever they have an opportunity.

This is a truism of the internet. Sometimes it's amusing when people set up platforms without understanding this, but most of the time it's just sad.
posted by adept256 at 1:45 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Read the local timeline (scroll down a tiny bit to freeze it; clicking on the "Local timeline" text at the top will zoom you up to the latest). Clicky people that seem to talk about stuff you like.

Search the #FollowFriday hashtag. Folks usually describe "this is why you should follow this person" when they recommend someone interesting.

Follow @noelle@elekk.xyz for gems like "Why isn’t the new year on winter solstice?"

Follow @catstar@catgram.jp if you want some cat pictures in your home feed.

:)
posted by introp at 1:47 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


runcibleshaw: How do you do it? By... doing it? How do you make friends at a party? You walk up and start talking to them.
posted by SansPoint at 1:48 PM on August 26


One how is Trunk, a listing of mastodon users who have volunteered to be on mass follow lists for different topics. Interested in, say, crafts, or women in tech? Follow the people on that list. It's like a mastodon starter kit.
posted by zamboni at 1:53 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


For iOS folks:

Tootdon is probably the best client, although you should be aware of their archiving policy. The good but until recently moribund Tootle was apparently finally updated recently. Also keep an eye on Toot!.app, and Sean Haber (Twitterific) and Paul Haddad (Tweetbot) are also considering making apps.
posted by zamboni at 2:15 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


I've been on mastodon.social for a few weeks now. The problem is my own: I'm too much of a basic and boring person for it, because not a lot of people are talking about my VERY mainstream VERY non-Nazi interests. The last #disney toot (ugh) was a day ago. The last #wwe one was 2 days ago. Searching for #Hamilton (I know, right?) brings me listings from a sex worker agency in New Zealand, which ... okay cool. Just not the Hamilton content I'm looking for.

I've seen the Trunk lists. I don't think they're all that vetted and people are just volunteering to be on them to up their followers. On one list I looked at:

>one hasn't tooted about that interest in over a week, and is currently boosting pokemon content
>one hasn't tooted about it in 4 days
>one tooted a meme about it 2 days ago
>one joined 3 days ago, has tooted nothing about that subject yet
>one joined on August 10th, has tooted nothing about that subject yet.

But it's a very polite place to be. And I'm still trying.

(The Disney search found a sex worker as well, using the hashtag because they operate out of Southern California.)
posted by kimberussell at 2:22 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


If you're not interested in sex work services, it's fine to mute or block the switter.at instance.
posted by zamboni at 2:29 PM on August 26


I've seen the Trunk lists. I don't think they're all that vetted and people are just volunteering to be on them to up their followers.

Yup, that's exactly what it is! Like the page says,
Please remember that we're all human and interests change and nobody promised to either an expert on these topics or to be posting exclusively about these topics. 🙂
If you want to be added to a list, or removed from a list, or if you'd like to see a new list, or if you have any other questions and concerns, contact one of the administrators via Mastodon.
posted by zamboni at 2:34 PM on August 26


How I built my mastodon network:

1. Friend-of-a-friend starting from a handful of active users from metafilter.

2. I post stuff that interests me. If someone boosts and follows from one of those posts, I'll check out their posts and follow back if I'm interested.

3. I pick up a few accounts from local: one or two interesting bots (I boost prime numbers, but only if they're cute), also accounts from a few software projects.

re: Privacy. I don't know what people are expecting from something that isn't end-to-end and peer-to-peer involving onion routers. Anything less than that and you can expect your traffic to be logged by the people administrating the servers. I think that's a good thing because I don't see how you can have control of harassment and spam without logging. Regardless, the global panopticon of big social media is a proven failure, at least for lowly peons who can't afford brand management. I know from experience that trying to talk about gender dysphoria and biphobia there is an invitation to be harassed by randos using keyword searches. That hasn't happened on a mastodon network yet.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:37 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


If you're not interested in sex work services, it's fine to mute or block the switter.at instance.
I did that, because as much as I support rights for sex workers and all the rest of it, I'm just never going to be in the market for the services advertised and want to see other stuff when I search for, eg. a place name. I wonder if the large volume of sex work ads and the fact that they're surfaced right away for new users doing stuff like searching for their hometown might put a few folk off, but it's easy enough to mute. I'd mute an instance that was entirely ads from car dealerships, too.

I don't think the goal of Mastodon, as much as there is one, is to create a social network that's going to kill Twitter. It's not to pull in the mass audience and the politicians and footballers and all the hangers-on, or to give brands a place to broadcast, but to give people a space to talk to each other as human beings rather than as Personal Brands.

The instance you're on, and which instances they block, seems super important. My first instance, when I posted anything technical or vaguely political, I'd get piles of abuse from random right-wingers, tech bros and all the rest of it because my instance didn't block anything. I moved to an instance that blocks the junk instances alluded to by anthracite above, and all is peace and quiet and relatively pleasant.
posted by winterhill at 2:49 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


I know from experience that trying to talk about gender dysphoria and biphobia there is an invitation to be harassed by randos using keyword searches. That hasn't happened on a mastodon network yet.
Not having full-text search of public toots is a design feature: it makes it much more difficult (though not impossible) to just search a term that you want to hunt.

This means that using hashtags is a way to opt in to being searchable.

(This has the downside of making "search for the word python" less useful because not all python-related tooters will remember to use #python... but the upside is that it has made the fediverse much more resistant to that type of attack.)
posted by introp at 4:22 PM on August 26 [5 favorites]


I’m also on octodon because most MeFi people are - but I just requested an invite to the Philly one!
posted by lazaruslong at 4:39 PM on August 26


This collection of Twitter threads from adrienneleigh is really valuable, essential reading about safety issues on Mastodon that are not immediately apparent to the average non-techie user. Because of its decentralization, Mastodon is immediately vulnerable to a lot more security issues due to malicious instances, targeted harassment, social engineering, and poorly-trained or overwhelmed moderators.

"Here's the thing: Twitter is untrustworthy but THERE'S ONLY ONE OF IT. And if it changes management, WE'LL KNOW. GNUsocial instances are myriad, ANYONE can run them, & they can be handed off silently to new admins. Instead of trusting ONE shady entity you are trusting MANY."
"Folks, it is REALLY FUCKING HARD to build safe, supportive communities full of traumatized marginalized folks who keep retraumatizing each other, mostly by accident. Moving to Mastodon isn't going to short-circuit that problem."

I ran into this problem myself in the wild, though thankfully only by proxy: when the first strong murmurings about moving off Twitter onto Mastodon started last year, I reserved a username on the moderately-sized instance witches.town, because it had a reputation for being feminist and anti-harassment. Then I promptly forgot my account existed for months. A couple of weeks ago I tried and failed to log back into my account, only then discovering that witches.town was shut down entirely over drama from the owner being an alleged TERFy transphobic rape apologist. WOWZA.

Okay, fine, I can just move to another Mastodon instance--but am I going to have to move instances every 6 months?! I dislike change! I've had the same Gmail address for like 10 years!
posted by nicebookrack at 6:20 PM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Lack of weaponised search is a great thing. I wish Twitter would realize* how it’s tools were being abused on that front.

* they probably know, just don’t acknowledge any responsibility for doing anything about it/consider sealioning harrasment campaigns to be “engagement”.
posted by Artw at 6:51 PM on August 26


scholar.social may be a good place for all the teachers, librarians, and academically inclined Mefites. Pretty friendly.
posted by Gotanda at 8:12 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


I've been on Mastodon for basically a year now and I still really like it. I'm an intermittent social media user, I like having conversations, I'm shy about posting and I think in paragraphs. Mastodon lets me have small, friendly interactions about sff novels or building communities or whatever. It just feels safer to post on there, and much more welcoming precisely because of its size: people are happy to see you and talk to you because yay! more people! more content! Whereas on Twitter it feels boundary-overstepping to talk to people who aren't mutuals, or who aren't friends irl, because it feels more like accosting someone in a public space. Mastodon is more of a house party than the club, and that vibe is so much more comfortable for me.
posted by storytam at 8:16 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Once upon a time, back in the good old days before "social media," there was a web-based vegetarian BBS that imploded due to bad community governance. A bunch of us packed up and moved to a different BBS, and it mostly worked out because we were able to do that and develop some new norms. We had those conversations on MUDs as well, and some MUDs forked and some MUDs failed and that was ok. You can possibly could do that on Livejournal/dreamwidth, and maybe on Facebook. Facebook was one of those weird spaces where I never fully understood exactly how or if what I posted to a group was visible outside of that group. And of course, we're all participating on metafilter which is of that same generation and goes through its struggles with community governance as well.

You can't do that on twitter/tumblr for a variety of reasons. The first is that tags are not a fucking ontology, nor are they a community. The second is that they're run by people who don't give a crap.

The username issue is really baffling to me, maybe because I'm of a generation that grew up on system-local usernames. Heaven help the jsmiths of the internet universe. But, identity via a centralized service is proven unreliable as well, and I'm a skeptic that the idea of a permanent set of public identities and relationships as envisioned by Facebook is good. Unfortunately cryptographic verification of identity is also really hard to use.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:23 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


I still do not understand the instances thing. I can't simultaneously be on two instances with the same account at the same time?
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:29 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Think of it like email.

Say your email address is runcibleshaw@gmail.com. You can email people with addresses at @yahoo.com and they can email you, even though you're @gmail.com.

If you're runcibleshaw@xxxspam.net, the people who run @yahoo.com may decide you're spam and not show your emails to their users.

If you want to, you can also create a runcibleshaw@yahoo.com address.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:36 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


What's stopping spambots from auto-creating endless xxxspam123.com instances to spam with as quickly as the earlier spam instances get blocked?
posted by nicebookrack at 8:59 PM on August 26


nicebookrack: AFAIK, instances don't auto-federate. You federate by following someone on another instance. So, say, I spin up secrettreehouse.club (which is what I would call my instance, but I'm too lazy to bother, so you can have that), you might federate with mastodon.social out of the box, but that's it. You'd have to follow someone at obviousspaminstance.wtf for them to start flooding your timelines, and even then it would only be the federated timeline.
posted by SansPoint at 9:26 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


This is a nice parallel to email actually, just try sending an email to someone on a mainstream provider from a fly by night domain, chances are it never even hits their spam folder.
posted by idiopath at 9:39 PM on August 26


Mostly what’s stopping spam instances is that it’s not free to set one up. You need a domain to spam from, and it’s not gonna be good for too long. So you have to keep on paying the domain registrars for new domains. People will probably try, and someone might find a way to reliably get enough money to make it worth the domain registration, and then we’ve started the same old arms race of detecting spam instances and finding ways around that.

You can’t be on two instances with the same account, but you can have an account on each instance. You can also follow people who are on any instance - I am @anthracite@dragon.style, and a quick look at my main timeline shows toots from a few people there, as well as people on mastodon.social, monsterpit.net, cybre.space, toot.cafe, and more.

You might have accounts on multiple instances just to have a backup in case your favorite instance goes down. You might also use these accounts for different purposes - maybe your main is on cybre.space, your Naughty Stuff account is on ephemeral.glitch.social*, and there’s that role play account on occult.camp, and there’s the bot you run that’s on botsin.space... You only really NEED a second account on a particular instance if you want to see its local timeline, which is really only viable for smaller instances.
posted by egypturnash at 9:44 PM on August 26


I joined, someone saw my Nancy avatar, and then we spent like 15 minutes just posting Nancy pictures at each other.

I don't know about y'all, but that's all I pretty much want out of a social network.
posted by Katemonkey at 10:16 PM on August 26 [7 favorites]


I'm on the Idle Thumbs mastodon, and I think that's a great model - existing communities like MetaFilter setting up their own Mastodons, and there's some ability to bring in feeds from other places but the 'local' flavour is much more in line with the community's expectations than a cacaphony of clashing noises. Still, there are problems with the Mastodon model:

It's almost as if changing a few things about how the software works doesn't prevent human beings from behaving the way they already behave...

This has been known, and disregarded, for a long time. Most social software is based on what's come before, and what's come before is usually pretty terrible at supporting groups. It was mostly made by people who subscribed to the California Ideology, which is an unholy mix of Objectivist libertarianism and hippie philosophy - you remove all the rules, and, like communities will naturally form on their own, man.

Federation doesn't stop people sniping at celebrities and other people whom they have a parasocial relationship with, and the only recourse you have for noise is still blocking instead of something more proactive. Mastodon does provide an opportunity for people to innovate, and I will continue to slander every instance owner who doesn't implement the blackspot (users of sufficient trust can mute the scurrilous for everyone for increasingly less short periods of time).
posted by Merus at 10:34 PM on August 26


Came here expecting an intro course in blazing heavy metal. Apparently, I'm not the only one who is confused. Pleasantly, of course.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 10:36 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


But, I just made my account and haven't followed anyone. Who are these people? How do I get rid of them if I don't like them? No idea. (On another look it looks like all the posts are from the same account. I still don't know who this person is. I did not follow them)

The person who runs the instance can set up a list of people who new account auto-follow as I understand it. The account you are seeing is probably something like @host: basically the admin account that tells you when there will be maintenance, or sends new users greeting messages.

You can unfollow them by clicking on their name. This will open their profile in the far-right column. There will be a blue icon shaped like a person, with an x on it. Click that to unfollow them.
posted by Canageek at 10:45 PM on August 26


If you could change instances as easily in Mastadon as you can in, say, WoW, that would be appealing. I know the system doesn't work that way, but having to pack up your tent and find an instance that isn't closed/invite-only and change your whole dang username and get everyone to re-follow you if your admin turns out to be an asshole is a major downside. And you have to do it again if the new instance proves to be a bad fit as well. Like, I didn't have to re-roll my Druid every time Barrens Chat got to me, you know?
posted by halation at 11:48 AM on August 26 [1 favorite +] [!]


It isn't NO work, but it isn't a LOT of work. You go into your settings and export your data to a file on your computer. You make a new account, upload that file, and you are following all the same people, blocking all the same people, and so on. Re-upload your avatar, and copy and past your profile in there, and you are done. (and set up 2FA again, if that is your thing). All in all, about 10 minutes of work last time I did it, and there is lots of talk about how to make the whole process easier.

Also, most invite-only instances hand out memberships like candy, it is just due to a wave of spambots. Most instances you ask anyone on that instance, and they toss one your way.

Plus, every time I've seen an instance shut down, (mastadon.weaponvsac.space and witches.town) one more more instances have been created to replace them (dice.camp in the first case, a bunch in the second case). So you move over to the obvious new instance, everyone you know is already there, plus a bunch of new people brought in when they found out the new instance was forming.

I'd put it at less work then getting a new email address and telling everyone about it, more work then joining a new IRC channel.
posted by Canageek at 10:55 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


How do I change "instances"? Again, no idea. How do I even search for other instances? There seems to be nothing built into the web interface to do this.

I thought mastodon would be like twitter but where I had more control over what I saw and who I interacted with. Instead it seems to be like twitter but more obscure and harder to use.

How do I find people to follow? Twitter generally does a good job of suggesting people I might want to follow. I mostly follow comedians, activists, and scientists. I have no idea how to find those people on mastodon.

Basically if it wants someone like me to use it, it needs a lot more friendly introduction and how-to's. Even more so than the ones linked in this post. And if it doesn't want someone like me to use it... it succeeded.
posted by runcibleshaw at 1:08 PM on August 26


Ok, so the instance you are on can be found by looking at the URL. Each instance has its own website that you sign in through. So if I wanted to sign into my main instance I go to cybre.space. If I want to sign into my roleplay instance I go to tabletop.social. I'm betting you joined mastodon.social, the 'flagship' instance. It is where most new people sign up, since it has the name mastodon. However, it has the problems you are describing, the local timeline moves at warp 9, for example.

Honestly, I found the 'seed' of people I follow with searches. Box on the right side, above where you type posts. You can only search for #ThingsThatHaveBeenHashtagged, so I searched for stuff like #dnd #rpg #gurps, #chemistry and so on. #mefi will find you a LOT of interesting people, for example.
posted by Canageek at 11:03 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


I've mostly used Mastodon since last year. I joined Twitter in 2009 when you got the Fail Whale more often than the actual site. I don't think Mastodon's that hard to use, it's just that people are used to the complexities of Facebook and Twitter but Mastodon is new.

When it comes to instances, I'm a bit reminded of the old stories of people from the Soviet Union going into an American supermarket for the first time and having panic attacks at the vast number of choices available in washing powder and so on. Usually we think of choices as a good thing. You can pick an instance with tight moderation if you like, or if you're a free speech absolutist you can find an instance where you be as edgy as you want to be. Just as any washing powder gets your clothes clean though, it doesn't matter that much if you pick the wrong one: you can always change later, and you can follow people on other instances.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:46 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


Welp, you all got me interested again, so I ironed out my 2FA issues and am back on octodon.social as, well, guess...
posted by Samizdata at 4:21 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


One of the things I really like about Mastodon is that you're not visible to the entire network and the entire world isn't visible to you. People go on about "echo chambers" but isn't it more like how the world used to be before the internet? You tended to interact with people in your neighbourhood, your interest groups, your table at the pub.

The Twitter way of doing things is like sitting around a table at a pub with friends and having random people overhear everything you say and interject with everything from a sealioning "yeah, but" to outright abuse and threats. It'd be a miserable night out. Mastodon is more like the real world, where you pick a neighbourhood and a group based on who you want to talk to, rather than everything you say being a message to the whole world.

There seems to be a significant overlap between people who moan about echo chambers and edgy arseholes.
posted by winterhill at 4:31 AM on August 27 [7 favorites]


I'll try it again. Thank you for all of the patient answers and tips here, MeFi Mastodonii.
posted by doctornemo at 5:04 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


One note: I can't think of the last time I saw someone reference a Mastodon post on another platform. Which is weird, as I do see with some frequency people mentioning a LinkedIn post on Facebook, a G+ thread on Twitter, etc.
posted by doctornemo at 5:05 AM on August 27


I'm another who tried and abandoned Mastodon when I failed to understand it/wasn't interested enough to want to try harder. I keep planning to try again at some point, but shit, like I need something else with which to idle my life away.

(I did have a sudden revelation recently when I realized that my attitude toward twitter was not unlike the attitude some smoking friends have had toward their habit—it's disgusting and bad for me, I know, but I like it anyway and the fact that it's bad for me is to some degree why I continue to like it anyway.)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:01 AM on August 27


> doctornemo:
"I'll try it again. Thank you for all of the patient answers and tips here, MeFi Mastodonii."

I do know something useful to do is to use the #MeFi hashtag. A bunch of us did back in the initial rush.
posted by Samizdata at 7:55 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]


I ebb and flow with all social media, but I remember witches.town being very popular with mefites when the first promotion started. Then, apparently there was drama and the primary mod decided to push the self-destruct button. (I take no responsibility for the accuracy of that thread, as I was not present to witness the drama firsthand.) This reinforced my feeling that it's good to have more than one instance, even if you only lurk on some, in case of conflict, especially as there is no guarantee one-month delay to evacuate. People are people, so there's no perfect barrier against anything going toxic.

Right at the moment I am trying to decide etiquette on self-boosting. I keep my cat photos on toot.cat but if I want a wider audience, is it ok to boost from my much larger octodon.social account or do I assume that anyone who wants to see cat pictures is following my cat identity...
posted by Karmakaze at 9:00 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


As a note, if people need help finding people, or have questions, Mastodon people LOVE helping with that sort of thing. I asked if there where other people into x-ray crystallography on Mastodon and I got something like a hundred boosts off it. Actually found two other people that had done it. Mastodon people REALLY WANT to be helpful and make people welcome.

So if you want to talk about, I don't know, old cars, retrogaming, furry art, whatever, toss @canageek@cybre.space a mention with what type of people you want to chat with, I'll boost it and you'll probably find someone.

Also if you have questions about anything, tag me. If I don't know, I know people who do. (As in, the people who work on the beta version of it, a couple of the most active admins, etc). SOMEONE I know will be able to help you out.
posted by Canageek at 9:55 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I have been on Mastodon for a couple weeks (@mrencyclopedia@mastodon.cloud) and have found it rather awkward, but I remember it took me a while to get the hang of Twitter too. So far I have ended up following a lot of amusing trans people, which is fun. I'm not sold on Mastodon.social as an instance but honestly I'd probably roll my own instance if I really wanted to move.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:59 AM on August 27


I've been over on wandering.shop for a while now and I love it. I find I'm much more likely to engage in conversations with strangers on mastodon just because it feels safer. On twitter I have this constant low-level fear of being piled on by various kinds of trolls and harassers. It's like I'm expecting twitter to bite me and so my tendency to lurk or to only say things that won't attract too much notice (like posting pictures of my cats) are all I do there. I'm still posting pictures of my cats on mastodon (probably more so, actually. @cislyn@wandering.shop for cat pictures, y'all) but I feel so much more secure and safer from trolls. I know my instance admins aren't going to allow a bunch of abuse, and everyone just engages nicely with one another and in apparent good faith.

That learning curve is real, though.
posted by lriG rorriM at 10:43 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I joined Mastodon about 16 months ago, when one of the first posts about it was published here on MetaFilter, and let me tell you, it's the best online community I've found so far. I signed up relatively early, when the activity was much less frenzy, and it helped me taking my time to learn how the whole thing works, but now there are many explainers and tools that can help you find your way through Mastodon.

It's true that Mastodon requires their users to be much more proactive than other social networking sites do. You have to actively choose the right instance, you have to look for people with the same interests as you (hashtags, follow Fridays, and #introduction posts help), you have to remember how federation works, you have to follow people from many other instances if you want your own instance to grow, and so on.

But it's worth it. The community is friendly, welcoming, and encouraging if you show the same friendliness and respect. It's the only social platform where I am comfortable sharing sad thoughts (occasionally, and with a content warning), and the emotional support I received in the past helped me a lot. I haven't found any other social platforms where I feel like I can be myself, rather than a brand for myself.

(If you ever need some help, hit me up.)
posted by spheniscus at 11:31 AM on August 27 [2 favorites]


From the outside and seeing people discuss it here, how is this different than reddit and subreddit divisions when bigger subs inevitably get shitty because human beings overall are shitty.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:45 PM on August 27


Unlike Reddit, you can host your own Mastodon server on your own computer with your own rules and norms, and block other servers and moderate users as you see fit.
posted by idiopath at 1:13 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, I just saw my first unblockable ad on Twitter. As far as I could tell it was a "promoted tweet" that didn't have an actual account associated with it, so there was no option to block like most twitter ads. It seems like the strategy to block all the biggest companies on Twitter is having an impact.

I think the federated social model makes sense. In a world where everyone can have their own personal instance you can have total control over your personal information, at least as much control as anyone can ever have over anything publicly shared online. It reminds me of RSS, in that your feed is pulled from a wide variety of servers and people. Seems truer to the spirit of the Internet and a step back from the modern monolithic centralized services where you sacrifice privacy and control for the sake of ease of use.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 1:42 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


> GoblinHoney: From the outside and seeing people discuss it here, how is this different than reddit and subreddit divisions when bigger subs inevitably get shitty because human beings overall are shitty.

Of course people will be shitty and yes, there are instances where such people tend to concentrate. The first difference with Reddit is that each instance is self-governing. Subreddit moderators have limited power and cannot protect members of their communities from being harassed by other redditors: That power is reserved to admins.

On the other hand, Mastodon instances do have the possibility to silence or block other instances. The criteria used is usually explained in each instance's code of conduct—and that's why a common piece of advice is to choose an instance whose admin(s) you trust. (And by the way, you can hide everything that comes from another instance, even though yours does not silence it.)

Another difference is that Mastodon does not display numbers prominently: You have to click on a toot or on a username to see their number of favourites or followers. And even then those numbers mean very little, because they are often underestimated, due to the way federation works. So there is no race for upvotes and the interactions are not as performative as they are on Reddit (or Twitter or Facebook for that matter), so trolls have one fewer incentive to be shitty to other people.

Yes, there are echo chambers where shitty people get together, similarly to many toxic subreddits, but the effect they have on other communities is much more limited. Of course, there is a problem of scale: An instance with 10 people is easier to manage than one with 10'000. That's one of the reasons why people suggest moving to smaller and cosier instances, and why the biggest instances are sometimes closed to new users.
posted by spheniscus at 2:35 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I like Mastodon a lot. It's not like Twitter at all, which suits me down to the ground. I have a group of friends that I chat with daily, and my instance (Octodon) is pretty cool with lots of musicians, makers, and artists. We had a big influx of people this month, so there's some adjusting going on. I like instances and I like the smaller population, because it's easier for me to control who I talk to or whose content I can see. I just blocked an entire instance of libertarian bros.
posted by Stonkle at 2:42 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I chose octodon.social for 3 main (cascading) reasons: When people were first getting excited about it here, I think in MetaTalk, I went to join & Mastadon.social was closed to new accounts. I pretty quickly found, I think in the same MeTa thread, a list of instances. Octodon was ranked high in uptime, reliability & federation, so I went & looked at the rules of the instance, liked them a lot, & gave it a whirl.

Followed all the mefites who were posting their usernames in the MeTa thread, & just branched out from there. I found a lot of mefites by following a couple then looking at their follow lists. Found an old high school friend who remembered my prog band from back then, who is now an IT dude & Linux geek. Someone posted a Kevin Gilbert song & I followed them immediately & now we’re trading favorite lyrics & Stuff. Followed Some musicians who posted music I liked. Stuff like that. More recently, Twitter friends have been wandering in, & some are sticking around. I’m enjoying the slow organic growth, don’t miss the celebs or news junkies, influencers, TED talkers, & verified bigwigs from Twitter whatsoever.

I don’t have a ton in common with most of the people on octodon other than that they all seem genuine, nice & open about themselves & everyone is generally happy to chat with anyone.

I’m an old email digest & message board kid, & it feels a lot like those days. No big-shots, just some folks who are a little more obsessive than others about the place. I think it has a better-than-average chance at surviving & thriving. When I joined octodon, it had just over 1000 registered users & now that’s about to hit 12,000. Hell even a Matt Howie (you may have heard his name around here) ditched his twitter account for Mastodon a couple weeks ago.

Also yes, Tootle for iOS did just get a good bug-fix update, but Amaroq is probably the best phone client. Really hope the Tweetbot folks have a go at it - they’re pretty pissed at twitter for pulling access to a bunch of their api’s that have crippled their app & are warming up to Mastodon.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:12 PM on August 27


I like Tusky for Android. It had languished for a while, but it's in the hands of a new developer who has been pushing out a lot of improvements.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:21 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Once I got the hang of Mastodon, I stopped checking my Twitter timeline. I still have a list for local news, but the rest is pretty useless to me. Mastodon is a trans queer paradise if you’re on a good instance. I’m on kitty.town, which isn’t explicitly queer but the admin is very dedicated to keeping it a safe, chill place. She doesn’t hesitate to mute or block users and instances. There’s no “free speech” nitpicking or hairsplitting, it’s just a benevolent dictatorship with a side order of Nazi punching.

There are a few people I miss from twitter but there’s a critical mass on Mastodon now and I actually follow more people there. My stress level is way down. I love the content warnings; I don’t have to look at political hot takes and they don’t get surprised by spider pictures.

I really recommend a smaller instance. You can still interact the same way with people on other instances, it’s just that your admin has fewer people to moderate so the likelihood of bullshit is much lower.
posted by AFABulous at 10:35 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Mastodon quick start guide
posted by Artw at 6:03 AM on August 28


The admin of kitty.town (who is great, and I follow remotely, and we copied most of our instance's CoC from [w/ forgiveness after the fact 😬]) posted earlier confusedly asking what being "referred by... Metafilter" meant. I happily filled her in.
posted by supercres at 10:56 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


There appears to be some drama going on surround Wil Wheaton? Who is responding to harassment and/or throwing his weight around as a celebrity and some instances are supporting him/putting up with his shit and some are not and there’s a bunch of instances blocking other instances as a result including some major ones.

Seems like a bit of a test of the model.
posted by Artw at 6:11 AM on August 29


I was trying to figure out the wilw@mastodon.cloud discourse yesterday when taking a break from working on updating my instance. Apparently once he promoted a Twitter block list that ended up being run by TERFs and blocked a bunch of trans activists and now he is the most horrible person ever even though he claims to have stopped doing this once he found out about the terfs?

I dunno, I can’t be bothered to care, I just wanna get my instance updated and then maybe have a quick go at that “hide boosts of anyone with more than maxFollowerThreshold followers” patch I keep thinking about, there’s a fame threshold at which I just don’t want to hear from anyone in my social media unless I am explicitly following them.
posted by egypturnash at 7:01 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


He’s also a big booster of dead eyed nerd sociopath Chris Hardwick, and his leaving of Twitter seems to be timed around that. But it may be as simple as him wanting the equivalent of blue tick status and not getting it.
posted by Artw at 7:05 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


I love how queer and diverse the Mastodon instances I've joined are. It really is very different from any other social media community I have participated in.

THAT SAID I will personally very much look forward to the day when there is a social media space that is queer friendly and accepting without a massive chunk of the conversation on that social media space being about being queer friendly and accepting. Along the line of Tina Fey remarking on how nice it will be when a woman winning an award no longer needs to be preceded by "only the [Nth] woman to receive the [prize]".

My queer identity is important to me and I'm glad to be somewhere that this is accepted / normalized but boy oh boy am I tired of it being the most important topic of discussion ever. Most of the time I just want to joke around and talk about food or music or books or whatever.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:11 AM on August 29 [2 favorites]


@Alexis@beepboop.one
imagine if you're a volunteer mod at the instance a celeb shows up at, your job description quickly turn from "moderation" into "moderation AND celeb moderation."

@Alexis@beepboop.one
"Celebrities are people, too," and all that, but I think anyone with an audience over a certain size, especially if they're used to the additional features that come with Twitter's verification process, simply requires a level of support that may just be... unkind to expect of volunteers even at the biggest instances."

@Alexis@beepboop.one
[wilw drama]
celebs should just have private instances, or ones for just themselves and a handful of others.


(Toots are harder to get into some kind of mefi quoting format, don't know if i'll be doing too much of that in the future)
posted by Artw at 8:26 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I was trying to figure out the wilw@mastodon.cloud discourse yesterday when taking a break from working on updating my instance. Apparently once he promoted a Twitter block list that ended up being run by TERFs and blocked a bunch of trans activists and now he is the most horrible person ever even though he claims to have stopped doing this once he found out about the terfs?

When I asked about this I was privately informed by someone who follows me that this resulted in them being outed. I don't know the details, but that is pretty damn bad.

One of the big upsides of Mastodon though, is yes, there is a big kerfuffle about wilw. However, unlike twitter it is mostly happening behind CWs, so you don't have to SEE it if you don't want.
posted by Canageek at 9:42 AM on August 29


A lot of this is mastodon.social growing pains, and how it's large enough to be twitter-esque. I don't envy anyone who's firmly rooted there, nor the mods.

More (better) context in this mastodon thread (no login needed)
posted by supercres at 11:49 AM on August 29


Well, it looks like Wil is leaving the Fediverse.

Honestly, as the network grows, we’re going to have to figure out the difference between People We Don’t Like and People Who Actively Cause Harm.

As far as I can tell, Wil wasn’t actively causing harm, he’s just someone people don’t like—justifiably or not. While I’d like something from him about the Hardwick issue, I generally return neutral on him. Either way, I feel safe in saying Wil was not Actively Causing Harm in the way that, say, a Milo Yiannopoulos would.

If this were a Milo Yiannopoulos situation, it would be incumbent upon Instance mods to block him, block any instance he used, anything to force him off because where he goes, Active Harm follows.

In Wil’s case, if someone doesn’t want to see him, they can block him, or block .cloud, whatever method works best for your needs, because—again—he’s not actively shitting up the place. He’s just Someone People Don’t Like. And as long as he’s in that category, he has every right to be on the network.

*grump*

And besides, if we have to have a Trek actor on the Fediverse, I’d rather have Wil Wheaton hanging around than Shatner.
posted by SansPoint at 3:59 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Admins removed his account because the community rose up and he whined endlessly about it.

It’s decentralized. He could find any other instance to join but he wanted to be on that one. Because it’s the main one I guess? And the community didn’t want him there.

He’s a petulant child.
posted by supercres at 4:23 PM on August 29


* enough of the community that the focal point of the anger was deemed more expendable than the sources of the anger.
posted by supercres at 4:24 PM on August 29


On the other hand, what’s to stop these people from following him to another instance and hounding him off there? Absolutely nothing.

And .cloud is not the main instance, it’s .social.
posted by SansPoint at 4:29 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


It is costing me around $15/month to run a Mastodon instance with maybe a couple dozen active users. (Plus, I guess, the 20+ years of sysadmin experience -- it's not particularly difficult to set up, but it's not quite a turnkey experience yet.) It seems like Wil Wheaton must know someone who'd be willing to do the setup and maintenance for a price he could afford, and I'm not sure why a celebrity who could reasonably have predicted a shitstorm to rain down on the admin of any instance he was on wouldn't set up his own private instance to be on.

If he did that, his haters couldn't mob his instance admin because that would be him, and he could ignore them by just not looking at the reporting interface. They'd have to mob the admins of every instance that doesn't block his, and I don't see how they'd get any traction with any admins except their own. Even then, why would I as an instance admin block his instance instead of telling my users to block him themselves? It's not like he's going to set up multiple accounts on that instance for harassing people. If he starts doing that, it'd be appropriate to request your admin block his instance. Until then? Just ... don't follow him? Block him yourself?
posted by hades at 8:32 PM on August 29 [4 favorites]


hades: That's an option, but really, I don't get why he has to be harangued in general. Someone I (used to) follow was making this out to be a victory for all the victims of abuse who had been deplatformed by abusers, but who did Wil abuse? He's not a perfect person by any stretch, and how he's dealt with the Hardwick accusations is evidence, but there's nothing out there showing that he's causing abuse and harassment. Save the victory parades for when the Fediverse forces out someone who is causing active harm.
posted by SansPoint at 8:39 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


Well, yeah, the ideal situation would be that Annotunzdy and Bsky don't ban people from their instance for being inconvenient to have around, just for breaking their rules. Maybe Wheaton offers to contribute to them the $10/month it would cost him to run his own instance, or pay them some kind of up-front inconvenience fee, and they weather the storm. Celebrities/hate-magnets running their own private instances should be the fallback scenario. But given that's not what happened, I'm saying he has options.

As for haranguing in general, I think morganmay@octodon.social sums it up pretty well:
When we create a culture where it's okay to gang up on and harass people, the ones who suffer most are never the ones who "deserve it", because those people inevitably have backup/clout/resources. The people who suffer most will be vulnerable and marginalized people who are wrongly accused of misbehavior and don't have a fanbase or clique to back them up. Mob behavior is *easy to exploit*, and we should be very careful about normalizing it.
posted by hades at 9:06 PM on August 29 [3 favorites]


I don't have an opinion of Wil Wheaton either way, I guess (never followed him on Twitter and only saw his name come up here occasionally), but he apologized for promoting the TERF-created blocklist, claiming he was unaware. I had just signed up at octodon a day or so before the drama, and I'm newb enough that I wasn't watching it unfold in realtime, but seeing said drama and the glee of those dog-piling on him kind of soured me mastodon, for the near future at least.
posted by polywomp at 7:13 AM on August 30


I've just realized that everything I want in Mastodon is already in Discord. Plus, I don't need a computer science degree to set up my own server.
posted by runcibleshaw at 8:54 PM on August 30


Except that, unless I'm very much misunderstanding how Discord works, you can't actually set up your own server. You can have Discord spin up an instance in their environment that you have admin rights on, but it's still their server and environment, and your use of it is governed by the contract you agreed to when you signed up for an account with them. Discord is a closed system, and it belongs to Discord, not you. It's a fundamentally different model than Mastodon, which is an implementation of a couple of open protocols and interoperates with other free software which implements those protocols, such as GNU social.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each approach, obviously.
posted by hades at 12:00 AM on August 31 [1 favorite]


Right, but as outlined above, unless you are one of the very few people who sets up their own instance, then either way you're at the whim of someone else, so to me the situations are equivalent.
posted by runcibleshaw at 11:45 AM on August 31


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