I’ve decided to move on from Twitter and focus on a type of social networking that feels remarkably familiar to Twitter in many ways but is unique in its own ways – Mastodon. Good bye Twitter, hello Fediverse
So what is this mastodon, tooting and fediverse? Read on for more details!
What is Mastodon?
It’s an open source federated social media system based on open APIs and more importantly an Open Protocol. Federated means there is no one central authority, but the instances can all cross communicate and chat with one another through this open protocol.
What does it look like? Is it like twitter? It is like twitter. To a mobile user it will look familiar – You have your timeline, a profile, an about page and your “toots” (they’re called toots, not tweets). Mastodon toot… honk… get it? 😀
So, there is an air of familiarity – and I think that’s a good thing. With over a million new people joining, if it were too strange it would be hard to sustain such adoption.
What does federated mean again?
They call it the #fediverse because it’s a universe of federated services all collaborating and working together. Mastodon itself is a social network system built on this “Fediverse” which has a growing number of services like image sharing, chatting, video conferencing and such. It’s interesting to see how much is here – and how much of it is self-hosted and self-ran – much like the original days of the internet.
This fediverse is huge. I mean, check this out – it’s pretty awesome to see all these services that can be independent but communicate/share with one another.
To me, it feels like the “good old days” of the internet – Everyone is happy, social, collaborative – or at least not out to make your day miserable. I think having a social community that is local to your server and one that is federated solves a lot of the issues that arise on networks like Twitter and Facebook where there is an effort by the media and people to dominate them.
I’d say this is the best part. Mastodon doesn’t have an algorithm. It has a simple flow of “toots” and for those “toots” to be seen across the federation, they need to be followed by people across servers and they need to be boosted. Liking a toot does nothing but send a dopamine hit.
And this is absolutely GLORIOUS.
There is nothing saying I should follow someone. There is no bad news showing up in my timeline that is being recommended. There is NOTHING unless YOU make it SOMETHING.
And that’s the catch. You must find some “friends” or really “people to follow” and then your timeline starts to light up.
There is another layer of federation
This can be the confusing part for some. On each mastodon Instance (realm/cluster/server/community – they’re called instance) there are several areas to be aware of.
Your typical sidebar menu will look like this:
Home: This is your timeline of the people you follow. If you don’t follow anyone, it’s just your toots.
Notifications: This is your dopamine hit counter 😉 You will see notifications for boosts (retweets essentially), Likes and new Followers.
Explore: This is like Explore on the old bird site – you can see what’s trending, view tags, news and find new people to follow locally or across the fediverse.
Local: This is your local “instance” timeline. The place you signed up to. This means if you find a specialized community server, you will only see the locals talking here. Terrific way to be on a niche site for scientists, engineers, musicians, or people with a hobby. Gives you a sense of community. Getting to know people.
Federated: This is the global “fediverse” timeline – it can go fast. Not every tweet in the federated network shows up here. There is a simple “method to the mayhem” that gives the “Human” approach to sharing.
Direct Message: DMs are NOT secure – they’re just toots that aren’t sent to the world but sent directly. DO NOT USE THIS FOR ANYTHING THAT IS CONFIDENTIAL. They’re not encrypted. I hope they will soon be.
Favorites, Bookmarks and Lists work like you expect. They show what you have bookmarked, favorited and you can create lists to categorize people you follow. Unlike twitter, you need to follow people to put them in lists because everything is federated, if you didn’t follow them and they were on a remote instance, you may not see their toots.
How do people see my toots?
This “toot flow chart” (man I love saying that!) shows the lifecycle of a “Toot”.
It’s good to know this because it shows how humans are the only thing acting on what other humans say.
How do you help quality content with this flow chart? Follow people you like. If they create some great content – Boost it. That’s it. Liking something just says “hey thanks” but “Boosting” is saying “hey, this should show up on my servers federated timeline. Boosting is what makes something go viral.
Why is Mastodon important?
I write and share about travel and adventure and my day job working in tech. I’ve “tweeted to the void” on twitter and it’s gone nowhere – with extraordinarily little participation. A very frustrating and time-consuming experience. My first day on Mastodon and I had more followers, likes, toots and boosts than ever and it felt extremely rewarding just to say hi and chat with people.
In this day and age, connecting with people just feels important. It felt good.
The atmosphere is different. The federation I believe helps keep it this way.
The culture is different – it’s very human – no algorithm. So you have to start somewhere. You have to find those interests and you have to participate.
That participation is often rewarded because people follow you and share back.
You’re not an audience. You’re a human. This is what you have to remember with Mastodon in comparison to FB & Twitter.
Tips for finding people/topics
Find people who like to hike. Go to the search bar and type #hiking
Find people who like to kayak – Go to the search bar and type #kayaking
Want to have people be able to find you – update your profile and put in some intriguing description and use #hashtags of your interests – so you show up in search.
Make your first toot a toot about #introduction – and use hashtags galore there for your interests, adventures, travels and destinations. It’s very much like twitter in the old days and it feels good.
How do I sign up?
Find any mastodon server you want. You can find ones with specific topics, or general ones. We’ve launched a general one with a bias towards discovery, exploration, and adventure – Universeodon.com. Registration is free, open, and easy to get started. Follow the URL, click register and get started in your browser.
The server choice isn’t as crazy or problematic as most people suggest. Sure, there are many to choose from – Getmastodon.com has a list – but they’re EXTREMLY busy and getting beat up right now. The community is what YOU make of it (not the algo) so YOU follow what YOU want and that makes YOU happy. That is all that matters.
To register – click the Create account button. (On some instances, this first home page may look slightly different).
Yes, there are a ton of Apps in the App store
I use Toot for iOS; it costs a couple of bucks, but I just saw someone released “Tooot” today for free and it looks great. There are official and unofficial apps on both iOS and Android – the PWA/Mobile websites work great too if you don’t want to bother with an App.
I’ll add more content as I explore these options. This will be their own pages or link to public docs anyway. Just wanted to note that there are tons to choose from – choose what you like!
Here is one I use – Toot
There is a free one available that looks like it gets lots of updates as well. It’s called TOOOT with 3 OOOs 🙂
Please leave a comment with your favorite App or better yet, find us on Mastodon and send us a TOOT!
More to come…
I will update this post with some frequency to add more content and tips/tricks as I figure them out. I hope to see you on the fediverse.
With that said – there are some do’s and don’ts. These instances are ran by organizations or individuals, not giant corporations. Support your local mastodon instance (there will often be links to pitch in).
- Be nice
- Follow the rules
- Use hashtags
- Use search
- Follow people across other instances
- Ask for help if you’re stuck
- Be nice 🙂
- Don’t treat it like a marketing service
Many of my readers may be bloggers themselves. I’ll write an entire guide soon on how you can integrate your wordpress/blogs into the fediverse and share them… maybe add that here or have some new titles. Use your profile to add links to your pages and communicate to people like humans. It’s fun! I hope to see you there.
I’m a 40 something father of two girls who loves the mountains, still plays in the sand and enjoys being in the great outdoors. The mountains are always calling my name.
“Wilderness is a necessity” – John Muir