I took a pop at Mastodon several years ago, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t figure out how to make it social, and I didn’t have a good grasp of how the “federated” part works.
The ascension of EM on Twitter gave me impetus to look again, so yesterday afternoon I started exploring. At the end of the evening I had a better understanding of the fediverse (though I suspect my understanding is only 1% complete), a much busier Mastodon instance, and a big pile of resources which I’m going to share with you here.
I’m seeing some wild statements about Mastodon on Twitter, like how there’s nobody on Mastodon, it’s too hard to use, etc. I haven’t found that to be true. Is there a learning curve? Yes. Are there LOTS of people who are willing to help you flatten that learning curve? Yes. Are there as many people on Mastodon as Twitter? No. Are there literally thousands of communities talking about everything under the sun and moving information all over the place? Yes.
Feels like early Web, to be honest, which is a difficult feeling to explain and one which can evoke a lot of scorn, so I don’t think I’m going to go around arguing about it. Instead, I’ll just say I’ve already found a lot of interesting people to follow, the global use of hashtags is exquisite, and there are so many Mastodon tools already available that I’m planning a set of ResearchBuzz bots.
If this sounds like something you want to explore too, read on for a big list of resources.
One warning before we start: if you’ve been on the Internet for any length of time you know that the scammers come out whenever anything big/viral happens. It’s the same with Mastodon – there are indications that there are jerks setting up malware disguised as useful products. I’m trying to stick to the older/established tools in this writeup to avoid that danger, but in all cases please be careful when something asks you for Twitter or Mastodon permissions.
Everything I know about Mastodon – This article by Danielle Navarro is subtitled “A hastily written guide for data science folks trying to navigate the fediverse,” but if this is hastily written I can’t tell it. Thorough, lots of resources, even has a table of contents on the side.
Come Join Me On Mastodon, Folks — If you want a good solid Mastodon walkthrough with maximum instructions and minimum cultural commentary, here you go. If you don’t have time to read and absorb Danielle Navarro’s article.
Welcome to Mastodon — A Google Doc that looks like a heroic attempt to maintain a FAQ/help type document. Less a walkthrough than a really good collection of bite-sized instructions and explanations to inform your use of Mastodon.
How To Leave Twitter for Mastodon — This article from Max Eddy not only walks you through how to sign up for Mastodon, but also shows you how to lock down or delete your Twitter account and remove its apps.
How to leave Twitter and switch to Mastodon — I’m not going to list every primer in the world, but Coywolf’s overview is a shoo-in for its elegant, simple solution for crossposting between Mastodon and Twitter. RSS and IFTTT/Zapier, baybee.
How to Mastodon — The MidRange newsletter is temporarily suspending its format to offer a series of articles about what Mastodon is and how to use it.
How to Join Mastodon, the Ad-Free Social Network Billionaires Can’t Buy – Mostly, an overview of the culture and nature of Mastodon. Answer some high-level questions like “Which server should I join?” Executive summary type article.
Mastodon 101 – A 15-minute video that walks you through what Mastodon is and how to get an account. Three years old, so may not be exactly as Mastodon is now. My spot-checking of the captions showed them to be quite good – I think they’re deliberate as opposed to auto-generated.
Exploring Mastodon – A multi-part (and I think ongoing) article from Martin Fowler on his experiences using Mastodon. The part I’m linking to talking about the importance of finding your first Mastodon instance. (Spoiler – it’s not particularly important and Mastodon makes it very easy to move to another instance.)
Mastodon Basics – An overview article that’s geared more toward software developers, with discussions about the tech and pointers to ongoing projects.
Mastodon for Writers/Readers – A discussion of Mastodon and its resources with a particular focus on writers, readers, and accessibility. Lots of resources here.
Adding alt text (and more) to images in Monsoon – Sharpen your accessibility chops with this article from Clint Lalonde on adding alt text and setting the focus area for an image.
Fedi.Tips – Once you’ve found an instance and you’re looking around Mastodon, you’ll probably want some guidance on finding popular hashtags, verifying your account, etc. Fedi.Tips has a big list. (It’s also a good account to follow if you’re a newbie.)
Finding Mastodon Instances
Instances.social – Asks you a few preference questions about instance size, moderation preferences, and languages, and generates a big list of instances for you to check out.
To the Fediverse – Would you rather browse instances than get a list of recommendations? This site lists 7700 instances, which includes a number of lists on the front page (newest instances, largest instances, instances in various languages, instances by topic, etc.
In the rapidly expanding Mastodon fediverse, there’s an instance for everyone – A brief Mashable article about some of the more niche-y parts of Mastodon.
Finding People to Follow
Academics on Mastodon – Are you a proud member of #AcademicTwitter? You’ll love this list of academic accounts on Mastodon, sorted by discipline. There are groups available here as well as a list of science/academic/GLAM instances.
There’s a new Google Sheet aggregating tech policy and defence Mastodon.
Here’s a Google Sheet of Irish journalists on Mastodon. (Over 45 listings at this writing.)
Here’s a big Google Sheet of lawyers and legal types on Twitter — over 300 people at this writing.
Here’s a Google Sheet for Following Digital Humanities people on Mastodon.
More interested in genealogists and family historians? There’s a Google Sheet for that too.
I’ve listed a ton of spreadsheets, so how about a Google Doc for a change? Check out A Partial List of Researchers on Mastodon in Communication, Media Studies, and Adjacent Fields. A pretty big list and active when I reviewed it (I watched editing going on.)
A Google Sheet has been set up for the migration of NatSec Twitter users to Mastodon.
If you’re looking for archaeologists and likeminded folks on Mastodon I have a Google Sheet for you.
There’s a Google Sheet of neurodiverse people who have moved to Mastodon here .
Social Search – Search engine indexing over 2.4 million fediverse accounts. Search by keyword, or browse some of the lists on the front page (largest number of followers, active tech accounts, popular RSS feeds, etc.)
Fediverse Party – A big, nicely-organized list of Mastodon resources. Includes tools for both end-users and programmers, forks, tutorials, utilities, etc.
Project Awesome – A list of Mastodon tools in a number of programmer and end-user categories, with what appears to be a focus on French-language content.
3 tools to help you find people you follow on Twitter on Mastodon – Clint Lalonde looks at three ways to find your Twitter fam on Mastodon. Again, be careful about granting Twitter permissions. (Fortunately the way these tools are structured you can give permission, run the tool, and then revoke permission.)
Moa.party – Acts as a bridge between your Twitter and your Mastodon account. This is a utility that requires a lot of trust. I checked the GitLab repo for this tool, and it’s two years old, and the original GitHub account is over three years old.
Stork (pleroma bot) – A bot that lets you mirror Twitter accounts into Mastodon. The GitHub project for this started in 2020.
Fedifinder was an early tool to find Twitter users migrating to Mastodon. It was very popular, however, and got overwhelmed. It’s now back with backup servers. It’s another tool that requires Twitter permissions. I recommend you allow permission, run the tool, then revoke permission.
How to Find Your Twitter Friends on Mastodon – An article from Wired that covers both methods and tools for finding your friends after they migrate.
Apps N’ Such
Here are the best Mastodon apps to download for Android — 9to5 Google rounds up 5 possibilities.
Eight Mastodon apps for iPhone — From May 2022, so might be slightly out of date. Very thorough and extensive app overview, not just a list.
If you’re using Mastodon on the desktop and you don’t like the default interface, may I recommend Whalebird? It’s open source and for Linux, Mac, and Windows. It’s got a Slacklike setup with a vertical menu on the left. Good for the list-addicts among us.
Bots in Space / UA News – Mirrors a bunch of (mostly) Ukraine news accounts on Twitter.
Hosts and Hosting
People use Mastodon by logging on to Web sites called “instances”. These instances are all linked together and people can communicate across them. (If you’re in tech and of a certain age, I might explain by saying “It’s a BBS network, only on the Internet instead of phone lines.”)
Just like with a Web site, you can host your own Mastodon instance. That’s what I’m doing via Masto.host. With my own instance I can mess around and make bots and not bother people. Masto.host’s entry-level tier cost for an instance is $6 a month, but unfortunately it’s a bit overwhelmed at the moment and is temporarily closed to new users. I’m putting it here because I’ve always had a good experience working with this host and he answers support requests like lightning.
The Best Fediverse Servers to Create Your Own Online Community — An article from MakeUseOf that covers a number of available spaces in the fediverse; not just Mastodon but also Lemmy, Pixelfed, etc.
On running a Mastodon Instance – Tobias from Rixx lays it out, warts and all.
Deploying a tiny Mastodon server on DigitalOcean – Tom Royal digs into setting up your own Mastodon instance via Digital Ocean. Not for newbies or non-technical people.
Operating Mastodon, Privacy, and Content — This article was beyond me in about two paragraphs, so I despair of describing it. Here’s an excerpt: “So Mastodon is the epitome of the ruby monolith that we have all heard about. It’s a large stateful application runs several services on the backend. It communicates with remote SMTP APIs to send emails to the users, and requires a TLS encrypted ingress just to bring the service online. Fortunately for us, we were currently looking for applications to prototype our new Kubernetes and Systemd alternative tool Aurae.”
decoded.legal took a look at running Mastodon or other fediverse services from an English law point of view. Of course nothing in this extensive article should be construed as legal advice, because while Neil Brown is *a* lawyer he is not *your* lawyer (and if he is why are you reading this? You’re probably late to an appointment.)
How to Make a Mastodon Bot: The Definitive Guide – Just what it says on the tin. Also includes a list of fediverse bots if you want to see what other people are working on.
Create a Mastodon bot to forward Twitter and RSS feeds to your timeline – A walkthrough from the Platypush blog.