Featured image of post Getting started with Mastodon

Getting started with Mastodon

Mastodon is an amazing federated social network similar to Twitter. Federation means, that there are a bunch of independent instances/servers, able to communicate with each other. In contrast to a centralized service like Twitter, federated instances remain independent and are not prone to be a single point of failure or of interest. By choosing a instance that suits your believes and interests, you can make yourself more resilient towards policy changes and unwanted content in a way, that centralized instances cannot achieve. In addition, the federated nature encourages the formation of communities around topics, friend groups or location.

In short: Fediverse and where to start

  • It’s in general more privacy focused, as you don’t sell your data to a big company
  • There is no central entity controlling all instances at once. Every instance is independent somewhow
  • In my opinion, each community should have their own instance and we need more of them
  • In my opinion, the current biggest weak point is that you probably don’t find your non-tech friends (yet) on Mastodon
  • Entering the Fediverse is more difficult than e.g. Twitter, as you need to pick an app and a instance. In other words: freedom of choice raises the entrance bar

How do I join?

  1. Select an instance (See below), if you are impatient, go to mastodon.social and create an account
  2. Use the Webbrowser, or an Android app like Fedilab or Tusky. I recommend tusky.
  3. Enjoy and have a good time :-)
  4. Bring your friends

A bit of background

I believe the federated nature of networks like Mastodon are a large resilience benefit in comparison to centralized instances like Twitter. Federated instances are isolated homes for a bunch of users, but you are able to communicate across your own community. This works similar as email: Also if you are on gmail, you can send emails to hotmail, GMX, protonmail or feldspaten. You are home on one domain, but you can communicate with other ones. This is, in a nutshell, the true meaning of Federation, the ability to communicate with other instances and not being locked-in in your home instance.

Federation also means that damaged/hateful instances can be isolated and ignored, but this does not affect the rest of the network. This is a huge benefit, because it allows to compartmentalize and contain unwanted content without having to work on the whole network at once. Healthy instances typically have a not-too-small list of instances that are blocked and not shown to the users because of unwanted content. The federated nature makes this possible and this is typically a sane way of avoiding the abyss of human existence or simply unwanted content like nudity or disrespectful content. It also means, that once a single instance becomes hostile or shares illegal content, it can be cut out without disrupting the rest of the network. In other words: If GMX would be down, gmail users can still operate normally.

Opinion: Why you probably don’t want to but still should join the Fediverse

TL;DR: Because you are awesome and you should share this awesomeness with your friends and the world (but your friends are most probably not yet there).

Let’s be honest. The main downside of Mastodon is that probably most of your friends aren’t there. For most people friends are the only reason, why you want to use a social network: To share awesome stuff with people that you care about.

I believe that because of it’s compartmentalization, the Fediverse is a more suitable environment for groups of friends to interact with each other. In the end we would need much more smaller instances, perhaps one for each city or region, where people who now each other can meet, hangout and share stuff. In my opinion, this is how the internet should work, because it brings local communities together, where they are. This is the biggest difference to gigantic services like Facebook or Twitter, where everybody is on the same centralized instance.

The problem is, that this is not happening now, so most people join one of the bigger instances, instead of picking out a suitable small one (or setting up one themselves). It is still better than big companies, because Mastodon is a non-profit organization without hidden business interests, but it fails at being truly federated. It’s only half of the solution.

The main problem is that moving a whole group of friends over from WhatsApp groups or Twitter is typically a painful transition, because humans are lazy and require a ton worth of momentum to move. That’s why you are probably the first one to move and it’s probably easier to find new friends online, than convince your friends to move over from twitter or facebook.

The Fediverse would be ready for your awesomeness, and you should definitely share it with the world, but I recon that it’s difficult to motive your non-tech-savvy friend groups over, because they don’t see the value in doing so.

List of possible instances to join

In the case you find the Fediverse interesting, but you don’t know where to start, visit instances.social and search for a suitable instance there. I also give a list of (possible) suggestions for some topics here.

Note: There is a chance that the instances changed or are not available anymore. This is not a complete list, but should only give you an inspiration where to start.

  • chaos.social - German instance by people from the CCC. This is also my home and where I am mostly active
  • mastodon.social - Probably the biggest general instance. Pick this if unsure or impatient to pick a custom instance
  • mastodon.radio - hosted for and by a ham radio community
  • social.linux.pizza - (not only) people with an interest in the GNU+Linux ecosystem and/or general tech
  • cybre.space - A cyberpunk/glitchpunk/retro-futurist instance for writers/artists and programmers
  • hackers.town - A bunch of technomancers in the Fediverse

Dutch instances

  • mastodon.nl - Mastodon instance for the Dutch community, but open to anyone
  • nicepeople.social - A Dutch Mastodon instance for nice people. Open for everyone as long as you act nice.

Some German instances

By topic

  • social.tchncs.de - Sympathetic German instance, run by the motto: “Be nice to each other”
  • troet.cafe
  • metalhead.club - A Mastodon instance for Metal music fans (not only)
  • literatur.social - an instance for authors, editors, journalists and book lovers
  • cybre.space - Cybrespace strives to be a tightly-knit community of cyber-enthusiasts.

By location

This list is non-exhaustive, it should only give you a feeling or idea about what is possible.

Federation rocks. It is more resilient than centralized instances, is more privacy oriented and you can even setup and host your own instance, that is able to communicate with the rest of the federated network.

Join the Fediverse, and bring your friends now. Share your awesomeness and participate in a collective and truly social network without sacrificing your soul to the gods of advertisement.