If you use Twitter and are seeing this blog post then there is a good chance you know that Mastodon is an alternative social network which is similar to Twitter but with enough differences to make it seem odd.
I’ve tried to use it before but have always had a problem in that it was just really, really quiet whilst Twitter provides me with hundreds of messages a day to skim over.
But this weekend things started to change and, after Elon Musk bought Twitter, Mastodon saw a surge in users and it became a much more lively place… comparatively anyway.
I’m going to try an experiment for a little while. I’m going to try having more of my social media interactions over on Mastodon (you can find me at @email@example.com) and use Twitter for what I will call ‘read-only information gathering’.
If you want to try Mastodon then that would be great but it is not as straightforward as Twitter so here are some pointers…
Think of your username and account as being more like email than a Twitter handle. There are numerous servers (also called instances) which comprise the service and they may come and go over time because, at the moment, they are largely run by individuals. Like changing your email address when you switch to a different service, you can move your Mastodon account from one instance to another (there is some detailed information about it here). You can also run your own instance if you want to and this may be what larger organisations start to do if Mastodon becomes more popular. If you want complete control over your messages and to have your own, more permanent identity without running a dedicated server then there are also Mastodon hosting providers you can use. More details about running your own server and hosting options are here.
After starting out on the https://mastodon.social server which was getting hammered by load as people migrated to it I decided to try a hosted server and I am using mastohost. Hugo who runs it was incredibly quick to help me out with a DNS issue (add a
.at the end of the CNAME value if your registrar appends the domain name automatically).
Each server has its own public timeline of messages posted by people on that instance. It is easy to browse and this is one of the reasons why the suggestion is that you join a server which is hosting like-minded people. You’ll meet new people who have the same interests as you.
Each server’s moderator(s) can view your public posts and your direct messages so do not consider it as a private, secure messaging system. There are plenty of other services and ways to swap private messages with people but Mastodon is probably not one of them.
And that’s the basics of it. Pick an instance and start meeting people. It may or may not take off in the same way that Twitter has and it may not be a long-term thing but it is always fun to try something news, particularly when the old things are stale and pretty hostile, even if you try to keep within your own bubble.