Getting Started with Mastodon


If there is a group/topic hosted on one server that isn’t shared with yours, then you would have to either convince your server’s admin to start sharing the group (assuming its host server allows it) or log in to a server that has the group.

I can’t think of another reason why you might need to have accounts on multiple servers.

Considering joining the Twitter migration? Check out these platform alternatives.

If you have two identities, i.e. you as you personally, and you as an employee who needs to use Mastodon. But generally speaking, you can Follow and be Followed by users on other servers/Instances.

That’s not really the point, for me. I’ve never posted on Twitter, and I was on it only to follow certain obscure sources that aren’t easy to access otherwise. Odds are that these would not have been too disrupted (assuming they stayed on Twitter, which is a different question).

But I have quit Twitter. Yes, I’ve lost access to those sources. I can live with that. I quit Twitter because:

  1. I don’t want to encourage a facility that prioritizes free speech over factual accuracy (frankly, if there is anything we should have learned in the last six years, it’s that facts matter more than free speech!),
  2. I don’t want to use a facility that encourages trolling, and
  3. (most important of all) I don’t want Elon Musk monetizing me.

So I’m off Twitter.


Fair enough – everybody has to weigh things for themselves.

Assuming you’re American, you live in a country that prioritizes free speech over factual accuracy – and that’s exactly the right way to do it. Can you imagine having the [insert scariest partisan administration of your choice] getting to decide what was “factual” and what wasn’t?

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Which, I observe, is an opinion. Not a fact.

I still prefer facts. They can be verified.

Oh, never mind.

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The Supreme Court holds that falsehoods are protected by the first amendment – so that part is a fact (US v. Alvarez, 2012). The “right way to do it” is an opinion.

Verified facts at various periods in American history included that Black Americans were mentally inferior to white Americans and that female Americans were emotionally incapable of owning property. I wouldn’t be confident that we’ve gotten all that far beyond those times.

But, you’re right, never mind.

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prioritizes free speech over factual accuracy

Twitter has never prioritized either of those much…like FB and Instagram and TikTok…it’s pretty much always been a cesspool and one should never get ‘facts’ from social media…it is much better to do your own research and actually read the articles instead of just the deadlines to figure out the facts.


Which is precisely why it was only a small loss for me to give up Twitter – I used it only for very specialized cases where there was no real source to supply the information. For general-purpose data, I either try to get to the summaries of the scientific studies or go to reputable news sources.

But observe that what happened in this thread is exactly what is wrong with Twitter: opinions asserted as facts, with no fact-checking. Me, I want a place where facts are the currency and are fact-checked, and opinions are held apart because they only lead to fights. Which are not constructive for anyone. There is good psychological evidence for that: angry people aren’t rational. :-) (Assuming people are ever rational, which is something about which opinions might differ. :-)

Let’s stay on the topic of getting started with Mastodon, please. Wading into the question of fact and opinion will lead to nothing but quagmire.


Yeah, what little I’ve read about Mastodon (and after looking up “federated” in my Apple Dictionary) reminded me a little of Usenet too.

I read an article recently on somebody’s blog (but I can’t find the URL now, sorry) arguing at length that Mastodon was almost certain to fail, that it couldn’t scale for various reasons. The blogger seemed technically sophisticated about the underlying issues.

My own reaction, based on very limited information, was that Mastodon is just too complicated for most ordinary people (i.e. not nerds like us) who are the vast majority of twitter-ers. As a commentator on USA Today recently said in her article about various Twitter alternatives: “Every single one of them has a learning curve and who has time for that?”

Of course I haven’t tried Mastodon, nor Twitter either (other than occasionally glancing at it). Even my relatively limited experience on Reddit and more specialized forums like this one… reminds me of my old days on Usenet, which I eventually gave up and felt better afterwards. I guess when it comes to social media (is this social media?) I’m basically antisocial. Oh well.

This excerpt from today’s Bloomberg Tech Daily authored by Vlad Savov expands on your assessment:

So I gave Mastodon a try and was quickly convinced to go back to Twitter and not give up on it yet.

Why? The same reason the world prefers running Windows and macOS over the much more flexible and customizable Linux operating systems. We choose convenience even when it comes at the cost of capability. We want things done for us. And, most importantly, we take a lot for granted with free services like Twitter.

Mastodon makes that obvious right from the start. My confirmation email for the service took minutes to arrive. Hardly a crime by anyone’s standards, but we’re so used to these taking seconds that I assumed something went wrong and went through the process a second time. Then there’s the choice of a server, with zero direction about which one I should choose. Or what it even means to choose a server.

Then I get to the interface, which is familiar and very Twitter-esque, but I suddenly realized two things: One, recreating a good Twitter feed is hard. The value is in the cumulative wave of information. The second thing is the real dealbreaker, though. Without verification, I have no idea if the people I want to follow and the accounts bearing their names are one and the same. (This dynamic at Twitter is currently under threat from the pay-for-verification program Musk is rolling out.)

There are a half-dozen Bloomberg handles on Mastodon across different servers. Which is the one? If you wanted to find me on Mastodon, how would you know the Vlad Savov account in the search results is me? Ironically, the answer would be: Go to Twitter and find a link to it.

I considered lingering on Mastodon if only for the cheerier vibes. Everyone I found there is genuinely interacting with other humans, myself included, instead of just self-publishing to the anonymous masses. It’s more personal, friendly, welcoming. It’s a true throwback to the early days of the web, when we’d go to online forums and IRC chatrooms.

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Was it this one? Scaling Mastodon is Impossible It was written by a software developers mostly for an audience of other software developers, most people can skip down to the Unpaid Labour and Opsec section. They bring up some worthwhile issues but I don’t think they provide a lot of insight or an accurate perspective. Any article that talks about scaling and federation without comparing or contrasting with email systems hasn’t had enough thought put into it.

I’ve been enjoying Mastodon for about six months. My getting-started tip is to find an instance (server) that fits you. Go to it’s web site and check out the rules on the about page, browse the community feed (all posts from all users on that instance). I like the idea of being in a community formed under some unifying idea on an instance, while being free to follow anyone on any instance.

If this sounds nothing like Twitter, that’s true, and intentional. It’s the anti-viral social media. If you want to replicate your Twitter experience on Mastodon, you may be disappointed. But if you are open to a different social experience, it may delight you. Mastodon is only one of a batch of services linked by the common ActivityPub protocol. You can post to a photo blogging service, share social reading, do video sharing, etc. Remarkably, you can follow someone on any of the services from any of the others—it’s as if you could follow someone’s Instragram and YouTube channels from Twitter.

I don’t think the “celebrities with a million followers” model is a good fit for Mastodon. It’s more like keeping up with interesting and friendly people. And of course cat photos. is an excellent site for overviews, getting started info, and specific how-tos.

I can be found chatting at Paul Collins (aka Gracion) ( - Linux.Pizza with some new and old friends. (I couldn’t resist that domain name - and there are Mac users there too)

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I’ve found Martin Fowler’s Exploring Mastodon series of posts helpful.

Many more links have been collected at the A Big List of Mastodon Resources – ResearchBuzz

this sounds a lot like discord which no one has mentioned - using servers but setting up your own is simple and it can then connect to any other server altho unless public you need to be invited similar to what’s been mentioned re mastodon

Discord servers are not really comparable. Really, they are more like chatrooms running off the Discord network. They are communities, rather than actual servers; they perhaps more like Slack, or IRC with a prettier UI. That’s why they are easy to create.

Discord is its own proprietary network. All the Discord communities run off that network. Mastodon is on multiple servers and networks/hosts, all over the world.

Mastodon requires you to be comfortable with the command line, for one thing, or things like docker and droplets. You need a host/ISP.

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Thanks for the clarification Lisa - I guess that’s why it wasn’t mentioned before - just thought of it and responded - guess it was more of a question that you answered - thanks again!

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Have any Mac-focused Mastodon instances sprung up? I’m thinking like the TidBITS Talk community or some of the other Mac forums. Seems like a good community to base a Mastodon instance around.

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Do you have an opinion on how much it matters which instance one is on? I get that it’s easy to move between instances, but aside from being able to see people’s profile directly, I haven’t really seen something where it would make a difference where my profile is based. I’ve set up shop at, which seems to be the default instance in Germany.

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