Mastodon advice?

Hey all, for no special reason I’m suddenly interesting in social platform Mastodon. But the first step seems to be choosing a server, and I feel totally stymied (Servers - Mastodon). I understand I can change later if I want but I just have NO IDEA how I would go about picking a server? But this little gang right here is the one I trust more than anything else on the internet, so I am turning to my fellow Misties for advice.

Do you use Mastodon, and if so do you like it?
How would a person go about finding the right server to join?
Are there any servers that seems right for the sort of sweet oddballs that MST3K seems to attract?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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First, you’re going to need a biiiiiig net.

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Looks like a lot of them are invite-only, so I guess that narrows it down. This one has a picture of a kitty cat, so it would be my choice:
image

Full disclosure: many of my major life decisions are based on whether or not there is a kitty involved, and they’ve not all been the best choices.

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I’ve been a Mastodon user since 2016 or 2017, though I wasn’t serious about going there every day when I first started.

I am pretty fond of it. I’m considerably more bad-mouthy and political over there than here. But I still post art, recipes, music, and admiration for adorable cat pics and bad movies-- so it’s not a total personality break.

I began with using .social simply because it was easy to hop on. Then I saw a pitch for .art , so I requested an invite from them. I got one, but then for some reason there was a security issue with my browser so I couldn’t use it right away. That smoothed out eventually. Now I alternate between .art and .weirderearth. (Which was also invite-only. But enough people knew me by then that they were willing to welcome me aboard.)

You could probably join .social very easily and just do more searching from there, like I did. But it can feel really overwhelming at first, especially with so many new people crowding in at the same time. I can ask some people I know if there’s a list of available instances (communities) out there right now. (Some are very small and can’t handle this latest huge influx of people fleeing Le Birdhouse.)

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I’ve been looking into it myself. I’ve seen mixed advice, but the most common suggestion I’ve seen is to browse the available servers looking for a mid-sized one with high uptime that lists moderation policies which seem comfortable to you. You’re looking for a community, with limited interaction outside the instance. Some say to start with .social since it’s the largest one (and in that way will feel somewhat more familiar to users of other platforms), but others say it’s too big and unwieldy, and won’t give you the best experience. You might have a harder time finding people to follow, and without an algorithm to sort and filter for you, you end up having a constant flood of people talking on their individual soap boxes rather than a conversation. Also, it’s too big for effective moderation, so it becomes more of a free-for-all.

Personally, I haven’t been feeling well enough to take the plunge. Starting fresh on a new platform when I don’t really know anyone and don’t have much to really say for myself is a big lift right now. I do have a friend on the .lol instance, which is pretty big but a little smaller than .social.

That said, scrolling around, I did find an MST3K instance. I might try that? It’s pretty small. A couple hundred users currently. But since each instance is independently owned and operated, it’s apparently common practice to just make different alt accounts on different instances, and some of the more common apps make it easy to switch between them.

I do like the idea of Mastodon. Ad-free means more than not having annoying ads to skip over. Ads as the source of revenue fundamentally change the nature of a platform. Users become the product rather than the customers. They mine our data to sell to advertisers, and deliberately promote the most upsetting and divisive content in order to drive engagement. Mastodon has none of that. It also has distributed ownership, which is good in that no one person can take over the whole thing and you can shop around until you find a place with active mods that do the kind of job you think mods should do. On the other hand, if your chosen instance goes down (because, say, whoever owns it decides to stop paying for the server space/bandwidth), you’re up a creek. (Unless, as mentioned, you have alt accounts.)

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The opposite is true in my experience. Bad actors get blocked more quickly and effectively there than other online spaces. So long as you have good moderators, and I’m glad to say that I do. There is little dithering about the sanctity of free speech when someone’s being a complete bigoted :poop: to someone else. I tell my mods. They move on it.

I always found Twitter’s algorithim a hindrance rather than a help. It steered me towards what was getting the most attention already, which was rarely what I really wanted to see. The construction of the Fediverse (of which Mastodon is one part) is more a string of islands than one big country. So it’s in fact easier to have conversations on complex/difficult topics, in my experience. People can’t chase clout and whip up mobs on the scale they do on Twitter. Nor can they instantly retweet your post to dunk on it with their friends. Also, most instances have higher character limits than Twitter.

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Yeah. We’re in agreement. I guess I just didn’t say it clearly. What I meant was that mastodon.social is a very large general instance, so it’s harder to moderate than, say, the MST3K one with less than 300 people in it.

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Oh, thanks. My mistake. Shoulda’ read more carefully. Yeah, .social has way too few moderators for an instance that size.

Oh. I was hoping you had a mastodon and wanted advice on preserving it. Because a climate-controlled room set to well below freezing would be your best bet, although I would definitely get a DNA sample to sequence it before the tissue is too degraded. Unless you’ve already stuffed it, of course, in which case, my advice would still be a climate-controlled environment, but one with low moisture to avoid fungal growth.

Either way, take good care of your mastodon. They were a wonder of nature.

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Thanks so much everyone for the advice! For now I’ve just joined a regional (SF Bay Area) .social server since they were accepting new signups. I’ll definitely take a look at the MST3K thing and explore the .art options.

I don’t know the difference if any between a server and an instance? And I’m reading https://fedi.tips/ to try to figure out what the Federation is? It’s definitely more confusing than Twitter, but I put up a dog picture and already have my first follower :grin:

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I only ever used Twitter on “Latest Tweets” setting, I loathe having an algorithm filter and order the content, so maybe this won’t matter to me? Right now I’m following exactly one person so my Home screen at least is pretty mellow.

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Technically, a server is a computer dedicated to handling internet traffic. Discord misuses the word to refer to a closed community. I suppose it could apply to something similar on Mastodon, but they use the word “instance” for some reason. It’s just a different word for the same thing.

Twitter has a bunch of servers. That is, computers that take in tweets people post and then send them out to the users. But there’s only one Twitter. Public tweets are visible to anyone, and if you search a hashtag or something, you’ll find all the relevant tweets in one place. There’s no other Twitter you can post to.

Discord has a bunch of servers in both senses of the word. They have physical computers tasked to take in messages and send them out. But they’ve also got closed communities of varying sizes with varying purposes. Every Discord server uses the Discord platform, but if you’re not in a given server community, you can’t see anything in it. Even if you are in more than one server, messages in one server stay in that server and aren’t visible anywhere else.

Mastodon is different. It’s a blend of the two. Each instance is independent of the others. As Clang said, it’s like an archipelago. Each instance is an island. A closed community with its own policies and moderators and so on. Each is independently owned and operated, and is hosted on totally separate computers. The federation is, in this analogy, the ocean. It’s a broader system that surrounds and links the disparate islands, allowing some messages to be carried between them. (And even further, to some other platforms like Diaspora, which can talk to Mastodon servers even though they’re not using exactly the same software.)

What that means is that if you join mastodon.social you’ll mainly be interacting with people who are also on that instance. You’ll be subject to the policies of that instance, which are enforced by the moderators of that instance. But it’s set up so that you can still interact with people in other instances. You can follow their posts, have them follow you, tag them, send them private messages, etc. You can also basically retweet people (although that’s not the name for it on Mastodon), although unlike Twitter there’s no quote tweet function to allow you to add your own take on things. However, all of that can be limited. You can make posts that are only visible within the instance you’re on. And the people who own that instance can block or filter posts from other instances they don’t like.

For example, the owners of one instance may be opposed to transgender rights while the owners of another instance may be staunchly in favor. One or both of those may block the other so that they don’t have to deal with unwelcome messages. Or one instance may allow people to post NSFW images while another has rules against it. The latter instance may add a filter rule so that people from the NSFW server can still talk to each other with text, but images from the NSFW community are not visible to people within the SFW community.

Does that make sense?

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Yes, that’s tremendously helpful! Some folks have said it doesn’t really matter what instance you’re on, but it seems like that’s not really true. Good to know. Thanks!

If there’s any instance that blocks kitty cat pictures I will BLOCK THEM.

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The thing I like about Twitter is that you can pick up on contributions from literally anywhere at any time.
Mastodon seems to be a series of like-minded echo chambers to some extent, or the .social server that may or may not include contributions from other servers.
Is that right?

I’m not sure. I’ve read up on the platform in preparation for trying to get started, but haven’t actually taken the step of picking an instance and creating an account. What you say does seem like it could be the case. Some instances more so than others. The platform is also built so that it’s not easy to reach a wide audience, which has advantages and disadvantages. It’s about community conversations, not becoming a huge “influencer” account. mastodon.social is the largest and most central instance, so the least likely to be an echo chamber, but it’s also more chaotic, with a flood of people talking at once about different things and very little moderation.

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I’ve had an account on there since May, and I still haven’t been able to figure it out. Of course I couldn’t really figure out Discord either, so no real surprise there.

Can you simultaneously be connected to multiple servers?
And yes, I’m asking you guys’n’gals to do all the finding out for the rest of us.

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I believe so? At least in the sense that you can have accounts for multiple instances. The example that immediately comes to mind is that it’s like the old forum days where you’d have Forum A, B and C for different situations but now A can talk directly to B if they want to.

You should be very fussy about the instance you choose. If it succors even a few bad actors, or if it lacks a good code of conduct, moderators of other instances are likely to block the whole thing with the push of a button and ask questions later.

Which is one of my favorite things about the place, honestly.