Mastodon 101 (Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Tusk)

Now that Elon has turned Twitter into fascist Disneyland, you’ve likely been reading more and more about Mastodon as an alternative. While it’s been around for quite a while (some co-workers and I lightly poked at it years ago), all of the recent shenanigans have pushed it back into the spotlight in a major way.

Unlike other emerging new options like Post and Hive Social (yikes and double yikes) which are centralized services prone to the exact same “could eventually be hijacked by a red-pilled billionaire” issue, Mastodon is part of the “Fediverse” and is decentralized, which means that it’s made up of separate, independently-run servers that can all talk to each other through a common language.

This decentralization has given Mastodon a reputation for being a bit hard to set up, and while the overall user experience certainly has some room to improve, if you’ve ever signed up for a web-based email account, then sent someone a message, I have complete faith that you’ve got this.

Here’s how to get started…

Step 1: Choose a Server

Since Mastodon is decentralized, you’ll first choose a server to join, from which you can then communicate with users on the same or other servers. This great PC Magazine article sums it up nicely:

“The best analogy is to think of Mastodon like email. You can create an account on any email service you like—Gmail, Hotmail, Proton Mail, etc.—and still communicate seamlessly with people with accounts on other email services.”

What’s great is that you can easily migrate to another server later, so don’t worry too much about which one you choose to start.

A few popular servers include mastodon.social (currently closed for new signups), mstdn.social and mastodon.cloud. Here’s a larger list to explore as well. Pick your poison.

Step 2: Get a Good Client App

While you can definitely just use your chosen server’s website to interact with your account, having a great mobile app makes the experience even better. I can’t speak much to Android apps (though here are some recommendations I’ve come across), but on iOS the official app is fine, however I’m a big fan of both Toot! and Metatext, and am extremely excited about the upcoming Ivory, from the makers of my all-time favorite Twitter client.

Step 3: Follow Cool People!

I recommend starting with some no-brainer follows like Anil Dash, Jason Shellen or Paul Ford, then spying on their following lists to see who else you might be into adding. This directory is also neat. If the person is on a different server, you’ll sometimes need to copy/paste or jump through a few extra hoops to add them (some clients already make this easier, but this is a process that can and will be improved over time).

If you’re coming over from Twitter, you can also use one of the slick “find your Twitter friends on Mastodon” services like Fedifinder to build things up even faster.

That’s it! The overall vibe reminds me a great deal of 2006-2009 Twitter, a time before most of the influencers and dead-eyed transactional users swarmed, back when being goofy, honest, awkward, open and truly enjoying digital community was something to celebrate.

If (like me) you’ve missed that, I highly encourage you to get in the mix. Hope to see you there!

Media Diary (November 2022)

Some stuff I’ve experienced lately (and not necessarily only new releases):

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (Movie): Honestly everything I needed it to be

The White Lotus (TV): No sophomore slump here

Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty (TV): A completely fascinating look at a greedy little empire

Sharp China (Podcast): Enjoying this ongoing insight from a China expert

Black Adam (Movie): Had low expectations, but it was fine! (never should’ve doubted The Rock)

The Peripheral (TV): Just started this, but it’s already awesome

Spector (TV): Yikesville, USA

Interview With The Vampire (Movie): The recent show drove me to a rewatch (spoiler: the show is better by leaps and bounds)…

Queen of The Damned (Movie): …then on to this sequel, which I’d never seen (the less said about it, the better)

I Love You, You Hate Me (TV): Wherein I learned that the guy in the Barney suit was deep into Tantra

Eat the Rich: The GameStop Saga (TV): What a wild ride

Doctor Who: The Power of The Doctor (TV): Really ready for the next season (I loved Jodie Whittaker, but was generally not a fan of the Chris Chibnall era)

💌 Want weekly recommendations and additional assorted nonsense? Subscribe to my newsletter!

I Get Around

Every so often I post about my current social media/online presence setup. It’s been a while, and uh…💀 SOME THINGS HAVE HAPPENED 💀…so here’s where I sit as of Thanksgiving 2022, should you (for some inexplicable reason) want to 👀:

Primary Focus

  • My Newsletter: I still really enjoy putting this together, and I love having a direct relationship with my subscribers.
  • Mastodon: It’s been awesome to see the momentum behind this resulting from Elon’s folly, and with so many cool people already in the mix, it’s already feeling like early Twitter.
  • TikTok: Sure it has its own eyebrow-raising issues, but it remains incredibly entertaining and absolutely bursting with creativity.
  • BeReal: I’ll be shocked if this is around for the long haul, but it’s actually very enjoyable!

Secondary Focus

  • Twitter: Like watching a former best friend embrace QAnon, it’s truly heartbreaking to watch one of my all-time favorites rapidly transform into a cesspool. For now at least, it still remains a cultural hub, so I’ll be lurking but mostly (if not entirely) posting elsewhere.
  • Tumblr: I’m not incredibly active on it, but I remain a fan (and a fan of Automattic generally).
  • Medium: I’m primarily just a consumer here, but I do cross-post certain House of Kyle pieces from time to time.

Kicked To The Curb

  • Instagram: I finally hit my emotional limit on endless filtered selfies, workout updates, MLM pitches and re-posted TikToks.
  • Facebook: The social media equivalent of the boner pill commercials between Tucker Carlson segments.