F.A.Q. - Frequently Asked Questions

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This F.A.Q. derived from a protocol of a series of workshop(s) held by @PaulaToThePeople for Fediverse beginners, especially those who came to Mastodon after Musk bought Twitter.
Paula is not holding workshops in English anymore as the demand has ceased, but you can always ask her questions and:

👉A regular German-language beginners workshop can be found under fedihelp.online.

What is Mastodon?

See also the article What is Mastodon? in this wiki. As well as Mastodon features explained for a full review of all Mastodon features.

Mastodon is a free software microblogging project. It shares quite a few similarities with Twitter, but differs in some key features.
It is decentralized/federated and belongs to the Fediverse (see below).

Mastodon's lack of certain Twitter features like "Retweet as Quote Tweet", are not an oversight but the can be deliberate choices by its developers.

When you just created an account you'll see the basic interface with an empty home timeline. Follow other accounts and create your individual interesting home timeline.
To follow/find accounts that are hosted on different instances (servers) than your own account, you usually have to search for their full handle (username@instance.tld) or their profile's url.

When you use Mastodon via your desktop browser, you can change quite a few things about its look and feel via your account settings. Anyone looking for an equivalent to Tweetdeck's many columns, may switch to the advanced interface:
It allows you can for example to pin a column for hashtag you've searched by clicking on its top right corner.

All notifications a shown in one column, in which you can switch between different types of notifications. The column's top right corner opens its settings, where can optimize your notification column to your individual needs.
As with Tweetdeck, if the number of columns exceed your display's width, you either need to scroll left and right or zoom out, until all columns fit again into your screen.

If you want to ensure, you will not miss posts from accounts that are the most relevant to you or you want to cluster accounts to create thematic timelines, for example, you can create lists, and pin them as a column. Only accounts you are following, can be added to our lists.

Your home timeline shows posts by accounts you follow and boosts by those accounts. There is no algorithm sorting posts for "relevance". Everything will appear in the chronological order it was either posted or boosted. Everything in your timeline will have the same look whether it originated from a Mastodon account or an account from some other Fediverse service.
The local timeline displays all the public posts accounts on your server published - boosts are exlcuded. The federated timeline shows posts from the whole Fediverse as your server knows it. It includes posts from every account your server was introduced to either by someone following or successfully searching from your server.

What is the Fediverse?

See also the article What is the Fediverse?.

Mastodon is just one part of the Fediverse.
On Mastodon, all content looks like it originated from Mastodon, but many posts may originate from other parts of the Fediverse.

Fediverse branches.png

All of these different services in the Fediverse can communicate with Mastodon and each other.
It works similar to email. You can write to someone who has gmail from an icloud account, for example.

Besides microblogging there are services for picture-blogging, music, podcast, books and so on.

See also Fediverse replacements for traditional social media platforms

What is Pixelfed?

See also What is Pixelfed?

It works similar to Mastodon, but the interface looks more like Instagram than Twitter and you can only post and see picture posts.
Some special features include the ability to add license information for your media and adding your posts to collections.
Users from Mastodon or other parts of the Fediverse, who follow Pixelfed-Accounts won't see the license information or collections though.

What is Funkwhale?

See also What is Funkwhale?

A Fediverse service for freely-licensed audio (music, podcasts, radios, ...).
The flagship instance is open.audio.
You can browse audio by hashtags, albums, artists, playlists, ...

Questions from participants of the workshops

Will Mastodon/the Fediverse remain niche?

It grows every time the big commercial platforms f**k up, so it may depend on how big and thorough those are. But because Fediverse is not a centralized platform, everyone and anyone can create their own niches (which may not even be connected to the rest of Fediverse).

How to choose the right server / instance?

See also How do I get an account?

First think about which service you want to use. Mastodon, Pixelfed, ...
Then think about the size of the server. Very large servers go against the whole idea of decentralization/federation and especially right now they might be overwhelmed from all the new users. Additionally, huge servers are much more attractive target for hackers.
Tiny instances might appear very sleepy and thus making harder for you to discover interesting people to follow, as you have to actively search to find them on other servers.
Then think you should ask yourself what is most relevant for you: sharing a server with people, who share the same special interest, or who are geographically located in the same area or do you want neither and prefer a general interest server.

You can also check-out which servers are most relevant for you, based on your Twitter connections - more on that here.

A small selection of helpful server lists:

How do you find a trustworthy instance?

Generally you can check the instance rules to see if the instance is well moderated, but some instances may have good rules, abut the admins and mods don't enforce them well.
One indicator for good moderation is a long blocklist of instances. You can see that under domain.tld/more.
You can see a list of instances that you definitely shouldn't join under FediBlock. These should be blocked by most instances.

How do you report a post that violates the rules?

Click on the 3-dot-menu besides the post and select "report".
You'll be asked some questions. E.g. you can select other posts by the user that violate rules.
You can and usually should forward the report to the instance of the author of the toot you are reporting.
Moderators and admins then can delete the post(s) and/or block the user and/or ignore the report.

Do Mastodon servers generally have the same technical features or are there relevant differences? If so, can I check this out before joining?

Most servers will have the same features and limits. Some may have higher limits for e.g. characters in a post (climatejustice.social has 5.000 instead of the usual 500).
The limit for poll options or the number of bio-links may have been adjusted by the admins. But each code change may create problems at every Mastodon update, thus most servers run with the original settings.
As of right now, there are no listings of Mastodon instances that also include information about deviations concerning features or limits. And instances commonly also do not advertise them on their "/about" pages. Asking around before joining a server, is currently the only way to figure this out.

How to move to a different instance

There is a guide in English, German and Japanese here and another one in German with screenshots here.

How to find people on other services?

You usually need to know someones full handle (@profile@server.name) or their profile's URL. Both can then be used to find them with the search function of the service, where you are logged in.
Whether you want to find an account on a different Mastodon server or an account on a different Fediverse service, you always need the same information for your search.

How to find other members of niche communities/ people with shared special interests

You can search for topics or hashtags. The results are clustered as follows: all ⏐ people ⏐ hashtags ⏐ posts. "People" will show you accounts, that have handles or display names containing your search word. "Hashtag" will list hashtags, that start with your word. You can click on each hashtag to see posts containing it. Under "Posts" you will only find those, you have interacted with.
You can also find a server that is dedicated to the topic you are interested in (e.g. here) and find people on the "/discover page" of each server (only Mastodon servers).

How to find people you know from Twitter

Tools like fedifinder , debirdify or twitodon will crawl the account info of everyone you follow on Twitter for Fediverse accounts. You can download the results as a .csv file and upload it via "preferences >> import" to your account.
You can also use debirdify to create and upload lists with Fediverse account info for Twitter accounts you have previously blocked or muted.
Debirdyfy also shows you, which servers/instances are most relevant for you based either on the Twitter accounts you are following or on those who follow you.
Make it easy for your Twitter contacts to find you in the Fediverse by adding your account info to your Twitter profile. You can either adapt your display name, add it to the description in your bio or as the bio's link. Screen reader users prefer, if you do not change your display name into your long Fediverse info, because impacts their user experience as it will lengthen the sound bite for each Tweet.

How to best share audio, pictures and movies?

As seen in the graphic above, there are specialized Fediverse services for multimedia sharing. An example: If you often want to share your videos, especially if they exceed Mastodon's file limit of 40 MB, it is better to use Peertube. You can then use the link of your PeerTube video to create your Mastodon post. Using a PeerTube link will not impact how other users can engage with your video content.

If you want to share video from Youtube, you should create a tracker-free link, because many Fediverse users do not want to share their data with big tech companies. You can use invidious.snopyta.org or another invidious instance to create such a link.

Is it sensible to have several accounts, so for Mastodon, Pixelfed, Peertube, etc.? And how to connect them?

It can make sense to have more than one account on different services, especially if you want to share different media.
You can use the same handle and display name for very account, but each full handle will be different, so e.g. @PaulaToThePeople@climatejustice.social (Mastodon) and @PaulaToThePeople@climatejustice.video (Peertube).
While you can link from one profile to the other in each accounts meta date, they will always remain separate accounts.

Are there special servers for governmental accounts?

There are:

Slide-ins

Account verification

There is no official verification system in the Fediverse like on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. But there are indicators, that help to access how legit an account is:

  • If the account belongs to an official invite only server, for example to one of the government servers mentioned above, they had to verify themselves to create their account on those servers
  • Each Mastodon account can create verified links to their official website
    • To verify yourself as the owner of a link in your profile metadata, the linked website must contain a link back to your Mastodon profile. The link back must have a rel="me" attribute. The text content of the link does not matter.
    • As anyone can set up fake websites and then successfully create a verified connection between such a fake site and their Mastodon profile, it is not 100 percent reliable.
    • It is helpful to check for the following: If you click the Mastodon verified link, does its URL in your browser exactly match the URLs that you may find through their officially verified accounts on a different platform? Do other links from other reliable sources like news media match exactly? Or in cases where real life products featured their URL, does it match exactly with their Mastodon link?

Accessibility

  • To share your content inclusively on Mastodon, ad a description to every video or picture/graphic you post. A good description is short but includes all necessary information, so someone unable to see does not miss out on what it is you want to share through your video or picture.
  • The fediverse service Glitch-Soc has a feature where you can see red boarders around pictures or videos without alt text.
  • There is also a bot @PleaseCaption@botsin.space that reminds you privately, if you the media in your posts lack a description.

Deleted posts

"The internet doesn't forget and the Fediverse can't forget."
Because servers have to crawl each other for content, a deleted post may still be visible to users on servers. If they engage with the post after you have deleted it, you may not even see this in your notifications because by deleting it, you have severed your account's connection to it.