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Mastodon Tips for Writers

I’ve had my eye on Mastodon for a while. When I was last revamping my website, there was a time when I was considering running a Mastodon server as a place to host my own “microblog”. I love microblogs but I’m always wary of putting all my content on someone else’s platform – so over-investing in Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram has never sat well with me. With my fellow writers running around like people looking for lifeboats off the Titanic as Twitter threatens to sink (either offline or into some kind of terrifying hellscape), I’m feeling a little vindicated that I’ve always tried to keep my audience on platforms where I have a degree of control.

Jumping from Twitter to Mastodon is pretty daunting though. It’s not just a different user interface but a different way of networking with different “rights and wrongs”. It’s not nearly as scary as people (mostly people with very large Twitter followings) want you to think though.

Here are my top tips/quick answers to the problems I see people complaining about the most.

Does it matter which Mastodon server I choose?

Signing up to Mastodon means picking a server to call “home”. The server that you pick only has a small impact on who else you can follow and network with. The whole point of Mastodon (and the wider “Fediverse”) is that it works by federating content between multiple, disparate servers. I’ve got two accounts, one on mastodon.social and one on writing.exchange. I can see posts from either server, and from almost any other Mastodon server, on both.

There are some servers that will block content from others, normally because the content would breach the moderation guidelines set by the server owners. This isn’t worth stressing about – if you were happy with Twitter picking and choosing what you can see, there’s nothing to fear from Mastodon.

And, with Mastodon, you can choose to change servers at any time. I started out at toot.wales but moved because the server was oversubscribed and performance was suffering.

How do I find my Twitter friends on Mastodon?

There are a number of tools you can use to find your Twitter contacts on Mastodon, including easy and automated options like FediFinder. Finding your old tribe is only half the fun though. Hashtags are hugely powerful on Mastodon as the timeline is purely chronological, not “optimised” in the way that the Twitter feed is. You can discover fantastic new people to follow, and be a lot easier to discover, on Mastodon.

It’s a good idea to copy and paste your Mastodon ID into your Twitter profile somewhere to help people who are using tools like FediFinder to your new account.

I don’t like the Mastodon app, is there something better?

Just like with Twitter, there are plenty of different apps you can use to access Mastodon and the Fediverse. The official Mastodon app is not the best choice, it seems to exist mostly to fill the gap that would otherwise exist in App Stores if it wasn’t there. If you’re an Android user, I recommend you give Tusky a try.

Is Mastodon good for writers?

Personally, I’ve found the #writingcommunity hashtag on Mastodon to be far more community oriented than Twitter which, on a bad day, can be nothing more than a heavy downpour of authors shilling you their books with scattered showers of virtue signalling and empty praise from people you’ve never met (mostly in the hope of a follow back either from you or from someone else in the thread).

The community on Mastodon is different. There are more people asking and answering questions, more people sharing useful information, and a more genuinely supportive vibration about the place. Perhaps it’s because there’s still a certain “rebel culture” to life on Mastodon, a sense of being an outsider. We’re a smaller group, but maybe better for it.

Where can I learn more?

I highly recommend the website fedi.tips for learning more about the Fediverse. You can follow them as well. (On Mastodon, obviously)

Do I need to leave Twitter before I join Mastodon?

No. Mastodon is just another social network. You can be on Mastodon and Twitter. You can be on Mastodon and Instagram. You can be on all three, plus Facebook and LinkedIn, and Hive (whatever that is). And, as anyone who is on more than one social network will tell you – different networks are good for different things.

One thing I don’t think anyone needs to do is announce that they are leaving, or staying, on Twitter. Honestly, unless you are a major celebrity, the world doesn’t care. (And even then, it only cares a little). Save yourself the embarrassment of coming awkwardly back into the party after storming off. (Or worse, storming off but having nobody notice).

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