Matt Lichtenwalner

Mobile mapper for Ushr - roaming the US and Canada constantly. Maybe a bit of art and/or writing here and there to spice things up.

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I've been seeing a lot of talk about how many Twitter users are trying out Mastodon (and others on the Fediverse) but that they find it too difficult to use.

While I realize that the crowd here tend to be a bit more tech savvy than the mean, I was wondering if any of you had that experience?

Rest assured, I won't judge - I'm just curious where the tricky parts are and if I could offer any help. I'm guessing that if any of you had challenges with some or all aspects of Mastodon, there's certain to be others.

So far, I'm finding it really tough to find anyone who will say "I had trouble with x, y, and z aspects." There's just a lot of hand waving and 'generally too complex'.

That's hard to help with.

(Image selected because it's the closest to Mastodon of the things I've done.)

11/25 '22 10 Comments
I like it. I don’t find it terribly difficult. That being said, let’s let my inner newbie talk a minute.

First you choose an instance on which to make your account. Some say it doesn’t matter. Others say you should choose one that represents your interests, because of the local timeline. Someone points out the federated timeline includes content from many instances. But oh, the first friend says, only content that someone on your instance is following, so you’ll never get everything. A third friend says “this is all beside the point if you use the official iOS app, it doesn’t even support the local and federated timelines, because they are ridiculous firehoses of information.”

You’re nervous now. This isn’t as simple as signing up for twitter.

Then friend one says, “oh of course you shouldn’t pick an instance with bad moderation policies.” You nod. That sounds bad for sure. “Or an instance where people don’t use content warnings for everything. Or an instance that allows cops to join.” Wait. What? You know why people have issues with the police and you share those concerns, but your cousin is a cop and you can’t quite picture banning her from the local Twitter-equivalent outright. Maybe they don’t mean banning private accounts for cops? How would they even know? This sounds complicated and you need to examine your feelings.

“The guy who made the official app is a jerk for taking away those timelines.” “Nah, they were impractical.” “The local timeline is great on a small instance about your interests.” “Just search for hashtags. That always works.” “Yes, but (vague gesture) it only knows about stuff other instance users are following, because something something something federation.”

Finally friend four says “geez guys, you’re scaring friend zero.” He turns to you and says, “Go to and there’s a little quiz to help you pick an instance. Them just use it like it’s twitter. You’ll have a pretty good time.” You nod and swallow and give it a go. A month later you’re contributing to a Patreon for the upkeep of your chosen instance, and you’re vaguely aware you should consider volunteering as a moderator. A friend asks about Mastodon. You try to be friend four, but you have thoughts you’re bursting to share.

Finally you say: “look, I know it sounds like a lot, but Twitter has all these problems too. They just hid them under a pile of money until the money ran out and a crazy billionaire took over and made it a hellscape. Mastodon is run by the people for the people. That’s good, right? Just give it a go. You can change instances later if you want to.”

Your friend takes the plunge, or doesn’t. You go back to looking at cat pictures. Mastodon has an excellent Caturday participation rate.
>>> "Finally you say: “look, I know it sounds like a lot, but Twitter has all these problems too. They just hid them under a pile of money until the money ran out and a crazy billionaire took over and made it a hellscape. Mastodon is run by the people for the people. That’s good, right? Just give it a go. You can change instances later if you want to.”"

Sounds like you and I are thinking the same way about it.

I think I have a kind of flexibility that most folks don't. A decade of bouncing from 'home' to 'home' in anywhere from a single day to a month at a shot has left me with a "nothing is permanent, so stay agile" mindset.

That's just not reasonable for most everyone, and I think it's skewing my view of this.

I also think it (Mastodon / Fediverse) requires continued effort from people in a way that any service with an algorithm feeding you content doesn't. You have to find all of your people. They won't be presented to you.

That might sound condescending, but I sincerely don't mean it that way. Social media already asks a lot of us. Working to find out tribe is a not insubstantial addition to that.

Still, I kinda want to do a stripped down slide deck / video explainer with Friend Four's perspective. Something simple to help folks who are struggling, but curious.
I've not looked at any alternatives yet; I'm happy to see this clown show through to its inevitably hilarious end, and I'm really not using Twitter for anything meaningful, so there's nothing to replace. But I'm watching this post for its wealth of insight and info. Mostly I just wanted to chime in to say I want that beastie in every game I'm ever in from now on. What's its taxonomy?
Yeah, I'm still on Twitter too. I haven't seen any issues directly and personally. Politics, sure. And Musk's willingness to give a the Cheetoh his account back (regardless of the fact that apparently he didn't want it?) is a pretty big red flag, but...

I just saw enough chatter about Mastodon that I thought it warranted a look, and I'm really glad I did.

As to the beastie: it's just my version of a 'hollyphant' ( ). That entry actually mentions one based on a Mastodon, but I hadn't seen that before. So when I saw 'winged elephant', I thought "I can do better!"

This was long before I knew that Mastodon existed. 😅
Why didn't Saruman just take the flying mastodon to Caradhras and finish off the fellowship in person?
Right?! Would have made those movies so. much. faster.
I very, very much enjoyed my self-curated Twitter echo chamber of news, information, Canadian #lawtwitter, and oddball stuff that would be peculiarly to my sole interests. By the end, I was able to use it essentially like Google reader from back in the day to find content and keep track of people I wanted to stay in touch with. Twitter was also a huge timesink of workday distraction for me.

Mastodon looks like it would not measure up to my Twitter experience (in particular, the multiple server concept doesn't sound like the one-stop shopping experience I had with Twitter), while at the same time it would also be hitting me up for money and even more time, whether going to different servers to find content/people, or as a volunteer to improve the experience. Not for me, I'm afraid.
>>>"I very, very much enjoyed my self-curated Twitter echo chamber of..."

Me too. I've encountered a LOT of venom from folks when I mentioned that Twitter was my social media of choice. "Isn't that just a cess pool of crappy politics and bullying?!"

But I wasn't seeing that. Like yourself, I just spent some time and effort being careful with what and how often I interacted, and I was finding it quite fruitful. Still am, if I'm honest.

As I see it, Twitter has one thing that is both better and worse than Mastodon: the algorithm fountain of content.

It's better because once we've done the work of cultivating the who and what of our interactions to a point where it 'understands' us, we don't have to keep working at finding new and interesting stuff. The algorithm takes over and we can (for the most part) kick our feet up and just enjoy.

The down side is that doing so hands over control of what we see. It's always frustrated me that even after I say "I want to see posts that opadit makes." I might very well NOT see a certain post.

I know some sites are better about this than others. I can do notifications. (I loathe notifications.) And it might be no better on Mastodon once I have a large enough collection of folks I'm following. But for now, I kinda love that everything friends post, I will see.

It's also possible that the rough edges on the Fediverse are actually a big part of why I like it this far. There's something Web 1.0 - feeling about it. I get that sense of stumbling on something cool that I found by looking.

Arguably, that's a rabbit hole that I shouldn't go down if I want to stay productive, but I can't deny that it's pleasurable.


I'm sincerely not trying to sway people into something that they don't want to do, and I REALLY appreciate that you gave me specific elements that aren't for you. It helps me understand what (at least some) folks are not loving about it.
I didn't have any issues, but I created an account a couple years ago and saw it as exploratory and an addition to my other accounts rather than "the ship is sinking the ship is sinking how do life boats work?"
Yeah. I'm (mostly) feeling that way myself - but now. I mean, I have a definite sense that the ship is sinking and I even feel that loss pretty intensely since it's my social media platform of choice. Enough so that I made a meme. But (and I'm guessing here) maybe I just appreciate that these are systems that we're not paying for - at least in the traditional sense - and we just accept that they MUST be part of our lives.

I kinda like the exploring. Finding cool new stuff is what the net is all about to me. Guess I'm showing my age there.