What are mentions on Mastodon? What does @-ing mean?

The word “mentions” on Mastodon and other social networks means typing @ and then a username, so that the username appears in your post. It’s also known as @-ing (pronounced “at-ing”) a person.

When you type @ and then begin typing the username, Mastodon will automatically suggest accounts that you can select if you want. You don’t have to accept these suggestions though, you can keep typing, and the suggestions will change as you type. The ultimate aim of a mention is to get an account’s complete Fediverse address to appear in the post. If the Fediverse account address you want isn’t in the suggestions, just ignore the suggestions and type the account address in full.

Why would I want to mention an account?

Mentioning an account can be useful for several reasons on Mastodon and the Fediverse:

  • Mentions cause a notification to appear in the account’s notifications section, so the account’s owner will know they have been mentioned.
  • It means other people reading the post will be able to click on the account’s mention which will take them to the account’s profile page. They will then know exactly who you are talking about, and perhaps follow them or interact with them in some way.
  • The “Mentions” post visibility setting mean only people mentioned in the post can see it. Have a look at the post visibility guide for more details.

Can I just mention Mastodon accounts? Or can I mention other Fediverse accounts as well?

You can mention any type of Fediverse account. All Fediverse accounts use the same address format of @ (user name) @ (server name).

Most Fediverse account types do notify the account owner if you mention them, but a few (PeerTube for example) do not have a notification system for mentions.

I tried to mention an account but it didn’t work. What went wrong?

If you can’t get a mention to appear properly in your post, hopefully one of these suggestions might help:

  • Are you using the correct Fediverse address for the account you want to mention? You can find the account’s address on their profile page.
  • Did you include the @ symbol at the start of the address? All Fediverse addresses begin with an @
  • Sometimes servers have trouble with mentions for accounts they have never “noticed” before. To solve this, copy and paste the account’s Fediverse address into the search box on your server. After you’ve done this once, mentioning the account should start working and the account should start appearing in the suggestions when you’re typing a mention too.
  • If the account is on a server that your server has defederated, you will not be able to mention them.

Where can I see when I am mentioned by other people?

Mentions will appear within your normal notifications in Mastodon. If you want to see just your mentions without the other notifications, go to the 🔔 Notifications section and click the Mentions tab at the top of the screen.

If you do click the Mentions tab, remember to switch notifications back to the All or Everything tab afterwards if you want to keep seeing other types of notifications. If you don’t do this, you will still get beeps for other types of notifications but you won’t see what they actually are.

I mentioned an account but it appears in the post as a short name instead of a full address. What’s happening?

Fediverse addresses all have two parts: the username and the server they are on (similar to how email addresses are written). For mentions to work, you need to include the full Fediverse address with both parts.

However, for the sake of readability, when the post is published Mastodon usually hides the second part of the address. The second part is still there underneath the surface, and if you click on the mention it will take you to the account’s profile page.

Some mentions have their addresses written in full, while most are shortened. Why is this?

Every account on the Fediverse has a unique Fediverse address, but accounts on different servers may have the same username or first part of the address. This is similar to how in real life people might have the same first name but different surnames.

If two accounts with the same username are mentioned in the same post, then when the post is published the account addresses will be written in full. This is similar to how a real life conversation might mention people’s surnames if they have the same first name, to help distinguish between the two.

I tried to mention an account but it keeps abbreviating it to @example instead of @example@server. Why doesn’t it let me write the full address when I’m editing the post?

If you’re mentioning an account on the same server as you are, then it will by default just show the first part. The second part will be automatically added for anyone viewing the post from another server.

This is similar to how traditional landline telephones allow you to dial a phone number without the area code if you are in the same area.

Can I edit a post to add a mention later?

Yes and no.

You can edit a post and add a mention, but the mention will not generate a notification and it will not make a mentions-only post visible to any mentions that are added by editing.

If you want to get someone’s attention or make a post visible to them, it is better to write a new post from scratch and mention them in it.

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Desktop apps for Mastodon

There are a number of options if you want to use Mastodon on a computer.

Mastodon’s website

The website version of Mastodon is excellent, and it tends to get all the latest features first. You can be logged in on multiple accounts on multiple servers at once, and there’s also an optional Tweetdeck-style mode.

Third Party Apps

Here are some currently-supported third party desktop Mastodon apps, along with which types of computer they support:

Retro Apps

Many old computers from the 1980s and 1990s have Mastodon retro apps available.

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I can see a reply in my timeline on Mastodon but I don’t know the context. How do I see the discussion it belongs to?

Just click on any post or reply to be taken to the original discussion thread it belongs to. This will show you the original post and its replies.

Is there any way to see the most complete version of the thread?

Because of the way servers federate together, your server may not always show all the replies in a conversation thread. You can see the most complete version of a thread by using original pages:

  1. Click on the original post of the thread, at the very top
  2. Click on ⋯ for the original post of the thread
  3. Select the option Open original page, which will open the thread on the website of the original poster’s server

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Does Mastodon and the Fediverse use algorithms? Does it push stuff at me based on my interactions?

No. There is no algorithm on Mastodon or other Fediverse server types. You can like and follow and share stuff freely without having to worry about it affecting what appears in your timeline.

Your Home timeline simply shows all the posts and all the shares from all the accounts, groups and hashtags you follow, in chronological order. The timeline doesn’t hide stuff or suggest stuff or move stuff about.

My timeline is way too full now! How can I trim it down without an algorithm?

You can split your Home timeline into themed mini-timelines using Mastodon’s Lists feature, which lets you add accounts to separate timelines and then optionally hide those accounts from your Home timeline.

There are some accounts that I MUST see the posts from. How do I make sure I don’t miss what they post?

Click the bell icon 🔔 on an account’s profile, and you will get an extra notification every time they post (and of course their posts will be in your Home timeline as usual).

There are some accounts and topics I MUST NOT see. How do I stop them appearing in my timeline?

You can block and mute accounts so that you don’t see them in your timeline. You can hide posts that use particular words or phrases by using the filter system.

I follow an account that boosts way too much! How do I stop seeing their boosts without hiding their own posts?

If there are accounts you follow that boost too much, you can hide an account’s boosts without hiding their own posts.

But there’s a column of suggested accounts to follow labelled “For You”! Isn’t this an algorithm?

No, it’s just a list of accounts that are most followed and boosted by people on your server. The same accounts are suggested to everyone on your server, but it automatically hides accounts you are already following (which is where the “for you” name comes from).

Actually, at a technical level, “algorithm” can mean any set of computing instructions. So of course Mastodon uses an algorithm, so do all computers and websites!

That’s not what most people mean by the word “algorithm”. To most people, especially non-technical people, algorithm means a weird hidden thing that messes up their timeline based on what they have previously interacted with.

If algorithm meant any kind of computing instruction, then it would be a useless word when trying to discuss the problems of manipulative black box code.

The “quiet public” post visibility setting on Mastodon’s website talks about “Fewer algorithmic features”. Doesn’t that mean Mastodon uses algorithms?

No, it’s just a badly written description that is trying to fit a long series of sentences into three words. The only actual effect of using quiet public visibility (aka unlisted visibility) is that it doesn’t show up in searches or trends or Federated or Local timelines.

Aren’t the trending posts sections a form of algorithm?

The trending posts sections of Mastodon just show new posts that have received a lot of boosts. There’s no weirdness or black box code or promotion going on, their mechanism is extremely simple and visible in Mastodon’s source code.

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Don’t use flashing images or emoji!

⚠️ Please don’t use flashing images or animations in posts or profiles! This includes attachments and emoji, anything which produces a rapid series of flashes. Flashing images can be dangerous to people with certain neurological conditions ⧉, and it makes your post or profile inaccessible to them.

If you absolutely have to post something containing flashes, hide it behind a content warning which says that it contains flashes.

Is there any way I can prevent animated GIFs from playing automatically?

If you’re using the Mastodon web interface, you can optionally prevent animated GIFs from automatically playing:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Click on ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Scroll down the page and UN-tick the box Auto-play animated GIFs
  4. Click the Save Changes button

Some apps may also have options for this, check their settings menus.

But if people can switch off autoplaying of GIFs, why does it matter if I use flashing images?

It matters because a lot of people may not be able to prevent autoplay:

  • Some people may be viewing your public posts or profile through your server’s website, they may not even be members of the Fediverse. A lot of content on Mastodon and the Fediverse is shared elsewhere through web links.
  • Some people use non-Mastodon platforms which lack options about autoplay.
  • Some people are on Mastodon apps which lack options about autoplay.

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Mastodon admins: Leave the “content cache retention period” blank!

Screenshot of Mastodon admin settings page, with the content cache retention period setting highlighted and a bold caption saying Leave This Blank!

⚠️ If you’re the admin of a Mastodon server, you might have noticed a server setting called “content cache retention period”. Do NOT put any numbers in this, just leave it blank!

What happens if I put numbers in there?

It will start permanently breaking threads on your server that are older than that number of days, without any possibility of restoring them. This setting is not really a cache, because there’s no way of getting the content back later.

Whaaat? Why does this setting even exist?

Apparently it was only intended for announcement servers which wanted to avoid data retention for legal reasons. It isn’t intended by the developers for use on ordinary servers.

So why is such a dangerous and niche setting included on normal servers if it’s not intended for normal servers?

Really good question, it probably shouldn’t be there as most admins will never need it and won’t realise the damage it causes. There is a pull request on Github to move it into a separate “danger zone” section ⧉, which includes technical discussion of the situation.

What about the other settings on the same page, can I use them?

Yes, the other settings are okay to use. It’s just the “content cache retention period” one that needs to stay blank.

Can I set the “Media cache retention period”? Can I set the “User archive retention period”?

Yes, it’s fine to set time limits on the media cache and user archives, because they can be reloaded if needed. It’s only the “content cache” that you need to avoid, because the content it deletes cannot be reloaded.

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How do I check which version of Mastodon is running on a server? What are Mastodon forks?

Each server is totally independent, and does updates on its own schedule. You may want to check which version of Mastodon a server is running, as this can let you know whether a new feature is available on that server. To check a server’s version:

  1. Go to that server’s website (you don’t need to log in)
  2. If you’re on the desktop website, the server’s Mastodon version will be written at the bottom left corner of the screen. If you’re on the mobile website, click the ⋯ icon and scroll to the bottom of the page.
  3. The version number will look something like “v2.2.4” or similar. It may have some extra letters if it’s a customised or experimental version of Mastodon, but the numbers should indicate which version it is based on.

How do I find out the latest version number for Mastodon?

The Mastodon developers’ Github page has the latest version number written at the top of its releases page ⧉.

(If you’re technical that page also lets you browse through the details of the latest version, but you don’t need to do this.)

The server has “glitch” or “hometown” written on its version number. What does this mean?

Mastodon is free open source software, which means anyone with the necessary programming knowledge can create their own customised version, known as a “fork”. Two of the most popular and well-established forks are Glitch Mastodon ⧉ and Hometown Mastodon ⧉. If you see these names in the version number, it means your server is running one of these forks.

There’s nothing wrong with a server running on a fork of Mastodon, in fact it often brings more features. Forks and originals aren’t rivals or competitors, they can contribute to each other in both directions. Many features of standard Mastodon originally appeared on the Glitch fork. Whichever fork your server is running, it’s still compatible with standard Mastodon and you’ll be able to follow and interact with people from standard Mastodon servers.

Standard Mastodon is often called “Vanilla Mastodon” to distinguish it from Glitch Mastodon, Hometown Mastodon and other forks.

The server’s version number has lots of letters and numbers and the word “alpha” or “beta”. What does this mean?

There are always two latest versions of Mastodon: the stable release version and the experimental version.

The vast majority of servers run the stable release version, as it has been extensively tested and is known to work well. However, some servers prefer to have the very latest cutting edge experimental features, and they will run the experimental version which is usually labelled differently. In software development, the words “alpha”, “beta” and “nightly” usually indicate an experimental version that isn’t yet ready for release. Experimental version numbers may look even more complicated such as “alpha.0+pr-28693-384ec56”.

If your server is running a test version of Mastodon, you will probably see new features ahead of servers running the release version. However, features on the experimental version may disappear without warning, or not work properly, or break other features, and that’s why most servers use the release version instead.

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How do I stop receiving email notifications from Mastodon?

Mastodon sometimes may send you emails when certain things happen on your account. You can switch off these emails by doing the following:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or through the web app
  2. Click on ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click Notifications on the left of the screen (or on the mobile site click ☰ and then Notifications in the menu)
  4. UN-tick all the boxes in the section marked Events for e-mail notifications
  5. Click the Save Changes button at the top of the screen

This won’t affect notifications you get within Mastodon itself, it just switches off the emails.

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How to install Web Apps for Mastodon and the Fediverse

Most people think about websites and apps as being two separate things. However, some websites are specially written to function pretty much like apps, and you can even install these sites as apps with their own icon. You don’t need to go through any app stores, you can install them directly from your web browser.

These kinds of special installable websites are called “web apps”. Web apps are so sophisticated nowadays, many of the apps you install from app stores are actually web apps.

The websites of Mastodon servers and other Fediverse server types such as Pixelfed, PeerTube, BookWyrm etc can be installed as web apps on your phone or tablet. Scroll down this page to see a list of the Fediverse server types that support web app installation.

Should I use app store apps or web apps?

In most cases it’s just a matter of taste!

For example, Mastodon has lots of official and third party app store apps, but many people prefer the Mastodon web app as it tends to get features before the app store apps. The web app has also been in development for longer than any other Mastodon app, so its features tend to be well-developed and mature.

However, some Fediverse server types (such as BookWyrm for example) don’t have app store apps at all yet, so the web apps are their only app.

How to install web apps on Android phones and tablets:

  1. Open your Android phone or tablet’s web browser and go to your server’s website
  2. Log into your account on your server’s website
  3. Open the browser’s options menu (usually ︙ in top right corner of screen)
  4. Click on Install app
  5. It will ask for confirmation of the installation, click Install
  6. An icon will appear on your home screen, click on this and log into your account

If the Install option isn’t visible, make sure you have logged into your account on your server’s website on the same browser. Android may not let you install the web app if you aren’t logged in.

How to install web apps on iPhone and iPad:

  1. Open the Safari web browser and go to your server’s website
  2. Click the Share icon at the bottom of the screen (it looks like a box with an arrow pointing upwards)
  3. Scroll down through the options and click on Add to Home Screen
  4. Give the name you want for the icon and confirm the installation by clicking on Add
  5. An icon will appear on your home screen, click on this and log into your account

Do I get notifications for web apps? How do I control the notifications?

Yes, web apps nowadays support notifications.

Once you’ve installed the web app and you’ve logged in, your phone or tablet may ask if it’s okay to show notifications for the web app, if you want notifications you should say yes to this. You can also set notifications for the web app in your phone or tablet’s notifications settings section.

Which Fediverse server types can be installed as web apps?

You can install web apps for most Fediverse server types including:

BookWyrm
Friendica
Funkwhale
Mastodon
Mobilizon
OwnCast
PeerTube
Pixelfed
WriteFreely

Isn’t this just a bookmark? What’s the point of this?

Web apps are slightly different to bookmarks.

Installation won’t work for all websites, it will only work for those specifically desgined to be web apps. If you try to install non-app websites on your home screen, either the installation option will just not be there, or they will produce an icon but that icon will just open the site in a web browser exactly like a bookmark.

Web apps work a bit differently when they are added to your home screen, they hide the browser’s interface and let you just use the web app’s own interface. At a technical level they are still working through the browser, but in practice using a web app is pretty much like using an app. As noted above, many of the apps in app stores are actually web apps.

By adding web apps to your home screen, it means you can install Fediverse platforms that aren’t on app stores yet (such as Pixelfed or BookWyrm). Even on platforms that do have separate apps, such as Mastodon, many people prefer the web interface so they use the web app.

My iPhone/iPad calls these bookmarks?

Parts of the iPhone/iPad interface do refer to web apps as bookmarks, but web apps behave differently to bookmarks. Normal websites open in the browser just like bookmarks with the browser controls visible, but installed web apps hide the browser controls and the entire screen is devoted to the web app.

What are Progressive Web Apps / PWAs? What are Web Clients?

You might hear web apps referred to as Progressive Web Apps or PWAs or Web Clients. These are all pretty much just different names for the same thing.

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How can organisations or groups run a Mastodon server?

Running any kind of social media server is a big topic, especially if it’s a jointly-owned server run by a group, collective, business etc.

The legal side of things depends on where your organisation is based and what your organisation’s existing structure is. Your local laws will provide various options for joint ownership structures, for example co-operatives are popular in many countries. Usually a Mastodon server can be jointly owned and managed just like anything else that belongs to your organisation.

How does joint management of a Mastodon server work in practice?

Many people can jointly run a single Mastodon server by using the “roles” system, where accounts are assigned special privileges by the owners of the server. These privileges allow staff to do things that ordinary members can’t do, for example delete posts or block users. Different roles have different amounts and types of privilege.

There are a number of pre-made roles (Owner, Admin, Moderator) but completely new roles can also be created with highly customised sets of abilities. The “Owner” account is the highest-ranked role and has the final word on everything, so this is normally given to people most trusted by your organisation. You can assign several accounts as owners if you want.

If your organisation needs a hierarchy, there is an optional priority system for roles so that if two staff members disagree on certain actions, the higher priority role gets the final decision.

The profiles of staff carry a special badge with their role name, so everyone on your server can see that they are staff.

How to give a server member a special role

  1. Log in through an account that has the power to assign roles. Owners can assign any role, other staff members may also be able to (depending on what privileges they have been given).
  2. Go to Preferences > Moderation > Accounts
  3. Click on the member you want to assign a role to
  4. Scroll down to the Roles section of the page and click on Change role
  5. Select the correct role and click Save changes

How to adjust existing roles or create new roles

  1. Log in through an account with power to create roles (usually Owners)
  2. Go to Preferences > Administration > Roles
  3. To edit an existing role click the Edit button next to it, to create a new role click the Add role button at the top of the screen

Note that there are a lot of differnet abilities that can be assigned to roles (see below). You may want to err on the side of caution and only assign abilities that you’re totally sure you want them to have.

Screenshot of Mastodon's role creation feature, showing a very long list of various abilities that can be assigned to the role such as managing reports, blocking users, creating emoji etc.
Screenshot of the role creation screen showing all the abilities that can be assigned to the role

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What does the eye icon 👁️ mean on Mastodon?

If you’re browsing a thread on Mastodon through your server’s website or on the web app, you may have noticed an icon in the top right corner that looks like an eye 👁️

Clicking this icon reveals or hides all posts in the thread that are hidden by Content Warnings (CW). If the posts with CWs are hidden, click on the eye to open them all at once, or click again to close them all.

This feature is really useful on threads with a lot of posts hidden by CWs, as it means you don’t have to open each CW one by one.

I can’t see the eye, where is it?

The eye icon is only visible when you’re viewing a thread. You can view a thread by clicking on a post, which will show you the thread the post comes from.

I clicked the eye and it doesn’t seem to do anything?

Try clicking it again. If you have one post revealed and you click the eye, it just hides that post and leaves the rest hidden, so it appears to do nothing. When you click again, it opens all the posts at once.

There’s an eye in the official app but it doesn’t reveal the whole thread?

The official Mastodon app also has an eye symbol but it’s displayed in posts rather than at the top of threads, and it just reveals the contents of that specific post.

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How do I post a thread on Mastodon?

Mastodon threads are built with the traditional method used on many other social networks.

Here’s how to do this manually in any app:

  1. Post the first part of your thread, and mention that it is the start of the thread
  2. Reply to the post with the second part of the thread
  3. Reply to this reply with the third part etc
  4. Just keep replying to your last previous reply to add the next part, and go through all your posts in order
  5. When you get to the final reply, mention that it’s the end of the thread

Should I number the thread?

A lot of people also number their threads at the bottom of each part to indicate it is in a thread, and which part it is (such as 1/9 on first post in a nine post thread, 2/9 on second part, 3/9 on part 3 etc). Some also optionally add a cotton reel emoji 🧵 next to the first post’s numbering as a visual pun to indicate a thread.

If you’re not sure how many parts a thread will have, you can just number them as 1/X, 2/X, 3/X and then END on the final post. As Mastodon has an edit function, you can add the numbering to a thread afterwards too.

What visibility setting should I use for threads?

If you are posting a public thread, it’s considered polite to use a public visibility setting for the first post but an unlisted visibility setting for the replies in the thread. This means that only the start of the thread shows up on public timelines, and makes them easier to browse. However, if you’re unsure about how to do this don’t worry.

Is there an easier way to create threads? Can I create them in advance in one go instead of manually bit-by-bit?

Some apps and scheduled posting services may include thread-creation systems which let you write the thread in full and then post the thread in one go, but at a technical level they are just doing the above process of replies-to-replies automatically.

If you’re on a computer, you can use a notepad application to type the whole thread in one go, then split it into bits by copying and pasting sections of your text over to Mastodon.

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DMs aren’t getting through to me on Pixelfed! What do I do?

For safety reasons, the default settings on Pixelfed automatically block DMs from people you don’t follow.

If you want to receive DMs from people you don’t follow, you will need to change the settings:

  1. Log into your account on your Pixelfed server
  2. Go to Account Settings
  3. Go to Privacy
  4. Tick the box marked Receive Direct Messages from anyone
  5. Click the Submit button at the bottom of the screen

If you change your mind, repeat this process but untick the box and click Submit.

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Language codes used by Mastodon

Here’s a complete list of all the language codes used by Mastodon. These can be useful when doing searches by language.

For example if you search mastodon including the phrase language:fr you will only see results in French. You can combine this with keywords or hashtags, or just have the operator on its own if you want to see all recent posts in that language.

(NOTE: If you want your timelines permanently filtering languages, use the dedicated language filters instead.)

LanguageCode
Afaan Oromoo (Oromo)om
Afaraf (Afar)aa
Afrikaans (Afrikaans)af
Akan (Akan)ak
Aragonés (Aragonese)an
Asturianu (Asturian)ast
Asụsụ Igbo (Igbo)ig
Avesta (Avestan)ae
Aymar aru (Aymara)ay
Azərbaycan dili (Azerbaijani)az
Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian)id
Bahasa Melayu (Malay)ms
Bamanankan (Bambara)bm
Basa Jawa (Javanese)jv
Basa Sunda (Sundanese)su
Bislama (Bislama)bi
Bosanski jezik (Bosnian)bs
Brezhoneg (Breton)br
Català (Catalan)ca
čeština (Czech)cs
Chamoru (Chamorro)ch
ChiCheŵa (Chichewa)ny
ChiShona (Shona)sn
Corsu (Corsican)co
Crnogorski (Montenegrin)cnr
Cymraeg (Welsh)cy
Dansk (Danish)da
Davvisámegiella (Northern Sami)se
Deutsch (German)de
Dhivehi (Divehi)dv
Diné bizaad (Navajo)nv
Eesti (Estonian)et
Ekakairũ Naoero (Nauru)na
Englishen
Esperanto (Esperanto)eo
Español (Spanish)es
Euskara (Basque)eu
Eʋegbe (Ewe)ee
Faka Tonga (Tonga)to
Fiteny malagasy (Malagasy)mg
Français (French)fr
Frysk (Western Frisian)fy
Fulfulde (Fula)ff
Føroyskt (Faroese)fo
Gaeilge (Irish)ga
Gaelg (Manx)gv
Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic)gd
Galego (Galician)gl
Gĩkũyũ (Kikuyu)ki
Hiri Motu (Hiri Motu)ho
Hrvatski (Croatian)hr
Ido (Ido)io
Ikinyarwanda (Kinyarwanda)rw
Ikirundi (Kirundi)rn
Interlingua (Interlingua)ia
Interlingue (Interlingue)ie
Iñupiaq (Inupiaq)ik
IsiNdebele (Northern Ndebele)nd
IsiNdebele (Southern Ndebele)nr
IsiXhosa (Xhosa)xh
IsiZulu (Zulu)zu
Íslenska (Icelandic)is
Italiano (Italian)it
Julevsámegiella (Lule Sami)smj
Kajin M̧ajeļ (Marshallese)mh
Kalaallisut (Kalaallisut)kl
Kanuri (Kanuri)kr
Kernewek (Cornish)kw
Kikongo (Kongo)kg
Kiswahili (Swahili)sw
Kreyòl ayisyen (Haitian)ht
Kuanyama (Kwanyama)kj
Kurmancî (Kurmanji (Kurdish))ku
La .lojban. (Lojban)jbo
Láadan (Láadan)ldn
Latine (Latin)la
Latviešu valoda (Latvian)lv
Lëtzebuergesch (Luxembourgish)lb
Lietuvių kalba (Lithuanian)lt
Limburgs (Limburgish)li
Lingála (Lingala)ln
Lingua franca nova (Lingua Franca Nova)lfn
Luganda (Ganda)lg
Magyar (Hungarian)hu
Malti (Maltese)mt
Nederlands (Dutch)nl
Norsk (Norwegian)no
Norsk bokmål (Norwegian Bokmål)nb
Norsk Nynorsk (Norwegian Nynorsk)nn
ꆈꌠ꒿ Nuosuhxop (Nuosu)ii
Occitan (Occitan)oc
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How do I opt into full text search on Mastodon?

Since version 4.2.0, Mastodon allows full text search where the entire contents of public posts are included when people do searches.

For privacy and safety reasons, the full text search feature is entirely on an opt-in basis. By default your posts are NOT available to search by that method, and you have to actively opt into full text search to make your public posts searchable without hashtags.

To opt into full text search:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Click on your profile icon, this will take you to your profile page
  3. Click on the Edit Profile button
  4. Click on the tab at the top of the screen labelled Privacy & Reach
  5. Tick the box marked Include public posts in search results
  6. Click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen

If you change your mind, do the same steps again but untick the box and then save changes.

What if I don’t want to be searchable by full text?

By default, your posts are NOT part of the full text search system. You have to actively opt in using the steps above if you want people to be able to search the entire text of your public posts.

If you don’t opt in, then your public posts are only searchable by hashtag.

What if I want some of my posts to be searchable, but others not searchable?

The search system on Mastodon only shows posts using the Public visibility setting. If you create a post with any other visibility setting it will not show up in search results.

If I opt in, does it make my older public posts full text searchable too?

No. Opting into full text search only applies to public posts written after the opt-in happened, because it tags them with a special tag that allows full text searching. These tags would not be on older public posts, so they won’t be full text searchable (but they will still be hashtag searchable).

If I opt into full text search, can my public posts still be found by hashtag?

Yes. Your public posts will still show up in hashtag searches whether or not you’ve opted into full text search.

If I opt into full text search but my server doesn’t offer full text search, will my public posts still be searchable on other servers?

Yes. When you opt in, the text of your public posts will be picked up by the search system on servers that do offer full text search, even if your server doesn’t.

Why doesn’t every server offer full text search?

Full text search requires a server to have an extra service called elasticsearch. This costs extra, and some servers may not have the resources to pay for it.

There are also some servers that prefer to keep things on a hashtag-only basis as they see it as an extra layer of safety.

So, now that there’s full text search, should I carry on using hashtags?

Yes! Using hashtags is still a good idea for several reasons:

  • Many people follow hashtags, so your post will get more visibility if you include tags
  • Not everyone uses full text search
  • Some servers don’t offer full text search due to its extra cost
  • Hashtags give a clear sense of topic, they say what the post is about. Text can be ambiguous and unintentional, whereas hashtags show clear intended topics.

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Fedilab for Android

Third party Mastodon, PeerTube & Fediverse app, free open source software, available from Google Play (free) ⧉ & F-Droid (free) ⧉

General impressions

At first glance appears to be pretty standard, but once you start going through the options and settings there is so much more under the surface. Many, many useful features and good support for non-Mastodon Fediverse servers. It’s not the best-looking app, but that doesn’t matter because it does lots of things other apps cannot do.

Nice stuff

  • All the standard extras available the web interface such as post editing, pinned posts, hashtag follows, lists, filters, trending tags, trending posts etc.
  • All the timelines (Home, Local, Federated, Explore) are there, as are all the visibilities (Public, Unlisted, Followers-Only, Mentions-Only and Local-Only (for servers that support local-only posts))
  • Free open source software
  • Allows users to be muted just on home timeline while still appearing on lists, which is great for creating multiple separate timelines from the same account. (Also, you can set lists to automatically include home muted users.)
  • Scheduled posts and scheduled boosts, including boosts of own or others’ posts
  • Post drafts, automatically asks you if you close a message without posting it
  • Built-in translation, built-in dictionary and spell checker
  • Good support for non-Mastodon Fediverse server types including Pixelfed, PeerTube, Friendica etc. Also includes support for extra features on Mastodon forks such as Glitch and Hometown.
  • PeerTube interface is particularly good, allows all the options from the web interface including uploads, and Fedilab can easily be used as a dedicated PeerTube app
  • Customisable timeline and interface options, colour themes, adjustable text and icon sizes.
  • Conversation thread maps
  • Lets you fetch data from remote servers which allows conversations and profiles to be updated with information that hasn’t federated to your server yet.
  • Optional privacy features for links such as UTM stripping, and using alternative frontends for links to popular services (for example Nitter to view Twitter links, Invidious to view YouTube links etc).
  • Lots more options such as automatic cache clearance.

Potential drawbacks

  • Some of the formatting could be slicker and neater, for example metadata tables on profiles look a bit messy
  • Some English translations slightly odd, such as “trending messages” when it means trending posts
  • Occasional weird bugs, for example the Manage Timelines page brings up a “No timelines was found on this instance” error message

Hints & Tips

  • Polls can be added to posts by clicking the attachment button (the paperclip) and selecting the poll icon
  • You can jump to the top of a timeline by double-tapping the timeline’s icon

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How do I stop seeing the same boosted post again and again in Mastodon?

If a post is boosted by a lot of people, you may see it repeatedly in your timeline. This can be annoying if you’re tired of seeing it.

There is already a feature in Mastodon to prevent this happening, called Group Boosts, and it is on by default, you don’t need to do anything to switch it on. Unfortunately, it is hardcoded to allow boosts to repeat after 40 other posts have been in your timeline. This limit worked okay in the early days of the Fediverse when things were quieter, but nowadays with millions of people online you are a lot more likely to see repeated boosts.

This 40 posts limit cannot currently be adjusted by users or admins, but hopefully the developers could allow this to happen. If you are comfortable using github, you can vote for this limit to be adjustable by giving a thumbs up to the first post in this thread ⧉.

Is there any kind of workaround that I could use in the meantime?

There’s nothing that directly adjusts the 40 post number, which is why so many people have voted for it to become adjustable. However, if there’s a post you really want to stop seeing, you might want to try using filters to hide an over-boosted post.

What if I see one particular account boosting too many different boosts?

That’s a different issue, you can completely hide the boosts made by specific accounts.

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Scheduling posts on Mastodon

Post scheduling means you write posts now, and they are automatically posted later at times and dates of your choosing.

This is very useful for accounts that need posts to go out at particular times of day, for example to reach people reading their feeds in particular time zones, or to accompany scheduled live events such as streams or radio shows.

Scheduling through third party apps

If you are using certain third party apps such as Tusky and Fedilab you will find scheduling options built into their posting interfaces. Fedilab also runs a website interface at FediPlan ⧉ which lets you access the scheduling feature even without the app.

If you’re techy and want to self-host a scheduling app, there’s a new free open source third party web app called Mastodon Scheduler ⧉.

Professional post scheduling services

There are now commercial companies offering advanced post scheduling services that include compatibility with Mastodon and other social networks. The two most prominent at the moment are Publer ⧉ and Buffer ⧉.

Why doesn’t Mastodon have a built-in scheduler?

This is the weird part… Mastodon does actually have a fully functional built-in scheduler buried deep in its code! However, for some unexplained reason, the official web interface and official apps don’t yet give you any way to access it. This means you can only use Mastodon’s post scheduling system through third party apps and services via the Mastodon API.

If you’re comfortable using Github, you can vote for an official Mastodon scheduling interface to be added by giving a thumbs up at this issue ⧉.

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Is there a reminder bot for Mastodon and the Fediverse?

Yes, there’s an unofficial “remind me” bot you can use at @remindme@mstdn.social ⧉

It can remind you minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years later. To use it, just mention the bot in a post or reply and include the period you want to be reminded after, for example:

@remindme@mstdn.social 1 week

Can I receive the reminder in private?

Yes, reminders can be sent privately if you prefer. To be reminded privately, include the word “dm” in small letters:

@remindme@mstdn.social dm 1 week

It will only send it as a private message if you use “dm” in small letters. The phrase “DM” in capital letters will be ignored and the reminder will be public.

Which Fediverse platforms does this work with?

It should work with any Fediverse platform that supports microblogging, such as Mastodon, Friendica, GoToSocial etc.

Can I see the source code for the reminder bot? Can I set up my own reminder bot?

Yes, the reminder bot uses free open source software. The source code for the reminder bot is available online ⧉ if you want to contribute to the project and/or set up your own bot. (Setting up your own does require some technical knowledge though.)

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How to block (defederate) a server on Mastodon

Each server on the Fediverse is independent, and can choose to cut off connections to any other server if it wants to do so. This process of blocking other servers on the Fediverse is known as “defederation” or “fediblocking”.

Usually this is done for the sake of user safety, for example if another server is failing to moderate abusive behaviour, but it can be for any reason that the server admin considers important.

If you’re an admin on a Mastodon server, here is how to defederate other servers on the Fediverse:

  1. Log into your admin account on your server’s website
  2. Go to Preferences > Moderation > Federation
  3. Click Add New Domain Block
  4. Enter the domain name of the server you want to block (for example “threads.net”)
  5. From the Severity dropdown menu select Suspend
  6. Optionally add comments if you want to remind yourself why you blocked them, or if you have a public list that explains your server’s blocks
  7. Click Create Block

Once you’ve done this, your server will refuse connections from the blocked server and any follows from those servers will be removed.

These blocks work for any Fediverse server type, so you can block non-Mastodon servers as well.

Do I have to do this for every single server I want to block?

By default, blocks are done one at a time. However, you can also import ready-made blocklists which let you block lots of servers at once.

Do I need to defederate subdomains separately too?

No. If you block the main domain, this automatically also defederates all subdomains of that domain.

Is there a less drastic alternative to blocking?

Yes, you can choose Limit from the Severity menu instead of Suspend. Limiting (also known as Silencing) does not cut off connections, and allows follows to carry on, but it hides all posts from that server unless people are following the account that makes them.

What if I change my mind? How do I unblock servers?

To remove a domain block:

  1. Log into your admin account on your server’s website
  2. Go to Preferences > Moderation > Federation
  3. Click on the domain you want to unblock
  4. Click Undo Domain Block

If I unblock a server, will people’s follows be restored?

When an admin defederates a server, that cuts off all the follows between that server and the admin’s server.

Unblocking a server allows people to follow each other again, but it does not automatically restore follows that existed before the defederation happened. This is an important reason to consider carefully before defederating a server.

If you want to distance yourself from a server but don’t want to cut off follows, use the Limit/Silence option instead of Suspend.

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Ice Cubes for iPhone/iPad

Third party Mastodon app, free open source software, available from Apple App Store (free) ⧉

General impressions

Slick, fast, very well thought out. Full of options and settings if you want them, but the default settings work fine too and the options don’t feel overwhelming. Feels very modern and pushing beyond what the official app offers.

Nice stuff

  • Very easy to use and intuitive by default, so it’s suitable for beginners but advanced users can dig through settings if they want a more tweaked experience.
  • Free open source software
  • Extra features not on official app such as post drafts, hiding repeated boosts, following other servers, unlisted visibility, more granular notification settings, filter editing etc
  • Includes all the timelines (Home, Local, Federated, Explore) plus option to follow timelines on other servers.
  • Includes trending posts, trending tags, hashtag following etc.
  • Lovely haptics and subtle unobtrusive sound effects, letting you know something has happened without making a song and dance about it
  • Fully customisable appearance including full range of colours for each element, transparency settings, pre-built themes, font sizes and line spacing, preview on example post etc
  • Customisable swipe settings on interface
  • Can automatically suggest hashtags based on your post, and add them either within or after the text. Same feature can also correct text.

Not sure one way or other

  • LLM-powered feature where you can ask it to rewrite your post more concisely or more enthusiastically. Some will really appreciate this, while others will be concerned about its effect on discourse.
  • Quoting posts is something many have demanded but others have been worried about. In this particular case, the quoting is actually just linking to the post and mentioning the author (the core Mastodon software does not currently include quoting as a feature, so this is possibly the nearest the app can get to it).

Potential drawbacks

  • No image focus selection
  • No separate volume control for effects, have to use system volume

Hints & Tips

  • Ice Cubes is free open source software created by volunteers. Please consider supporting its development by using the optional in-app purchases which allow you to give a one-off tip or a regular subscription. The donation buttons are in the app itself at Settings > Support The App.
  • You can add and edit filters by holding down your profile icon in the top left corner, then select your profile name to bring up settings specific to that profile. One of these will be Edit filters.
  • You can see your own server’s info and its list of rules by going to Settings > Instance Information
  • Development was paused due to lead dev’s parental leave, but there should be updates on the way again now

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Tusky for Android

Third party Mastodon app, free open source software, available from Google Play (free) ⧉ and F-Droid (free) ⧉

General impressions

Solid, reliable and mature with continual development and updates. Works the way you would expect it to, and matches up nicely with the website interface. This is what the official Android app should have been.

Nice stuff

  • One of the longest-supported Mastodon apps, been around longer than the official app
  • Feels very intuitive, arranged logically
  • Free open source software
  • Lots of features that are missing from the official app and/or website, such as scheduled posts, drafts, reversal of reading order, image cropping etc.
  • Other features include post editing, image focus editing, bookmarks, lists, polls, hashtag following, filters, private profile notes, all post visibilities including Unlisted, all timelines
  • Custom tabs, you can pick up to five from Home, Local, Federated, Notifications, DMs, Trending Hashtags, Lists, Hashtag Columns
  • Hashtag tabs can include multiple hashtags in one tab, and you can have multiple separate hashtag tabs, which is really useful for creating your own custom themed timelines
  • Switch between tabs very easily by swiping (swiping can be deactivated too)
  • Support for multiple accounts at once, with separate settings pages for each account
  • People sick of clout-chasing can switch off all the boost/favourite/follower numbers, which can be good for mental health
  • Warning icon to remind you to add text descriptions

Potential drawbacks

  • No option to view trending posts
  • Custom tabs are fantastic, but the five tab limit can be frustrating
  • Verification of links on profiles not very clear, the icon could be confused with fake verification icons made with custom emoji
  • Profile descriptions formatted slightly messily, especially metadata elements
  • Some people overlook the Add Poll button as it’s sort of hidden in the attachment menu

Hints & Tips

  • Tusky is a volunteer-run project providing free software, you can donate to keep it going at the Tusky Open Collective page ⧉
  • To see your own profile page, tap your profile icon twice (once to open the settings page, then again to show your profile page)
  • To make a draft, start writing a post and close it without actually posting it . You can find a complete list of drafts from the settings page.
  • To add a poll, click the attachment button 📎 and then select Add Poll

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Toot! for iPhone & iPad

Third party Mastodon app, closed source, available from Apple’s App Store (paid) ⧉

General impressions

Lots of personality, presented in a whimsical and fun style, not corporate at all.

Nice stuff

  • Mature and stable, one of the longest-maintained apps, been around longer than the official apps
  • Supports all timelines (home, federated, local), explore/trending tab, lists, hashtag following
  • Supports post editing
  • London Underground-style colourful discussion maps make threads much easier to navigate
  • Laid out clearly with text explaining things instead of blank icons, support for variable font size too
  • Allows multiple accounts at once and easy-to-use switcher in corner of screen
  • Unique and fun easter eggs including “user scanning”, a pool simulator with a mysterious scoring system and more
  • Timeline syncing between devices through iCloud
  • The “in-app purchases” are actually just parodies which you don’t need to buy, they don’t add any features

Potential drawbacks

  • Search box is awkwardly hidden in a menu
  • The message bubbles can feel a bit overwhelming when there are lots of them, but they can be switched off

Hints & Tips

  • You can find the search box by going to the Home or Notifications tab, then clicking ⋯ and then Search
  • To find the Explore, Local and Federated feeds, click your server’s icon in the bottom right corner and then select the feed you want from the menu at the top of the screen

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Importing ready-made server blocklists on your own Mastodon server

Mastodon servers can choose to block other servers, and by default this is done manually one at a time. However, this can get cumbersome if there are lots of servers you need to block quickly, especially if you’re running a new server with no blocks at all yet.

To make the process easier, servers admins can import pre-written server-level blocklists from sites such as oliphant.social ⧉. Once you have a blocklist downloaded, here’s how to add it to your own server:

  1. Log in on your server’s website using your admin account.
  2. Go to Preferences > Moderation > Federation
  3. Click the Import button at the top
  4. Browse for the blocklist’s .csv file, then click Upload
  5. You will be presented with a list of servers to block. If there are servers with existing connections to your server, they will be automatically unticked. If you want to include these in the block, tick them.
  6. When you want to implement the blocklist, click Import in the top right corner of the list and click OK to confirm.

Once the list is successfully imported, the blocks will appear alongside your existing blocks. If necessary, you can remove blocks from the list just like any manually added block.

Will it block people that have already followed me, or that I already follow?

Before any blocks happen, the blocklist import process will highlight servers on the list that your server already has connections to. You will be given the option of either going ahead with blocking those servers, or leaving them off the blocklist. By default it will leave them off the blocklist, unless you choose to add them back in.

If you block a particular server, then all the follows and followers from that particular server will lose their connections to your server.

How reliable are ready-made blocklists?

Different blocklists have different methods for compiling them, which are usually stated next to their download links. You as admin need to judge which blocklist best suits your server. The blocklist links at oliphant.social ⧉ are a good starting point for discovering ready-made blocklists.

Typically a ready-made blocklist might be compiled through some sort of vote by a pool of admins trusted by the blocklist compiler. Minimal blocklists might demand a very high number of admin votes before adding a server to the blocklist, while broad lists might block servers even after just a few votes.

If a blocklist doesn’t state any methodology, it might not be the most reliable blocklist.

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Deleting posts automatically in Mastodon after a certain time period

Posts in Mastodon can be set to automatically self-destruct after a certain time period, with exceptions made for posts you want to keep. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Go to Preferences > Automated post deletion (on mobile web click ⚙️, then ☰, then Automated post deletion)
  3. Choose the Age threshold to set how long posts are around before they’re deleted
  4. Set the exceptions for posts you want to keep
  5. Tick the box at the top marked Automatically delete old posts
  6. Click the Save changes button

What if I change my mind? How do I stop posts being deleted automatically?

If you want to stop deleting posts automatically, UN-tick the box marked Automatically delete old posts, and click the Save changes button.

Will stopping the auto-deletion bring back posts that are already deleted?

No. Once a post is deleted it is gone. Be sure you want to use auto-deletion before you activate it.

I activated this but it hasn’t deleted posts that are way past the threshold. What’s going on?

If servers are busy, they create queues of tasks to work through. Automated deletion tends to go at the back of the queue, so it may take longer to happen than other tasks. If the settings are correct and it’s way past the deadline for the deletions to happen, ask your server’s admin for advice.

How does this affect server running costs?

When this feature is discussed, the issue of server running costs is often raised.

On the one hand, automated stuff always adds extra tasks for the server to carry out. On the other hand though, it would mean the server doesn’t have to store as much data so it would save money on storage costs, especially if the deleted posts have media attachments. It would also reduce storage for any servers that have federated the posts being deleted.

You would have to speak to your server’s admin to find out exactly how it affects their setup, as different servers may have different resources available.

I asked a couple of very large server admins for their thoughts on how this balances out. Both of them said the added tasks were insignificant compared to everything else the servers have to do. Both of them also said deleting posts (especially posts with media attachments) saves storage, but one of them added that there may be fees to be paid if the deletions happen for very recent posts. On their server, it would be cheaper to only delete posts more than 90 days old, and leave any newer posts intact.

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How to use groups on Mastodon and the Fediverse

Fediverse groups are special kinds of accounts which let you connect with other people who share the same interest. You can join a group by following it.

At the moment, most Fediverse groups work like this:

  1. Join a group by following its account
  2. Posts from that group will start appearing in your Home timeline
  3. If you want to post something to the group, just mention its account address in a public post
  4. If you want to leave a group, unfollow it

It’s somewhat similar to following hashtags, and people who have used email discussion lists will also find this structure very familiar.

The main Fediverse group provider at the moment is Guppe ⧉. It’s platform-neutral, their groups can be followed from all kinds of Fediverse servers including Mastodon, GoToSocial, Friendica etc. It’s also free open source software so anyone can start their own Guppe server if they want to.

Where can I discover existing groups?

I’ve compiled a curated list of interesting Fediverse groups on fedi.directory ⧉. I’ve tried to only list active groups with a respectful atmosphere.

Guppe has a list of their top 50 active groups at the bottom of their website at a.gup.pe ⧉.

You can also try searching for @a.gup.pe in the search box on Mastodon, this will show Guppe groups that at least one person on your server is following. However, bear in mind if a group has no followers from your server it won’t show up in searches.

How can I create a group? Are the groups moderated? What if I see something unsuitable?

Guppe groups don’t require any kind of registration, you can create a group simply by mentioning the group name in the form “@YourGroupNameHere@a.gup.pe”. However, because there’s no registration there is no group moderator either. Guppe groups rely on members reporting bad group posts the same way they would report bad non-group posts.

What do I do if I see spam or something unsuitable in a group?

Do exactly the same thing you would do if you saw spam/abuse outside the group on ordinary posts. Whatever kind of group you are following, you can report, mute and block just like you can with ordinary non-group posts.

When you report bad posts, the admins on your server (and possibly also the server of the spammer/troll) can take action to block it and remove it.

What if a group is really busy? How do I stop it overwhelming my timeline?

You can use Mastodon’s Lists feature to set up lists for groups, and then set those lists to hide posts from your Home timeline. This will let you keep groups in their own mini-timelines you can dip into whenever you want, without causing any posts to appear in your main timeline.

Groups federate content more effectively than hashtags

Hashtag follows and groups have some overlap, and appear to work in a similar way on the surface, but there are significant differences behind the scenes.

The biggest advantage of groups is you automatically see all of the group’s posts, even if they’re from accounts that haven’t federated to your server before. Because all the group’s posts are shared to all the members’ servers, you never miss a thing.

With hashtag follows, this mass federation doesn’t happen. Hashtag following means you will only see posts from accounts that already federate with your server. Hashtags are essentially passive filters for your server’s Federated timeline and do not actively draw in any new content.

What about Mastodon’s own built-in groups feature?

Mastodon has been developing a built-in groups feature for some time now, but it hasn’t been released yet. From the screenshots posted so far, it seems it will be more of a Facebook Groups type forum rather than a public discussion list. (You can see highly technical details and screenshots of this upcoming Groups feature on their github page ⧉).

However, it is unclear if Mastodon groups will work across the Fediverse or only on Mastodon. Guppe is platform-neutral, and will work on any kind of Fediverse server that supports microblogging including Mastodon, Friendica and others.

Can I set up my own Guppe server?

Guppe is free open source software, and if you have the necessary technical knowledge and resources, you can install your own Guppe server by following the instructions on the Guppe Github site ⧉.

Groups on Friendica

The Fediverse server type Friendica includes built-in group support, which works in a broadly similar way to Guppe. Creating a Friendica group requires a Friendica account, but anyone can join the group from other Fediverse server types including Mastodon servers.

A Friendica group can be moderated by the person who created it, and they can also add additional moderators to the same group.

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You don’t need link shorteners on Mastodon

All links on Mastodon count as 23 characters towards your post’s character limit, no matter how long they really are. Because of this, there is no need to use link shortener services on Mastodon.

Mastodon does this because it’s much better for privacy that links remain in their original form, as link shortener services tend to track the people that click on them. It also means the links will continue to work in the future and aren’t dependent on the existence of the link shortener service.

The official iPhone/iPad app counts it as more than 23 characters?

There’s a known bug on the official iPhone/iPad app ⧉ which causes links to count for more than 23 characters. A fix has been proposed but it hasn’t been released yet. In the meantime, you can avoid this bug completely by using third party apps such as Toot!, Ice Cubes and Ivory, or by logging in through your server’s website.

But I want to track people who click on my links!

You can use link shorteners to track people, but you probably shouldn’t. Also, some people may wonder why you are using link shorteners when all links count for 23 characters anyway.

Why is it 23 characters?

Apparently Twitter’s original built-in link shortener used 23 characters. So when Mastodon removed the need for shorteners, they emphasised this by only counting 23 characters for all links.

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Using relays and scripts to quickly expand a server’s view of the Fediverse

By default, brand new Mastodon and Fediverse servers will be totally blank, with no users or posts visible at all. Searches will produce no results.

As people start signing up and posting and following accounts from other servers, the timelines and search results will start to fill up as the server starts noticing more of the Fediverse. However, this discovery process can be very slow to begin with, and those on new servers may sometimes be frustrated by the slowness.

Server admins can speed up this process by subscribing to relays which push new content to their server from other servers, or using scripts that fetch missing posts from threads and profiles.

How to subscribe to a relay server on Mastodon

  1. Log into your server’s website using your server’s admin account
  2. Go to ⚙️ Preferences > Administration > Relays
  3. Click Setup A Relay Connection
  4. Paste the URL of the relay into the box and click Save And Enable

⚠️ WARNING: Some relays are better moderated than others. Some relays may contain content that breaks your own server’s rules, or may even be illegal in your country. It’s really important to check what kind of content a relay contains before you connect your own server to it. Relays are usually based on specific servers, so you can see such a relay’s content by browsing its server’s Federated feed and reading that server’s rules.

Also, bear in mind large and general relays may fill your server with content that you mostly aren’t interested in, and use up lots of resources at the same time. Smaller, more specific relays may be much better suited to your server’s resources.

Finding general relays

There’s a list of Fediverse relays at RelayList.com ⧉. Please bear in mind the warnings above before using this list, and check that the content on the relays is suitable for your server.

FediBuzz Relay: Custom relays on specific topics

This is a new service that lets you subscribe to custom relays based on specific hashtags or specific other servers. This can greatly reduce the amount of resources required by relays, as it only sends posts that are relevant to the topics you have selected for your server. You can find out more on its website at relay.fedi.buzz ⧉.

Using scripts to fill in missing posts from profiles and threads

There’s a new tool called FediFetcher ⧉ which can be used to automatically backfill missing posts from profiles and conversation threads. It runs independently of the Fediverse server, but it needs access tokens for every user that it backfills for, so it is generally aimed at single-user servers or servers where the admin knows all the users. It also requires good technical skills for running the tool.

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How to post a poll on Mastodon

It’s really easy:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or web app or any other app
  2. Start a new post
  3. Click the poll icon, this usually looks like a bar chart 📊 (on some apps there may be no poll icon visible, but you can click the attachment icon and then select poll as an attachment)
  4. Write your question in the main part of the post
  5. Add up to four responses, and describe each option (you can use emoji too). Some servers running customised code may allow more than four responses.
  6. Set the duration, between 5 mins and 7 days
  7. Click Publish to post the poll!

Allowing multiple responses on polls

You can optionally allow people to chose more than one response in polls. The exact way you activate this option depends on which version of Mastodon your server is running or which app you’re using.

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app or a third party app
  2. Create the poll via the web interface as described above, but don’t post it yet
  3. On most server websites click on a circle next to one of the options, the circles will all change into rounded squares, and the poll will now allow multiple responses. Alternatively, some websites might have an option that says “Style: Pick One”, click this and choose “multiple choice” if you want to allow multiple responses. Third party apps will have various different ways of allowing multiple responses.

If you want to go back to single response on most websites, click on a square to change it back to circles before you post.

The “Style” option is due to replace the circle/square thing in the next version of Mastodon, but the next version hasn’t been officially released yet. Some servers are running the next version early while it is still in its testing phase, and that’s why they already have the “Style” option instead of the circles and squares.

⚠️ Warning about editing polls

You can edit polls the same way you edit posts, just go to ⋯ on the post and select Edit. However, when you edit the poll’s options or change its response type, it will automatically reset the poll’s results back to zero without any warning! (Editing the main text above the poll doesn’t reset it though.)

This behaviour is presumably to prevent abuse of the poll system, but the lack of warning can really catch people out (it certainly caught me out! 😅 ). For those comfortable using Github, there’s an open issue about this here ⧉.

I can’t find the poll button on my app!

Some third party apps have the poll button hidden away under the attachment button. Click attach, and then instead of choosing an image or video or audio file, choose a poll.

Some people have more than four options on their polls! How is this possible?

Mastodon is just one kind of server on the wider Fediverse. This means that many of the accounts you see on your timeline are on servers that have tweaked their Mastodon software to allow additional featured (such as more poll options), or are on totally different kinds of server altogether. You can escape the limits of standard Mastodon servers by moving to a different kind of Fediverse server.

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How do I follow someone on Mastodon? How do I unfollow them?

You can follow someone on Mastodon by clicking on the Follow button on their profile page. You can go to someone’s profile page by clicking on their name.

You can unfollow them by clicking the same button again. The button may have a different label after you’ve followed them (Unfollow, Following etc), but it will be in the same place on the screen.

I know someone has an account on Mastodon etc and I’ve tried searching for their account, but it doesn’t show up in the search results. How do I follow them?

If you’re trying to get someone’s profile page to appear and nothing else works, you can use their account address to make their profile appear. Copy and paste their account address into the search box, and this will force your server to show you their profile page.

If you don’t know their account address but you have some other means to communicate with them, try asking them directly. They can find their account address on their profile page, it’s just below their display name. There’s more info on the account addresses page.

If you’re just wanting to discover new accounts that you haven’t heard of before, try using the suggestions in this guide to discovering interesting accounts.

Is there a limit on how many accounts I can follow on Mastodon?

Yes and no.

If you have fewer than 7500 followers, you can only follow up to 7500 accounts.

If you have more than 7500 followers, you can follow accounts equal to that amount. For example, if you had 10,000 followers you could follow 10,000 accounts.

The technical reasons for these limits are discussed in this issue on Github ⧉.

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How do I delete a post on Mastodon?

To delete one of your posts:

  1. Go to the post you want to delete
  2. Click the ⋯ icon
  3. Select “Delete”

This should delete the post straight away on your own server. Most other servers where the post is visible will delete it too, though in some cases there may be a delay in the deletion happening (as the other server may have a queue of tasks to work through).

In a small number of cases a deletion may not happen on the other server, for example if the other server is not working properly. If you’re concerned about how widely a post may be seen, you can restrict its visibility when you post it.

Can I edit posts instead of deleting them?

Yes! See the guide to post editing.

When should I edit? When should I delete?

If you’re correcting a mistake in the post, it’s probably better to edit it. Deletions are generally just if you want to remove a post forever.

Editing means the post stays at the same link as before, and if your post was shared by other people it will still be visible in their feeds. It also means all the replies to the post will remain intact and visible below the post.

If you delete a post, any links to the post will break and all the shares of that post will disappear. All replies to the deleted post will be orphaned and very difficult to find.

What does “Delete and re-draft” mean?

There are actually two delete options on Mastodon, Delete or Delete and re-draft. The first just deletes the message, but the second deletes the message and sends a copy of it to the post writing box so you can make changes and repost it.

Since the introduction of post editing on Mastodon this second option has been largely obsolete. However, there are a couple of cases where you might want to use it:

  • Delete & re-draft is the easiest way to change the visibility of a post, as this cannot be done through editing.
  • Delete & re-draft is very useful if you accidentally include sensitive information within an otherwise okay post. Editing will not hide this information totally, because all previous versions of an edited post are visible by clicking the Edited link below the post. (This audit trail of previous versions is a deliberate safety feature to prevent “bait & switch” abuse of editing.)

Bear in mind that both delete options delete the post, and any shares will be lost, links will break and replies will be orphaned. If you just want to make changes to the content, editing is usually a much better option.

Can I set old posts to self-delete automatically?

Yes! Click here to see instructions on how to delete posts after a certain time period.

Are there any reasons to delete and re-post the same content?

There are niche cases where deletion and reposting can be useful. For example, if the replies thread below a post has gone totally off the rails and you want to “reset” the discussion, deleting and reposting it lets you start from scratch.

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Browsing a Mastodon account’s posts that use a particular hashtag

You can find a particular Mastodon account’s posts using a particular hashtag by using the following web address:

(Mastodon account’s web address)/tagged/(hashtag without #)

For example if you wanted to browse posts with the hashtag #FeaturedServer made by the FediGarden account, the address would be:

https://social.growyourown.services/@FediGarden/tagged/FeaturedServer

If you’re not sure what an account’s web address is, go to the account’s original page and the address will be shown at the top of your web browser.

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Recommending accounts to follow for new users on your Mastodon server

When a new user joins your Mastodon server, by default they are shown a list of accounts to follow. This recommendation list is drawn from two different places in the admin settings.

The first place is a manual list of accounts you want to always be recommended, which is always shown at the top of the list.

The other place is an automatic pool of accounts that are randomly recommended to new users. The pool is based on which accounts your existing users are following, but you can edit this pool if you want to remove accounts from it.

Set accounts that your server always recommends to new users:

  1. Log into your server’s website with your admin account
  2. Go to Preferences > Administration > Server Settings > DIscovery > Always recommend these accounts to new users
  3. Paste in the account addresses of the accounts you want to recommend, separated by commas. They can be accounts from your server or from other servers, as long as the account address is written in full.
  4. Click the Save changes button

Edit the random pool of recommended accounts:

  1. Log into your server’s website with your admin account
  2. Go to Preferences > Moderation > Follow Recommendations
  3. To remove an account from the pool, tick the box next to it and click Suppress follow recommendation
  4. To bring an account back into the pool, click the Suppressed link at the top of the list, then tick the account you want to bring back and click Restore follow recommendation
  5. You can set different recommendation pools for different languages by clicking the For language dropdown menu

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How to add custom emoji to your own Mastodon server

One of the most fun features of running your own Mastodon server is the ability to add custom emoji. All members of your server can use them, and they will be visible in your member’s posts that federate to other servers. You can also clone custom emoji from other servers, or block them if you see something unsuitable.

To access emoji settings, log into your server’s website with your administrator’s account, then go to Preferences > Administration > Custom emoji.

When you first log in, you will see a long list of all the custom emoji visible to your server, including your own and those of all the servers you federate with. To show just your own click the Local tab at the top, to show just those on other servers click Remote.

Adding your own custom emoji

Custom emoji can be PNG or GIF files up to 50kb in size, and can be still or animated. They can also contain transparent backgrounds. (If you want to create your own from scratch, there’s a useful guide by Laura Kalbag here ⧉.)

To add your own custom emoji:

  1. Log in with your admin account on your server’s website
  2. Go to Preferences > Administration > Custom Emojis
  3. Click the Upload button in the top right corner
  4. Add a shortcode, which is a word or words which describes what the emoji looks like. If you use several words, write them as CamelCase or with underscores separating them. Shortcodes are really important as they let blind people hear emoji through screen reader apps.
  5. Browse for the image file and click the Upload button at the bottom

Cloning emoji from other servers

To clone an emoji from another server, tick the box next to it on the custom emoji admin list, and click Copy. If you’re looking for a particular emoji on a long list, use its shortcode in the search box.

Blocking emoji from other servers

To block an emoji from another server, for example if it is offensive, tick the box next to it on the emoji admin list and click Disable or Delete.

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Customising your Mastodon server’s appearance with CSS

If you’re familiar with using CSS, you can give your Mastodon server’s website interface a new look through the Custom CSS feature:

  1. Log into your server’s website using the admin account
  2. Go to Preferences > Administration > Server Settings
  3. Click the Appearance tab and go to the Custom CSS section
  4. Add the CSS code you want in the box, then click Save Changes

⚠️ Using custom CSS prevents your server’s users setting their own theme when logging in through your server’s website. In the worst cases this may cause accessibility issues, as some users rely on being able to choose either light or dark or high contrast themes. If you’re going to use the Custom CSS feature, check your users are okay with it before permanently making changes.

Is there any ready-made CSS code available?

Yes, there are pre-existing themes which can be installed through Custom CSS if you prefer. For example, there’s the lovely Tangerine theme ⧉ or the Twitter-style Bird UI ⧉.

Can I add custom CSS as a theme option from the Themes dropdown menu, so that users on my server can choose which theme they want?

Yes you can, but it’s a lot more complicated. Third party themes include instructions for this on their websites, for example the Tangerine theme has a section on how to install it as an optional custom theme ⧉. You will need more technical skills to do this and access to your server’s files. If you’re on managed hosting, ask the hosting provider if it is possible to install custom themes.

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What do I call my server? What kind of domain name or subdomain should I use?

When a Fediverse server is created, you have to give it its own name. This can be a domain name (example.com) or subdomain (social.example.com). People can use this server name when signing into their account on an app, or when using the server through a web browser.

The best domain names are usually short, easy to spell and memorable. You may want to avoid offensive words, as they can make it difficult to tell people about your server on other platforms which filter such words automatically.

Do I need to buy a new domain if I already have one?

If you already own a domain, you can use subdomains for all of your servers. Many people put their Mastodon server on the subdomain social.example.com, their PeerTube server on video.example.com etc.

Avoid mentioning the name of the software in your domain

It’s also probably a good idea to avoid mentioning your server’s software in its domain name. For example, if you were making a Mastodon server you probably shouldn’t mention the word Mastodon in the domain or subdomain. There are many reasons why:

  • Software projects tend to change over the years, in their content, leadership or maintenance, and at some point you may prefer to switch your server to different software. It could be confusing for your users if your server mentions one kind of software but runs another.
  • Software projects sometimes rename themselves, and this too can cause confusion if your domain refers to the old name.
  • Software projects often trademark their names to prevent misuse, and only let servers use the name if they’re running that specific software. This could make it legally difficult for your server to transition to another kind of software in the future. (This isn’t a theoretical risk, this has actually happened in some cases.)

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How do I create my own server on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

There are three different ways you can make your own server on the Fediverse:

  • Easiest by far is to use a managed hosting service, where you pay a monthly fee to the hosting company and they do all the technical stuff behind the scenes, including installation, upgrades, maintenance etc. This is so easy that it allows non-technical people to have their own servers. You can find out a lot more about this by visiting my other site Grow Your Own Services, especially the section on growing your own social network ⧉.
  • A medium difficulty option is getting a VPS or home computer and installing special software intended for people who run their own servers, such as YunoHost ⧉, FreedomBox ⧉ or LibreServer ⧉. This requires some technical knowledge, especially to install the software, but after the initial set-up the process the rest is done through a graphical interface and relatively painless.
  • The most difficult option is to install and maintain everything from scratch. This demands the most technical knowledge, but also provides the most flexibility. You can find installation instructions for all Fediverse platforms in their documentation, usually on their official website. For example, Mastodon’s installation instructions are here ⧉.

Some Fediverse server types are available to set up through all three options, others may only be available by manually installing from scratch.

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WriteFreely: Long-form writing platform for the Fediverse

WriteFreely is intended for people who want to publish long articles on the Fediverse where the focus is on the text, with as few distractions as possible.

You can find out more from the official WriteFreely website ⧉, which includes a list of servers you can sign up on ⧉.

Alternatively, if you want to start your own blogging community, you can start your own WriteFreely server either by installing it yourself ⧉, or if you’re non-technical you can use a managed hosting service ⧉.

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WordPress: Turning your blog into a Fediverse server

If you have a WordPress blog, you can turn it into a Fediverse server, which means people will be able to follow the blog and comment on it from Mastodon etc.

This is now possible for all kinds of WordPress blogs, including free blogs on wordpress.com, paid blogs on wordpress.com and blogs hosted elsewhere that are powered by WordPress software. The method you use to activate Fediverse compatibility depends on the type of blog you have, but they all work using the same technology.

Free, personal and premium wordpress.com blogs

To turn your blog into a Fediverse server:

  1. Log into your wordpress.com account and go to Settings
  2. Go to Discussion
  3. Activate the option Enter the Fediverse
  4. Copy your blog’s Fediverse address which is shown below the option
  5. People will be able to follow this address from their Mastodon etc accounts

If you want people on Mastodon etc to follow your blog, advertise the blog’s address you copied in step 4 above.

Independently hosted WordPress blogs, business and commerce wordpress.com blogs

Independently hosted WordPress blogs, or those on wordpress.com with business and commerce plans, can become Fediverse servers by installing a special plug-in called ActivityPub for WordPress ⧉ (which is named after the technical protocol that Fediverse servers use to communicate). Here’s how to install it:

  1. Log into your WordPress blog’s dashboard
  2. Go to Plugins > Add new and search for “ActivityPub” (the correct plug-in is the one by Mattias Pfefferle & Automattic)
  3. Install the plug-in “ActivityPub” by Mattias Pfefferle & Automattic
  4. You may also need to also install the “WebFinger” plug-in by Pfefferle ⧉ to help the ActivityPub plug-in work properly.
  5. After everything has finished installing, go to your blog’s Plugins section and activate the ActivityPub plug-in.

If all has gone well, your blog should now be its own Fediverse server. It won’t look any different, but behind the scenes your blog and all of its author accounts will now have their own Fediverse account addresses. People can paste account addresses into the search box on Mastodon and other Fedi server types, and the blog or blog author will appear as a profile that they can follow and interact with.

How do I find my blog’s Fediverse address? Can I change the address?

On free, personal and premium wordpress.com blogs, log into your account and then go to Settings > Discussion Settings, then copy the blog’s Fediverse address at the bottom.

On independently hosted WordPress blogs (and business/commerce blogs on wordpress.com) go to Settings > ActivityPub to see your blog author account address, or Settings > ActivityPub > Settings > Change blog profile ID to see your blog’s overall address. Either of these can be followed from Mastodon etc. You can edit the blog’s overall address by typing a new address and then clicking Save changes at the bottom of the screen.

How do I get people to follow my blog from Mastodon etc?

The key to getting your account followers on Mastodon etc is encouraging people there to visit your blog’s or blog author’s Fediverse address. When they do so, they will see the blog’s profile page within Mastodon etc itself, and can click on the Follow button there.

Here are some ways you can encourage people to follow your blog on Mastodon etc:

  • If you have a Mastodon etc account, do a post where you talk about your blog and include your blog’s Fediverse address in the post. People reading your post will be able to click on the address to see its profile, and then they can click Follow just like they would for any other account.
  • On your WordPress blog, there is a special extra blocks in the post editor called Follow me on the Fediverse. Add one of these blocks when editing a page or post, and select the account of the blog author you want people to follow. People visiting the blog can click on it and will see a dialogue box explaining how they can follow the account from Mastodon etc.

What will people on Mastodon etc see if they follow my blog from there?

They will see your blog posts on their Mastodon etc timelines. You can set it to show the entire blog post, or just a partial excerpt with a link to read more, or just the link.

On the plug-in for independently hosted sites (or wordpress.com sites with business/commerce plans), you can choose how much of your posts are shown on Mastodon etc by doing the following:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Go to ActivityPub
  3. Choose the Settings tab within ActivityPub
  4. Scroll down to the section marked Activities and choose your preferred option

Can people comment on my blog from Mastodon etc?

Yes. When they reply to your posts on Mastodon, those replies will appear as comments below that post on your blog. (This is assuming you have comments activated on your blog.)

Can I use this with my free blog on wordpress.com?

Yes! You can now turn any kind of WordPress blog into a Fediverse server, use the appropriate methods above to do so.

Previously the Fediverse was only available to independently hosted WordPress-powered blogs, but since October 2023 ⧉ it has become available to all WordPress blogs including all account tiers on wordpress.com.

So, is this linking my blog to my Mastodon account?

No. The plug-in turns the blog into its own Fediverse server. The blog itself will have its own Fediverse address, and so will each of your blog’s author accounts. If you’re using a custom domain name, the Fediverse address will have the custom domain at the end. If your blog is on wordpress.com, your blog’s Fediverse address will end in “wordpress.com”.

Because Fediverse platforms are compatible with each other, people on Mastodon etc will be able to follow a blog and they will see the blog posts appear on their home timelines as if they were ordinary Mastodon etc posts.

You can try this out by following your blog (or blog’s author account) from your Mastodon account, and mentioning the address in one of your posts on Mastodon. People will be able to click on the blog’s address and follow the blog’s account.

Can I display my blog’s followers from Mastodon etc on the blog itself?

Yes, there’s a special block in the WordPress editor called Fediverse Followers. Add this block to your page or post and select the account you want to display followers for, they will then be shown on your blog where the block is inserted.

I mentioned my blog’s address on Mastodon etc but it isn’t clickable. What do I do so that it leads to the profile page?

To make a clickable link to your blog’s account in a post on Mastodon etc, the address has to have an @ sign at the beginning. For some inexplicable reason this @ sign isn’t included at the start of the address displayed on WordPress so you’ll have to add it in yourself.

For example myblog@example.com would not be clickable, but @myblog@example.com would be clickable.

However, both versions of the address work when copy-pasting addresses into the search box on Mastodon etc.

I am still having problems with the plug-in and none of these suggestions work. Is there a support forum somewhere?

Yes, there’s an official support forum for the ActivityPub for WordPress plug-in ⧉.

Can I follow Mastodon etc accounts from my WordPress blog?

Yes and no.

The ActivityPub plug-in by itself will only let people follow you from Mastodon and other Fediverse platforms. If you want to follow other people who are on Mastodon etc, you will need to also install a different plug-in by a different author called Friends for WordPress ⧉. If you have both plug-ins installed, you can use your WordPress blog for both following and being followed on Mastodon etc. (The Friends plug-in also lets you follow RSS feeds.)

Where can I sign up for a WordPress blog?

Most independent web hosting providers will include the option of setting up a WordPress blog included in the monthly fee for your website. This approach normally gives you the most features and options including a vast range of plugins that add extra features to your site.

Alternatively, you can sign up for a free WordPress blog on “freemium” providers like wordpress.com ⧉, which are supported by advertising and paid-for features. This is a bit more restricted though, you may not be able to install plugins on the free plans.

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Finding people to follow on Pixelfed

To find people to follow on Pixelfed, you can use most of the same techniques and directories that Mastodon etc. users use.

Pixelfed is not just about Pixelfed accounts! You can also follow non-Pixelfed accounts from elsewhere on the Fediverse like Mastodon etc. To follow a non-Pixelfed account, paste its Fediverse address into the search box within Pixelfed. The account’s profile will then appear in the search results and you can click Follow to follow it.

After you follow them, non-Pixelfed posts will start appearing in your timeline but they will look just like Pixelfed posts, and you can interact with them in exactly the same way. The process is so seamless you probably won’t notice they’re from another type of server.

Can I follow text-based accounts on Pixelfed?

Yes, but it’s a slightly complicated situation.

  • New accounts on the latest version of Pixelfed will see text-only posts automatically
  • Old accounts on the latest version of Pixelfed will not see text-only posts
  • Accounts on older versions of Pixelfed can opt into seeing text-only posts if they want to (see the procedure below)

On older versions of Pixelfed you could opt into seeing text-based posts by doing the following:

  1. Log in through your Pixelfed server’s website
  2. Go to Settings
  3. Go to Timelines
  4. Go to Show text-only posts and tick the box, then click Submit

If you change your mind, do the same thing again but untick the box.

This procedure doesn’t work on the latest versions of Pixelfed though.

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Pixelfed: Photo sharing on the Fediverse

Pixelfed is a photo and image sharing network on the Fediverse with a photo-oriented interface that includes albums, filters, moments etc. You can follow Pixelfed accounts from Mastodon, and Mastodon accounts from Pixelfed.

See the official site at pixelfed.org ⧉ to find out more.

Where do I sign up for Pixelfed?

The official site has a curated list of servers to join ⧉.

How do I use it? Which apps can I use?

Server website interface:

You don’t have to use an app at all if you don’t want to. Pixelfed can be used entirely through a server’s website on computers and smartphones, and has a good web interface. If you do want to use an app, there are a number of options (see below).

Dedicated Android apps:

Dedicated iPhone apps:

Mastodon apps:

Pixelfed is compatible with the Mastodon API so you can also use Mastodon apps with PixelFed accounts if you want. However, some Pixelfed-specific features may not be available.

How do I set up my own Pixelfed server?

If you are not technical you can host your own Pixelfed server through managed hosting ⧉, or if you are slightly techy you can use tools like YunoHost ⧉. If you are very techy and just want to install and maintain a server without any help, see the official documentation here ⧉.

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PeerTube: Video on the Fediverse

Screenshot of the PeerTube server fedi.video featuring many themed recommended playlists on topics such as animation, food, crafts, retro gaming etc.
Screenshot of the PeerTube server Fedi.Video ⧉

PeerTube ⧉ is a video platform for the Fediverse, sort of like Mastodon but for videos.

Just like Mastodon, PeerTube is spread out on many different servers that talk to each other. Also, because both PeerTube and Mastodon are part of the Fediverse, PeerTube accounts can be followed from Mastodon etc as well as from other PeerTube servers.

How do I watch PeerTube videos and follow PeerTube accounts? How can I follow them from Mastodon?

Please go to the guide to using PeerTube.

How do I upload videos to PeerTube?

Please go to the guide to publishing on PeerTube.

Where can I see an example of PeerTube in action?

If you just want to see an example of a working PeerTube server, have a look at fedi.video ⧉.

Which apps can I use with PeerTube?

You can follow and interact with PeerTube from your Mastodon account, including through your server’s website or any Mastodon app.

Alternatively, if you are using a PeerTube account yourself, you can use your PeerTube server’s website, or the Android apps Fedilab and NewPipe ⧉.

If you just want to watch videos without interacting, you can subscribe to PeerTube channels through your favourite podcast app.

What if I want to start my own PeerTube server?

There are basically three options:

Isn’t video really expensive to host?

Video sites are definitely more expensive to run than text-based social networks, but PeerTube has a clever system to keep the costs down.

When several people watch the same video, they start sharing their bandwidth on a peer-to-peer connection (which is where PeerTube gets its name). This significantly reduces the strain on the PeerTube server where the video is hosted, and it provides the greatest amount of help when the strain is greatest.

I thought PeerTube was a way to view YouTube videos with better privacy?

No. You’re probably thinking of a totally different project called Invidious ⧉

Does PeerTube run on blockchain or cryptocurrency or something?

No. None of the Fediverse uses blockchain or anything like it. The Fediverse runs on traditional sustainable servers federated in a structure similar to email.

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OwnCast: Live streaming and chat on the Fediverse

OwnCast is sort of the Fediverse’s alternative to Twitch, and lets people set up their own independent live streaming servers with built-in chat windows. People can follow OwnCast accounts from Mastodon etc. and they’ll see a post in their timeline when the stream goes live. They can also use their Mastodon account in the chat.

You can find out more about it on the official OwnCast website ⧉. If you just want to see what it looks like in action, there’s a demo server that streams 24/7 ⧉.

How do I find OwnCast streams to follow? How do I follow them?

There’s an official directory of streamers ⧉, and you can follow FediVideos ⧉ which boosts interesting streams (as well as other kinds of videos on the Fediverse).

If you want to try following a stream from Mastodon etc, click on the stream’s Follow button, usually just below the video window. Alternatively, you may see people mentioning a stream in posts on Mastodon etc, and clicking on the mention will bring up its profile page including a follow button.

What happens when a stream goes live?

If you’re following a stream from Mastodon etc and it goes live, a post will appear in your Mastodon etc timeline telling you about it along with a link to the livestream.

How do I verify my identity in chat? Can I use my Mastodon etc account to sign in on the chat?

Yes, you can verify your identity by connecting an OwnCast chat account to an account on Mastodon etc. Alternatively, you can register for a reserved name on the OwnCast server without needing an account anywhere else.

To do either of these things, click on the name button at the top of the stream and select Authenticate.

Do I need to register to chat?

No. By default you will be automatically assigned a temporary name made of two random words, and you can just chat using this identity. You can change this temporary display name without registering by clicking the name button at the top and selecting Change Name.

Bear in mind though that anyone can use an unauthenticated name, and authenticating is the only way to reserve a name.

How do I host my own livestream on OwnCast?

OwnCast runs on free open source software, so anyone is allowed to set up their own server. You will need a bit of technical knowledge to do this, but there are various options to make it easier explained at the quickstart guide ⧉.

Alternatively, you could approach someone who already runs their own server and they may be able to accommodate your stream on there.

Does OwnCast have emoji and things? What about donations?

There’s an emoji picker, and streams can be optionally set to display chat emoji in the main video window.

There’s no built-in bits-style donation system, but you can mention your donation links from other platforms in the stream.

Is there a video-on-demand (VOD) feature?

You can record streams locally and upload the recordings to accounts on PeerTube, which people can also follow from Mastodon etc.

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Mobilizon: Event organisation and discovery

Mobilizon is an event platform for the Fediverse which lets people and groups create events pages where participants can sign up, even if they don’t have an account. There’s lots more info on the official Mobilizon website ⧉.

Organisers can create a Mobilizon account on an existing server, or even start their own server if they prefer. Once an account is created, the organisers can use it to post event info pages where participants can say whether they are attending.

Mobilizon accounts can be followed from Mastodon etc, and when new events are added these will appear in followers’ timelines. They can then click through to the info page where they can find out more and say if they are interested.

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microblog.pub: Fediverse servers for individual users

Microblog.pub is a lightweight privacy-friendly single user ActivityPub server with a minimalist interface, whose accounts can be followed from other ActivityPub platforms including Mastodon etc. The platform features both short form notes and long form articles, and supports markdown formatting.

You’ll need some technical knowledge to install it as it’s not yet available through managed hosting. There’s more info about it on the official microblog website ⧉ and if you are familiar with server software you can find installation instructions here ⧉.

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GoToSocial: Safe and lightweight

GoToSocial is a new kind of Fediverse server which emphasises user safety, and is currently under development in alpha testing. If you’re a techy person, you can find out more from the official GoToSocial technical documentation site ⧉. It is still in its very very early stages though, not ready for prime time yet, and they would appreciate support in order to get to a release version more quickly ⧉.

The aim of GTS is protect users from trolls and other nasty people through either traditional blocklists or allowlists instead. Allowlists mean that all other servers are blocked automatically, and only servers specifically named in the allowlist are allowed access. Allowlists are the safest possible option for a federated server, though they do make it harder to discover new servers. It’s up to a server’s owner to decide where the balance between safety and discovery lies, and GTS aims to give them more options when deciding on a good balance.

GTS is also unusual because it doesn’t include a website interface, it can only be used through third party apps. Fortunately, it supports the Mastodon API which means it can be used through any Mastodon app, and there are lots of those for all platforms ⧉.

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Friendica: A flexible Fediverse server type with long posts

Friendica is a sort of Swiss Army knife of the Fediverse: it lets you follow and interact with Mastodon accounts, but it also lets you do a lot of things that other Fediverse server types can’t do. It can be more complicated to use, but if you can get the hang of it it offers features that other server types don’t have.

The website version of Friendica has an interface a bit like Facebook from a few years ago, lets you make long posts with no character limits, and follow accounts from all across the Fediverse including Mastodon etc. As well as posts, Friendica lets you create and share calendars, photo galleries and groups (though the groups work very differently to those on Facebook).

You can also follow RSS feeds, and each RSS post will appear in your home timeline as if it was from a normal account on the Fediverse, so it can be replied to or shared with others (the original RSS feed creator will not know about it though). Additionally, you can turn RSS feeds into specific Fediverse accounts that people on other Fedi server types can follow.

If you’re on the old Diaspora social network, you can use Friendica as a stepping stone to the Fediverse as it has compatibility with both. From Friendica you can follow Fedi accounts on Mastodon etc. and also Diaspora accounts, with everything displayed in one feed.

There is no dedicated Friendica app, but you can use it with most Mastodon apps, and if you have an Android device you can use the Fedilab app ⧉.

More info is available from the official Friendica website ⧉, and there are lists of servers to join on the Friendica directory ⧉.

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Importing your data into BookWyrm from Goodreads, LibraryThing, StoryGraph, OpenLibrary or Calibre

You can bring your account data from many other book services into BookWyrm. Here’s how:

  1. Log into the service you want to move from, and export your book data as a CSV file (here’s how to do this on Goodreads ⧉, other services may have their own methods)
  2. Log into BookWyrm, click on your account icon to bring up the main menu, then select Settings
  3. Select Data > Import
  4. From Data source, choose the service you’re importing data from (Goodreads, LibraryThing etc.)
  5. Click Browse and select the CSV file you exported in step 1
  6. Choose your preferred option from Privacy setting for imported reviews
  7. Click Import

What if there are books missing after I’ve imported my book lists?

If there’s a book missing, it’s probably because it isn’t in the BookWyrm catalogue yet. You can manually add the book to BookWyrm.

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BookWyrm: A social network for people who enjoy reading

BookWyrm is the Fediverse’s alternative to Amazon’s Goodreads. BookWyrm servers let users keep track of which titles they’ve read, discover new books to read based on human recommendations (instead of algorithms), and publish their own reviews.

Can I follow BookWyrm accounts from Mastodon?

Yes! Because it’s part of the Fediverse, people on Mastodon etc can also follow BookWyrm users’ accounts, and followers will see BookWyrm reviews appear in their timeline.

How do I sign up for BookWyrm?

BookWyrm is federated like Mastodon, so you choose a server and then sign up on its website. Once you’ve got an account, you can sign in on the website or web app. You can follow and interact with people from other servers, so it doesn’t matter if you sign up on different servers.

You can see a list of recommended BookWyrm servers (also known as “instances”) to sign up on at joinbookwyrm.com/instances ⧉.

Is there a BookWyrm app?

There’s a BookWyrm web app which you can install on Android or iPhone/iPad. Please see the guide to web apps for how to install it.

I’ve already got an account on a different book site. Can I import my data to BookWyrm?

Yes! BookWyrm users can import their data from Goodreads, LibraryThing, StoryGraph, OpenLibrary and Calibre. Please see the guide to importing your data into BookWyrm.

Where does BookWyrm get its book data from? Can I add missing books?

BookWyrm’s book catalogue is based on information from Wikidata ⧉ and another Fediverse service Inventaire ⧉. If a book is missing, you can add information manually and there’s also support for barcode scanning.

Can I use my Mastodon account to log in on BookWyrm?

No, because every account on the Fediverse is tied to one specific server. But you can include a link to your BookWyrm account on your Mastodon profile.

Who can set up a BookWyrm server?

Under the terms of the BookWyrm project software, anyone (except corporations) is allowed to start their own BookWyrm server. The software is totally free of charge, but servers need to cover their own hosting costs. Setting up a BookWyrm server does require some tech skills.

Alternatively, if you are a top tier patron, you can also use a special managed BookWyrm hosting service ⧉ where BookWyrm’s lead developer personally maintains your BookWyrm server so that you don’t have to do any technical stuff.

Where can I find out more and follow BookWyrm news?

You can find out more about it on the official website at JoinBookWyrm.com ⧉ and there’s a Mastodon account you can follow at @bookwyrm@tech.lgbt ⧉ (the account’s posts are also on RSS here ⧉).

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Mastodon API: Using Mastodon apps with non-Mastodon accounts

Mastodon uses an open API for its servers, which means that anyone can write a Mastodon app and it can make full use of all of Mastodon’s features. This openness means third party Mastodon apps get just as much access to Mastodon’s features as official apps do, and many third party Masto apps are actually better than the official one.

However, a side-effect of this openness is that non-Mastodon Fediverse platforms can also make themselves compatible with the Mastodon API. This means that Mastodon apps will work with those non-Mastodon Fedi platforms too. For example, you can sign in on a Mastodon app using your PixelFed account.

Not every Fedi platform supports this, but many do. The easiest way to find out whether it works is to download a free Mastodon app and try signing in.

(It should be noted that Mastodon’s developers don’t officially support this, and if it stops working you need to check with the maintainers of your Fediverse platform. They probably need to update their software so that it remains compatible with the Masto API.)

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Browsing the Media tab on Mastodon

Screenshot of a profile page on Mastodon with the Media tab highlighted, and various images posted by the account are displayed below it.

On Mastodon, if you’re browsing someone’s profile page you can click the Media tab to just show their posts which have an attached image, audio or video file. Text-only posts and posts shared from other accounts are not shown in the Media tab.

The Media tab is especially useful if you’re browsing for works on an artist’s profile for example, or any account that posts interesting bits of media. It means you can go straight to specific works instead of having to scroll through non-media posts.

Usually the tab is indicated by the word “Media”, but in some apps it may be an icon such a series of pictures.

Does this work on the apps and the website?

There’s a media tab on your server’s website, the web app, the official apps and most of the third party apps. Some of them display a simplified grid of images/video/audio to click on, others just show a timeline of posts that include attached media.

Does the Media tab show boosts of media posts by other people?

No. The Media tab just shows media posts from that account. Shared media from other accounts are not shown in the tab.

Does it show embedded media such as links to other websites?

No, it only shows posts with attached images, audio files or videos. Links that automatically generate a preview of media hosted elsewhere (such as YouTube links) are not counted as media posts.

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Adjusting photo previews on Mastodon so they look nice

If you’re posting a photo on Mastodon through your server’s website, click Edit on the photo before you actually post it. This will allow you to add a text description for blind people, and it will also let you adjust how the photo is cropped in the compact version of the post which is visible in people’s timelines.

Photos that have a 16:9 aspect ratio will not be cropped on the timeline, so you don’t need to adjust them at all (but do still remember to add a text description to keep them accessible!).

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Creating draft posts on Mastodon

Some third party Mastodon apps have a built-in draft posts feature.

There is no official drafts feature in the Mastodon website interface, but unofficially you can use the Delete & re-draft option combined with DMs to create drafts:

  1. Log on through your server’s website and create your draft post, but don’t publish yet.
  2. Set visibility to mentioned people only, and don’t mention anyone.
  3. When you’re ready to save it, publish it.
  4. When you want to edit it, go to your Direct Messages tab and find the draft.
  5. Click the draft open, click ⋯ and select Delete & re-draft, the draft will open in the message editing window
  6. When you’re ready to publish for real, set the visibility to the correct setting and add any mentions you want, then press the Publish button.

…but, as many people have pointed out, it might be easier to just use a notepad app and copy and paste drafts from a text file on your computer or phone 😁

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Why does it say “Cancel Follow” or “Pending” or “Follow Request Sent” when I try to follow an account?

On the Fediverse, and especially on Mastodon, if you follow an account by clicking the “Follow” button it changes into a “Following” or “Unfollow” button, depending on what you’re using to view Mastodon. Clicking this changed button lets you unfollow the account if you want to.

However, sometimes the follow button turns into “Pending” or “Cancel Follow” or “Follow Request Sent”, and this means the follow hasn’t actually happened yet.

If the follow hasn’t happened yet, this usually means you’ve tried to follow an account that needs manual approval of followers, and you have to wait for the owner to approve your request. You can tell if an account requires approval as it will have a padlock icon 🔒 on its profile next to the username.

How do I get people to accept my follow requests?

An account will be more likely to accept your follow request if you fulfil their requirements. Quite often accounts that have follow requests switched on will have criteria for accepting follows mentioned in their profile text (for example many require followers to have posted before, or to have a profile text).

They don’t have follow requests switched on, there is no padlock on their profile. So why is it giving me a message like they do?

Sometimes the follow request message appears even when the account you’re trying to follow doesn’t have manual approval mode switched on. In this case, the message may be caused by several other things:

  • A temporary glitch stopped it going through. If it’s been a while since you did the follow, cancel it and try following again.
  • A software bug has prevented the follow going through properly. This kind of bug is especially common if you’re trying to follow an account on a new or experimental type of Fediverse server.
  • The server of the person you’re trying to follow has “silenced” your server. This is a special moderation setting that means all follows from your server to that other server turn into follow requests automatically, even if the person on the other server doesn’t have follow requests on. The person on the other server will get a follow request which they can accept or deny.
  • A server is overwhelmed with stuff it has to do, and is struggling to keep up so it puts tasks into a queue to deal with later.

What do I do if my follow has turned into a follow request?

If you see that an attempted follow has turned into a follow request but the other account doesn’t have requests switched on, try leaving it for a while as it may just be a temporary glitch.

If that doesn’t help, try cancelling the follow completely, wait for a while and then try clicking follow again, which sometimes helps the follow to go through properly.

If it still doesn’t work, contact your own server admin, and if they can’t help try contacting the admin of the server for the account you’re trying to follow.

Does this message mean someone has blocked me?

No, you don’t see this message if you’ve been blocked by someone.

The message means the account you’re trying to follow probably just have follow requests switched on, and if they don’t then there’s just a technical problem.

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Try to have at least some followers before posting your best content on Mastodon and the Fediverse

If you’re looking for a long list of tips on how to make your account and posts more visible, please click here see the guide to increasing your visibility.

If you’re deciding on a posting schedule, it’s a good idea to wait until you have at least some followers from other servers before you publish your most interesting stuff. Even a handful of followers will give your posts much more visibility across the Fediverse, as you only need one follower from a server to make your posts visible to that entire server. You can find out more about this in the guide to what servers can see.

Due to the way the Fediverse currently works, if you publish a post while you still have zero followers, that post will probably not be visible to anyone except people on your server. If someone is the first person to follow you from their server, they will see your posts from that moment onwards, but there’s generally no backfilling to show them your previous posts.

Once you have one person from a server following you, everyone on that server will be able to see all your future posts from that moment onwards. Even tiny amounts of followers make a big difference to visibility, they are always much better than zero followers.

How should I handle posting stuff?

Build up a following and gradually add a steady stream of interesting posts. Don’t do massive dumps of content before you have any followers.

This applies especially to people who run PeerTube accounts, which often start out with massive uploads of video archives that no one on other servers can see because no one has followed the account yet. They would get a lot more views if they upload the archive gradually as they build up a following.

Is there ANY way to make posts visible to everyone even if I have no followers?

On Mastodon, the only way to make posts visible to absolutely everyone who ever looks at your profile is to pin the posts on your profile. Pinned posts are backfilled and will become visible to anyone who follows you. You can pin up to five posts at once, and they will all be backfilled. You can also reply to pinned posts, and the replies will be backfilled too.

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Why does someone’s account page look completely blank? Is it really blank?

If a profile looks blank, it may not actually be blank!

Fediverse servers work like this: servers only notice accounts from other servers if someone follows or interacts with them. If no one on your server follows a particular account, and that account is on another server, then that account may appear blank to you.

The reason servers work like this because of resources. If servers had to keep a copy of every post from every user on all the thousands of Fediverse servers in the world, their running costs would become prohibitively expensive (and most of those posts would probably never be read anyway).

The idea of the Fediverse is to let anyone start their own server if they want to, and this process of servers “noticing” accounts helps make that possible.

Viewing the latest and most complete version of an account

To check what the profile really looks like, log in to your account through the website, go to the profile, click on ︙ and then “Open original page”. This should open the profile in a new tab on its home server, which will show all the public posts the account has ever made.

Unfortunately, original pages on other servers are more difficult to interact with. By default your have to enter your username and password each time, though there are ways to make it much easier.

How to prevent your own profile from ever looking blank

If you pin some of your posts to your profile, for various technical reasons your profile will never appear blank to anyone as these posts will always be visible. You can pin up to five posts on a profile, and these can include attached photos, video and audio, so they’re a great way of introducing your account to potential followers from any server. Click here to find out how to pin posts.

Backfilling to the rescue?

There’s there may be a possible solution to blank profiles on the way called “backfilling”. This would mean as soon as you follow someone your server would automatically check the account for past posts and display some or all of them on your server. With backfilling there would be much less need to fiddle around with original pages etc. At time of writing backfilling is the most popular suggestion on the Mastodon github site, and if you’re comfortable using github you can go and give it a thumbs up ⧉.

Update buttons to the rescue?

The official Mastodon roadmap ⧉ has an item labelled “Explicit controls to fetch more data from origin server”, which seems to mean they would introduce some kind of update button to fetch the latest version of a profile on demand. It’s in the “Planned” section of the roadmap which means they’re working on it. These would be practically very similar to the backfilling mentioned above.

Accounts with restricted post visibility

An alternative reason why an active account might look blank is this: if the account has follower requests on (indicated by a padlock 🔒 next to their name), and all its posts are followers-only, then you will not see any posts on their profile until you follow them and your follow request is accepted.

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Why aren’t all Mastodon and Fediverse posts and accounts automatically visible from all servers?

There are tens of thousands of Fediverse servers with millions of users in total, and this amount is growing all the time. There are hundreds of millions of posts going back almost a decade.

However, each server only “notices” posts and profiles that are connected to its members in someway, either through an interaction, or a following, or various other specific situations.

The reason why servers only notice certain posts and profiles is because would be horrifically expensive for every independent server to keep a complete, up-to-date record of every post ever made by every user on every server in all languages. The only people who could afford such a comprehensive system would be megacorporations like Facebook, Google, Twitter etc.

The whole point of the Fediverse is to allow small independent servers to exist as part of a larger network, so that the network is as spread out as possible (click here to find out why this is a good idea). The smallest Fedi server starts from about US$10 a month to run, and this low cost is possible because the server only needs to display posts and shares from people its users follow. Even the largest Fediverse servers are able to operate on a fraction of the budget of a commercial social network because they are only showing posts their users have to see. (If you’re interested, there’s a complete list of what a server can see here.)

So, what are the downsides of not having all posts from every server visible everywhere?

If you discover an account that no one on your server has followed or interacted with, it may look totally blank even if it has posted lots of times. This can mislead people into thinking a profile is inactive and not worth following. If you follow a profile you will start seeing all its posts published from that moment onwards, but older posts are not loaded retrospectively.

Also, searches will produce fewer results and threads may look less complete if your server hasn’t noticed accounts related to the topics you searched for.

Couldn’t Mastodon at least show a few old posts instead of blank profiles?

Yes, this is a good point. One of the main shortcomings on Mastodon and many other Fediverse server types is the lack of “backfilling”.

Backfilling is when an account’s posts are automatically fetched to your server when you follow or view an account’s profile. Without backfilling, profiles can look blank if no one on your server has followed it before. At the moment, the only posts backfilled by Mastodon are pinned posts.

The main thing preventing backfilling from being used has been concern about stress on servers, especially if an account has thousands of past posts to backfill. A possible compromise might be letting servers decide for themselves if they will allow backfilling, and how many posts they are willing to backfill.

If you’re comfortable using Github, you can let the developers of Mastodon know you want some kind of backfilling to be implemented by giving a thumbs up on the relevant issue ⧉, and if you have your own ideas you can contribute to the thread.

Is there any way to get round the problem of search results and threads?

Yes! If you’re an ordinary user you can follow and post to groups, which distribute all of their content to everyone in the group no matter which server they are on.

If you’re a server admin, there are ways you can get more results visible on your server, even if your server is small and new.

How about just having everyone on one huge server?

Well, you could do this, but then you end up back where you started with a server that can be easily bought out by Elon Musk or whoever as soon as it gets popular. It would be entirely missing the point of the Fediverse.

How about having one giant relay server?

Again, you couuld do this, but then whoever controls that giant relay server would have an unusually large amount of power over what is visible on the Fediverse. It would also be expensive to run. Combining massive expense with centralisation makes it very likely that such a relay server would end up being sold to the highest bidder and start going down the path of “enshittification ⧉“.

Do any Fediverse server types use backfilling right now?

Yes! PeerTube automatically backfills all of an account’s videos as soon as an account is followed from a PeerTube server, even if the videos are very old. This works fine, and shows that backfilling can be done on the Fediverse.

Also, as mentioned above, Mastodon does backfill pinned posts already.

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Which Mastodon and Fediverse posts and accounts can I see from my server?

If you are searching for something on Mastodon and the Fediverse, you will get different search results depending on which server your account is on. This is because each server sees a slightly different view of the Fediverse.

In general, your server can see the following content:

  • All accounts on your server
  • All posts made by accounts on your server
  • All posts shared by at least one account on your server
  • All accounts that at have at least one follower on your server
  • All posts made by accounts that have at least one follower on your server
  • All posts shared by an account that has at least one follower on your server
  • All posts from groups that have at least one follower on your server
  • All posts that have been searched for by their original page’s web address
  • All accounts that have been searched for by their account address
  • All posts pushed to your server by a relay server (if your server uses relays)

How do I make my server notice more posts and accounts?

If a post isn’t visible from your server but you know it exists, you can manually force your server to notice it by copying and pasting the post’s web address from its original page on its home server into the search box on your server. This will make the post appear within your server so you can interact with it and search for it just like any other post.

If you want your server to notice a lot more posts and accounts, ask your server admin if they have considered using a relay service. Modern relay services can be for specific topics, and scripts can be used to backfill missing posts from profiles and conversations.

Why doesn’t my server just notice all posts and accounts from all servers?

Fediverse servers are selective about what they see, because keeping a complete copy of all posts from all other servers regardless of whether they’re needed would be incredibly expensive and wasteful.

The point of Mastodon and the Fediverse is to create a social network where anyone can make their own server, so that the network remains in the ownership of the people and communities that use it. This is possible partly because of the structure, but also partly because the running costs of servers is comparatively low. Fediverse server prices at hosting companies start from about US$8 a month, including full tech support that covers all the technical stuff.

If servers had to notice all content from all other servers, they would become incredibly expensive to run, and only megacorporations like Google or Meta/Facebook would have enough money to do so.

Can a server stop noticing posts and accounts?

Yes, if the server’s admin decides to defederate from another server. When a server defederates from another server, it can no longer see posts or accounts from the defederated server.

Alternatively, a server admin may instead decide to suspend a specific account on another server, which will make that account and its posts no longer visible on the admin’s server.

Are there any exceptions to these rules?

If you’re a member of a PeerTube server, it works very differently to most Fediverse servers. When a PeerTube server notices a channel or account from another PeerTube server, it also notices all the videos ever published by that channel or account. This is known as backfilling and at the moment it only happens fully on PeerTube, but there are plans for it to happen more widely.

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Muting conversation threads in Mastodon

On Mastodon, if you have posted in a thread or been tagged in it, but you don’t want to take part any more, you can mute the conversation so that you won’t get notifications from it. No one will know you’ve done this, and it will only affect that thread:

  1. Log in through your server’s website (and some apps also include this feature)
  2. Go to one of your posts in the thread you want to mute
  3. Click ⋯ and select Mute conversation
  4. If you haven’t posted in the thread, go to a post in the thread where you were tagged, then select ⋯ and Mute conversation
  5. If you still can’t find this option, go to your Notifications section, then click ⋯ and Mute conversation on one of the conversation’s posts there

If you change your mind, just do the same thing again but select Unmute conversation.

What if I want notifications about that conversation, but there are just one or two people in the thread who are causing problems?

If the problems in a thread are limited to a small number of people, you might want to try muting their accounts instead. You can mute people indefinitely or temporarily.

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Hiding someone’s boosts in Mastodon without blocking or muting them

On Mastodon, if you follow someone and you want to see their posts but not their boosts, you can hide just their boosts without blocking or muting them. This doesn’t affect their normal posts, and they have no way of knowing you’re doing it.

Log in on your server’s website, and go to the profile of the person whose boosts you want to hide. Click on the ︙ button and select Hide boosts from. If you change your mind, go back to their profile and select Show boosts from.

This only works on accounts you follow.

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How to avoid accidentally unfollowing, boosting or deleting in Mastodon

If you’re using Mastodon through your server’s website or the web app, you can optionally have it ask you for confirmation before unfollowing, deleting or boosting a post:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or web app
  2. Click on ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Scroll down to the section marked Confirmation dialogues
  4. Tick the boxes for the things you want Mastodon to ask confirmation for
  5. Click Save Changes at the bottom of the screen

The mobile apps may also have similar settings, but it will vary from app to app. Click on your app’s settings page to see if it has these options.

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Customising Mastodon polls to allow multiple selections

If you add a poll to your post on Mastodon, by default it only allows people to select one option.

However, if you use your server’s website or the Mastodon web app or certain third party apps, you can customise the poll so that it allows people to vote for several options at once.

Changing poll type on the web interface

If you’re using Mastodon through your server’s website, you can choose a poll type by doing the following:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or through the web app
  2. Write your post and create the poll as normal, but don’t actually publish it yet
  3. Click on one of the circles next to the options, the circles will all change into squares, and the poll will now allow multiple option selection
  4. If you want to go back to single selection, click the squares again and they will change back into circles
  5. When you’re happy with your choice, post the poll

If you change your mind, click on a square to change it back to a circle, which means single option selection.

Changing poll type on apps

The official apps don’t yet support creating multiple poll types, but you can choose poll types on some third party apps.

Third party app interfaces are very varied, but for example Ice Cubes for iPhone/iPad has a menu when you’re creating a poll that lets you choose between “One Vote” or “Multiple Votes”.

⚠️ Editing poll types resets the vote numbers

You can also edit the poll type after you have posted the poll, but this will reset all of the votes to zero (without any warning) when you publish the edit. Also, editing any of the poll texts causes this same reset to zero.

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Why do some people on Mastodon and the Fediverse have bigger character limits?

Most people on the Fediverse are on a standard Mastodon server, which has a 500 character limit for posts and a four option limit for polls. However, sometimes you’ll see people with posts that are much longer than 500 characters. By default Mastodon doesn’t allow admins to adjust character limits, so how is this possible?

There are three ways that someone’s posting limit might be larger than 500 characters:

Method 1: The server admin has customised their server’s software code

There’s nothing in the admin interface of standard Mastodon that allows character limits to be adjusted. However, Mastodon is free open source software and anyone can customise it to suit their own needs. This means admins with the right technical knowledge can adjust the Mastodon code to have a different character limit.

Method 2: The server is running on a fork of Mastodon

There are many pre-customised versions of Mastodon, often with significantly more features for admins and members. Pre-customised versions of open source software are called “forks”. The most popular forks of Mastodon are Glitch ⧉ and Hometown ⧉, which add lots of extra features including the ability for admins to easily adjust their server’s character limit.

Method 3: The server isn’t Mastodon at all, but a totally different type of Fediverse server

Not all of the posts you see on your timelines are from Mastodon. There are many other Fediverse server types that aren’t Mastodon, and these other servers may have much larger character limits for posts. Some like Friendica or WordPress have no limits at all!

What happens if a post is really long? Will standard Mastodon show really long posts?

Standard Mastodon will show long posts but they will be automatically truncated with a Read More link at the bottom, so that timelines remain easy to browse. You can view the full version of a truncated post by clicking on Read More.

Can I ask my server’s admin to increase the character limits?

You can ask them, but bear in mind that standard Mastodon (aka “Vanilla Mastodon”) does not have any options in its admin interface to adjust character limits. The only way they can adjust it is by using one of the unofficial methods listed above, and not all admins can use these options because they may require additional technical skill and/or resources.

Why does standard Mastodon have a 500 character limit? Why won’t they let admins choose the limit more easily?

The lead developer of Mastodon gave the following explanation in 2017 ⧉:

I have denied such patches in the past. If somebody wants to hack it in, they may do so, but I don’t want to encourage it. I feel like (Mastodon’s) UX is designed, visually and behaviourally, around a certain number of characters, and deviations have a negative impact on it. For example, I want people to pick their Mastodon based on, for example, the policies, or the theme, but I want the base level of functionality to be the same so it doesn’t go into the choice.

Of course nothing is set in stone. If you’re comfortable using Github you can give a thumbs up in the relevant issue ⧉.

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How to use Mastodon’s Tweetdeck-style Advanced Web Interface

Screenshot of the Mastodon multicolumn advanced web interface, showing five colums with a posting box, timeline, pinned hashtag searches and various links to features.
Screenshot of the Mastodon multicolumn Advanced Web Interface

By default, Mastodon servers’ websites use a simple single column interface.

However, if you’re using the website through a computer (or a tablet/phone in horizontal mode) there is also an optional multicolumn interface you can use instead. Here’s how to activate it:

  1. Log in through your server’s website as usual
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Tick the box marked Enable Advanced Web Interface and click the Save Changes button
  4. Click the Back to Mastodon link at the left of the screen

If you’re already in multicolumn and you want to go back to the normal single column interface, here’s how to do it:

  1. Click on the ⚙️ cog gear icon
  2. UN-tick the box marked Enable Advanced Web Interface and click the Save Changes button
  3. Click the Back to Mastodon link

If you prefer the normal control method using the mouse, that works fine too.

How to add more columns by using the pin feature

When you first use it, the advanced web interface only contains four columns with one of these columns dedicated to whatever you last selected. Every time you select something, it replaces the contents of this fourth column.

However, if you want to keep a column permanently visible you can pin it, and the pinned column will be added to your previous columns.

  • To pin a column, click on the slider icon in the top right corner of the column and select Pin
  • To unpin a column, click the slider same slider icon and select Unpin

When you pin a column, it expands the interface sideways, and some people have lots of pinned columns. Pinning is well suited to widescreen monitors, and you can scroll the interface sideways to see any columns that don’t fit on the screen.

How to change the order of the columns

You can move a column left or right by clicking the slider icon in its top right corner and then clicking one of the < or > buttons to move the column. These buttons are next to the Unpin option.

What kind of columns can I add?

Any column with a slider icon in the top right can be pinned or un-pinned, which includes hashtag searches, all types of timeline, private mentions (DMs), Lists, Bookmarks, Favourites etc.

Advanced hashtag searches with pinned columns

If you pin a hashtag search and then click the pinned column’s slider icon again, you will see some additional options which let you combine hashtag searches into the same column with special filters:

  • Any means it will show posts that contain one or more of those hashtags
  • All means it will show posts that contain all of those tags
  • None means it will hide posts containing those tags

Pinning accounts as new columns using Lists

You can’t pin an account’s profile page directly, but you can pin particular accounts (or combinations of accounts) as new columns by using Mastodon’s Lists feature:

  1. Click Lists on the Getting Started menu on the right (or click ☰ on the left if you can’t see Getting Started)
  2. Create a new list and add the account(s) you want to that list (see the guide to using lists if you haven’t created one before)
  3. Click the list you want to pin to bring it up as a new column
  4. Click the slider icon in the top right corner
  5. Select Pin

Using Advanced mode through your keyboard

If you prefer using just your keyboard, the Mastodon web interface can optionally be controlled almost entirely through key commands, click here to see the section on hotkeys for a complete list. These hotkeys also include some commands that only work in Advanced mode.

Why are there two official interfaces on Mastodon?

The original website version of Mastodon from 2016 used the multicolumn interface, but while some enjoyed it others found it confusing and overwhelming. Eventually a simpler single column interface was introduced, and single column became the default. The multicolumn interface was renamed “advanced” and made available as an optional mode in settings.

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Why are some accounts marked “Automated” on Mastodon?

If you’re running a Mastodon account that isn’t monitored by a human, it’s considered polite to mark it as an automated account (also known as a bot).

How to add the “Automated” label to an account:

  1. Sign in through your server’s website or web app
  2. Click on your profile image to go to your profile page, then click Edit profile
  3. Scroll down to the box marked This is an automated account, tick the box
  4. Click Save changes

I thought bots were bad? Why is Mastodon encouraging them?

Bad bots are discouraged and blocked, good bots are encouraged and followed.

Good bot accounts can be extremely useful. For example, some bots post sports results or weather alerts, which are exactly the kind of thing people might appreciate seeing in their feeds at any time of day or night. This kind of account would be difficult for a human to maintain 24 hours a day.

Bots can also be entertaining, with some bots running games or posting amusing content.

Can bots interact with people?

Some bots can interact, yes. When there is interaction, it is usually automated, hence the “Automated” label. Vote Chess ⧉ is a nice interactive account, it lets people play chess against a computer by voting for the next move (you can follow it at the address @VoteChess@botsin.space).

Also, sometimes the bot’s human maintainer will post via the bot’s account and reply as well. However, on automated accounts this is rare, and the assumption should be that there is no one monitoring the account.

Where can I find a list of good bots to follow?

Have a look at the Bots category over on Fedi.Directory ⧉.

So why do bots have a bad reputation?

The bad bots you sometimes hear about are where someone has automated an account to do something nasty or anti-social such as posting spam. Bad bots tend to be rare on the Fediverse, and would usually be blocked pretty quickly once the nastiness is reported.

So “Automated” isn’t a bad sign?

If you see an account labelled “Automated”, that is actually the sign of a good bot, because it’s the owner of the bot who chose to label it as such. Another good sign is if the bot’s creator has included a link to their own account on the bot’s profile page.

Bad bots usually try to disguise the fact they are bots, and don’t use the “Automated” label.

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RSS on Mastodon and the Fediverse

RSS feeds are simple, easy-to-use feeds of content from the internet, such as news articles, videos and podcasts. You can use RSS apps to follow Mastodon accounts, and use Mastodon accounts to follow RSS feeds.

What is RSS?

RSS is basically just a special kind of internet address that tells an RSS app where to find content. The apps used to follow RSS feeds are often called “feed readers” or “news readers”. When you enter an RSS address into an RSS app, the posts made by that address are shown in a chronological list.

RSS feeds can work for all kinds of content including blogs, news sites, podcasts etc. (Most podcast apps are powered by RSS, even if they don’t publicly state this.)

How to follow Mastodon accounts from an RSS feed reader app

All Mastodon accounts have an RSS address which can be followed from RSS apps:

  1. Go to a Mastodon account profile’s original page on a web browser.
  2. Copy the web address from the browser’s address bar
  3. Add .rss to the end of the web address to create the account’s RSS address
  4. Add the account’s RSS address to your RSS app

For example, the RSS feed for the FediTips account is https://social.growyourown.services/@FediTips.rss ⧉.

Note that the RSS feed of a Mastodon account only shows posts with public visibility, you will not see replies or posts with other visibilities.

How to follow RSS feeds from Mastodon

You can also now do this the other way around, and follow RSS feeds from your Mastodon account, thanks to a service called RSS Parrot ⧉:

  1. Create a new post but don’t publish it yet
  2. Mention the RSS Parrot Fediverse account @birb@rss-parrot.net
  3. Mention the RSS address you want to follow
  4. Publish the post
  5. RSS Parrot will create a new Fediverse account that mirrors the contents of the RSS address you provided, and then reply to you with a link to the new account
  6. Follow this new account to follow the RSS feed

This method works for any Fediverse platform that supports microblogging, including Mastodon and many other Fedi platforms.

How to follow PeerTube Channels and Accounts from RSS apps

You can follow any PeerTube accounts or channel through RSS apps:

  1. Go to the channel’s or account’s profile page on PeerTube
  2. Click the channel’s or account’s Subscribe button (if you are logged in on that PeerTube server, click the little arrow on the right of the subscribe button instead)
  3. There will be an RSS subscription option at the bottom of the subscription menu, click this to go to the RSS feed (which may look a bit crazy but don’t worry!)
  4. Copy the address at the top of the browser to get the channel’s or account’s RSS address
  5. Paste the RSS address into your RSS app

This feed will deliver embedded videos to your feed reader and you can watch them there.

Friendica: Champion of RSS

The Fediverse platform Friendica has probably the best RSS support on the Fediverse, including a built-in feed reader which doesn’t need any third party services or apps.

To follow an RSS feed in Friendica:

  1. Paste the RSS address into the search box in Friendica
  2. The RSS feed’s profile page will appear, click Follow
  3. The RSS feed’s contents will start showing up in your main timeline as it is published, and will look like normal account posts

Friendica also lets you turn RSS feeds into Fediverse accounts that people can follow from other Fediverse platforms.

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How to embed Mastodon posts on a website or blog

You can embed posts from Mastodon on your own website, blog or other platform that lets you post HTML code. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Go to the post you want to embed
  3. Click ⋯ at the bottom of the post, then select Embed
  4. Copy and paste the HTML code into your website’s page code

What does embedding mean?

Embedding means the post itself will be displayed on the website, and all the post’s interactive elements such as links, images, video, audio etc can be clicked on and will work. For example, news website The Verge embedded a post from Mastodon in this story ⧉.

How do I embed Mastodon posts on WordPress sites and blogs?

If you’re using the block editor in WordPress, don’t use WordPress’s “Embed” block. Instead, use WordPress’s “Custom HTML” block and paste Mastodon’s HTML embedding code there.

Alternatively, if you’re editing the page’s code you can paste the embedding code directly.

How is embedding different from posting a screenshot?

Embedding a post means the post itself is displayed, and any interactive elements such as links, video, audio or images can be clicked on. Screenshots are just pictures of a post and cannot be interacted with.

Some posts don’t have an “Embed” option. How do I embed them?

If a post has a restricted visibility, it cannot be embedded because the creator of the post doesn’t want it to be widely seen. You can only embed posts with a public visibility.

I embedded a post but it doesn’t look like a Mastodon post any more? It uses some other format?

The post you embedded may be from a different type of Fediverse server. Embedding shows the post in the format used on its own server rather than your server.

Timelines on Mastodon servers show posts from all across the Fediverse. Some of these posts are from other Mastodon servers, but some are from different kinds of servers. For the sake of making timelines easy to read, your Mastodon server will display all posts in the same Mastodon format, but that’s not necessarily how they appear on their own server. If you embed a post from a different kind of server, it will look different when you embed it.

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Using Mastodon through a keyboard

If you’re using Mastodon through your server’s website on a computer, you can control it almost entirely through your keyboard. Particular keys will carry out particular functions, and you can type emoji too.

Hotkeys on Mastodon

Hotkeys are always on, press shift + ? (or just ? on some keyboard layouts) to see a complete guide to which keys do what.

Note that some of these keys are only useful in the advanced web interface (multicolumn) mode, but most of them can be used with the default single column mode.

For your convenience, here’s the complete list:

rReply to post
mMention author
pOpen author’s profile
fFavourite post
bBoost post
enter, oOpen post
eOpen media
xShow/hide text behind CW
hShow/hide media
up, kMove up in the list
down, jMove down in the list
1-9Focus column
nFocus compose textarea
alt+nStart a new post
alt+xShow/hide CW field
backspaceNavigate back
sFocus search bar
escUnfocus compose textarea/search
g+hOpen home timeline
g+nOpen notifications column
g+lOpen local timeline
g+tOpen federated timeline
g+dOpen direct messages column
g+sOpen get started column
g+fOpen favourites list
g+pOpen pinned posts list
g+uOpen your profile
g+bOpen blocked users list
g+mOpen muted users list
g+rOpen follow requests list
?Display hotkeys list

Typing emoji through a keyboard on Mastodon

If you’re using Mastodon on a computer, you can type emoji directly with your keyboard.

Just type : (colon) and a keyword without a space. A dropdown menu will appear with the top five matching emoji, and you can pick one with the arrow keys. For example :sun will bring up the top five emoji matching the keyword “sun”.

If there are more than five matches for a keyword, they will not all appear on the dropdown. If so, you’ll need to search for them from the picker icon 😂 in the top right corner of the editing box.

The keywords are based on the alt text of an emoji. If you’re wondering how to search for a particular emoji in future, find it in the picker and then hover your mouse over it. The alt text will appear, and you will be able to use this keyword to bring the emoji up using your keyboard.

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Remote Following on Mastodon: Why does Mastodon keep asking me to log in again and again?

Remote following is where you go to an original page which is not on your own server, and click the Follow or Subscribe button there. By default, it will ask you to sign in again, because it’s asking your own server who you are.

This method is obviously pretty cumbersome, but there are a couple of ways you can avoid having to sign in again:

  • If you have Firefox on a computer you can install the Simplified Federation add-on ⧉ which automatically signs you in when you’re doing a remote follow.
  • If you don’t want to install any extensions but you don’t want to have to sign in again and again, go to your own server’s website or your app, sign into your account as normal, then copy and paste the web address or Fediverse address of the account’s original page into the search box. This will bring up the same account profile but within your own server’s interface, where you can just click Follow. This method avoids having to do remote following at all, and you won’t have to keep signing in. After you’ve done this once, your server will remember the account and you will be able to find it again by just searching within your own server.

Remote following is meant more as a method of last resort, and you’ll find it a lot easier to follow people from other servers within your own server’s interface.

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What are Original Pages on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

Every account and post on the Fediverse has an “original page” on the server that the account or post is hosted on. The original page shows the latest and most complete version of a profile or post. They’re called original pages because they are the original versions of posts and profiles that are federated to other servers.

How do I find a profile or post’s original page?

If you’re using the website or web app:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Go to a profile or post and click on ⋯ or ︙
  3. Select Open original page, which will open the original page in a new browser tab

If you’re using an app store app:

  1. Log in through your app
  2. Go to the profile or post and click on ⋯
  3. Select Share, then select the option for opening it in a web browser

Once the page is open, the original page’s web address will be visible in the browser’s address bar at the top.

How to copy original page links for posts more quickly

You can also copy original page links for posts without actually opening them in the browser.

If you’re using the website or web app:

  1. Go to the post
  2. Click ⋯ on the post
  3. Click Copy link to status, this will copy a link to the original page onto your device’s clipboard so you can paste it elsewhere

If you’re using an app store app:

  1. Go to the post
  2. Click ⋯ on the post
  3. Click Share, then select Copy, this will copy a link to the original page onto your device’s clipboard so you can paste it elsewhere.

What’s the point of original pages?

The main reason for looking at the original page is to see the latest and most complete version. However, you can also use original pages to do many useful things, with some examples given below.

Checking if a blank profile really is blank

If no one on your server has interacted with a profile before, it may appear blank. You can open the profile’s original page to check if it really is blank.

Browsing a profile’s followers and follows lists

Sometimes a profile’s follows and followers may not be visible to your server, or it may be incomplete. If you go to the original page and click on the follows and follower lists there, you will see their complete versions. (However, note that some people deliberately keep their follows and followers lists hidden for privacy reasons.)

Using original page addresses to interact with posts and profiles

If there’s a profile or post that you can’t find by searching on your server, but it does show up in results on search engines such as Duckduckgo, Google etc, you can use these pages to force your server to notice people and posts it hadn’t noticed before, including pages from other types of Fediverse server. Just copy and paste the page’s web address into the search box on Mastodon, and it will make that post or profile appear within your own server where you will be able to interact with it directly.

Not just Mastodon, there are original pages on all kinds of Fediverse servers

Original pages aren’t just on Mastodon, they work with any Fediverse server type. For example if you know the web address of a PeerTube video or Pixelfed photo, you can paste it into the search box on Mastodon and the video or photo will appear within Mastodon. You will then be able to interact with it as if it was a Mastodon post.

The process of copying and pasting web addresses works in a very similar way to account addresses.

Sharing Fediverse content with people outside the Fediverse

Original pages are really useful if you want to share a profile or post with people outside the Fediverse, as you don’t have to be logged in to see them. Just give people the original page’s web address and it will open in any browser, they don’t have to log in or be a member.

Why doesn’t Mastodon just show original pages everywhere, instead of sometimes showing incomplete ones?

Click here for more discussion about this, including why it happens and what might be done about it.

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Crossposting between Mastodon and Twitter/X

You can automatically crosspost between Mastodon and Twitter in either direction using third party services. Crossposting means when you post on Mastodon the same content will also be posted on Twitter (or vice versa).

This can be controversial if you’re just mirroring your Twitter account to Mastodon without interacting on Mastodon at all. Some servers specifically ban such “zombie accounts”. Going in the other direction, if you’re active on Mastodon and mirroring it to Twitter, there’s generally no controversy.

Which crossposting services are available?

Professional paid crossposting services such as Buffer ⧉ and Publer ⧉ are still working, but bear in mind the money you pay to them will partially be paid to Elon Musk’s company too as that is the only way anyone can access Twitter’s API nowadays.

There used to be lots of free crossposting services, but all of them have shut down due to Elon Musk’s closure of Twitter’s free API.

Should I monitor my account if it is posting content automatically?

Yes! Your followers will want to reply to your social media posts, and it is a good idea to react to what they say.

However, if it isn’t possible for you to monitor your accounts, please mark them as automated through Mastodon. This lets people know that you’re posting in one direction only.

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Customising your notifications on Mastodon

On Mastodon, you can customise your notifications to adjust what triggers a notification to appear and what kind of notification it provides. The notification options you have depend on what you are using to access Mastodon:

  • On your server’s website, go to your Notifications column and click on the slider icon in the top right corner to open the notification settings. Note that there are even more options available if you scroll this settings menu down a bit.
  • On the official app, go to the main timeline and click on the cog icon ⚙️ in the top right corner, then click on Notifications.
  • Third party apps will have various different interfaces for customising notifications, but they’ll usually be in their settings sections.

Different ways of accessing Mastodon will give you different options for customising notifications, for example the website lets you adjust which notifications cause a sound.

What about email notifications?

Email notifications on Mastodon are a totally separate system that happens to have a similar name. To adjust your email notifications:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. If you’re on the desktop website, click Notifications on the left of the screen. If you’re on the mobile website click ☰ in the top right and then Notifications.
  4. Choose your email notification settings. If you don’t want to receive any emails, untick all the boxes.
  5. Click the Save Changes button in the top right corner of the screen

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I’ve written a link but it isn’t clickable, how do I make it clickable? What kind of links can I use on Mastodon?

If you want a clickable website link within a post or on a profile on Mastodon, remember to include https:// at the beginning when you’re writing it. This tells the server that you want the link to be clickable.

Twitter automatically changes anything with a dot in the middle into a clickable link, but this doesn’t happen on the Fediverse because some people want to include dots without making clickable links.

As well as website links, you can also use many other kinds of links. All of these will work as clickable links on Mastodon: https://, http://, gemini://, dat://, dweb://, gopher://, ipfs:// and ssb://

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Choosing a good username on Mastodon and the Fediverse

Fediverse addresses have two parts, the username and the server name.

By default, Mastodon and most other Fedi server types hide the server part of the address within posts so that they are easier to read. All you will see in conversations is the first part of the address, so you would see @john even if the full address is @john@example.com. (This is similar to how real life conversations often just use a person’s first name.)

This means that it’s a good idea to choose something distinctive for a username, because in posts people will often just see the username on its own.

I’m not sure what you mean. Could you give some examples?

An account with the address @MarvellousWidgets@example.com, would look like @MarvellousWidgets in conversations. People can refer to it in discussions and it’s still clear who is being talked about: “Have you seen the latest release from @MarvellousWidgets?”

If it had a more generic username such as @software@example.com, all that people would see of its address in posts would be @software, and it’s not clear who is being talked about. A discussion using it would look like this: “Have you seen the latest release from @software?”. People would have to click on the username each time to find out who they are, because so many other accounts have a similar username.

I have my own server with a custom domain. That makes my address distinctive, right?

Yes and no. The full address with a custom domain is indeed very distinctive, but because the domain is hidden by default in discussions, it is still important to choose a distinctive username, as this is what most people see most of the time.

Don’t use dots / full stops / periods in usernames

Some Fediverse server types allow you to use . in usernames while others (including Mastodon) don’t allow it. People will not be able to follow you from Mastodon if you use a . in your username, so it’s safest just to avoid using . in usernames.

Don’t use really short usernames

If your username is very short, it is physically more difficult for people to click on it or tap it. Try to use at least four or five letters, preferably more.

What happens if two accounts with the same username are mentioned in the same post?

Mastodon etc will automatically show accounts’ full account addresses if two accounts with the same username are mentioned in the same post. This is also similar to real life conversations: if you were talking about two people called John in the same conversation, you might mention their surnames so that people know which John you’re referring to.

Why doesn’t Mastodon just show everyone’s full account addresses within posts?

Account addresses can be very long, depending on the domain name used by the account’s server. It can be quite hard to read a post where full addresses are used all the time. Just showing the username makes posts a lot more readable.

How do I find out the full account address of a username?

Just click on the username, that will take you to the user’s profile page which includes their full and unique account address.

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How to use the Lists feature on Mastodon

The “Lists” feature lets you create mini-timelines that show posts from selected accounts you already follow. You can also optionally hide listed accounts’ posts from your main timeline, and just browse them on the lists.

Why would I want to make a List?

If your main timeline is getting a bit crowded from following so many people, you can add accounts to Lists and then hide them from your main timeline (see instructions further down the page).

Alternatively you might just prefer having themed Lists to browse. For example, you could create a List which just shows posts from artists you follow, or just news accounts, or whatever kind of theme you want.

Okay, so how do I actually make a List on Mastodon?

You can create and use Lists on your server’s website, on the Mastodon web app and on some third party Mastodon apps such as Tusky for Android or Mona ⧉ for iPhone/iPad.

To create a list through the web version of Mastodon:

  1. Open your profile page, then click on the section marked Following.
  2. Browse through the accounts you follow. When you find an account you want to add to a list, click on their name to open their profile page.
  3. On the profile of the person you want to add, click on the ︙ symbol and select Add or remove from lists. This will cause the Lists editor to open.
  4. Create a new list by typing a name for the list into the white box (you can skip this step if you’ve already created a suitable list).
  5. Click the + sign next to the list you want to add the account to.
  6. Click anywhere outside the Lists editor box to close the editor.
  7. You can browse Lists by clicking the Lists icon on the right of the screen (three horizontal lines with three dots). If you’re using the website through a computer, direct links to lists will also be visible on the right side of the screen.
  8. Don’t worry if a list looks empty. Lists always start out empty as they don’t show posts from before the list was created, but you will start seeing new posts appear on the list over time.
  9. To edit or delete an existing list, click on the list’s name to open it and then click on the slider icon in the top right corner of the list. This editor also includes a search box for searching accounts you follow, if you prefer to add accounts to your list that way.

…and that’s it! You can add more accounts to lists by repeating these steps.

By the way, third party apps may have slightly different interfaces for lists, but it’s the same feature.

You can also add accounts to Lists (though you can’t create new Lists) on the official Mastodon Android app. Go to the profile of an account you want to add to your list, click ︙in the top right corner and then Add to list…

Can I view accounts on Lists without them appearing on my Home timeline?

Yes! You can hide posts by accounts on your lists Home timeline:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to the Lists section
  3. Click on the list you want to hide on Home
  4. Click on the slider icon in the top right corner
  5. Select Hide these posts from home

This means you can have lists that are entirely separate from your Home timeline.

Why do I have to follow accounts that I add to Lists?

The following requirement is for the sake of safety and privacy. On some social networks such as Twitter, List-style features have been misused by trolls and bullies to make lists of potential victims.

On Mastodon, the follow requirement gives people more control over being listed. If an account has follow requests activated, it lets them control whose Lists they may end up on, and if an account blocks someone that also prevents them being added to that person’s Lists.

Do boosts show up on Lists?

Yes, you see everything you would see from that account on your Home timeline.

Can I follow hashtags on Lists?

No, not at the moment. However, this is a very popular suggestion and if you’re comfortable using Github you can vote for this option by giving a thumbs up on the relevant issue ⧉.

How many Lists can I create?

As many as you want.

Can I share Lists with other people?

No, they’re just for your personal use.

What do all the options mean on the Lists feature?

Edit list – Lets you change the list’s name and add or remove accounts from the list

Delete list – Deletes the list

Hide these posts from home – With this option switched on, posts that appear on your lists will not appear in your Home timeline

Show replies to no one – You will not see any replies in your list, only new posts by the accounts on the list

Show replies to members of the list – You will only see replies by accounts on the list to other accounts on the list, and new posts by accounts on the list

Show replies to any followed user – You will see replies by accounts on the list to accounts that you follow, and new posts by accounts on the list

If I move my account to another server, can my Lists come with me?

Yes. Lists are now available to export and import as part of the account transfer process.

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Using multiple accounts on Mastodon and the Fediverse

First of all, it’s worth saying that most people do not need multiple accounts. The Fediverse is designed in such a way that people on different servers can interact seamlessly, as if they were all on one network. For most people one account is enough, because it lets you interact with people on the whole network. However, there are situations where having more than one account is useful.

So, why have multiple accounts?

Lots of possible reasons:

What are “alt accounts” or “alts”?

“Alt accounts” or “alts” just mean alternative accounts owned by the same person. They may be permanent or temporary.

Can I be signed into several accounts at once?

Yes, all the official and third party apps support being logged into multiple accounts simultaneously, and you can also be signed into several accounts at once on the web browser and web apps.

Apps normally have an account switching button in the corner of the screen which you can press to select which account you want to use. Alternatively, you can use several different apps if you prefer. The official Mastodon apps have a switcher in the bottom right corner of the screen, hold it down to add an account or switch between accounts.

If you’re using accounts through the web browser and your accounts are on different servers, you can be signed into multiple servers at once and switch between them by keeping each one open in a separate tab. You can use the same email address when signing up for accounts on different servers.

Should I sign up for multiple accounts on the same server or different servers?

If you’re going to have multiple accounts, it’s highly recommended that you sign up on different servers. Having accounts on separate servers brings significant advantages:

  • If a server breaks down, accounts on other servers will still work. It is extremely unlikely that several servers would break down at exactly the same time, so if you have multiple accounts you will always have at least one working account.
  • Web browser and web app users can be signed into all of their accounts at once if they are on separate servers.
  • By having accounts on different servers, you can use the same email address for all of them.

It’s the independence of each server that makes it good to have accounts on separate servers. It means any kind of problem that hits one server will not affect your other accounts.

Can I sign up for multiple accounts on the same server if I want to?

Yes, you can, but it will be putting all your eggs in one basket. If that server goes down, it means you lose all access to the Fediverse. It also makes it more difficult to log in on web browsers and web apps, as you will probably have to keep signing in and out.

How should I promote my other accounts?

A common way to promote your other accounts is to mention them in your account profile page. It’s also highly recommended that you follow your other accounts, so that their content will federate more widely.

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How can Mastodon server administrators automatically remind their users to add text descriptions?

If you run a Mastodon server, you can easily add a special bit of custom CSS to your server which causes image, video and audio posts without descriptions to have a red border. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Log onto your server’s website with your admin account
  2. Go to ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Go to Administration
  4. Go to Site Settings
  5. Click the Appearance tab at the top
  6. Copy the code from here ⧉ and paste it into the box marked Custom CSS
  7. Click the Save Changes button

This will still allow users to post without descriptions, but the post will have a red border if there’s no alt text.

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How do I add a text description through Mastodon’s edit feature?

There used to be a bug in the edit feature which prevented descriptions being edited. However, the bug was fixed in Mastodon version 4.1.0, so as long as your server is running 4.1.0 or higher then you should be able to edit descriptions just like you would edit the rest of the post.

You can see which version your server is running by going to your server’s website and looking at the bottom of the screen. If you’re on a phone browser, you may need to tap the ⋯ icon and then scroll to the bottom of the screen.

If your server is still running an older version of Mastodon, there is a workaround which does let you add descriptions through editing:

  1. Edit the post
  2. Delete the image
  3. Re-upload the same image
  4. Add the text description
  5. Save changes to the post

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How do I remember to add text descriptions on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

Text descriptions are expected on the Fediverse, it’s seen as good manners to be considerate of screen reader users. By the time you’ve been doing it for a while it becomes second nature, but if you’re not used to adding text descriptions it can be easy to forget to add them.

However, help is available! There is a bot called PleaseCaption which will automatically send you a DM if you’ve forgotten to include an alt text on an image, video or audio post.

  1. Follow the PleaseCaption bot at @PleaseCaption@botsin.space ⧉
  2. PleaseCaption will automatically follow you back (if you have follow requests switched on confirm the bot’s request to activate the reminders)
  3. If you post an image, video or audio without a description, PleaseCaption will send you a DM about it as a reminder. You can then edit the post to add the description in if you like.

How do I stop the reminders from PleaseCaption?

To stop the reminders:

  1. Unfollow PleaseCaption
  2. Block and then unblock PleaseCaption, this will remove if as a follower but you will still be able to follow it again in future

How do I delete the reminder DMs from PleaseCaption?

Just favourite a reminder and PleaseCaption will automatically delete it.

Does it check if posts I boost have descriptions?

No, not any more. It used to, but ran into technical difficulties with this feature so the developers have switched boost-checking off for the moment.

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How do I make posts more accessible to deaf people on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

If you’re posting a video or audio clip, remember to add descriptions of the sounds too, using the same method as adding descriptions for blind people. Video clips often have text descriptions of the visuals for blind people, but many forget to describe audio for deaf people.

If you can’t add a description of the audio for some reason (for example due to a disability), add a tag #Alt4Me when you post the audio. This will let other people know you want help with describing it, and they may reply with a description using the tag #Alt4You.

If you see a file posted without a description of the audio, you can always post a reply describing the audio with the tag #Alt4You.

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How do I make posts more accessible to blind people on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

Blind and partially-sighted people on Mastodon and the Fediverse use special apps called “screen readers” that read text out loud, so they can tell what is on the screen.

There are many things that sighted people can do to make their posts more accessible to people using screen readers:

  • Add text descriptions (“Alt Texts”) describing the visuals to images and videos you’re posting. To do this, click on the “edit” or “caption” button (or write directly on top of the image on some apps) and then add a text description of what is visible. Read it to yourself afterwards, and see if you are able to imagine the important parts of the picture from what you have written. When you’ve finished, remember to click the “Apply” button if if necessary.
  • If you forget to add a description, you can go back and edit the post to add a description.
  • When posting hashtags, use CamelCase (where each word begins with a capital letter), for example #DogsOfMastodon instead of #dogsofmastodon. The capital letters allow screen reader apps to separate the words correctly and read the hashtag out loud properly. This also makes the tag easier for sighted people to read!
  • Don’t do that “sarcastic text” thing where you make fun of someone by having random letters as capitals, because random capitals prevent a screen reader from working properly.
  • If you’re sighted and you see the hashtag #Alt4Me underneath an image post, it means a disabled person wants someone to write a description of the image. Reply to the post with the tag #Alt4You and a description.
  • Also, if you’re a sighted person and you see a remarkable image that doesn’t have a descrption and no one has requested one yet, you can be be pro-active and reply with a description using the tag #Alt4You.
  • Don’t use long strings of emoji, as these sound really annoying when read out loud by screen readers. It’s okay to use emoji, it’s just the huge groups of emoji all bunched together that cause problems.
  • Don’t use deliberately obscure characters for your username, these can sound like gibberish when a screen reader reads them out (click here for an example ⧉). Standard characters work much, much better with screen readers.

How do I remember to add descriptions to my media posts?

There is an automatic reminder service called PleaseCaption which will remind you by DM if you forget to add an alt text description.

Should I be criticising people who haven’t added alt text?

It’s important to add descriptions to images so that they’re accessible, but it’s also important not to criticise those who are unable to add alt texts due to their own disability. If someone has written #Alt4Me alongside the image that means they cannot add descriptions themselves. Don’t criticise them or comment on the lack of description, just help them out by replying with an #Alt4You post which includes your own alt text for the image.

If there’s no #Alt4Me tag on the undescribed image, it’s still worth being polite as no one wants bad feelings generated around the topic of descriptions. You might want to just reply with a description and #Alt4You tag, and if they’re abled they will hopefully get the message that descriptions are preferred.

How do I fit the image descriptions into my post without breaking the character limit?

As long as you’re adding the description in the image’s own Alt Text section, it will not count towards your main post’s character limit. There is a much larger limit for descriptions, so you shouldn’t run out of room.

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How do I use Mastodon through a screen reader?

Mastodon can be used through screen reader software that converts the text into audio. Here are some useful guides written by blind Mastodon users:

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Creating an isolated Mastodon server

Mastodon servers don’t have to communicate with other servers. They can be run in “Limited Federation” mode, where all other servers are blocked by default. This can be left as it is for a totally isolated community, or an “allowlist” can be introduced which allows specifically selected servers to communicate.

If you want to do this with Mastodon, there’s a web page with instructions and tips on Limited Federation mode here ⧉ and there’s a technical description of Limited Federation mode ⧉ in the official documentation.

Allowlists vs Blocklists: How do they differ?

In normal mode, Mastodon servers can communicate with other servers unless the server admin blocks them. This is known as a “blocklist” system, because it depends on the admin telling their server which other servers to block.

In Limited Federation mode, it’s the opposite way around. No servers can communicate with the server unless the server admin specifically allows them. This is known as an “allowlist” system, because it depends on the admin telling their server which other servers to allow connections with.

How do I set my server to Limited Federation mode?

You’ll need to be a server admin to change your server’s federation.

If the server is on a managed hosting company, the admin will need to ask the hosting company to switch the server over to Limited Federation mode.

If the server has been set up manually by the admin, they will need to make the adjustments manually by consulting the official Mastodon documentation on federation ⧉.

Will the apps work with a server in Limited Federation mode?

The server’s website and the web apps should work fine.

There may be problems with some app store apps working with servers in Limited Federation mode. You might want to have a look at the guide linked to above ⧉ for more info on which apps work.

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Adding user safety through Authorized Fetch on Mastodon

This is a bit technical, but there’s a little-known feature on Mastodon called “Authorized Fetch”, aka “Secure Mode”. By default it is switched off as it uses more resources and can cause compatibility problems with servers running older software.

When it is switched on, it makes all blocks more effective, including both server-level and user-level blocks. This empowers users to fight abusers and trolls more effectively, and makes the server’s own blocks more powerful too.

Which kind of posts does this affect? Can abusers see followers-only or mentions-only posts?

Posts using follower-only or mentions-only visibilities are already protected from unauthorised interaction. Authorized Fetch only makes a difference on public or unlisted posts. If you never use public or unlisted posts, you don’t need Authorized Fetch.

Please see the post visibility guide for all the kinds of visibilities that a post can be, and how to set your defaults.

I am a server admin, how do I find out more about this?

There’s an official technical description of Authorized Fetch here ⧉ and a detailed unofficial article here ⧉ which might be useful.

How to activate Authorized Fetch on Mastodon

Only server admins can activate it, so if you’re not an admin you’ll need to contact your server’s admin and ask them to do this.

The latest version of Mastodon includes controls in the graphical interface for activating it:

  1. The admin should sign onto the Mastodon server’s website or web app using their admin account
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click Administration (on the left of the screen or in ☰ on the mobile site)
  4. Click Server Settings
  5. Click the Discovery tab at the top
  6. Tick the box marked Require authentication from federated servers
  7. Click Save changes

On some managed hosting services this option may be greyed out. If so, ask the managed hosting company to switch it on for you.

Why isn’t this on by default?

Authorized Fetch uses more server resources as the server has to do a lot more checks for each post to prevent unauthorised interactions.

However, the costs of these extra resources may be worth it for the extra level of user safety the feature brings.

Does this stop website scraping?

No, nothing can stop scraping of public posts on a public website. However, scraping a website and copying its contents is not the same thing as interacting directly with a thread on a social network.

Compatibility with other Fediverse servers

Authorized Fetch is an official feature of Mastodon and it should work fine when federating with servers that are running Mastodon 3.0.0 or higher. It should also work with GoToSocial (which uses Authorized Fetch by default), Pixelfed, PeerTube and most other Fediverse server types.

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Is Mastodon end-to-end encrypted?

No. Mastodon isn’t E2EE. Some work has been done ⧉ on building an encrypted messaging system into Mastodon, but it isn’t finished yet.

What does this mean? Can my server’s admin read my DMs?

In theory, the owner of your server could read at your DMs in the server’s database. However, it’s not as simple as that in practice.

An admin would need a certain level of technical skill, as there is no way to view DMs in Mastodon’s admin interface. The server owner would have to manually look through their server’s database directly to read a DM, and bypass Mastodon’s admin interface completely. It’s not something they could do casually.

Is this normal?

Social networks typically don’t encrypt messages by default. For example, on Twitter/X all DMs and posts are visible to moderators.

Can everyone see my DMs on Mastodon?

No, they would need direct access to your server’s database, which is restricted to the server owner and their hosting provider.

What should I use if I want to send sensitive information?

If you want to send something sensitive, the best option is to use a dedicated messaging system with end-to-end encryption.

There’s a very popular encrypted messaging system called XMPP (also known as Jabber). XMPP is structured like Mastodon, with lots of connected servers, but it is designed entirely for private messaging and calling. There’s a website to help non-technical people sign up on existing servers at JoinJabber.org ⧉ and there’s a managed hosting service to help non-technical people set up their own server at Snikket.org ⧉.

Is XMPP compatible with Mastodon? Is it part of the Fediverse?

No. XMPP is designed entirely for messaging, calling and real time chatting. It isn’t intended as a social network, and doesn’t use Fediverse protocols like ActivityPub. However, the server structure of XMPP is very similar to Mastodon and has the same advantages, which is why it’s recommended on this website.

Some Fediverse server admins also run XMPP servers too. If you’re happy with how your Fediverse server is run, it might be worth asking your server admin if they have an XMPP server too.

How do I make sure XMPP is encrypted?

Modern XMPP apps use a standard called OMEMO for end-to-end encryption. As long as everyone taking part in a conversation has the OMEMO feature switched on, then the conversation will be encrypted. If you’re unsure, you should be able to find OMEMO in your XMPP app’s settings page, and you can check which XMPP apps have OMEMO-compatibility at the Are we OMEMO yet? ⧉ website.

XMPP? Jabber? Which is it?

XMPP and Jabber are the same thing. “Jabber” was the original name, but unfortunately a commercial company bought the trademark for it. A new name was required and it was decided to use “XMPP” officially, though unofficially many people still call it Jabber as it’s easier to remember.

Who controls XMPP?

No one controls it, it’s decentralised and federated. The XMPP network is made up of many indpendent servers that talk to each other.

XMPP is a free open standard maintained by the non-profit XMPP Standards Foundation ⧉. Anyone can use the XMPP standard on their server or app, and each server and app is totally independent.

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Using Two Factor Authentication (2FA) on Mastodon

To keep your Mastodon account extra secure, you can use a feature called “Two Factor Authentication”, also known as “2FA”. When you have 2FA activated, even if someone finds out your password they still cannot log into your account.

How does 2FA work?

2FA usually works through a special app on your phone, tablet or computer which constantly generates special pass codes, often in the form of six random numbers. These codes are linked to your account, and only your app will generate codes that match your account.

When you want to log into your account, as well as your password Mastodon will also ask you for your 2FA code, which you can find out from your app. It will then log you in.

How do I get a 2FA app?

There are many 2FA apps in all app stores, for example Aegis and 2FAS are popular 2FA apps. Apple’s keychain also includes 2FA support. The technical name for these apps is “TOTP” or “Authenticator”.

I’ve got my 2FA app, how do I activate 2FA on Mastodon?

  1. Log into your account on your server’s website or on the web app
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click Account (on the mobile site click ☰ and then Account)
  4. Click Two Factor Auth (on the mobile site click ☰ again and then Two Factor Auth)
  5. Follow the instructions, including the part about keeping the backup codes in a safe place

After you’ve activated 2FA, the next time you log in on Mastodon it will ask your password and then ask your 2FA code. Go to the app and find the code, then type this into Mastodon.

Do I need to type a 2FA code in every time I use Mastodon?

No. You only need to use a 2FA code when you log in, so if you stay logged in it won’t ask for the 2FA code.

What if someone sees my current 2FA code?

It doesn’t matter, because the current 2FA code changes so frequently. Most people set it to change every few minutes or even every 30 seconds. If someone sees your current 2FA code, it will soon change to something else anyway and the old code will be useless to them.

The only code you need to keep secret is the 2FA’s backup code, which you should print out and put in a safe place. This backup code gives you access to your account if the 2FA app stops working for some reason.

What if I lose the phone that has the 2FA app running on it? How will I access my Mastodon account without the 2FA app?

That’s what the backup codes are for, and why you need to keep them in a safe place. If you lose access to your 2FA app for any reason, you can use the backup codes to access your account and switch off 2FA.

Is 2FA just for techy people, or can non-techy people use 2FA as well?

Setting up 2FA is slightly tricky, and it will require you to keep a permanent copy of a special code in a safe place, preferably printed out and kept at home with your other important documents. This special code lets you access your account if you lose access to your 2FA app. If you’re not technically minded, you might want to get help from a trusted friend or relative in setting it up. Make sure they are people you trust, as the backup code would allow them access to your account.

However, after it has been set up, 2FA is extremely easy to use: the 2FA app displays a code and you simply type this in when Mastodon asks you to. It’s very simple and becomes second nature quickly.

Does the 2FA app know what I’m doing?

No. 2FA apps have no awareness of anything you’re doing.

The apps just passively display a list of security codes generated from the current time and your unique account keys. It doesn’t send any data anywhere, the code generation happens entirely offline on your own phone or computer. The apps have no idea if you’re even using the codes.

At a technical level, 2FA apps are essentially just very elaborate clocks, but instead of displaying the time they display ever-changing access codes. Your account’s server also knows what time it is, and that’s how it knows whether your 2FA access code matches up with what it should be.

Is 2FA just for Mastodon, or can I use it for other things?

It’s not just Mastodon! Most major online services nowadays have an option to activate 2FA. For example most email providers include 2FA support, and using it works just like logging in on Mastodon.

You can use the same app to generate all your codes. Each service uses a different code, and your app will generate a list of different codes if you use it on many services.

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How to prevent your account being suggested to others in Mastodon

On Mastodon, there’s a feature that automatically suggests accounts to follow when people first join a server, and when they click on the For You or People tab in Explore or Search. These suggestions are based on how many people on that server follow the account and boost its posts, and server admins can optionally add suggestions manually too.

What if I don’t want my account suggested to others?

You can set whether your account is suggested to others or not.

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app.
  2. Click on ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click on Profile (or ☰ and Profile if you’re on the mobile website)
  4. Click on the Privacy & Reach tab at the top
  5. Go to the box marked Feature profile and posts in discovery algorithms, and UN-tick the box if you do NOT want to be suggested.

Wait a minute… “Feature profile and posts in discovery algorithms”? I thought Mastodon didn’t use algorithms?

The name in this section is a bit misleading. These are not the kind of complex, hidden, dubiously motivated algorithms that cause problems on Facebook, Twitter etc. The “algorithm” in this case is a simple open source mathematical formula that looks at which accounts are most followed and most boosted.

Technically even the simplest mathematical process is an algorithm, but in this case it might as well just say “Most followed & most boosted accounts”.

The “For You” tab… is it using my personal data to generate suggestions?

No, it doesn’t use personal data. The For You tab gives the same suggestions to everyone on your server, but it hides accounts you are already following which is why it says “For You”. The tab has been renamed “People” on upcoming versions of Mastodon to make this clearer.

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Filtering your Mastodon timeline to automatically hide posts containing certain words, phrases, hashtags, links or emoji

On Mastodon, you can set your timeline to automatically hide or block posts featuring certain words, phrases, hashtags or emoji. You can choose to block them completely, or hide them behind a warning that you can open manually.

This isn’t just about offensive posts, it can be filtering for any reason at all. Some people use filters to hide Wordle posts for example. Your filters are private, and they will apply in the apps as well as on the website. No one will know you have filtered their posts.

To add a filter:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Go to ⚙️ Preferences > Filters (On the mobile website click ⚙️ and then ☰ and then Filters, on the desktop website click ⚙️ Preferences and then the Filters link on the left side of the Preferences page)
  3. Click the Add new filter button
  4. Choose the settings you want, then click Save new filter

Does the Title need to match the words in the filter?

No. The title can be anything you want that makes it memorable, it doesn’t have to match the actual filtered words.

Can I filter for words, phrases or emoji? Are they case sensitive?

Yes, you can put one word, one emoji, or a phrase, or some mixture of these, into the filter. The contents of the filter is not case sensitive.

Which parts of posts does the filter look at?

The filter will look for its keywords in entire posts, including the actual content, hashtags, account addresses, alt text descriptions or web addresses mentioned in posts.

Does the filter work retrospectively?

Yes. Filters work retrospectively, so posts made before the filter was created will also be filtered.

Can I add more words, phrases or emoji to the same filter?

Yes. You can add more words and phrases to the same filter by clicking the + Add keyword link at the bottom of the page. The filter will be triggered if any of the words or phrases are present.

Do I need to include # if I want to filter posts with a particular hashtag?

No. You don’t need to include # on filtered hashtags, you just need to include the actual word or phrase. Posts with such hashtags will automatically be blocked if the tags contain a filter’s keyword(s).

How do I set a filter to be temporary?

You can make filters temporary by setting the Expire after section. By default this is set to “never” which means the filter is permanent, but if you set a value it will stop filtering after it reaches its time limit.

How do I apply the filter to just specific parts of Mastodon?

The Filter contexts section lets you apply the filter to specific parts of Mastodon. If you want it applied everywhere, tick all the boxes.

What does the “whole word” option mean?

If you have the Whole word option ticked, it means the filter only applies to posts containing exactly that word. (If you have this active, plurals or variations of a word will NOT activate the filter, because they are not exactly the same as the word.)

If you UN-tick the Whole word option, the filter will also apply to posts that have that word within other words (such as plurals), or if a word has other letters or numbers next to it without spaces.

How do I edit or delete my existing filters?

You can edit or delete filters at any time by going back to the Filters section in ⚙️ Preferences.

How do I filter posts that contain a particular link?

Add a filter for part of the text in the link (such as the link’s domain name), then make sure you have UN-ticked the box marked Whole word, then save the filter. This will filter anything that contains that text including links.

How do I block Wordle posts that don’t contain the word “wordle”?

Wordle posts sometimes are just blocks of coloured squares without the actual word “Wordle”. You can block these by creating a filter for one of these coloured squares, for example either 🟩 or 🟨. Make sure you have UN-ticked the Whole word option.

(If you’re wondering what Wordle is, it’s a very popular word guessing game. The squares indicate how close the person came to guessing that day’s word.)

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How to use Content Warnings (CWs) on Mastodon and the Fediverse

Content Warnings (CWs) are an optional Fediverse feature which hides the content of a post behind a warning message. The post can be revealed by clicking on the warning. Only the person who writes the post can add a CW to it.

What are CWs for?

Content warnings hide any kind of content where the person reading may not want to read it right that minute, but they may want to read later. It could be something serious like upsetting news, or less serious like film spoilers. There’s also a very strong Fediverse tradition that those who are able to should use CWs when talking about emotive topics such as politics or religion. It is also often used for potentially “not safe for work” content such as gore or nudity.

How do I add a CW to my post?

  1. Start writing a new post or edit an existing post
  2. Click on the button at the bottom of the message writing window labelled “CW” or “Warning” or ⚠️ or other similar icons
  3. Write a brief warning giving people a clear idea of what to expect within the post itself, without them having to actually open it
  4. Publish the post

What if I want to open lots of CWs at once?

On Mastodon, if you are using the website or the web app you can make all the CWs in a thread open or close at once by clicking the 👁️ eye icon in the top right corner of a thread. (Note that the eye icon on the official mobile app does something different, it just opens one post at a time.)

I don’t care about warnings, how do I make all posts be visible for me automatically?

If you don’t want to ever see any CWs at all, you can make Mastodon open all CW posts by default:

  1. Log in through the website or the web app
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Scroll down the page and tick the box marked Always expand posts marked with content warnings
  4. Click the Save changes button

Is it compulsory to use CWs?

It depends.

Some servers have specific rules about when to use CWs, while others ask you to use your initiative.

When exactly should I use CWs? What if I see someone not using CWs when they should be?

CWs are an accessibility feature for many people, as they allow those who have traumas triggered by certain topics to read potentially triggering posts when they are mentally prepared to do so. It’s important to emphasise the point that for many people CWs are not about avoiding topics, it’s exactly the opposite: CWs make triggering posts accessible to people who would otherwise have to avoid them, in the same way that text descriptions make images accessible to blind people. They can widen your post’s audience.

Having said that, it is a bad idea to call people out for not using CWs! Some people will have legitimate reasons for not using CWs, for example someone who is currently going through a serious personal trauma, or perhaps is being persecuted or under threat of violence. It is not appropriate to demand CWs from someone who is going through something really horrific in their real world life. They may have much bigger things to worry about than social media, and we should help them deal with these bigger things however we can.

Even if someone should be using CWs, having public arguments about rules is not necessarily the best way to get someone to obey them, especially if they’re new to the Fediverse.

If there’s a post you think should be CWed and there’s no obvious reason why it isn’t, check the rules on your server and then ask your server admin for advice on what to do. They set the rules, and they are ultimately the ones that decide what is allowed on there.

In short, CWs are a balancing act, and require a lot of social skill (that’s why this section is so long!). The existence of CWs brings the Fediverse a tiny bit closer to the complexities of everyday life in the real world, where reading the room is essential to getting on with people. No one is going to get this right all the time, but simply being aware of CWs as an option and using them when you feel appropriate and able will make the Fediverse a much more accessible and pleasant place to be.

How do I add a CW to a post I want to share?

You can’t add CWs to someone else’s post. The reason for this is such a feature could be mis-used to quote the post, which is deliberately not available on Mastodon.

A workaround is to do a reply to the post with a CW telling people to read the post above, and then share your reply.

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Hiding your posts from search engines on Mastodon and the Fediverse

If you use a public visibility setting on a post, it will be visible to everyone, even people who aren’t Fediverse members. This means the post may be indexed by search engines.

You can either make your posts invisible to search engines, or ask search engines not to index your public posts.

Prevent a post being visible to search engines

The surest and safest way to prevent a post ending up on a search engine’s index is to use a non-public visibility setting. Followers-only and Mentioned settings cannot be seen by search engines, so they will not be indexed.

Ask search engines not to index your posts

Mastodon also has an option to request that search engines don’t index your public posts:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to Preferences > Other > Opt out of search engine indexing
  3. Tick the box and click Save changes

However, bear in mind it’s up to a search engine to decide if it wants to honour this request, and less honest search engines may decide to ignore your request. If you want a post to remain off search engines, it’s much safer to use a non-public setting.

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How to hide your follows and followers in Mastodon

If you’re on a Mastodon server, you can keep your lists of follows and followers hidden on your profile if you want to:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Click on Edit profile if you’re on the desktop website. If you’re on the mobile website click on your profile icon in the top right corner, then Edit profile.
  3. Click on the Privacy & Reach tab
  4. Scroll down to the Show follows and followers on profile option and make sure it is un-ticked
  5. Click the Save changes button

You will still be able to see your follows and follower lists when you look at your profile while logged in, but other people will not be able to see them.

If you change your mind, repeat the process above but tick the box instead.

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Restricting who can follow you on Mastodon

On Mastodon, you can use a follow request system to restrict who can follow you. When it’s switched on, no one can follow you unless you manually approve their request. This can be used to screen who follows you.

To switch on the follow requests system:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or through the Mastodon web app
  2. Click on your profile image to go to your profile page
  3. Click on Edit profile
  4. Click on the Privacy and reach tab
  5. UN-tick the box marked Automatically accept new followers
  6. Click the Save changes button at the bottom of the page

After you’ve done this, a padlock icon 🔒 will appear next to your username on your profile. Anyone who clicks follow will send a follow request that you have to approve before the follow is activated.

If you change your mind about using follow requests, do the same thing again but tick the box instead of unticking it.

Don’t reject followers just because they don’t have a picture

Don’t screen followers out just because they have blank profile pictures. Many blind users don’t use profile pictures, but they will have text in their profile. The best way to screen potential followers is to read what they have written about themselves and what they have posted.

How do I stop non-followers seeing my posts?

You can set your posts to the Followers-only visibility setting, either manually or by default. When this is combined with the follow requests system, it means only people you choose can see your posts.

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Blocking and muting accounts on Mastodon

(If you want to block or mute entire servers, please see the Blocking and Muting Servers on Mastodon guide.)

Is it rude to mute or block people?

It is totally fine to block or mute people on Mastodon and the Fediverse. It is not considered rude or unusual to do so. Use it as freely as you want!

There are lots of reasons why someone might block or mute an account, it’s not necessarily any kind of judgement against that account.

To block or mute someone on Mastodon:

  1. Either click ⋯ on one of their posts, or go to their profile and click the ⋯ or︙ button at the top
  2. Select Mute or Block depending on what you want
  3. If you change your mind, do the same thing again but select Unmute or Unblock

Here’s what these options mean:

  • Mutes are the softest option. When you mute someone you will no longer see their posts and you won’t see posts that mention them. You can also optionally set a timer so that the mute expires after a certain period, and there’s also an option for muting or not muting notifications from them. People who are muted will not know they are muted, and they will still be able to follow you, see your posts and interact. From the muted person’s point of view, everything will seem normal.
  • Blocks are the harder option. When you block someone, it does everything a mute does but also prevents them following you and hides your posts from them while they are logged in.

⚠️ Important: If you are posting public posts they will still be visible to the blocked person when they log out, because public posts are visible to everyone on the internet. To restrict the audience for a post, use followers-only or mentions visibilities.

What about the “Block Domain” option? What does that do?

It mutes all accounts from that person’s server, but does not block them (yes, the name is very misleading!). Please see the blocking and muting servers guide for more details.

How do I keep track of who I’ve muted and blocked?

To view lists of all of your blocks and mutes:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Go to your profile page and click ︙
  3. Select Muted Users, Blocked Users or Blocked Domains
  4. If you want to remove a mute or block, click the icon next to a name on the list

How do I do a temporary mute?

To have a temporary mute on Mastodon, log in through your server’s website or web app and it will offer you the option of setting a duration when you’re confirming the mute. Set the duration to however long you want the mute to last.

How do I mute just someone’s boosts?

On Mastodon, if you follow someone and you want to see their posts but not their boosts, you can hide just their boosts without blocking or muting them. This doesn’t affect their normal posts, and they have no way of knowing you’re doing it.

  1. Open your Mastodon app or log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to the profile of the person whose boosts you want to hide
  3. Click on the ︙or ⋯ button at the top and select Hide boosts from… (or Hide reblogs on some apps)
  4. If you change your mind, go back to their profile and select Show boosts from… (or Show reblogs)

This only works on accounts you follow.

Can I hide posts that contain particular words, phrases or hashtags?

Yes, you can do this by using Mastodon’s filter system.

What happens to DMs sent by someone I’ve muted or blocked?

If you mute or block someone, you won’t see any DMs from them by default. However if you decide to browse their profile you will see any DMs sent to you in their profile timeline.

If you remove a mute or block, DMs will start arriving as normal, but any DMs sent during the mute or block will only be visible by going to their profile.

Is there any way to allow DMs and mentions to work while muting someone?

Yes! If you mute someone through your server’s website or web app, there will be an option to allow notifications. If you allow notifications, then DMs and mentions by the muted account will still show up normally in your notifications.

How do I block DMs from people I don’t follow?

  1. Log onto your server’s website or web app
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click Notifications (on the mobile website click ☰ and then Notifications)
  4. Tick the box marked “Block direct messages from people you don’t follow”
  5. Click the Save Changes button

If you change your mind, repeat these steps but untick the same box.

Also, if you are blocking DMs from strangers, you might want to mention this on your profile description to avoid any misunderstandings. (This avoids situations where people are trying to contact you for legitimate reasons but think you’re ignoring them.)

Another thing to bear in mind is it will also block private replies in threads from people you don’t follow, as these are technically the same as DMs on Mastodon.

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How do I contact the people who run my server? How do I find out what my server’s rules are?

If you are having problems with your server, you might want to contact the person who runs your server, usually known as the server’s administrator or “admin”.

On Mastodon, you can find the public email address and account profile of your server admin on the server’s About page. This is visible without logging in, and it provides a way to contact the admin even if you lose access to your account for some reason. To find the About page:

  1. Go to your server’s website, the website address is usually the same as the name of the server
  2. Click on the Learn More link at the left (if you’re on desktop) or the ⋯ icon on the right (if you’re on mobile)
  3. The admin’s public email address (labelled “CONTACT”) and a link to their profile page (labelled “ADMINISTERED BY”) will be near the top of the page

How do I find my server’s list of rules?

Go to the About page using the method above, but scroll down the page a bit until you get to the part marked Server Rules. Click this to reveal the rule list.

Each server is totally independent and sets its own rules, so it is worth reading this before joining a server. It is usually written in plain language that is easy to understand.

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Reporting problematic content to moderators on the Fediverse

Reporting anti-social accounts is a good idea as it’s the main way server administrators find out about nasty behavour. Once admins are made aware of a problem, they can take action using special blocking tools that are not available to ordinary users.

How do I report posts or accounts on Mastodon?

  • To report a post click ⋯ on the bottom of the post and select Report.
  • To report an account, go to its profile and click ︙ or ⋯, then select Report.

In both cases, this will start a reporting wizard that narrows down specifically what kind of problem you’re reporting.

Remember to include examples!

Whatever you’re reporting, it’s really important to include examples of what the account has done wrong. Simply reporting the account with no examples creates a lot of work for the moderators, and it may make it impossible for them to moderate effectively.

On Mastodon, the reporting wizard includes options to select posts from that account, and if you’re reporting via a post then that post will be automatically selected as an example to include on the report.

If possible, tell the account’s own server too

Mastodon reporting forms include the option to also send an anonymous report to the server of the account that wrote the post. This is usually a good idea, because only a user’s home server has the power to suspend or delete their account. Other servers can block accounts, but in the worst cases it may be better that a nasty account is deleted at source.

However, there is a caveat to this: if the problematic user’s entire server is also problematic, it may be best not to include them in the report. Such servers tend to lash out when people report their behaviour. Your own server admin will be able to block problematic servers completely, which is usually the best way of dealing with such servers. If you notice the entire origin server is problematic, mention this in your report to your own server’s admin.

What do I do about accounts that just boost nasty stuff?

If there’s an account that just boosts lots of problematic posts without actually posting anything itself, this can seem trickier to report as they aren’t giving you any of their own posts to click on. However, it is possible to report them too!

Go to their account’s profile page and report them from there (by clicking ︙ or ⋯). If you do this though, remember to mention in the comments section of the report the boosts that are problematic and why, so that the moderator can locate them more easily.

What exactly ARE the rules on the Fediverse?

Each server is totally independent and sets its own rules for acceptable behaviour. If you go to a server’s about page you should see a copy of its rules. If possible, it’s worth reading this before you sign up on a server, as it can tell you a lot about their approach to moderation.

If there’s something bad happening and it isn’t covered by the rules, report it. There will often be bad situations that could not have been anticipated by the admin when writing the rules, and they depend on user reports to find out about them.

If you’re in any doubt about what is acceptable, ask your server’s admin for advice. If there’s something wrong with their approach or attitude, you might want to consider transferring your account to another server.

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Do I need to use my real name or real photo?

No.

You don’t need to reveal any kind of personal information about yourself on the Fediverse. Use any name you want, and any picture (or no picture at all).

The only information you need to give when signing up on a Fediverse server is an email address, and you can use an email alias if you want to keep it secret. The only other data a Fedi server might see is your computer’s or phone’s IP address, but this is hidden if you’re using a VPN or Tor.

Revealing personal information on the internet is a bad idea in general, as it makes unwanted tracking and identity theft much more likely.

What if I want to impersonate someone else?

Whatever name you choose to use, don’t impersonate other people, it’s not very nice and would break the rules on many servers, possibly getting you banned. Impersonation may also be illegal in some countries.

Can I leave the profile picture blank?

Yes, if you want. A lot of blind people on the Fediverse don’t use profile pictures, and there is no obligation to have a picture.

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