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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