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.

Is there anything like Reddit on the Fediverse?

Yes! There’s a Reddit-style link aggregation and discussion platform called Kbin.

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