How to post a poll on Mastodon

It’s really easy:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or on an app
  2. Start a new post
  3. Click the poll icon, this usually looks like a bar chart 📊
  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)
  6. Set the duration, between 5 mins and 7 days
  7. Click Publish to post the poll!

Allowing multiple responses on polls

There’s a slightly hidden option when you’re posting a poll where you can allow people to choose more than one response. To switch on multiple responses:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Create the poll via the web interface as described above, but don’t post it yet
  3. 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

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

Some third party apps also allow you to activate multiple responses for a poll.

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

You can follow someone on Mastodon by going to their profile page and clicking the Follow button.

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

If you’re trying to get someone’s profile page to appear so you can follow them, see the sections on discovering accounts to follow and using account addresses.

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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.

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. However, since the introduction of post editing on Mastodon this second option has been largely obsolete. The only time you would be likely to want to use re-drafting is if you want to change the visibility of a post, as this cannot be done through 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 a much better option.

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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.

By default, Pixelfed only shows posts that include an attached image. If you want to see text-only posts as well, log into your Pixelfed account and go to Settings > Timelines > Show text-only posts, tick the box and click Submit.

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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 tab in Explore or Search. It is based on how many people on that server follow the account and boost its posts, and server admins can optionally add suggestions manually too.

If you don’t want your account suggested to others, log in through your server’s website and go to Edit Profile > Suggest account to others, make sure the box is unticked and click Save changes. If you want your account suggested, tick the box and save instead.

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Filtering your Mastodon timeline to automatically hide posts containing certain words, phrases or hashtags

On Mastodon, you can set your timeline to automatically hide or block posts featuring certain words, phrases, or hashtags. 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.

To add a filter:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to ⚙️ Preferences > Filters (On the mobile website you have to click ⚙️ and then ☰ and then Filters, on the computer desktop website the Filters link will be 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

Some tips which might help with creating filters:

  • The Title section at the start of a filter is just a name you want to give the filter so you remember what it does. It isn’t the actual words the filter uses.
  • You can add the filtered words and phrases in the Keywords section at the bottom. They aren’t case sensitive.
  • The filter will look for these keywords in entire posts, including the actual content, hashtags, account addresses or web addresses mentioned in posts.
  • Filters work retrospectively, so posts made before the filter was created will also be filtered.
  • 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.
  • You don’t need to include # on filtered hashtags, these will automatically be blocked if they contain a filter’s keyword.
  • You can make filters temporary by setting the Expire after section. By default this is set to “never” which means the filter is permanent.
  • The Filter contexts section lets you apply the filter to specific parts of Mastodon. If you want it applied everywhere, tick all the boxes.
  • If you have the Whole word option on the filter ticked, it means the filter only applies to posts containing exactly that word. If you UN-tick this option, the filter will also apply to posts that have that word with other letters or numbers next to it without spaces, for example within another word, or a different form of the same word.
  • You can edit or delete filters at any time by going back to the Filters section in ⚙️ Preferences.

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How to use Content Warnings (CWs) on Mastodon and the Fediverse

Content Warnings (CWs) are optional Fediverse features which hide the content of a post behind a warning message. The post can be revealed by clicking on the warning.

Content warnings are for 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.

You can add a content warning while writing a post by clicking on “CW” or “warning” or ⚠️ or other similar icons at the bottom of the editing window. Remember to write a warning that gives people a clear idea of what to expect within the post itself, without them having to actually open it. Try to very briefly say why they might not want to open it right that minute.

What if I want to open lots of CWs at once?

On Mastodon, 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 the thread.

If you don’t want to see any CWs at all, you can make Mastodon open all CW posts by default by going to Preferences > Always expand posts marked with content warnings, tick the box and click Save changes.

Is it compulsory to use CWs?

No one is forced to use CWs, but it is considered polite and considerate to do so. Imagine going into a restaurant and shouting loudly at others about your political opinions, you could do it but others may not appreciate it. In extreme cases you might be asked to leave.

CWs are also an accessibility feature, as they allow people 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 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 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.

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.

Mastodon has an option to request that search engines don’t index your public posts: go to Preferences > Other > Opt out of search engine indexing, tick the box and click Save changes. However, it’s up to a search engine to decide if it wants to honour this request, and it may choose not to. 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

On Mastodon, you can keep your lists of follows and followers hidden on your profile if you want to. Log in through your server’s website, go to Edit profile > Hide your social graph, tick the box and click Save changes.

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 just see a message telling them the data isn’t available.

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Restricting who can follow you in 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.

To restrict who can follow you, log in through the website and go to Edit profile > Require follow requests, tick the box and click Save changes. After you’ve done this, a padlock icon 🔒 will appear next to your username on your profile.

Note that if you are screening followers, don’t screen people out just because they have blank profile pictures, as many blind users don’t use profile pictures. The best way to screen potential followers is to read what they have written about themselves and what they have posted.

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