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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Kbin: Link aggregation and discussion communities on the Fediverse

Kbin is a Reddit-style link aggregator and discussion platform for the Fediverse. As it communicates using the ActivityPub protocol, Kbin servers can communicate with other Fediverse server types such as Mastodon etc.

It’s still in early beta testing, but already has servers up and running you can try out. Find out more from the official Kbin site ⧉ or try out its flagship server at kbin.social ⧉.

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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

At the moment, most Fediverse groups work like this:

  1. Join a group by following its account address
  2. Posts from that group will start appearing in your Home timeline
  3. If you want to post something to the group, just include 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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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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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 ⧉.

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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.

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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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 “Pending” or “Cancel Follow” 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 then acknowledges this by changing into a “Following” or “Unfollow” button. However, if the follow hasn’t actually happened it turns into a “Pending” or “Cancel Follow” button.

Usually, this 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.

They don’t have follow requests switched on, so why does it say they do?

Sometimes this 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 software bug which 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.
  • A server is overwhelmed with stuff it has to do (such as new members signing up), and is struggling to keep up so it puts tasks into a queue to deal with later.
  • The server of the person you’re trying to follow has silenced your server. This restricts communications between the two servers.

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. They probably just have follow requests switched on, and if they don’t then there’s just a technical problem.

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Making your posts visible to a wider audience on Mastodon and the Fediverse

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. When people follow you, they will see your posts from that moment onwards, but there’s generally no backfilling to show them your previous posts.

On Mastodon, you can make everyone see past posts by pinning them to 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. Unpinned posts will not be backfilled though.

In general 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.

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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.

It 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 other server. The only people who could afford such a 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.)

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

Having said all of the above, there are definitely ways that the current system of federation could be improved. One feature currently missing from the Fediverse is “backfilling”, where an account’s old posts are automatically loaded to a server when someone on that server follows an account. At the moment you only see posts made by an account after at least one person on your server has followed it, but with backfilling their past posts would become visible too. (Incidentally, Mastodon does already backfill 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. Perhaps smaller servers could allow at least a few posts to be backfilled in order to avoid possible blank profiles.

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

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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, inculding 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

You can optionally have Mastodon ask you for confirmation when unfollowing someone, boosting a post or deleting a post.

You can switch these confirmations on or off by logging in through your server’s website, then going to Preferences > Confirmation dialogs, tick the boxes for what you want confirmation for, then click Save changes.

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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

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 no controversy at all.

Which crossposting services are available?

Professional paid crossposting services such as Buffer ⧉ and Publer ⧉ are still working.

However, most free crossposting services have shut down due to Elon Musk’s shutdown of Twitter’s free API.

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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?

If you’re not used to adding text descriptions, it’s unfortunately quite easy to forget. However, help is available! If you follow the Please Caption bot at @PleaseCaption@botsin.space ⧉, it will automatically tell you if you’ve forgotten to add a text description.

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.

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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.

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 Raivo 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.

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

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, phrases or emoji 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, alt text descriptions 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.

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.

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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 mute notifications from them, and set a timer so that the mute expires after a certain period. People who are muted will not know they are muted, and they will still be able to follow you, see your posts and interact.
  • 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
  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.

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.

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 have any problems with the server which can’t be addressed through the reporting system, you can email the administrator (or “admin”) of your server directly.

On Mastodon, you can find the public email address of your server admin on the server’s About page. The same page also lists the server’s rules. To find it, go to your server’s website and click on “Learn More”. You don’t need to be logged in. The email address will be listed in the top half of the About page, just above the list of rules. It is worth reading the rule list as it varies from server to server, and 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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How to delete your Mastodon account

You can delete your Mastodon account at any time. There’s no cool-off period, the deletion happens as soon as you confirm it.

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to Preferences > Account > Delete account
  3. Click Proceed here and follow the instructions. It will ask you for your password to confirm the deletion.

⚠️ After you confirm deletion, it will delete your account straight away and it cannot be restored. Be really sure you want to do this. Once it’s deleted, it is gone forever and no one can bring it back.

After an account is deleted, no one else will be able to use that username on that server, in order to prevent anyone impersonating a deleted user. If you want to sign up for a new account on the same server, you’ll need to think of a new username.

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How to log out of your Mastodon account

On Mastodon, if you’re logged in on your server’s website, you can log out by clicking the ︙ (in desktop mode) or the ☰ (in mobile mode) and selecting Logout at the bottom of the menu.

If you’re logged in on the official apps, you can log out by clicking the ⚙️ settings icon and selecting Sign out at the bottom of the menu.

The third party apps will have various ways of logging out, usually on their settings pages.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You don’t have to log out to use a different account on a different server, you can be logged in on multiple accounts at once. The websites, the official apps and the third party apps all support being logged in on several different accounts at once, as long as the accounts are on separate servers. To log in on another account on the website just go to the other server’s site and log in. To log in on another account on the apps, click and hold your profile picture in the bottom right corner of the screen.

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How do I browse the Local timelines of other servers on Mastodon? Can I follow other servers’ Local timelines from my account?

On Mastodon, you can browse other servers’ Local feeds by going to the server’s website and clicking the “Local” link. You don’t need to log in, anyone can look at the feed because Local feeds only show public posts anyway.

What about following another server’s Local timeline?

Some third party Mastodon apps (Fedilab and Subway Tooter on Android, Ice Cubes on iPhone/iPad) let you follow the Local timelines of other servers. The website interface and the official apps do not have this feature yet.

Many, many people have asked for this feature to be added to the website interface. If you want to vote for this and you are comfortable using Github, click here and give a thumbs up to the first post in this thread ⧉. This will let the developers know that the feature is wanted.

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What are the Local, Federated and Home timelines? How do I stop them scrolling too quickly?

Most Fediverse server types including Mastodon have options to show three different timelines: Home, Local or Federated. They might have slightly different names depending on the server type, but they’re usually something like this.

  • Home is the normal timeline that you see by default. It shows you all the posts from all the people you follow in chronological order. This is what you see when you log in to your account.
  • Local (also known as Community or Live Feed: This Server) shows all the public posts made by all the people on your server. On larger servers this can be a so-called firehose that is too random and unfiltered. However, on smaller servers this can be a really interesting feed to read, especially if the server is well moderated. Many people on small servers discover new accounts to follow through the Local feed.
  • Federated (also known as Live Feed: All) shows all public posts that your server has noticed. Click here for a guide to which posts and accounts your server will notice. On larger servers Federated is an absolute nightmare to comprehend as there are so many posts on so many different topics.

Where can I see trending posts and hashtags?

Trends are in their own section, click here for the guide to trends.

Can I create my own custom timelines on Mastodon?

Yes. The Lists feature lets you make your own themed timelines with whatever accounts you choose.

How do I view different timelines on Mastodon?

By default you will see your Home timeline.

To see other timelines on the Mastodon website or the Mastodon web app, click the 🌎 Live Feeds link at the right of the screen, then select the tab at the top labelled This Server for the Local feed or All for the Federated feed. The Other Servers feed shows the Federated feed minus posts from the Local feed.

On third party Mastodon apps there will be various interfaces and icons for viewing Local and Federated timelines.

On the official Mastodon app, click the magnifying glass and then scroll to the Community tab, which will show you the Local feed. The official Mastodon app doesn’t show the Federated feed at all, but you can see it by using a third party app, the web app or your server’s website instead.

The timelines are scrolling way too quickly, I can’t keep up with them! Help!

If you’re logged in through your Mastodon server’s website, you can optionally use “slow mode” to stop all automatic scrolling on feeds. When slow mode is activated, the feed will only show new posts when you manually click a special link at the top of the feed. To switch it on:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Tick the box marked Slow Mode, then click the button marked Save Changes

To deactivate slow mode, do exactly the same thing but UN-tick the Slow Mode box and click Save Changes.

How do I see another server’s Local timeline?

Click here for more info on how to do this.

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What are toots? What are boosts? What are CWs? What are instances? What is birdsite? What is vanilla Mastodon?

Mastodon and the Fediverse have a number of common terms which you may not have heard of on other social networks. Here’s a guide:

  • Toots are posts, the Mastodon equivalent of tweets. The mascot for Mastodon is a mastodon, an ancient relative of the elephant ⧉, and “toot” is sort of the sound an elephant makes. Programmers sometimes call them statuses.
  • Boosts are shared posts, the Mastodon equivalent of a re-tweet. Programmers sometimes call them re-blogs. If you boost a post, it will appear in the home timelines of your followers.
  • CWs are Content Warnings, used to hide a post underneath a title. There’s detailed info about them here including why they exist and how to use them.
  • Instances are the sites you can sign up on on the Fediverse, also known as “servers”. They were also known as “communities” for a while, and some people call them “nodes”. All of these are just different names for exactly the same thing: the site you signed up on. If someone talks about Fediverse instances, they are talking about Fediverse servers, they are one and the same.
  • “Birdsite” and “Hellsite” are nicknames for Twitter, sometimes indicated by a bird on fire (it’s a comment on how discussions on Twitter very often turn into horrible arguments).
  • Vanilla Mastodon means standard unaltered Mastodon software, which most Mastodon servers use. Some servers use non-standard altered versions of Mastodon, such as Glitch or Hometown, and they work just as well as vanilla but tend to have more features and options.

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Inviting people onto Mastodon and the Fediverse

The easiest way to invite friends, family or colleagues to join you on the Fediverse is to send them a link to JoinMastodon.org ⧉ or Fedi.Garden ⧉ or another Fediverse “on-boarding” website. Once they’ve signed up on a server, they can use their account to sign in on their server’s website or on a comptible app.

Once your friends are on the Fediverse, you can exchange addresses with them and follow each other. You don’t need to be on the same server as them, following and interacting with each other is the same experience even if you’re on different servers.

How do I invite people to join my server? Can I invite people if sign-ups are closed?

If you do want people to sign up on the same server as you, there’s an “invite” feature on Mastodon which lets you invite them directly to your server:

  1. Log in on your server’s website or the web app
  2. Click on ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click on Invite people at the left of the screen (if you’re on the mobile website click ☰ in the top right and then Invite people)
  4. Choose the settings you want for your invitation link and then click Generate.

Some servers close themselves to new sign-ups if they get too full, but still allow existing members to generate invitations. If your friend is unable to sign up on your server directly due to it closing to new members, they may still be able to sign up if you send them an invitation.

I can’t see any “Invite people” link my server. Why is that?

Server admins can optionally switch off the invitation system. If they do this, the “Invite people” link will disappear.

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Customising your Mastodon interface colours

If you’re using Mastodon through the website, you can choose your interface colours by going to Preferences > Site theme, choose the theme you want and click Save changes. By default Mastodon servers come with a dark theme, light theme and high contrast theme, but some servers have a lot more options. If you want more themes, ask your server administrator about it.

If you’re using Mastodon through the official app, you can choose interface colours by clicking the cog gear icon ⚙️ and select Automatic, Always Dark or Always Light, then click Done. There’s also a toggle switch to activate “True Black”, which gives the dark mode a much darker background colour than usual.

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Favourites vs. Bookmarks in Mastodon

Mastodon has two ways to mark posts: Favourites and Bookmarks. These are similar, but they differ in important ways. Here’s a quick comparison:

  • Favourites can be added by clicking on the star icon ⭐ below a post. Favourites are pretty much the Mastodon equivalent of likes, and usually used to indicate you enjoy or appreciate a post. When you add a favourite, the person who posted it will get a notification, and your profile may be visible on the list of people who favourited it.
  • Bookmarks can be added either by clicking on the bookmark icon 🔖 below a post, or if it isn’t visible click on the ⋯ to open the menu and select Bookmark. Bookmarks are totally private, no one else sees what you bookmark. No one gets any notifications when you add a bookmark.

How do I browse my favourites and bookmarks?

If you’re using Mastodon through your server’s website or the web app, click the Favourites or Bookmarks icons at the right side of the screen.

On third party and official apps, you can usually see your favourites and bookmarks by going to your profile page (click on the icon containing your profile image to see your profile page). Favourites are usually indicated by a star icon, Bookmarks by a bookmark icon.

Can I transfer my bookmarks and favourites if I migrate my account to another server?

You can transfer your bookmarks (see steps 2 and 3 in the account transfer guide), but you can’t transfer your favourites.

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Why can’t I quote other posts in Mastodon?

If you’re used to Twitter, you may be wondering why there’s no equivalent of the “quote tweet” on Mastodon.

This was a deliberate design decision taken many years ago by the makers of Mastodon. Here are the lead developer’s comments on it:


Another feature that has been requested almost since the start, and which I keep rejecting is quoting messages. Coming back to my disclaimer, of course it’s impossible to prevent people from sharing screenshots or linking to public resources, but quoting messages is immediately actionable. It makes it a lot easier for people to immediately engage with the quoted content… and it usually doesn’t lead to anything good. When people use quotes to reply to other people, conversations become performative power plays. “Heed, my followers, how I dunk on this fool!” When you use the reply function, your message is broadcast only to people who happen to follow you both. It means one person’s follower count doesn’t play a massive role in the conversation. A quote, on the other hand, very often invites the followers to join in on the conversation, and whoever has got more of them ends up having the upper hand and massively stressing out the other person.

Cage the Mastodon: An overview of features for dealing with abuse and harassment ⧉

However, comments in 2023 by the same lead developer imply that they are considering introducing some kind of quote post feature, possibly with an opt-in system to prevent quoting without consent.

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How do I pin posts on my Mastodon profile?

Pinned posts are posts that appear at the top of your profile page, above your normal posts. Many people use them as introductions, but they can be used for any purpose, for example artists often use them as mini-portfolios with images, video or audio attached.

To pin a post on Mastodon:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the Mastodon web app or a third party app (the official app doesn’t support pinning yet)
  2. Go to one of your own posts that you want to pin, click the ⋯ icon on the post and select Pin to profile.
  3. The post will now be pinned to your profile. To unpin it, click ⋯ on the post and select Unpin.

You can pin up to five posts at once on your Mastodon profile, and you can also reply to a pinned post to create a pinned thread. By creating pinned threads, you can extend each pinned post to whatever length you want.

Pinned posts will be the first thing people see when they look at your profile, and for various technical reasons pinned posts will be more widely seen on the Fediverse than normal posts. (For technical people interested in this topic, Mastodon servers which encounter your account for the first time will automatically “backfill” all pinned posts on your profile. The backfilling also applies to the same user’s replies in pinned threads.)

Why would I use pinned posts when I already have a profile description?

Pinned posts let you greatly expand your profile description, allowing not just text but also images, audio and video. For example, artists might pin posts with their works attached as a portfolio. You can also fit a lot more text onto pinned posts, especially if you use your full limit of five pinned posts.

Also, on a technical note, pinned posts prevent your server ever looking blank to anyone. It’s a good idea to have at least one pinned post on your account to prevent it being blank.

How do I reorder pinned posts?

The pinned posts are shown in the order they were pinned, with latest pinning at the top. To put a pinned post at the top, click on the post and then unpin it, then pin it again. You can use this technique to put the pinned posts in the correct order.

(NOTE: If you’re reordering pinned posts, don’t unpin a post without clicking on it first. When you unpin a post, it will disappear from the pinned section and it may be harder to find it again from amongst your ordinary posts. If you click on it first you will be taken to the enlarged view of the post, and it won’t disappear when you unpin.)

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How do I edit posts in Mastodon?

Screenshot of Mastodon web interface with edit button highlighted
Screenshot of Mastodon web interface with Edit button highlighted

Mastodon lets you edit your posts after they have been published. It lets you edit the text itself, add attachments, add text descriptions to the attachments, add polls, or change the post’s language setting. Here’s how it works:

  1. Go to one of your posts that you want to edit
  2. Click the ⋯ icon at the bottom of the post
  3. Select Edit
  4. Make the changes you want
  5. When you’ve finished editing, click Save Changes

This works on your server’s website, the official apps and third party apps. Third party apps may have a slightly different interface depending on which app you use.

(There was a bug in the first version of editing which meant you couldn’t edit image descriptions. However, version 4.1.0 of the Mastodon server software fixed this.)

What’s to stop someone abusing this feature by changing a post’s contents after it’s shared?

There are several features to prevent abuse of editing:

  • When a post is edited, everyone who has shared it will receive a notification in case they want to un-share it.
  • Edited posts are labelled as edited.
  • Clicking on the edited label displays the full contents of all previous versions of that post, so that others can see all the changes that have been made to it.

These measures together reduce the chance of anyone abusing the editing feature.

Can I edit my post’s visibility setting?

No. For technical reasons you cannot change a post’s visibility after it has been published.

If you absolutely have to change the visibility anyway, use the Delete & redraft option instead, which deletes the post and breaks any links etc, but puts a copy of it into the editing box so you don’t have to retype it all.

⚠️ Warning about editing polls

You can edit polls too, but if you edit the options on the poll it will reset the votes to zero, even if people have already voted. This vote reset happens without warning, so be really sure you want to reset the poll before you edit its options!

You can edit the main text of a poll post without problems though, it’s only editing the options that people vote for that causes a reset.

If I edit a post to mention someone’s account, do they get a notification about it?

No. If you publish a post, then edit it to add a mention of someone’s account, they don’t get notified. Mentions only generate a notification if they’re included when the post is first published.

Also, they may not be able to see the post if the post has restricted visibility and the mention has been added later. However, this is a reported bug and it may be fixed in the future ⧉, so don’t rely on this bug to keep a post hidden from a mentioned account.

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How do I share posts on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

You can share a post within the Fediverse by selecting the Boost button which is usually spinning arrows, something like this 🔃

You can share posts with people outside the Fediverse by selecting the Share option, which is often shown as an arrow leaving a square.

On Mastodon’s website version, you can also get a direct link to the post by clicking the ⋯ below a post and selecting Copy link to this post. Alternatively, you can get embedding code to put the post on your own blog or website by clicking ⋯ and selecting Embed.

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What are custom emoji? How do I access them? Can I add new ones?

Every Mastodon server (and some other Fedi server types) can add their own custom emoji, which can be used alongside standard emoji. People on other servers can see your server’s custom emoji, but cannot type them. The emoji can be stills, or short animations within certain size limits.

Here’s how to use them:

  • If you’re logged in through your server’s website, you can access the custom emoji through by clicking the emoji picker icon 🙂 in the top right of the post writing window. The picker normally has custom emoji at the top and the standard ones below them.
  • if you’re using apps, the custom and standard emoji are normally in two separate menus. For standard emoji use the emoji button on your phone’s own on-screen keyboard, for custom emoji use the app’s own emoji icon when writing a post.

Server administrators can add any emoji they want. If you have ideas for custom emoji, contact your server’s admin and tell them about it. When admins add an emoji, everyone on their server is able to use it.

Admins can also block offensive custom emoji from other servers, so if you see any offensive emojis let your admin know by reporting that particular post.

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How do I post images, videos or audio in Mastodon? What can I attach to a post? How do I post GIFs?

On Mastodon, you can attach up to four images, or one video file, or one audio file when making a post. Click on the paperclip 📎 or landscape 🌄 icon to attach something to your post.

  • Images can be PNG, JPG or GIF (including animations). The maximum file size is usually 16mb per image.
  • Video clips can be MP4, M4V, MOV or WebM files. The maximum file size is usually 99mb, but there is no limit on running time.
  • Audio clips can be MP3, OGG, WAV, FLAC, OPUS, AAC, M4A or 3GP files. The maximum file size is usually 40mb, but there is no limit on running time. (If you’re uploading OPUS files, you may need to rename them to have a .ogg extension instead of .opus due to a known bug ⧉.)

File size limits may vary on different servers, but these are the documented defaults. Ask your server admin if you have problems with uploads. Note that if your server is unusually busy then file uploads may slow down or stop for a while.

The file size limits quoted above are from the official documentation. However, there’s some indcation in the source code that they’ve been raised in updates, so you may well find you can upload much larger files.

Making your posts accessible for blind or deaf people

Remember to add text descriptions to attached files before posting, so that they can be accessible to people with disabilities. You can do this by clicking Edit on the file before posting, or writing on top of the attachment itself on some apps. For video clips, remember to describe both the audio and video, so that both deaf and blind people are able to find out what’s going on.

How do I post GIFs in Mastodon?

There is no GIF picker built into Mastodon due to the federated nature of the Fediverse and the need to protect privacy. However, there are three methods for adding GIFs to Mastodon posts:

  • If you post a link to GIF it will automatically be embedded when you post it, as if the GIF had been chosen from a picker.
  • If you have the actual GIF file stored on your computer or phone, you can upload it as an image attachment.
  • Some phones or tablets have a GIF picker built into their on-screen keyboard.

How long can the video or audio attachments be?

Any length! There is no time limit on video or audio, there’s only the file size limit. To post a longer file, reduce its quality so that it stays within the size limit.

How do audio files play?

Mastodon’s web interface and most of the apps have a built-in audio player, some of them with visualisers.

How do I set the artwork for audio?

After you’ve attached an audio file, click the Edit button and then choose an image for the artwork. If you don’t set an image, it will use your profile picture as artwork.

The description has disappeared from the audio file!

If you’ve added a text description to an audio file and it vanishes, add it again and it should remain there okay. There seems to be an intermittent bug that sometimes deletes descriptions from audio attachments when you first upload them.

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Who can see my posts and replies in Mastodon? How do I send DMs in Mastodon?

The visibility of a post or reply on Mastodon depends on its visibility setting. These settings decide which other accounts have permission to see that particular post or reply.

On Mastodon there are four types of post visibility. You can set the visibility of a post by clicking the icon that represents it in the row below the message editing window. It’s usually a 🌐, 🔒, 👥 or @ icon, but some apps may use slightly different icons.

Some more details about each setting:

  • Public – Anyone can see it, even people who aren’t on the Fediverse, and the posts will be visible in searches on Mastodon. If you go to a person’s public profile page you will see all their public posts. This is normally indicated by a globe icon 🌎.
  • Unlisted (aka Quiet Public) – Anyone can see it, but it won’t appear in the trending posts list or the Local or Federated timelines, and it won’t show up in search results. This can be useful for replying in threads, so that you’re not filling people’s timelines unnecessarily. Normally indicated by an open lock icon or a crescent moon.
  • Followers-only – Only your followers can see these, normally indicated by a closed lock 🔒 or people 👥 icon. If you use this setting, it’s a good idea to switch on follower requests, otherwise anyone could follow you to see your followers-only posts.
  • Mentioned – Only people you @ within the message can see the post, normally indicated by an @ symbol. Be really careful who you @ because they will see the post.

Sending DMs in Mastodon

You can send people messages by setting a post’s visibility to @ Mentioned, then @ the people you want to receive the DM. If you use your server’s website or the web app, there’s a Private Mentions option in the menu which lets you see all your mentioned posts in a separate inbox.

⚠️ If you @ someone they will be able to see it, even in DMs or Followers-Only modes

In all modes including DMs and Followers-Only, if you @ someone in a post they will see that post! Because of this, you need to be really careful who you @ in a post.

If you absolutely have to mention an account but don’t want them to see it, try replacing the @ symbols with the word “AT” instead and make sure you’re using a visibility they don’t have access to such as Followers-Only (if they don’t follow you) or Mentions. Removing the @ symbol will break the address, and prevent the account holder seeing the mention.

I can’t see Unlisted as an option on my app?

Unlisted is available as a visibility option on almost all versions of Mastodon including the website, the web app and the third party apps. However, for some strange reason it is not included on the official apps.

If you want the official apps to support Unlisted and you’re comfortable using Github, you can let the developers know you want it added on the iOS version ⧉ and the Android version ⧉.

How do I set my default visibility for new posts?

To set the default visibility on new posts:

  1. Log onto your server’s website or the web app
  2. Click on ⚙️ Preferences (or ⚙️ on mobile web) at the right of the screen
  3. Click on Other at the left of the screen (or ☰ and then Other on mobile web)
  4. In the Posting Privacy dropdown menu, choose the default visibility you want
  5. Click the Save changes button in the top right

NOTE: This is only a default setting. You can always set it to a different visibility for individual posts or replies by clicking their visibility icon when you’re writing them.

Is it possible to edit post visibility after it is published?

You cannot edit the visibility of a post or reply after you’ve published it, so make sure you choose the correct visibility when writing it.

If you absolutely have to change the visibility, your only option is to delete the post and start again, which is most easily done by clicking ⋯ below the post and then Delete & re-draft. If you use this option, the original post will cease to exist, its boosts and bookmarks will disappear, links to it will break and its replies will be orphaned.

Who can see my boosts?

When you boost a post, it will immediately appear in the home timelines of all your followers. The original author of the post will also get a notification to say that you boosted their post.

When do replies appear in the Home timeline?

Replies will appear in your Home timeline if any one of these are true:

  • The reply mentions you
  • You wrote the reply
  • The reply is by someone you follow AND mentions someone else you follow
  • Someone you follow is replying to themselves to create a thread
  • Someone you’re following has boosted the reply

When do Unlisted posts and replies appear in the Home timeline?

In Home timelines, Unlisted posts and replies will appear exactly like public posts and replies. Unlisted posts will only be hidden in the Federated and Local timelines, in search results and in the trending posts list.

What about visibility in searches? How do I set the searchability of posts?

Posts and replies will only show up in search results if they have a Public visibility setting. If you want a post or reply to be searchable, you need to set its visibility to Public.

You also need to decide if you want your public posts and replies to be searchable by full text or just by hashtags. By default it’s just hashtags, but you can also allow the entire contents to be searched by opting into the full text search system.

What about Local-only visibility? How do I make a post only visible to people on my server?

Servers running the standard version of Mastodon do not have a Local-only visibility setting. However, servers running forks of Mastodon such as Hometown Mastodon ⧉ or Glitch Mastodon ⧉ may include a fifth visibility setting called “Local” or “Local only”.

Posts or replies using the Local visibility setting can only be seen by people whose accounts are on the same server.

If I’m replying to someone else’s post, do I have to use the same visibility setting on my reply? How do I send a private reply?

You can adjust your reply to have any visibility setting you want, regardless of the original post’s setting. Bear in mind though that some settings may exclude the author of the original post from seeing your reply.

If you want to send a post’s author a private reply, use the @ Mentioned visibility and make sure you @ them in the reply.

What about federation? How widely can my posts be seen by people on other servers?

Have a look at the guide to which posts can be seen from servers.

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Is there a built-in language translation system on Mastodon?

Yes, it is now available to all Mastodon servers. If your server is running the service, you will see a “Translate” link underneath a post in a different language. If you don’t see these links, ask your server admin about it.

The feature relies on knowing which language you speak, so make sure your account’s language preferences are set correctly, as this will allow the system to automatically suggest translations for you. If you have the incorrect language set on a post, it may confuse the translation system.

This feature is currently only on the website interface and also on the excellent third party app Fedilab ⧉.

The built-in translation uses open source translation provider LibreTranslate ⧉.

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Setting your language preferences on Mastodon, filtering out posts in other languages, filtering search results by language

There are lots of language options on Mastodon to help you understand other people, and help other people understand you. At the time of writing there are 95 different languages and dialects to choose from.

Interface language

The interface language is the language used on menus, buttons, labels, forms etc when you are logged in. To choose your Mastodon interface language:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Select the language you want from the dropdown menu marked Interface language
  4. Click the Save changes button

Filtering timelines by language

You can filter Mastodon timelines by language:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app
  2. Click ⚙️ Preferences
  3. Click the link marked Other on the left of the page (on the mobile website click ☰ and then Other)
  4. Scroll down to the section marked Filter languages
  5. Tick the boxes for languages you want to see
  6. Click the Save changes button
  7. To switch the language filter off (so that you see all languages), make sure all the boxes are UN-ticked and click the Save changes button

When the language filter is on, posts in other languages will no longer appear in your timelines. However, if you follow someone this will override the language filter and show you all their posts regardless of language used.

Posting language

It’s important to set your posting language, because it means people using language filters to show your language will see your posts. Setting this also allows other people to automatically translate your posts using Mastodon’s built-in translation system.

To set which language you post in:

  1. Log in through your server’s website
  2. Go to Preferences > Other > Posting language
  3. Choose which language you use most often and click Save changes

If you post in multiple languages, you can change which language you’re using each time you’re writing a post:

  1. Write the post but don’t publish it yet
  2. Select the language you are writing from the language button. The language button is a two letter country code in the bottom row of icons, for example EN for English.

By default the button will be your selected posting language, unless you are replying to a post marked in another language in which case it will be set to that language.

The language button should remember your most recently chosen languages at the top of the menu.

Filtering search results by language

You can filter your search results on Mastodon to only show posts in particular languages by including the search operator “language:(LANGUAGE CODE)” using language codes from this list. For example to only show posts in French include the term language:fr in searches.

See the guide to searching Mastodon for more details on using special search operators.

Wait! I’m still seeing languages I don’t understand in my Home timeline! Why aren’t the filters hiding them?

Unfortunately if you follow an account or a hashtag, this overrides the language filters, so by default you’ll see all posts in all languages on the Home timeline.

There is a workaround for filtering the language of accounts you’re following, but it’s slightly more fiddly than general language filters:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or the web app.
  2. Go to the profile page of the account you want to filter by language.
  3. Click ︙ and select Change subscribed languages
  4. Tick the boxes for the languages you want to see
  5. Click the Save Changes button

You have to do this for any account you’re following where you want to restrict which languages it shows. For example, if ten people you follow are posting in languages you don’t want to see you’ll have to do this for each of those ten accounts.

Obviously this isn’t as easy as just setting a single language filter, and if you’re following lots of people who post in many languages it can take a while to set preferences for each of them. Also, this option isn’t even available for followed hashtags. This situation isn’t satisfactory, and you may want to give feedback to the developers about this at the links below.

If you’re comfortable using Github, you can vote for language filters to apply to the Home timeline by giving a thumbs up to the first post in this issue ⧉. You can also vote for language filters to apply to hashtags you follow ⧉.

Contributing translations for the Mastodon user interface

If you want to add or correct translations on Mastodon’s interface, click here to go to the Mastodon translation website ⧉.

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Where are the trending posts and hashtags on Mastodon?

Mastodon has a section called Explore which shows trending posts, trending hashtags and trending links. Here’s how to see it:

  • On your server’s website or the Mastodon web app, click on the # Explore link or the # icon on the right of the screen.
  • On the official Mastodon apps click on the magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen without entering anything into the search box, this will automatically make the trends appear. There’s also a Community tab in the same section which is your server’s Local timeline.
  • Third party apps display trends in various different ways using their own interfaces. However, they usually use the word “Trending” in some way. Often you can find the trends link in the main settings menu, but this will vary from app to app.

What makes a post trend on Mastodon?

Posts trend if they are new and have many recent boosts. Only one post per account can trend at a time, to prevent popular accounts dominating the trending section.

What makes a hashtag trend on Mastodon?

Tags trend if many people have used them recently.

What if I see an offensive post, hashtag or link trending?

Hopefully this won’t happen, as your server admin can optionally screen posts, tags and links before they are allowed to trend.

If you see something offensive trending, contact your server admin and ask them if they are screening trends.

I am a server admin, how do I screen trending posts/tags/links?

Log in through the website, click ⚙️ Preferences, then click Trends.

If you’re on the mobile site you will need to click the ⚙️ icon on right of screen, then ☰ in top right, then Trending Posts, Trending Hashtags or Trending Links.

Note that for links you can moderate both individual links and the sites they come from.

What is the News section in Explore?

News just shows the most shared links on posts visible to your server, whether they’re from news sources or any website. Often this will be news items (hence the name), but not always.

Can any link trend on the News section? What do I do if I see dubious news sources trending?

Your server’s admin can optionally choose to moderate which sites’ links end up in the News section. By setting a trusted set of sources, your admin can prevent the trending news section being hijacked by people spreading less trustworthy sources.

If you see a news source trending which shouldn’t be, contact your admin and they will be able to block it from appearing on the trends.

What about the People section in Explore? Are these trending people?

No. They’re just automated suggestions for accounts you might want to follow. It’s a bit unclear why these suggestions are listed next to the trends, to be honest!

Can I view trends on other servers?

Yes. Most servers have a link to their # Explore section on their websites, and you usually don’t need to be logged in to browse this. The trending posts and tags on different servers will be slightly different as they have different views of the Fediverse. You do need to be logged in if you want to interact with the posts, however.

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How to be notified when your favourite accounts post on Mastodon

When you follow someone you’ll see all their posts in your home timeline in chronological order. No posts will be hidden, but when you follow a lot of people it can be easy to miss some of the posts because there may be just so many of them.

On Mastodon, if there are particular accounts where you want to make sure you see their posts, you can set these accounts to also notify you when they post. They will still be in your timeline as normal, but you’ll also get an an alert in your Notifications section.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Log in through your server’s website or through the web app or certain third party apps
  2. Go to the profile of the person you want to be notified about
  3. Click the bell icon 🔔 next to their follow/unfollow button.

Note that this only works for people you follow. Also, if you want to stop notifications just click the same bell icon again.

Can I do this through apps too?

Yes and no. The official apps don’t have notification bells yet, but some third party ones do such as Ice Cubes and Toot! on iPhone/iPad, or Tusky and Fedilab for Android. The ones that support the notification bell may sometimes have a slightly different interface, for example the Toot! app has a “Notify” button instead of a bell icon.

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How do I get my account and posts discovered on Mastodon and the Fediverse?

If you want your account to be discovered by more people with similar interests, here are some tips:

  • Write something about yourself on your profile. It doesn’t have to be personal info, but it should let people know you’re a human being and give them some idea of what you’re interested in.
  • If you want the entire text of your public posts to be completely searchable, even without any hashtags, you can opt into being part of the full text search system
  • If you have a website, include a link to it on your profile and also link to your profile from your website. Remember to have https:// at the beginning so that people can click on it.
  • Also, if you have a website, you might want to verify the website link too, as this will make people know you’re the owner of the site and also make your account appear on discovery services such as StreetPass ⧉.
  • Make sure the first line of your profile text sums you up well, as Fediverse discovery systems often only show the first line.
  • If you want to, add a profile picture and header image, but these are both optional. Blind people often don’t use images on their profiles, so it is totally normal for a profile to have no images on it.
  • Write a public post saying something about yourself, and include the hashtags #Introduction, #Introductions and #NewHere. Try also searching for these hashtags and replying to other people’s introductions.
  • Pin your introduction post on your profile by clicking the post’s ⋯ icon and selecting Pin on profile. For various technical reasons to do with “backfilling”, pinned posts are much more visible than ordinary posts.
  • Remember to use hashtags in posts that you want to be discovered, as lots of people follow hashtags and they are a very popular discovery method on the Fediverse.
  • Try joining and posting to Fediverse groups, they are seen even more widely than hashtags and can be a good way to connect with others interested in specific topics.
  • Include text descriptions on your images, video or audio. A lot more people will share those posts, as accessibility is valued on the Fediverse.
  • Join in with conversations, follow other people, and eventually you’ll get some follows back. See here for tips on how to find people to follow.
  • After you’ve been on here a while, add yourself to the directory at Trunk ⧉ and the directory at Fediverse.info ⧉. There are instructions on these sites telling you how to add yoursrelf.
  • On Mastodon, log in through your server’s website, go to Edit profile > Suggest account to others, tick the box and click Save changes. This will add you to automated follow suggestions that others may see.

When to post your best content

Don’t post your best content when you have literally zero followers. Fediverse servers “notice” posts from accounts that their members follow. If you post stuff when you have 0 followers then your post won’t be visible to anyone except users on your own server. Even having a handful of followers will make your posts a lot more visible, because all of your followers’ servers will notice what you post.

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What kind of accounts can I follow from Mastodon?

If you’re on Mastodon, you can follow other Mastodon accounts of course, but you can also follow accounts from other types of Fediverse server such as Pixelfed, PeerTube, Friendica, OwnCast, BookWyrm etc.

How do I follow accounts from other kinds of servers?

Exactly like you would follow accounts from Mastodon servers, you just click Follow on their profiles.

The following process on the Fediverse is so seamless that you probably won’t even notice you are following accounts outside Mastodon! No matter what kind of server they are on, all accounts will look like Mastodon accounts when viewed from Mastodon (and vice versa from their point of view). Fediverse servers always display content in their own style, regardless of the style used on the server the content came from.

How do I check what an account looks like on its own server?

If you’re using Masto through the website, you can see what an account really looks like by going to its profile’s original page. This will show you the account’s profile page on its own server.

What if I can’t find an account listed on Mastodon? How do I get it to appear within Mastodon?

No matter what kind of server a Fediverse account is on, you can always follow it on Mastodon by copying and pasting its account address into the search box on Mastodon.

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