Using relays, groups 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 on the server 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.

There are several things that can be done about this, both by users and admins.

Subscribing to content from Fediverse groups

Fediverse groups federate content very effectively, sending everything in the group to everyone who is following the group, no matter how small their server is.

Groups can be followed by anyone, and it takes just one user following a group for that group’s entire content to be actively sent to the user’s entire server. Groups also have the benefit of being devoted to particular topics, so they will tend to only send stuff that at least someone on your server is interested in.

For lots more info on how to do this, click here to see the guide to Fediverse groups.

Subscribing to relay servers on Mastodon

Server admins can speed up the process of discovering the Fediverse by subscribing to relays which push new content to their server from other servers. Once you have the address of the relay you want to use, here is how to subscribe to it:

  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.

⚠️ ANOTHER WARNING: Bear in mind 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. See the FediBuzz section below for subscribing to topic-specific relays.

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 ⧉.

Finding general relays

If you want more content pushed to your server and don’t care about the topic, there’s a list of general Fediverse relays at ⧉. Please bear in mind the warnings above before using this list, and check that the content on the relays is suitable for your server.

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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