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Jesse Skinner
Jesse Skinner

Posted on • Originally published at codingwithjesse.com on

Why I love Mastodon

I quit Twitter at the end of 2020, and haven't really used social media at all since then. So when I heard in the news that others were ditching Twitter for Mastodon, I got really excited!

I signed up for Mastodon back in May 2019 and, at the time, I wrote on there: "I just heard about Mastodon a few days ago. I keep spelling it Mastadon. It's a really cool platform and architecture, and I would love to see it completely replace Twitter one day. Do you think it could?"

It seems like that time has come. Not everybody has moved from Twitter to Mastodon, but a large number of developers have, and that's what matters most to me.

A wild month

In 14 years of using Twitter, I never went viral. The closest I came was when I published my blog post Svelte is the most beautiful web framework I've ever seen. The tweet linking to that post received 40 retweets, which had my head spinning at the time.

Well, in the past month, I've had three toots that were more successful than that. And one of those went absolutely viral! I was excited about Mastodon and hoping all these new migrants would stay, so I wrote "Boost this toot if you're planning on sticking around Mastodon whether or not it becomes more popular than the birdsite.", and so far I've received 217 replies, 3,254 favourites and 5,765 boosts!

I also tooted a list of web developers worth following and that received 77 favourites and 52 boosts.

I'm not trying to brag, I just want to demonstrate that the reach and discovery on Mastodon is so much greater than Twitter. Part of that is that there is no algorithm on Mastodon, part of it is that people can browse "local" or "federated" feeds to find new posts from people they don't follow, so it's much easier for new users to reach a lot more people. I also find that the quality of interactions is higher, and the conversations more intelligent and engaging.

As another example, I tried putting a poll on Mastodon and Twitter at the same time. I had 7 people answer the Twitter poll, but 43 on Mastodon! This and other experiments I've done have cemented for me just how much more easily I can reach and connect with other like-minded people on Mastodon.

Whatever it is, I've definitely experienced a lot more joy interacting on this platform. It's wonderful that there are no ads, there's no company profiting off our use of the platform, and we can own our own content. It's not a new company trying to launch a startup to replace Twitter, it's a platform built on an open web standard that will surely be around for a very long time!

What is the platform?

As a web developer, I was excited to learn that Mastodon is actually built upon ActivityPub, a web standard produced by the W3C, the standards body behind other technologies you may have heard of, like HTML and CSS.

ActivityPub is similar to RSS but with pushing content instead of polling a feed. It allows web sites to publish content, and have other web sites subscribe to that content. When a new post is available, the content is pushed to each of the subscribers so that they immediately find out about it.

The world of systems that work with ActivityPub is referred to as the Fediverse. Mastodon is a Twitter-like interface built upon this platform. There is also Pixelfed, an Instagram-like platform, and PeerTube, a YouTube-like platform. Anybody can create new platforms that integrate with the rest of the Fediverse, just by implementing the ActivityPub protocol. There is even a WordPress ActivityPub plugin so that any WordPress blog can be followed by others on the Fediverse.

Mastodon Servers

If you've heard anything about Mastodon, you've heard about how you have to choose a server. This is a weird step for many people, at least compared to large corporate centralised social media, but it's what we already have to do for things like e-mail (though most people choose gmail.com). There is no central Mastodon server, so you need to choose one to get started. But the great thing is, you can move to a different server, and anyone who follows you will automatically follow your new account (though you can't move your posts). You can even run your own server!

One easy strategy is just to pick any server that is currently accepting new accounts, and then accept that you may well decide to move elsewhere once you get a feel for things and settle in and discover a server that resonates better with you.

You can go to the Mastodon website or instances.social to browse servers. You could choose one that is somewhat relevant to your interests or location, or you could choose one that is totally generic. Or just choose one that has a name that you like. Like email, it will be part of your address.

Some development-related servers include hachyderm.io, fosstodon.org, indieweb.social, front-end.social, and toot.cafe, though the last two are closed for registrations at the time of writing this.

Back in 2019, I started off on toot.cafe, but decided the next day that I'd rather be on a bigger, more popular server, so I moved to mastodon.social. But earlier this month when I started using Mastodon heavily, I actually decided I'd rather be on a smaller server focused on web dev, so that I would have a "local" feed more useful and interesting to me, so I moved back to toot.cafe!

Migrating to Mastodon from Twitter

If you were already active on Twitter, you'll be glad to know there are tools to help you migrate. I highly recommend you check out Movetodon, where you can log in with both your Twitter and Mastodon accounts, and you can search for and automatically follow people. Of the 1025 people I follow on Twitter, I can find 164 of them on Mastodon, and more are moving over every day.

If you do decide to move over, be sure to put your new Mastodon address in your Twitter bio, so others can find you using automated tools as well.

I really hope this migration sticks, and so I think the best thing we can do support it is to participate as heavily as we can on there, to follow interesting people, to boost interesting posts, and to be active and contribute to the conversation so that others enjoy it there and stick with it too.

Follow me!

If you'd like to follow me, you can sign up for Mastodon (or another Fediverse server) and follow me at https://toot.cafe/@JesseSkinner. I hope to see you there!


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Top comments (30)

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darkwiiplayer profile image
π’Š©Wii πŸ’–πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œπŸ’πŸ’Ÿ • Edited on

Mastodon quick start guide:

  1. Make an account
  2. Follow the #webdev* hashtag
  3. If you see something cool, like, boost and follow

After a week of doing that you'll have a good amount of content in your feed. From there, it's really just a matter of understanding the lack of algorithm: You get content by a) following people who boost cool things or b) looking specifically for that topic.

This also means that people will generally follow others if they boost lots of cool things :)

* Or, you know, any other hashtag, really. I just follow #tarns and find more tech-related accounts that way than I could realistically follow πŸ˜…

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seanmclem profile image
Seanmclem

What server?

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄ • Edited on

Is there a way to hide the metrics on Mastodon?
Like this third party Twitter Demetricator (Firefox, Chrome)
bengrosser.com/projects/twitter-de...

One of my issue with Twitter is that it trains us to be laser focused on the number of internet points something got, rather on the merits of what is being said.

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jesseskinner profile image
Jesse Skinner • Edited on

Generally you can't see how many favourites or boosts a post has - you have to click into it to check for that, so it's not really an issue.

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bwca profile image
Volodymyr Yepishev • Edited on

Sounds like a good idea for a browser extension :)

For now you could create a bookmark with URL

javascript:(() => {Array.from(document.getElementsByClassName('icon-button__counter')).forEach(i => i.style.display = 'none')})()
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Can be enhanced with MutationObserver to work for newly added posts on scroll.

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ismailghedamsi profile image
ismailghedamsi

I hate mastodon because of how servers are like isolated countires that can't communicate easily. On mastodon you should create an account of every server you want to join, you don't even have a tab with all server you are in to switch between servers. Despite not having an algorithm, I still have less interaction than in a algorithm generated feed.

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jesseskinner profile image
Jesse Skinner

Nobody needs to have an account on more than one server, and it's very easy to communicate across servers - that's the whole point.

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ismailghedamsi profile image
ismailghedamsi

Unless you are interested in only one thing you need to have an account on more than one server. It's easy to communicate with people on different servers but not to contribute with posts and reply across servers.

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jesseskinner profile image
Jesse Skinner

That's not correct, you can follow anybody on any other server and reply to them, boost their posts, favourite their posts, etc. You can run your own server by yourself and still interact with the whole fediverse.

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ismailghedamsi profile image
ismailghedamsi

You mis-undertood me, user to user interaction between people on different servers is easy. What is difficult and doesn't makes me want to use mastodon is that there's not a side bar with the list of servers I use to easy access them like on discord without the need of having to create an account on every servers, login and then create a post or reply.

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jesseskinner profile image
Jesse Skinner

I'm still not sure why you would want to have accounts on multiple servers - it's nothing like discord - but if you do for some reason, there are apps to help you do that. I use Fedilab on Android, it costs a few dollars but allows managing multiple accounts.

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drsensor profile image
Fahmi Akbar Wildana

Have been asking several tech question in Mastodon and my conclusion is: it can be used as lighter version of StackOverflow or GitHub Discussion 😯

Surprisingly my home timeline doesn't consist of Q&A unless I subscribe specific #hashtags or check their timeline.

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jesseskinner profile image
Jesse Skinner • Edited on

Same, I've asked a bunch of questions on there and have mostly gotten good advice and thoughtful responses.

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seanmclem profile image
Seanmclem

I don’t really love that I have to create a whole new account, sign out, or sign back in, to try other servers. Moving my account between them doesn’t really sound more efficient to me either. I should be able to share my account more quickly and easily between any server. going from one Twitter for the whole world, to tiny by comparison servers, trying to find the least tiniest, it’s pretty limiting. As fun as it may seem, I don’t see how it could ever really compete, or not pale in comparison. If I’m wrong, I’d love to know why.

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jesseskinner profile image
Jesse Skinner

If you want to see what's on a Mastodon server, you can go to /public to see recent posts on there, to get a feel for it before creating an account. You really don't need to be logging in to multiple servers in general, one is enough to access the whole Fediverse.

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seanmclem profile image
Seanmclem

I’m not sure I understand. If a server doesn’t provide limited scope to access to certain things – then what is it doing?

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jesseskinner profile image
Jesse Skinner

It's like email. You get an email account on gmail.com or yahoo.com and you can still send and receive email with people using other email servers.

There is a feature to browse the "local feed" of posts originating on your local server, but not everybody uses or cares about that feature.

Different servers also have different rules and moderation policies, and are run by different individuals, so that can be a reason to choose one server over another as well.

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seanmclem profile image
Seanmclem

Thanks. This is the kind of stuff I would like to see a post about.

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jesseskinner profile image
Jesse Skinner

Sure - there are lots of articles out there explaining Mastodon, how it works, etc. Here are some links that might help you:

docs.joinmastodon.org/
mastodon.help/

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seanmclem profile image
Seanmclem

Wanted to say thanks for having this back-and-forth with me and answering a couple of questions – really helped me understand Mastodon. I’ve been using it for a few days now and I am really enjoying it as a alternative to Twitter. It needs more time, but I’m really seeing the promising future of the Fediverse. I just wanted to say thanks again for taking the time to answer my questions.

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jesseskinner profile image
Jesse Skinner

No problem, I'm always happy to help!

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mattferrin profile image
Matthew Ferrin

This article got me onto the platform. I didn’t know about it and will see if I can convince it to show me what I want to see over time.

It doesn’t seem like I can sort by topic.

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jesseskinner profile image
Jesse Skinner

Great! You can search on a hashtag to follow a certain topic - actually, that's the only searchable thing on Mastodon.

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sm0ke profile image
Sm0ke

Mastodon looks nice.

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baohx profile image
Gordon Forsythe

For PHP devs, there is the phpc.social server. Lots of great people migrating there.

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lnaie profile image
Lucian Naie • Edited on

Nah :) It's a cool trend for techies to find refuge in mastodon from twitter because of Elmon. It's ridiculous, that's what it is.

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jesseskinner profile image
Jesse Skinner

You're right that that's the motivation for the recent surge in popularity, but I've been excited about it since I joined in May, 2019. It's based on web standards, and decentralized, not controlled by any single entity, like the web itself, and so I think it's a very exciting platform to build upon for the long term.

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

really? but I thought Twitter said that an edit button couldn't be done? or would be a terrible thing? I never understood which one it was.

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Thank you.

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