Federated but Independent
Broad Category - Social Media - "The Fediverse"
Mastodon is similar to Twitter, but it is not corporate. It is not a silo. It is a federation of communities which cluster on many independent servers.
Mastodon is software, both for the server and multi-column web client which runs entirely in your browser. No desktop client is required, though there are FLOSS programmers developing them. Users of cell phones can also access a federated server with an Android client such as Tusky.
Other server software can and does use the same protocol. Pixelfed for still images, PeerTube for video, Hubzilla and more.(1) All of the different servers can share their posts/links. All users, no matter which server they choose, can connect with everyone else! You can follow and interact with any user on any federated server, no matter what software is involved.(2)
Mastodon itself is one of several kinds of server software which can share connections through a common web protocol known as ActivityPub. ActivityPub is a W3C standard developed by Boston-based programmer Christopher Lemmer Webber, among others. Mastodon was the first popular software to use the ActivityPub protocol, and "Mastodon" has (for better or worse) become the key word for talking about the broader federated social network.
Join and read more here: https://joinmastodon.org
I do not think that NatickFOSS needs to go to the expense of setting up a server of its own. We "could" establish a presence through a hosting company, instead. https://masto.host is one such specifically focused on providing Mastodon services.
Some NatickFOSS participants have created accounts on federated servers. That is the path I recommend at this time for NatickFOSS. You can easily migrate later to a new server if the first one does not ultimately meet your needs. See the list below.
The server you select typically will reflect your community interest(s). I chose a large general-purpose server initially, though I did not join the flagship server. I decided to migrate (a really easy task) a year or so later to my new "home" at https://mastodon.art. Chief Mastodon developer (Eugen Rochko - https://mastodon.social/@gargron) does NOT wish to host everyone on the flagship server. Federation is very much a goal, spreading the load and the users among easily linked servers around the world.
You get to choose who you want to follow, establishing the "Home" timeline. You may follow only those with whom you have strong connections. If they are active, your home timeline will be busy. You may choose to track others having your interests by using #hashtags and encouraging others to use them. Then you can watch that hashtag by pinning a column for it. Then you don't have to follow those people directly, letting the hashtag column for their occasional topical posts. Unfortunately, not everybody uses hashtags routinely. It's a user preference to do so.
You get to choose who you want to follow. You control who follows you. You get to block individuals from following you. You can even set up your account to only allow someone to follow you by asking you. Your experience is yours to choose. In addition, community/server administrators select people they trust to assist in moderating the posts allowed on the server, counseling, educating and, if needed, chastising and ultimately banning some users in order to keep conversations civil, supportive and inclusive. Racist, sexist, and intentionally harmful posts can be reported by any individual user. Those who refuse to the community/server code of conduct will not be allowed to post.
If you wish, you may even decide to further segregate your conversations, joining two or more servers and using those accounts to talk only about topics of interest to that server/community. I have NOT done that, but know some who swear by the multiple-account approach.
You do not need to pay to join or to post. Individuals do have the opportunity through services like Patreon or Liberapay to offer voluntary support for their server, helping to offset the costs of running the service. You make that decision on your own.
To avoid the Twitter term "tweet", posts are wryly called "toots". To send a post, that's the button you click. I still call them posts, of course. Hovering over each icon will show you what controls are available. You can see that my example post still has room for over 400 more letters.
Current NatickFOSS Mastodon Users:
(If you wish to add your name going forward, let me know.)
- Algot Runeman - https://mastodon.art/@algot
- Dennis Payne - https://social.freegamedev.net/channel/dulsi
- Bill Ricker - https://mastodon.radio/@n1vux
- Bill and Dave both think well of their choice of server. Both are amateur radio enthusiasts.
Recommending servers is tricky. I'll work on it, but would welcome feedback.
Photography has come up at almost every NatickFOSS meeting.
photog.social is a server/community with that focus. I'll use it as an example. There are a couple of useful web pages which each server can display which can help you judge the community.
- The "About" page photog.social/about shows basic stats for the community and the Code of Conduct. Read that. It is important!
- The "Public" page photog.social/public lets you see the kind of posts being made.
Fostodon.org is a possibility for NatickFOSS people, dedicated to the same topic. The Code of Conduct is here: COC. Please note the "Free Speech" reference, and understand that almost all Mastodon/Fediverse communities do NOT want users and their posts to be rude or hateful...too commonly couched as free speech.
mastodon.technology is an another to check out. The link is to the rules page.
Jill Miller specifically asked about gardening and plant friendly servers. I put the question out to the fediverse itself. Quickly, some other Fediverse folks "boosted" my request. And some answers, so far:
Another reply included another pathway, called the "Trunk" a community-contributed server which includes opt-in lists of users by category.
These are the links from the screenshot: Gardening and Plants.
joinmastodon.org is the "official" way to get started, if you don't already have a community chosen. I believe it is run by the Mastodon software team as a way to guide people away from the main Mastodon.social, so as to spread people out into a broader network of connected (federated) servers/communities.
instances.social is another way, created by a programmer interested in the federated community ideals.
- Wikipedia Article containing list of software using ActivityPub
- As I understand it, some banned users with Nazi tendencies forked the Pleroma server to create GAB. Those servers have often/(always?) been de-federated by other, gentler communities.