Mastodon and the Fediverse
2022 December 22

I’ve recently got fed up with the standard centralized social media, so I joined Mastodon. Everything was feeling incredibly fake as of late. It’s hard to build real connection on the large sites. This is my experience joining the fediverse and tildeverse. I’ve always been interested in old school social networks like BBS, and the whole lore that surrounds them, so I decided to get more involved with Mastodon as hosted by SDF. I’ve had a shell account with them since 2016 and I’m sustaining member too. It’s nice to try out their other hosted applications.

Mastodon can be viewed as twitter but less stupid. It has a couple of feeds and the posts are called toots to differentiate them, but not much else changes. There’s no algorithm for your feed, if you don’t follow them then they won’t show up in your feed. In order to be widely seen you have to interact with people and see who they are following. It’s why boosting a post is so important. It’s the only way for a post to become wildly shared. There’s no way to pay to get seen, a member must interact to get discovered or traction.

Now you might think discovery is an issue, which you would be right. Users can follow other users or hashtags. However one would only see the posts under that hashtag that have been federated to your instance by the members follows. One can also discover interesting people through explore, local, and federated on the right side menu. Explore will give you a couple of different ways to explore like popular hashtags, and posts. It doesn’t update that frequently. Local is the latest posts from users on your instance. Federated are the newest posts received from other instances, it tends to be a fire hose.

I’ve found a bunch of interesting people in these sections, and you’ll find that its closer to a real time pulse on the community. My instance has a couple of interactive media professors and scientists doing cool things and talking about their research in public. Its hard to find that kind of conversation and mastodon makes it easy by being a niche platform.

Helping to Grow the Fediverse

The most important thing you can do is create a mastodon account and actively use it. Pick out a server that reflects your interests and start following people. There’s all kind of servers out there, some focused on a location, or just a general interest. Let’s make this platform feel alive and take back control.

It’s also important to make sharing stuff on mastodon as easy as possible so if you have a blog or website you should implement a share on mastodon button. Due to the nature of mastodon with separate federated servers, implementing a share link is more complicated than it should be. So I added a link to my site. Tootpick is a private proxy site for mastodon. Since a user may be a member of many instances it allows many servers to be remembered and used.

Adding a Tootpick Link

It’s super easy to add a tootpick link to your own site. There’s a single parameter sent in the fragment with the message body for the toot. This just has to uri encoded, which jekyll provides a filter for you ready made called uri_escape. To build an appropiate post body might look something like this:

{% capture mastodon_message %}
Check out {{ post.title }} at {{ site.url }}{{ page.url }}
{% endcapture %}

<!-- the link can then be set link so -->
<a href="{{ share_mastodon | uri_escape }}">Share on Mastodon</a>

I used a capture block to allow a longer default sharing message, since the content has to properly encoded and its hard to read otherwise.

Also you don’t have to link to, you could host the html page yourself and link internally. I just didn’t have any reason to right now.

Wrapping Up

Mastodon is a federated social network based on open source software and standards. It is a way of obtaining and experiencing a noncommercial internet. We can all do something to build the world we want and mastodon can help build the open positive world I want to see.

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Written by Henry J Schmale on 2022 December 22
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