How to improve your Mastodon experience

This is the second part of my journey into the fediverse. The first post was How to get started on Mastodon. This series is not a complete guide in any way, but hopefully it can help explain the differences between Twitter and Mastodon, and help you get to know the platform and make the best of it, perhaps by unlearning some twitterisms.

Search and Explore

It is a little bit more demanding to find content in the fediverse since there is no global free text search. You can search for #hashtags, since these are propagated – and that will help you find streams of content related to that specific tag.

On your current instance, # Explore gives you several tools. Explore Posts will show you the most starred / boosted posts on the instance. I wrote about this in the first post too, but here is a recap:

Hashtags will show hashtags that are gaining traction among people on this and other servers of the decentralized network right now.

News appear to show the most frequently starred or boosted posts that link to external content.

For you appear to suggest users – but I am not sure what the criteria for appearing on the lists are, or if there is an ordering to that list, or if it simply is the most followed users recently? I need to find out, I guess.

Exploring other servers

Sometimes, you may not know which tag is the right one to use, and then it may help to browse the instance server list to find servers you believe may have content that interests you. Go to the URL server.instance/explore (f.x. or to see the ongoing posts on a specific node without actually logging in on the node.

If you find users or hashtags that interest you, follow them from your own instance. This is not as smooth an operation as following on Twitter, because you need to manually search up users on other instances from your own instance, and then follow the user.

In other words:

  • Explore the instance
  • Find the user or tag
  • Copy the full user URL or @name@instance or tag
  • Go on your own instance and search for the user or tag
  • Follow

More on tags

If you are “life blogging”, you might not need to put tags in every post, but if you are posting about a skill, an interest, a hobby, something workrelated, or a specific topic shared by many – you should definitively take time to put in a tag. Some people overdo it, IMO, but your milage may vary, so who am I to judge. It makes your posts on the topic of those tags discoverable.

Viral posts

I enjoy good posts. Viral posts will propagate due to boosts, and people boost for various reasons. They may agree with the content and want more people to read it, or they thought the content was interesting and/or funny.

Some posts defintively deserve to go viral – but I honestly don’t miss the viral factory accounts from Twitter. Those that seek out weird or funny content and post a steady stream of “hits”, but never any personal content. I am sure they will appear eventually as some people are just online for entertainment.

But – if you are on Mastodon simply for marketing reasons, you will find it to be very different from Twitter. Personally, I like actual interaction, not just following a marketing drone account. Unless you actually contribute to the community and interact, it is less likely that your posts will gain viral traction.

Boost / Comment vs Quote tweets

Dialog vs Soapbox. Some people are calling for a “quote toot” as a parallel to quote tweets. Basically, a soap box post that refers to a different post, where you can opine the heck out of it, without necessarily exposing your opinion to the original poster – unless they bother to visit your quote post.

This is not the original nature of the fediverse. You are encouraged to share your opinion on the original thread – and if you enjoy the discussion – boost the original post.

My personal opinion? Dialogs are better than Soapboxes.

If you do need to soapbox it, copy the URL to the post you want to quote and paste it into a new post. It has the same effect as a quote and you can opine away. It might not work if the original poster has reduced the visibility of the their post. See “globe” under “Control your posts”.

Also – please don’t screenshot someone’s post and share the screenshot – that is sooo Twitterish. Again, dialog, dialog, dialog.

Control your posts

Use the visibility controls on the post to decide who can read or comment on the post.

There are several settings that can help other users to decide what to do with your post.

The three bars enable you to add poll entries. You decide how many entries up to a max of 4, and how many days the poll should run.

The globe gives you control over the visibility of the post.

  • Public – Visible for all
  • Unlisted – Visible for all, but opted out of discovery features
  • Followers only – Only the people that follow you will see it. If you combine this with having to approve people that follow you, you have full control over visibility
  • Mentioned people only – like DMs but potentionally with multiple people included

CW – Content Warning – This is almost like a topic classification. Let’s say that you use it as a topic, you can add CW’s “Personal”, “Political”, “Programming”, “Dad Jokes”, “My Cats” and other users may then click on a “Show less” button for each of these topics to allow them to reduce the number of posts they see from you on that topic. Unfortunately, you need to manually type in the content warning every time.

Finally, the “EN” indicates that your post will be in English. Please change this to the actual language of the post.

Control what you see

I’ve already mentioned that you can follow #hashtags, but what if the tags span too wide? Also, when looking at the Local and Federated posts streams, or the Lists streams, what if you want to filter out certain content?

Under Filters in your preferences, you can add specific filters that will prevent posts matching the filter from appearing in your streams.

This allows you to add or edit filters that can trigger on CW texts, tags, keywords, etc.

Naturally, you can modify or delete filters over time.

More settings

There are several tidbits under the Cogwheel preferences / settings page which you should familarize yourself with.

  • Automatic post deletion if you intend your posts to me of a more ephemeral nature
  • Filter languages to filter away languages you can see in public timelines

and there are other tools to help you manage your account.

Explore away!

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