Michael McCallister

Michael McCallister has more than 20 years of experience as a technical writer. He is passionate about simplifying complex tech topics for novices.

Articles From Michael McCallister

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3 results
How to Pick a Mastodon Server

Article / Updated 08-03-2023

Listen to the article:Download audio Mastodon is a decentralized social media platform that's made up of thousands of separate computers (also known as servers or instances) that have all agreed to speak the same language and share certain data. When you create your Mastodon account, you get a username, which will be tied to one of these servers. Each server in the network has its own personality — and some servers pride themselves in having no particular personality. Every server is free to join, although some may be closed to new accounts or may require that you get on a waiting list. The most difficult part of getting a Mastodon account is choosing which server to join. Fortunately, there's a Mastodon web page (shown in the image below) to help you sort through your options. You can sign up for Mastodon using the app or the website. However, signing up on the website — on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone — is easier than signing up with the app. Your very first step in getting Mastodon is to go to the Join Mastodon page. Then, click the "Get the App" link to use the app or click "Create Account" to use your web browser. Both the website and the app are free, and creating your account on one allows you to use all the features of both. If you click "Get the App," you'll be taken to a screen where you can choose to go to the Apple App Store (to download the iPhone app) or to Google Play (to download the Android app). Once you get to the app store, download and install the Mastodon app as you would with any app. Because Mastodon is based on a free and open standard, there are many apps to choose from to use Mastodon. Start with the official one, which is called Mastodon. Browsing your options When you visit the Join Mastodon page and click the "Create Account" button, you'll be taken to the Servers page, which is shown below. Many more Mastodon servers than the ones you see when you scroll down this page are available. However, the servers on joinmastodon.org follow certain rules known as the Mastodon Server Covenant, which is an agreement by the server's owner to work to keep the server free of hate speech, to back up their data daily, to have a person on call to deal with technical issues with the server, and to give users of the server at least three months’ notice before shutting down the server. Because these servers have agreed to the Server Covenant, they are seen as trustworthy, stable, and safe places to serve as your home in the Mastodon universe. Although you can't go wrong with any of the instances listed on the servers page, some will be a better fit for you than others — and that's what makes Mastodon so cool! Spend some time browsing through the different servers listed here. Note that you have several options for filtering the results — including by geographical region and topic (listed on the left side of the screen) and by legal structure, sign-up speed, and language (selected from drop-down lists at the top), as shown below. Once you've found a server or two that sound like places where you'd like to hang out and call your home base, the first potentially make-or-break characteristic of the server is the sign-up speed, which is how fast it will take for you to get an account. Understanding sign-up speed When you browse the list of servers, you'll see two types of buttons: "Apply for an Account" button and "Create Account." The "Create Account" button means that the server has instant signup: You can have a new account on that server in the amount of time it takes for you to choose a username and a password. Servers with an "Apply for an Account" button require that new accounts be approved by an administrator. This approval may take only a few minutes or a day. If you're super-excited to start using Mastodon, go with one of the servers that have the blue "Create Account" button. Don't worry too much about picking the perfect server. Choosing a server doesn't have to be permanent. You can move your account (and all of your followers!) to another server easily after you sign up. Reading the rules Regardless of whether you choose to apply for an account or go with a server that has instant account creation, check out the rules of your chosen server before you commit. To see a server's rules, first click the "Create Account" or "Apply for an Account" button to go to the server. Once on the server, you'll see a description of the server on the left, with the name of the server administrator and the number of users. Below the server information, click "Learn More" to read more about the server, including its code of conduct, which describes the guidelines for how users are expected to behave while using the server. Rather than having a complicated set of rules that try to make the greatest number of people happy and end up pleasing no one (such as what centralized platforms like Twitter and Facebook must do), each Mastodon server sets specific rules and the conduct expected from users. If you don't like the code of conduct on one server, check out other servers until you find one with a code of conduct more in keeping with your beliefs. Previewing a server When you sign up using a web browser, many of the servers listed at joinmastodon.org allow you to browse the content on the server before joining. If you click to the server and see posts, rather than immediately seeing a sign-up or login page, you've come to one of these. To see the content posted by the local users of the server, click the "Local" link on the right side of the page. The posts listed under "Local" are by people who would be your neighbors if you were to join this server. Are they talking about things you're interested in? If so, this may be the perfect server for you! Meeting the admin Another way to choose a server is to find out more about the person running it. Every server prominently displays the person in charge of keeping the server running and enforcing the server's rules. Click their profile from the server's home page or from the server's "About" page to read more about them and to see the things they're interested in and what they post. On Mastodon, the admin sets the tone for the server. If the admin seems like someone you'd like to hang out with, that's a good indication that you've found a home. Seeing why smaller is better A server might have just a handful of members to many thousands. Servers with a smaller number of users are vital to keeping the entire universe interesting and avoiding a monoculture. Smaller servers also tend to have stronger personalities than larger servers. And smaller servers are often less prone to slowing down because they're less likely to get a lot of traffic. Because every server allows access to the other servers, you have nothing to lose by going with a smaller one. In the same way that you're more likely to make friends in a small community group versus an international club with millions of members, joining a smaller Mastodon server makes you a bigger fish because the pond is smaller.

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How to Find Your Twitter Followers on Mastodon

Article / Updated 02-17-2023

Listen to the article:Download audio As Mastodon has become more popular, millions of people have flocked to it from Twitter. Perhaps you, too, first heard about Mastodon on Twitter. As a migrant from Twitter to Mastodon, you're in good company. Finding members of your Twitter flock on Mastodon isn't difficult, and it's a great way to get a head start with building a following. If someone considered you follow-worthy on Twitter, they will on Mastodon, too. Several tools have been created for finding Mastodon accounts of your Twitter followers. If you haven't deleted your Twitter account, you can use any (or all) of these tools. Using Twitodon to find friends on Mastodon One service to help you find your Twitter followers on Mastodon is Twitodon. This site works by linking to your Twitter account and your Mastodon account and comparing the list of accounts you follow on Twitter with accounts on Mastodon that have also used Twitodon. If matches are found, Twitodon will give you a file you can import into your Mastodon account. Follow these steps to use Twitodon: Make sure you're logged into both your Twitter account and your Mastodon account. Go to Twitodon and click the link under the "Get Started" header to log into your Twitter account. A window opens, asking you to authorize Twitodon to access your Twitter account. Click the button to authorize Twitodon. You return to Twitodon and its Step 1 has been crossed off. Enter your Mastodon server's address (including the https://) in the field under Twitodon's Step 2, as shown in Figure 1, and then click Sign In. For example, if your Mastodon account is on mastodon.social, you'd enter https://mastodon.social. A screen appears asking you to authorize Twitodon to access your Mastodon account. Click Authorize. You return to Twitodon and Step 2 has been crossed off. Watch the number of scanned users go up as Twitodon processes the list, as shown in Figure 2. We hope the number of matches found go up as well! Because Twitodon can find only users who have also used Twitodon, don't be surprised if it doesn't come back with many or any results. The good news is that as more people migrate from Twitter and use Twitodon, it will be able to make more matches! So, it may be a good idea to try Twitodon again every so often as long as you keep your Twitter account. When Twitodon finishes scanning, click the link in Twitodon's Step 3 to download a list of the matches that were found. Twitodon's Step 4 (revoking Twitodon's authorization to access your Twitter followers) is optional, and we're going to skip it. Doing so will make it easier to come back and check Twitodon periodically in the future. Click the link under Twitodon's Step 5 to go to the Import page on your Mastodon instance, or click Preferences, Import and Export, and then Import. You see a screen similar to the one in Figure 3. Under Import Type, choose Following List (it should be selected by default). Choose the Merge radio button (which should also be selected by default). Merging means that you'll still follow everyone you follow on Mastodon before you import the matches found by Twitodon. Click the Choose File button and locate the file you downloaded from Twitodon. The file is named new_mastodon_follows.csv and should be in your Downloads folder. Click the Upload button on Mastodon's Import page. After a moment, you'll see a message that your file was uploaded and will be processed. Depending on the size of the file you imported, it may take a few minutes or longer for the file to be processed and for the new users to be imported. After a few minutes, go to your profile page and check whether your following number has gone up. As you follow the people you followed on Twitter, they'll get notifications and some of them may decide to follow you back. Using Fedifinder Fedifinder can scan your entire Twitter account, including accounts you follow, accounts that follow you, and your Twitter lists to find Twitter users who list their fediverse address in their Twitter profiles. Because it scans your lists and followers and doesn't depend on matched users already having used it, Fedifinder is more likely to find results than other automated programs for finding other Mastodon users. Follow these steps to use Fedifinder: Make sure you're logged in to both Twitter and Mastodon. Go to Twitter and edit your Twitter profile to add your fediverse address in one of the following places: The description The location The website address You can add your Mastodon address also to a pinned Tweet. Your fediverse address is your Mastodon server name followed by a slash, followed by your Mastodon username. It's the same as the link to your profile page on your instance. For example: hachyderm.io/@chrisminnick. Go to Fedifinder again and click the Authorize Twitter button at the top of the screen. Follow the instructions to authorize Fedifinder to access your Twitter data. Fedifinder scans your Twitter account to find fediverse addresses and starts showing you the results, as shown in Figure 4. Scroll down the page and click the link next to any Twitter lists you follow, and then click the Scan Followers link. After all the scans have finished, click the Export CSV with Found Handles link. CSV, short for comma-separated values, is a way of storing lists of data in text files so they can be imported into other systems. Go to the Import page on your Mastodon instance (click Preferences, Import and Export, Import) and import the resulting file (fedifinder_account.csv) in the same way you imported the file from Twitodon. Inviting friends and family If you have a fairly large Twitter following and follow a large number of Twitter accounts, you may have acquired some new followers and follows from using Twitodon and Fedifinder. But not everyone you want to follow is on both Mastodon and Twitter. To get more people to join you on Mastodon, you need to invite them. Mastodon makes inviting people to join your Mastodon server easy. Plus, when you use Mastodon's invite feature to invite people, signing up will be easier for them than it was for you because the link you give them will take them directly to the same local server you use. If your server allows users to create invitations, you can get an invitation link by clicking Preferences and then Invite People. You'll see the Invite People page, which is shown in Figure 5. The Invite People page allows you to create individual links, limited-use links, and links that expire. Unless you want to have a limited number of followers or you want to be able to track who uses which links, the best way to use Invite People is with the following settings: Set Max Number of Uses to No Limit Set Expire After to Never Select the Invite to Follow Your Account check box Once you've configured these settings, click the Generate Invite Link button. A text box with an invitation address appears, as shown in Figure 6. Tap or click the Copy button to copy this link. Here are a few ideas for how you can use your Invite link: Paste it into a post on Facebook. Put it in your profile on Twitter. Paste it into your Instagram profile. Email it to your friends and family and tell them to join you on Mastodon. Send it in a text message. Add it to a website you own. When someone follows the link on their phone, tablet, or computer, they'll see the same sign up page you saw when you first signed up for Mastodon. Plus, when someone signs up using your link, you'll find out about it, the number of uses next to your invite link will go up, and you'll gain a follower!

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Mastodon For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-16-2023

Listen to the article:Download audio Even though thousands of people join Mastodon every day, the number-one concern of new users is that they can't make the shift over from Twitter entirely because many of the people they follow on Twitter haven't set up a Mastodon account yet. Here, you discover some of the best ways to start meeting and engaging with new people on Mastodon. Another concern of new Mastodon users is that it's different from using other social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. At first, these differences may seem difficult to adapt to. But with the tips covered here, using Mastodon will soon become second nature.

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