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---
title: "Mastodon quick start guide"
date: 2018-08-19
draft: true
author: nico
categories:
- Guides
tags:
- mastodon
---
So you want to join Mastodon and get tooting. Great! Here's how to dive straight in.<!--more-->
### Let's start with the basics. What is this?
Mastodon is a microblogging platform akin to others you may have seen, such as Twitter, but instead of being centralised it is a federated network which operates in a similar way to email.
Like email, you choose your server and whether it's Gmail, Outlook, iCloud, wherever you sign up you know you'll be able to email everyone you need to so long as you know their address.
> The word "instance" is often used on Mastodon as a synonym of server.
This means there's no big uncaring company running it all, no shareholders, no central control, none of the targeted advertising we're all fed up with, just a bunch of people sharing the things they want to share with each other.
### Where do I sign up?
The first thing you have to do is choose your instance. This sounds like a hassle but it's actually pretty great.
Like with email, your identity includes the server you log in to. So for example, I joined mastodon.social so to mention me you can type @nico@mastodon.social in your post. It's not as unwieldy as it sounds because the user interface doesn't show the instance name when it's not helpful (like when reading conversations) and puts it in when necessary (like when you reply to someone's post from another instance) and you'll find it's not a problem when you're chattering away.
If what you want to talk about most fits into a clear category (maybe it's video games or art or queer life or coding or fiction or whatever) then it might be worth making your first instance one where that will primarily host that sort of content - it'll be easier to make connections and find like-minded folk. Some consider your instance to be like a neighbourhood or a venue where the general chatter can have a specific focus.
> The local timeline is the live stream of public posts on your particular instance.
If you aren't here to stick mainly to one topic, you'll likely want to pick an instance that caters to general interests. Either way, there's a helpful instance picker tool on https://joinmastodon.org.
Don't panic! Most instances federate with most others and you'll be able to chatter to people across the fediverse. Remember, this is like email and you can still email your mum on her ancient yahoo account from your gmail, for example.
In time, you might find yourself wanting an account on another instance, whether that means moving your primary account or having a secondary account for a certain aspect of yourself. This is normal behaviour on the fediverse and nothing to worry about. People are completely used to seeing the occasional post like this:
{{< mastodon "https://divad.xyz/@zyx/100582487377045070" >}}
### Knowing your instance
Take a moment before registering to check out the rules of your chosen instance and make sure they are compatible with how you want to be tooting.
> Posts on Mastodon are called "toots".
Instance rules are usually to be found at /about/more on that domain, for example https://mastodon.social/about/more for mastodon.social. This page also tells you who the admin of an instance is. Most (possibly even all) instances set you up following the admin when you sign up. This is great, it means you know who to ask if you run into problems and you can receive instance-specific announcements (like when the software is being upgraded or something) and in general it's great to know who runs the server you're on.
Admins are super friendly people who are usually running the instance out of their own pocket so it's good to get to know them like you would a landlord maybe. Many accept donations to cover the running costs and if you're able to contribute then it's always appreciated.
### I think I found my new home!
Head to the homepage of your instance and choose your username and password. You'll need an email address to register.
Next thing to do is upload your profile picture, give the settings page a good once-over (and do come back to it when you've been on Mastodon a week or so just to make any tweaks that might help your experience) and get ready to introduce yourself.
Hashtags are a really important thing on Mastodon. In fact, they are the only part of the content of toots that is searchable. So if you want to be found by people who are looking for toots about photography it's best to include #photography.
> For multiple word hashtags, please use camel case #LikeThisGoodHashtag not #likethisbadhashtag for accessibility reasons.
So for your first toot, a great idea is to post a short #introduction giving some information about yourself and what your interests are and what you'll be talking about on Mastodon. That's also a great hashtag to search, you'll find lots of other people new to the network and many will care about the things you do.
### A quick tour of the web interface
The standard Mastodon interface has multiple columns rather than a single feed. You can move or remove these at your leisure.
Home is all the toots in chronological order of the people you're following. It includes the toots of people on your instance and on other instances. Some people like to disable boosts in this column so they just see what their follows themselves say. That option is there if you click the settings button on the top right of the column.
Notifications does what it says on the tin. Again, this is across the fediverse. The settings button (top right) has a range of options for this column. You may want to turn off the "boop" sound, for example.
Local timeline is the live feed of all the toots of people on your instance. On many instances, particularly smaller ones and ones focused on a particular topic, this is where the magic happens. You can reply to people from there and it's a great place to meet people.
The federated timeline is the firehose of all the public toots your instance knows about from across the whole network. This column can often be pretty crazy. I enjoy setting that column to show only toots with media, hiding boosts, then seeing a constant stream of daft selfies, hot memes, and funky art.
You can also pin a column for a hashtag you're interested in - just search for that hashtag and then in the column settings choose "pin" and done.
### Using content warnings
One of the best features on Mastodon is that button that says "CW" where you write your toots. Clicking that adds a content warning field where you can put information about what the toot contains (eg. mental health, politics, lewd talk, nudity) so that people don't have to see content they wish to avoid, for whatever reason.
A common convention is to put +, -, or ~ in a content warning to signify if the contents are broadly positive, negative, or mixed respectively.
My advice is simple: if you're not sure whether a toot needs a CW or not, give it a CW. People really appreciate it and it doesn't do any harm to be too cautious and too respectful of others.
You can also use a CW to summarise a long post. Maybe you'll think of other uses for it. Have fun.
name = "Nico"
[social]
mastodon = "https://mastodon.social/@nico"
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