Mastodon: an update

Thought I’d give an update on my experience with Mastodon. There have been few more lessons learned since the first post.

On Saturday, after thinking about it for several days, I decided I needed to try a new server. Many of the servers in the Mastodon space are experiencing growing pains due to the influx of new users, but mine seemed particularly unreliable. It was hit or miss whether it would be up when I went to it, it was slow when it was, and I was seeing what looked like a lot of web service call failures in the UI.

The problem was, which server to try? You can move your account but it’s not a trivial thing to do. A lot of people fret about joining the right server for them, but my interests are varied and scattershot, and my inclination was to look for something general that is well run rather than focus on identity or ideology.

One server that had caught my eye was Universeodon, I’ll admit partially for its science and philosophical themes, but also because it’s in North America, as well as this post from George Takei from that server, which gave the impression he wasn’t feeling any of the pain I was. I poked around on the server’s public interface, decided its quick responsiveness was a good thing, and made the move.

One tool I didn’t come across until after I’d already moved was, which in its advanced lister shows all (or most of) the Mastodon instances (servers) out there, and provides scores, what version of Mastodon they’re running, and their uptime percentage. I wish there was documentation on the grades it provides, but at least it’s independent information on the servers out there. My new server has an uptime of over 99%, while the old one is at 94%. (, the largest English speaking one out there, is at 88%.)

The site also has a wizard to help you choose a server, which I haven’t played with. My recommendation for anyone looking would be to peruse the servers at, and once you find one or two that look promising, check their stats on You want to see the most recent version of Mastodon listed (4.02 as of this post) and an uptime percentage as high as possible. (Although be aware that many of the servers with 100.000% uptime are new.)

Anyway, I seemed to have lucked out. The server I’m on appears pretty solid, at least for now.

I learned a few things in the server move. First, your posts don’t move over. The old posts don’t get deleted. They’re still out there on the old server, but your new profile doesn’t show them. This didn’t bother me too much, since I tend to see tweets and other social media as ephemeral anyway, but it’s not something I was initially aware of, and I can see a lot of people being unhappy about it.

Second, while your followers are automatically moved over, you have to manually export the accounts you’re following and import them on the new server. For some reason, my list wouldn’t import. I only had a few dozen at this point, so I eventually just added most of them manually. Someone I follow experienced the same issue on another server, and their list was too large to do manually. After multiple days, they got it imported, either because their server finally processed the uploaded file, or because one of their many repeated attempts finally clicked.

The problem is that importing involves uploading a file, then waiting for the server to process it. If it fails for any reason, you get no feedback other than seeing or not seeing your followed accounts. And my attempts to find help on this in several venues was mostly met with deafening silence. It does appear that someone is trying to improve the importing process, although their revision hasn’t been accepted yet. Hopefully this is an issue that will be resolved soon. I suspect Mastodon’s success will be somewhat dependent on making this process less onerous. (Note: update in the comments.)

Those issues aside, the number of people on Mastodon continues to increase, and I’m seeing more conversations happening there exclusively. Conversation there seems more natural, easier to engage in. At first I thought it might only be because of the people that have chosen to be there, but I actually do see some rude interactions, so it’s not like everyone is just mellow.

This New Yorker piece points out something important. Mastodon is antiviral. The UI buries the metrics associated with any particular post (number of favorites, boosts, etc). And while you can boost someone else’s post, you can’t quote-tweet it. Boosts are much more about the boostee than the booster, very different from Twitter’s retweets. All of which seems to discourage the kind of grand standing, conversation hijacking, and confrontational BS so common on Twitter. In other words, Mastodon is designed for conversing rather than performing, and it makes a difference.

The difference is particularly evident from a lot of the stuff that comes in from Twitter crossposting. It ends up being jarring in the Mastodon environment, which has resulted in some complaints. As a result, the most popular crossposting service now only crossposts retweets and quote-tweets as unlisted, so that they don’t show up in public feeds, and only people following the crossposters see them.

But I decided I didn’t even want to contribute to it that much, so now I’ve changed my settings not to crosspost retweets and quote-tweets at all. It can make for extra work, but since Mastodon boosts weren’t crossing over to Twitter anyway, not much more than I was already doing. And a fair amount I’m just not bothering to cross over.

There are some other Twitter alternatives being discussed like Hive and Post. Hive appears to be mobile only, and Post isn’t out yet. But Mastodon seems to be getting the most mindshare for now. (It’s reportedly gone from a few hundred thousand to two million users in the last month.) And Automattic, the company that runs WordPress, is talking about adding support for ActivityPub, the protocol used by Mastodon, to Tumblr, which would make Tumblr play with Mastodon. There’s also an ActivityPub plugin in development for WordPress. Hopefully it will be something supported by before too long.

That’s where I am right now with my Mastodon journey. Anyone else using it yet? Or any new thoughts on the Twitter situation?

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16 thoughts on “Mastodon: an update

  1. Ack. Sounds like I’m starting to miss content not being posted to Twitter. The main thing I need from that/those media is links to new ideas. Do you think that’s a consideration yet? If there has been any decline on Twitter, I haven’t noticed it yet.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wouldn’t say you’re missing much yet. Most people who put out that stuff are crossposting, and links posted on one side tend to get carried over by someone else. For now. I think most people are hedging their bets and staying on both.

      I have noticed a few hiccups. That 2FA issue affected me. (I happened to get a new phone right then, and signing into Twitter on it took several tries.) And yesterday the home page threw up random stuff completely unrelated to anything I follow, but it seemed to get resolved within a few minutes.

      The bigger issue is what Musk decides to do and how the people we’re most interested in respond.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve been in and around net biz since the mid 90’s, and a consistent pattern can be observed. Some technology will become the next BIG THING!! and everyone will get all excited. While the Big Thing is happening it seems like it will last forever. And then, after awhile, the “Big Thing Sucks!” pages start to appear. The fad pendulum swings, and everyone goes rushing off to the next Big Thing. The trick in net biz is to get in to these fads early, build like crazy, and then cash out before the fad collapses.

        Twitter and Facebook have been the Big Thing for awhile, and it appears their day in the sun is beginning to pass. I would go on to predict today’s social media sites in general will be the next to fall, but I’m too bias on that subject to have confidence in that prediction. Zuckerberg is pumping billions in to VR, so he seems to think that will replace platforms like Facebook.

        The deeper danger here, which will take some time to play out, is that after trying 34 Big Things, and still finding ourselves chronically bored, we may have to face that it’s not the platforms that are the problem, but us. When that happens, I predict the Amish will become the next Big Thing. You read it here first… 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

    2. For example…


    1. Yeah Mak, if you’re not a big Twitter user, then there isn’t that much of a draw. And things are a bit chaotic right now. I imagine there will likely be a lot of shuffling and settling in the next year or two, so you might be wise to wait.


  2. Thanks for your report Mike. Your posts are reminding me how alienated I am from social media platforms generally.

    I can tolerate Facebook so long as I use it for what it was intended for, a bit of casual chit chat, the sharing of photos etc. I have a friend on FB who regularly posts the photos she takes at her favorite nature spot, and it’s fun to see what she is up to. I’m subscribed to a number of surfing pages, and sometimes the photos and videos posted are, like, way totally awesome DEWD! 🙂

    I guess I just like typing too much. Endless feeds of little text blurbs just don’t get the job done here. But anyway, the people have spoken, and that’s what they want. Maybe it’s human beings that I’m alienated from?

    In my fantasy dream world which will never happen, I wish all science and philosophy people would close all their social media accounts all over the place, and come together in a single location where ongoing in depth conversations were the local custom. It’s seems nobody, especially not me, has the chops to pull off such a cat herding operation.

    I recently met a nice philosopher of science whose specific focus is encouraging engagement between that discipline and other academics, scientists, and the wider public. I wrote her to suggest a forum would be the most efficient way to bring all these parties together for intelligent conversations. I’ll probably never hear back from her.

    Oh well, what can I say? I guess it ain’t 1999 anymore. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Phil.

      Physically coming together for a forum is the traditional way of doing it. It’s why we have universities and academic conferences. The problem is that most of us have day jobs or lack the affluence to engage with that on a regular basis. One of the benefits of these social media networks is they allow the rest of us to see the conversations in progress, and even participate in them.

      But while Twitter enabled that, it always came with a lot of compromises. Its performance culture encouraged people to act in bad faith. And while many academics successfully resisted those impulses, enough of a minority didn’t to make the whole thing a very mixed bag. Mastodon seems to remove many of those incentives. Only time will tell if it works in the long run.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi again Mike. Right, agreed, physically coming together in the real world is highly inefficient, inconvenient and expensive, and in the era of climate change, bordering on a crime. It’s always weird when I read about people flying to climate change conferences.

        As you seen, my complaint with Twitter and similar sites is that while they bring people together, these platforms completely suck at facilitating intelligent in depth ongoing conversations. But I would have to agree that such platforms are providing the service that most people actually want, or such platforms wouldn’t have millions to billions of users. I would also agree that social media platforms are very well suited to a great many different social uses, just not the use which most interests me.

        Imho, the quality control problems you refer to can be addressed to a significant degree by establishing invitation only channels. As example, on an online forum the majority of the forum could be for invited guests only, while a section down at the bottom of the forum could be a spot for visitors to demonstrate that they merit an invitation.

        It seems to be a choice between quantity and quality. If one is looking for quantity, it’s true that’s what the social media sites excel at.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m with you on preferring WordPress type conversations to old school Twitter with its 140 character limit. The raise to 280 characters in 2017 allowed for better conversations, and the 500 in Mastodon helps a lot, but there’s something to be said for long form discussion.

      Thanks for sharing the video. I watched some of it last week. Some of the info from the guy answering is incomplete or outdated. (Possibly based on an older version.) For example, Mastodon has a lot more muting options than he implied. But it sounded like he got the broad strokes right.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Just a quick update about the import issues I discussed in the post. Apparently there was a bug that was resolved in an incremental update. My server admin applied it today and the import now works instantly. Anyone who encounters it on another server should poke their sysadmin.

    I’d still like to see the import process provide more feedback. Hopefully that’s coming.


  4. I ended up on Universodon as well! First, I liked the name. Second, the description said something about people who look at the universe with wonder, which made it sound like it would probably be my kind of community. And thirdly, I saw George Takai was there and he seemed really happy with it, which seemed like a good endorsement to me. Once I signed up, I was pleasantly surprised to see you were there, too. I’m still a little confused about a few things, but I’m feeling optimistic about Mastodon in general and Universeodon in particular.

    I’m also planning to play with some other social media platforms in the next few weeks, like Hive and CounterSocial. While most of the science and Sci-Fi people I follow are heading to Mastodon, it seems like a lot of writers and artists I know prefer one or both of those platforms. Also, I kind of put all my social media eggs in one basket with Twitter, and I don’t want to repeat that mistake.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s good to see you there! I think Univereodon is getting a lot of mileage from having Takai. Although the first person I noticed on it was Brian Cox. So far the experience with it remains good. It’s much more reliable than the server I was on before.

      Though I do worry about how high the user count is getting. It seems like the rapid surge in users is what caused trouble at my old server. But so far there’ve been few hiccups. (Aside from that import one which appears to be resolved now.)

      On being confused, the main thing to remember is that you can follow anyone on any server. Just paste their full username or the URL to their profile in Universeodon’s search field. Google Debirdify if you want to quickly find your Twitter contacts. You could also check out the site.

      One of the sci-fi authors I follow is on I actually thought it was a second Mastodon account she was keeping, but it wouldn’t come up when I tried to follow her. I didn’t realize it was an alternate platform. Interesting.


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