Despite my recent post complaining about Mastodon, I do like the idea of it and I want it to succeed… so I decided to give it another try.
The hardest part, as always, is finding a server/instance – my interests are somewhat varied, so I didn’t want to join a server focused on just one thing and then possibly get in trouble later on for posting unrelated stuff. So I decided to go with a more general themed server.
I also wanted to choose one that was going to last – the first Mastodon instance I joined up and vanished on me without warning, and I didn’t want to go through that again. So I had to choose one I thought would still be around (or at least give some warning before shutting down).
Finally, I wanted one that had a good moderation policy. There’s a sort of informal standard policy called the Mastodon Covenant, which includes some ground rules for a good experience (no harassment, more than one person with emergency admin access, and a promise to give notice before shutting down), so I looked for instances that followed these rules.
Despite all this, it is still rather hard to find instances – decentralization means that there’s no master list you can just search; even the “official” Mastodon site only lists a few dozen instances. Yet, in the end, I made my choice and joined mastodon.sdf.org – and yes, part of that was just because their logo has a bunny in it – where you can find me as @email@example.com.
It’s still rather tricky to find users that you used to follow on other sites (unless they list their accounts in their profile) – as far as I can tell, there’s no easy way to search for users, and you have to include their server/instance in your search or you won’t find anything (since instances are independent, you can have the same user name on multiple instances – thus, in reality, your “full” user name must necessarily include the instance domain name).
The app experience also isn’t great – on iOS (which is what I use) there are plenty of nice looking apps, but they all work a little differently, and none of them have any sort of autocomplete or intelligence to help make user searching easier. Essentially, to find someone who isn’t on the same instance as you, you have to search for them using a full URL – e.g., https://mastodon.sdf.org/@keithius – and needless to say this is tedious to type out on mobile devices.
The desktop experience isn’t much better. On Windows, there are a few apps, but most people just say “use the web interface,” which isn’t much help. But maybe things will improve with time.
So, for now, I’ll give Mastodon another shot – we’ll see how it goes.