Fediverse (Mastodon and friends)

I haven't quite baled on Twitter but I'm finding the Fediverse more interesting so I've collected together some stuff about it that might be helpful to others (initially aimed at the #CouchPeloton).

I am currently @markrprior@ohai.social but that's changed once already.

Interesting Fediverse instance facts

I'm relatively new to the Fediverse and so was a little annoyed when I changed instances and discovered that my new instance had a 500 character post limit whilst my previous one had a 1500 character limit. When I queried this I was told it was the "standard" so I wondered how common larger limits were in the Fediverse. It's not something that appears on the "About" page of an instance so it's hard to discover before joining an instance but I discovered that it's available through the Mastodon API so that clients can format toots correctly. This motivated me to create a page to scan a number of instances and collect the data together in one place.
As the original list grew longer and longer I started to wonder about all the different pieces of software makes up the Fediverse. Fediverse and Mastodon seem to be used interchangeably in the media but it was clear that's not true as I started looking. The nodeinfo API supplies the name and version number of most instances so it's easy to pull that data and work out what it out there. Some of it is obviously people giving their Mastodon instance some other name after tweaking it but there are a number of different projects too. This doesn't mean that they can all communicate meaningfully with each other or that the booming collection of Mastodon apps can interact with them but I tried listing them anyway.
After I started creating this list someone on Mastodon mentioned that the number of poll elements was hardcoded so I was curious to see if admins had changed that value. When Mastodon 4.0 was rolled out translation appeared but it's optional and not a universally deployed feature so I added that to the table too.
The Mastodon v2 API includes an active user count as does the NodeInfo API that most of the Fediverse uses. Not all instances populate the "active in the last month" count though so the active count is definitely an under count of the users that have been active in the last month.
The lists are currently being updated manually as I play with it and suggestions for additions are welcome.

Some observations of Mastodon for the CouchPeloton

OK let’s start with the elephant in the room [sorry, not sorry], which server to choose? I suspect that a lot of the Australian CouchPeloton have landed on aus.social for no other reason than other couchies are there and that pretty much sums up the server/instance concept. It would seem that originally it was a number of “tribes” that collected together to share experiences, provide support, etc. A fine idea if you identify with a single tribe, but a bit harder if you don’t or come from the monolith of Twitter. The Fediverse is like the email system. There are huge systems like Gmail and tiny ones like mine but I can send and receive email from someone on Gmail. Yes I suppose we’re a tribe and it could be fun to have our own couchpeloton server but we’re also a diverse bunch and it seems like a lot of hard work (and an expense) to me.
A server will provide a “local” feed that is basically what people on that server are sharing. That might be very focused on a single topic on a “small” server with a specific targeted audience but on a large generalist server it’s going to be a firehouse. The server also contains a profiles directory. Again helpful on a small focused server but not so much as it gets big. There is a search function that can be hit or miss in finding people. Works OK if the person is on the same server as you but can struggle if they aren’t.
The server you use also controls “the rules". There are moderators trying to keep the peace. The most obvious way is cutting off or restricting other servers from communicating with the one you are on. You might see a notification for someone who wants to follow you but needs your approval. This is because they are on a server that the moderators haven’t cut off completely but they think there is some undesirable activity there (maybe one or two bad actors). This means you get the chance to say yes/no to the person being allowed to see your posts. Then there are the sites that are just outright banned. You can go to the “About” section of your server to see a list of these servers. If you have a friend on one of these servers then you won’t be able to follow them or see their posts.
If you don’t like the rules, or the server doesn’t seem to be supported, etc., then you can move to another server as you’re not locked in to the first one you picked and the system seems to leave breadcrumbs behind so someone who has your old address can find you.

Content Warnings

There are content warnings. When I joined there were a lot of content warnings and it really bugged me so I turned them off (see your preferences) but I’m not the target audience for them, and if I get annoyed by topics I will find a way to filter them. I really don’t know how far to go with using them to assist others. I put a warning on a wildlife image that hadn’t ended well for one of the participants as that was visual but warnings on text seems harder for me. I saw this on another site “Consider adding content warnings to your posts about controversial subjects or commonly-held phobias” but what is controversial? Using hashtags and then allowing people to filter based on them seems a better solution but maybe content warnings are based on a lot of experience in comparison to filters. It also maybe a techie person versus a non techie issue so perhaps do both and help both.

Alt Text

While I’m still pretty crap at describing my images put alt text on your images as this makes it a better experience for folks using screen readers. There are preference settings that you can enable to force you to do it, and a bot that will nag you. @Cat_LeFey@pagan.plus provided these top 10 tips as a transcriptionist:
  1. Any words are better than nothing.
  2. You don't need to say it's "a picture of…" because the screen reader will announce it with those words, so it will sound like "image image of a cat." Not a big deal, just sounds a little odd. Instead, I suggest starting with the format (photograph, portrait, chart, Facebook screenshot, text, all of these are good!)
  3. Start with the framing or format (i.e. close up, landscape, meme, text).
  4. Think about the reason you're posting the pic and describe that first, add background details if you have time.
  5. Pretend you're talking to someone on the phone and want to tell them about this cool thing you're looking at.
  6. Transcribe any and all text in the image, even if it's the only thing you do.
  7. If you've described the image in your post, you don't need to copy and paste it again in the caption. But again, don't leave it blank, just put something like "as described."
  8. You can add small subjective notes, but don't give too much interpretation of the image in your own opinion.
  9. Caption jokes are fun, as long as they still describe the image objectively.
  10. Use punctuation, and capitalise words properly. When a screen reader comes across a comma or period, it takes a little pause, to mimic natural speech. So just put commas and periods where you would naturally pause when speaking. And if you, like, use too many, it's better than not using enough. Capitalize after a period, then use caps sparingly. Capitals are read out letter by letter, so ask yourself if that's how you want them read. A lot of us have interacted with this tech when calling customer service or talking to Siri, so keep in mind that you're writing for a computer to read, and it needs all the help it can get.


For similar accessibility reasons use CamelCase for HashTags. I've seen some folks suggest to put the hashtags in a block under the text rather than embedded in the text but I have no experience with screen readers so I don’t know if this is really better or not. If you want anyone to find things you post then hashtags should be on your posts. Some hashtags can be fire hoses so try to be specific to get better responses. Also “boost” posts that you think are interesting and you want your followers to see them in their timeline (remember there is no black box algorithm boosting posts, you are that algorithm), favourite only hat-tips the poster and doesn't make it more visible.
You can follow hashtags if you are on a Mastodon server running 4.0 or better code so if you see a post with a hashtag you want to follow then click on that hashtag and the follow it by clicking on the "+".

Quote tweet

There is no simple way to do it so if you were using that on Twitter to republish content and target it at the #CouchPeloton then you’re going to have to come up with another way.


It would seem if you reply to a post but remove all the @user bits then you create what looks like a thread on Twitter. You might want to adjust the visibility of the subsequent posts so that if you pin the thread it shows the first public one rather than the last one.

Social Graph

Also of note that some people turn off access to their social graph (in preferences) and this means you can’t see who they follow or their followers. You don’t get a warning when you try to access these lists so it can appear that something is broken. Also when you try this to someone not on your server you will get a list of the other people on your server that follow or are followed by the person but it’s not the full list (and it can be empty). For some reason the server needs you to follow a link yourself to the other server rather than automatically do this work for you. On the web this will open a new window/tab on the other server and you might be confronted with a blank list anyway if the user has turned off access to their lists. This is privacy in action and not a bug (except for the lack of diagnostics which makes it confusing).

Information about your instance

In the bottom left of the web interface is some useful information about the server you are connected to, including a pointer to their "about" page that will include the local rules and a list of the restricted servers. Some instances include the reason why they have restricted another instance.
Also it includes the version number of the Mastodon code being used, you want one running at least 4.0 to follow hashtags.

Finding people from Twitter

If you are trying to find people you follow on Twitter on Mastodon then try these tools.
They look at the Twitter profiles of your followers and who you follow for Mastodon account names.
Clearly running it just once isn't enough, keep coming back to it.
Also add your Mastodon account to your Twitter profile (or change your name) so people can use this tool to find you!.

More information

As Twitter, and more so Musk, does more weird things Mastodon has been getting more press and so it is easier to find more information about it. This article https://tidbits.com/2023/01/27/mastodon-a-new-hope-for-social-networking/ is worth reading if you want an introduction.
The increase in interest has caused some app developers brush the dust off their code and add new feature, as well as more apps appear. The banning of 3rd party Twitter apps has meant that at least one of the companies producing one has also turned their attention to Mastodon.
Some iOS based Mastodon apps:
  • Mastodon – the "official" app
  • Toot! – recently upgraded to Mastodon v4
  • Tooot –
  • Metatext – development currently paused
  • Tootle – development stalled?
  • Tusker –
  • Ice Cubes – open source
  • Ivory – Tapbots (maker of Tweetbot) entry, still a work in progress
  • Mammoth –
  • Mastoot -
  • Trunks - Currently under TestFlight; supports markdown based posts
  • Mona Beta - Currently under TestFlight
  • Woolly – Currently under TestFlight

Moving to a new instance

Some may have noticed that I moved instance and might have wondered how hard it was so here's a brief thread.
  • It seems painless enough but it's not automatic so this is what I should have done (rather than what I did, which led to some pain)
  • Create the new account on the new instance. This may be automatic or you may need to be approved but wait it out and don't do anything until you can access the new account in addition to the old one
  • The only thing automatic about the process is moving your followers and adding a warning that you have moved so collect your stuff and setup the new account. This means adding the profile pic, banner, display name, bio, etc.
  • Basically go through your old profile and make sure you change the stuff your changed in the old one. Don't touch the follows and followers just yet.
  • If you use Filters and/or Lists then you will need to manually recreate them. Lists can be exported but not imported so the data export for them seems worthless
  • The import function under "import and export" allows you to import a CSV file for your following list, and bookmarks (plus block, mute and domain blocking lists) so go to "data export" and export those things from your old account. Make sure you set the dropdown list correctly when importing them again!
  • Also request your archive if you want a copy
  • I seemed to lose some of the people I followed in this process so if/when I do this again I'd at least check that the number of accounts in the following lists are the same.
  • Once you've reached this point you should be ready to move so back to the edit profile section again and at the bottom there is "moving from a different account". On your new account click this and link back to the old one
  • This didn't seem to immediately trigger anything (which could have been a load problem) but go to the old account and click on "move to a different account" and wait for it to notice the redirect
  • Enter the handle for the new account and the password for the old one and click move followers. This will migrate your followers and install a pointer to the new account in the old one
  • I don't know what happens if your old account is in anyone's list but I guess that's for them to check when they notice you've changed instance
  • Hopefully you should be migrated (note old posts don't move) and you should be good to go. Don't forget to add 2FA to the new account.