Twitter —> Mastodon

As I am on my way of migrating from Twitter to Mastodon, I have put together a few useful resources for people who are thinking about making the big jump or having troubles getting their head around Mastodon.

A few basics

Twitter and Mastodon are built around different metaphors. At first, it can be a little confusing . Here are the few tricks that helped me get my head around it:

  • tl;dr version: Mastodon isn't a website or a service. It is a protocol. A way to do something. It is a piece of software based on the ActivityPub standard that anyone can install and run a copy of. You don't open an account on Mastodon per se. You open a Mastodon account on a server which runs it. (See the end of this post for more info)
  • Think about Mastodon as the e-mail protocol. Some providers decided to become email providers, like Gmail or Protonmail. They allow you to open an account (the second part of your e-mail address reveals which platform you're using), they give you access to their servers by hosting your dear e-mails and making sure they reach you. With this e-mail address, you can communicate with other people who use different providers. Mastodon is basically the same: instances are like e-mail providers. Whichever instance you pick, you'll be able to communicate with any other user on any instance.
  • Since Mastodon is an open source protocol, people who install it are also free to tweak it the way they want. That's why depending on the instance, they can offer slightly different themes, functionalities or rules.
  • Mastodon promotes a decentralised mode. Each instance of Mastodon can survive on its own. Some open, some close every day and it does not affect the whole thing. Twitter would bring every single account down with them if they ever decided to shut down. Twitter is a service, Mastodon is a protocol.

Choosing the right instance

Instances differ:

  • by the way they look (themes) and by little functionalities like quoting toots or not, etc,
  • by the way they are moderated and the rules that apply: every instance can have its own code of conduct and allow different content or not,
  • by which other instances they blacklist (useful if you don't want to -ever- see specific content or people),
  • by who you'll find there: you'll have access to a local timeline made of all the toots of people who opened an account on the same instance as you. It can be really interesting to find an instance where people share the same interest than you for, let's say, RPGs or knitting.
  • by their reliability in time: wether big or small, some instances don't live forever. Some admins get fed up with the amount of work or just close it for costs reasons. If your instance shuts down, you'll have to create an account on another one. (I'm lacking sufficient knowledge here so far - to be updated!)

If you don't care who you'll find, what is the CoC or how they look, I'd suggest you try to find an instance where your language is spoken or related to your country / city / network / ecosystem.
I guessed from a few reads that going for the default one (mastodon.social) isn't that good in the end. Mastodon being decentralised, it's just better to encourage other instances than all squishing ourselves on one single instance.

Mourning your Twitter timeline / trying to find your Twitter followings on Mastodon

Yup. It's hard to leave 10+ years of timeline, followers and curated content behind for a blank account. Luckily, there are some resources to help ease the pain.

When you've retrieved the few people you used to follow, just go through their followings list on Mastodon to see if some cross-pollination can happen :)

Cross-posting

Cross-posting can be a good way to slowly get yourself to posting on both platforms, at least during your transition period. A lot of Mastodon users don't really like it, and it is understandable. Cross-posting encourages staying on Twitter and not really fully making the "leap of faith" to Mastodon. It is not the purpose of switching, right?

I support a progressive transition that respects people's emotions and implication. For a lot of us, Twitter has taken a big space in our digital life. I myself have spent more than 10 years curating people and tweets on a timeline. The benefits of such a long dedication are difficult to let go of in just a day. Leaving Twitter also means leaving a lot of people I like reading every day behind me, and it's hard. Also, staying on Twitter allows you to maintain a minimal presence to keep contact with said folks who did not switch yet and support the people about to switch through the process.

Having your own instance

If you are not sure which instance to choose, if you can't find the one for you, you can create your own. It requires a bit of technical savviness and a little investment because the hosting will be on you. Some providers do offer a one-click Mastodon install for as little as 5€ per month. You could totally open your own instance around your interests or just for your friends.

Articles and resources

A very good introduction and how-to:
https://medium.com/@GinnyMcQueen/toot-how-to-intro-to-mastodon-e5655bfa87d2

Lots of tips, tricks and tools in this toot:
https://mastodon.at/@switchingsocial/100566763317326469

A quite serious caveat to follow-up:
https://twitter.com/adrienneleigh/status/850061121184604160

  • Mastodon isn't a protocol, it's an implementation of a protocol called ActivityPub. Mastodon is just a microblogging-targeted implementation of it. Thanks Alda for the help!