You're not on Mastodon? All the cool kids are talking about it.
Don't worry. I've heard your cries (is a dinosaur sound called a cry?) and have some answers. Just be sure to join Mastodon before it goes extinct.
What is Mastodon?
Mastodon is a microblogging social network that's been around since October but only really took off these past few weeks.
Is Mastodon the social network affilated with Mastodon the band?
No, but Mastodon the band is happy to capitalize on Mastodon the social network's newfound buzz. The band has a new album out this week, and any time someone tweets about Mastodon the social network, the band is on it. Shameless. I'll probably @ Mastodon the band when this explainer gets published, even though Wikipedia tells me they have a concept album based on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, which is a hard pass.
I heard it's like Twitter. Is it like Twitter?
Sort of. Mastodon is open source and its creator describes it as a sort of federation. There are lots of Mastodon sites, or instances as they are called, and they can communicate with each other.
Where can I sign up to be on Mastodon?
Since Mastodon is open source, there are lots of instances out there. The original instance is closed because of the high volume of people trying to register, but you can join Mastodon from one of the other instances. Find them here.
The names for these instances look kind of…left wing.
If you are afraid of snowflakes, this is not a safe space. Mastodon is populated by many people looking to leave Twitter harassment behind, and they created their communities accordingly. So if you are for animal liberation or are an anti-capitalist, there is an instance for you.
What about handles?
Mastodon handles incorporate the name of the instance and the name of the user. So there is the http address of the instance; then your user name, which like a Twitter handle, starts with an @ and is followed by the name you chose. For example, James Jacobsen from PCMag's art department can be found at https://social.targaryen.house/@james_l_j.
Okay, I just signed up and it looks like it is several degrees of difficulty above Twitter.
It is more complicated to use than Twitter, but it has a certain similarity to Twitter client TweetDeck.
Do I have to pay?
No, but you can pay. Its creator Eugen Rochko has a Patreon to cover his server and living expenses.
Are there rules about abuse?
There is a long list that includes bans on gore, pornography, and racism.
What about tools to filter content?
There are privacy settings, and you can make individual posts private. You can also employ content warnings for anything that could be offensive or upsetting in any way, including sexual or political content.
Is this thing 140 characters at a time, too?
No, but there is a 500-character limit, which is a full and respectable paragraph.
Can I use GIFs?
Is Donald Trump on here?
Please see where I called this more complicated to use than Twitter.
Are there eggs?
There aren't even eggs on Twitter anymore.
What do they call tweets on this thing?
Haha. No, seriously.
Does…that mean there are retoots?
No, there are boosts.
How do I find friends?
When I was about to walk into nursery school for the very first time, I asked my mom this very question. "Talking makes friends," she said. It's not exactly the same on Mastodon. You can search for your Twitter friends with this website tool. As for your IRL friends, talking to them and asking is truly the answer. Thanks, Mom.
Did you ever stop to think that when we're using Mastodon, we are probably running it partly on the fossil fuels derived from Mastodons?
Is Twitter going to die?
Yeah, that was a good day.
What about Peach?
I see where you're going here and I don't think you're wrong.
OK. I'm going to go sign onto Mastodon. See you on there?
Hahahaha. Probs not.