Migrating from Twitter to Mastodon

I assume many of you are watching the Twitter soap, waiting for the moment that the social media platform burns down completely. Its fresh owner Elon Musk is abusing his newfound powers to vent his far-right extremist ideas, firing most of Twitter’s employees, shutting down the content moderation team, and so on.

You should definitively be looking for an alternative if you are interested in socially interacting with other people through online platforms. And especially if you represent a business or an organization and use Twitter as a communication medium, you must absolutely reconsider whether you are using the right platform.

A lot of people have been looking for alternatives to satisfy their Twitter habits. That process already started in February 2022 when Musk announced his intention to buy Twitter. But after completing that deal and essentially taking over daily operations, there has been a massive exodus. The platform which is absorbing most of this exodus as new users seems to be Mastodon. But Mastodon is a different platform than Twitter and a lot of new users struggle with the concepts. There’s a lot of documentation but not everyone reads documentation prior to jumping into the action.

I will share some pointers that may help you make the decision to move to Mastodon and getting all setup there.

Choose a Mastodon server

Mastodon is a federated network as opposed to Twitter which is a centralized network.  To use Twitter, you login to a single URL, and have access the tweets of every other user of the platform.
Federated on the other hand means, the Mastodon network is run by any amount of independently and non-commercially hosted server instances, that are all interconnected and share updates in real-time. You login to your account on a specific server and have access to the full federated network’s content from there.
Unlike Twitter, where you have a unique handle (mine would be @erichameleers), your identity on the Mastodon network will also show the server you are operating from. My identity is a combination of the nick ‘alien’ on server ‘fosstodon.org’ which would make my Mastodon handle @alien@fosstodon.org.

If you have difficulties grasping the concept of a server or an instance… compare it to a local community center in your town. You go there to hang out with like-minded people but the television screens on the walls will show you what’s going on in the outside world. But you won’t enter just the first community center you encounter… you’d want to know a bit about the kind of people that frequent the place. But if you just want to mingle in a large crowd, I guess you would rather go to the football stadium.
I hope the comparison was not too cheesy, but I have been told that “you techies built this stuff but normal people do not know what words like server or instance mean at all”. Fair enough.

So, your first step will be to pick and choose the server where you are going to create an account. Server instances are sometimes topic based (with a focus on for instance open source, food, journalism, art and so on) which will influence the nature of the posts you will see scrolling by in your Local and Federated timelines (see below).

There is a searchable list of available servers at https://instances.social/list which can help in your decision making. Do you want an account on a server with lots of user accounts already present, which usually means the admins know what they are doing and they have long-term commitment? Or do you want a smaller instance but with a focus on a specific topic so you’ll have a bigger chance to hang out with like-minded people?
Also there’s https://joinmastodon.org/servers which is a page you can set a bunch of conditions (location, language, topic, legal entity, speed of account enablement, community-size) and which will then show a shortlist of Mastodon instances that match your preferences.
I chose fosstodon.org as my logon server because of its focus on people who like to work with Free and Open Source Software.

Configure your profile

Once you have selected a server, open its URL in a web browser, click the “Create Account” button and start building your user profile. Be sure to tell a bit about yourself.
Mastodon allows a form of identity verification, not unlike the idea behind Twitter’s “blue badge” but then done right, and without cost! Your profile can list up to 4 personal web sites, and if you own or control these, you can add a bit of text on its web page which will be used by Mastodon to validate that it is actually your website. And it will color that website green on your profile page. Check out how that looks on my profile page:

 

Apps

Any Mastodon server is accessible by a web browser, and for many users that is sufficient. Don’t forget to enable the “enhanced web interface” in your profile settings!
On a smartphone however, the web user interface experience is not optimal. There are apps that you can use instead.
On Android, there’s the official Mastodon app, or else you could try Tusky. Both are free but there’s also paid-for apps available in the Store, like Fedilab.
Apple also has the official Mastodon app in their Store, but Tootle could be an alternative option.

Timelines

The way in which other people’s posts are presented chronologically on your home page (the so-called timeline) is fundamentally different in Mastodon compared to Twitter. There you have a single timeline, populated by posts from the people you follow, combined with other people’s posts that have been favored (liked) by people you follow. Twitter will additionally show posts from people unknown  to you, if its algorithms decide that these posts may be relevant for you based on the behavioral profile it created from your interactions with the platform. Therein lies the danger that you get pulled into an information bubble.
Plus you will see lots of targeted advertising by Twitter’s affiliates, again based on your interests and the posts you liked or replied to in the past.

Mastodon on the other hand does not analyze your posting behavior, it does not run algorithms to influence your experience of the platform. You decide what you will see on your home timeline.
Regarding timelines, Mastodon has three of them!

  • The Home timeline is displayed on your home screen by default, and contains the posts of people you follow, as well as posts from other people that were favored (boosted) by the people you follow, plus posts that contain hashtags that you have subscribed to (see below) and posts that directly mention your @nick.
  • The Local timeline is a separate view, showing posts of all the other users of the Mastodon server instance where you are logged-in.
  • The Federated timeline finally is a chronological feed of all the posts that are originating from outside your local server, of which the local server has been made aware. Meaning, you will see an arbitrary subset of all communication in the Fediverse, their relevance boosted by the interests of all users of your local server instance.

The nature of the content displayed in Local and Federated timelines is why I mentioned earlier that you might want to create an account on a Mastodon server centering around a specific topic that interests you. You will see more  posts on such a server that are relevant to you.

Find people and hashtags to follow

Curating your timeline is a matter of following people you are interested in, apply proper filtering to hide unwanted content, and subscribe to hashtags to drag in the news from far away.

How to find people to follow?
Let’s start with people you are already following on Twitter. To find out who is already on Mastodon you can enter “mastodon” in the Twitter search bar and then limit the search results to “people you follow”.
Also, there are Twitter-to-Mastodon gateways which expose Twitter accounts to the Mastodon network; when you search for someone on Mastodon and the server part of their account contains a word like “birdsite” then this is a person whose Twitter posts are automatically being replicated on Mastodon.
And there’s a lot of folks who already migrated of course, and you will easily find them by entering their name or any nick/handle you know into the search box.
If you want to know who I am following, that’s not a secret: https://fosstodon.org/@alien/following

How to subscribe to hashtags?
If your server runs Mastodon version 4 or newer (most of them will do by now, the current version at the time of writing this is 4.0.2), and if you are using a Web browser to access Mastodon, you perform the following steps: enter a word in the Mastodon search box; in the results pane click on “hashtags” to display only the hashtags that match your search phrase; click on the hashtag that interests you; and finally click the “follow” icon which will be shown to the right of that hashtag.
Now, posts containing this hashtag will start showing on your Home timeline.

How to filter out the unwanted content?
In “Settings > Filters” you can use the “Add new filter” button to create filters that trigger on text strings that optionally match whole words. Posts containing the trigger text can be hidden from your Home, Local and/or Federated timelines, and/or conversations/mentions. You can set an expiry date to a filter if you are only temporarily fed up with someone you follow.
Next to filtering, you can also mute people you follow. The easiest way to do so is when you go that user’s profile page, click on the 3-dot menu to the right of the username and select “mute”. By the way, that menu contains a whole lot of ways to change your level of interaction with this person, go have a look!

Inform your Twitter friends

What I did to inform my Twitter friends and followers that I migrated to Mastodon, was adding my Mastodon handle to my Twitter display name. I am now known as “Eric Hameleers (@alien@fosstodon.org)“. If you want to be a bit less conspicuous about it, you could also just update your profile description to tell people where they can find you on Mastodon. After all, everyone remembers the ban hammers on Freenode IRC network where every account was auto-banned and channel auto-disowned when you mentioned you had moved to Libera.Chat. Musk is maniacal and so emotionally unstable that he could just do something similar to Twitter.

Documentation!

Detailed explanations on how to use Mastodon and interact with other people on the network can be found in https://docs.joinmastodon.org/ . I encourage you to read that page, it will prove quite useful.

Move to a different server (optional)

If you decide that you actually like another community better, it is possible to move your Mastodon account from one server to another. There’s multiple ways to achieve this. It all starts with the creation of your new account of course, and adding aliases for both the old and the new account that link them together.
Then you set a redirect from your old to your new account. People visiting your old profile will be informed where you moved to. Next to a redirect, you can also initiate a formal move of your account, and in this case Mastodon will automatically move all your followers from your old to your new account. Your old account will become a redirect to your new account but at least to your followers the process is relatively transparent.
Redirected accounts will be excluded from search results so that people searching for you will only find the new account.

What is not moved, are your historical posts and the people your old account is following. Both your accounts will also go into a cooldown period, where it is not possible to initiate another account move.

Interested? Curious? I hope to see some of you on Mastodon!

Eric

35 thoughts on “Migrating from Twitter to Mastodon


  1. Ugh, another technical blog gone political. You lost me at “Elon Musk is abusing his newfound powers to vent his far-right extremist ideas”. Free speech and not lying about censoring is not far-right, it’s just basic human decency. At least he takes ownership of what is going on, instead of saying one thing and doing another. At any rate, I fully expect this comment to be filtered, but it doesn’t matter as I’m unsubscribing anyway. I get enough political drama from my news feeds and don’t need my technical feeds compromised as well.



    1. I see it differently obviously. Musk has compromised my own social interactions which has forced me to redirect my focus to an alternative social media platform.
      Advocating “free speech” is not the same as allowing all the hate speech un-filtered. There’s something called civilization. Also, his story is just as biased as everyone else’s, he just abuses his powers to access private data and share it without consent.
      Remember, Twitter at the time of banning the orange-faced clown was a privately owned company. They had full authority to ban anyone they felt was a danger to the platform or was inciting violence and hatred. What they did *not* do was divulge private conversations. Twitter staff was actually prudent.

      Of course I am not filtering your post, I only block the obvious spam and irrelevant content.
      You are free to un-subscribe, but you failed to realize that this is not a technical blog. The majority of my posts may be Slackware oriented but I have also posted about cooking, baking, my pets, deceased friends and heroes, and yes, the orange-faced clown.
      This is very much a personal blog.
      To help you and others decide to unsubscribe: as a Dutchman you’d probably consider my political views to be on the far left side of the US Democrat party’s viewpoint.


      1. I appreciate your response and willingness to engage. I’m not one to defend orange man, but to say the left isn’t faultless is insane. As if Biden isn’t corrupt! When you define “hate speech” to mean whatever offends you, then you get an echo chamber, and echo chambers make for really ignorant people.

        If you think that there isn’t an echo chamber on twitter, then consider this. This tweet by Trump is what got him banned, “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”, However, no problem when Khamenei.ir posts, “Our stance against Israel is the same stance we have always taken. #Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen”, or when Dr Mahathir Mohamad posts, “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.”

        If the problem was actual “hate speech” then I can see your point, but that isn’t what was going on at twitter, they hate people that believe in liberty, freedom, free speech, family values, parents rights, religious freedom, and mostly hate the creepy guy that represented those people (which is nuts because none of the conservatives I know like orange man). It had nothing to do with “hate speech” it had everything to do with quelling speech they didn’t like, otherwise known as authoritarianism or elitism. Silencing those that question lockdowns isn’t protecting against hate speech, it’s Orwellian group think. Elon, who is also not an awesome person felt like he needed to be the whistle blower, which makes sense, if the system is rigged to remove opposing thought, while those that run it are declaring to congress that they are not removing opposing thought, then that makes Elon like Snowden: exposing powerful systems that are pulling the levers of power to control people.

        I should note the double standard here is really amazing. When it’s a private company that sensors, no problem. If they are lying about it, no problem. If they are inconsistent about it, no problem. They say they are just following policy when they weren’t. But then another person purchases it, it’s still a private company, but the narrative shifts to, “Elon Musk is abusing his newfound powers”. It seems obvious you are totally fine with people abusing power and lying, as long as they tow the left’s ideological line. Here is where I’m coming from: Trump is a liar, Biden is a lair, Twitter execs are liars, Elon is probably a liar, though I haven’t seen any direct evidence of that. The world would be a better place if people called a spade a spade, not just when it doesn’t align with their ideology. People should be offended when they are lied to regardless of the political position of the liar, and if someone exposes lies and corruption, they should be praised instead of attacked.

        Anyway, I appreciate that this is also your personal blog, and I also appreciate the hard work you do for slackware, and I have no problem with what you believe as I don’t boycott people based on beliefs, it’s just that I enjoy reading your posts, but was a little shocked and a bit disappointed to find a lecture regurgitating the narrative defending a bunch of people that were lying through their teeth and attacking the one exposing them, as I already have enough sources for that.



          1. “Let’s agree to disagree.” Comment above.. Very telling…

            Bye Bye you have lost me and it’s time to leave this board permanently! alienbob what you need is a good dose of communism and it’s coming soon. Freedom is for everybody who believes in human rights.

            Note: When a centralized government controls your health, public food supply, and very soon a centralized banking system digital currency with a social scoring system to control what, when and where you spend your hard earnings world wide you will so learn the hard way. See below…

            Executive Order (America) on a new digital currency system. Americans will and are fight this crap. Government answers to the people which is a bottom up and not a top down governing system. 50 states can over ride a centralize federal system, and override a US President.

            Banking systems Europe are corrupt.. Power and control.. Ponder below.. I will be unsubscribing to a communist ran board..

            Executive Order 14067—Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets
            https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/executive-order-14067-ensuring-responsible-development-digital-assets

            Below… This guy is in your backyard. Life in Europe is about end as you know it.

            Klaus Schwab announces NEW plan to rule the world | Redacted with Clayton Morris
            https://rumble.com/v1vqmv1-klaus-schwab-announces-new-plan-to-rule-the-world-redacted-with-clayton-mor.html



    2. Here is a short list of journalists that Musk has recently banned
      Donie O’Sullivan
      Drew Harwell
      Matt Binder
      Ryan Mac
      Keith Olbermann
      Aaron Rupar
      and this is just a start

      You trolls please give me your BS spin on how Musk is a champion of free speech and just exposing corruption. Eric is 100% correct and I applaud his move to Mastodon.



        1. You’re good sir, and you are correct. But you are referring to the account that was tracking his Jet in real time. I agree that is shady, and banning people for doing that is the right thing to do. Some of these journalist simply mentioned that account being suspended and others never mentioned it at all and were not given a reason for their ban. Also he is now banning account related to Mastodon. This is his company now and he can do what he wants, but stop the BS that he is saving twitter.

          https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicholasreimann/2022/12/15/twitter-suspends-accounts-for-rival-mastodon-and-several-high-profile-journalists/?sh=1709362f52ba



        2. Or to put it more “objectively”, they were the ones that came up with the Hunter Biden laptop story, so I don’t think they have a neutral point of view in this case.



      1. Not sure why you’re calling people who are trying to bring a point trolls why you’re doing the exact same thing to support your point. Doesn’t your definition of free speech allows anybody else to have an opinion different from yours without being a troll? If no, then your argumentation is very logical.


  2. I’m hearing about people who’re receiving warnings and suspensions for promoting mastodon links. Mastodon links on twitter are also being marked as dangerous/harmful, as well. Pretty dirty pool, but it’s hard to expect less.

    Best bet is to use linktree or something similar to promote social media websites. I don’t know if twitter’s detection will crawl into it.


  3. Surrounding one’s self with like-minded people leads straight into groupthink. This is what happened at Twitter. There were only a very few that thought differently about speech issues. Not enough dissenting voices to stop the crowd mentality. While I am not a member of Twitter, I do not believe in silencing voices that I disagree with. I want to know at all times where people stand.

    Twitter was set for massive lay-offs whether it was sold or not. The business model was not sustainable. And, so far, of the 150,000 or so set to leave the platform when Musk took over, less than 1% have left. Just like the liars that were going to Canada when the Orange Man was first elected.

    For the record, I am not voting for the Orange Man. There will be a better option in ’24.


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  5. I am originally a southern Illinois farm boy and live and work in Beijing where we operate a animal diagnostics and research lab and training center. As a paleoconservative anarcholibertarian, almost everyone in the world is way to the left of me, including Donald Trump and Elon Musk. They are certainly not far-right by my standard. I can see how Europeans might define them as such but I know nothing about Europe really.
    I note that Twitter is a company and as such they are entitled to decide who and what they include in their product. Although I seldom vote and I tend to poke fun at what passes as so-called democracy, I do note that Donald Trump started no new military conflicts while he was in office which is excellent performance by my standard.
    I am quite fond of the Alien Pastures blog and am thankful for AlienBob’s efforts on slackware and his studied insights and frank expressions of opinion. I almost never used twitter (although I started an account in 2007) so it matters little to me if it prospers or shrivels and dies in a miserable and fitfully agonized spiral of death. The insights on Mastodon are interesting and useful to me.


    1. I don’t think libertarians are being represented by either Democrats or Republicans, As a libertarian, you’re likely going off on a tangent compared to the Republican views who seem to be largely influenced by conservative Christian principles.
      And I can live with anarchists, having an anarchistic world view myself.


  6. There are almost no news in the mainstream media here in France, and probably everywhere in Europe, about the “Twitter files”, i.e. the text of all interventions given to Twitter by American government agencies (such that FBI) and also the democratic party, to censor messages or ban people. These texts have been given by Elon Musk to the independent journalist Matt Taibbi that has already published several reports about them. Some info here
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aiSWONLZNM
    by Glenn Greenwald, another independent journalist (probably evry real journalist now must be independent).


  7. Are we now required to proof our extreme left affiliations, full vax history and approved pronouns to download iso? Or you just fall a victim of divide and conquer and can’t stand other people worldviews and must vent it somewhere?
    Didn’t you learn what happens when not very bright but large chunk of society get indoctrinated by the left? victims count goes in hundreds of millions,
    We all have our little part to do, do yours, don’t get indoctrinated


    1. yourstrully, my stuff is free to use by anyone, and political views do not change that. You are just trolling now.
      I see the exact opposite happening in the US of what you describe: the large majority of Republican voters are being indoctrinated by a small bunch of powerful people. If you yell “fake news” long enough, every gullible person starts believing it.
      I get my information sources from several directions; I read news papers and visit news channels across the spectrum; as long as the people writing the news are sensible, educated and do their research. Otherwise I just watch from a distance, bracing for the worst.

      Let this be my final politically motivated comment here, I won’t be able to convince you anyway. If you keep feeling upset, feel free to ignore me. I am not using this blog to have pointless discussions.


  8. >Its fresh owner Elon Musk is abusing his newfound powers to vent his far-right extremist ideas,

    This is obviously wrong, Elon is infinitely far away from “far-right extremist ideas”, even though it is on the right of Mao and Stalin.

    If you said “I am ditching a closed-source service from a badly-run company in the name of a standards-based federated network”, that would make a lot of sense, and I would have supported you wholeheartedly, but what you are saying is so clearly politically motivated that it is casting a doubts that you are speaking not in good faith in this post.

    In fact, nothing really changed for the majority of Twitter users with the coming of Musk. Nothing good, nothing bad. I don’t really care about the Twitter team censoring the users, because it is _their_ servers and their service. They have a right to censor whoever they want. But also saying that this censorship was in any way justified by some “moral high ground” is a complete lie. They were following their own political interestes (nothing wrong about that), and nothing more.

    In any case, for us, for most of the world (about 4 billion people) who are living under authoritarian regimes, where Twitter is sometimes the only window of freedom, the lack of a public office (of Twitter) where our countries’ repressive appratuses would direct their orders is certainly a good thing.

    On the other hand, there is principally nothing wrong with Mastodon, and I will probably subscribe to your feed, as this doesn’t cost me much.


    1. I’ll point out something that seems to be missing from this conversation:

      Private companies can do whatever they want, but they are also subject to civil lawsuits. If a private company sensors or allows plagiarism or allows someone to post inappropriate pictures or words smearing you, they can be liable. Because the requirement to do some filtering such as removing spam or illegal activity as well as not being responsible for what other post, a law called section 230 was created to protect online forums from these civil suits, but Twitter is abusing this freedom to go beyond what section 230 was intending to protect. Basically, you should be either an editor of the content, omitted from section 230 and liable for your content on your site, or you should not be an editor aside from removing spam or illegal activity and live under section 230 protections. I’m totally for twitter doing whatever they want, as long as they are subject to the liabilities of doing whatever they want.


      1. I, as an anonymous interenet troll, do not care about obscure american legislation. I do not believe that the principle you are describing (be liable if you edit) should be a law. (Again, Americans have a right to decide for themselves, but these are my 2 pence.) One should be able to smear anyone they want, or post any sort of inappropriate pictures. If you are unhappy about something on the internet, you can close your browser tab and it will disappear from your life. This is not because “false accusations should be treated lightly”, but because everything published for free on the Internet should be by default treated as what it is: lies and propaganda. Any accusation you see on the Internet is a false accusation, and any picture of you naked is a deepfake.

        Any sort of government interventions may only happen when state instruments (such as money) are involved.

        And, obviously, this principle should work both ways. What left-leaning Twitter under Agrawal was doing should be legal, as well as what a right-leaning Twitter under Musk is doing now.

        The only thing there that is really shady is blue checkmark. Blue checkmarks should have to apply for a mass media (TV, journal, whatever) license before they can become checkmarked, because that “checkmark” is what is making them equivalent to a “mass media” source. And while I am not a proponent of media licenses (those too should not exist), as long as they exist, there is no reason to exclude blue checkmarks from the rules.



  9. “I assume many of you are watching the Twitter soap, waiting for the moment that the social media platform burns down completely. Its fresh owner Elon Musk is abusing his newfound powers to vent his far-right extremist ideas, firing most of Twitter’s employees, shutting down the content moderation team, and so on.”

    Above statement about Elon Musk is WRONG! Musk is right about the post on Twitter being a crime scene! Dig in and read the comments from the WEF and Klaus Schwab who speak on world population…

    Our American news reporting main-stream news like CNN is an abomination, BBC as well, all are known as fake news. So I recommend you find other alternate news sources.

    In America the first Amendment is the right to free speech. Before Elon Musk took over Twitter censored that US American Constitution right. I suggest you review section 230, of which Twitter violated by act like a publisher and editorial rights.

    Also Twitter with it’s pervert employees, has promote child and human trafficking into America. What most Twitter users DO NOT realize is that they were communicating with A.I. bots.

    Twitters ads sales purchase by companies the bots were also counted as an audience, bots totalling more than 50% which is fraud.

    Another Twitter item, US elections, also the possibly of world wide election fraud!

    Twitters collection of personnel data, home addresses were used for illegal purposes through third parties, use to help rigged election voter roles, populations. And more.

    I spent a many years flying to the Netherlands Schiphol Airport and our airline is partnered with KLM for many years. I retired after 35 years (captain) max age.

    Our main stream American news are all in, guilty of censoring. A bigger world fight coming so prepare. Elon Musk is NOT the enemy. Whats going has been planned for a long time..



  10. Thanks Matt and also ‘anonymous’ for your insightful posts, even if I do not agree with them. Discussion is good. Bad things only start happening when people stop listening to eachother.
    On the other hand, ‘cnnshutdown’ behavior is exactly what I am fulminating against. I’ll leave his posts here to show how indoctrination leads to this kind of individual.


  11. The left believes the right is indoctrinated; the right believes the left is indoctrinated… The real indoctrination started when civil discourse disappeared in politics. We can disagree on political ideas and principles and still have a civilized discourse, not calling each each other all kind of names or using ad hominem attacks. When you are not willing to take the logical step of at least trying to understand what the other side is saying and instead are just wearing the straitjacket of your political thoughts, then do not expect the other side to do any different. I think what Michael Langdon said above applies a lot to what we see here: Surrounding one’s self with like-minded people leads straight into groupthink.
    Eric made a good point by saying that it’s his blog and he’s free to post whatever he wants. That is well noted for the future. However as a frequent reader of this blog, I will confess that I wasn’t expecting this type of political venom here and was sadly surprised by it.


    1. I think “the left” generally doesn’t think the kind of things about “the right” that ‘cnnshutdown’ is rambling about.
      Just sayin’.





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