Good evening, I am John Conway, and I make art of very old things, and of new things I have made up. I have a podcast about animals with Darren Naish, and have written and illustated two books with Darren and C.M. Kosemen. My art is funded by people like you through Patreon.

You can read more about me here.

All Yesterdays

Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals

Cryptozoologicon: Volume I

The Biology, Evolution, and Mythology of Hidden Animals

So You're Moving to Mastodon

This is a guide for people currently on Twitter thinking of trying to move to Mastodon. It is mainly for people who have an audience or community, rather than casual browsers. I want people to move to Mastodon, so that's my bias, but I'm going to try to be honest about the drawbacks and difficulties you will encounter.

First the good. Mastodon, and the network it is part of (The Fediverse) is a nicer place to be than Twitter. In general, engagement is higher, and people are less snarky. It is run by independent communities all over the world, and can literally never be bought out by billionaires. It is near feature-parity with Twitter for most people, and has some perks of its own (editing posts!). You can get a variety of different very nice apps that work with it perfectly. It can interoperate with other software that uses the same protocol, there's an Instagram-like application called Pixelfed, and a Youtube-like application called Peertube: you can follow these things right in your Mastodon account.

Okay, but what are the challenges?

Firstly, there are a couple of myths that might need dispelling:

  • There is a persistent belief that Mastodon is hard to use. This is not the case and you don't need to worry about it. If you've figured out Facebook or Instagram in the past you can do the same with Mastodon, no problem.
  • There's some sort of notion that you are in a silo on Mastodon and can only talk to people on your server. It would be pretty boring if that were the case! Actually, you can follow people anywhere in the Fediverse, which include people running on things that aren't even Mastodon (Pixelfed and Peertube as above)

So what are the real challenges?

If you arrive on Mastodon, and just start posting, you may find it a disappointing experience. Major commercial social networks have algorithms that give you a lift when you're starting out, but Mastodon has no such algorithms. So you need to find people to follow more or less manually, and engage with the community to be noticed. Commenting, liking and boosting (retweeting) other people's posts is the way you do this. It definitely takes longer than it would on Twitter or Instagram, but it will work. Follow more people on Mastodon than you would on Twitter. You will not usually have a good experience if you follow less than a hundred. Follow hashtags (yes you can do that, sweet feature!) too, as they will bring you the content you crave.

Mastodon is a much smaller network, no getting around that. Follower counts are lower (although engagement is better). Most of the people that have made a successful transition have been pretty aggressive about it. They have moved, largely stopped posting to Twitter, and repeatedly told people to find them on Mastodon. If you continue to post to Twitter, make it clear you're not moving if other people don't it won't work. You need to move your audience or community with you to some degree, and keeping your feet in both camps is a recipe for failure.

Search on Mastodon is pretty useless. It searches only hashtags and names, and even then of only a small portion of the Fediverse. This can be frustrating, but it's best to make your peace with it. Think of Mastodon as truly being a social network. You find people by getting introduced to friends of friends through posts and boosts.