Setting up on Mastodon, JIC

I use Twitter quite a lot. And have done for a long time (since 2008 apparently). So i’m also quite invested in it.

Perhaps I knew this, but the events of the last few months have definitely confirmed it. We don’t need to rehearse the progress of leveraged buyouts by people with galaxy brains here, suffice to say that I’ve been working on alternative platforms, just in case.

Of course the problem is your classic network effect issue: Twitter’s great for me (and for lots of other academics) because lots of other people use it. So while people might want to go elsewhere, they also want to make sure others also go there too, to rebuild the networks.

Sadly, there’s no definitive choice on this front. In the past fortnight, I’ve seen more activity on Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms, especially from those who use those already for work purposes.

Personally, those don’t do what I want to recreate from Twitter, so it’s been an adventure in the wild woods of open-architecture microblogging sites.

The prime destination so far has been Mastodon, a network so decentralised that if you google it, you get the band, not the thing (hence me linking to the Wikipedia page).

This is my quick guide to setting up there, from your Twitter (while still keeping the latter going, which is what I plan to do).

For those of you on Twitter, you’ll have seen much grumbling about Mastodon, mainly because it’s not Twitter. The user interface is not great and because it’s on lots of little servers, there’s bandwidth issues.

However, it’s nothing that a smart person like yourself can’t handle.

First up, you can to create an account.

This needs you to pick a server: it really doesn’t matter which, since you can see all the other servers’ outputs and it’s the same interface, so either follow a colleague’s recommendation (I’m on or pick whatever comes up on a search.

Second, connect it to your Twitter.

The thread below shows you how to really easily scrape Twitter for others on Mastodon, so you can avoid dull searching on the latter, and how to cross-post on both networks simultaneously: this all took me 5 minutes to sort.

And that’s about it. You’re covered for now.

At this stage, I’m taking this as a precautionary move: Twitter remains my (and others’) primary network, so as long as it doesn’t descend into abject chaos, I’ll be sticking there.

That said, having a lifeboat – smaller, less pretty – is a sensible move, especially since we appear to be at the whim of an individual unable to accept either market forces or the power of parody accounts.

So take a bit of time to consider your position on this and if you have any good suggestions, then stick them in the comments below.