Exploring the Fediverse

Nov 2, 2020

Day 1

What is the Fediverse?

The fediverse (federation + universe) is a collection of federated social networks running on free open software. That’s a bunch of jargon. Basically, different sites use the same social network software, and they can talk to each other. It’s an attempt at recreating the decentralized web. Some popular ones are Mastodon and Pleroma.

First Dip into the Fediverse

While browsing the Interwebs I’ve seen a couple of Mastodon instances here and there but I never really understood what they were. I follow some of Jack Baty’s blogs and while he has mentioned Mastodon a couple of times, it didn’t interest me enough to look into it further. However, I decided to plunge into the Fediverse a couple of days ago. I was inspired after watching a YouTube video about how Leftists should be on Mastodon. Admittedly, the arguments for why Leftists should use Mastodon weren’t what really grabbed me. The video advocated for Leftists to get off of Twitter and instead use Mastodon. I’m not an avid Twitter user and I definitely don’t use Twitter for Leftist discourse or activism.

No, I was more interested with how the Fediverse worked. You see it everywhere, how the Internet has gotten extremely centralized over the years. I remember hopping from personal website to personal website. Nowadays, I only really visit the same two websites: Reddit and YouTube. So the idea of a decentralized social network really intrigued me.

I spent a couple of hours researching just exactly which Mastodon instance I wanted to assign as my “home base.” Not going to lie, I do look at where users are Tooting from and make some sort of judgement of what kind of content they post. Obviously I wasn’t going to join any instances notorious for morally gray or straight up illegal activities but I wanted the Mastodon instance I chose to be one that represented me the best. I juggled between tech.lgbt, writing.exchange, and fosstodon.org.

To be clear, it is possible to have accounts across many instances but I find it hard maintaining multiple accounts. It’s not that having multiple accounts make it harder to use (there are a ton of clients that support multiple accounts). My main concern was generating content for multiple accounts. I am not the sort of person to post a lot of content and to spread it across many accounts would be too much.

In the end, I signed up for tech.lgbt and fosstodon.org. I made a new ProtonMail acccount (this is not a sponsored post, I swear) because I was wary about my real name being broadcast out there even though it is incredibly easy to find me on the Internet if you really want to. I signed up using the @pm.me alias but I realized that I hadn’t activated it yet. So I think my tech.lgbt invite (if approved) got lost in the wind. Thankfully, I remembered to activate it before I signed up for fosstodon.org.

I spent a long time scrolling through my Local and Federated timelines, blocking or muting questionable instances or users and just browsing. My immediate thought was, “Oh no, I could waste a lot of time here.” Before I knew it, it was four in the morning. Oops.

Clients

I downloaded Tusky on my phone. It seemed like the most used app. I didn’t really look into the apps too much but it got the job done. Switching between accounts were a bit of a pain but that problem is present across many clients on every single platform, pretty much.

Tusky

For my desktop, I went through a couple of clients. I really wanted the ability to see all my timelines without having to manually switch between accounts. The Desk seemed to do what I want (the stacking feature is so cool) but it is also really ugly. That was a no from me. In the end I settled on Sengi. It seemed to be the only other desktop client that did what I wanted it to do and looked pretty nice at the same time.

Sengi (I made sure to check each status and blur the ones that weren't publically accessible)

100 Days to Offload

I think one of my favourite things about The Fediverse in general is seeing what cool things people are working on! Whenever I was scrolling through my fosstodon.org timeline, I noticed how much people used the tag #100DaysToOffload. Seeing all these blog posts with this tag got me curious. I love reading people’s blogs, it makes me want to write blog posts as well. So I decided to join in on the fun! This is my first #100DaysToOffload post. :)