Tips For Picking The Best Mastodon Server
Mastodon has gained a lot of traction over the past 2 - 3 months alone due to Elon Musk taking over Twitter and really stirring things up. I won't get into any of that here as that's not what this article is about. What I will tell you about is a few things for you to think about when it comes time for you to pick a Mastodon server for you to call your home.
Joining Mastodon isn't just about picking a username, entering your email address and then simply joining the conversation. There are thousands and thousands of "instances", or servers, that you could possibly join and today I'm going to give you a few things to think about prior to joining. This will hopefully help you join the best instance for you from the get-go so you don't have to go through the transfer to another instance process.
What Are Mastodon Servers?
Mastodon servers, or more correctly called, instances, are individual communities that each have their own rules and often their own culture. A server can be owned by a single individual, a group of people or even an organization and those are the people who dictate the community's guidelines.
One thing to note is, when you join an instance, you're not limited to only interacting with people from that instance alone. You're still able to interact with others around the fediverse. However, the instance you do choose can possibly impact your overall experience in various ways.
How To Pick A Mastodon Server
At the time of this writing, Mastodon currently has 13,110 servers with about 9.3 million users and growing considerably each and every day. With this many servers to choose from, it might seem a bit overwhelming on what you should pick to join. That's where this article will hopefully help you. As stated above, you can always transfer to another server if you feel the one you pick originally isn't best suited for you or you find something that is better suited for you after you start using the platform.
Write A List Of Server Requirements
Before you dive in head first, I highly recommend you make a list of your wants and needs you'd like about a server you might join. Things to think about are as follows:
Moderation Policy Or Community Rules: What types of content are allowed and what types of content are not allowed. This can range from memes, NSFW (Not Safe For Work) content, hate speech and so on. You should always be able to find this information via the servers About Page.
Age Of The Server: If the server is brand new, that's something to think about. It could possibly end up not surviving very long, forcing you to transfer to another server. It could go inactive as the owner(s) thought they had time to maintain it but realized they don't. Older, more established servers are more likely to stay around and have a bigger, better and more stable community.
Other Servers You Might Want To Interact With: You can interact and follow users from other servers in most cases. However, some servers can block other servers around the fediverse for various reasons such as their political stance, not agreeing with a servers moderation policies and so on. This is certainly something to keep in mind when thinking about joining specific servers.
How Quickly You Want To Start Using Mastodon: Some servers you have to request to join or even be invited to join them. This process can often take a couple of days. If you're looking to join in on some conversations immediately, this might not be where you want to try and join as you might be forced to wait a couple of days before actually getting into Mastodon and seeing what it's all about. One thing to note here, most servers that are invite only do so for a good reason and are often better communities or goal oriented communities so it might be that it's worth the wait.
Consider The Types Of Posts You Want To See
Mastodon servers can be very general servers or they can be pretty niche, depending on the server itself. Depending on what posts or content you want to see plays a big part in the server you decide to choose.
For example, let's say you are an artist who wants to be on an art centric server as you will be posting a lot of your own art, but also want to see mostly art from others. You'll want to find yourself a specific server with that in mind and trust me, there are several to choose from. If that's what you're wanting, then you most likely don't want one of the larger servers like mstdn.social or anything similar.
I know you're likely asking, why does the server matter if I can interact and see other users from all over the fediverse? The reason is because your HOME server is the best place to find like-minded people who will also be sharing content from outside of your server of like-minded content.
Here's a breakdown of the three feeds you will have the option of viewing once you start using Mastodon.
Home Feed: Shows content from the people you follow regardless if they are on your server or a different server.
Local Feed: Shows content only from the people on your server.
Federated Feed: Shows content from people followed by those on your server. Remember, your server might block other servers, so you won't see content from those servers if your server has it blocked.
Utilize Mastodon's Server List
Mastodon offers a partial list of servers that you can browse to get an idea of what server you'd like to join to get started. You can find that list here: Server List. Remember, this is not a complete list of all servers available.
You can filter this list by geographic region, language, registration process (invite needed or no invite needed) and host/ownership type (individual or organization). You can also sort by topic of interest such as: art, music, technology, LGBTQ+, sports, books and so much more.
One really good thing to note here is that all of the servers that are listed on this have all agreed to follow the Mastodon Server Covenant, which is basically the best practices of Mastodon. This is pretty important as it ensures you are going to find good servers that have good rules in place such as:
Daily backups to prevent the loss of user data and even server data.
At least one person, other than the admin themselves, with emergency access to the server infrastructure. This is extremely helpful if the admin is away and there's some kind of emergency that needs to be dealt with.
The admin and those who run the instance have agreed to provide at least a three month notice to all users in case the server will be shutting down. This allows all users to find other instances to move to.
Take The Server Quiz To Find What Fits You Best
Believe it or not, there is even a server quiz you can take to find what server(s) might fit best as to what you are looking for and wanting from a Mastodon server. The good thing about this quiz is, you don't need to provide any personal or private information.
The quiz will ask you simple things such as, what language(s) you speak, your preference as to how many users the server has to have and the rules that you care about most. This tool is very helpful to get you started in what servers to look at based on what you want from a server you are about to join.
What Servers Do Your Friends Use?
Your friends from other social platforms or even your real-life friends are possibly on Mastodon already and you can always ask them what server they call home so that you can take a look at it and see if it fits your needs and wants.
This also can include your Twitter friends, assuming you use or have used Twitter.
If there's certain people or organizations you simply don't want to miss information from, then finding these users can be very important to make your Mastodon experience that much better from the start.
There are numerous services out there that allow you to scan your Twitter follower/following lists and see if they are on Mastodon as well. It will search for keywords in their bio or even a link to their Mastodon profile.
Movetodon, Twitodon, Fedifinder and Debirdify are just a few resources to look at for finding users from Twitter that have Mastodon accounts. I've personally used all four of these with great results.
Join A Completely Random Server
If you'd like to simply dive in headfirst and not really do a bit of research and just get a feel for things firsthand, you can always just pick a random server, click it and join it. This allows you to check out the community and the types of posts you'll see from others and then you can make the decision yourself if it's the place for you or not.
Always remember, if it's not, you can either create a new account on another server or transfer to another server. The choice is totally yours how you handle it from there. There is certainly no consequences if you feel you picked a server that isn't quite right for you.
Joining Multiple Servers
You are also free to join multiple servers if you'd like. There are lots of people who do this for various reasons. You can join an art server so that you get posts about art related stuff and where you can post your art. Then you can join a server that's more focused on something like iOS. This allows you to post iOS related stuff but not mix in your art stuff you want to post or see.
There are many reasons you might want to have accounts on several different servers and there's certainly nothing wrong with this as long as you feel you can keep up with having multiple accounts.
In the end, it's all up to you how you decide which server to join. You can base it on one thing or multiple things listed above, or you can base it on your own thing completely and not follow any of what's listed above. Again, there's no right or wrong way to choose what server you join. Choose what works for you and if you feel you made a bad decision, then start over and do it again until you find a place to call home and what fits all of your needs.
Once you get your account setup and if you're looking for some tips and tricks on how to get started using the platform, you can check out my Tips And Tricks For New Mastodon Users post that will give you some ideas of what to do to enhance your Mastodon experience from the start.
Once you do pick a server and you get to using Mastodon, feel free to drop me a follow if you'd like. I'll be posting more Mastodon related articles here on this site and I will post them on Mastodon for others as well. You can follow me here: Cliff on Mastodon. If you found this article helpful in any way, feel free to tag me on Mastodon and let me know as I'd love to hear from you.