Göktuğ's No. 000 (Cover toot)

[I'll pin this thread and add some tips as they pop into my mind. I've had a fedi account since 2017, and been an active user since ~2019. I've seen some stuff in my time :blobcatcoffee:​ I want to share relevant bits of stuff I've learned in that time, without filtering the negative stuff out, which I believe is very important to share so people aren't caught in the cold.]

Göktuğ's No. 001 (Bio and pinned toots)

Want to write a bio but don't know what to put in there? Here are a few ideas to make a friendly bio.

  • Say "hi!", and tell us how you'd like us to refer to you. Your name or pseudonym / nickname, and your pronouns, if you have a preference.

  • Tell us which languages you'd like to use.

  • Share links to your website(s), if it's fine for you to have that info publically available. If you account is pseudonymous tho, make sure that such links does not compromise your real identity, because there's no undo button.

  • Include the hashtag because... IDK, I've seen people use it, and I haven't had follows from respectful bots since then, so I feel like it works.

  • If your account is locked, tell us if you are open to follow requests, and any criteria you have and want to share for approving them.

You can also pin toots on your profile, which will show up at the top of the list of your toots. Here are a few ideas regarding what to include there.

  • A toot with image descriptions of your profile pic and header image. This will help visually impaired people to know what they look like.

  • An post! It's the toot where you explain yourself with a bit more detail (if you wish to, of course). What you do, your hobbies, interests, whatever.

Examples for each of these can be found in my profile, so feel free to check.

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Göktuğ's No. 002 (Link to @noelle 's Guide to Mastodon, a little announcement-ish)

I just discovered the great "An Increasingly Less-Brief Guide to Mastodon" by @noelle and wanted to share a link to it here.

I feel like there'll inevitably be some overlap between this thread and the guide, but I'll probably have some unique stuff to say. (P.S. hey noelle, feel free to incorporate anything I write under this thread to your guide! No need to ask for permission, I give you full permission here.)

Second, I just wanted to say that I'll be updating this thread weekly, on weekends, at least for a few weeks as I have some things I wish to talk about. This will involve some talk on how blocks work and how effective they are, how to make sure your toots are the most accessible (including but not limited to media descriptions), picking instances, and picking desktop/mobile clients.

All sorts of criticism and extra information is welcome under these toots under this thread. I am sharing what I know, which is by definition a subset of all that there is to know out there. These thread is also not restricted to the positive sides of fediverse, so if you point out some important pitfalls or shortcomings in our culture that I omit that puts some of us at risk, rest assured I won't be asking you to brush that under the rug. Fediverse is great and all but there are downsides and shitty parts and it's not okay IMO to hide that in the name of good publicity.

Finally, if you have any topic recommendations, feel free to send them my way. I'll make a note and mention you in it when I eventually post about it.

(sorry for the delete and redraft, I forgot to include the one link I was tooting about :blobcatfacepalm:​)

Have a nice day and enjoy fediverse!

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Göktuğ's No. 003 (Blocks and reports)

You've probably seen that fediverse is "federated" and there are these "instances" that use different "server software" over a "protocol" that may remind you you're a bit thirsty.

That may get complex quickly, but a simple way to put it is, the "fediverse" is a bunch of social media websites that know how to talk to each other, so users on these servers which we call "instances" can interact with users on other instances.

Each instance is a bit like a park or a workplace in some capacity: they host people that usually have something in common. If you're at the park you want some fresh air, if you're at a concert venue, you want music, and if you're at work, you want to help your bosses earn those last few dollars before they can afford the yacht. Similarly in fediverse, instances are where people that are likeminded to a varyingg degree, depending on the individual instance, congregate.

It inevitably follows that not all users will want to interact with all other users, and not all instances will welcome all sorts of users. You don't want a botany instance dominated by techies talking tech. You don't want grifters and fascists in any sane instance. Or sometimes you just don't like some other user.

The mechanism we use for this is blocks. There are two kinds of blocking available in the fediverse: user blocks and domain blocks. A synonym for the latter is "instance block".

As a user, you can block other users. This is not a perfect block, as they will still be able to see your public posts on your profile and user RSS feed (whereas your "unlisted" posts can be seen on your public timeline, but can't be accessed through RSS). They won't be able to interact with you in most cases tho. The imperfection here is that this block is leaky, and some server software, like Pleroma, do not respect these leaky Mastodon blocks. E.g., if X and Y are on mastodon, and X blocks Y, Y can't reply, favorite, boost, etc. X's posts. But if Y is on Pleroma, they can keep responding to your public toots after a block, tho you won't get a notification.

You can block domains too. If you as a user block a domain, it's kinda equivalent to blocking the entire userbase of that domain. Same caveats as above apply.

An instance can block another instance. This is different in that varying levels of blocking are available. An instance can be just cut out completely because they are a terrible instance, but an instance that's not that egregious but does worse at moderation for example can be "silenced". In that case people there can follow people on your instance and interact, but some other ties are obstructed and you may not see their posts in public timelines and threads.

You can go to /about/more on your instance, and most probably they maintain there a list of blocked, silenced, etc. instances. Some instances, e.g., will list why each instance is blocked. In general, a large block list is a positive sign for a healthy community, as there are some very unpleasant---to say the least---instances on fediverse, as well as some very great ones. I will later elaborate on how to pick a good, well moderated, nicely federated instance in another tips post.

Lastly, there are other ways of maintaining a healthy network, which I'll list here but explain in detail in a later post. First of all, you can "mute" someone. This means you and them can follow each other and interact, but their toots don't show up on yout timeline, even if someone you follow boosts them. You can futher block notifications from them, so if they reply to you or favourite a toot of yours, that won't generate a notification for you.

You can hide someone's boosts, so that toots they boost will not appear on your timeline. This may be useful e.g. when you're following an account whose posts you like, but they may be boosting way too many other toots. Or stuff you don't like. Or whatever reason really. A good moment to mention that nobody has the right to judge you for who you follow, unfollow, block, mute, etc. It's a nice part of the nicer parts of fediverse that, regardless of the reason, these sorts of decisions are respected and do not tend to lead to hostility like in "why did you block me on Twitter" etc.

And, last of these features I'll mention is more a hack than a feature. If someone is following you but you don't want them to follow you anymore, you have two options. First is, of course you can just block them, and the follow relationship will be ended and be impossible to recreate unless you unblock. Another option is to block the person, but then unblock them immediately. This will mean that they can interact with you, but aren't following you anymore, that relationship is always ended by the block.

In closing, I'll suggest that you "lock" you account in your account settings. This does not make your account private, instead it means that people can't just follow you willy nilly. They'll have to send a "follow request", which you can accept or decline. I suggest that, unless your account is anonymous or you are a politician or something, you make sure that you pick your followers well, because that means when you post followers-only, only people you can trust to some extent will see these posts. It's a nice thing to have. We'll talk more about this and similar stuff next week, as the topic will be "toot privacy".


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Göktuğ's No. 004 (Toot privacy)

(Sorry for the long toots without content warnings, I am not using them because these toots are meant to be discoverable to newcomers. I'll make sure that these are once a week things and not a constant harassment of your timelines.)

The plan for this Sunday is to post this weeks fedi tip, brew me a nice cup of coffee, and do some reading for my studies, so let me get going with the plan.

The topic this week is related to the last week's topic which concerned blocks and reports. We will be talking about another way of making (almost) sure who sees your toots are who you intend them to see.

Besides blocks, the main tool for adjusting the audience of your presence here on a toot-by-toot basis is the four-or-five levels of toot privacy you can set, the number varying depending on the instance you're on (we'll talk about it in detail in a bit).

First of all, how do you set toot privacy? Well, on the Mastodon web application, it's the third button from left below the compose box, and it's alt text is "adjust toot privacy". Probably as a homage to horrible design, the icon of this button is un-annotated, and varies depending on the setting, which sucks but you will get used to it. The icon will be one of: a globe, an unlocked padlock, a locked padlock, or an envelope. Luckily, each level is annotated in the menu that opens once you click. On apps, it totally depends on the app, but it's often a similar looking icon.

The broadest level of toot privacy is "public". This means two things: your toot is available to public timelines, and it's also visible in the RSS feed of your account. What are public timelines? It is what you see when you check out the "federated" timeline, i.e., the toot is readily visible to any instance that your instance hasn't defederated from. The RSS feed means that these defederations are circumventable: any RSS reader can see these toots, so you should consider them to be essentially fully public. Even if the RSS feeds didn't include them, the public website would, which is fully public, which reinforces the same conclusion: public toots are public, in every sense of the world. Do not rely on deferedations or instance/user blocks for their privacy.

The next stricter level is "unlisted". An unlisted toot is public, but it's excluded from the RSS feeds, and invisible in public timelines. Your followers will still see it, and can boost it, so it is essentially a public toot but a bit more silent. Instead of using it for privacy, I suggest you use unlisted toots when you want something to be seen by your followers primarily, but not necessarily want it to be followers-only either. Exclusion from RSS readers is a nice benefit, but do not forget that public webpages can be scraped fairly trivially.

The actual level with any real privacy is "followers only". Only your followers will be able to see a followers-only toot, and only they can interact with it. It won't be on the RSS feed, not in the public timelines. It's practically not available to be boosted as well. There is a major caveat tho, which we will talk about in a bit.

The strictest level is "Direct". Direct toots will only be visible to people who are explicitly mentioned in the toot itself by their fediverse handles, e.g. @ cadadr @ (without the spaces, of course). This is similar to a DM on Twitter and IIUC some other platforms, and this is when you want to talk to a fedizen, or a few, directly.

Now, the caveat. What is the caveat? The caveat is that neither followers-only nor direct toots are stored in such a way to disallow the instance moderators from seeing them. It's a bit cumbersome as they don't have an Admin UI for it, but they can see messages if they choose to query the database directly. What this means is, at some level, you have to trust your admins to not peek in your messages and be nasty with them. More concretely, what this means is, use either of these privacy settings very carefully, and if you really want or need a conversation to be truly private, move the communication outside fediverse. I will be talking about etiquette on fediverse later, but make sure that you read your interlocutor(s)' profile(s) before either sending them a direct toot to see if they have set any boundary about DMs, and make sure you are very clear with your intent if you're asking to move the conversation to a different medium, especially if you haven't had a decent amount of interactions with them already here. Failing these might result in the interaction coming off as very creepy, and might result in a report or block.

It's not unlike real life, you wouldn't just go up to a new acquaintance or a stranger and offer them to have a private chat in the bathroom or in the back alley, no? Same thing here.

Another etiquette thing I'll mention briefly but talk more about in a later "etiquette" toot in this thread is that, changing the privacy level of a thread. This means, e.g. replying to an unlisted thread with a reply whose privacy is set to public, or vice versa, or similar. It is generally advisable to make sure that the privacy level of your reply is the same as the toot you are replying to (tho there are exceptions), and to never reply with a toot whose privacy is less strict than the toot you are replying to. Most likely that will be taken to be hostile.

Now, on top of these four levels of privacy, instances that use the Glitch-soc and Hometown forks of Mastodon have an extra level of privacy available to them, that's somewhere between unlisted and followers only: local-only posting. A local only post is visible only to your peers at your instance. In order to set this level, if you are on one of these forks, you will have to click the three dots icon below the compose box, whose title is "advanced options", and check the "local-only" checkbox.

Before concluding this, I wish to mention one idea that's been brought up by several users in my circles, and is truly a sad omission from mastodon: mutual-only toots, i.e. toots that are only visible to people that are both in your followers and in your follows. Presumably these are your fediverse besties, especially if yours is a "locked" account, and having this as a level of privacy could be very useful. I can remember several instances where I really wanted to be able to use this, and several toots that I avoided posting because this was not available. A truly unfortunate omission in a network that's supposed to avoid the bad sides of the likes of Twitter and instead provide its users with safe spaces to express themselves.

Last thing I'll touch upon is toot auto-deleters/purgers. I don't know much about these tools myself, but when browsing profiles, you'll encounter ones that say things like "my toots expire" or "toots expire in X days" or "my toots are automatically deleted", etc. These users are using services that go through their history, and delete toots that are older than a certain age, or when the number of their public toots exceed a quota determined by them. I don't know any of these tools well enough to make a suggestion, so if you want to use them, you'll need to find one, or maybe ask one of the users you encounter that say they use them.

So this is it for this weekend. This one was particularly long, but if I feel like any briefer would be too brief, and there wasn't a logical point to break the topic into two, so, yeah. Sorry about that.

Next week, we'll talk about how to post accessible toots.

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