From Twitter to Mastodon: a guide for urbanists and gunzels

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As of this morning I am the proud owner of a brand spanking new Mastodon account.

It is something that I had been contemplating for a while as part of my general shift to free and open source software (FoSS). But recent events at Twitter have finally pushed me to take action on the social media front.

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon is a free and open source microblogging platform. Its concept is similar to Twitter but different in execution.

While Twitter is a single corporation owned and controlled by a few people (most recently, just one), Mastodon is a piece of software that is decentralised across thousands of different servers.

Does this mean that each server operates separately? Well, not really.

While each installation of Mastodon may have its own rules and policies, they are all part of the same platform. Users of any Mastodon server (or ‘Instance’) can follow, reply and otherwise interact with users of any other – provided that they are public ones of course.

There is no background algorithm or other ways to manipulate what you do or see. Content is displayed chronologically with a lot of options to customise things as you wish.

One final benefit is that it also gives you access to other Fediverse apps and websites. These include a range of software for alternatives to Youtube, Instagram and other closed-source social media. If you want to know more about this check out this page.

How do I join Mastodon?

Even as someone who had never really looked at Mastodon properly before this week, I found the process relatively easy.

The first thing to do is select an Instance. You can do this by visiting this website which will help you choose. Otherwise the most common option is to join – the largest one at the time of writing. If you’re in Australia you can sign up to as an alternative (the one that I have joined).

The important thing to note here is that it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. As I said before, you can interact with other users on any other Instance and you can even move to another one if you want. Just keep an eye on data privacy and social policies and you’ll be good to go.

Once you pick an instance, it’s straightforward. Pick an email, account name and all of the other usual things.

You will end up with a profile and home page – similar to Twitter – that you can customise as much or little as you want. The number of options to make it your own are much better than those on Twitter. For example, you can add custom links to your profile and add featured hashtags or accounts to the sidebar.

The interface will look something like this:

What if I want to use Twitter?

It’s entirely up to you how much, or if, you migrate over to Mastodon.

While recent events have boosted user numbers, it is still just a small proportion of Twitter’s 340 million.

I plan to use both Twitter and Mastodon for the time being. I am going to play around with a small script in IFTTT that automatically posts between my accounts as well.

Gunzel, city and similar accounts to follow

To help make the transition a bit easier, I have started a list of accounts that are related to various topics around transport, cities, planning, etc. that you may be interested in following.

I have created a Mastodon list here:

These are not comprehensive and as more people make the journey across, I have no doubt that there will be many more. If you know of any I have missed, please let me know in the comments below or on the site;

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