Federated social media has been around since 2008 and I have been bouncing around various federated networks (with a couple of hiatuses) since the end of that year. The idea behind federated networks is that, rather than having to rely on a single large server to control all your messages, lots of smaller servers achieve the same result by talking to each other. The obvious analogy for this is email: if I want to send a message to someone, all I need is their email address and, thanks to the magic of open standards, any message I send will be correctly delivered.
The federated network that everyone is talking about at the moment, of course, is Mastodon.
I had signed up to Mastodon a while ago, to a smaller instance that is no more and when I returned to the network I was quite interested in the idea of running my own server. Being lazy, however, this led to a bit of procrastination on my part until I came across masto.host, which really does provide the best of both worlds: Everything on the server is under my control, while, for a small monthly fee, I can leave someone else to look after the server and software maintenance.
And when it comes to managing what I do and don’t see on my timeline, the tools provided by Mastodon are really rather good.
On a personal level, I can block and mute any obnoxious types I happen to bump into, and I can also filter out specified words and phrases if I want to ignore a particular conversation (always useful during bug sporting events). I can even block whole domains if I decide that I just don’t want to deal with anyone from a specific instance, all I need is a single click.
The site moderation tools are equally well designed. Obviously, with only one user on my own instance, I haven’t had much need to use these, but I do like the fact that I can also silence other instances if I really don’t want to deal with them.
Overall, I do like Mastodon and it has proven to be a very comfortable place to return to. I do like its decentralised nature and the fact that both the developers and the various communities are keen to encourage this.
You can find out more, including a video explainer and a list of available servers at Join Mastodon and, if you ever find yourself looking for someone to follow, you can find me @Paul@social.lightlyseared.online.