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Mastodon Servers for Writers

Which servers are best for writers joining Mastodon? Here’s how to decide where to make your new digital home…

Why does Mastodon ask me to pick a server when I sign up?

Mastodon is a federated social network – this makes it different to other social networks such as Twitter or TikTok by having multiple different servers that all interact with each other rather than there being a singular place that you log in to.

This server is your “home server” – the place that you will log into to post new messages, read other people’s messages, etc. It impacts some elements of your Mastodon experience but no others but it is a necessary step in you setting up a new Mastodon account and this can cause some concern for new Mastodon users as they face the tough decision of which server should they sign up on.

The good news is, it really doesn’t matter.

Why doesn’t it matter what Mastodon server you use?

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about Mastodon is that the different Mastodon servers are disconnected from each other and that your toots (posts) won’t be visible to people on other servers. Don’t panic, this is wrong.

Your Mastodon server will connect to other Mastodon servers through the “Fediverse”. This means that a “toot” on any server can appear on any other server.

Whether or not the toot is immediately there and whether or not it will automatically appear on your home timeline depends on a variety of factors. axbom.com does a great job of breaking this down but, in summary, there’s no reason to expect that your toot will be limited to just your home server.

Mastodon also has no algorithm. Toots simply appear in chronological order without any interference. By comparison, Twitter purposefully selects the tweets in your timeline in order to build “engagement”. A great tweet can be buried under a bad tweet if the bad tweet gets more likes (and maybe that makes it a good tweet after all!?)

When does it matter what Mastodon server you use?

Different Servers Have Different Rules

One of the reasons that people have started leaving Twitter in terms of other services, such as Mastodon, is because of changes to how Twitter safeguards its users. Previously banned accounts are being restored and many people are voicing their concerns that Twitter is becoming a less safe platform.

Mastodon is not immune from these same problems. Every server is moderated by the server owners – this could be one person, a team of volunteers, or maybe nobody at all. Each server sets its own rules for what is acceptable and it is often down to the community to police things.

On the whole, I’ve personally found the Mastodon community to be extremely friendly and welcoming and there’s a much better “signal to noise” ratio than Twitter but I would still strongly advise that you check the T&Cs of any server you are thinking of signing up with to ensure that your content is going to be suitable for them and that you understand the “rules of play” for the server.

Different Mastodon Servers Have Different Levels of Speed and Reliability

During the rush to escape Twitter and get onto Mastodon the best answer to “Which server should I use?” was “whatever one you can get on to”. Some servers suddenly found themselves so overwhelmed by new users that they experienced performance issues, needing to block new registrations and even falling over in some instances.

Some servers run more quickly than others and this can have a big impact on your experience of Mastodon. The good news is that there’s no reason you can’t create a test account on a server and take it for a test run before you really commit. It’s also relatively easy to move from one server to another if you want to.

If you’re just looking for a good, reliable server suited to writers then feel free to skip to the end of this article, you’ll find a list there.

Different Mastodon Servers Have Different Default Audiences

Although a toot from any server can end up anywhere on the fediverse, it is true that the server you select will impact who sees your message on their home timeline. Your home timeline contains toots from other people on your home server and so, if you choose to look here, the server you’ve made your home will dictate what you see.

Does this really matter? In my experience, the answer is no – because Mastodon has a fantastic feature that lets you follow hashtags as well as individual accounts. So, whatever topic you are interested in can appear on your home timeline – you just need to follow the appropriate hashtags. Good news; I’ve listed some of the best writer hashtags below.

Recommended Mastodon Servers for Writers

If you’re looking for a good Mastodon server with a good community of writers, I’d recommend either writing.exchange or travelling.shop. Personally, I’m on writing.exchange. This server is occasionally invite only – if you ever need an invite, feel free to ask via my contact form.

An alternative if you looking for a large and diverse server is mastodon.social. I have an account here too, but I use it less often.

Recommended Mastodon Hashtags for Writers

Mastodon gives you the ability to follow hashtags and have any posts that use these appear in your home timeline. This is hugely useful; hashtags are much more powerful on Mastodon than they are on Twitter as Mastodon doesn’t interfere with (or “optimise”) the contents of your timeline.

Here are some of my favourite hashtags for Mastodon (and they work equally well on Twitter)

  • writingcommunity: A general hashtag for connecting with other writers and sharing writing-related content.
  • amwriting: For writers who are currently working on a project and want to share their progress and get encouragement from other writers.
  • writerslife: A hashtag for writers to share the ups and downs of the writing life and to find inspiration and support from other writers.
  • writingprompt: For writers looking for inspiration or a new idea for a project, many users share writing prompts that other writers can use to start their own work.

Keep an eye out for what hashtags other people are using, as there are smaller specialist communities that are genre specific (such as #kidlit, where I’ve been hanging out recently talking about my Lucy Wilson books) and events such as #nanowrimo that come up periodically.

You should also be sure to include your most relevant hashtags on your Mastodon profile to help people find you.

Should I leave Twitter for Mastodon?

There is no practical reason that you should leave Twitter for Mastodon. The two can be used in parallel in the same way as you are probably also using Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok.

Whilst there is a bigger question around whether Twitter will continue to be a platform that you want to associate your brand with, the answer to that hasn’t become clear yet. What is clear is that there is a really great, and growing community of writers on Mastodon… don’t miss out!

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