How to help Mastodon

There have been several waves of activity on Mastodon since I signed up in 2017. Those waves have increased in frequency and intensity. Admittedly, while I did put in some effort early on, I wasn’t really part of that first wave. I rode in on a much later wave in mid-2022 and haven’t looked back since.

Waves, as waves do, flow in and ebb. Each time I witnessed a wave of new users on Mastodon it was almost immediately followed by those same users floating back out to sea.

The most recent wave has proven to be different. People are sticking around on the beach. Setting down their blankets, getting their umbrellas firmly planted in the sand, and… OK I’ve pushed this metaphor far enough.

The point is that the latest surge to Mastodon seems to have people sticking around and using the service. Apps are being built. Connections are being made. Thousands of instances are being spun up. And tons of platforms are working hard to join the fediverse via ActivityPub.

So, if you and I are not building an app, running a large Mastodon instance, or working on the Mastodon code, how can we help Mastodon and the larger fediverse? Here are a few humble suggestions and things that I am already doing or plan to do in the near future.

  • Consider donating regularly to the Mastodon instance you use, the Mastodon project, and pay for the apps that you use. Doing so will ensure all of these projects have the resources they need to continue improving the service, keeping the instances reliable, and improving the apps.
  • Really move to Mastodon. If you are sitting on the fence by publishing to Twitter and simply lurking on Mastodon, give some consideration to moving the bulk if not all of your publishing to Mastodon. (Please read the note at the end of this post)
  • Ask friends to try Mastodon. If you see a friend that may not know about Mastodon, take the time to let them know how it works, why you like it, etc.
  • Help organizations to move. If you manage social media accounts for your own projects, for your business, for the company you work for, etc. take the time to set up Mastodon accounts for them and move the bulk of their publishing to Mastodon as well. Perhaps even give consideration to creating an instance for the organization.
  • If you have a blog, consider linking to Mastodon posts as cited sources. Perhaps even going out of your way to work a link to a Mastodon post in your future posts. This will create more links to Mastodon content as well as expose your readers to the resource.

One last suggestion, and it is a big one. Set up an instance. If you have the needs that having an instance would accomodate and you can afford it, consider creating an instance. Who needs an instance? If you work at an organization that will need multiple accounts, you have multiple commercial projects that each have their own account, or you just love to tinker and own your portion of the web, consider creating an instance. Be sure to plan to invest enough to keep it around for many years to come. Creating an instance will help in a variety of ways.

By creating more instances we spread out the load on the existing instances. Yes, I realize it doesn’t fully remove the load since all instances need to interact each other. But, we all can’t be and don’t want to be on the same few instances. We don’t want any instances that get ridiculously large. Some of them are already too large, in my opinion. We don’t want to simply recreate Twitter. Having an instance can also help to provide better feedback and data to the main Mastodon project on how instances work, how efficient they are, and how easy they are to set up.

There are so many organizations that I hope spin up their own instances; news outlets, NASA, federal, state, and local government organizations, libraries, etc. The Internet Archive’s Mastodon instance is such a great example to show people and organizations how it could work.

Just a side note: Twitter doesn’t have to lose for the fediverse to win. In reality, if Twitter ever decided to add ActivityPub and join the fediverse it would be good for everyone involved. My main reason for recommending using Mastodon over Twitter is the amount of control you then get over your own content and audience. On Twitter, you have very little to no control over that, on Mastodon you have nearly total control. It is simply a better option that may end up with more reach than Twitter in the coming years.

In 2017 I wrote a similar post How to support Mastodon. There are a few more notes there as well.