One more thing that I was thinking about when switching away from Twitter: what Mastodon server should I choose? And what are the criteria I should use to make that decision?


My first question: do I care about the local timeline of the server in question? Mastodon lets you watch a firehose of all the posts on a given server; if I pick a server that’s targeted enough to my interests, maybe I’d enjoy that.

My answer to whether or not I care is “no”. On Discord servers that I’m on, I generally don’t enjoy the random chatter; Mastodon posts are different from Discord chatter, but still, that kind of thing isn’t something that I’m particularly looking for? Also, if I ever change my mind about this, I can always look at local timelines for a given server through the web interface, or create an account there if I really want to look at it through a client.


A related question: do I want to pick a server because it feels like a cool place to have as my address? I do notice when I see or addresses, after all.

The problem with that is that I have multiple fairly strong interests; and I get new interests not that infrequently. So would I want to be on a server associated with video games, or with programming (and, if so, one specifically with agile or with some other aspect of programming), or one reflecting my developing interest in Tai Chi and other internal arts, or one that reflects the fact that I used to be a mathematician, or that I currently live in the Bay Area?

So no: even though I do like those addresses, I don’t want to pick one.


What about moderation? Moderation is important, different servers have better or worse moderation policies, and different servers do a better or worse job of interpreting their policies.

Honestly, I don’t really know how to start analyzing this one. I don’t have a well-formed opinion about what’s important to look for, or what policies are subtly important in either good or bad ways. And I’ve heard a few stories about Mastodon moderation that make me nervous about site owners retaliating against people they don’t like, or removing posts that make them uncomfortable even though they’re saying important things.

All of this pushes me towards servers that are large and generic: that feels like a way to have a relatively professional moderation team with relatively standard practices? I’m not saying that there aren’t problems with standard moderation practices, but fortunately I have historically been out of the fire of problems in that area. And figuring out what site would have better policies and practices for enforcing those policies feels like a noticeable amount of work.


Finally: do I even want a shared server at all? Maybe I want to run my own server; or, if I’m not up for that, pay somebody else to run that for me.

For me personally, the answer is that a personal server would obviously be better in many ways. The way Mastodon address has a username and a domain is just like the way an email address has a username and a domain; I switched away from using somebody else’s domain for my email and web presence to using my own domain a couple of decades ago, and the reasons why that would be preferable apply just as well to Mastodon as they do to email.

The problem is that, for email, there are a bunch of providers who will run the server for me at a reasonable rate; for Mastodon, the ecosystem isn’t so well developed. I thought about running my own server, but I’m hesitant to do that for a couple of reasons: it’s not clear to me that it would fit within the memory/cpu of the server that’s running this blog and my other random projects, and also the more stuff that I run there, the more exposed I am to security vulnerabilities. (Not that I have any reason to believe Mastodon is particularly insecure, but still: it’s software, vulnerabilities will be discovered.) I could mitigate that by running it on a different server and restricting the access between that server and my main server, but that costs money, and takes time to administer.

ALternatively, I could pay somebody else to run a Mastodon instance for me. When I first heard about that, the numbers I heard made me think that those services cost about $20/month; that would would be fine if it were important to me but it seems like a bit much otherwise for now? Looking at pricing, though, I could probably do just fine on the $6/month or the $9/month plan, so actually this option is more viable than I thought. (Assuming that I trust to do a good job of running instances and to stay in business…)

So, honestly, maybe I will go that route. And it also wouldn’t shock me if, in two years or five years or whatever, Google ended up including something compatible with Mastodon within Google Workspace; it seems like something that would be noticeably more efficient to run if you could amortize the work across a ton of different users, after all.


At any rate, I decided to make the most boring choice and just sign up for a account. I was already leaning that way and then I discovered that I’d signed up for an account with them back in 2016; I’d completely forgotten about that, but my account was still there, just waiting for me to use it.

So I’ve been active as for the last four and a half months; and I’ve been very happy with that choice. Hopefully at some point over the next five years I’ll switch away and have an address that ends in, but this has been fine for now.

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