The most daunting thing for me about joining Mastodon/Fediverse was picking an instance.

Having joined one, a RL metaphor emerges for me: "it's like picking an apartment building."

You need to evaluate the management. Do they respect tenant rights? Is the desk clerk skeevy?

Do you want to live in a big impersonal complex? Or a little boarding house, where people share a lot and have house parties? You can even be a "home owner" and run your own instance (pay the bills, fix the plumbing).

I have started using this metaphor when recommending friends to use it.

The metaphor extends to the available feeds:

'Home': chat w/ my friends circle, including neighbors and visitors you invited in.

'Local': building party, hang w/ neighbors.

'Federated': take a walk down the street, see weird stuff, chat w/ random strangers, but keep your guard up.

Of course, it's not a perfect match, but I think it quickly conveys the social experience and trade-offs between different instances.

Wow. This blew up. I guess this random late-night musing struck a cord with many people at just the right moment. :dabart:

Wish I could edit the inconsistent 1st/2nd person line. Oops.

I hear than a true edit feature is coming, but I guess we're not running it yet on

Also, I hadn't heard about the most recent Twitter news when I wrote it. I HAVE been trying to get more people to join Fediverse, as it's a lot more fun for me than Facebook or Twitter.

@TerryHancock Hm, yeah, that's why I moved from to #lurk was better aligned with my interests, but now I also have very different 'Local' and 'Federated' TLs, and I'm enjoying this a lot. (Aside from all the other great things about the #fedi, of course.)

@TerryHancock This is a cool way to imagine it. Reminds me of Geocities imagining websites as physical locations in a large neighborhood.

@TerryHancock Also, if your needs change, you can move to a new building/new instance!

@TerryHancock Something I think many people overlook both in real homeownership and self-hosting is that you can hire people to do work for you.

Landlords often talk up the rental model by saying "we'll manage the property for you" but you can own your property and still not have to manage it. You can hire people to do maintenance, repairs, yard care, or even hire a property manager if you can't attend to those details yourself.

Why not for self-hosting too?

That's true. And I think some instances are run that way.

Very nice analogy, I tried elsewhere to include advertisement into it, curious about what you think about this take.

@TerryHancock It also matches the situation when you move between instances:
- you need to tell everyone your new address
- you start with a new, empty apartment (a.k.a. you need to fill your timeline anew)

@TerryHancock I feel like this should be added to the Mastodon Onboarding! It's so accurate and easy to understand!! @Gargron

@TerryHancock this is not a bad analogy...but there is no true landlordism...


I'm not sure what you mean by that, but there is definitely a need for some trust of the people who run Fedi instances. Bad behavior is possible.

Some are neglectful or overwhelmed, which encourages problems from other tenants.

Other are busibodies who moderate too intensely which can become oppressive. And I suppose there must be data privacy concerns.

But you have your pick, including becoming "your own landlord". For a higher cost, obviously, so most don't do that. As in RL.

(I may not know what "landlordism" means, exactly - it sounds like you're tying into something broader than just 'having landlords').

@TerryHancock I was also pointing out the limits of the analogy. Though I suppose it is possible to have a fediverse slum lord, where someone puts up a public instance, and then simply ignores maintaining it 🤣

@TerryHancock My choice was easy. I was already a part of a bunch of thriving internet communities, and one of them started an instance. BOOM. Easy peazy.

They had actually been running GnuSocial before that, but when Masto came out they dropped GunSocial in favor of Masto.


Yeah, that makes sense. I waffled for quite awhile between joining a free-software/open-source focused instance and an art/film instance, since my interests are kind of on the line between them.

But in the end, it doesn't matter that much. I opted for art, because I like browsing the artwork on the local feed.

@TerryHancock Yeah, I don't see there being too much of a difference between instances, particularly if you're just looking for a twitter clone. I mean I wouldn't have signed up at an instance run by nazis, but other than that, the theme of the instance doesn't matter too much until they allow local only posting.

@TerryHancock this is a great metaphor! I especially like it because it emphasizes the great value of federated services, you get to choose your community. And that community is made up of people, including people who are working to supply this space.

@TerryHancock Exactly! I started out on main mastodon, didn't like the hugeness of it, then went to, didn't like the heavy moderation, then to bsd network and I'm happy here :) Sometimes just like in real life you have to move around.

@arcade @TerryHancock @kescher my instance manager is the only manager I like in my life (maybe that they mainly live on a tiny screen factors into that) @selea

@TerryHancock this is legit such a good metaphor! like i feel like this should be added to new user guides. it makes the whole concept way more digestible.

@TerryHancock when I first joined fedi, I ended up on an instance where one could only post the letter "E"

It took me more than a year before trying again

@dysphoricunicorn I also saw one where you _couldn't_ use the letter 'e'.

@TerryHancock damn that's probably the best analogy I've seen so far (also "home owner" is on spot)

@TerryHancock You can move rather easily. And you don't have to limit yourself to one place.

@TerryHancock I was originally on, and after a thing happened, I decided I wanted to transfer to a new instance. It ended up being extremely easy. To further the analogy you started, there's no leases. You can move out and in to a new instance whenever you want, if you don't like the management. I love that about Mastodon 😁

@artilectzed @TerryHancock how do you manage the change of id? Don’t you lose all of your followers? Or is there the equivalent of a forwarding address from the old server?

@dougc @artilectzed

There's a system for automatic forwarding. I haven't actually used it yet, but I understand that at least "followers" and "following" go with it.

@dougc @artilectzed @TerryHancock Go to Settings -> Account and you will finde the functions for migrating your account on the bottom. You can then redirect your followers. I can't give you more detail though because I've never done it. Official documentation is at

@TerryHancock hosting with @mastohost is like having a management company run things for you. 😉

@TerryHancock Ha! Love your analogy. In that case I am in the bedsit down the corridor from @mjd who also happens to be the janitor/owner. btw thanks for the digs MJD

@TerryHancock That was exaclty my problem: i don't want to pick! I want a cross-section of my identities! On Twitter I have carefully crafted my bubble for seven years now ... how can I recreate that?

It doesn't matter that much where you hang your hat, because it doesn't stop you from going elsewhere via federation.

Searches include other federated instances, so you aren't limited to your home instance, anymore than you'd spend all your time in your apartment. There's a whole city out there.

@TerryHancock I hope "instance rent" isn't something that ever catches on though 😅


It does cost something to run an instance, so it wouldn't be out of the question. Most instances seem to just "pass the hat" -- posting their Patreon or KoFi or whatever. I've even seen an instance with a merch store.

But the diversity of means of support is also part of the appeal. Pretty sure there will always be free or donation-supported options.

@TerryHancock Oh yea don't get me wrong, I've financially supported my instance since 2017. But that's not rent, that's co-operative funding.
The idea of a merch store is interesting, although making ethical merch is hard these days unfortunately

while it's not a bad analogy, I'd replace "RL" with "offline" instead.
Using "Real Life" as a term to contrast online media gives the imho harmful connotation that online interactions aren't part of real life; obviously this isn't true as there are real people with real feelings on either side of the connection.

@colinwmd @TerryHancock the app doesn't seem to have local or federated.. Just Home. I may be doing something wrong though?

@S3cr3ts1m0n @TerryHancock not sure, Tusky does, although for my server their currently deactivated to stop the slowdowns


FWIW, I use Fedilab on my phone (which does have the Local and Federared feeds). I've heard that the "official" Mastodon app lacks some features, currently.


@TerryHancock @colinwmd I'm using a combination of the official app and Tusky atm.

@TerryHancock @S3cr3ts1m0n yeah, I used the official one for a bit but went back to Tusky for the time being. Might look up fedilab though

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