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A beginner’s guide to Mastodon, the open source Twitter alternative



As Twitter users fret over the direction that new owner Elon Musk is taking the company, masses of users have hopped over to Mastodon, an open source Twitter alternative. Since October 27, when the SpaceX and Tesla CEO formalized his Twitter takeover, Mastodon has gained nearly 500,000 new users, effectively doubling its user base. But what is Mastodon, and should we all be getting our accounts set up?

If you’re a Twitter purist who likes to use basic functionality like private DMing, quote-tweeting and user-friendly onboarding, Mastodon might not be for you. But if you’re looking to try something new on the social internet, then why not give Mastodon a whirl? Elon Musk isn’t there!

What is Mastodon?

Mastodon was founded in 2016 by German software developer Eugen Rochko. Unlike Twitter, Facebook, Reddit or any other popular social media site, Mastodon is a nonprofit, meaning that, ideally, its goal is to benefit the public, rather than shareholders.

“Unlike the past 5 years that I’ve been running Mastodon operations as a sole proprietor, where Mastodon’s income was my personal income (minus all the expenses), I am now an employee with a fixed wage,” Rochko wrote in a blog post last year. “My personal income will thus be lower but I was willing to go this route because I want Mastodon to have more resources for things like hiring extra developers, UX designers, developing official apps and so on, and I want there to be a clear boundary between fundraising for that cause and my personal income.”


Mastodon might look like a Twitter clone at first glance, but the underlying system behind the microblogging platform is far more complex. The service is decentralized (no, not in a blockchain way), describing itself as a “federated network which operates in a similar way to email.”

When you first create your account, you choose a server — similar to how you choose to open an email account on Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo or wherever — which generates your profile’s address. So, for example, if you sign up for Mastodon via the climate justice server, then your address will be @[your username] But no matter which server you sign up with, you will be able to communicate with users from any other server, just like how Gmail users email Hotmail users and vice versa. However, some servers might have blocked other servers (perhaps if it’s an unsavory group), which would mean you can’t communicate with anyone from the blocked server.

The Mastodon lingo

Mastodon users generally refer to individual communities as “instances” or servers. These Mastodon servers can be run by individuals, groups or organizations that each have their own set of rules regarding how users can sign up, as well as their own moderation policies. Some servers let anyone join, while others are invite-only or require approval by an admin. For example, a server for professional scientists asks applicants to include a link to their research to demonstrate that they are, indeed, professionals.

Choosing which server to register your account with might seem stressful, but it’s possible to move your account later, so don’t worry. Plus, you can follow people regardless of which server they’re on.

You may also hear Mastodon described as part of the “Fediverse,” or an interconnected web of various social media services. You know how having a Twitter account doesn’t mean you can use that account on Instagram? Through the Fediverse, your single Mastodon account also grants you access to other decentralized social networks, if that interests you.

You may also see Mastodon’s equivalent of tweets being referred to as “toots,” but this is fading out of favor (since it’s kind of silly!). Many people are just calling them “posts” these days, but “toot” is often found referenced in older third-party clients.

Mastodon supports a number of Twitter conventions like replies, retweets, favorites, bookmarks and hashtags. But its retweets are called “boosts” and it doesn’t support the concept of quote tweets. This was an intentional choice on the part of the founder who said it encourages speaking “at your audience” instead of “with the person you’re talking to.”

In addition, Mastodon lists work slightly differently from Twitter as you can only add people to a list if you’re already following them. And Direct messages on Mastodon are just @username posts, not private messages coming to a DM inbox.

What does it mean that Mastodon is open source?

Anyone can download, modify and install Mastodon on their own server — plus, the developers of the platform don’t own the copyright.

That doesn’t mean that you can grab Mastodon’s code without acknowledging the source, though. Former President Donald Trump’s social media platform, Truth Social, initially launched with Mastodon code and passed it off as if it were original software. Mastodon did not take kindly to that.

How do you create a Mastodon account?

When you arrive on the Mastodon website, you can click a button called “create account,” which directs you to a page listing servers to choose from. You can filter these by various factors, like region, language, topic, sign-up speed and more. There, find a server that piques your interest and join — if it’s a server that requires you to be approved, you might need to wait a bit. From there, you can start finding people to follow, regardless of whether they’re registered via your same server.

How do you decide which Mastodon server to join?

Mastodon’s website has helpful resources — but it’s still a bit overwhelming and challenging to find a home base that aligns with your interests. Ask friends who are already on Mastodon if they have suggestions! Or just join somewhere random, because you can always change your server affiliation later once you get into the swing of things.

Can you talk to people on other Mastodon servers besides your own?

Yes, you can follow people outside of your local server and reply to their posts. However, when you want to follow someone on a different server, you have to enter their username in the search box on your server to find them first, then follow them. You can’t just go to their profile and click the follow button as you would on Twitter.

What’s the difference between the Home, Local and Federated timelines?

Your Home timeline shows you posts from people that you follow, similar to Twitter. The Local timeline shows posts from all users in your server, while the Federated timeline shows you all public posts from users that people in your server follow. (Hint: You can turn on “Slow Mode” in Preferences –> Appearance to hide timeline updates behind a click if things are coming at you too fast!)

What is Mastodon’s moderation policy?

Individual server admins set their own moderation policies, so you should read the policy on the server you choose to ensure it matches up with your values.

What are the drawbacks of Mastodon when compared with Twitter?

Mastodon’s user base is a fraction of a percentage of the size of Twitter’s userbase. It’s also far less intuitive to navigate, since it hasn’t been designed for a massive global audience like Twitter. That could change in time as more developers join the project in the wake of the Twitter takeover.

Also, since Mastodon isn’t as well-resourced as Twitter, sometimes… it doesn’t work as well. In recent days, the service has been sluggish at times if not totally stalled as servers adjusted to the massive influx of new users. This can impact other areas of use, too, like when you quickly try to follow a number of your friends on the service and find you have to wait between batches as you’ve been rate-limited.

What are the benefits of Mastodon compared with Twitter?

Well, for one thing, Mastodon is not owned by Elon Musk. But in all seriousness, it’s going to be difficult in the near-term for Mastodon to replicate the same “watercooler of the world” vibe that Twitter is defined by. Some users might prefer Mastodon to Twitter, though, as it’s more customizable by nature. Unlike Twitter, individual communities have different content guidelines, which provide a variety of different user experiences. And while the user base on Mastodon is smaller, this can lead to more personal and direct conversations, at times, compared with tweeting into the void, so to speak.

Is Mastodon safer than Twitter?

Mastodon is what you make of it. Due to its decentralized nature, if you are looking for a more controlled online experience, you can join a server with stricter guardrails against harassment. Some Mastodon features are also built with mitigating harassment in mind. For example, you can only search by hashtag, not by words that appear in a toot. So if you want your post to be discoverable, you can tag it — if you’d rather limit the audience, no one can find your tweet about the Red Sox by simply searching “red sox” if you haven’t tagged it.

However, a text-based search can surface the posts you’ve written, favorited, boosted or have been mentioned in, which can be useful.

The service has another handy feature that allows users to easily add a content warning to a post directly in the compose box. Some Mastodon users have been having fun with this lately by “warning” others their post would be about Twitter drama.

Can I post images and video?

As noted above, Mastodon supports many Twitter conventions, but its support for media is more limited. Where Twitter supports a variety of media and other data appended to tweets, including its audio-only social “Spaces,” plus photos, video, GIFs, polls, precise location and experimental “Status” tags, Mastodon simply supports images, videos, audio and polls.

You can add up to four images to a post, up to eight megabytes in size. Video and audio can be any length, but with a file size limit of 40 megabytes.

Can I post privately to friends?

Similar to how Twitter now allows users to limit their tweets’ visibility through its Circle feature, Mastodon offers the ability to set your post’s privacy at the time of writing. Posts can be set to be public to be visible by all; unlisted to make them public but opted out of discovery features; only visible to your followers; or only visible to those users you’ve mentioned.

Can I post threads?

Yep! But this functionality isn’t built into Mastodon officially, as it now is on Twitter. Instead, you have to build threads the old-fashioned way — by replying to your own posts.

Can I get verified on Mastodon?

No. There’s no universal verification system like on Twitter. Some servers may vet their user sign-ups and you can self-verify, in a way, by adding links to your Mastodon profile that have a specific attribute (rel=”me”) in order to prove you are who you say you are.

Some servers are having fun with the idea of verification in a less-than-official fashion. For example, the server lets you add blue-and-white checkmarks and other emoji to your display name if you’d like, which make you look verified, even though these don’t mean anything. (Sort of like Twitter’s new verification system! But for free!)

Is Mastodon here to stay?

Mastodon is experiencing a massive influx of new users from Twitter, but it’s not clear the platform will continue growing at such a rapid rate in the weeks ahead. With now just one million users, Mastodon is far smaller than Twitter, which today counts over 237 million monetizable daily active users. Still, not all social networks are created equal, and you might find that you prefer tooting about TTRPGs in a dedicated server, as opposed to tweeting into a realm of madness. Or, you might find that this decentralized system is confusing, and you’ll just ride out the Muskening on Twitter. Choose your own adventure!

I’m not sure I want to leave Twitter. Can I cross-post from Twitter to Mastodon?

Yes, this is possible by way of third-party tools. These require you to authorize your account with Twitter and Mastodon and set up parameters. We’ve had success with Moa Party, which allows you to get specific as to which tweets or retweets are cross-posted. But other tools are available, including Mastodon Twitter Crossposter, which is also available here on GitHub.

Can I find my Twitter friends on Mastodon?

Yes, this is also possible with third-party tools. We’ve seen many Mastodon users trying out tools like Fedifinder, Twitodon and Debirdify, for example.

Will Mastodon work with Bluesky, the decentralized social network that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is building?

Nope — not unless Bluesky chooses to adopt the ActivityPub protocol Mastodon uses. Currently, Bluesky is not planning to integrate with ActivityPub, having decided to build its own networking protocol, Bluesky, which will also be the name of the social networking app. There is some skepticism among the developer and open source community about whether or not Bluesky’s decision to go its own way is really about its own protocol’s advantages or if it’s more about producing a spec it could eventually control.

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Unveiling the Reality of Canada’s FACE Loan for Black Businesses




In an effort to address economic disparities and promote entrepreneurship among Black communities, Canada introduced the Federal Black Entrepreneurship Program (FBEP) and the associated Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund (BEFL). However, recent revelations have brought to light a shocking reality: the underutilization and obstacles faced by Black businesses in accessing the FACE (Funding for Black Entrepreneurship) loans. In this thought-provoking article, we delve into the numbers and uncover the challenges and experiences of Black entrepreneurs in navigating these loan programs. Through interviews with business owners, experts, and advocates, we shed light on the systemic barriers that hinder their success and explore potential solutions for a more equitable and inclusive lending landscape.

The FACE loan program was created with the intention of providing financial support and resources to Black-owned businesses. However, the reality has been far from the expected outcomes. Jessica Thompson, an economist specializing in racial disparities, states, “The FACE loan program was designed to address historical economic disadvantages, but the numbers reveal a significant gap between its objectives and the lived experiences of Black entrepreneurs.”

Black entrepreneurs face numerous hurdles when attempting to access FACE loans. A lack of awareness about the program, complex application processes, and limited outreach to communities in need contribute to low participation rates. Michael Johnson, a business owner, shares his frustration, saying, “It’s disheartening to see a program that was meant to uplift Black businesses fall short due to bureaucratic obstacles. Many of us struggle to navigate the application process and meet the stringent criteria.”

Systemic barriers and discrimination persist within the lending landscape, perpetuating the cycle of inequality. Dr. Maya Williams, a sociologist specializing in racial disparities, explains, “Structural racism and bias continue to disadvantage Black entrepreneurs. Discrimination in loan approvals, higher interest rates, and limited access to capital contribute to the challenges faced by Black-owned businesses.”


The consequences of the FACE loan program’s shortcomings are far-reaching. Many Black-owned businesses struggle to access the capital needed for growth, expansion, and operational sustainability. Tanya Campbell, a business owner, emphasizes, “The lack of financial support hampers our ability to scale our businesses, hire employees, and contribute to the local economy. It perpetuates a cycle of limited opportunities and restricted growth.”

To address the disparities within the FACE loan program, experts and advocates propose several solutions. Improved outreach and community engagement, simplified application processes and tailored support services can increase access and awareness among Black entrepreneurs. John Stevens, a business consultant, suggests, “The government must invest in targeted initiatives that address the specific needs and challenges faced by Black-owned businesses, such as mentorship programs, financial literacy training, and capacity-building initiatives.”

Addressing the challenges faced by Black entrepreneurs requires collaboration and accountability from various stakeholders. Governments, financial institutions, and community organizations must work together to create an inclusive lending ecosystem. Mary Johnson, an advocate for Black economic empowerment, states, “Transparency, accountability, and ongoing dialogue between policymakers, lenders, and Black entrepreneurs are essential to drive meaningful change and ensure equal opportunities for all.”

The FACE loan program aimed to empower Black entrepreneurs and address economic disparities, but the reality falls short of expectations. The underutilization and obstacles faced by Black businesses in accessing FACE loans highlight the pressing need for systemic change within the lending landscape. By acknowledging and addressing the structural barriers, streamlining processes, and fostering collaboration, we can create a more inclusive and equitable environment where Black entrepreneurs thrive. It is through proactive measures, collective effort, and ongoing dialogue that we can dismantle systemic inequities and build a future where Black-owned businesses have equal access to the resources and support necessary for success.

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Oil Prices Climb As Default Fears Fade



Crude oil began trading this week with a gain after President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy were reported to have reached a provisional agreement on raising the debt ceiling.

At the time of writing, Brent crude was trading at over $77 per barrel and West Texas Intermediate was changing hands at over $73 per barrel.

Debt ceiling negotiations have been a major factor for oil price movements in the past couple of weeks, mostly because of the apparent inability of Republicans and Democrats in Congress to strike any semblance of an agreement on how to increase the federal government’s borrowing power.


According to early reports on the tentative deal, it involves flat spending over the next two years and the recycling of unused Covid funds.

Although such tense negotiations have been relatively regular in past years, they have eventually ended with an agreement, and default has invariably been avoided.

This historical evidence could have served to stabilize prices but it did not, and neither did mixed data about China’s recovery. On the one hand, PMI readings are showing an uneven rebound in economic activity, but on the other, demand for oil as evidenced by import rates, is going strong.

To complicate the picture further, OPEC+ is reportedly in two minds about what to do with its output at its next meeting.

According to reports quoting Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman, he has hinted at another round of output cuts.

According to reports quoting Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and top OPEC+ official Alexander Novak, the co-leader of the extended cartel is fine with production where it is right now.

Thanks to its recent gains, oil’s decline since the start of the year has shrunk from about 14% earlier this month to just 9% as of the start of this week, according to Bloomberg.

By Irina Slav for



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U.S. debt-limit deal brings relief tinged by caution



American equity futures posted modest gains amid cautious optimism the U.S. will avert a catastrophic default after the weekend’s tentative debt-ceiling deal. European stocks wavered in muted holiday-affected trading.

Contracts on the S&P 500 climbed about 0.2 per cent, while those on the Nasdaq 100 were up around 0.3 per cent, with trading set to end early for Memorial Day. The dollar, which has benefited from angst around the statutory borrowing limit, held Friday’s decline while Treasury futures were flat in the absence of cash trading.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index edged lower, with Spain’s benchmark underperforming after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called a surprise snap election following heavy losses for his party in regional and local elections Sunday. Volumes were about 60 per cent lower than usual as markets in the U.K. and some European countries remained closed for national holidays. SBB gained after the embattled Swedish landlord said it may look to sell the company. A gauge of Asia-Pacific equities rose, though Chinese shares slid closer to a bear market.

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy expressed confidence that their agreement to curtail spending and extend the borrowing limit will pass through Congress. But even assuming lawmakers seal the deal before the U.S. government runs out of cash in about a week, traders still have much to contend with — from the prospect of another interest-rate hike from the Federal Reserve to a likely deluge of bond issuance from the U.S. Treasury Department.


“The obvious positive interpretation is that a negative tail risk is close to being taken off the table,” said Dan Suzuki, deputy chief investment officer at Richard Bernstein Advisors. “With the distraction of the debt ceiling fading into the background, investors can now refocus their attention on the underlying fundamentals. One concern, though, is that the fundamental picture remains precarious.”

European bonds rose, with Germany’s 10-year yield falling about 11 basis points. Spain’s 10-year yield dropped by a similar amount.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s lira weakened after Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a presidential runoff election on Sunday, extending his time as the nation’s longest-serving leader and leaving investors looking for any signs he’ll start to relax the state’s tight grip over markets. The nation’s stocks benchmark gained.

Gold was flat on waning demand for havens, while as oil held onto most of Friday’s gains and Bitcoin climbed, reflecting a modestly buoyant tone.


The agreement struck by Biden and McCarthy is running against the clock given that June 5 is the date when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said cash will run out. There is plenty in the deal that Democrats and Republicans won’t like.

“Uncertainty persists regarding the duration and severity of the ongoing earnings recession, and perversely, the near-term tightening of liquidity may worsen due to the government’s need to address its debt issuance backlog,” said Suzuki. “While the markets managed to avert an immediate crisis, the coast is far from all-clear just yet.”

The rate-sensitive two-year Treasury drifted Friday as traders considered how a debt agreement could play into the Fed’s path forward on interest rates. The two-year yield hovered around 4.65 per cent after a report on consumer spending showed the Fed still has more work to do to bring inflation back toward its target.

“Markets will have the liquidity hassles to deal with, as the Treasury will issue a deluge of bonds to restore its cash reserves,” said Charu Chanana, market strategist at Saxo Capital Markets. “Not to forget, the hawkish re-pricing of the Fed path that we have seen last week could possibly get firmer if we get a hot jobs print this week.”

Key events this week:

  • U.S. Memorial Day holiday. U.K., Switzerland and some Nordic markets also closed for holidays, Monday
  • Eurozone economic confidence, consumer confidence, Tuesday
  • U.S. consumer confidence, Tuesday
  • Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin interviewed by NABE as part of monetary policy webinar series, Tuesday
  • China manufacturing PMI, non-manufacturing PMI, Wednesday
  • U.S. job openings, Wednesday
  • Fed issues Beige Book economic survey, Wednesday
  • Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker has fireside chat on the global macro-economy and monetary conditions, Wednesday
  • Boston Fed President Susan Collins and Fed Governor Michelle Bowman speak in Boston, Wednesday.
  • ECB issues financial stability review, Wednesday
  • China Caixin manufacturing PMI, Thursday
  • Eurozone HCOB Eurozone Manufacturing PMI, CPI, unemployment, Thursday
  • U.S. construction spending, initial jobless claims, ISM Manufacturing, light vehicle sales, Thursday
  • ECB issues report its May 3-4 monetary policy meeting. ECB President Christine Lagarde speaks at German savings banks conference, Thursday
  • Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker speaks on economic outlook at NABE’s webinar, Thursday
  • U.S. unemployment, nonfarm payrolls, Friday

Some of the main moves in markets:


  • S&P 500 futures rose 0.2 per cent as of 9:56 a.m. New York time
  • Futures on the Nasdaq 100 rose 0.3 per cent
  • The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.2 per cent
  • The MSCI World index was little changed


  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed
  • The euro fell 0.1 per cent to US$1.0709
  • The British pound was unchanged at $1.2344
  • The Japanese yen rose 0.3 per cent to 140.22 per dollar


  • Bitcoin rose 1.3 per cent to $27,919.46
  • Ether rose 2.5 per cent to $1,901.1


  • Germany’s 10-year yield declined 11 basis points to 2.43 per cent


  • West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.3 per cent to $72.43 a barrel
  • Gold futures were little changed



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