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Getting Social

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What is Chinwag Social?

Chinwag Social is our local Mastodon instance. Mastodon is Twitter-style social networking combined with email-style instanced servers. Chinwag Social accounts are not linked to Chinwag Messaging accounts at this time – note they use the domain, and not It’s intended that Social accounts should also be usable as XMPP accounts, but this has not been implemented just yet.

How is it like Twitter?

You post relatively-short status updates, and you can see a streaming list of your friends’ status updates. You can keep notifications (replies, boosts, favorites, and DMs) in a separate column.

Chinwag Social’s statuses are called “toots”, like Twitter’s are called “tweets”. A toot can be up to 500 characters long.

Chinwag Social also supports hashtags, which are words prefixed by #, like “#gameing” or “#pineapple”. You can click on a hashtag to search for other posts containing that tag.

How is it like email?

Each Mastodon instance is independent but networked, like email servers. If you sign up for an email account on, you don’t automatically have an account on or, but you can send and receive messages to and from users on and

Likewise, if you sign up for an account on, that doesn’t make an account for you on every other instance, but you can talk to users from other instances and they can talk to you.

You can make accounts on multiple instances if you want to talk about different things separately. You could have an account on to talk about technology, an account on to talk about gaming, and an account on for general chatter. You have to sign into each account separately, and keep each open in a separate browser tab or window.

Keep in mind that in general, when talking about Mastodon, “instance” and “server” mean the same thing.

How is it not like either of those?

Chinwag Social has two additional timelines that you can view: the Local timeline and the Federated timeline.

The Local timeline is every post with a public status posted by users on your instance, with the exception of replies. (A reply is any toot posted in response to another toot – NOT any toot that simply mentions another user!)

The Federated timeline is every post with a public status posted by any user that your instance knows about, even from other instances. Your instance knows about a remote user if at least one user on your instance has EVER followed them.

## How do I mention someone who’s not on my instance?

Mastodon usernames take the form @username@instance. Your local admin’s account on is; his account on is If you’re mentioning someone on a different instance, you have to type the whole thing (although the toot input box will help you auto-complete the username if it’s a name the instance knows already).

If you’re mentioning someone on your own instance, you just have to type the first part; if you’re on, @mike will get to Mike just like will. If you leave off the “@instance” Mastodon understands that you want to talk to the local user.

What are the rules?

Chinwag Social has its community guidelines posted at This is deliberately very light, as we try to be hands-off on our user communications, but at the same time we’re not free speech absolutists. Don’t be a dick to other people and make us come over there.

As for other instances, we might go so far as to block an entire other instance if their users turn out to be incompatible with our instance’s values and the good of our users and the other instance’s moderators won’t help. At this time we have not blocked any other instance, nor do we intend to.

How do privacy settings work?

Under each post you’ll see three icons: a camera, a globe or a padlock, and the letters “CW”. Click on the globe or padlock to choose the privacy settings for your post.

  • Public means that everyone can see your post.
  • Unlisted means that everyone can see your post, but it won’t appear on the public timelines – either Local or Federated. Anyone who follows you or views your profile can see the toot, though.
  • Followers-Only means that only people who follow you and people mentioned in the post can see your post. If someone who doesn’t follow you views your profile, they won’t see this post.
  • Private means that only people who are mentioned in your post can see it.

Keep in mind that some servers, which run software that’s compatible with but not the same as Mastodon, will ignore these privacy settings if you send a message to their users, so be careful!

What does “CW” mean?

CW stands for Content Warning. It hides your post behind text (which you get to choose); it’s like a Read More link.

You might use CWs for:

  • Politics
  • Sex
  • Gross topics
  • Common phobias, like spiders or blood
  • Health discussions
  • Punchlines to jokes
  • Long posts that might otherwise fill up people’s timelines

In general, just use your best judgment; think “is there a reason someone might not want to see this?”.

I just attached a picture to my toot. What’s with the new ‘eye’ icon?

Clicking that will hide your image behind a “Sensitive content” overlay. This is good for nudity, gore and violence, political topics, etc.

You’ll notice that if you have both an image and a CW on a toot, the “Sensitive content” overlay is turned on automatically and can’t be turned off. That’s on purpose.

How come my friend on another instance can use this emoji, but I can’t?

Each instance can define custom emoji for their users to use, and many have taken advantage of this. We can copy emoji that we like from other instances if requested. If you see an emoji that you like and it’s not available on your instance, ask us to copy it over.

I like Mastodon and I want to use it on my phone

Mastodon has a responsive design, so you can use it in your phone’s browser. Alternately, there are many apps available for Mastodon. The most widely-used are Tusky and Subway Tooter for Android, and Amaroq and Tootdon for iOS.

I have other questions

Ask around! People are usually pretty happy to answer questions and help out. If you really get stuck, ask Mike:


This document was heavily based on the excellent “A brief introduction to Mastodon” by and used with permission. Feel free to create further derivatives!