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So What? Getting started with Mastodon

So What? Marketing Analytics and Insights Live

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In this week’s episode of So What? we focus on getting started with Mastodon. We walk through what Mastodon is, how to sign up, and what brands and individuals should consider when getting started with Mastodon. Catch the replay here:

So What? Getting started with Mastodon


In this episode you’ll learn: 

  • What is the Mastodon social platform
  • How it works and getting started with Mastodon
  • Considerations for brands vs. individuals

Upcoming Episodes:

  • TBD


Have a question or topic you’d like to see us cover? Reach out here:

AI-Generated Transcript:


Katie Robbert 0:30
Well, hey, how are you? Happy Thursday. Welcome to so with the marketing analytics and insights live show. I’m Katie joined by Chris and John. Howdy fellas,

John Wall 0:38

Katie Robbert 0:41
Today we are talking about getting started with Mastodon, the social platform, not the metal band, or the animal. We’re going to talk about what it is. First of all, I only knew I only knew it was a thing a couple of weeks ago. So I am the perfect target audience for today’s show. We’re gonna talk about how it works, how to get started, how to sign up, and considerations for brands versus individuals. So given that it is not an animal or a metal band, which it they are, but not in this context, we’re not talking about those today. Chris, what is Mastodon as a social platform?

Christopher Penn 1:20
Mastodon is what is called a de centralized social network. It looks feels and operates pretty much like Twitter at first, the a couple of surface differences. Instead of 280 characters you can you’re up to 500. The individual posts instead of calling them tweets are called toots. You can fan

Unknown Speaker 1:52
you’re losing me all right.

Christopher Penn 1:55
But what makes it different is that it is decentralized. It is a federated social network. Here’s what that means. Most of the time with our social networks that we use today, they are centralized, you go to And yes, underneath the hood is very, very complex IT architecture but from the end user perspective, you just go to this place you sign in, and you talk to people that central control means that when a social network company changes things up, you don’t really get a choice, right? You know, Twitter just underwent a change of management. And there’s been some pretty dramatic, not necessarily positive changes. We don’t have control of them. A decentralized federated social network is one in which individual entities essentially put up their own servers, and they all talk to each other. The model that people understand without question is the original the OG federated social network, email. Every company has its email servers. There are big email providers like gmail and hotmail. They’re small ones, like the one that you accompany. If you’re a real nerd, like a lot of us were in the 90s, you may even set up your own email server at one point. I remember when I joined my first startup, I was responsible for the administration of the email server itself. You control your email server, you control the policies on it. But of course, because of the nature of the protocols involved in SMTP, POP and IMAP, your email server can talk to any email server around the world. And as long as you’re not a spammer, those those servers connect, and you get your emails seamlessly go from, you know, your Gmail account to your Trust Insights account to your Hotmail account, and so on and so forth. That’s one aspect. The second aspect is because it is federated and server base. Every Mastodon instance or server is its own little collective in addition to speaking to the Federation, so what happens on your server if you on the server you’re on, has its own policies. For example, if we’ve talked in the past on this show about things like discord, Discord is semi federated, right, your Discord server, or your Slack group like the analytics, remarketing slack that we run has its own policies, its own culture, its own community, its own rules. And with Mastodon, when you if you set up if you choose to set up your own server, you can also set those rules and say, Hey, here’s the things that we don’t allow on this server. You can’t control what happens to the rest of the Federation just like you can’t tell people what they can and can’t email on their own servers. But in within your company. If you have an email server in your company, you can say hey, you can’t email certain things that you can’t do have attachments over certain sites. was when I worked in financial services? Because you absolutely could not email customer information, right? You know, there was actually were programs on the server that look for things like, Hey, that looks like a credit card number, I’m not even gonna send this message. And so that’s what Mastodon is, it is a social network that has global reach, but also local communities that are server based. And when you when you start using it, you find a place that looks good. Or if you’re super nerdy, you start your own.

Katie Robbert 5:31
Okay, I’m going to pause there and sort of repeat back what I think I’m hearing. So I understand the example of email, other companies having it but in terms of a social network, I don’t think people consider email social network. I understand the example though. So would it be in some ways, akin to you have your own slack instance. And if you’re working with a client, for example, who has their own slack instance, you can create a connected instance where you invite those guests into yours and vice versa, but you never really leave your instance of slack.

Christopher Penn 6:13
Exactly. Right.

Katie Robbert 6:14
Okay. That, that I can that I can understand that makes sense. And so if you are a Slack user, then that would be a great example, if you’re not a Slack user, then you know, if you think about what AOL chat rooms for example, you have separate chat rooms like one for people who love puppies, one for people who love popcorn and one for people who love movies. And then you sort of spin off a almost like the, the Venn diagram of the people who love puppies and movies, bringing those two places together. That’s a very basic, very over simplistic example. But basically, it’s it sounds like, you know, there’s a lot of opportunity, if you want to get involved now, why is everybody talking about Mastodon right now?

Christopher Penn 7:08
Everyone’s talking about Mastodon for a couple of reasons. One, its decentralized nature means that it is immune to having a change of management, right, he does a project. So you on your own Mastodon server can say, okay, Katie, we’re not allowing any guys to join us. It’s a women’s only server. And that would be okay. That would be okay. You know, women and analytics, the organization that you volunteer with, might seriously want to consider that. And so what we see on screen here, this is mastodons interface. This is Mastodon that social, which is the original home server. And you can see on the right hand side, there’s a couple different menus, there’s the Explore menu, which is sort of home base. There’s the local menu, which is the stuff that’s happening only on this server within this community. And then there’s the federated base, which they don’t have setup right now. We can see what’s happening throughout the the mastodon Federation. And so, your server you get to determine the rules if you say, you know, cat owners are forbidden from joining the server, you can do that that is that is within your rights. If you say I want to be people have a specific gender or specific political orientation. Again, these are private instances. And you may choose to do with them what you will. So a lot of people who are talking about things like censorship and other social networks. Mastodon very much is an answer to that we can say, Yeah, I spin up your own sets instance you do with how we want and you can join your server can we’ll talk to the Federation. But if people want to have conversations and stuff just in their community, they can and they and they can embrace whatever points of view that they want. The second thing that’s true that’s interesting about Mastodon is again, it’s like email, there is no email company, like there was a Facebook company. So as long as servers exist, and are federated to each other, no one can shut it down. No one can censor it. And no one can can assign arbitrary rules. That means that you know, for people who are interested in having something that maybe they own, or maybe that they run they can. We’ve been talking internally about having Trust Insights, run its own Mastodon instance, if we wanted to, we’d stand up that server run and then the people who are on our server with us would have access to the social network in perpetuity, whether or not other servers come and go within the Federation against like email. You know, companies come and go servers come and go, but email stays in existence.

Katie Robbert 9:52
All right, John, and I are going to talk amongst ourselves for a second. All right, John. How are you feeling about All of this like is is Mastodon, something that you think you’re gonna sign up for and use I know that you’ve been exploring it a bit and obviously you’ve been following what’s been happening on other social platforms such as Twitter and now Facebook slash meta just did all their layoffs and all sorts of so what? I want to hear your thoughts on all of this?

John Wall 10:20
Yeah, it’s funny Mastodon ahead has been on my radar for a long time there’s a guy I follow Ethan Zuckerman who is now out of UMass. And he studies basically media and the role of the internet in government and society. And so He’s filed this forever. And his big thing was this idea of federating was is the fact that he has a server setup for his team. And then they federate a bunch of stuff. So if you want to like spend, you know, once a week, tweaking your social network, so you only see exactly what you want to see. You can totally do that with this the setup. But it’s really kind of been a you know, super geeky social media thing for three or four years now. It’s been pretty effective. I got going on five or six years at least. And there’s never been really much impetus for people to like, hey, go do a lot more work over here. But now with you know, Twitter being on fire this week, suddenly everybody wants to go here. And it’s been amazing to see like, as soon as I got into masters, I’m the first post was like, this place was awesome. Two weeks ago, now it sucks. All the Twitter people are here. I hate this. I’m leaving. And, and they’re totally right to because it’s kind of like they had this awesome book club. And now suddenly, the bar laid out and there’s like, 500 people the thing?

Katie Robbert 11:39
That is a really great example. Yeah, you

John Wall 11:41
can totally see like, everybody’s pissed, because they were even joking. Like in Messenger, it’s a joke. Like, if you get shared, like six or seven times you’ve gone viral, you know, that’s a big deal if something gets passed around, like three or four times. And yeah, so. So yeah, like all that to get to? I don’t see any reason for me to kind of jump over here yet. I didn’t see any servers. And this isn’t this is it’s the discord problem that we’ve had, right? Like, we talked about discord, there’s so much going on Discord, but then you looked at the server list, and you’re like, well, there’s nothing that I’m like, Oh, my God, I have to talk to these people, because they’re talking about the stuff I want to hear about. And it was interesting. I put in, I searched remarketing in the server list and got zero hits, there was absolutely nothing. So yeah, that’s kind of funny, you know, of course, some would say that’s an opportunity, I could set up the first marketing server, which would then obviously, be completely like, the neighborhood would be torched and burned, you know, within 30 minutes. But you know, if we could make it past the first week and still live, you know, there may be somewhere to go with it. So it’s, it’s cool. There’s a lot of interesting stuff, I’m kind of interested in the federated side of it, and how that works. I mean, so I imagine your client is just saying, Hey, it’s okay for you to go get messages over on this place. But kind of what kind of algorithm happens there as far as like, what federated stuff gets shown, versus the local stuff, you know, as the local stuff always priority? And there’s a lot of questions, you know, on that side of it. So yeah, that’s kind of where I’m at today.

Katie Robbert 13:10
It’s, it’s interesting, because I think, you know, a lot of our audience are, you know, marketers and data scientists, and I think that they’re always trying to understand, how does this impact me? What do I need to think about? Do I need to be here? It’s a social platform, therefore, someone’s going to ask me, Are we on it? What are we doing? How are we mining the data, and from everything I’m hearing from both of you, it sounds like a lot like Reddit, this is not the place to be doing that. Like, don’t sign up, just to start to like, you know, pitch your brand or, you know, advertise like, this is not what this is for, like, proceed with, like, you need to understand the culture of it first.

John Wall 13:57
Yeah, there’s an interesting point. With that, though, there is a major difference in that. Reddit is totally tech bros, like, you know, people will make fun of Santa Claus and, you know, like rag on everybody. There is a lot of stuff in Mastodon that gay and trans community was involved in a lot of the earliest development of it, and privacy and the ability to eat it. And that was another thing they’re complaining about, like somebody shared a mastodon thing over on Twitter. And they’re like, they didn’t even ask me who shares without asking. I’m like, Dude, you have to start spending no time on Twitter, because that’s all Twitter is people sharing without asking. But it is really interesting how it’s almost two polar opposites. But they basically come back to the same place of just what you said, like, yeah, do you guys are screwing up our culture like we don’t want to hear

Christopher Penn 14:45
the the other big thing, Katie, that you mentioned just now is that’s really important, important and different about Macedon? Because of its nature. There’s no advertising. There isn’t even an opportunity for marketers to advertise because, again, it’s Just network of servers like you can’t run email ads on somebody else’s email server, it’s you can send them spam, but they don’t have to accept that they can just bounce around out. And the same is true of Mastodon in your server, you have complete control over what comes in and what goes out.

Katie Robbert 15:17
And so well, so there’s no like, promote button, there’s no advertise button. But that doesn’t stop people from organically saying, hey, check out my cool new thing, which it sounds like if they’re doing that in your server, you can bounce them. However, if they have set up a server specifically, to promote their stuff, they can do that, but nobody has to sign up and listen to it.

Christopher Penn 15:41
Exactly. And as a server admin, one of the things you can do is you can say, I want to feature certain hashtags on my server, I want to feature certain profiles. So if we were to set up a Trust Insights, server, for example, I would put all three of our profiles like hey, you know, these are these are the people who are guard running this, this walled garden, you know, hear the pinned posts and stuff, so you can, you have a lot of control in your corner of the neighborhood. So, from a brand and marketing perspective, the big public servers, yeah, you’re not gonna you’re not gonna be able to market to them there. And if you misbehave, it’s going to get the boot. The opportunity is the same as slack and discord and Telegram, etc. When you run your own server, it’s your community. You set the rules you decide what you can and can’t happen. When you’re looking at analytics for marketers alike, we have a dedicated space for people to promote their stuff. And otherwise we say no, no spamming, right? If you’re spamming we’re banning. And so the same is true for for a mastodon instance, your server your is your living room, your rules.

Katie Robbert 16:48
So it sounds like it’s a lot like just you’re finding just yet another platform to create your own community to bring people together like minded. And just sort of have those conversations here instead of on Twitter instead of on Discord instead of on Slack instead of in Reddit. Like this is just yet another place where you could do that if you so felt like doing so. But in terms of sort of the play for marketing, it probably unless you’re looking to bring like a customer community together or audience, you know, of your stuff. There’s not really a big play for marketers, it’s more of just like a personal and professional place to network, or just to connect with people or talk with people versus go in with a hard sell.

Christopher Penn 17:42
Exactly, which is one of the biggest problems that marketing is going to be is facing right now. Our audience is fragmenting everywhere as as more central hubs break, like Twitter or Facebook, whatever people scattered to the winds, they flow into discord, they flow into masks on, they’re increasingly flowing into places we can’t control. We can’t see we can’t advertise. And so the the primary imperative for marketing is, you’ve got to have your own community, you have to have someplace where we’re like minded people that like you can can gather and if you don’t, you will be at a substantial disadvantage, because you can’t go chase these people down. There’s no way to do it. There’s no way to advertise them. You Your best bet is, you know, at that point is extremely expensive, broad advertising. But the audience is slipping a deal. The publicly accessible audience is slipping away. It’s one of the things that has come out in in both Facebook stuff and Twitter stuff this week is and I saw this last week in Google’s earnings calls, ad revenue is down everywhere by a big amount. Advertisers are like no, no part of its economic department is also people are leaving, people are going to private places where they can be among the people that they care about. They like and not spending time in the central public hubs. We were just having a conversation on analytics for marketers, you know, in one of the threads about how social media public social media free was like, Yeah, I’m not there anymore. I’m here.

Katie Robbert 19:19
If you want to join that conversation, you can do so for free Ace AI slash analytics for marketers, you will find myself and John and Chris wreaking havoc on a daily basis. But having conversations in a private community, it’s private in the sense that you can’t access it publicly. But it’s free to join you don’t need to subscribe to anything. You don’t need to pay us to join we want as many people who want to be there and engage and it sounds like yeah, I’m just I keep making this comparison. But I’m Mastodon is brand new to me. It sounds like it could be very similar in nature of it’s a place to start. Add a community or a place to join a community, similar to a discord

Christopher Penn 20:05
very similar and what makes it different than that is that semi public nature of the Federation, right? So, post hashtags are important on Twitter and Instagram. They are essential on Mastodon, if you want, because the only way you can search across the Federation is by things like hashtags. There’s a couple of obvious things here, you will notice in in Mastodon like here we have this person can see their handle at Thomas Fuchs that is a local user, the one below two below it at EU Commission at social network dot europa eu that is a federated user. So in this particular server, they’ve chosen to bring in select content from other servers that are visible to its users, in this case of the European Commission. And so a full Mastodon handle looks like that as your ad, sign your handle and then the server that you are on. So, for us, it’d be like at Katie robear, at Trust Insights dot social would be your Mastodon handle if we created our own server. And then when you’re on Mastodon in our server instance, locally, you just be at Katie robear. But then if somebody from an outside of our server in the Federation wanted to interact with you, or tag you do do at Katie robear, at Trust Insights dot social, which right off the song? It’s like email addresses with an extra. Oh, yeah.

John Wall 21:25
Yeah, so the user experience is a little bit wonky as you get set up. Because you can’t create an account until you pick a server, you have to figure out okay, where am I going? What’s going to be my home base, and at which point you can pick your name. But that doesn’t mean that somebody else can pick a different server and take your name, you know, you can, you can have multiple of the same name. And then again, because of the federated nature, it could actually look like it’s you, but it’s just coming from a different server.

Christopher Penn 21:50
Right, which is an important point that brands might want to consider is by setting up a brand server, you can say like, Yeah, this is our official handle, at target at target that social like that is the the only official instance that anyone else has imposter.

Katie Robbert 22:07
So it sounds like considerations for brands and individuals, even if you don’t plan to use Mastodon right away. It’s like anything else, just go ahead and grab your handle so that nobody else can grab it. And then you can figure out if it makes sense for you to do something with it. But let’s talk a little bit about the UX. So obviously, like this is, you know, Chris, you’ve already signed up or signed in like, what am I am I looking at? Just here’s what’s publicly available. And I haven’t signed in yet, like walk me through. I’m brand new to Mastodon, I don’t even have my username, like, where do I start?

Christopher Penn 22:47
The first place you would start would be the Create Account. And this is where there’s kind of a problem right now. And in fact, you’ll see this in the mastodon in the News tab. The problem is that Twitter users have caused a mastodon melt. Here to create an account says, Hey, we’re full. We’re full. Find another server. Okay, cool. Let’s find another server. Where do I find how do I find a server? Okay. Do I want public organization private individual? Do I want servers that have manual review or instant access? So let’s go just use instant access. Right? And so these are the DD servers that are listed in the directory that are currently accepting new users. Right?

Katie Robbert 23:29
That was like helping to find a new doctor.

Christopher Penn 23:31
Exactly network 1.3 million active users up 268% Right. And you can see these are different you know, tech hub that social hub primarily for passionate technologists but everyone is welcome. This one is free open committee for Wales in the Welsh right so if that’s your community, that would be their climate justice and you can sign up so you can create multiple accounts if you want to, but that can get pretty thorny after a while and then again if you’re gonna if you’re brand new you might want to set up you know, Walmart dot social Mastodon server that you’re that you would then list you know, the official Mastodon server of Walmart Corporation come on in heels every Wednesday.

Katie Robbert 24:13
Okay, I’m gonna I’m gonna stop you again because I feel like now I’ve gotten lost again. So let’s say I’m brand new to this it’s do I create one single username and password or do I need because each of these says Create Account and that to me says I would need to be Katie robear at to dot Wales Katie robear at mildly dot social Katie robear at climate justice dot social.

Christopher Penn 24:45
You pick a home server where you want to you want to you want to live.

Katie Robbert 24:49
Okay, so I would pick one, but then I could visit other servers like I could be Katie robear at two dot whales and then Katie robear at to dot Wales visiting mildly dot social,

Christopher Penn 25:05
upright. Every server has its own URL like the old masters on the online is its own. So you can see that. So like in the in when we were looking at the initial timeline of toots, if you’ve got that at, you know, social, that’s somebody else’s servers. So you could, that’s another way to find all these different servers, but you have your home base, and then you can like email, you know, you can explore other places, but you have your home base,

Katie Robbert 25:32
I see it, I can see why, you know, everyone broke Mastodon because I mean, I can see, it looks like it wasn’t set up to handle this many users. That wasn’t the purpose,

Christopher Penn 25:47
right. And here’s the thing on the back end, many of these servers are really nothing more than just literal servers, right? It’s it. And so as you add users, as those users do stuff, like add, you know, upload animated GIFs, and stuff that consumes resources. You know, a server can only handle so much load. Part of it, being decentralized means that there isn’t one place that has to maintain the huge IT infrastructure. But part of being decentralized means that every server has to essentially run itself. And there are hosting companies, they’re starting to pop up, though, there’s one master host. They’re like, Hey, we’re close, we can’t afford to, we can’t spin up any new instances. So there’s a lot of scaling that the community is not having, not ready to do yet. And the process for setting up a server is a little technical.

Katie Robbert 26:43
Yeah, you were you were sharing that with me earlier. And I think I commented something like if you’re struggling with it than us, you know, average folks who don’t have superhuman technical powers, you know, are definitely not going to be able to figure it out. But John, have you? Have you only joined? Or did you also set up a server? Oh, yeah,

John Wall 27:06
no, I did not want to get up involved in setting up a server like that just seems like an absolute headache. Because I’ve seen many posts in many of the different on the other server saying, like, don’t upload videos here, you’re gonna kill us, you know, like, we can’t take this. But I would be interested. So Chris, when you set one up, is it you know, can you just get a Docker container that download one that’s pre built? Or do you have to set up a server and then install a bunch of stuff and make it work? I mean, is it

Christopher Penn 27:33
like, so here’s the general process, first need a domain name, I went out and out and bought Trust Insights, that social, you then need to put some kind of protections in front of it. So we’re big fans of Cloudflare. So I’ve put up CloudFlare, you have to connect to an email service for the notifications. So I’ve plugged our Amazon, simple email stuff into Cloudflare. So that the that Amazon is doing the email delivery, because otherwise, you know, I have to set up a mail server, which is not fun. And then we need the

Katie Robbert 28:03
wait. So I’m sorry, you’re going through this pretty quickly. So first and foremost, I need to buy a URL.

Christopher Penn 28:10
If you want to run your own server. That’s correct.

Katie Robbert 28:12
So that’s obviously very different from setting up your own Discord server. You don’t need to buy a URL. That’s correct. Okay. So I bought my URL, I put protections on it, which is Cloudflare. And then I have to hook up an email hosting service. Yes. And I can, okay. Wow. Okay, so choices

Christopher Penn 28:32
are things like SendGrid Mailgun, Amazon SES, we already have an Amazon SNS account. So I just reused that,

John Wall 28:39
like pain level eight already have like, alright, setting stuff up. Building it, the only thing you haven’t done is like, buy a graphics cards and put them in your crate in the server location.

Christopher Penn 28:52
So it’s funny, you mentioned that

Katie Robbert 28:54
I can see why a large global brands like a target, for example, they would have the resources to set up their own server and it would be in their best interest to do so. But you know, a company like Trust Insights, where you’re looking at all of us, maybe not the best use of our time.

Christopher Penn 29:13
So then the next step is the actual server, right? So you need to get a server. So this is I stood up a server on Linode full disclosure, they are a client of our company. I bought this server which is 10 bucks a month. Chose the the right number of course and stuff like that, and now and that takes you to the process where you log into a command line and you start building the server. Now, John to your point, it is a Docker container. So you need to install Docker on the server. And then you start configuring. Once you’ve got Docker installed, then you bring down a mastodon image from the mastodon social, and at that point, you start building all the components to it in the container, then turn the container on. And then you verify that the web interface is working. This this next step out, we’re already 30 minutes into the show. So we’re not going to do this today. This next step takes about if you’re proficient with the command line, and Linux. And server configuration takes about 45 minutes. If you’re not proficient, it takes about three years.

Katie Robbert 30:24
Oh, my God do that. So I would be on the three year track.

John Wall 30:27
Yes. So there’s like this huge ini file that you have to like, go through and like tweak all these things?

Christopher Penn 30:32
Oh, no, it’s much worse than that there was actually five or six different ones scattered throughout the server, you need to configure because you have to configure Mastodon itself, and NGINX and your internal firewall. And then you have to your if you’re if you’re going to run email locally, you have to configure your SMTP server, which is typically postfix. There’s a database server you have to install, which is Postgres SQL, and then there’s a file handling system called Redis, that you have to install as well.

Katie Robbert 30:59
Okay, so I didn’t get any of that. But what I did take away was, if you are a company considering standing up your own server on Mastodon, I would recommend you really, really, really stop and think about the use case for why your company needs its own. Because I do know servers and I know that servers are never just like a one and done, there’s a whole maintenance involved with servers, there’s a lot that can go wrong with servers. And so making sure you’re really prepared to make to stand it up, own it and maintain it. And then you also need, you know, once you’re actually have the community, someone needs to, you know, moderate manage that community, just like any other community, it’s not a small undertaking. It’s not like signing up for a Twitter handle. And then just, you know, posting a couple of things here and there. So, I mean, Chris, this is, for someone like me, who doesn’t do all of this, the server like this is overwhelming.

Christopher Penn 32:05
Yes, I would say, if you are a company that already has a data center, and you already have it folks that administer like your own internal email server and stuff, then this is just another box in the room. If you are a company that you know, like that, I’m thinking of like our friend, Gini Dietrich gets spin sucks, where everything is outsourced and stuff like that, and you don’t have an IT team. This is, this is something you’re going to outsource to AI. If the growth of Mastodon continues to becomes more accepted, if the general population starts to use it more, I would definitely foresee agencies standing up to specialize in it to, you know, the same way that there are people who are specialized in discord and community management and slack. These are all specializations, I would, I would not advise that you try this on your own unless you enjoy it, right. So I enjoy this stuff. So I’m totally fine with monkeying around with it, I would do this in my free time anyway. If you don’t enjoy Server Administration, or it’s just not your skill set, this is a bad idea. Because one of the challenges is this is a publicly accessible server. And if you’re not good at server administration, and things like IT security, this is a disaster waiting to happen, because you will have personally identifiable information on a server that is legally yours under your control.

Katie Robbert 33:30
I want to just repeat that, because that’s a really important point. This is a publicly accessible server. And if you are standing up a publicly accessible server, and do not have everything secured and locked down, you then run the risk of sharing personally identifiable information, whether you meant to or not, which can get you went to a lot of legal trouble. So definitely that goes back to if you are considering standing up your own Mastodon server, I would really challenge you to understand the use case as to why you need your own. Now with that, though, so Chris, the flip side of that is, as a user, do I need what kind of due diligence do I need to do before joining a server to know that my information is protected?

Christopher Penn 34:23
The big question is who runs it? Right? So here’s the thing. And this is something that we don’t think enough about when it comes to social network, all social networks. When you are on a social network of any kind, you’re uploading data to it typings you know, taking photos of yourself selfies of your food and stuff. They’re real people, other human beings on the other end of that in the server room, in the databases in the data stores and stuff like that, that can see your stuff, right. We sort of just kind of blindly trust and we’ve seen the consequences of it. You know, to trust Facebook to To use our data appropriately. But when you have something like an email server I used to when I used to work in a bank, I was the thought police. And I had to read other people’s email all day long to make sure they weren’t sharing stuff that was inappropriate. But there’s a whole quarantine section. And it was implied. Because it policies were still fairly new back then, that you did not have an expectation of privacy at work. So if Trust Insights sets up a mastodon server, guess who can see what’s on it? Right people running it? Right. So a big consideration as a user is who’s running this thing? And if I have private conversations, do I want those people to be able to see them?

Katie Robbert 35:46
Right? No, and that’s, that’s a big deal. I used to work for a company. Similar into insert at the timeframe like IT policies were new. And the person who was responsible for policing the emails abused that power a lot, and would mention personal things to the women in the office of hey, so how was that? You know, how was that first date or something, which is a really icky example. But it’s a very real example. So if you are a new user, who is not setting up your own server, who is joining someone else’s server, do a little bit of research as to who these people are? And would you be comfortable with them knowing your innermost secrets? And do you need to set up your own personal boundaries to say, this is as much as I’m willing to share? And then I need to restrain myself? And not go ahead and have those conversations online?

Christopher Penn 36:45
Yep. And that applies for all social networks, right? There are some things you probably just shouldn’t talk about. But I would expect communities for example, like we mentioned, women and analytics, Women in Data Science, I think there would be a strong benefit to them setting up their own servers, because they can they have that existing circle of trust already with their communities say, Okay, this is we’re certifying this is a safe place. You know, we know who our IT team is, we know who our tech experts are. And you know, the same is true for even a larger corporation, right? If your target or your Walmart, you can say, yeah, we’ve got our data security team in place, we already have to obey this pile of regulations this high, so your account is safe here. And because you need like any social network, you need contact information to sign up for an account. Again, for the larger brands that have the resources to do this, right? If you put it in the policies and you obtain consent, guess what, it’s another marketing channel, where that is yours to own, that you can reach out to people and sit, you know, you could direct message your entire server and say, hey, you know, sale on pumpkin spice stuff this week at Walmart. And it’s your server, you can do that.

Katie Robbert 37:55
Right. John? What are you thinking about all this?

John Wall 37:59
Yeah, I’m going to wait until WP Engine is like, hey, $29 a month for your own Mastodon server, just click here. And that’s what I’m looking to do, I’m definitely not going to be like building an entire server that the world can hammer on. And yeah, that’s just like, way too much headache. That is an interesting point, though, of, like, especially women in analytics, you know, if they had their own server, there is something to be said for that, that like, Okay, this is run by the women and analytics team. So you can be pretty much assured of privacy and that your data is going to be handled responsibly, that’s a lot better than like, signing up on Tiktok were all of China’s watching you every single minute of every single day.

Christopher Penn 38:41
It’s true and and this re emphasizes the importance of brand and the importance of of how trusted your brand is. You know, I could very easily see us setting up a mastodon server and opening it up to the analytics for marketers community and say, like, Hey, we’re providing this as a service to you, it’s costing us literal actual dollars to run this thing. But we certify that it is safe for you to do so. And I could see again, for anybody, it’s already got a community of some kind, you could provide this as an extra service to your community. And that of course, if people start using it and as such, then you have yet another way to reinforce the loyalty of your community.

Katie Robbert 39:26
So it sounds like the big takeaways, you know, for Okay, so there’s a few different audiences one, if you are just a an individual. It might make sense for you to secure your name and your handle. But you can sort of take your time figuring out you know, how you want to, you know, join it, what communities if you’re a large brand, it probably also makes sense to secure your name and your handle. But just sort of randomly signing up for it, it it’s probably not a good use for Your time like, I personally, I’m not going to race to go sign up for anything, because I am still in that due diligence phase of what would be my goal of being there? Do I have the time to spend there? You know, what do I want to get out of it for me personally? You know, I just, I feel like people, there’s a lot of panic around what’s happening with Twitter, I totally get that I respect that. That doesn’t necessarily mean go sign up for Mastodon, because it’s the, it’s the next right thing, explore it, understand your reasons for being there, understand the reasons for your brand being there, you know, and then sort of proceed. You know, with all the advice we’re trying to give, especially around setting up your own server, if it is not your skill set, find someone whose skill set it is, period.

Christopher Penn 40:48
And I’m gonna keep setting up our server because I as a data person, I’m fascinated to see what data we get from the Federation Academy archive, can it be analyzed? Because again, that’s kind of what we do in analytics and data and, and understanding what’s what’s possible. Because again, if there’s a way to bring in that data from the rest of the Federation, boy, that would be you know, there’s so many issues right now, with services like Twitter and Taylor, you can only get the last seven days worth of tweets and stuff on something and you have to pay a gazillion dollars to them for the unrestricted data feed. If it’s like blockchain systems where you know, if you tie into the public blockchain, you get a copy of the whole thing. If I tie into this and get a copy of the entire federated network, or the portions that I care about, that could be super helpful. That could be super helpful for doing influencer identification, network mapping topic analysis. Even if we never actually operate the server publicly, I would still be very curious to see what data is available.

Katie Robbert 41:52
John, what are your takeaways?

John Wall 41:54
Yeah, there is some interesting things on that front as far as what do you get if you’re in the Federation get you know, how much stuff can you peel out of there and scrape that could have some real interesting opportunities. But other Yeah, I’m gonna sit back and wait, my big thing. I see a lot of good stuff going on in LinkedIn, I think this is a great opportunity to transfer to more of a you know, just keep it all business. And hopefully, people will get more traffic over there, because that drives a lot of action for us on a bunch of fronts. So that’s where I’m gonna be heading to and I don’t know all I can freely admit here, I coughed up my box, I bought a blue check. I’m not afraid to you know, try this for a couple months and see what happens. And, you know, I might as well have a front row seat for the fire and explosion to see.

Katie Robbert 42:38
Well, there is more than one John Wall in the world. So I totally get it. You need to be the first and the only

John Wall 42:43
exactly lock it down in a way that the good news is, John’s career has pretty much wind it up. So I’ve finally managed to survive.

Christopher Penn 42:54
And I am still working out and my doppelganger is dead. Oh,

John Wall 42:59
seven Reservoir Dogs is still a thing. Like there’s still posts that come up about Christopher Penn. But yeah, for the most part, there’s no new news at least.

Katie Robbert 43:08
I’m the only me and you guys are grateful for that. You’re unique,

John Wall 43:11
unique and special. Just like everyone,

Katie Robbert 43:15
just like everyone else. I think that’s a good place to pause for today.

Christopher Penn 43:20
All right. Thanks, everyone. We will see you all next week. Thanks for watching today. Be sure to subscribe to our show wherever you’re watching it. For more resources. And to learn more. Check out the Trust Insights podcast at trust AI podcast, and a weekly email newsletter at trust Got questions about what you saw on today’s episode. Join our free analytics for markers slack group at trust for marketers, see you next time.

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