Happy First Birthday Darkfriend Social

One year ago today I spun up our Darkfriend.social Mastodon instance as a place for Wheel of Time fans to land in the fediverse. Just one day earlier, Elon Musk had completed the purchase of Twitter, and at the time I suspected that the service was going to get a lot worse just based on things Musk had said along the way. I knew there were a lot of Wheel of Time fans on the service that might be looking for alternatives, and thought Mastodon and the fediverse might be a good option.

When we first launched there was a surge of interest. We reached 100 members within a relatively short period of time, and other servers in the fediverse were seeing a lot of growth as well. Many of those new members ultimately chose to go back to Twitter or find more comfortable footing on alternatives like Bluesky. Others have remained active on the site and across the fediverse, and have made lots of new friends as a result.

I am still so excited to see what is to come for our server and for the open social web. While there is certainly lots of controversy around it, Meta’s new service Threads will eventually be opening up to federation. Bluesky has continued to grow and there is work being done to bridge their federated services with the rest of the fediverse. At the same time, legacy services like Twitter and Facebook continue to push pay-to-play strategies built around subscriptions for algorithmic amplification.

I think the open social web is a better experience and has more to offer. I’m happy that Darkfriend.social has been a home to others this past year, and hopefully for years to come.

Mastodon 4.2.0 is out and Darkfriend Social has been updated!

Mastodon 4.2.0 has been released. As with all big releases there are a lot of changes. I wanted to write up a summary to highlight some of the changes the average user might care about. If you want to get really deep into the details, you can check out the full Release v4.2.0 Changelog.

Note that some of these changes will really only change anything on the web interface. Other changes may just take time to be adopted by the various mobile apps. That is pretty much always the case, but I like to remind people.

Full-text Search of Opted-In Public Posts

For Mastodon servers with ElasticSearch (or alternatives) installed, full-text search is now able to return results that include public posts from anybody that has opted in. Of course, that means there is also a new setting to opt in. You can find this option in your settings.

Note: If you want your posts to be available for full-text search, you MUST opt in to this setting. It is opted out by default.

Full-text search also now includes support for search operators such as:

  • from: [user]
  • before: [date]
  • after: [date]
  • during: [date]
  • language: [language code]
  • has: poll
  • in: library (searching only posts you have written or interacted with)

Darkfriend Social does not currently support full-text search as there are additional costs associated with this. This is a matter for some thought and discussion.

Exclusive Lists

Have you ever wanted to put a bunch of people into a list and only see their posts in that list, and not in your Home feed? Well, now you can. Now when editing a list, you can mark it as exclusive and the posts that appear in this list do not show up in your Home feed.

Screenshot of editing a list, with a toggle labeled "Hide these posts from home".

Profile Settings

Your profile settings have been combined into a single Public profile settings page, with tabs for the different sections. This should reduce some confusion and redundancy in menu options.

Screenshot of the Mastodon Public profile setting page, with the following tabs available: Edit profile, Privacy and reach, Verification, Featured hashtags.

Privacy and Reach Profile Settings

Some settings have been reorganized into a single Privacy and Reach tab on your Public Profile settings page. This is where you can find settings like whether you appear in Discovery features, you require manual review of follows, and whether your follows and followers are public or private.

Screenshot of the Public profile settings page in Mastodon with the Privacy and reach tab selected. This tab includes settings like: Feature profile and posts in discovery algorithm; Automatically accept new followers; Include public posts in search results; Include profile page in search engine; Show follows and followers on profile; Display from which app you sent a post.

Thread Lines

The look of your feeds is updated, and now there are lines to better indicate reply threads. This should make it easier to follow multiple conversations under a single post.

Screenshot of a post with a couple of different threads of replies, each thread indicated separately by a single line that follows along the posts in that thread.

Hashtag Placement

When you add a selection of hashtags at the end of a post on their own line, they’ll now get moved to their own location on that post’s display.

Screenshot of a post with hashtags shown at the bottom of the post, and some hashtags collapsed behind a link.

Importing Lists

While previously you could import a lot of things (followers, blocks, mutes, etc.) you could not import Lists. Now you can! This may be especially helpful for the Tooters of Time list as it could make it more than just uploading accounts to follow.

Role Badges

Mastodon has supported for assigning roles to members. Often these roles are things like the instance Owner or Moderators. It is possible, though, to add custom roles – we have a role for Content Creators on Darkfriend Social. Unfortunately, until now that role did not appear anywhere. With this update, that role will appear on the profile of any users with the role.

Screenshot of the Darkfriend Social user profile for TarValon.net, showing a Content Creator badge.

Other Look and Feel Changes

  • The Local and Federated timelines are now just tabs in the Live Feeds column.
  • Boosts will no longer appear on the Posts and Replies tab on a user profile.
  • Link previews will look a little different on the web interface.
  • “Direct Message” has been renamed to “Private Mention”.
  • In the Explore screen, “For You” has been changed to “People”.