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Getting Started With - by Stephen Sekula

New users of federated social networks may, at first, be a bit confused about simple things that seem so obvious on Facebook and Twitter. People coming from another Federated network to may find it hard to locate people, etc.

How do you find people to interact with? What programs should you use to post, reply, etc.? This little guide will help general users - people who just want to talk and share - get going.

You can find me over at

Other people than me have also written about getting started on Check these out if you don't like what I have to say:

Getting an Account on

First, you need an account on a server. A single server running is called an “instance,” and all instances speak the same protocol and so they can speak to each other. You can choose an instance randomly merely by visiting:

This link sends you to a random, known server with open registration. Make an account. Upload your avatar image. Describe yourself. Be as brief or verbose, as accurate or as inaccurate as you like.

Need inspiration or, at least, an example of what NOT to do? Check out my profile:

If you have a specific server you want to join, contact the site administrator for an account (in case registration is closed). Are you a member or friend of the Cooley and Sekula families? Contact for an account on “The Hub”,

Your identity on is tied to your “webfinger,” a string like It identifies me to all other instances via my username on the instance and the name of the instance. With this, I can log into any other instance, follow people, have people follow me, etc.

Identity and

Many corporate social networks (like Facebook and, until recently, Google+) require you to use your real name to get an account. For a variety of reasons, there are many people who prefer to socialize without having to reveal their identity. is one of many federated social networks that assumes that you are the best judge of how to use your identity. You can setup an account without using your real name, home address, or other personal information. cannot promise total anonymity, but it's better than what Facebook can offer you.

How do I find people?

There are a few ways to find people on

I am interested in more than people. Are there any robots I can follow?

You bet! We welcome all to the federated social web, including our transhuman friends. Here are a few nice ones:

  • X11R5: the iconic botscript that uses some machine learning plus sampling posts from the social network to (a) construct its own posts (they are indescribable - just follow the bot to see what I mean) and (b) reply to yours. X11R5 also shares posts, likes posts. You'd swear it was a living 7-year-old.
  • WeatherBot: want to know the weather in a city? Just follow ( and send it messages containing “City Name,Region” to get the weather in that city. For instance, you could send “Jefferson City,MO” to get the weather in Jefferson City, Missouri, USA . . . or “Uppsala,SE” to get the weather in Uppsala, Sweden. Try it out. This is still a beta-bot. Lots more information is at
  • Jeremy Pope runs a whole bunch of neat botscripts. Check them out!

But how do I USE (You need a client)

You, my friend, need a CLIENT. is just a network protocol - you need something that speaks the language. Here are my suggestions: and Your Language - it's a client thing

Many people mistake the Web UI Client that comes bundled with a server with They are not the same thing. The Web UI is a demonstrator client utilizing the vastly more flexible network underneath. Don't mistake the client for the protocol. For instance,, the old flagship Statusnet instance, has a web UI that only supports English translations.

The above misconception has led many to think that only speaks English. It does not. transmits Unicode - it can speak what you speak, and transmit what you type. I have friends on that write in Chinese, German, Swedish, French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc. You only need a client that handles that kind of thing, and which has its own interface supporting your language (that's up to the client developer and their community of support, and has NOTHING to do with itself). There are many available. Checkout the clients list over on the wiki.

Also, there ARE web UIs that have been specially altered to speak other languages than English. For instance, speaks German in its Web UI.

For more proof that and human languages in general get along just fine, check out this public post on

What about Privacy?

Different clients implement privacy in different ways, but supports total lockdown of your posts if you choose - you can direct message people, message a few people, a group of people (you design the group), all of your followers, or the “Public” (that makes your post visible on the firehose - LITERALLY PUBLIC).

You can define groups most easily using the Web Interface. Go to your account settings and play with your groups. You can then set your default posting choices in many clients (e.g. only post by default to your “Family” or “Friends” group). You can also set, on a post-by-post basis, who gets to see it. If a feature is missing from a client, complain politely but firmly to the client author. It will get fixed.

Administrator Tips

So you're administrating a site. Here are some tips.

Oh Noes! One or more of my users don't have associated email addresses!

Not to worry - you can actually fairly quickly edit the database directly and add the field. My instance uses MongoDB. Here is how you add a missing email address for a user in MongoDB:

Connect to your MongoDB:

> mongo --host <IP ADDRESS>

List your available databases:

> show dbs

Select the database for your instance:


Print all your users' records to find the one you want 
(HINT: look for the "_id" data member in a record):

> db.user.find()

Once you have found the "_id" you are looking for (in this example,
I will use "steve"), you can add the "email" entry to the

> db.user.update({_id: "steve"}, {$set : { email: ""} } )

Now check the record again:

> db.user.find( { _id: "steve" } )

to verify the email entry is present. At this point, this user will
start to get email notifications at that address if there is activity
related to them on 

Is there really a song?

There is. There really is. Thank you, David Marsden:

gettingstartedwithpumpio.txt · Last modified: 2014/12/19 06:38 by sekula