On the Mastodon social network, a post or comment is whimsically called a “toot,” and re-posting or re-blogging them is “boosting.”
I’m known there for boosting toots. In fact, that’s why a lot of people follow me. They want a curated feed. And I provide it for them. For free.
My business plan needs more work, obviously.
Anyway, I thought I would explain how I find and then select which toots to boost, because many of my followers are curious about it.
As for why I boost toots? I’m just trying to help people, including myself, make connections.
It should come as no surprise that my preferred Mastodon client is a Web browser. And whether I’m using my desktop PC with its 4K monitor or my iPhone, I enable the advanced Web interface so I can view multiple columns, pin timelines in place or do a few other filtering tricks.
I also have several browser tabs open at all times to explore other servers. Even servers where I don’t have accounts.
Where do I find all those interesting toots? Well, I look everywhere. Eventually. But I start in the obvious places first.
I follow a lot of people. Over 7,200 as of this writing. (Which is still not enough!) So, my Home timeline is chock full o’ content. And it screams by fast. Which means I often pause it scrolling so I can actually read it. Or I temporarily disable showing boosts or replies to get some focus.
But I don’t just read toots from people I follow in my Home timeline. I add a lot of these folks to Lists. Lots and lots of Lists. Oh god, so damn many Lists!
These Lists are another way to see the signal in all the noise by narrowing my view. Lists are really one of the most useful features in Mastodon.
And while I’m viewing all these posts, I’m also looking for hashtags within them. Often I’ll click on a hashtag—especially if I’ve seen it pass by multiple times—to determine what sort of action is going on there.
If the hashtag content is newsworthy, vibrant, interesting or even just weird, then I’ll pin that timeline as one of my columns. This lets me keep an eye on the hashtag as it fills with new content or just browse it later at my leisure.
When there’s a big event, I often have at least one hashtag timeline pinned.
I also look for toots in the Explore section of the sidebar, both from the Posts and Hastags tabs. This is content from everywhere on the network that’s trending locally and then ranked locally. Such content and ranking will differ on each server’s Explore section. Which is handily accessible even if you don’t have an account on that server.
Checking the Explore section is a real timesaver to figure out what might be “important” when I first start a boosting session.
Another good place to find toots is in the Local and Federated timelines. Seriously. I always have my Local timeline pinned in a column.
Ever wonder how I seemingly boost a toot before anyone else does? Ever wonder why I moved my account to the largest population server? It’s so I can pull this stunt using my Local timeline. I’ve sometimes boosted toots when they’re less than 10 seconds old.
When I do find an interesting post in any timeline, I sometimes click on the author’s profile to see who they might have been boosting earlier. And then maybe drill down to find other interesting toots and people to follow.
Now, anybody can boost a shitload of toots this way. That’s not the hard part. The hard part is selecting the good ones from all the posts that you do find. That’s where the curation comes in.
As I’ve said before, I read an absolute metric fuckton of toots before I boost any of them. You may think it’s a torrent, but you’re seeing less than one percent of what I read.
So, how do I pick them?
I love variety. Variety of content by a variety of authors. Something different for every boost.
Oh, I do have some favorite posters. Reliable content creators. You can bet your ass they’re in one of my Lists, too. But I try to never boost more than one post at a time from a single author.
It’s harder to follow that same uniqueness rule for subject matter, especially when news is breaking or a meme keeps bouncing around. But I do try.
As for that breaking news and those popular memes, I try not to beat the horse completely to death. But when something is truly poignant or funny, it’s hard to pass it up.
My goal for a boosting session is a mix of current news, thoughtful analysis, short fiction, picturesque photography, creative artwork, clever animation and—let’s just say it—shitposts. Lots of those. Plus, of course, just random weird stuff that will make you think, “Today I learned.”
I know a picture is worth a thousand words but I still love some text along with those photos and artwork. Something that tells a story as to why the visual element matters. And I’ll always seek out and prefer posts that include alt text on their actual images.
Sure, I’ll boost rants, but only as long as they’re not ad hominem attacks or unnecessarily vulgar. And for posts making bold statements of fact? Well, I like to see some links to back up those arguments.
There’s no shying away from politics or social issues with my boosting, but I try to avoid taking sides between internal factions on Mastodon and the Fediverse itself. That’s a headache I don’t need.
Also, don’t ever think me boosting your post means that I necessarily agree with you. Or even like what you’re saying. I just think other people might find it interesting or useful.
Even me liking your post is not an endorsement. Hell, I often “like” posts just to mark that I’ve read them. I have to use that strategy because I read so goddamn many, and I can encounter the same posts over and over.
Unless I comment on your post with one of my patented self-righteous, “This.💯” statements, then don’t take it to the bank that I’m approving whole-heartedly with what you’re saying.
And be warned that I will often boost completely different points of view on certain subjects. With back-to-back posts. Sometimes I do this to make sure people know that discussion is happening. Sometimes I do it to generate that discussion. I’m kind of sneaky that way.
Personal stories are often the best content. They might not be as “important” as breaking news or analysis but they can be much more engaging. And more likely to create connections between people. Even just pictures of pets, crafts or meals with a bit of narration can create an intimacy that’s hard to ignore.
I love to boost thoughtful multi-post threads. But I almost always boost only a single post, usually the first, from that thread. This goes back to my uniqueness rule and, more importantly, not shoving an epic novel into other people’s timelines.
Sometimes it makes me so, so sad when people do write those wonderful threads, and then leave out any indication that the first post starts a thread. Folks, you’ll get a lot more interaction if readers know that you have more to say. Remember that you can always go back and edit that first post to insert an indicator. There’s no shame in that.
Do I ever worry about missing important content? The perfect post? The one true toot?
Not really. I follow so damn many people that if a post is good then someone else will boost it later. Like riding the luggage carousel at the airport, it’ll come around again.
After I began following over a thousand people, I gave up any hope of being a “completionist” with regard to reading everything in my Home timeline. Seriously, that way lies madness.
How much time does it take me to do all this curation? The answer is: too much time. Waaay too much.
I try to fit at least three hour-long boosting sessions into each day. Sometimes I can barely make each session a half hour. But often I can figure out how to do more than three sessions anyway. It varies a lot.
So, think very carefully about whether you want to try something like this yourself. It takes commitment and a little bit of focused insanity to do well.
But I love it!