Mastodon for Dummies: a book review

Cards on the table: I was not expecting to like it, but I was impressed by the breadth of content, as well as the style of writing.

If you know someone who is not on the fediverse but wants to be, or someone who wants to use it more confidently, this would make quite a good present. As long as they want a book, and won’t object to being labelled a “Dummy”.


“Mastodon for Dummies” offers a solid grounding in how to use Mastodon, from the very (very) basics upwards.

If you’ve never used Mastodon and want a desk-side resource, frankly, this is really rather good.

It introduces the core concepts of what the fediverse is, and the basics of picking a Mastodon server and signing up, simply and clearly.

It also covers important things that I was not anticipating, including multi-factor authentication.

Etiquette, including codes of conduct, alt text, and content warnings, is well documented throughout, which is welcome.

I was not expecting a section on hosting your own server, or the challenges and responsibilities that come with that if you let others use it.

It even has a section on “Mastodon for business”, which I definitely wouldn’t have guessed. The fediverse has been friendly to me and my small business; I am not sure a larger business would fare so well, although this may vary from instance to instance.

If I had to criticise, I’d say that the comparisons with Twitter might be hard work for someone who hasn’t used Twitter (and, from a philosophical point of view, I think that viewing the fediverse as alt-Twitter is a mistake). But I suspect a fair few of the readers of this book might well find it relevant and helpful.

The fedi client section has not aged well, but that’s to be expected perhaps.


This is the first “for Dummies” book that I’ve read in many, many years, so this might be a brand thing, but the discursive, friendly tone, with plenty of examples and screenshots, worked really well.

I don’t think there’s a single moment (and I read it cover to cover) when I thought that it might be daunting or off-putting for someone less familiar with computers, or social networking. It’s like a nice warm hug in that sense.

I’m not a fan of “for Dummies” in the title - it seems a bit patronising and not very encouraging - but perhaps that’s just me.


I’ve been around the fediverse for a while now, on my own instance. Not as long as some, for sure, but still a reasonably long time. I am not the target audience for this book.

I am not absolutely sure who is, frankly.

Someone who wants to use the fediverse, but doesn’t feel comfortable just giving it a go, and who doesn’t want to read any of the myriad online guides or tutorials. Someone who prefers a book.

Or someone who is already there, and who wants to advance their usage, but, again who prefers a book.

I’m not sure how wide that target is.