Q: What's this "Federation thing?"

A: A bunch of communities, on different servers, sharing /some/ but not necessarily /all/ of their traffic. Or, in some cases, none. It depends.

The User Guide has a good section:
github.com/tootsuite/mastodon/

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Q: It sounds as if that's complicated. Do you have a picture you can share?

A: @vhf made one: techn.ical.ist/users/vhf/updat

It misses a few edge cases, but mostly, that's how the spice flows. Er, toots.

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@dredmorbius @vhf Interesting. I did not understand that if someone is not followed by *anyone* on an instance, then *none* of their tweets appear in the federated timeline. So the "federated timeline" is only those users who have some connection to your instance. This means that the larger instances (ex. mastodon.social, mastodon.cloud) will have a bigger and richer federated timeline by virtue of having more people who will follow others on other instances.

@danyork @vhf Keep in mind that bigger need not equal richer. If you're on a smaller Instance with a discerning population, you may find it's selecting out the good stuff, and kicking off the bad.

That's where the follow-bot concept strikes me as potentially badly misguided. It directly disrupts the selection and filtering behaviour of organic following.

It's not clear to me that it's possible to readily distinguish bot from non-bot traffic.

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