Mastodon is a decentralized social media platform. It relies on a federation model that connects disparate servers, or instances in Mastodon parlance, that are stood up and operated by…anyone! Yes, anyone can download Mastodon’s open-source software, set up a site, and start hosting users. Instance owners can set their own policies around users and content, and also get to decide which other instances to federate with.

If you’re thinking, “Wow, that sounds like a lot of work to use Mastodon,” you don’t have to run your own instance–you can join any number of pre-existing ones. For example, I have an account on, and I’m able to interact with people across a variety of instances.

But some people are willing to take the plunge of basically operating a mini-social network. On today’s Heavy Networking I talk with two people who have built and are running Hachyderm. Hachyderm is a Mastodon instance which orients itself towards technical-minded folks. At last check of their publicly available dashboard, they’re supporting more than 45,000 users and are peered with over 21,000 other instances.

My guests are Kris Nova, a software engineer and Principal at GitHub, as well as Hachyderm’s Benevolent Dictator for Life; and Dominic Hamon, Sr. Engineer Manager at Google and Hachyderm’s Monitoring Maven.

We discuss:

* Why they started their own instance instead of joining one

* Their initial hardware and software setup

* Moving out of the basement and into a hosting facility

* Dealing with unexpected and rapid growth

* How they handled operations and troubleshooting

* Saving the day with observability

* The challenges of scaling people and processes

* More

Sponsor: InterOptic

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Show Links:

Become a sponsor to Hachyderm – GitHub

Nivenly Foundation

Leaving the Basement – Hachyderm Community

Hachyderm Public Dashboards

Kris Nova on Hachyderm

Kris Nova on GitHub

Dominic Hamon on Hachyderm

Dominic Hamon on LinkedIn

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