Learning about Lemmy – A Fediverse Version of Reddit
Posted on June 13, 2023 by Aywren
With all that’s happening at Reddit as of late, I’ve started to hear about the Federated versions of the social platform, namely Lemmy and kbin. I haven’t explored kbin much at all, but I did want to write what I’ve begun to understand about Lemmy.
I’m not a massive Reddit addict, but I did browse often, so when the channels there started going black the other day, I took notice. I approve of the community having their say, and in all of this, wanted to discuss an alternative – Lemmy, which seems to be getting notice from the Reddit folks.
Picking a Server
Just like Mastodon, you start by signing up for an individual-run server of Lemmy. Just like Mastodon, bigger doesn’t always mean better.
Keep in mind that as long as the server you choose has federated with the bigger servers, you will be able to subscribe to whatever community you like and interact just as if you had an account on the bigger server.
You can head over to Join Lemmy to see a list of servers. Alternatively, you can check out this FediDB page to see servers and their stats, such as how many users are on the server and whether sign-ups are accepted. I've read that you should try to shoot for servers that have under 1K users because above that, servers can struggle with lag.
It seems that Lemmy.world is one of the bigger servers – maybe because they have open sign up and they allow you to create your own community.
Smaller servers, on the other hand, may have closed enrollment in which someone looks at your application and approves it first – some may even ask “what do you intend to contributed by joining our server” type question. I don’t think this is a bad thing! It helps to keep the local community on the same vibe.
Smaller servers might also restrict community creation to only the communities chosen by the administrator. This is actually fine, too, in that it makes a more themed local community. Remember, you can always branch out and join communities on other servers (I’ll show you how in a moment).
I ended up joining a smaller server at the Possum Patio – mostly because that’s where the most active FFXIV community was hosted. It appears to be a smaller server, the communities are more fandom based, and communities are limited to what the admins chose.
One thing to consider, whether you’re looking at a big or small server to join, are the instances it federates with. Luckily, you can see this even before you sign up for a server!
Scroll all the way down to the bottom of any page on the Lemmy server, and click the Instances link.
On this page, you’ll get an idea of all of the other servers this server federates with. This means that if a community exists on a server in this list, you should be able to join it and interact with it as if it were on your local server. Which is pretty cool!
Once you activate your account – you may need to be patient to wait for an admin to approve, depending on how the server runs – you should look into filling out your profile. You do this from the top right-hand menu – click Settings.
There’s actually a quite robust profile and biography creator here. I was impressed! You can set up everything from an avatar, banner, biography (including links and formatting), and language preferences.
It’s quite nice, so don’t leave your profile bare!
Finding and Joining Communities
The real legwork starts here – I think this is what gives people the impression that Lemmy is difficult to use. But finding communities to join is really not too tough. You just gotta know how it works.
At the top of any page of your Lemmy server, click Communities. The most important part of this page is this toggle at the top.
Here’s what the settings mean:
- Subscribed – only shows communities you have subscribed to
- Local – only shows communities hosted on your server
- All – shows communities both on your local server and across other servers your server has federated with
So, if I were to click All…
I now see a whole LOT of other communities that didn’t show up on Local! Just click the Subscribe link next to a community, even a community that is hosted on another server, and you’re a part of that community, now, too!
You can also use Search to search for key terms across All communities, but I’ve found that to be fickle. I’ve also learned: sometimes All does not mean All.
Let me explain.
Manually Subscribing to a Lemmy Community
I've learned that not EVERY community in federated instances appears in the All section. I noted this with confusion, and some folks helped to explain why. So here's a quick update: It seems that for a community to exist in ALL, someone on your instance needs to have already subscribed to it.
So what do you do to find and subscribe to communities that don't show up in ALL? Here’s a work around for this.
Spend some time exploring the other servers on the Instances page. Click on them and view their local communities to get an idea of what all you can find on that server.
For example, I just randomly hopped over to Burggit and checked out https://burggit.moe/communities.
Say, maybe I wanted to join the Burggit Music community. But for whatever reason, it didn’t display on the All list of communities on my home server. When I go to the community page, I see this in the community's right-hand column:
If you copy the instance name – in this case, it’s !email@example.com – then go back to your own instance on the Communities page, and paste it into the search there…
You can get a link within the search that leads to a version of that music community page on your home instance that you can subscribe to.
When Search Don’t Work – URL Tweak
NOW! (Don't let this scare you - this is only if you're as determined as I am to join a community...)
Sometimes, I've noticed the search doesn’t always return a result when you use the method above, even when you can join that community. I’ve learned that you can even more manually force that community page to display in your local through the URL.
For example, here’s the URL for this Music community on my local:
So basically, you can use this URL pattern to subscribe to any community, as long as you know that community’s info.
You can do the same, just change the “possumpat.io” to your server name.
And… once you’re subscribed to the communities you want, you can just sit back, relax and interact. That part is pretty self-explanatory!