What is This?

This is the fourth in a series of posts that explains how to use Discord if you are also a iOS voiceOver user. If you are unsure of what Discord is or whether or not you wish to use it, please see the dedicated page for this guide for more information.

 

What is covered in This Post?

This post details how to participate in both text and voice chat in Discord for iOS. We then have a final thoughts section, since this is where many of you will have the information you need to use Discord.

 

Before We Begin: A Word About Keyboard shortcuts

At this time, there do not appear to be keyboard shortcuts for the iOS platform. There does seem to be quite the demand for it, however, so stay tuned.

 

Text Chatting

This is the primary way to use Discord. If you’ve been using VoiceOver on your iOS device for any length of time, many of the methods you use to navigate text chat will be similar to other messaging apps you’ve used. If this is your first time, you’ll be happy to know that the skills you learn here can be used in other apps. Let’s begin.

The chat Window

The first thing to do is to enter a server, and then pick a text channel within that server. If you’ve joined a public server, you will most likely start out in a welcome channel, and you will probably be able to find the server rules and guidelines for how to navigate and use the channels in the server. As a general rule, regular members do not have permission to actually send messages in these types of channels.

Regardless of whether or not you can send messages, you can read the messages of a channel if you have access. If you know you’ve selected a channel that lets you send messages and can’t find the message box, or if you are unable to find the messages sent by other users, make sure you’ve activated the chat tab in the bottom left corner of the expanded drawer screen.

A Word About NSFW Channels

If you navigate to a channel that is called NSFW, or it has a different name but the admin has designated NSFW, you will first be asked to confirm that you are of age and are willing to view NSFW content. The continue button is recognized as a button by screen readers, so find and activate that, and you’re ready to go.

Reading Messages

Once you’ve selected a text channel, you can swipe with one finger to move through the messages. Each message has the name of the user that VoiceOver recognizes as a button, and this is followed by the message. If you double-tap the user button, you will be presented with their server roles, as well as the option to direct message them if they allow it. You can also react to messages.

Adding Reactions

You can use emojis to add reactions to messages you read. To do this, find the message you want to react to, and double-tap and hold. You will presented with a list of possible reactions, as well as actions you can take on the message like quote or copy the text of the message. Double-tap to choose your action or reaction.

Revealing Hidden Content

To reveal hidden content, find the button that says, “spoiler”, and activate it. You can also make it so that no content is hidden in the “Text and Emojis” section of your user settings.

Viewing Files

To access an uploaded file, double-tap the button or link with the file name. You will either open or be prompted to save the file depending on the file type.

Sending Messages

To send messages, tap the bottom center of the screen with one finger to bring focus to the message box. Voiceover will say “message”, followed by the word “Hashtag” and the name of the channel (e.g., “message hashtag General”). Double-tap this, and you will be presented with the software keyboard. Type your message, then find and activate the send button. If you’re using an external keyboard, you can press the enter key to send a message. Here are some other things you can do with messages.

  • Find and double-tap the emoji button to open the emoji picker. You can also use the iOS emoji keyboard to send standard emoji.
  •  Find and double-tap the upload media file button to upload a file.
  •  Double-tap and hold a message you sent to have the option to erase and edit the message. Press escape to cancel.
  •  Insert the at sign followed by a person’s name to mention that user. You can also type part of the name, then drag one finger above the message box to find suggestions. Double-tap the suggestion to select it.

 

Voice Chatting

While there are fewer steps to actually using voice chat, you should go into your audio video settings and adjust the following:

  • Make sure Discord has access to the camera and microphone.
  •  Adjust your input volume and output volume.
  •  Disable autogain control.
  •  Run a test of your audio.

Connecting to a Voice Channel and Using video

To connect to a voice channel, select it from the list of server channels. Next, find and activate the “join Voice” button at the bottom of the screen. You will hear a tone letting you know you’ve connected, and everyone can hear you. It’s probably a good idea to do a practice run so you can find the mute and deafen buttons. To video chat, find the camera button after you’ve joined voice and double-tap it.

To disconnect from a voice channel, find the disconnect button. You’ll want to do this, since you can only be connected to one voice channel at a time.

 

Final Thoughts

If you’ve made it this far, you now have the essential information to actively participate in Discord servers. The easiest way to master the service is to just use it. 

Next Step

The logical next step is to try your hand at running your own Discord server. I have no immediate plans to cover this, but remain open to the possibility. In the meantime, the Internet has plenty of articles from the official Discord help and tech bloggers on the subject. Remember that Discord is made to bring all kinds of people with different skill sets together, so nobody is under any obligation to administer or moderate a server to be an effective Discord user. So long as you’re following server rules and not going out of your way to be less than a decent person, you’re Discording right.

What is This?

This is the second in a series of posts that explains how to use Discord if you use Voiceover on your iOS device. If you’re unsure of what Discord is or if you want to use it, please go read the introduction post. You can also check out this dedicated guide page for a list of all posts in the series.

What is Covered in This Post?

This post describes the layout of the Discord user interface for the iOS platform. This post also gives a walkthrough of the user settings, and makes suggestions of changes you can make to give yourself a smoother experience.

 

The Discord User Interface (UI)

Presentation

 

The Discord iOS app has tried to incorporate as many features as can be found on the Discord desktop program. The result is that there is too much content for a single screen, so successful navigation of the UI is dependent on use of the “Toggle Drawer” button located in the top left of the Discord main screen. When this button is activated with the Voiceover double-tap, you are presented with the following items at the top of the screen. You can navigate through these by dragging your finger, or by swiping right or left with one finger.

  • “Direct Messages Button”: Double-tapping this will bring up a list of conversations between you and at least one other person.
  •  A list of the servers to which you currently belong. Voiceover recognizes these as buttons, and double-tapping one of these will take you to that server.
  •  “Add Server Button”: Double-tapping this will allow you to search for and join servers, discussed in the next post.

The middle of the screen is populated by an “Invite Button”, which will allow you to invite other users to the server you are currently in, as well as channel categories and channels in that server. Servers and channels will be discussed in the next post. For now, they’re just part of the interface.

At the bottom of the screen are the following five tabs. You can activate these by double-tapping them.

  • “Chat Tab”: This brings up the conversation for the currently selected text channel.
  •  “Friends tab”: Brings up your friends list and allows you to add friends by their Discord handle.
  •  Quick Switcher Tab”; Allows you to quickly switch between servers and channels by searching for them.
  • Mentions Tab: if you’ve been mentioned in a server, you can find it here instead of going through each server individually.
  •  “Settings Tab”: Allows you to adjust user and app settings.

You can collapse the drawer by scrubbing with two fingers at any time.

The Rest of the Main Screen

If you open the Discord app and do not expand the drawer, you will find a ‘Search Button”, which will let you search for messages in the current server, and a “Member List Button”, which displays a list of the members in the current server. The rest of the screen is dedicated to a list of messages in the current channel, as well as the chat box.

User Settings

To access the user settings, expand the drawer in the top left of the screen. Next, find and double-tap the “Settings tab” in the bottom right corner. You will be presented with the following options and elements, which you can swipe through and double-tap on to change each preference to your liking. After making the desired changes, find and double-tap the “Back Button” in the top left corner to return to the main settings screen.

  • An unlabeled button that you can double-tap to set or change your user avatar.
  •  Heading with your Discord handle. For example, Changeling#5469 (spoken as “Changeling number 5469 Heading”).
  •  A set status button to change your Discord presence. (e.g., “Set Status Online Button”.)
  •  Account: Contains options to customize your profile, manage your contact info and password, and manage two-factor authentication.
  •  Privacy & Safety: Contains options for who can find and contact you, data control, etc.
  •  Connections: Contains options for managing apps with access to your Discord account, as well as social media connections.
  •  Scan QR Code: lets you log into Discord on a second device by scanning the QR code instead of entering you user credentials.
  •  Nitro Settings; A block of text that indicates the following options have to deal with discord nitro.
    • . Get nitro: Where you can sign up for Discord Nitro, the paid version of discor.
    •  Server boost: You can pay money to boost (sponsor) a server to give it and its owners special perks.
    •  Nitro Gifting: you can give Nitro to someone else.
  •  App Settings: A block of text that indicates the next settings have to do specifically with the iOS app.
    •  Voice/Voice Activity: Where you can adjust your preferences for voice chat. Activating this may cause VoiceOver to come through the earpiece of your device..
    •  Appearance: Where you can set the theme of Discord. Mine is spoken as “Appearance dark Button”.
    •  Language: Where you can set the language for Discord. Mine is spoken as “Language english U.S.”.
    •  Text & Images: Settings for adjusting how text and images are handled, and this is where you can adjust spoiler display settings.
    •  Web Browser; Where you can choose which browser opens links you click in Discord.
    •  Notifications: Where you can adjust your app notifications, but not server/channel specific notifications.
    •  Support: Where you can get help with the app.
    •  Upload debug logs: Where you can submit crash reports.
    • Acknowledgements: Takes you to a web page that gives credit to projects and people that power discord.
    •  Change Log: View the list of recent changes.
  •  Restore Nitro Subscription: Used to restore a purchase.
  •  Logout: Signs you out.

 

Suggested Changes

Here are some suggestions of settings you can change to make your user experience better. The out-of-box experience is quite nice, though.

Under Account

You may wish to consider setting a profile photo. While I recognize that having an avatar may not be a priority for most of my readers, the fact is having a unique avatar is how server admins who may be visually oriented to the world distinguish you from a spammer. To set your avatar:

  • Expand the drawer in the top left corner of the main screen.
  •  Activate the settings tab in the bottom right corner of the resulting screen.
  •  Activate the unlabeled button in the top left corner of the settings screen.
  •  Choose your photo. If this is your first time, you may need to allow access to photos.
  •  Confirm your selection.

Under Notifications

It is not currently possible to have incoming messages read to you by a cool robot on the mobile platform. CONGRATULATIONS! You don’t need to worry about it.

 

Next Steps

Now that you have an understanding of the Discord UI and an idea of how navigation is going to work, you’re ready to join a server. The next post will explain how to join servers, as well as customize your settings for a specific server. In the meantime, make sure you have discord set the way you think you’ll like it.

What is This?

This is the third in a series of posts that explains how to use the Discord service if you are also a VoiceOver user for iOS. If you are unsure of what Discord is, whether or not you wish to use the service, or both, please see the dedicated page for this guide for more information.

 

What is Covered in This Post?

This post explains servers and channels. We then take a look at how to join servers and adjust individual server settings. Finally, we look at how to move between channels.

Not Covered in This Post

This post does not cover the administration of servers. While my experience with this process is that it is doable with a screen reader for the most part, the first few posts in this guide are designed to get new users able to participate as quickly as possible.

 

What is a Server?

In the world of Discord, a server is an extremely customizeable group chat (though separate from a private group chat). It can have a specific common interest, or it can just be one someone hosts just for experimentation and research. Each server can host any number of different subtopics, and these are called channels, detailed later in this post.

 

How Do I Find a Server?

There are a couple of ways to do this. The most direct way is to use an invite link, which you can get from a friend or admin of a server, or from a website of someone or something that also has a Discord presence. 

Once you click an invite link, you’ll be prompted to accept the invitation and join. It presents as a button, so navigate to it and activate it. When you first join a server, it’s important to make sure you read the rules so you don’t upset anyone or get kicked out.

You can also join servers by searching for them on the Internet. There are a few websites dedicated to this, but the simplest way I’ve experienced is to just Google the topic that interests you and include “Discord” as apart of the search. 

Customizing Server Settings

To customize server settings, expand the drawer in the top left corner of the screen. Next, navigate passed the list of your servers and “Add server Button” until you hear the name of the current server, followed by the word “server” and “Button” (e.g., “The Starship Changeling (Server) Button”). Double-tap that button, and you will be presented with the server settings. You can exit this screen at any time by performing a two-finger scrub.

Server Boost

You can help promote a server you run or particularly enjoy. This is not a free service, and you will be asked for payment information if you choose to set it up.

Invite

If the admins allow it, you can invite people to join the server. You can invite people you’ve been in private conversations with, or copy a generated invite link and send it to a friend.

Notifications

This is where you can adjust which notifications you receive. You’ll want to do this based on how active the server is. You can choose from nothing, mentions, or all. Later, we’ll talk about how to adjust notifications for specific channels.

Mark as Read

You can mark an entire server as read if you have too many messages to actually read.

Change Nickname

You can have a nickname specific to each server. I do this so that my name in certain servers matches my name on Steam and Patreon to make sure I’m added to the correct channels.

Hide Muted Channels

If you have muted a channel, you can take it out of the list for yourself. More on muting channels shortly.

Allow Direct messages

You can choose whether or not to let server members message you.

Leave Server

Use this to make a quick exit if you discover you’ve entered a server that’s not a good fit for you.

Moving Between Servers

To move between servers, expand the drawer in the top left corner of the main screen. Find the button that matches the server you wish to move to and double-tap it. Find and double-tap the chat tab in the bottom left corner of the screen to collapse the drawer and view the chat for that server. Now that we have a server or two under our belt, let’s talk about channels.

 

What is a Channel?

A channel is a subcategory in a server. They can be used to distinguish between different topics of conversation, separate NSFW or adult content from the general chat, etc. Admins can allow access to channels to only certain server members, too. A channel can be a text chat, or voice chat, and these can be further categorized depending on the preferences of the admins.

Changing Channels

The most direct way to change channels is to expand the drawer in the top left corner of the main screen, navigate passed the list of your servers and the name of the current server, and then to the list of channels in the currently selected server. You will find categories and channels, both of which present as buttons. If the voiceOver focus is on a category, you will hear the name of the category, the word “category”, whether or not the category is expanded or collapsed, and the word “button” (e.g., “text channels. Category. Expanded. Button.”). Double-tapping a category will expand or collapse it.

If the voiceOver focus is on a channel, you will hear the name of the channel, whether or not it is a text or voice channel, and the word “Button” (e.g., “General. Text channel. Button.”). Double-tapping a channel will take you to that channel. This also collapses the drawer and displays the chat for that channel. If you’ve selected a voice channel, you’ll be presented with your audio settings and a button labeled “Join Voice”. Double-tapping this button will connect you to voice chat.

You can also use the Quick Switcher tab when the drawer is expanded to quickly move between servers in channels. The quick switcher is powered by a text search that works across all servers to which you belong, so you can easily find all the general chats in all your servers.

Customizing Notifications for Servers

You can set it so that you get specific notifications for channels in servers. I personally use this to mute channels that have primarily visual media, but you can also use it to keep a special eye on a topic of particular interest. To do this, open the server settings, then go to notification Settings. You will have the following options.

  • Mute: mutes all notifications for all channels in the server except for when you are mentioned.
  •  Server Notification Settings
    •  All messages.
    •  Only mentions.
    •  Nothing.
  •  Suppress @everyone and @here: Prevent you from being part of mass mentions like live streaming announcements.
  •  Suppress All Role Mentions: Server members can have roles, and these roles can be mentioned. Each member can opt out.
  •  Mobile push notifications: Choose if an individual server can send you push notifications.
  •  Notification overrides: You can customize notifications for a specific channel or category in the server.

 

Next Steps

The next major step is to learn how to participate in chat. In preparation for this, you may wish to review the official list of Discord keyboard shortcuts. These will be discussed as they come up, but this is also where you can find a quick reference.

What is This?

This is the first in a series of posts that explains how to use Discord if you also use VoiceOver to use your iOS device. It is not intended to replace the documentation for either Discord or VoiceOver, but rather to explain how you can use the two softwares together to have an enjoyable user experience.

What is Covered in This Guide?

This guide will explain what Discord is, its main features, how to navigate servers and channels, how to participate in chat, and how to adjust settings. Due to the time and effort required to keep the various versions of this guide current, I have no plans to take things beyond the basic user experience.

What is the Intended Audience?

This guide is intended for people who want to use Discord and need VoiceOver to effectively use their iOS device. Beyond that, it is intended for people who like user directions that contain more detail than just lists of gestures. While this is a set of directions, it is styled to read like a conversation between you and me. When I published Changeling’s Guide to Mastodon for Screen Readers, the style of the guide seemed to be its best received feature.

What is Covered in the Rest of This Post?

The rest of this post answers the question of what Discord is, and ends with a walkthrough for creating an account. The final section will offer suggestions of things you can do to prepare for the next post in the series.

 

What is Discord

According to its website, Discord is a free, secure text and voice chat solution for gamers. While its design reflects its stated target market, the service has quickly become a way for groups of people to connect and chat with each other. These groups are joined in virtual areas called servers, and these servers can be host to different categories called channels to help organize the conversation. The advantage here is that unlike a Skype or WhatsApp group where every message in the conversation gets sent to everyone in the group, a user can configure Discord so that they only receive notifications from certain channels, or on certain conversation topics, from a server. It is intended to keep people from feeling like they are in a sensory overload version of hell caused by too many notifications. Users can also live stream to servers, or voice chat in designated channels on servers. Like any service, the first step to using it is to create an account.

 

Creating an Account

Before You Begin

The first thing you’ll want to do is download the appropriate version of the Discord software for your operating system. This guide will focus primarily on the iOS version, but you can also download it for Mac, as well as Windows and Android. If you’re not using any of these, or if you want to test drive the service before installing software, you can use Discord from your preferred web browser.

To install Discord, go to discordapp.com on the device on which you will be using the service, and select the download link. The site will detect the appropriate version of your software based on your browser. Once you’ve done that perform the normal steps for installing software on your machine, and you’ll be ready to create an account. You can also search for Discord on the iOS Appstore.

If you want to run Discord from a browser, you’ll want to create an account first, and then select the “Open Discord in Your Browser” button.

To Create an Account

Go to discordapp.com/register, and provide your e-mail , your preferred user name, and a password then click continue. You’ll then be prompted to set up a server, but you can click “Skip” for now. The final step is verifying your email address, which involves clicking a link in an email sent by the Discord service.

A Quick Word About Usernames

When you sign up for a service, the process usually goes something like type your name into the box, see your name is being used by someone else, then choose a username that has your name with a long string of numbers after it. With Discord, each user is designed a tag, or the hashtag (#) followed by a four (4) digit code that accompanies your user name, so you can always have your desired username in chats. For example, my Discord info is Changeling#5469.

 

Next Steps

This post explained what Discord is and guided you through the registration process. If you haven’t yet done so, you’ll want to install the Discord program. You might also consider making a list of your interests to help you find appropriate servers for you to join. The next post will discuss how to adjust user settings, as well as finding and joining servers.

Updating to iOS13.2 took away my Siri VoiceOver voice. Any ideas on how to get it back?
For those who thought voice control in iOS13 would solve the problem of people not wanting to learn to interact with a touch screen relying on Siri for everything, sorry not sorry to burst your bubble, but you still have to know what’s on the screen and what those things are called to make voice control interact with it.

What is This?

This is the fifth in a series of posts that explains how to use Mastodon if you are a screen reader user. It is an alternative form of documentation, and is not intended to relace the original Mastodon documentation, nor should it be used to replace the documentation that comes with your screen reading software. My suggestion is that you use this information in combination with the original documentation to further your understanding. I also suggest that, due to the advanced content in this portion of the guide, you go back and start the series with Chapter One.

The Road So Far…

  • Chapter One gave an introduction to the guide, explained my reasons for writing it, and outlined things you should have to make your experience a smooth one.
  • Chapter Two explained what Mastodon was, described the process of choosing an instance, and concluded with a brief walkthrough of the signup process.
  • Chapter three guided you through the process of completing your user profile, concluding with the sneding of your first toot, “Hello World.”
  • Chapter Four described the different things you can do with toots, as well as the process of searching for and following users.

What is in This Chapter?

This chapter explains how to navigate timelines and interact with toots from other users. We’ll start by discussing the different timelines Mastodon offers, as well as how to switch between them. we’ll then talk about how to navigate timelines, and how to interact with toots from other users.

Terms in This Chapter (In Order of discussion)

  • Timeline
    • Home Timeline
    • Local Timeline
    • Federated Timeline
    • Notifications Timeline
    • Direct messages timeline
  • Boost
  • Favorite
  • Reply

Before We Begin

This guide was written using the ChromeVox screen reader on Chrome OS. If you’re using a different browser and/or screen reader, your experience may vary. If you are using a mobile device, the keyboard shortcuts may not work. I know for a fact that they do not work with iOS and Safari at the time of this writing. If you will be using a mobile device for Mastodon, stay tuned for Chapter Six, which has a section dedicated to mobile solutions.

How to Use Keyboard Shortcuts

Unless otherwise noted, you’ll make yourself ready and able to use keyboard shortcuts by letting your screen reader know to pass keystrokes to Mastodon. Here are some of the most common commands, but you should consult your screen reader’s documentation. To keep this discussion as general as possible and keep me from repeating long sentences, we’re just going to call this passthrough, and I may proceed a set of directions with something like, “Enable passthrough,” or “Disable Passthrough.”

  • JAWS calls this virtual keys, and you toggle it with JAWS+Z.
  • NBDA calls this Browse mode, and you toggle it with NVDA+Space.
  • For VoiceOver on Apple devices, make sure quick-nav is off. You can toggle this by pressing the left and right arrows together.
  • Chromevox has a limited version of passthrough, and it won’t come into play here. For the record, that command is ChromeVox+Shift+Escape.

Timelines

A timeline is where toots appear. The kind of toot that appears and who those toots are from depends on the timeline you’re viewing. In the notifications timeline, the messages you see are not necessarily toots, but you will navigate them in the same way. They are displayed newest to oldest.

  • Home timeline: Toots from you and people you follow. Includes boosts and replies by default.
  • Notifications Timeline: Shows new followers, boosts of your toots, favorites of your toots, replies to your toots. Includes an option to only show replies/mentions.
  • Local Timeline: Includes toots from users of your instance, regardless of whether or not you follow them.
  • Federated Timeline: Includes toots from users from instances with which your instance interacts, regardless of whether or not you follow them.

By default, your home and notifications timelines are displayed on your home page, the page you land on after logging into your instance. With passthrough disabled, you can jump between these by using the command to navigate by heading. These two timelines are considered to be pinned, and pinning is covered in more detail in Chapter Six.

You can also navigate to the local and federated timelines by activating the links at the top of the page. You can also switch timelines by using the following hotkeys with passthrough enabled. All of these start by pressing the letter g, followed by:

  • H for home.
  • N for notifications
  • L for local timeline.
  • T for federated timeline.
  • S for “Get Started”.
  •  D for Direct Messages.

 

Regardless of whether you click the links or use the hotkeys, Mastodon will not load another page like you may be used to from using other websites. Instead, it expands a new section, and that section is under a level one heading, the title of which depends on which section you called up. Home and notifications are always visible. If you don’t call up one of the other timelines, and if you navigate to the heading beyond the notifications section, you’ll encounter the getting started section. This includes links to various account settings (detailed in chapter six), as well as the complete list of hotkeys and profile directory (See Chapter Three). You can also call up the list of hotkeys by pressing ? with passthrough enabled. Press the Backspace key to go back when you’ve finished with a section.

 

Navigating Within Timelines Described

This is a general description of how to navigate through timelines. This means that once you apply these methods, you should be able to navigate all timelines. If you need more detail, the next major section(you can jump to it by using the command by jumoing by level two heading), details the navigation of the most common timelines you use on Mastodon.

Generally

To enter a timeline once it’s been called up or made visible, disable passthrough, and move by heading until you hear the name of the desired timeline. Pressing Tab the first time will move you to a “Settings” button, and clicking that will show or hide the settings pecific to that timeline. Later, we’ll take a look at the settings for Home, Notifications and Direct Messages. Pressing Tab again takes you to the toot at the top of the timeline, and pressing Tab a third time takes you to the list proper.

In the List

Enable passthrough, and use j or down arrow to move to the next toot. Use k or up arrow to move to the previous toott. You can review a toot by character, word, etc. by using your screen reader’s commands for that level of analysis.

On a Toot

Once you navigate to a toot, you can press the Tab key to move between the link to the user’s profile, the text, the button to show or hide content behind warnings, the image with alt text if it is there, and the buttons for interacting.

Navigating Within Timelines Applied

This section repeats what has just been covered, except it adds more detail about what you can expect to find. The prompts you should always hear from your screen reader are in quotes. Whether or not you hear the descriptions of controls as you pass over them will depend on how you have your verbosity settings configured. Similarly, whether you hear the name of the section and actually need to Tab to find the settings button, or if you hear the title of the section and the settings button when you navigate to that heading will depend on how your screen reader handles object presentation.

Home

Navigate by heading until you hear “home. Heading level one”. Press Tab, and you get:

  1. “Home. Show settings. Not pressed.”
    1. Activating this button will change the message to “Hide Settings. Pressed.”
    2. When these settings are shown you have checkboxes for what you do and don’t want shown in the timeline. Choose to see or not see boosts and replies by checking or unchecking these boxes.
  2. The first toot in the timeline. The latest.
  3. The first toot again. The start of the list proper. The toot is read in full.
    1. Author name.
    2. Message or content warning.
    3. If the toot was boosted, who boosted it.
    4. When the toot was tooted.
  4. Each of the elements above, plus:
    1. Photo and alt text if present.
    2. Buttons for interacting.
  5. Continuing to press Tab will take you to the next toot.

Enabling passthrough and pressing j, k, down arrow, or up arrow will take you to the next and previous toot, and the process repeats.

Notifications

Disable passthrough, and navigate by heading until you hear, “Notifications. Heading level one.” Press tab and you get:

  1. “Show settings. Not pressed.”
    1. Pressing this button changes the message to “Hide settings. Pressed.”
    2. You can choose which notifications you receive through either push or desktop. Eliminate entire categories, or only certain notifications for certain types of activity by checking or unchecking the boxes.
  2. “All.” Activating this shows all notifications.
  3. “Mentions.” Activating this only displays mentions.
  4. Message structure with elements as described above.
  5. Enable passthrough and use j, k, up, or down arrow to move through the list.

Direct Messages

Direct messages are toots that only you or a group of users that includes you can see. To navigate here, enable passthrough, then press g, d. Disable passthrough, and navigate by heading until you hear Direct Messages. Heading level one.” Press Tab, and you get:

  1. “Show settings. Not pressed.”
    1. Activating this button will change the message to, “Hide settings. Pressed.”
    2. The only option in this timeline is the option to pin it. This means it will always be visibile.
  2. The first message.
  3. By now, you should have enough to know what to expect.

I just want to point out to you that since direct message do qualify as mentions according to Mastodon, they will show up in your notifications timeline. It’s important to know how to call up different timelines, however, so you can work with lists, which will be covered in Chapter Six.

Take a Break: A Quick Look Behind the Scenes

This is the part where you need to stop and take a break. How do I know? Before I wrote this paragraph, I went back and read what I’d written before and cleaned it up. I’m exhausted, and this content is not new to me. I should also note that, with the exception of the first two chapters, each one of these takes me a couple of days to draft, plus a few extra hours to be ready for publishing. This is because I want to make reading these chapters and applying these concepts as seamless as possible for you, so I put a lot of my effort into making sure my reference points match.

I’m also putting more detail than some screen reader users may need, because there are a lot of people keeping up with this project and showing their support who aren’t screen reader users. They boost, they favorite, they share, they point out mistakes I’ve missed and help me reach my goals for this guide. In Chapter Seven, most likely the final chapter, I’ll have a section dedicated to thanking the contributors. Until then, thank you all.

Now that we’ve had a break, it’s time to talk about interacting with other users. Without that, none of the support I’m grateful to have received would have been possible.

Interacting with Toots

This section is going to be broken into three parts. First, we’ll deal with things you can do that won’t take your focus out of the timeline. We’ll then look at replying, which does take your focus away from the timeline. Finally, we’ll look at actions that open up additional sections and rely on navigation to complete. I’m writing this under the assumption that you went and found people to follow. For this section, passthrough will need to be enabled unless explicitly stated otherwise.

Boosting and Favoriting, and reading Image Descriptions

Neither boosting nor favoriting will take your focus away from the timelin in which you are currently operating. We’ll be working from the home timeline, but you can use these wherever you like, except Direct messages.

Boosting

Boosting a toot means you’ve shared it (Facebook), or retweeted it (Twitter). It basically means that helping a person’s message get heard. It’s also like if one person sings a song, and then you join in, and so on. To boost a toot:

  1. Navigate the timeline until you find a toot to boost.
  2. Do one of the following:
    1. Press Tab until you hear, “Boost. Not pressed” and activate it. The message should change to, “Boost. Pressed.”
    2. Press B to boost. Depending on your screen reader, you may not receive confirmation. You can Tab to the button for boosting, and you should hear, “Boost. Pressed.”
  3. Your followers will now see the toot from the original author, and that you boosted it.
  4. If the author of the toot has elected to receive such notifications, they will receive a notification that you’ve boosted their toot.

Favoriting

Favoriting is similar to using the like feature on other social media platforms. It also saves the toot to a separate timeline, and we’ll be exploring that in Chapter Six. To favorite:

  1. Navigate the timeline until you find a toot you like. Then, do one of the following:
    1. Tab until you hear, “Favorite. Not pressed.” and activate it. You should hear, “Favorite. Pressed.”
    2. Press F to favorite. Depending on your screen reader, you may or may not receive confirmation. Tab until you hear “Favorite. Pressed.” to confirm.
  2. If the author has chosen to receive this notification, they will be notified that you have favorited their toot.
  3. Your followers will not see this activity. This is why, if you toot something someone really likes, you’ll often receive a boost and favorite notification.

 

It’s important to know that boosts and favorites can be toggled, so it’s not a huge deal if you make a mistake.

Finding Image Descriptions (alt text)

If a person has added an image description (alt text) to an image they’ve uploaded, you can Tab until you encounter the image with description, and your screen reader should read it. If the author is using an instance where an uploaded image is not presented you may need to use your arrows, rather than Tab to find the image.

Replying

A reply is a toot posted in response to another toot. Doing this results in both messages being recognized as a thread that can be viewed later. To reply:

  1. Find a toot to which you wish to respond.
  2. Do one of the following;
    1. Tab until you hear, “Reply.” and activate it.
      1. You will be focused on the compose toot text box, and your screen reader should be ready to type.
      2. The box will have an at (@) sign, followed by the person’s username and instance, like @ChangelingRandy@mastodon.social.
      3. Type your response, then do either one of the following:
        1. Tab until you hear “Toot” and activate it.
        2. Press CTRL+Enter to send your message.
      4. Your focus will remain in the text box, Disable passthrough, and use heading navigation to return to the timeline where you found the toot.
    2. Press R for reply.
      1. Your focus will be moved to the compose new toot text box, and your screen reader should be ready to type.
      2. The box has in it the at (@) sign, followed by the person’s username and instance, like @ChangelingRandy@mastodon.social.
      3. Type your response, then press CTRL+Enter to send.
      4. Disable passthrough, and use heading naviagation to return to the timeline.
  3. At this point, there is no way to quickly return to the toot you replied to (your spot in the timeline) using a screen reader.

Other Actions

By now, you should have an understanding of the process of interacting. I’m not going to detail each of these actions, except to say that most of them will open up additional sections on the page, which you will then to navigate to. Some, but not all, of these will be detailed in Chapter Six.

  • Press M to mention the author is similar to a reply, but does not result in a conversation thread.
  • Press P to open the author’s profile in a new section.
  • Press Enter or O to open the status in a new section. If there is a conversation, it will be displayed.
  • Press X to show the content behind a content warining. Your screen reader may or may not automatically read the content. If not, anvigate away from then back to the toot.

Additional Actions

Each toot has a “More” button you can Tab to and activate. Here are the options in that menu.

  • Expand to status.
  • Copy link to status.
  • Imbed. Produces code you can put in a blog post to display a toot.
  • Mention.
  • Direct message.
  • Mute.
  • Block.
  • Report.
  •  Delete if the toot is yours.
  •  Delete and edit if the toot is yours.

Thank You for Reading

At this point, you have all the essentials for using Mastodon. Many of you will choose to stop reading at this point. If this is you, thank you for reading Changeling’s Guide to Mastodon for Screen Reader users. Remember to check back here for updated content as the software updates.

Coming Up

In Chapter Six (to be published), we’ll be taking a look at some tools to make your experience smoother, as well as mobile apps for Mastodon. That discussion will operate under the assumption that you have an understanding of the concepts already covered by this guide, so you may wish to go back and review.

What is This?

This is the second in a series of posts that explains how to use Mastodon if you use a screen reader. It is an alternative form of the already existing documentation for Mastodon, subject to my interpretation of concepts. Therefore, I suggest that you use this guide in conjunction with the official documentation, linked to later in this post. I also suggest that you go back and read Chapter One. Once you’ve done that, continue reading this chapter.

What is Covered in This Chapter?

This chapter takes a closer look at what Mastodon is, deals with the concept of instances, explains the differences between Mastodon and other platforms, offers suggestions on choosing an instance, and concludes with a brief description of the signup process. If you’ve already done these things, go on to Chapter Three.

Terms in This Chapter (in order of discussion)

  • Microblog
  • Instance
  • Federation, fedeverse

A Closer Look at Mastodon

You probably have an idea of what Mastodon is by now, or else why would you be reading this? Just to make sure I’m covering my bases, however, let’s take a closer look. Mastodon is a service that offers its users a microblog, a space to share short posts with no title, and the option to attach media such as pictures and videos. Other users can then interact with these posts in a number of ways, discussed in chapters  and Five.

Doesn’t That Already Exist?

It sure does. These days, Twitter is synonymous with microblogging, because it’s the most popular. This is similar to how America Online (AOL) was once the most popular form of Internet access, but it was not the only service like that, and it certainly not the Internet. Just like forms of Internet access, email, and many other services, it is to be expected that different microblogging services would have some features in common. I’ll briefly discuss some of those now.

Common Features Between Twitter and Mastodon

  • The primary form of communication is short statuses. On twitter, this limit is 280 characters, and 500 on Mastodon.
  • The ability reply to, like/favorite, and repost posts. (More on this in chapter Five.)
  • Being able to follow and be followed by other users. (More on this in Chapter Four).
  • The ability to create custom timelines by creating and adding users to lists. (More on this in Chapter Six, coming soon).
  • The ability to filter out unwanted content. (Also discussed in chapter Six.)

With So Many Similarities, Why Not Just Stay on Twitter?

Let me take this opportunity to tell you that I have no special reason for you to leave Twitter if you’re happy there. I mean, we’re in Chapter Two of this guide, clearly there is more to come, and if you’re still reading up to this point, it’s because you’ve already made the decision to at least consider having a presence on Mastodon. With that said, there are plenty of differences between the two services, but we need to take a look at a few concepts before we can discuss them. This is a lot like how when you got your first email address, you probably read the documentation of something like Gmail before you decided to switch providers, or at least that you needed a second email address.

The Argument I Refuse to Make

The most common argument I hear for using mastodon is something to the tune of everybody is so friendly on Mastodon. I’ve never had a bad experience on Mastodon, but the fact of the matter is Mastodon is a place for people, and people have the capacity to be hostile regardless of the platform. The most infamous example of this is the situation concerning Wil Wheaton from last summer, followed immediately by many users’ decision to block one Instance when they found out it was admined by someone who had done work for the FBI. In both cases, people had their own reasons for behaving the way they did, but it was still aggressive behavior. If you’re going to be online, if you’re going to interact with people, there’s a chance you may experience some form of hostility.

Don’t Let Me Scare You off

If you’ve come this far, don’t let me scare you off. If you choose your instance carefully, you can minimize the chance for hostile encounters. As you’ll see in the next section, it’s a lot like picking a neighborhood to live in.

Instances

Before you can find out what an instance is, you need to know how Mastodon works. With a service like Facebook or Twitter, you and I, the users, sign up for an account, managed by one central server, accessed when we open our browser and log on to something like twitter.com. To find a user, you put a slash after the web address, so if you wanted to find me on Twitter, you’d go to twitter.com/changelingmx. From there, you can click the follow button, and if I can verify that you aren’t a porn bot, won’t clog my timeline with Bible quotes, etc., I’ll probably follow you back, and we’re connected. We’re interacting within one ecosystem. This is just fine until the ecosystem dies (looking at you, Google+!), in which case we all die, digitally speaking.

As explained on joinmastodon.org, rather than being one website, the Mastodon network is a collection of websites powered by the mastodon software, which enables them to interact with each other. Each of these websites is called an instance.

You pick your instance the way you choose your email address. In fact, my Mastodon address looks like ChangelingRandy@mastodon.social. If you’re reading this on an iPhone and click that link, you’ll actually launch the device’s Mail client. If you want to find me once you join your chosen instance, click here, or see the H-Card widget in the sidebar of any starshipchangeling.net page, which has every link for every service i actively use. If you don’t want to see all of my Mastodon interactions, but want to follow this blog, you can follow it via Mastodon by typing “changelingmx@www.starshipchangeling.net”, minus the quotations. All of these websites together form the fedeverse, or, as Mastodon calls itself, a decentralized, federated social network. This detail becomes particularly important starting in Chapter Four. For now, what you need to take away is that instances can interact with each other, meaning that some on mastodon.cloud can follow me on mastodon.social. It’s also important to understand that instances can block each other, which happens from time to time since anybody can run a Mastodon instance, regardless of whether or not their opinion is a popular one.

How Do I choose My Instance?

To paraphrase a passage from Ernest Cline’s Armada, this is an objective, rather than a subjective task, so there is no right way to do it. It’s not uncommon for someone to join an instance, realize it’s not a good fit, and change instances. You may go through that process, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Here are some suggestions to guide you.

Choose Based on Interest

Anybody can run a Mastodon instance. This means if you can think of it, there’s probably a community for it. The “Getting Started” section of joinmastodon.org has a form you can fill out to get server suggestions. Parameters include everything from what language you speak, to your hobbies.

Choose Based on How You Feel About Rules

Since anybody can run a Mastodon instance, the code of conduct from instance to instance varies. Theoretically, I could start an instance that requires users to be able to quote every line from Disney’s “Aladdin” upon request. Realistically I’d be the only member of that instance. Seriously, though, pay close attention to the rules of the instance. Each instance has them. Here is the code of conduct for mastodon.social. Please believe me when I tell you that these rules are usually strictly enforced.

Considerations for Screen Reader Users

The following is a list of questions a screen reader user should consider before joining an instance.

  • What version of the Mastodon software does the instance run? Newer versions often have accessibility improvements.
  • Does the instance run beta versions of the mastodon software? If so, make your life easier by considering the following:
    • Have a backup of your data in case you need to leave. (described in Chapter Six).
    • Have a backup account on a stable instance. This will help you troubleshoot any problems you may have by enabling you to distinguish between caused by beta software and bug in a stable release.
  • Do uploaded images appear as links you can click? This will make it easier to download images for further analysis by AI.

Signing Up

If you can fill out a web form, you can sign up for the instance of your choice. Enter your desired username, your email, and your passowrd in the appropriate boxes. Once you’ve confirmed your password, use your screen reader to check the boxes to agree to follow the rules of the instance and privacy policy. Once you submit the infromation and verify your email address, your ready to complete your profile.

Coming Up

In Chapter Three, we’ll be looking at how to complete your profile, as well as send that first post. In the meantime, go ahead and pick your instance and join it, so you will be ready for the next installment.