Mastodon to Pleroma — 2 — Customizing My Instance

Written By: Jake Bauer | Posted: 2020-07-23 | Last Updated: 2020-07-24

Since this is a Mastodon to Pleroma conversion, followers will not auto-migrate. You should follow me on Pleroma here and unfollow me on Mastodon.

Now that I have a Pleroma instance up and running with an account, it’s time to make that instance my own through backend and frontend customizations.

Pleroma provides so many customization options, it took me a while to go through all of them and customize my instance to my liking. That is by no means a bad thing; it was a really enjoyable process and it makes it feel like it’s social media but for hackers (not the Hollywood kind).

There weren’t many backend customizations I wanted to do. For one, the default character limit of 5000 is more than enough for me, and far less restrictive feeling than Mastodon’s unchangeable 500. I turned off the chat room (which I do think is a really cool feature) and closed registrations because I didn’t need those features on my single-person instance. I was pretty much satisfied with the rest of the defaults. I want to point out that I found it really cool to see an option for exposing my instance over Tor as a hidden service as well as an option to expose my instance over the Gopher protocol. That’s rare to see for a web application, and really makes me like Pleroma a lot more (even if I don’t end up using those features).

As far as customizing the frontend, well, this is where it got fun and interesting. I could change pretty much anything I wanted about the instance’s frontend down to the UI itself (though I stuck with the default Pleroma frontend because I actually quite like it). I changed the favicon of the site (something I couldn’t do at all with Mastodon), the background for the entire instance, the logo for the site as it appears at the top-center of the page, and even the default theme for the UI.

I created a new logo for my Pleroma instance just like I did with my Mastodon instance:

My Pleroma instance's logo: A black circle around a dark red circle all
    encircling a yellow circle which has a black coloured Pleroma logo in the
    centre.

I also set the background of both my profile and my Pleroma instance to a 1 pixel by 1 pixel solid colour image. I liked the background colour that I used for my profile banner on Mastodon and wanted to keep it for this new instance. The colour is: #282c37, in case you’re curious.

Finally, for the theme, I landed on the Vulpes One theme created by @Feuerfuchs@fedi.vulpes.one which I found via plthemes.vulpes.one, and added it to my instance by following the Pleroma documentation on adding themes. I think it’s a great theme that complements the colour scheme I went for well.

As far as emoji packs, just like with Mastodon one can also add custom emoji to Pleroma instances. I’m not a big user of emoji though, so I didn’t really bother for my instance have now installed a couple of blobcat emoji packs (because they’re adorable) thanks to Puniko’s emoji repository.

Except for profile-specific settings, all of the above customizations were accomplished by putting files into the “static directory”, a place the Pleroma server looks to serve custom resources. I set mine at /var/lib/pleroma/static because that’s what the installation instructions used and I didn’t have a reason to change it.

Some other minor changes I made were: setting the default page to show non-logged-in users (i.e. anyone who isn’t me but is visiting pleroma.paritybit.ca in their browser) my profile page, turned off showing the instance-specific panel, and updating the About page for the instance.

The more I use Pleroma, the more I like it. It allows me to customize so much that I can truly make an instance feel like my own rather than yet another instance using the same software. The plethora of tunables and customizables from things like the number of options one can add to a poll to even being able to turn off federation all-together, really make it feel like the hacker’s version of Mastodon.

Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to disparage the effort’s of the Mastodon folk, I just really like Pleroma and I am realizing it’s the better choice for me.

This is my seventy-seventh post for the #100DaysToOffload challenge. You can learn more about this challenge over at https://100daystooffload.com.