Like at least some of the people clamoring for access to the shiny new ad-free social network Ello at a rate of 34,000 an hour (as of yesterday, at least), you may have scored an invitation. If you don’t have a clued-in friend, you can always go buy an invite on eBay, where they seem to be going for around $10.
Once you’ve done that, your next thought may well have been, “So what do I do now?”
As befits a bare-bones social network that’s still in beta, Ello is, well, a bare-bones affair. Its design is spare, and anyone expecting Facebook-like cues to begin adding friends or posting pictures of what you had for lunch is going to be disappointed.
So here’s a guide for the newly Elloed, those brave souls who’ve slipped past the velvet rope but still find it too dark in the club to really see anything.
Set Up Your Profile And Privacy Settings
Like every other social network, your profile on Ello features a small avatar, biography, header image, and link to other websites. To set it up, simply click the “gear” icon on the top left corner and enter the relevant information. Until you have a profile photo, your default image will be a dotted grey smiley—not exactly an identifiable image.
You can make your profile private to only people inside the Ello network, and can bar comments on your posts. (Users can’t yet block other people or report them for harassment, but Ello says that’s coming in a future update.)
Because the network is growing so quickly, you’ll likely get a lot of new followers, comments, or mentions right off the bat. So if you don’t want Ello to flood your inbox with messages like “@soandso started following you!”, disable all email notifications as soon as you log in.
Find People To Follow—Or “Friend”
If you joined Ello via an invitation code, you’ll start off following your inviter. You’ll also be following the Ello account itself, which will bear the somewhat confusing label “Noise.” (More on that soon.)
Now comes the tricky part of finding other people to follow. Ello doesn’t have a search function yet, so you might have to visit other people’s profiles to find out who they’re connected with, and add some friends that way. Otherwise, a cursory search on Twitter might show you some of your Twitter friends who shared their Ello names.
When you visit someone’s profile you can choose to mark them as a “Friend” or as “Noise.” Choosing friend really just means you’re now following them and so will see their updates in your home timeline. You don’t have to follow each other to see a person’s information—in this respect, Ello is much more like Tumblr or Twitter than Facebook.
What’s On Your Timeline
For now, the only way to filter your timeline is by clicking on “Friends” or “Noise” tabs. The home timeline defaults to friends, so as soon as you log in you’ll see all their posts, plus any notifications that people are now following you. It’s a bit of a cluttered mess, despite the effort to keep the design clean.
The “noise” tab is supposed to give you a way to see posts from people you might only tangentially care about. But it’s not at all clear how to manage it—I unfollowed the main Ello account, and moved one person from “Noise” to “Friend,” and yet they both still appear in the noisy timeline. It could be a bug, considering Ello’s beta status.
How To Post
Posting is easy, as long as the site isn’t slowed down by massive traffic, which I experienced several times while writing this post
There’s a black box at the top of your timeline that says “Say ello…,” and you can click to add photos, videos, a short or long post, or even formatted markdown text. There’s no character limit—post whatever you want. Plus, Ello supports animated GIFs, which might be the best thing about it.
It did take me five tries to post a GIF on Friday afternoon, though maybe that’s not so surprising given how many people are trying to Ello now. Unfortuantely, Ello’s error page is nowhere near as cute as the Fail Whale.
Unfortunately, you can’t Like or reblog posts you find interesting. The only way to interact with someone is to @-mention their username, or comment under a post by clicking the icon of three dots to expand the comment section underneath a post.
Other icons show you how many times a post has been viewed, and how long ago it was posted. If you do want to share something a friend posted, you can copy the post and, when you share it, include “/via @username.”
Experiment. Upload your favorite images, or make random new friends by perusing people’s profiles. Get confused by the timeline that you can’t declutter by having a separate column for @-mentions like you do on Twitter.
You can pretty much post whatever you want, but make sure it falls in line with Ello’s rules—meaning you can’t be an Internet bully, or pretend to be someone you’re not. Also, watch out for the Ello hoaxes that are already taking over the Internet. Even though Ello wants people to be themselves, the Internet, as we all know, can be filled with trolls.
Images screenshots by Selena Larson for ReadWrite