Finding the right domain name is key! I wanted something regional to where I live (Raleigh), but inclusive enough I might draw people in from the neighboring cities like Durahm, Carrboro, and Chapel Hill. After a long brainstorming session, my partner, @kingcobraninja and I came up with triangletoot.party. The Triangle is what this region is called, it references Mastodon (status updates are called toots), and I'll be able to greet new members with an enthusiastic, "Welcome to the party!"
I wanted to test out a Mastodon instance locally, but I couldn't figure out how to do it with Docker. I also attempted to set it up with DigitalOcean, but the marketplace version hit some hiccup, and I eventually threw in the towel. I don't think the server maintenance aspect of managing an instance is in my wheelhouse (and that's ok). I had heard good things about Masto.host, so I ended up going that route. It's run by a single person, Hugo, and they've been absolutely wonderful. Everything was set up in less than a day, which is pretty incredible considering it's a manual installation process.
If you create an account with the wrong casing (coolusername instead of CoolUserName), it's currently impossible to change the case. @kingcobraninja had done just that, and there's no way to update it from the admin interface either. I sent an email to Hugo at Masto.host, and it was updated right away! Again, I'm blown away by the customer service and response time. 😊
All timelines, when you first install a Mastodon instance, are completely empty. Even the federated timeline is blank until users start following other accounts. I already had a decent follow list from my mastodon.social account, so importing that helped to flesh out the federated timeline.
Any historical posts won't be visible on the instance unless you've interacted with them (boost or reply) in some way. That includes people you follow. For the most part, you're only going to see new content. As more users known to the instance interact with other posts, the federated timeline grows and expands. It's been fascinating to watch that happen.