RB Search Gizmos

Mastodon Web Space Search

As Twitter continues to do whatever it’s doing, I’ve been spending more time on Mastodon. I quite like it but I’m still pondering how to search Mastodon space.

With Twitter, of course, it’s easy — everything’s in one place. All you have to know is Twitter’s search syntax. With Mastodon, however, you have to find the instances you want to search first. Then you have to search them.

This search puzzle is something that’s been itching the back of my mind so I broke down and put it together this morning. Mastodon Web Space Search uses the Instances.social API to find Mastodon instances either by language or keyword. It then gives you a list of the instances it found (it only finds those with more than 200 active users), lets you choose up to ten of them, and makes you a Google search. There are three steps.

Step One – Search Term

Enter the query you want to use to search the Mastodon instances you find. This will be done via Google so you can use any Google syntax you like. Just don’t make it very long — Google has a query limit of 32 words and a great deal of that will be taken up by the Mastodon instances you’re searching.

Step Two – Find Mastodon Instances by language OR keyword

For step two you’ve got two options, but the first of the two is very simple.

If you want to find Mastodon instances by language, just enter the two-letter language code. You can get a list of language codes here. Please note that just because a language exists doesn’t mean that there are any Mastodon instances out there using it.

If you have a more specific interest and you want to search by keyword, use the second option, Active Instances by Keyword. I encourage you to treat this as a one-word query, as multiple word queries might narrow your search too much. There doesn’t appear to be a standard vocabulary for describing instances, so you might have to experiment a little. (If you find things aren’t updating when you specify new keywords to search, just reload the page.)

Step Three – Make Your Google Search

Once you’ve specified how you want to find Mastodon instances, filled out the search form, and clicked the button, you’ll get a list of instances that match your search. Here’s a list from a search for the keyword science:

Each listing shows the name of the instance, the number of active users, and a brief description. Tick the boxes of the ones that look interesting (up to 10, though in this case you could tick all of them) and click the Search the Web space of these Mastodon instances. button. It’ll bundle the instances you chose into a Google search that’ll open in a new tab. Here’s a few of those instances with a search for geology:

Geology is a relatively general search term, but I found when I looked up instances by keyword I could do more specific terms like volcanology or tectonics and also get decent results (though there were fewer of them, of course.)

I tried doing a Google search of GLAM library with Mastodon instances in English and I was happy with the results:

I’m only just barely getting started exploring and searching Mastodon instances, and I suspect I’ll be tweaking this as I learn more. In the meantime, I’ve found some interesting people to follow, and even a couple of searches I might turn into Google Alerts.


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