RB Search Gizmos

No Mastodon Account? No Problem! Explore Instances and Hashtags with MastoWindow

Are you rethinking your social platforms of choice lately? You’re not the only one. Between Mark Zuckerberg’s all-in on a legless metaverse and Twitter doing whatever it’s doing (I can’t even speculate at this point) people are rethinking where they want to establish and maintain their online communities.

My husband and I are social media opposites: his main platform is Facebook, and while he has a Twitter account he doesn’t use it. Meanwhile, until recently Twitter was my main platform, and I only use Messenger on Facebook.

With the social media shakeup, we have both been rethinking our options. I haven’t had too much trouble moving myself to Counter.Social and Mastodon.  But my husband isn’t as technical as I am. He wants to explore Mastodon, but he finds the decentralized aspect confusing and he doesn’t know how to find people to follow.

We talked about it some. I asked if he could do account discovery via hashtags, and he said yes. So I asked if it would help if he had a way to explore different Mastodon instances and how different hashtags look on them. Another yes. So I made MastoWindow for him – and you!

MastoWindow uses the Instances.Social API to list Mastodon Instances by language. After it’s generated a list of languages, you can specify a hashtag and get a list of recent posts from that instance with that hashtag.

Let’s walk through an example using one of my husband’s current interests – David Graeber. The first thing he’d do is specify en to get Mastodon Instances in English:

Screenshot from 2023-01-10 09-18-28

Once he’s clicked the button, he’ll see a dropdown list of the top 30 English-using Mastodon instances, sorted by most active users. MastoWindow will not list instances with less than 200 active users. MastoWindow will also not list instances which don’t specify languages, so if you see your Instance missing from the list and you’ve confirmed it’s on Instances.Social, consider adding languages-used to your listing.

Screenshot from 2023-01-10 09-21-34

The listings include the name of the instance, the number of active users, and a short description. We’ll pick the first one, mastodon.social.

Underneath the drop-down menu is a place for you to specify the hashtag you want to explore. The default hashtag is openaccess, but you can put anything that you think might be hashtagged. (Stick to general topics at first – you’ll find plenty of posts about #music and a lot fewer about #QveenHerby. There are some, though, so shout to the fellow fans out there.)  You don’t have to use the hash(#) but if you do, don’t worry, MastoWindow will just toss it and it won’t mess anything up.

In this case we’ll replace openaccess with graeber and click the big blue button.

Screenshot from 2023-01-10 09-32-21

After a moment, you’ll get a list of the most recent posts in the mastodon.social instance which use the hashtag graeber.

Screenshot from 2023-01-10 09-41-06

You’ll notice the first part of the post is a link. That generally takes you to the permanent post on its home Mastodon Instance. From there you can explore the instance further, look at more of that account’s posts, etc. In the case of the third post the first link takes you to a list of posts on that instance tagged with #graeber.

You’ll also notice that the second post is in Catalan. That’s because instances can specify multiple languages.

Maybe my husband doesn’t find anything interesting here and he wants to look at another instance. All he has to do is choose another from the dropdown menu and click the big blue button again. Let’s look at results from mstdn.ca:

Screenshot from 2023-01-10 09-57-08

You’ll notice that there’s some overlap in posts. In large instances and with common hashtags, there will be a lot of overlap as popular posts get responded to and reposted. If you’re finding too much overlap for your taste, try making your hashtags a little more obscure and try smaller instances. Here’s what mstdn.plus, a comparatively smaller instance (just under 2700 active users) has for #graeber:

Screenshot from 2023-01-10 10-03-14

When my husband gets tired of searching for #graeber, he can click on the Review New Hashtag button and the page resets and starts over.

Screenshot from 2023-01-10 10-15-31

I’m not sure if my husband is going to get into Mastodon or not. He might find some other platforms that he likes more, or he may decide to stick with Facebook. Wherever he ends up, I’m glad he’s getting the chance to explore Mastodon without having to figure out an account or find an instance. Maybe you’ll like exploring it too.

3 replies »

  1. I love this! (Very timely info for me, too, as the instance I’ve been on is closing up shop in a month or two.) YOU ARE A WONDER. Thanks!

Leave a Reply