Learning Search

Introducing the Big Mastodon Hashtag Search

Last week while writing about recent doodads I’ve made for Mastodon, I complained that I found the Google experience rather flat relative to the amount of understanding we as online searchers have developed. We have understandings about social signals and identity verification and content freshness that we didn’t have (or in the case of content freshness, weren’t as relevant) a couple of decades ago.

This weekend, while listening to some excellent DJs on Twitch (recommended: Air Adam, Mix Master Hak, DJ Ray Domingo, DJ Swirlz , Steve Disco Newsome, Hentalia, Vibesmaster G-Nice) , I dived into the Mastodon API with the intention of making something that was capable of filtering Mastodon’s hashtag search thoroughly but not in a way that requires much understanding of special syntax. I ended up with the Big Mastodon Hashtag Search: https://mastogizmos.com/bmhs/ .

A screenshot of the Big Mastodon Hashtag Search, a search engine for multiple hashtags over multiple instances. A number of checkboxes allow for filtering by post date, bots, verified account posting, posts marked as sensitive, and posts with either verified accounts posting OR more than 5K users -- that's influencer mode. 

Two final options allow for full-text filtering of the search results or filtering by the 20 most popular hashtags in the results.


Let me show you its features!

What it searches

The BMHS does searches for multiple hashtags across 14 large Mastodon instances. It then removes the duplicates and and presents the results to you in a filterable list.

How it Filters

The BMHS offers a number of ways to filter results, from social engagement to post characteristics to hashtags.

Filtering by social engagement

Each post in the search results has a social score. It’s calculated as a weighted sum of the replies/reposts/favorites: replies get 1 point, reposts 2, favorites 3. (I might change that ratio.)

Underneath the search box you’ll see a slider labeled “Slide to filter by social score”:

A close-up of the slider mechanism that lets you filter results by social engagement. If you're visually impaired and the slider is giving you trouble, let me know.

You can click and drag the slider to filter your search results by social engagement. The number at the right (0 in the screenshot) specifies what social score is currently filtering the results; it changes as you drag the slider. What ALSO changes is the result count in the search box, so you can immediately see how you’re impacting your search results. (All filtering methods reflect in the search result count immediately.) I made a very very terrible GIF to give you an idea of how it works.

A GIF showing how the result count changes as the slider is used. If there's a way I can specifically identify that area (the numbers) to a screen reader let me know and I'll try to get it to work.

Filtering by Post Characteristics

Beneath the slider you’ll see a series of checkboxes representing post characteristics. Ticking one of these immediately changes your search count and results list:

A closeup of the checkboxes from the Big Mastodon Hashtag Search. I explain them all in the text.

“Sensitive” means posts marked as having sensitive content. By Bots means posts marked as bot-generated by the API’s response. By Verified Accounts means posts whose authors have self-verified at least one of the links in their bio. By High Follower Count OR Verified Accounts means either verified account posts or posts with more than 5,000 followers; that’s why I call it “Influencer Mode.” You can also use checkboxes to limit your search results to the last day, week, or month.

Filtering by Full Text

The initial search is by hashtag, but once you have the results you can use this form to filter by all the text in the post’s content:

A close up of the full-text filter box. It's kind of pointless, but it would be weird to take screenshots of everything else and leave this out. Right?

Filtering by Hashtag

Finally, BMHS aggregates the top 20 most frequently-appearing hashtags. Click on one and it’ll filter your results by that hashtag. Click the Reset Hashtag Display button to clear the filter.

Viewing Search Results

Search results appear beneath the filters. I added a couple of visual indicators; posts with a social score of more than 40 are outlined in red. Posts from users who have verified at least one of their bio links are outlined in gold. (If the post has both characteristics the outline will be red.)

Two search results from the Big Mastodon Hashtag Search. The top result has a red outline because it has a social score of over 40. The bottom post has a gold outline because its author has self-verified at least one link in their bio.

I already have some things I want to add to this so stay tuned.







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