Exploring the Fediverse

Like many, I have been looking for a new digital community in the past few weeks (the old one is on fire) and have found a place on Mastodon.

You can find and follow me at https://sigmoid.social/@florian

I’ve picked the Mastodon instance sigmoid.social, an AI-related instance that is only 3 months old but already has close to 7000 users.

Machines talking to each other

Each Mastodon instance has a public API so it’s straightforward to fetch some basic statistics even without any authentication. I wrote some simple Python scripts to fetch basic info about my home instance.

You can find my scripts on Github if you’re interested in doing something similar (very rough code): https://github.com/floriandotpy/mastodon-stats

Who else is on my home instance?

I wondered: Who are the other users on sigmoid.social? To gain an overview, I fetched the profiles of all user accounts that are discoverable (which at the time of writing means 1300 accounts out of 6700).

Most profiles have a personal description text, typically this is a short bio. I plotted these as an old-fashioned word cloud.

The insight isn’t that surprising: The place is swarming with ML researchers and research scientists, both from universities and commercial research labs.

Who is present on sigmoid.social? Getting an overview from this word cloud generated from user profile bios.

A stroll through the neighborhood

You don’t want to have an account surrounded by AI folk? No problem, there are more than 12,000 instances to choose from (according to a recent number I found). And they can all talk to each other.

I wanted to see how connected the instance sigmoid.social is and plotted its neighborhood.

This is the method I used to generate the neighborhood graph:

  1. Fetch the 1000 most recent posts present on the instance (which can originate from any other Mastodon instance).
  2. Identify all instances that occur among these posts, and fetch their respective recent posts.
  3. With all these posts of a few hundred instances, create a graph: Each instance becomes a node. Two nodes are connected by an edge if at least five of the recent posts connect the two instances.

My method is naive, but it works sufficiently well to create a simple undirected graph.

The graph yields another unsurprising insight: All roads lead to mastodon.social, the largest and most well-known instance (as far as I know).

Neighboring instances (based on their most recent 1000 toots).

Join us on Mastodon?

I may or may not become more active as a poster myself. In any case, feel free to come over and say Hi: https://sigmoid.social/@florian

To see how these figures were created, find the scripts on Github (very rough code): https://github.com/floriandotpy/mastodon-stats