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.
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:
- Fetch the 1000 most recent posts present on the instance (which can originate from any other Mastodon instance).
- Identify all instances that occur among these posts, and fetch their respective recent posts.
- 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).
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