Browsing the fediverse

Steampipe’s SQLification of the Mastodon API is a handy way to track activity in the fediverse. Use it to do Mastodon analytics, find interesting people, and more.

social media network interaction
Gerd Altmann (CC0)

In early November, when the Great Discontinuity happened, I started working on a Steampipe plugin to enable SQL queries against the Mastodon API, along with a companion Steampipe “mod” (suite of dashboards) to display and chart the results of those queries.

I expect these dashboards will soon be available in Steampipe Cloud, where it will take just a few seconds to pop in your Mastodon access token (from, e.g., and begin using the dashboards.

Meanwhile, if you’re so inclined, you can find the plugin here and the dashboards here. If you’re reasonably technical you can pretty quickly and easily install Steampipe, clone these repos, build the plugin, and start using the dashboards.

Why would you want to? My own motivation, originally, was to do Mastodon analytics. I thought Steampipe’s SQLification of the API would be a handy way to discern and monitor activity trends during a period of extraordinary flux. And that’s proven to be true, to a limited extent. Here’s a snapshot of the dashboard that uses the instance activity API.

mastodon registrations by week IDG

I’m watching this chart with great interest. Where does it go from here? I’m not going to hazard a guess. Everything’s up in the air right now, and anything could happen.

But as I added tables to the plugin to encapsulate more of the Mastodon API, and added dashboards to visualize those tables, my focus shifted. I began to see the suite of dashboards as a Mastodon reader/browser that complements the web and phone clients, and that’s how I mainly use them now.

I think the key benefit is one of Edward Tufte’s core principles: information density. Each of these dashboards shows more activity than you can see at a glance in the web or phone interfaces. I find this very helpful for searching and browsing. When I see items of interest that I want to interact with, I click through to the web app in order to boost, reply, or favorite.

Will this way of browsing Mastodon appeal to you? To get a feel for what it’s like, here are snapshots of some of the dashboards I’ve built so far.










For me, at least, this approach has become an effective way to browse the fediverse, find interesting people, read what they boost, and keep track of my own activity.

If you are dev-minded, by the way, please note that these dashboards are just one way to skin the results of queries against the plugin. Any SQL client can connect to Steampipe’s Postgres endpoint. You could use dashboards like Metabase or Grafana, or you could embed Steampipe as a component in an app.

This series:

  1. Autonomy, packet size, friction, fanout, and velocity
  2. Mastodon, Steampipe, and RSS
  3. Browsing the fediverse
  4. A Bloomberg terminal for Mastodon
  5. Create your own Mastodon UX
  6. Lists and people on Mastodon
  7. How many people in my Mastodon feed also tweeted today?
  8. Instance-qualified Mastodon URLs
  9. Mastodon relationship graphs
  10. Working with Mastodon lists
  11. Images considered harmful (sometimes)
  12. Mapping the wider fediverse
  13. Protocols, APIs, and conventions
  14. News in the fediverse
  15. Mapping people and tags in Mastodon
  16. Visualizing Mastodon server moderation
  17. Mastodon timelines for teams
  18. The Mastodon plugin is now available on the Steampipe Hub

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