Working with Mastodon lists

Steampipe makes it easy to create Mastodon dashboards, find interesting people, see which lists they’re on, and export lists in useful ways. Now we need ways to share and remix those lists.

shutterstock 344519045 whiteboard with colored post-it notes blue yellow orange

Since the early days of the blogosphere I have cherished the ability to view the world through the eyes of people more qualified than me to understand and explain what happens in particular domains. Although Twitter lists were a great way to collect people who provide those perspectives, I made little use of them. Prompted by Martin Fowler’s frustration with lists I described my first steps toward reviving the technique in Lists and people on Mastodon.

First I encapsulated the relevant APIs in a pair of tables provided by the Steampipe plugin for Mastodon: mastodon_list and mastodon_list_account. Then I used those tables to enhance the Mastodon dashboard in a couple of ways. The followers and following tabs now show me who is or isn’t on a list.

following with lists IDG

And I can use the list tab to read recent posts from people on each list.

mastodon list tab IDG

With these basic building blocks in place I want to be more intentional about curating these lists. To that end I thought I’d share the lists I’ve built so far, and invite suggestions. You can export your lists from the Mastodon web client using Preferences -> Data export -> Lists. The resulting CSV file has two columns: the name of a list and the Mastodon handle for a person.

List Person

Here’s the export I really wanted.

List Person Server URL Note
Library liza Technologist in Residence at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab. Interactive fiction, generative art, Democratic political tech. Amateur scholar of fringe utopian sci-fi. I will pet your dog.
Library alexwade Librarian, open science advocate, geek. VP Data Products, @digitalscience (Seattle, WA) Formerly: AllenAI (AI2), CZI, Amazon, Microsoft Research, UW
Library jdiffin Head of Library Technology Services Section, NLM. Opinions are my own.

It’s easy to create that list using the Steampipe plugin for Mastodon.

steampipe query "select title as list, username, server, instance_qualified_account_url, note from mastodon_list l join mastodon_list_account a on = a.list_id order by list, username" –output csv > mastodon_lists.csv

(I’m using instance-qualified URLs relative to my home server. If your home is elsewhere than you’ll want to adjust the links accordingly.)

I’ve uploaded the output of that query to a Google sheet. The most recent addition to my climate list is Peter Gleick who was quoted yesterday in Farhad Manjoo’s What Will ‘Weather Whiplash’ Mean for California? I’d been looking for an expert perspective on California water policy, so I checked to see if Peter is on Mastodon, found that he is, and added him to my climate list. Here’s an example of the kind of perspective I’m looking for.

California reservoirs have captured enough water from the recent storms to supply all urban water use in the state for a year. Not counting the massive snowpack. Those claims that “all the water is being wasted flowing to the ocean” is nonsense. — Mastodon link

Of course it’s a complex issue, and I don’t think I’m wrong to be very interested in strategies for capturing more rainfall and using it to recharge aquifers. But this was a useful reality check.

Who are the experts you follow in various domains? Can I cherrypick from your lists? And can we imagine a way of remixing and sharing these lists? I’m looking at you, Lucas Gonze, with fond memories of how Webjay did that for MP3 playlists. Can we do that for Mastodon lists too?

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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