I could sort servers on the list by proximity to 150 active users (Dunbar's number), I don't know if that would be an improvement. The working set is still 60 top active ones in each category.

For example, sorting the "I am ..." set like that puts,, and on top, and on the very bottom

On the other hand I do not see a compelling argument for why exactly Dunbar's number (number of personal connections you can maintain in your life) should be used. I don't think most people go into social media expecting to know every single person on their server, and having a headroom of people you don't know might even be a positive thing.

In any case I have absolutely zero proof that people at large use to sign up anywhere, that is to say, the reason a lot of people sign up on is because of high search ranking due to its age and a lot of links from the press. So all these potential changes might be absolutely meaningless.

I've also seen people say "their top server is only 200k users" as a negative when checking what Mastodon is, so consider that as well.

@Gargron Promoting smaller instances sounds good. Also, sorting those smaller instances by random would certainly help rotating views. As some instances are meant to remain small, more random lists would allow people to discover new instances more easily.

@Gargron I like the overall idea, though! Maybe pick a different, arbitrary number? I think a few hundred is probably a good target, just from how the speed of the public timelines changes with increased user counts.

@Gargron I think something within an order of magnitude of the number is probably reasonable, so maybe a logarithmic weighting...

@Gargron I just started at mastodon and am very confused about this haha :D

@Gargron I think the last point is sort of an inevitable stumbling block when it comes to introducing the concept of decentralization to people.

@Gargron Please don’t let chasing a big number for the top server’s user count become a goal. That’s how you end up with a giant pile of uncontrollable users like Twitter. I think the proper response to “the top server is only 200k” is “sure, that means we can pay more attention to keeping things chill; our total user count across every server we know of is (number) and that’s not counting the ones that choose not to be counted.”

Maybe a stupid question but why don't you simply close registrations on

@roipoussiere The people who come here through press and search will leave instead of finding another server.

@gargron Hmm, indeed.
What about adding a gentle message like "Hey this is a very big instance, you can find others ones on" on the main page?

@Gargron @roipoussiere I'd propose to give newbies a recommendation to join the currently smallest generalistic instance matching the following criteria:
- code of conduct similar to,
- min. 500 users,
- primary language matching the Accept-Language HTTP header of the visitor.
Accompanied by a note promising access to the whole federation.

This is based on a totally subjective observation that it's the choice that's driving them off. Ergo: give them only one option. redirect new account creation by default to give a box to uncheck or something like that to create the acct on the current instance. This functionality would be built into mastodon, but can be disabled by admin.

@Gargron @roipoussiere I guess the question is do you want to become that you wanted to replace quickly or become that which you wanted to be but at your own pace? If we adopt the success criteria of the current mainstream, we will end up reproducing the current mainstream. If you want to control what a thing will become, make sure you’re the one writing the success criteria.

@Gargron The people that say that don’t fully understand federation

@Gargron I think the problem is, that the possibilities to find an appropriate mastodon instance are pretty limited. The search interface on e.g. looks pretty, but a new user never gets an overview of all mastodon instances. The consequence is that some small instances do not get recognized at all. I think a simple table like or can be much more handy. Uptime should always be specified, because it is a very important criteria.

When we signed up we did check different instances, but there wasn't enough quantity nor quality in Spanish speaking instances and after peeking around a bit more we came to think was the most trustworthy.

I think that the most related issue for this is to support account migration (
In this way, it's not so important that new users subscribe on at the first time - just because they don't really understand the federation concept - because they will be able to move later.

@Gargron this 💯 👌

But a default(editable) limit may have some merit. Can anyone link some resources and research on sustainable population in distributed nodes or social groups aside from the Dunbar number?

@Gargron plus: there‘s a somewhat high possibility, users wouldn’t really like to interact with ALL other instance users. So 150 sounds like really random.

@Gargron What's the ideal number of users that a moderator can comfortably manage? Assume that each instance by default has only one moderator, and target that user number, maybe...

Also the dropdowns, you already have "profession" and "language", how about adding one more for geographic locale? (Not just countries, so you can also list Hungary, San Fransisco, and Africa for example)

Someone going to and picking from some broad categories isn't likely to end up on a small, close knit server in any case. I'd say pick a number closer to a couple thousand. That's still small enough for one mod to manage, but big enough to give some headroom, and the local timeline at that size should be interestingly fast without being overwhelmingly so.

@Gargron I actually have detailed dossiers for everyone on Names, email addresses, favorite pasta (mine is penne), it's all there.

@Gargron I think I’m gonna advocate for any sorting that puts mastosoc near the bottom. It’s time to start gently nudging people away from your instance before it becomes too bing to manage.

I like the idea of sort-by-dunbar. But done directly, it will unfairly favour new/empty instances with no reputation to lose. Might create a gaming risk for instance-hosting trolls. Maybe something that prioritises instances near the dunbar number, first?

@cathal Sorry but you seem to be contradicting yourself. The top-most result is exactly 150, the second is either 151 or 149, etc to the bottom.

But yes, 150 active users is still gameable. At least when showing top active servers, you can be certain they have reputation, even if it's bad for decentralization.

Ah I misunderstood something, yes. Of course, malicious admin can always created empty accounts to game any rankings so I guess it's kinda moot unless the server list were totally whitelisted and carefully vetted anyway.

How do you measure activity? Can you combine it with the Dunbar number?

@Gargron FWIW, the number of users is just one criterion but after my first account on suddenly disappeared one day along with the whole instance, I prefer bigger instances and would advise new users to do the same.

@Gargron Sorting by total number of users will lead to a "rich get richer" result. I'd suggest creating a minimum threshold based on measurable metrics of what makes a good instance (presence of COC, abuse report actions, robust about page, and yeah a minimum number of users) and then randomize the display by default. (User could still sort by totals if they wanted.)

Could also consider membership velocity, so a new instance that was rapidly growing might bump to the top.

@fraying @Gargron Great list, @Fraying!

My gut sense is that members of marginalized communities (outside of Mastodon) are more likely to restrict their instances to have more control in preventing harassment; thus a bias _against_ the biggest instances in the list you present is likely to increase the diversity represented in that list.

(That's just my guess, but it'd be really interesting to see some data research on it...)

@Gargron Dunbar is full of shit. Millennials are growing up now knowing thousands of people, just in a new way. Pay no attention to primatologists who think they can put a hard number to relationships that form in ways they didn't grow up with.

@Gargron Ack, that's quite a flaw in my plan! There's some formula of moderately busy but not too busy servers with enough mods that would be ideal though.

@Gargron @rosjackson come up with a semi arbitrary ‘ideal’ moderator to user ratio (eg. 1:500) and then sort by closeness to that. It’ll naturally shut off traffic to instances that have gotten too big for their mods to handle, while promoting medium to small sized instances

It is a bit unfair towards instances w/large numbers of dead accounts, since moderators to active users is the ratio that actually matters, but I’m not sure we should be promoting those instances anyway

Sign in to participate in the conversation

Server run by the main developers of the project 🐘 It is not focused on any particular niche interest - everyone is welcome as long as you follow our code of conduct!