Request: Follow hashtags


#1

It would be cool if we could follow a hashtag just like we follow an account, making new posts with this hashtag show up in our Home tab.
A color code to distinguish hashtag posts from account posts would be a good addition to it in order to not be confused when we see a post from someone we don’t follow.


#2

This is quite complicated in the federated environment. Your instance would need to subscribe to a hashtag by sending some kind of subscription request to all known instances. Maybe those requests should travel the federated network. Maintenance of those subscription lists needs to be done on every instance.

This is not impossible but this is similar to the multicast subscription problem on the Internet.


#3

But… You can already search for a hashtag and pin the resulting panel. This gives a live feed of this hashtag across the federation. In fact my proposal would only spare a panel (per hashtag) by putting the toots in Home instead of separate panels.


#4

Hashtag search gives an overview of what your instance have already seen, kind of like “hashtags among people I or others here follow”. The challenge is to bring the hashtags from people you have not known before.


#5

I see. I guess the same goes for account search. That’s not so great, imo. Any chance the search engine could be worked on to search through the entire federation?


#6

Maybe I am exaggerating.

Federation in the current implementation does not mean “everyone gets everything”, or more specifically, “every instance gets everything”. Every instance has a different view on the federated network, depending on the relationships of its users. If we continue to understand it like this, your proposal to follow hashtags as they are is pretty reasonable - just get toots with a hashtag provided your instance is getting them anyway.


#7

Hashtag following should still be useful on large instances in its current state and relays should help make it more useful for small instances.


#8

in case you missed it, here is a related pull-request:


#9

and MERGED

:arrow_right::arrow_left:
:boom:
:elephant:


#10

:raised_hands:


#11

The feature has finally landed in a stable realease (2.7.0)! :partying_face: :partying_face: :partying_face:

It’s not exactly what I asked for in the beginning but I’m very happy with it.


Quoting the second bullet item:

  • Add joining several hashtags in a single column (gdpelican)

#12

The feature has finally landed in a stable realease (2.7.0)!

Not for those of us running single-column instances :o(


#13

I’m not sure what you mean. Single column instances are not a thing mastodon has.


#14

https://toot.wales is a single column instance (via custom css). Pinafore is also working to fill that gap for single column layout. Being able to functionally follow a hashtag in the same way we can follow a person would work in any UI, not require a particular layout model or device/screen size.

I guess I’m talking about Mastodon the network, not Mastodon the web client.


#15

I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking the core developers to do in that case, then. We obviously can’t change your custom CSS?


#16

Well, first up I’m not asking anyone to do anything, I’m taking part in the discussion which could culminate in an issue or a PR - but here, we’re just talking about features, right? :grinning:

Second up, no, I’m not suggesting anything around custom CSS. I’m suggesting that the requested functionality of following hashtags, in the functional sense of following - same as following an account - would mititgate the need for a specific UI; instead those toots would be part of the user’s Home timeline in exactly the same way toots from followed accounts show up. They would not need a dedicated column in the Web UI, the functionality would cascade to mobile apps, narrow UIs, single column UIs, and UIs we haven’t thought of yet.

In a microblog environment, the user is interested in people and in topics/subject matter. Being able to follow a hashtag in the Home timeline (i) further enhances discoverability by surfacing accounts discussing topics the user is interested in (ii) fosters ad hoc topic groups (not !groups, just micro communities around a given hashtag) (iii) adds value for the users who do want to follow a given topic or topics, with no impact to those that don’t.

The Mastodon social graph gatekeeper is knowing who to follow. Given the omni-directional model (follower vs. friend) it is vital that we help users identify likely candidates for following. Being able to follow a topic via a hashtag gives the user an opportunity to explore nodes (ie people) to connect to over time - further allowing content (toots) to jump from one subgroup to another, generally strengthening the federation and the links between instances.

Therefore, and this is all my opinion obviously, if I believe topics to be a vital secondary node in the network, I would then want it to be a core functionality of the network, not a rendered representation of the network in a particular layout. This is the issue (being able to follow topics functionally) I’m seeing raised in this discussion, and in Issues such as


#17

You might also be interested in this issue: https://github.com/tootsuite/mastodon/issues/139 (which is the main way other federated software has support following “topics” in the past)


#18

Yeh, I’ve read a bunch of the !group requests/issues/convos, I see how they can be intertwined, although I think they hit slightly different use cases. Hashtags are topics regardless of people, and groups are people regardless of topic. Moderated groups could have a topical focus, but I would miss #topical toots if they are not posted by a member of the group. Conversely, hashtags - by design - don’t proliferate in the same way. Hashtags are in a sense decentralised groups. As are lists of people I follow, in one sense my list of who I follow is an ad hoc group, albeit no-one can “follow” that “group”.

What it boils down to for me is Mastodon is primarily uni-directional which tells me hashtags are more appropriate. Groups are omni-directional, which is a slightly different use case - and I’m not saying it’s a n inappropriate feature for Mastodon - but it’s not quite what we’re talking about.

Now, if I could “follow” a group without being a member, well that works for everyone!