Over at Key Smash!, I’ve been helping beta-test the Pterotype plugin to hook up a self-hosted WordPress to the Fediverse. It gives WordPress an ActivityPub presence, so new posts and comments can be seen in Mastodon, Pleroma, and other ActivityPub-powered networks, and replies from those networks can come back as comments.

But Key Smash! is a simple test case. It’s at the top of the site, there’s no caching, it’s only got a handful of posts, and it hasn’t been bombarded by spammers for years.

So I’ve installed it on here. Older posts won’t federate, but new ones (starting here) should, and replies should show up as comments. With luck they’ll land in the moderation queue instead of the spam queue.

You may be able to follow the site by searching for this post’s URL in Mastodon/etc. Maybe. I need to report a bug in the handling of sites that aren’t at the top level: To find the site I need to search for @blog@www.hyperborea.org/journal – the first time. Then that search stops working, but I can find it at @blog@www.hyperborea.orgjournal instead. But that only works after I’ve searched for the first one.

Well, that’s part of why I set it up here: to help beta test.

Update: Submitted the username/discovery issue to Github.

Update: You can now follow the blog directly at @blog@www.hyperborea.org

Update (Dec): I turned it off temporarily due to spam problems. Spam comments were visible through ActivityPub, and couldn’t be deleted due to a FK constraint on the Pterotype tables.

Update (2019): Pterotype appears to have been abandoned. 🙁

Now that Pixelfed federation and Pterotype are taking shape, I can hook up my photos and blogging directly into Mastodon and the Fediverse, but you know what would be even cooler?

Connecting them to each other.

A lot of my blog ideas grow out of photos or statuses that I’ve posted previously, as I find more to say or a better way to say it. And while it’s always possible to just post a comment or reply with a link, imagine posting them into the same federated thread.

Here’s a scenario we can do today:

  1. Photo of something interesting on Pixelfed, boosted to Mastodon. I believe we’re one update away from Mastodon replies and Pixelfed comments appearing together.
  2. Blog post on Plume or WordPress with Pterotype going into more detail about the photo. Comments and Mastodon/Pleroma replies can interleave right now. (Try it, if you want!)
  3. Another photo on Pixelfed as a follow-up. Again, comments and replies can interleave.

This is already pretty cool, but it still creates three separate discussions. The best I can do is add a “Hey, I wrote more on my blog over here: <link>” to the first discussion.

What if there were a way to publish the blog entry as a reply to the PixelFed photo? Or to publish the second photo as a reply to the blog?

And that opens up other possibilities where people can reply to other people’s photos and blog entries with their own. (Webmentions sort of do this, but they’re not going to create a single federated discussion.)

I’m not sure what form this interleaved discussion would take, or what the pitfalls might be. (Visibility might suffer, for instance.) Blogging and photo posting tend to be platforms for an original post that can have comments, rather than platforms where a top-level post can be an OP or a reply, and this would change that model.

Over the last few months I’ve been cross-posting a lot less between Mastodon and Twitter.

When I first started on Mastodon last fall, I’d sometimes post to both networks. I’d reformat things slightly if I needed to fit a pair of 280-character tweets and a single 500-character toot. (I’ve long thought that if something takes more than two posts to say on a platform, that’s not the right platform for it.) I’d often linkblog to Twitter, Mastodon and Facebook all at once.

But as I’ve shifted more toward Mastodon being my main social network, and Twitter being where I go in a private window to see what people are saying about politics, retweet a few items, and then leave, I’ve been posting completely different things to each site. These days, cross-posts between the two are almost non-existent.

So What am I Still Cross-Posting?

  • Photos across Instagram, Pixelfed and Mastodon, depending on the type of photo.
  • Occasional photos or text posts to my blog, if I decide they’re significant enough to keep findable or if they fit with a recurring topic.

Plus I’m automatically pushing links to Twitter (and sometimes Tumblr) from:

  • Flickr albums.
  • Blog posts.
  • Instagram photos.
  • Randomly-chosen “flashbacks” from my blog a couple of times a week.

I realized: When I’m not using it actively, Twitter has basically become a dumping ground for me to link to what I do elsewhere on the net.

I don’t think that would fly in the Fediverse. At least not on Mastodon. Maybe if the auto-posts were all unlisted, or on a secondary account.

ActivityPub: Boosting Instead

As the Fediverse grows to encompass more types of networks, we’ll be able to boost instead of cross-posting. Right now I can post this article on a Plume instance and boost it to Mastodon, bringing it into the world of short status updates. In the very near future, I’ll be able to do the same with a photo on Pixelfed. (I sort of can now, but replies and follows don’t work yet.)

Both networks can interact directly with the original post. It’s not an isolated duplicate. And while it’ll display as a link on Mastodon, the network will funnel actions back to Plume. Someone who sees it on Mastodon can reply there, and the conversation will appear both on their Mastodon timeline and the comment thread on the originalpost. And I think that’s awesome.

Originally posted on Fediverse.Blog, and cross-posted here the old-fashioned way. You can follow my main Mastodon account,@KelsonV@Wandering.Shop.

Back when I was comparing social media archives, I considered resurrecting my old LOLspam project as a Mastodon bot. I never quite got around to it, partly because I was able to do most of what I wanted to automate using IFTTT, so I stopped investigating that last 5%.

Last night, I threw together a quick and dirty bot to post a random item from a text file in about 20 minutes.

Then I spent three hours going through the Twitter archive for @LOL_Spam, pulling out jokes that are too dated or cringeworthy. (I hope I didn’t miss any. It was midnight by the time I finished, and I was really tired!)

This morning I modified the script to take a second file as a queue for new items.

  • I can add new items to the queue file as I find them.
  • It’ll post from the queue on a schedule (using cron).
  • When it uses up the queue, it returns to posting random posts from the archive.

If you’re interested in funny/odd spam subjects (and you’re OK with swearing and occasional lewdness), check out @LOLspam@BotsIn.Space. You can follow from any Mastodon or other Fediverse account.

The script itself is called fedbotrandom. I wrote it in Perl, using text files, so I could just put it in cron on any *nix box instead of worrying about language/database support or installing a runtime or DB engine. I’ve made it really simple on purpose, and while I do plan on writing some better error handling when I have time, it’s already more complex than I wanted it to be!

I have mixed feelings on Facebook closing down automated posts to personal* profiles. It might cut down on spam, and it will lead to better descriptions on link posts, but it also locks you further into their silo.

You can still write elsewhere and link back to it on Facebook, but you can’t use WordPress Publicize or IFTTT to post it, or Buffer to schedule it. You have to do it manually, which adds more friction, and you can’t time-shift it. I used to spread out look-at-this-cool-link posts using Buffer, and queue them up from Pocket while offline, but I can’t do that anymore.

If you want your Facebook audience to see your words or photos, it nudges you to maybe just post on Facebook to begin with (never mind that you want its main home to be somewhere you have more control). And it’s another way for them to get you back onto the site so they can try to keep you there for another 15 minutes, see some more ads, and generate more value content for Facebook.

Then again, I can’t help looking at it in terms of the debate over cross-posting from Twitter to Mastodon. There’s an argument that if you’re not actually on the platform, you’re not contributing to it. And while that debate tends to focus on auto-posts from a specific mismatched (and hostile) community, I think it’s fair to consider the broader context that if you’re not at least following up, you’re not really participating. (I’m especially guilty of that with my cross-posts to Tumblr.)

Though I suppose it matters more to a smaller community like the Fediverse than to something as massive as Facebook.

*Pages and groups can still accept automatic posts through the API, but those supposedly represent a business, or an organization, or a public persona rather than a “real” person.

Expanded from a Mastodon post on Wandering.Shop.