The WordPress ActivityPub plugin by Matthias Pfefferle has been updated. It now allows you to @mention ActivityPub users and they will be notified of the mention in your blogpost, through ActivityPub.

This is useful. Yet, I’m holding out on using the plugin myself until three things are possible:

  • Set the user name of the ActivityPub account: Now the username is the login name of the user doing the posting. I recognise using WP user names is a straightforward way of turning WP into an ActivityPub client, and prevents having to add addditional stuff to the database. As I use non-obvious user names for additional website security, having those exposed as ActivityPub users is undesirable however.
  • Refuse follow requests: currently the plugin allows follows, and defaults to accepting all follows. As on my separate AP account I want to decide personally on follow requests.
  • Determine flexibly which postings get shared through ActivityPub, and through which ActivityPub user account. The current set-up is that all postings get shared through ActivityPub. I’d rather be able to determine not just on a post by post basis what gets shared but also to have specific categories of postings to be shared through a specific account.

I want to actively use the affordances ActivityPub allows on top of those WordPress as blogging tool provides. For me that is the ability to use the different activity types that AP can support, and to use dealing with followers and follows to selectively disclose content to different groups of people.

My current usecase for this is to have a separate AP account that shares my travel plans (posted in an unlisted category on my site) with accepted followers. The first part requires selectively sharing a category of postings, the second part doing so to a group of accepted followers on an AP account that is meant for just this type of postings and not my general AP account.

The plugin will develop in this direction, but is not there yet. I am slowly going through the code of the plugin myself to understand its architecture and choices. Perhaps it will give me an idea either on how to build on its core to create the functionality locally I want for myself, or maybe (though my coding skills are likely not adequate for it) add to the plugin itself.

This looks like a very welcome development: The European Commission (EC) is to ask for status updates of all international GDPR cases with all the Member State Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) every other month. This in response to a formal complaint by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties starting in 2021 about the footdragging of the Irish DPA in their investigations of BigTech cases (which mostly have their EU activities domiciled in Ireland).

The GDPR, the EU’s data protection regulation, has been in force since mid 2018. Since then many cases have been progressing extremely slowly. To a large extent because it seems that Ireland’s DPA has been the subject of regulatory capture by BigTech, up to the point where it is defying direct instructions by the EU data protection board and taking an outside position relative to all other European DPA’s.

With bi-monthly status updates of ongoing specific cases from now being requested by the EC of each Member State, this is a step up from the multi-year self-reporting by MS that usually is done to determine potential infringements. This should have an impact on the consistency with which the GDPR gets applied, and above all on ensuring cases are being resolved at adequate speed. The glacial pace of bigger cases risks eroding confidence in the GDPR especially if smaller cases do get dealt with (the local butcher getting fined for sloppy marketing, while Facebook makes billions of person-targeted ads without people’s consent).

So kudos to ICCL for filing the complaint and working with the EU Ombudsman on this, and to the EC for taking it as an opportunity to much more closely monitor GDPR enforcement.

Een paar weken geleden had ik een gesprek van een uur met Bart Ensink van Little Rocket over mijn werk en mijn bedrijf The Green Land. Dat gesprek is als zesde aflevering van de Datadriftig podcast nu te beluisteren. We ‘kwamen elkaar tegen’ in de interactie op een draadje op Mastodon in december. Little Rocket is een ebusiness bedrijf en maakt voor hun zakelijke klanten data bruikbaarder. Het is gevestigd in Enschede, dus bracht ik een bezoek aan de stad waar ik tot 6 jaar geleden woonde, en dook Enschede en de Universiteit Twente vaker op in het gesprek.

With the release of various interesting text generation tools, I’m starting an experiment this and next month.

I will be posting computer generated text, prompted by my own current interests, to a separate blog and Mastodon account. For two months I will explore how such generated texts may create interaction or not with and between people, and how that feels.

There are several things that interest me.

I currently experience generated texts as often bland, as flat planes of text not hinting at any richness of experience of the author lying behind it. The texts are fully self contained, don’t acknowledge a world outside of it, let alone incorporate facets of that world within itself. In a previous posting I dubbed it an absence of ‘proof of work’.

Looking at human agency and social media dynamics, asymmetries often take agency away. It is many orders of magnitude easier to (auto)post disinformation or troll than it is for individuals to guard and defend against. Generated texts seem to introduce new asymmetries: it is much cheaper to generate reams of text and share them, than it is in terms of attention and reading for an individual person to determine if they are actually engaging with someone and intentionally expressed meaning, or are confronted with a type of output where only the prompt that created it held human intention.

If we interact with a generated text by ourselves, does that convey meaning or learning? If annotation is conversation, what does annotating generated texts mean to us? If multiple annotators interact with eachother, does new meaning emerge, does meaning shift?

Can computer generated texts be useful or meaningful objects of sociality?

Right after I came up with this, my Mastodon timeline passed me this post by Jeff Jarvis, which seems to be a good example of things to explore:


I posted this imperfect answer from GPTchat and now folks are arguing with it.

Jeff Jarvis

My computer generated counterpart in this experiment is Artslyz Not (which is me and my name, having stepped through the looking glass). Artslyz Not has a blog, and a Mastodon account. Two computer generated images show us working together and posing together for an avatar.


The generated image of a person and a humanoid robot writing texts


The generated avatar image for the Mastodon account

Peter has experimented for a while with Mastodon (and the ActivityPub protocol behind it) and decided that it’s not for him.

Well, this has been fun, but it turns out that the effort-vs-reward for the fediverse doesn’t balance for me; I need fewer reasons to be tethered, not more. @mastohost, recommended by @ton, was an excellent playground. In 24 hours this account will self-destruct. But, now and forever, https://ruk.ca is where you’ll find me.

I very much recognise his point. The disbalance he mentions I felt strongly in the past month, where it was absent in the five and a half years before it. The enormous influx of people, positive in itself, and the resulting growth in the number of people I followed made my timeline too busy. In response I started following topics more and am evaluating rss feeds from ActivityPub servers. The disbalance expresses itself in spending too much time in the home timeline, without that resulting in notable things. (I mean literally notable, as in taking notes) Unlike my feedreader. It does result in some interesting conversations. However such interactions usually start from a blogpost that I share. Because of the newness of AP and Mastodon to the large wave of people joining, many posts including mine are of the ‘Using Mastodon to talk about Mastodon’ type. This is of course common for newly adopted tools, and I still have a category on this blog for metablogging, as blogging about blogging has been a 20 year long pattern here. Yet it is also tiring because it is mostly noise, including the whole kindergarten level discussions between petty admins defederating each other. There’s a very serious discussion to be had about moderation, blocks and defederation, to turn it into a tool that provides agency to individual users and the groups they are part of. These tools are important, and I’m glad I have them at my disposal. Ironically such serious discussion about Mastodon isn’t easy to conduct in a Tweetdeck and Twitter style interface, such as Mastodon provides. I moved the home timeline over to the right in my Mastodon web interface, so I don’t see it as the first thing when I open it up. I’ve concluded I need to step away from timeline overwhelm. Much as I did on Twitter years ago.


A tired purple mastodont lies on the ground sleeping while groups of people are talking in the background, sketchbook style. Dall-E generated image.

There are however two distinct aspects about AP and the recent incoming wave of people that I am more interested to be engaged with than I was before this started.

First, to experiment personally with AP itself, and if possible with the less known Activities that AP could support, e.g. travel and check-ins. This as an extension of my personal site in areas that WordPress, OPML and RSS currently can’t provide to me. This increases my own agency, by adding affordances to my site. This in time may mean I won’t be hosting or self-hosting my personal Mastodon instance. (See my current fediverse activities)

Second, to volunteer for governance related topics in the wider Dutch user group of Mastodon. Regardless of my own use of Mastodon, it is an environment in which many more people than before have new choices to make w.r.t. taking their online presence and tools in their own hands. A step from a global silo such as Twitter to e.g. a larger Dutch instance, while not the same as running one’s own, can be a significant step to more personal agency and networked agency. I’m involved in a group discussing how to establish governance structures that can provide continuity to the Dutch instance Mastodon.nl, lets people on the instance have an active voice and role in its internal governance, and raises awareness of the variety of tools and possibilites out there while purposefully avoiding becoming a new silo (through e.g. providing pathways away from the instance). Such governance is not part of the Mastodon instance, but structured around it. Such involvement is an expression of my experience and role in using tech for the past 33 years online as being inherently political.


A purple mastodont is conversing with a crowd of people, sketchbook style. Dall-E generated image.

Today I heard the EU High Value Data list in its first iteration is finally decided upon. In September 2020 we submitted our advice on what data to include in the thematic areas of geographic data, statistics, mobility, company information, meteorology, earth observation and environment. Last week the Member States submitted their final yes/no vote, and the final text was approved. The EC will now finalise the text for publication, and it should be published before the end of the year. It will enter into force 20 days after publication and government data holders have 16 months until April/May 2024 to ensure compliance. It’s been a long path, and this first list could have been better concerning company information. Yet, when it comes to geographic data (addresses, buildings, land parcels, topography), meteorology and that same company information, it draws a line under two decades of discussion, court cases and studies to help dismantle the revenue model of charging at the point of use. Such charges are a threshold to market entry, and are generally lower than the tax revenue otherwise gained from the activities it’s a threshold to.

It’s easy to just move ahead and think about how this is not enough, what still needs doing, how to implement this etc. But it’s good to acknowledge that when I first started working on open government data in 2008 I heard the stories of those who had been at it for many years since well before the first PSI Directive was agreed in 2003. Some of those people have by now been retired for quite some time already, and I worked on it standing on their shoulders. The implementation act for EU high value data sets is a big step, even if in the field we thought it a no-brainer for decades already.