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.

Years ago I had a ‘Twitter radar’: a script that interrogated the Twitter API about tweets using a range of specific hashtags. It then pulled all mentioned URLs from those tweets and gave me an overview of the URLs and their frequency shared around a topic in the last 24 hours and 7 days. It would resolve the shortened URLs to determine whether what was shared was a site, a blogpost, a video, presentation, pdf etc. My Twitter radar would also look at who was frequently mentioning a topic, as a potential person to follow on Twitter.

When Twitter tightened who could interact with their API, I stopped using it.

Frank having alerted me to the possibilitiy of pulling in RSS feeds around topics from different instances (including specialised ones), makes me think of re-instating my radar, but now looking at Mastodon, and basing it on RSS rather than API access.
It would mean I don’t have to look at Mastodon in Tweetdeck-style with 70 columns.
I track # to e.g. see what is being said about specific EU laws online (AI, data governance, data spaces related).

I will have a poke around in my FreshRSS feedreader’s database to see if I can cook some basic scripts for this.

I just watched this video about using the Map View plugin in Obsidian, which allows you to visualise the existence of notes grouped by geo-location on a map. The Map View plugin allows viewing and organising notes along a dimension that is currently missing in my notes, geographic location. I do have an overview of all my travel since the late eighties in my notes. The creator of the video, Zsolt is the creator of both the Obisidian Excalidraw and Brain plug-ins, which I both enjoy using and recommend. So when he suggests a plugin by someone else, it piques my curiosity.

Now I am of course thinking about integrating that with my check-in forms for this site enabling individualised Plazes. Specifically it may play a role in determining venue or location.

Would it be doable to, like I’m already posting from my notes to the site, automatically create an optional check-in record here when I create a geolocated note in Obsidian? Or the other way around, to have a check-in made through the webform also create a note in Obsidian?

Today at 14:07 twenty years ago, I posted my first blog post. Well over 3000 posts later, this blog has been an integral part of quite a stretch of my life, to the point where it is unavoidable that if you’ve read along you now probably know more about me than I think I’ve actually shared in writing.

In the past few years I’ve taken this blog’s anniversary as a moment to reflect on some of my blogging practices. That yearly reflection started 5 years ago when I was just leaving Facebook. This time it coincides with #twittermigration, where many people are exploring federated options now that Musk has taken over Twitter. Whether that is something that will stick is uncertain of course, but it is interesting to watch playing out. Other earlier such reflections: 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021.

Last year I wrote:

For the coming time this note-to-blog pipeline, and making it easier for myself to post, will be my area of attention I think. Let’s see next year around this time, when I hit the two decade mark with this blog, how that went.

Indeed, that is exactly what I did from early this year: ensure that I could post directly to this blog in different ways. The key to that was create a Micropub client, which posts to this site. Once I had that I could create different paths to feed a post to that Micropub client. From inside a feedreader, directly from my notes in Obsidian, or through a simple web form. More recently I created different versions of that web form, to also post check-ins, and announce travel plans. In all fairness, my habits in how I post things haven’t fundamentally changed yet: I’m writing this in the WordPress back-end. But increasingly I am using those other paths to get content into this site.
Making it easier to post, puts the friction of blogging where it needs to be: wanting to write something.

Connecting things up into flows, blurring the lines between my site, online interaction and my notes for instance, stays an interesting thing to experiment with. In the past months I started using Hypothes.is more intensively, to annotate things I read on the web. Already all those annotations seamlessly end up in my local notes, from where I can work with them, and where they concern my own site I’ve made them visible here.

But most of all, aside from all the more nerdy things of tweaking this site and my information flows, this blog has been a source of conversation for twenty years now. It was my original hope, and my ongoing motivation to keep blogging.

Which brings me back to the earlier mentioned #twittermigration. Musk declared the bird is freed, but it seems quite a few people think the bird was caught and rather take wing on their own. Quite a few of those are the people I early on conversed with through their blogs too. If there’s a key difference between ActivityPub/Mastodon and Twitter, it’s that the federated version only ‘works’ if you actually interact with other people. Likes don’t matter in highlighting a message. Boosts do only share a message with your own followers, and has no other effect. It doesn’t mean it will be put higher in the timeline of others, it’s all in the now. There’s no amplification. Conversation is the key, if you interact then others may also see it and join the conversation. Twitter used to be like that too.

Conversation is key, and that is why I blog.
Here’s to another year of blogging and conversation.

Bookmarked What IndieBlocks Does, and Why by Jan Boddez

I really need to start testing Jan’s IndieBlocks plugin, to see if it allows me to switch to WordPress Gutenberg. If yes, I think it will allow me to also do a few things with my site to make it less blog-centric. Because from what I’ve seen from E’s work on my company’s site, Gutenberg makes that easier than writing a theme from more or less scratch which I’ve been balking at for some time, aka 2 years.

I probably will need to set-up one of my test WP sites (nicknamed proto and meso) with IndieBlocks. A key thing to test will be if interacting with the site through my Micropub client(s) needs to be changed. I now push everything into a raw html text that gets submitted to the site, and I don’t know in what ways that would need to be different in Gutenberg blocks, and how it might change how I need to talk to the micropub end-point.

Because nearly everything in IndieBlocks is configurable, it will be possible to keep using the other IndieWeb plugins beside it. Simply disable the bits you don’t need!

Jan Boddez