Gisteren is de Stichting ActivityClub opgericht en ingeschreven. De stichting vormt het onderdak voor mastodon.nl. Maar het doel van de stichting is breder: “het duurzaam stimuleren, ontwikkelen en onderhouden van de organisatorische en technische aspecten van publieke (sociale) netwerken gebaseerd op onder andere het ActivityPub-protocol, zoals Mastodon, Pixelfed en PeerTube, in het Nederlands taalgebied

Als onderdak voor mastodon.nl kunnen donaties voor het onderhoud van mastodon.nl aan de stichting worden overgemaakt, in plaats zoals tot nu toe aan een privérekening. En voor plannen om ook andere ActivityPub toepassingen aan te bieden is nu ook plek.

Zodat er voor het publiek bruikbare sociale platformen zijn die ook op een publiek controleerbare manier worden onderhouden.

Samen met Eelco Maljaars (voorzitter) en Mike Dell (secretaris) vorm ik (penningmeester) het oprichtingsbestuur. De stichting is uiteraard non-profit, en bestuurders kunnen niet worden betaald.

To keep the database size down on my personal Mastodon instance I routinely delete everything older than a few days. This includes anything I bookmarked. The same is true for E’s instance. There’s no ready way to get those bookmarks out of Mastodon into something else. Unlike for public things where you can get an RSS feed from instances by adding .rss to a url, for the non-public bookmarks you need to use the API.

With some suggestions by my automaton junior coding assistant I quickly had a working API call to read the bookmarks (the url is yourinstance/api/v1/bookmarks, and you need to create an access token in your Mastodon instance under the developers menu heading).

Outputting those bookmarks as RSS is a straightforward way to make it accessible to various other applications. So I added code to make an RSS feed. And it works. The code is up on Github.
I’ve added the feed both to my regular feed reader (a self-hosted FreshRSS instance), and to the RSS plugin for Obsidian. The latter so that I can easily access the bookmarks in my notes. The former so that I can from within my feedreader send it to various websites I control as well as have a second route to my notes.

A quick and satisfying home cooked coding snack.

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.

Brief overview of how I’m active in the fediverse.

My site

I would prefer this site to be the centerpoint of my fediverse presence. For now that isn’t fully feasible, but it will be over time. Already the building blocks for WordPress to be a fediverse actor exist. The Activity Pub (AP) plugin and Webfinger plugin by Matthias Pfefferle are useful, just not allowing enough granular control yet to my taste. For one, the AP plugin exposes actual usernames of my WP site, a disclosure I don’t like. I need to be able to set the actor names for AP, through the AP plugin and/or the Webfinger plugin. Second, the AP plugin allows sharing my blogposts but only all blogposts, and I want to be able to only publish certain categories of posts as well as individual posts marked for sharing through AP. Third, the AP plugin doesn’t yet take into account the interaction parts of AP (like follows etc.).

Mastodon

I run two Mastodon instances, one hosted at Masto.host. Masto.host has been a very reliable service since I started hosting with them in 2018. I ran a personal instance (m.tzyl.nl) with them until late November 2022, and started one for my company (m.tgl.eu) early November 2022. I run my personal instance of Mastodon on a VPS with Yunohost, at m.tzyl.eu

Discoverability hack

I have added simple text files to /.well-known/webfinger to both this site and my company website that allow discovery of my existing Mastodon profiles through my site’s and work e-mail addresses. This is just a hack, and I should replace it with actual functionality to disclose actors on both those sites.

Bookwyrm

Bookwyrm is the book reading application on AP. I have an account at the primary instance and supported them financially for a while, but haven’t used it much since spring 2022. This is one of the things I want to do myself through this site.

Potential AP projects

As said above I’d like to be able to share my reading through AP from this site. I would also like to be able to share my planned travel and/or check-ins through this site in AP. Specifically travel plans (Dopplr like) are of interest to me. AP, unlike this site, would allow non-public sharing of this information to followers only.

In the noisy chaotic phase that Twitter Inc. is going through, I downloaded my data from them 2 weeks ago. Meanwhile in the Fediverse newcomers mention they appreciate how nice, pleasant and conversational things are.

It’s good to note that that is how Twitter started out too. In my network I felt I was late joining Twitter, this because I was using Jaiku (a similar, better I might add, service based in Europe). Sixteen years on that can be seen as early user. My user ID is number 59923, registered on Tuesday December 12th, 2006. Judging by the time, 10:36am, I registered during my regular 10:30 coffee break.

One minute later I posted my first message. It had ID 994313, so my Tweet was just within the first million messages on Twitter (the current rate seems to be over 800 million Tweets per day!). That first message mentioned the tool I was going to benchmark Twitter against: Jaiku.

What followed that first message was like how it was the past 4 years using Mastodon. A bunch of gentle conversations.

Back then everyone was nice, as you tend to be in public e.g. walking through a small village. Over time Twitter conversations tended towards “I need to win this exchange, even if I agree with my counterpart”. Argumentative. Performance above conversation. Performing in front of your own followers by enacting a conversation with someone else. The general tone of voice on Twitter (apart from the actual toxicity) is somewhat like the difference of posture you take in a metropolis versus a village. In a village you greet passersby, project an aura of approachability etc. In an urban environment you tend to pretend to not see others, are pro-active in claiming your physical space, alert that others don’t push you aside or further down the queue etc. Urban behaviour easily looks aggressive, and at the very least unnecessarily rude, in a village.

The past few weeks saw a massive influx of people from Twitter. Which is good. I also noticed that it felt a bit like city folk descending on some backwater. The general tone of voice, directness or terseness in phrasing, reflecting the character limit on Twitter, in contrast with the wider limits in Mastodon-village which allows both for more nuance and for, yes, politeness.
The contrast was felt both ways, as newcomers commented on how nice the conversations were, a breath of fresh air etc.

Quantitative changes, like a rising number of people using a specific communication channel, leads to qualitative changes. It did on Twitter. It will on Mastodon, despite the differences. In the fediverse some of that effect will be buffered by the tools individual users have on hand (blocking, blocking instances, moving instance or run your own, participate from your own website, e.g.). Meaning one can choose to ‘live’ in the middle of the metropolis, or on its outskirts where not many much frequent. But the effect will be there, also because there will be more tools built from other starting principles than the current tree of fediverse applications on top of the underlying ActivityPub protocol. Some will be counter those that underpin e.g. Mastodon, others will be aligned. But change it will.

It’s nice out here, but do regularly check the back of the package for the best-by date.

Via Frank Meeuwsen I came across a.gup.pe which says it creates instant groups for Fediverse.

  • You can join groups by following a group account like @grouptopic@a.gup.pe
  • Mentioning a group’s name will get it distributed to all followers of that group
  • Any mention of @sometopic@a.gup.pe that isn’t a group yet, will automatically create that group (much like my 33mail set-up does for email addresses.)

It seems to me it basically works as a repeater. Mentioning a group’s name will get your message boosted to all those who follow the group’s profile. Basically it boosts all posts on a topic you follow into your home timeline. Different than #tags because to follow those I need to set-up an additional column in my Mastodon interface.

When groups are small then this is potentially useful. But big topics will attract spammy behaviour soon I suspect. Suddenly you have the type of asymmetric amplification that otherwise doesn’t exist on Mastodon. Moderation is not done on the side of gup.pe I think. Anyone can send to the group, not just followers so there’s no route to moderation even. You’d need to mute or block unwanted boosts yourself. The flipside is that it may speed up discovery of new interesting accounts, and allows the type of group interaction that would otherwise require being e.g. in the same instance to be able to find/cluster together. I fear that noise easily will overcome such groups, but for now worth an experiment. I’ve created and joined a few groups from both my personal and work accounts, to see how it plays out over time.