In reply to It is bigger than a tiny little textbox by Dave Winer

What is biggger than a tiny little textbox, like the ones we get on social platforms, and a full blown CMS, like the editing back-end of my WordPress site? Asks Dave Winer. My current answer to that is: where I’m writing this reply now.

Mid 2022 Dave Winer talked about two-way RSS, which morphed into textcasting by the end of 2023. Now he’s looking at an editor that would work like that.

In my personal feed reader I added a form to post responses. You see Dave Winer’s posting that I’m responding to, and the response form.

The editor I am writing this in, is a simple webform underneath an entry in my feed reader. See the image above. Allowing me to respond while I’m reading feeds, and then move on to reading the next bit.

The editor allows me to set a title, keep the the title of the thing I’m responding to, or have no title. It can cater to different types of response (bookmark, favourite, reply). It can send to several WordPress sites (my blog, my company’s, the Dutch IndieWeb community site, and my company’s internal team site. As a post or a page.

Me writing this post in the response form in my feedreader.

But not just post to a website. It can post an online annotation to my (the ‘H.’ response option at the top), and it can post to my local Obsidian markdown notes (the ‘obs’ site option underneath the edit boxes).

It accepts categories and tags as the same thing. The receiving site or location determines if one of the key-words is a category locally and treats the rest as tags.

It doesn’t use RSS except as source of the item I respond to, it uses the Micropub standard to talk to websites. It could use RSS or OPML. It accepts HTML and posts as Markdown to my notes. I just started tinkering with my feed reader and response form again, so I can take Dave’s question into account while doing that.

Now, the question: What’s between a tiny little text box and a full-blown content management system?
The question we intend to answer.
That’s what textcasting is for, to identity the essential features. This editor supports them.

Dave Winer

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.

Bookmarked Feedly launches strikebreaking as a service (by Molly White)

Molly White does a good write-up of the extremely odd and botched launch by Feedly of a service to keep tabs on protests that might impact your brand, assets or people. Apparently in that order too. When E first mentioned this to me I was confused. What’s the link with a feedreader after all? Feedly’s subsequent excuse ‘we didn’t consider abuse of this service’ sounds rather hollow, as their communications around it seem to precisely focus on the potential abuse being the service announced.

The question ‘how did Feedly end-up here?’ kept revolving in my mind. Turns out the starting point is logged in my own blog:

Machines can have a big role in helping understand the information, so algorithms can be very useful, but for that they have to be transparent and the user has to feel in control. What’s missing today with the black-box algorithms is where they look over your shoulder, and don’t trust you to be able to tell what’s right.

Edwin Khodabakchian cofounder and CEO of RSS reader Feedly, in Wired, March 2018

In a twisted way I can see the reflection of that quote in the service Feedly announced. Specifically w.r.t. the first part, using algorithms to better understand information. The second part seems to have gone missing in the past 5 years though, the bit about transparency, avoiding black boxes, and putting users in control. Especially the ‘not trusting people to tell what’s right’ grates. It seems to me Feedly users in the past days very much could tell what’s right and Feedly hoped they wouldn’t.

I do agree with the 2018 quote though, but ‘algorithmic interpretation as a service‘ isn’t what follows to me. That’s just a different way of commoditising your customers.
Algorithmic spotting of emergent patterns is relevant if I can define the context and network of people (and perhaps media sources) whose feeds I follow. For that I need to be in control of the algorithm, and need to be the one who defines what specific emergent patterns I am interested in. That is on my list for my ideal feed reader. But this botched Feedly approach isn’t that.

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.

Bookmarked RSS Feeds in Mastodon (by Frank Meeuwsen)

Very useful tip from Frank Meeuwsen. Mastodon has RSS feeds, and you can also follow #topics through RSS that way. I knew that. But… you can use the feeds of any instance, and the feed for a hashtag is different per instance depending on the part of the fediverse they are aware of. This means that if you follow a hashtag feed from a large instance it will contain much more than if I follow the same feed on my personal instance (limiting the search to what the people I follow see). It also means you can follow hashtag from more focused or specialised instances, e.g. AI related terms from an instance focused on AI and ML. You can decide if you’d like the feed to come from the ‘general public’ as far as that exists on Mastodon, or from a more specific group of people. I hadn’t realised this, and it seems powerful. Thank you Frank.

Het valt mij op dat dezelfde hashtag verschillende berichten geeft over verschillende servers. Dat heeft vermoedelijk met de federatie van servers te maken. Server A volgt meer andere servers dan Server B. Dus de output van een feed bij A is anders dan bij B.

Frank Meeuwsen