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by Jacob O'Bryant

Experimenting with Mastodon

Lots of exciting stuff has been happening lately:

  • I pulled a muscle in my back on Saturday and took two days to recover.
  • Everyone in my household got sick over the course of a week or so.
  • I got a second job offer and have entered the negotiation phase as I pick which company to join.

Apart from some other important work I've been doing, I did at least manage to make a new landing page for Yakread:

I am for I believe the third time giving Mastodon another shot. Last time I made a single post announcing "I'm going to try posting on Mastodon again," and then didn't make another post for a few months. (I think. I'm not going to bother checking.) So this time I'm foregoing the announcement (except for this paragraph...) and just posting.

I'm interested in Mastodon/the fediverse for a few reasons:

  • I'm concerned that the Discord server just isn't a great fit: I'd like to have a public place for comments/discussion so people reading my newsletter can click the links and see the content.
  • I suspect that a decent chunk of people who would be interested in my writing are already on Mastodon (or would be open to joining), so posting there would make it easier for them to follow my work. (Discord is also lacking here since it doesn't offer much/anything in the way of aggregation.)
  • I want to experiment with semi-automatically generating this newsletter from my Mastodon posts, so that I can write the newsletter in little chunks throughout the week without needing to have a block of time. That'll be especially helpful after I start having a job.

I'm not a huge fan of Mastodon's chronological timeline, but I will probably add back support for following Mastodon accounts with Yakread. Instead of adding an integration that uses the Mastodon API (like Yakread used to have), I'm going to do it through RSS:

  1. I'll improve Yakread's support for RSS feeds with lots of short posts, e.g. maybe batch them up into fewer, larger posts.
  2. Then I'll improve Yakread's RSS feed detection so that if you paste in a link for a Mastodon account, Yakread will add the associated RSS feed to your subscriptions. (e.g. here's my feed.)

Plus, then it's easy to extend to any other platform like Bluesky or Substack Notes if they happen to add RSS feeds. And if they don't, well, would you really want to engage with a platform that doesn't even support RSS 😉?

(I guess it would also work if someone made an RSS bridge, e.g. if you paste in a link to someone's Substack Notes page, Yakread could lookup the associated RSS feed on some 3rd party service instead of from Substack.)

This train of thought has me also wondering about if I should make my own fediverse client, like a mix between Yakread, Platypub, and Mastodon. Imagine an app that looks like a standard Twitter clone, but if someone clicks "Follow" on your profile, it shows a popup with several options:

  • An email signup box
  • A click-to-copy button for your Mastodon URL
  • A click-to-copy button for the RSS feed
  • Whatever the equivalent for Bluesky if that ever stops being invite-only

If someone signs up via email, they get an automated digest of your posts, perhaps ranked by number of comments/likes.

The timeline would basically be Yakread: algorithmically ranked, and made up from various content sources like newsletters and RSS feeds, along with your regular fediverse follows. For posting, you can post regular short-form posts as expected, but you could also write long-form posts as well as "pages" a la WordPress and friends, to give structure to your profile/website. i.e. on the publishing side, I'd be merging my Mastodon account with my website.

Just a thought!

Published 17 Jul 2023

I write an occasional newsletter
about my work and ideas.

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