Micro.blog and Mastodon Together At Last

I’m very excited about the announcement from @manton yesterday about the ways that micro.blog is now supporting ActivityPub and Mastodon. I’ve set up ActivityPub for my blog here and I’m still working out how everything works, but if it works out it could help simplify my online social-identity.

I’m glad to see native cross-posting to Mastodon built in, but I think that AcitivityPub integration is the more interesting and potentially useful aspect of things and that part I’ll mostly be talking about in this post.

I’ve been playing around with Mastodon through an account at mastodon.social, but I’ve been thinking about setting up my own Mastodon instance to have more control over my identity and how I want to run things. (Not that mastodon.social has done anything to make me nervous, I just like the idea of controlling my own usage and identity online and being able to use my own domain name). But this ActivityPub integration may make that far less necessary. I’ve already followed nearly everyone I follow on Mastodon here on micro.blog so we’ll see how that all goes.

There are some aspects of the integration I’m already seeing that I think need to be worked out or I have to figure out my own feelings on.

A big one is content warnings. This is a feature of Mastodon that I think its really neat (though I feel sometimes it’s overused a little). You can basically put text or a picture behind a curtain with a brief description of what it’s about (one of the biggest I see is “politics”) so you have to actually click a button to see the hidden message. This is a pretty neat feature, and one I would support micro.blog adding, though I understand concerns about making posting and reading harder, so whether micro.blog adds that for native posts is an open question, but it does cause problems when you’re following someone on Mastodon who uses them.

I’m already seeing posts from some Mastodon users that just say “politics” in my micro.blog timeline. That… isn’t very helpful or interesting. Setting aside whether micro.blog native posts will have the option to use content warnings, I think there are a few options for dealing with the problem of content filtered posts showing up in micro.blog timelines: 1) Micro.blog could add a way to expand those posts to show the hidden text (I think this would be my preferred solution). 2) Micro.blog could turn the text above the content warning into a link that would send you to the post on the web (this might or might not work well depending on privacy settings and how instances are set up?) 3) Just ignore the content filter and send the full text of the post to micro.blog (so instead of just “Politics” I’d see “Politics” followed by whatever was under the content warning filter (I’m guessing this would probably be the simplest solution).

Another one (that I’ve already spoken with @Manton about) is how ActivityPub posts will show up in Mastodon timelines. On Mastodon you have different levels of privacy (not just public or private). For example, I generally made my Mastodon posts “unlisted.” Which means anyone can see them, but they’re not sent out into public timelines, so someone would have to seek out my posts to find them (or if they follow me they’d see them). I liken this to a robots.txt file on your website telling search engines how you’d like them to index (or not index) your content. I know micro.blog (intentionally) doesn’t support private posts, but I think there’s some middle ground in the different ways Mastodon posts are handled and I’d like to see some options for setting up ActivityPub posts are sent out to the fediverse that support at least some of those options.

There are some other things that I think need to be worked out/thought through too, but I’ll wait a bit to talk about those. This post has gotten long enough as it is!

Anyway, it’s still just the first 24 hours since this feature was turned on so we’ll see how it works out. I’m excited though.

I’m especially excited by another example of how ActivityPub and other such technologies can bring together disparate communities and platforms in interesting ways and help to support a more decentralized, but still connected, web. That’s a web where people have more choice and control over their own content, which is a very good thing!

I’m still figuring things out but if you’re on Mastodon you can follow me here @droct@brandonshire.blog, and I can follow you back and we can talk and stuff! I’m not going to delete my old Mastodon account any time soon either, though I imagine for now at least it’ll see a lot less activity, but if you want its at: @droct@mastodon.social

Stephen B @DrOct