Drop #204 (2023-02-21): Titanic Tools
StreetPass; msync; Tootpick
Yes, I am still on Twitter. But, I am there mostly to RT/boost $WORK content, spar with authoritarians, and keep in contact with the few folks who haven't found their way to other platforms.
I'm sad so many journalists have stuck around on Musk’s sinking ship, since their presence adds some unwarranted gravitas to the platform. Even if you think you've curated your “following” timeline pretty well, we've already seen one (failed) attempt to algorithmically enrage Twitter users (i.e., “For You”), and it will not be the last one. Twitter also fired virtually everyone who was doing (a fairly terrible job at) “safety” work on the platform. This means you are far more likely to be in harm's way, and that you really cannot trust anything there.
That ❡ can be summed up as: you should strongly consider moving away from Twitter as a primary social information source.
By now, you know about the “fediverse” and have likely at least partially migrated to one or more Mastodon instances. We've covered the fediverse before, and today we have three resources that will:
help you build out your network
backup your fediverse presence (and automate some fediverse ops), and
make it easier for folks to share your content in other places on mastodon-compatible instances.
StreetPass [GH] is a browser extension (browser extension warnings below) that lets you find folks to follow in the fediverse. It does this by looking for those identity validation links wherever you browse, and keep a running list of those accounts for you to review, explore, and — if you so choose — follow.
One of the more prevalent “complaints” about jumping ship to Mastodon is that it's hard to rebuild your network. Some of this is due to us all being scattered to the four winds. Some is due to what I described in the introduction. While we can slowly [re]build connections by watching for re-posts (etc.), having another, organic way of discovering folks to follow can helps speed things up a bit.
I started using StreetPass a few weeks ago on the segment of the home network I capture all network traffic from. I can report that all information/activity stays local to the system you browse from, at least at the time of that code/version.
Extensions are scary powerful bits of js/wasm/html/css and any one of them has the potential to, well, destroy your life. No, seriously…when you grant an extension the rights to read from web pages and make network calls, those actions could siphon everything about you away. Less nefarious extensions may just ruin your browsing experience if they're crafted poorly. This is why I always hesitate to recommend using them, but I'm making yet-another exception, given the utility of StreetPass.
You can (and should) load this one from source vs. hit the ones in whatever browser “store” you usually go to for extensions. Clone the StreetPass repo. Review the source (or ask someone you trust to do so) and then only use that version, and be wary of updating without re-verifying the source.
That may seem like a bit much to go through just to find new folks to “follow”, but if you're struggling to make Mastodon as, or more, useful than Twitter was for you, this extension can definitely help.
All Mastodon instances have an “export” option, but who wants to click buttons?
I was looking for a way to keep a local copy of all my instance bits and came across msync, which bills itself as a “low bandwidth store and forward Mastodon API client”. So, it is not just handy for keeping an archive of your Mastodon content, but it's also handy to use as a full Mastodon CLIent, which means you can use it to send posts.
After a quick OAuth setup session via:
msync new -a email@example.com
I have a job setup on my local home server to
msync sync everything every hour. It updates the following (per-account, as you can sync from multiple accounts) during each operation:
bookmarks.list home.list msync.log notifications.list sync.queue sync.queue.bak user.config user.config.bak
msync client has a ton of features. However, the official manual was not the easiest to follow (for me) the way GitHub renders it, so I jerry-rigged a Quarto version of it with a generated table of contents and dark mode support which you can review on my site.
I haven't setup automation for ^^ process, yet, (so it keeps in, heh, sync with the source) but will be doing so later this week. I highly suggest reading through it to grok all of what
msync can do for you and also follow the instructions for installing the shell tab completions and OS manual pages. They will be useful, although the built-in help is also quite robust.
One of the other bits I appreciate about the author is that you can, indeed, order a copy of the software on floppy disk, as the section header implies.
There aren't many “Share to Mastodon” buttons on content, primarily due to the federated nature of the instances. Juerd Waalboer decided to help fill the gap with Tootpick, a privacy-preserving posting “hack” that takes advantage of the “fragment” portion of URLs to handle the message passing.
The links end up looking like (join the entire contents together or copy the link from the “Share on Mastodon” below since Substack does funny things to bare links):
h t t p s ://tootpick.org/#text=Everyone%20should%20read%20and%20subscribe%20to%20the%20Daily%20Drop%20https://dailyfinds.hrbrmstr.dev/
As Juerd notes:
When sharing an article or web page, don't forget to include the URL as part of the text. The text must be "URI encoded", i.e. spaces must be replaced by %20, ampersands by %26, etcetera, just like is common for URLs. It is customary to include several relevant hashtags; use %23 for the # sign. For details, see "Fragment parameters" below.
Most Mastodon servers have a 500 character limit so it's wise to keep your message shorter than that. Tootpick does not check the length of the message.
Tootpick will “remember” which instances users have chosen as well (via localStorage).
You can self-host and tweak the static HTML to your needs, and Tootpick should work well in any context links with fragments work.
Closing out this edition with a continued note of solidarity to my distant cousins in Ukraine, as we acknowledge the sacrifices they've made this past year, and are continuing to make for all of us who want to remain free. Слава Україні! 🇺🇦 ☮
All decent brands are having a difficult time figuring out how to recover from Musk's capricious actions.
Pedantic folks can choose to unsub/unfollow me, but I’m going to use “fediverse” and Mastodon/ActivityPub interchangeably pretty much forever.
I wish the Mastodon creators had found a better word than that.