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Posts tagged with "ActivityPub"

The Fastest Way to Save RSS Articles to A Read-Later App

Skimming through the day's tech headlines in Reeder.

Skimming through the day’s tech headlines in Reeder.

I follow about 180 RSS feeds, and I skim through all of my tech feeds every day, looking for interesting news, angles, opinions, and inspiration. A lot of what I see is repetitive, but I’ve gotten very good over the years at speed-reading snippets of stories and homing in on the interesting ones. Some stories get read right away because they’re time-sensitive in some way. However, I have other things to do besides read the web, so I rely heavily on read-later apps to save many of my finds.

That context is important because although some of what I save is what I’d classify as ‘leisure reading,’ most of it isn’t. It’s information processing, and given my other obligations, speed is important. As a result, what I value most are:

  • The design of my RSS reader
  • The speed with which I can save stories for later
  • Access to my saved articles for anywhere
  • The tools available in my read-later app for organizing everything

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feeeed: Embracing Feed Diversity and Personal News Curation

With The Iconfactory launching Project Tapestry this week, I was reminded of an indie app that I first started testing a few months ago. feeeed – that’s with four ‘e’s – by Nate Parrott is a feed reader app unlike any other I’ve seen on iOS.

Today, with our favorite content scattered across social media platforms, apps, blogs, and newsletters, it’s honestly really hard to keep up, and there is clearly a demand for an app that could juggle with all of them. feeeed is an attempt at embracing that diversity, and letting you build your own feed, merging all those sources into one continuous and beautifully designed stream.

I was excited about this app when it originally came out, and for the past week, I have once again given it a prime spot on my iPhone Home Screen to properly try it out as my main reading app.

Let’s jump in.

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The Iconfactory Launches Project Tapestry, a Kickstarter Campaign to Create a Universal Inbox for RSS, Social Media, and More

Source: The Iconfactory.

Source: The Iconfactory.

We’re at an exciting moment in the history of the Internet where the downsides of walled gardens of content have become painfully obvious to more people than ever. Those downsides weren’t so clear when companies like Twitter got their start. As it and other companies grew, the convenience and instant gratification of social media put a dent in things like blogging, RSS, and other ways people shared their thoughts, links, and other media online.

But, if there’s a silver lining to what’s become of Twitter, it’s that it opened the eyes of a lot of people who are now helping revitalize the open web standards that never went away for many of us. The trouble is that the feeds we monitor are spread over more places than ever before. There’s RSS, of course, but there’s also ActivityPub, Bluesky, and more. That makes it the perfect time for a new approach like the one The Iconfactory has announced via a Kickstarter campaign.

The campaign was launched today to fund the creation of Tapestry, an iOS universal inbox for the feeds in your life. The Iconfactory makes it clear that it doesn’t intend for Tapestry to replace your RSS reader or Mastodon client, though. Instead, the company wants Tapestry to be a unified, chronological timeline that will help you keep up with what’s new so you can pick the best that your favorite sources have to offer. The Iconfactory has also said the app will have a simple API for adding your own data sources to your feed.

I love this idea and backed the project immediately. The Iconfactory says that they expect the development to take 9 - 12 months, which comes with the usual caveats about the risks of funding a Kickstarter campaign, which is why I rarely link them except in cases like The Iconfactory’s, which has a proven track record. The initial goal is $100,000, and as of the publication of this story, they’re about 25% of the way there. The first stretch goal is $150,000, which would add features like muting, theming, bookmarking, filtering and searching, local notifications, a share plugin system similar to Shortcuts, a curated library of plugins, and a Mac app.

There are also multiple reward levels with a variety of rewards for anyone who pledges $5 to $1,500. To learn more, check out the campaign on Kickstarter and The Iconfactory’s blog.


The Case for the Fediverse

I truly enjoyed this piece by David Pierce, writing for The Verge, about the fediverse’s potential and how the ActivityPub protocol may be the key to turn the hand-wavy concept of “decentralized social media” into an ecosystem of dedicated products that are actually useful and interoperable:

In the world of ActivityPub, every post everywhere is made up of a sender, a message, and a URL. Every user has an inbox and an outbox for those messages. That’s the whole protocol in a nutshell. The simplicity is the point: since ActivityPub is not a product but a data format like PDF or JPG, what you do with those messages, those URLs, those inboxes and outboxes, is entirely up to you.

You could have a Twitter-like app that emphasizes text, or an Instagram-like one with a UI that shows photos first. Your federated YouTube could be full of everybody’s videos, or you could make TikTok by filtering only for short and vertical ones. You could use a WhatsApp-style messaging app that only cares about messages sent directly to someone’s inbox.

You could try to do all those things, or you could try to do something nobody’s ever been able to do before. You could build a news reader that only includes posts with links to news sites and automatically loads those links in a nice reading interface. You could build a content moderation tool that any fediverse app could use to filter and manage content on their platform. You could build the perfect algorithm that only up-ranks shitposts and good jokes, and license that algorithm to any app that wants a “Epic Posts Only” mode. You could build an app that’s just an endless feed of great stuff for NBA fans. You could build one that’s just for crypto true believers. You could build one that lets you swipe from one to the other depending on your mood.

As I wrote earlier this week, the more I read about ActivityPub and federation, the more excited I get about 2024. I’m fascinated by what companies like Flipboard are doing (for instance, they rolled out their federated video channel today, which you can follow on Mastodon as flipboard_videos@flipboard.video), and I’m seriously considering the different ways we could leverage various ActivityPub integrations in a future version of MacStories.

I didn’t have “get excited about social media again” on my 2023 bingo card, but here we are.

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Flipboard Begins to Federate

Flipboard founder and CEO Mike McCue, writing on the company’s blog about Flipboard going all-in on the Fediverse and ActivityPub:

Today we are beginning to open Flipboard to the Fediverse, a rapidly emerging part of the Web which includes social services like Mastodon, Threads, Pixelfed, Firefish and PeerTube all built on a revolutionary open protocol called ActivityPub.

What does this mean for you? In the next few months, everyone using Flipboard will be able to discover and follow a whole new group of writers, vloggers, artists, scientists, explorers, political leaders and millions of others who are posting content and conversing in the Fediverse. If you curate on Flipboard, not only will you have a lot more content to curate from, there will be millions more people to enjoy the Magazines and Storyboards you are curating. If you’re a publisher, creator or brand on Flipboard, you’ll start to see new visitors and engagement as people discover and share your content across the growing Fediverse.

If you’re already using the Fediverse, you’ll be able to discover more articles, videos and podcasts thoughtfully curated by Flipboard’s many publishers and curators around the world. You’ll also be able to follow and converse with them directly from Mastodon, Threads and other ActivityPub apps.

I haven’t used Flipboard in years (even though I really liked the app back in the day), but I am so fascinated by this pivot, and I want to keep an eye on what Flipboard is doing.

The way I see it, if done correctly, Flipboard could become a fast, intuitive way for a lot of people to “get on the Fediverse” without the overhead of picking a Mastodon server and other technical jargon. Just grab the Flipboard app, create an account, and start following people from, say, Threads, Mastodon, and other ActivityPub-compatible sources. Once their multi-phase rollout is complete, you’ll have a federated account on flipboard.com that will be able to (I assume) read and post content on the Fediverse. Based on what McCue is saying, it sounds like that’s exactly what the future of Flipboard will be: a well-designed client for all kinds of federated sources.

In January we will release a new version of Flipboard that will show follows, favorites and boosts from the Fediverse. It will also enable replies to and from the Fediverse as well as blocking, muting and reporting.

I’m very keen to see how Flipboard will differentiate itself here from the typical timeline experience of clients such as Ivory and Ice Cubes, or even the Threads app. I’m also curious to understand if and how the new ActivityPub-infused Flipboard will be profitable (and I hope it will be).

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Making ActivityPub Your Social Media Hub for Mastodon and Other Decentralized Services

For many people who have stepped away from Twitter, Mastodon is their first experience with a decentralized social network. There’s a lot that can be said about the pros and cons of decentralization, but I want to focus on one very specific technical feature that Mastodon shares with a growing list of other services: ActivityPub.

ActivityPub is a W3C-recommended standard that was published by its Social Web Working Group almost five years ago and defines a decentralized social networking protocol for client apps and servers that connect them. The benefit to users is interoperability among services that adopt the protocol.

In practice, that means users of one ActivityPub service can follow and interact with users of a different service, which opens up some interesting possibilities. Tumblr seems to agree. The company plans to add ActivityPub support, so its users can interact with Mastodon’s users. That news piqued my interest in ActivityPub, but I’m not patient enough to wait for Tumblr to add support. I wanted to take two ActivityPub services for a spin now, so I set up a Pixelfed account on pixelfed.social.

Following Federico using Mastodon's web app (left) and my Pixelfed profile viewed from Tapbots' Ivory Mastodon app (right).

Following Federico using Mastodon’s web app (left) and my Pixelfed profile viewed from Tapbots’ Ivory Mastodon app (right).

Pixelfed is sort of like a decentralized version of Instagram that has adopted the ActivityPub protocol. Users can post photos, follow other users, and send each other messages. The service recently started beta testing an iOS app that is available on TestFlight, so I downloaded it, set up an account, and posted about it on Mastodon.

Because Pixelfed and Mastodon servers both comply with ActivityPub, anyone can follow my Pixelfed account from Mastodon without having to create a Pixelfed account or download the app, which is exactly what Federico did:

In practice, following someone’s Pixelfed feed is even easier. Instead of searching for my username, Federico could have searched for the URL for my Pixelfed profile in a Mastodon app and followed me that way. It’s worth noting, though, that not all Mastodon apps support searching for non-Mastodon servers. If you have trouble adding someone to your Mastodon feed, try Mastodon’s web app, which I’ve tried and know works. Also, be patient because some Pixelfed servers like pixelfed.social are struggling with an influx of new users that have hurt its reliability.

Photos posted from Mastodon (left) appear in the Pixelfed app too (right).

Photos posted from Mastodon (left) appear in the Pixelfed app too (right).

As the owner of a Pixelfed account, ActivityPub provides me some additional benefits too. First, I added my Pixelfed account to Ivory, the Tapbots Mastodon app that’s currently in alpha testing. That lets me post photos and respond to followers in the same app I’m using for Mastodon, which is nice. I’ve also followed my Pixelfed account from my Mastodon account, which allows me to view my posts from my Mastodon feed and boost them to my Mastodon followers, creating the equivalent of cross-posting on two services without actually posting separately to both.

Although there are a growing number of services that support ActivityPub, including PeerTube, a YouTube alternative for video, micro.blog, which supports parts of the protocol, and many others, it’s still early days for the protocol. However, with Twitter reminding users of the peril of relying on a centralized service provider, the pace of ActivityPub adoption is picking up, which should make 2023 a very interesting year for the open web.


MacStories Is on Mastodon with Its Own Server

As of today, MacStories is officially on Mastodon with its own server for each of its properties and team members. You can find us here:

The new MacStories Mastodon account.

The new MacStories Mastodon account.

We’re not closing down our Twitter accounts (yet), but as you may have noticed, they haven’t been active lately and won’t be going forward. That’s because we’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with the direction the company is heading. If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, I highly recommend Casey Newton’s recent piece on Platformer. Casey’s perspective and reasons for winding down his personal and business presence on Twitter are very close to our own.

Although I’ll miss what Twitter was at its best and always remember what it’s meant to me professionally, I’m excited to be moving on too. I don’t know if Mastodon will be the next big thing, but it doesn’t have to be. It gives us a place to experiment and expand the places we connect with the MacStories audience, which we’re eager to do.

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