THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

SaneBox

Clean up your inbox today and keep it that way forever


Posts tagged with "mastodon"

Social Media Management Utility Buffer Adds Mastodon Support

One of the things I immediately missed when I moved to Mastodon was the ability to schedule posts. This isn’t something I do a lot. However, with a busy editorial calendar at MacStories, I’ve used a variety of services over the years, including Buffer, to allow me to set up draft posts in advance when we’ve got a big story or episode of AppStories coming up. Losing that convenience wasn’t the end of the world, but it introduced friction I hadn’t had to deal with in years.

That’s why I’m glad to see Buffer has added Mastodon support to its web and iOS apps today. I’ve been testing Buffer’s beta for the past day, and the best part of the update is that there’s not much to say about it because it’s so easy to use. If you’ve used Buffer before, the process is similar to any other scheduled post you’d create: draft the post, add any media and hashtags you want, and then schedule it. If you want, you can also use Buffer to cross-post to other services.

Scheduling a Mastodon post with Buffer.

Scheduling a Mastodon post with Buffer.

Managing posts for multiple accounts has always been the sort of thing that can disrupt my other work. It’s too easy for me to get distracted and wind up browsing my timeline after I post something from one of our company accounts. With Buffer’s new Mastodon integration, I’m looking forward to creating those posts as part of our production workflow and avoiding getting sucked into my timeline when I have more pressing tasks.


Micro.blog, Mastodon, and Ivory

Manton Reece has a fantastic explanation of the underpinnings of Micro.blog and Mastodon and how they work with third-party clients like Ivory, which Federico reviewed yesterday.

Manton’s post is in response to questions about why Micro.blog work with Tapbots’ Ivory since both Micro.blog and Mastodon implement the ActivityPub standard. The answer is that ActivityPub is primarily a service-level server-to-server API that allows Micro.blog and Mastodon servers to interact with each other. However, clients like Ivory use a different Mastodon API for reading and writing Mastodon posts that doesn’t match up feature-for-feature with Micro.blog. Manton explains the problems that causes:

Could Micro.blog implement the Mastodon API, thereby allowing Ivory to connect to Micro.blog as if it was a Mastodon server? Technically yes, but doing so would introduce a couple problems. By design, Micro.blog does not have exactly the same features as Mastodon. We left out boosts, trends, and follower counts, and added other things that are outside the scope of Mastodon.

If Micro.blog worked with Ivory, what would the UI look like when the features didn’t exactly match up? It would be confusing. Ivory would appear broken and it would disrupt the experience we’re going for with Micro.blog’s community.

That isn’t to say that signing into Micro.blog from Ivory to read and post to Micro.blog in the future is impossible. However, as Manton points out, it will require further experimentation and, ultimately, coordination with third-party apps while keeping an eye on preserving Micro.blog’s identity. Because, after all, Micro.blog and Mastodon are two distinct services that approach social media with different philosophies that are reflected in their designs. Interoperability is appealing on the surface, but not if it comes at the expense of the unique features that users of Micro.blog or any other service have come to expect and rely on.

Permalink

Ivory for Mastodon Review: Tapbots Reborn

Ivory for Mastodon.

Ivory for Mastodon.

There’s an intangible, permeating quality about Tapbots apps that transcends features and specs: craftsmanship. With Ivory, launching today on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, you can instantly appreciate that level of care and refinement that the Texas-based duo is well known for after more than a decade on the App Store. But there’s something else, too: for the first time in a few years, it feels like Mark and Paul are having fun again.

Ivory is a Mastodon client, and it’s tricky to evaluate it right now because its version 1.0 is launching under extraordinary circumstances.

As we’ve documented on MacStories, Twitter’s idiotic new “leadership” recently decided to unceremoniously and crassly put an end to third-party clients such as Tweetbot with no warning, which forced Tapbots to scramble and figure out a solution on how to discontinue Tweetbot while dealing with subscription renewals while also accelerating the timeline for the launch of Ivory, which they’d been working on for months. I’ve been following the development of Ivory very closely (I’ve been using the app as my main Mastodon client since its first alpha in late November), and I know that the Ivory 1.0 launching today isn’t the debut version Mark and Paul were envisioning. By Tapbots’ own admission, there’s still a lot of work to do on Ivory, but given how the Twitter situation evolved, they had to ship something. There is already a roadmap on Tapbots’ website for Ivory, if you’re curious to know what the developers are planning for the foreseeable future.

As I was saying above, however, there’s something else about Ivory that, in many ways, makes today’s release an important milestone in our community worth documenting and celebrating. Ever since we at MacStories decided to abandon Twitter, we’ve gone all-in on Mastodon and, broadly speaking, we want to embrace the idea of decentralized and federated social media. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen hundreds of other people I used to follow on Twitter do the same. I believe we’re witnessing the beginning of a new social networking era, and even though Mastodon has been around for a few years, many of us (myself included) are only realizing now that we should have paid attention to this kind of technology years ago.

For the second time since I started MacStories in 2009, I can observe developers imagining what interfaces for reading and posting status updates on the web should look like. New conventions are being created as we speak, and we are, once again, witnessing the rise of a vibrant ecosystem of third-party apps designed for different needs, platforms, and people. Only, this time, there is no single company that controls the fate of all this.

So that’s the something that makes the release of Ivory a special one in the Apple community. More than a reactionary “what if Tweetbot, but for Mastodon” move, Ivory marks a new beginning for Tapbots in a way that Netbot never was. (If you know, you know.) We’re living in new and exciting times for indie apps, and I think that you can feel it when the creator of an app feels the same way. Ivory exudes enthusiasm. Even though it’s not the most feature-rich client I’m testing right now, it’s the one I’m constantly drawn towards. Ivory is going to establish a baseline for quality and polish on iOS and iPadOS; it’s the app future Mastodon clients for iPhone and iPad (and, hopefully soon, Mac) will have to measure up against.

Ivory is the start of a new chapter for one of the most beloved indie studios in our community. So let’s take a look.

Read more


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.

Read more


Masto-Redirect, a Mastodon Shortcut to Redirect Profiles and Posts to Your Own Instance

Using Masto-Redirect in Safari.

Using Masto-Redirect in Safari.

Like many others over the past month, I’ve been thinking deeply about my experience with Twitter and whether I want to align my social media usage with the kind of platform Twitter is rapidly becoming. It’s a complex discussion (if my readers are still on Twitter, am I doing them a disservice by not using Twitter?), but in the meantime, I’ve decided to learn more about Mastodon. And in doing so, I came across an aspect of the service that I wanted to improve with a shortcut.

I created an account on Mastodon.social all the way back in 2018, and you can find me as @viticci there as well. I don’t want to turn this post into a guide to Mastodon (you can find an excellent one here), but, long story short, Mastodon is a decentralized service that is based on a federated network of instances. Essentially, there isn’t a single “Mastodon website” like, say, twitter.com; instead, there can be multiple Mastodon instances across different domains (hence why it’s “decentralized”) but, thanks to an underlying API, you can follow and be followed by people regardless of the instance they’re on. I can be on Mastodon.social, and you can be on Journa.host or Mastodon.online (different instances of Mastodon), but we can still communicate with one another via the protocol Mastodon uses. It’s like living in different countries but speaking the same language. You can read more about this here.

Read more