The Waving Flag: Social Media Changeover

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

Social Media Changeover

Way back in 2021 I wrote about how I use Twitter.  I say way back because I'm using "technology time" which passes far quicker than real time.  Needless to say, how I use it has changed significantly once again.  I'm using Twitter less and using Mastodon more.

The change has been brought about by two things.  Firstly, Twitter have rolled out a new version of Tweetdeck.  This destroys the Better Tweetdeck extension I was using and makes it more awkward to use.  The extension's author has already said it will not be updated to work with the new Tweetdeck.  Secondly, Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter has spooked a lot of people into leaving Twitter for Mastodon (a.k.a. the Fediverse) making the Fediverse a lot more vibrant.

Being interested in Internet technology, I've been exploring the Fediverse since 2018 when the previous Twitter scare broke.  So it was a simple matter to switch focus to my social media account at tabletop.social (a Mastodon instance or server).  I now have a verified account (green tick) at zero cost and recently I've added a couple of really useful bits of automation.

Before I talk about the automation I'd like to mention the advent of mastodon.wssmagazine.com.  Set up by Jasper Oorthuys (of WSS fame) it has attracted a lot of wargamers who I recognise from Twitter.  Tabletop.social is currently not accepting new members but, at the time of writing, mastodon.wssmagazine.com is.  If you're thinking of experimenting the latter would be a good place to start.

Automation
The first piece of automation I've set up is a link between this blog's RSS feed and my social media account to post a notice whenever a new blog post is published.  It's a process similar to the applets at IFTTT.com except that it runs from my computer not some cloud server.  The steps for Linux users are:

  • Download the python script for feediverse from Github.
  • Follow the installation instructions carefully (you may have to install python3 first).
  • Edit the blog template in /.feediverse and insert your RSS feed url.
  • Run feediverse a few times manually to check it posts properly to Mastodon.
  • For repeated tests, edit the publication date of your test post adding a couple of minutes each time.
  • For simplicity write a bash script to ease the next step.
  • Add an hourly cron job to your user crontab and test as before.
  • Disable, or delete, any ifttt.com automation to avoid duplication.

It took me longer to format the post template than all the other steps put together.  My advice is to check the closed issues on Github.  I really like the way feediverse picks up the labels from Blogger and converts them to hashtags.  One of the bigger advantages is that you can easily add multiple RSS feeds by editing /.feediverse.  I added the feed for my work blog in seconds.

The second piece of automation was a bit quicker to set up. I'm using a cross posting service from Mastodon to Twitter.  Although run by a third party this runs really well and seems to work in minutes.  I now write all my wargaming social media posts on tabletop.social and they are automatically cross posted to Twitter.  I may have to bring this in house at some point if the cross poster gets swamped but at the moment it's working well.

Closing remarks
All this means that my use of Twitter has declined.  It still is useful, not least for local football news, but as far as wargaming is concerned it's fading fast.

Finally, I'd like to mention something of interest to Vivaldi users: they have set up their own social media server.  I created an account in seconds using my existing Vivaldi login.  Very neat.  Why a second account?  Well, the Vivaldi server will attract a far broader range of people than tabletop.social so I'll use it to explore the wider Fediverse.

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