A hashtag functionality hiding with the ActivityPub for WordPress Plugin

I discovered yesterday that when I added a # (or hash, pound sign, octothorpe, et al.) in front of any word on my site, it created a native version of something akin to Twitter’s functionality, but it was working on my own website. The primary difference was that the hashed word on the page was, upon publishing the post, automatically wrapped with a URL for that tag on my own website, and it was also automatically added to the list of tags for the post. (As an illustrative example, I’m doing the same thing with the word hashtag earlier in this paragraph.)

I had previously considered adding this type of functionality myself to make syndicating posts (via POSSE) from my own website to sites like Twitter or Mastodon easier. There are a small handful of plugins in the WordPress repository that will add that type of functionality already, but I had eschewed them generally, not wanting yet-another-plugin.

I spent some time trying to track down the plugin that was effecting this change. I couldn’t remember having installed something that would have done this sort of functionality, and I had noticed it only by complete happenstance. I eventually gave up my search halfway through only to later get a message from Matthias Pfefferle that his ActivityPub plugin was the likely culprit. I probably should have guessed as I had literally spent part of that very day looking at the code in his IndieWeb News plugin on GitHub which had code that essentially did the exact same thing, but for a narrower set of results.

The upside of the entire process is that the functionality is now built into a plugin which I’d be using otherwise. As of today’s update, there’s now also a setting for the plugin that will allow one to turn the functionality on or off–I, for one, am definitely keeping it. Of course if you’re looking for the functionality without the extra overhead of the ActivityPub code, I believe you can use Matthias’ WordPress hashtags plugin which does only this.

I’ve never quite liked that Twitter uses @names highlighted within posts. All the additional cruft in Twitter like the “@” and “#” prefixes, while adding useful functionality, have always dramatically decreased the readability and enjoyment of their interface for me. So why not just get rid of them?!

Of course I also remember myself railing against the addition of the symbols @ and # in general text not too long ago, so I’m also now brainstorming and contemplating how one might more quickly (and even in a DRY manner) do this sort of tagging using some other (probably easily accessed, but infrequently used) symbol which could be hidden visually, but which would allow one to add these sorts of tags and the appropriate microformats markup. I suspect there may be some sort of clever CSS I may be able to use too, though it would be better not so that it works easily via syndication and in feed readers with different styling. The goal should be that it would work as plain text from a Micropub client too. With any good luck someone may have thought of it already, otherwise I may be able to hack something simple together to do roughly what I want. The upside would be that simply by writing your post, you could simultaneously be tagging it as well and not need to bother going in and separately adding additional tags!

Replied to Joe’s Syndicated Links Considered ‘Spam’ By Some Mastodon Instance by Kicks Condor (kickscondor.com)
I actually kind of understand this—only because I think Mastodon is at odds with the Indieweb.

I don’t think that what Joe is seeing is an anti-IndieWeb thing. It is something we’ve seen before from a handful of instances and will assuredly see again.

The other example of this behavior I’ve seen was when Greg McVerry, a college professor and member of the IndieWeb community, tried to join a Mastodon instance that was specific to researchers and professors in higher education. Sadly he found out, like Joe, that syndicating content from other locations was not acceptable there. As I recall, they also required an automatic content warning on almost everything posted to that particular instance which seemed an additional travesty to me. I think he ultimately joined mastodon.social and found he didn’t have any similar issues there and anyone who wanted to follow him from any other instances still could. I’m sure he can provide some additional details and may have posted about it sometime in the summer of 2018 when it happened.

The tough part is that each instance, though federated among many others, can have its own terms of service and set up. Some instances can be and certainly are run by their own tyrannical administrators, and I suppose that it’s their right since they’re paying for the server and the overhead. The solution is to do some research into some instances and find one that isn’t going to ban you for what would otherwise seem like average use to most. I’ve found mastodon.social to be relatively simple in its terms and its massive size also tends to cover up a lot of edge cases, so you’re unlikely to run into the same problems there. (It is also run by the creator of Mastodon, who has generally been IndieWeb friendly.)

The issue Joe has run into also points out a flaw of the overall Fediverse in that just like each real-world country can have its own laws and there is a broader general international law, the international laws aren’t as well codified or respected by each individual country. When you’re operating in someone else’s country, you’re bound to follow their local laws and even customs. Fortunately if you don’t like them there are lots of other places to live. And this is one of the bigger, mostly unseen, benefits of the IndieWeb: if you have your own website, you can create your own rules/laws and do as you please without necessarily relying as heavily on the rules of others.

I’ll note that some in the IndieWeb (Aaron Parecki, Ryan Barrett, Mathias Pfefferle, Jacky Alcine, et al.) have been playing around with or thinking about adding the ActivityPub protocols so that their own websites act as stand-alone members of the Fediverse. Since I know Joe has recently moved to WordPress, I’ll mention that there are two separate projects to help WordPress sites federate:
* ActivityPub plugin for WordPress from Mathias Pfefferle
* Bridgy Fed from Ryan Barrett

Naturally neither of these (yet) supports all of the protocols so some functionality one would find on Mastodon won’t necessarily work, but I suspect that over time that they eventually will. It’s been a while since I tried out BridgyFed, but I’ve had the ActivityPub plugin set up for a bit and have noticed a lot of recent work by Mathias Pfefferle to use it for himself. I still have to tweak around with some of my settings, but so far it provides some relatively useful results. The best part is that I don’t need to syndicate content to Mastodon, but users there can subscribe to me at @chrisaldrich@boffosocko.com, for example, instead of @chrisaldrich@mastodon.social. The results and functionality aren’t perfect yet, but with some work we’ll get there I think.

Good luck finding (or creating) an instance that works for you!

👓 twenty eighteen | Matthias Pfefferle

Read zwanzigachtzehn by Matthias PfefferleMatthias Pfefferle (notiz.Blog)

2018 war ein durchwachsenes Jahr!

Mein privates „Ich“ hat letztes Jahr sehr viel Raum eingenommen und auch beruflich hat sich viel verändert.

Das heißt ich hatte generell wenig Zeit für mein online „Ich“ und wenn ich doch etwas Zeit hatte, war das Ergebnis meistens eher frustrierend.

My German is atrocious, but it’s well worth stumbling through to see what Matthias is up to lately, particularly with regard to his work on the IndieWeb.

I’ll have to revisit some of his work on OStatus and ActivityPub with respect to WordPress. It would be nice to be able to follow @chrisaldrich@boffosocko.com on Mastodon wouldn’t it?

Thanks, as always Pfefferle, for keeping the web open!

👓 Bringing blogging to the fediverse | Matt Baer

Read Bringing blogging to the fediverse by Matt BaerMatt Baer (Matt)
After much trial and error, I've finished basic support on Write.as! (Though it's not live yet. Create a federated blog here, or enable federation by going to your blog's settings > Enable federation.) I'm very, very excited about reaching this point so I can try out some new ideas. So ...

🔖 Read.as

Bookmarked Read.as by Matt BaerMatt Baer (Read.as)
Long-form reader built on open protocols.

This is a cool looking reader project that’s got some ActivityPub. Would be cool to see integrated microformats h-feeds or even some mixing with Microsub to help bridge the Fediverse and IndieWeb efforts. His write.as project is fantastic looking too.

👓 What is ActivityPub, and how will it change the internet? | Jeremy Dormitzer

Read What is ActivityPub, and how will it change the internet? by Jeremy Dormitzer (jeremydormitzer.com)
ActivityPub is a social networking protocol. Think of it as a language that describes social networks: the nouns are users and posts, and the verbs are like, follow, share, create… ActivityPub gives applications a shared vocabulary that they can use to communicate with each other. If a server implements ActivityPub, it can publish posts that any other server that implements ActivityPub knows how to share, like and reply to. It can also share, like, or reply to posts from other servers that speak ActivityPub on behalf of its users.

🔖 PixelFed

Bookmarked Pixelfed (https://pixelfed.social)
The first post on a new federated photo sharing website.

An interesting new federated service popped up this morning that recreates an Instagram-like photo sharing site. It’s already turned off registrations and the site is generally down because of the large amounts of traffic. Apparently there’s an appetite for the open and federated web again. Who knew?? 😉