Will You Join Me at the ActivityPub?

On my about page, and perhaps in at least one other blog entry, I mentioned that I left Facebook behind a few years ago – the morning after the November 2016 election. Actually, I didn’t completely leave it behind. I still have my account there, primarily so that someone else doesn’t hijack my identity by creating an account in my name and also because I occasionally look in on things. I look in on things because I miss part of my Facebook experience – in short, it was a way to reconnect with old friends and learn something about their lives. That’s an especially great feature for an introvert like me who struggles to maintain relationships with people living across the street, much less in cities around the globe.

Over the past few years, though, I’ve found checking in on Facebook less and less satisfying. The mysterious algorithm they use to build my feed offers me all sorts of information that I neither want nor need, with the occasional teaser from a friend.

I started this blog in part to push myself to write something and in part to see if I could establish an online presence. A few months before starting the blog, I also set up an account on Mastodon. My participation there has been about as irregular as my writing here, but I’m gradually building a presence in both places. Still, I’d really like to connect with some old and new IRL friends online. I’ve occasionally tried to entice some of them to move from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or whatever to Mastodon. Or at least to add Mastodon to their routines even if they stay on one or more of the other platforms. But I get it – who wants to add yet another feed to a feed that’s already too crowded.

But the promise of ActivityPub is just that – it offers a way for people on different networks to interact across the boundaries between those networks. Instead of having to be on twitter to see tweets (and who really wants to be on twitter these days anyway?), you can be using one ActivityPub app (say, Mastodon), and subscribe to a feed from someone using another app (say Pixelfeed or Flipboard) and see what they post in Mastodon. There are many other advantages to Mastodon (I treasure my privacy, the absence of corporate advertising, and the ability to build my own community by deciding whose work I want to follow, rather than relying on some algorithm to construct something based on what the programmer thinks I’d like to see.) But the crucial point is that each app opens doors to other apps so that people can interact.

This article describes the whole thing in much more detail and with more information than I can provide here. I’ve heard rumors that some of my old friends and acquaintances are reading this blog at least occasionally. Maybe one of them (perhaps you?) will sign up for an account in an ActivityPub network and follow me on Mastodon. Some people complain that it’s too complicated, but it’s really not.

You can go to the more or less official entry point. Or you can find advice using an easy web search. My search just now turned up articles in the Washington Post, Wired, and here.

For whatever it’s worth, I’ve found it to be a much more sane and interesting environment than what I was seeing elsewhere. And it’s not susceptible to being purchased and then overhauled by some rich person looking for something to do alongside going to Mars or wherever. Try it out.