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The Business of Mastodon

Posted March 20, 2023

Last month I wrote about the Mastodon tech stack and today I’ll talk about the business of Mastodon: finance, marketing, legal and operations. I’m by no means an expert on any of this, but trying hard to keep in front of a news cycle that seems to get accelerated by the actions of Twitter daily. There is a lot out there to read and digest, so let’s get started.


Mastodon was created by German software developer Eugen Rochko and was first released in October 2016. Five years later, Rochko incorporated Mastodon gGmbH as a German non-profit with him serving as founder and CEO. The Mastodon code is free and open-source software (FOSS) and anyone can download the software from Github and use it to run their own social media site.

There are lots of good introductory Mastodon posts, including the one by Glenn Fleishman that I linked to last month. I won’t go into the specifics of things like the fediverse and the ActivityPub protocol, but people seem to be most interested in Mastodon as a Twitter replacement. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (@eff@mastodon.social) has also published a nice series of posts.

Read more…

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Link: Good advice from Brian Krebs ✅

Linked March 20, 2023

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My latest T-shirt has arrived

Pic posted March 18, 2023

Celebrating 25 years of kottke.org

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Video hosting: Vimeo vs. YouTube

Posted March 16, 2023

When I first added my concerts page back in 2020, I looked for a third-party video hosting option to process, store and stream my videos to this site. I didn’t really like all of the ads and other junk that YouTube added, so I signed up for a free basic tier Vimeo account. After quickly running into their daily upload limits, I upgraded to a plus tier plan. That annual renewal is now almost up and I’ve decided I don’t want to renew. Unfortunately, they don’t really allow you to downgrade gracefully back to the Basic tier, so I decided to take another look at YouTube.

While it appears that YouTube still has many of the issues I didn’t like before, it does seem that I can add all of my Vimeo videos to a newly created @7minutemiles channel at no cost (“be sure to hit the like and subscribe buttons”). Tonight I ran into an upload limit of ten videos, so I’ll see if that goes away after I finish an ID verification process they offered or if ten is just going to be the daily limit. I decided 720p versions of these concert videos shot on various iPhones is fine and the quality so far seems to be good. It also looks like I can go back and set custom thumbnails like Vimeo, so that’s nice. It was weird that YouTube seems to be much more concerned about checking for copyright, but every video I’ve uploaded so far that it flagged said the owner allows the content to be used on YouTube.

The last part of my research will be to look at custom WordPress plugins that enhance the default handling of embedded YouTube videos. That was one thing I liked about having a Vimeo shortcode for WordPress, as it allowed me to set the initial player width to 850 pixels. Plugins like this one seem to allow that, plus a lot of other things I probably don’t want or need. Mostly concerned with mobile scalability, but some of the video SEO might be nice too, as I don’t think many people really saw my videos on vimeo.com (or my hard to find concerts page). EVERYTHING seems to be on YouTube, and now I guess I will be as well…

UPDATE (3/19/2023): My ID has been verified with Google and I can now use “advanced YouTube features,” which removes (or at least vastly increases) the daily upload limit. All of my former Vimeo concert videos are now on the new @7minutemiles YouTube channel. Join MK and SK and subscribe today!

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Link: Kottke.org ❤️ 25 Years of Fine Hypertext Products

Linked March 14, 2023

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🫡 Sunday (WordPress) School

Posted March 12, 2023

Learning how to make custom widget areas in WordPress on a snowy, lazy Sunday. About halfway there – should make third party support much easier once it’s in place and working…

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Link: A scaled-down SoFi in Saint Louis

Linked March 6, 2023

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🫡 The Ides of Musk is nigh

Posted February 28, 2023

I believe it was Alex King on Mastodon who first coined March 15, 2023 as “The Ides of Musk,” or the day people should leave Twitter. I’m not planning to totally close my account there, but here is what I’ve done (and plan to do):

  • Made my account private
  • Removed all access to outside apps
  • Downloaded my archive
  • Created my own local archive
  • Added my Mastodon address to my Twitter bio
  • Slowly deleting all tweets (except for the last one)

It’s sad and frustrating that this has played out the way it has, but onward…

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🫡 Email is how old?

Posted February 18, 2023

When I read that email has been around “for over a half-century,” I was like no way is that true. Truth hurts, don’t it

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🫡 Late nights observations during the first intermission

Posted February 15, 2023

1) Post.news has not evolved the way I thought it would 2) I don’t like any news app more than their mobile site and 3) late start, mid-week Wild games are…not optimal

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The Mastodon Tech Stack

Posted February 15, 2023

The last three weeks of using Mastodon on Ivory for iOS have been lovely. Today I was able to join the preview of the macOS version and it is also lovely. The scale of everything is smaller than Twitter, but I’m so excited about the future of this project. I’m planning to write a short series of posts here, starting with the tech stack of running a Mastodon server instance, then moving on to finance, marketing, legal and operations.

From my early research, there are many different ways to roll out and optimize a Mastodon server, but there are some core open source technologies common to everything I’ve read:

Also required: an SMTP email server and file storage. Looking at this from my AWS viewpoint, I’d probably use a Linux instance with nginx, Let’s Encrypt, Route 53, Simple Email Service (SES) and Simple Storage Service (S3). Seeing several references to Docker or Kubernetes too, but I don’t know much about how those container technologies really work (yet).

Cloudflare has their new Wildebeest offering and I’m sure there will be more “click and go” options from all of the usual suspects as well. It would be fun to create a small instance as a proof of concept, but I’d also want a design that could scale up without having to rebuild from scratch. Cost management, backup/recovery, load balancing and security are also important factors.

More to come…

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🫡 February 2023 Apple Updates

Posted February 13, 2023

macOS Ventura 13.2.1 ✅, iOS 16.3.1 ✅, iPadOS 16.3.1 ✅, watchOS 9.3.1 ✅, tvOS 16.3.2 ✅

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🫡 Inter-device info transfer

Posted February 8, 2023

One of my favorite recent tech discoveries is when I open a web page on my phone (can be Safari or a webview in Ivory or NetNewsWire), then go to the dock on my iMac, Chrome has a second icon on the far right with a phone pic in the middle. Clicking on that icon opens a new tab in Chrome with the URL of the page I was viewing on the phone. Very nice!

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🫡 Nature finds a way

Posted February 4, 2023

With Ivory on iOS and hundreds of people moving to Mastodon every hour, I’m excited about social media again (hello dasharez0ne!). Fun to read some smart voices I haven’t followed in a while, plus more and more migrations from Space Karen’s hell site every time I check. Now I just need that macOS Ivory client and some of my music, food and sports people to make the jump…

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Mastodon Flock

Pic posted February 4, 2023

OK, this interface (and service) is pretty awesome (also liked using Followgraph and Whom to Follow)

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HomePod mini and Hey Siri

Posted February 4, 2023

With all of the recent press surrounding the second-generation HomePod, it’s easy to forget about the progress made by the baby brother speaker, the HomePod mini. We bought one of each color for the new house and use them daily. I decided on a Sony sound bar for the big TV, but have had issues with the the HT-Z9F that Best Buy and/or Sony has never really resolved completely. If I had to start all over, I’d probably get a pair of the new HomePods and place them on a short table below the TV.

I was shocked to read that the minis had hardware sensors that weren’t initially enabled. With the latest iOS 16.3 software update, however, all of the minis in the house can now respond with both room temperature and humidity level, which is a nice surprise bonus. I haven’t spend much time studying the Home app or any of the enhanced features enabled by HomeKit, but we can ask Siri to open or close the four sets of power blinds in the house. Haven’t really looked at any smart lighting or door lock stuff and our HVAC just has a standard, unconnected Honeywell controller.

Our garage door opener has some online functionality via the LiftMaster myQ app: our add-on camera records movement, can broadcast video and audio remotely to the app and enables Amazon Key delivery. I can’t currently tell Siri to open or close the garage door, but it is kinda cool to enable the speaker when the girls visit and do the old “intruder alert! intruder alert!” The LG washer and dryer we bought are connected to the home network (and have an app), but I really don’t care to get alerts that say a load of laundry is finished.

Siri for me on my phone has a checkered history. In the beginning, it wasn’t very good at understanding my requests, but has definitely improved over time. With the mini speakers, it’s really handy to just tell Siri to do stuff without typing anything. It’s perfect for interacting with Apple Music, setting kitchen timers, getting the weather forecast and closing the blinds earlier than programmed. I’ve also set the Siri voice to be Irish and female, which is all kinds of fun, lassie.

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🫡 Twitter ends free API access

Posted February 2, 2023

I was definitely not understanding how NewNewsWire was interfacing with Twitter – Brent Simmons says Twitter RSS stopped years ago (and he was using the API). WTG, Space Karen

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Link: A New Hope for Social Networking

Linked January 27, 2023

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🫡 The twitter.com website experience

Posted January 26, 2023

If I had to use only the Twitter website from the beginning (and not a third-party app), I would’ve closed that account years ago

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🫡 Twitter RSS Feeds

Posted January 25, 2023

I’ve been following my old Twitter people via RSS in NetNewsWire for a few months now. Doesn’t seem super reliable (can go for days without updating), but still feels good to (semi) beat the system

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🫡 In anticipation of Ivory, joined Mastodon today

Posted January 24, 2023

You can find me here: mastodon.social/@kingsbury

P.S. – already super impressed with Ivory. Kudos to the Tapbots crew!

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🫡 Apple update day has arrived

Posted January 23, 2023

macOS Ventura 13.2 ✅, iOS 16.3 ✅, iPadOS 16.3 ✅, watchOS 9.3 ✅, tvOS 16.3 ✅

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More on the WordPress 2023 project

Posted January 23, 2023

Following up on the soft launch post, I thought I’d share a few more things to document and credit some of the incredible people in the WordPress community that have taught me so much. This post by Nick Schäferhoff was the kick in the pants I needed to just build off my last theme instead of trying to start with someone else’s theme and trying to make it mine. That article really helped me focus on reducing the number of theme files (now just have index.php, single.php and page.php) and finally cleaning up my CSS style sheet.

Mobile-optimized hamburger navigation menus seem to be everywhere, but it took me a while to pick Rui Guerreiro’s WP Mobile Menu plugin. This seemed to be one of the most popular options, with both free and premium versions available. My problem was that it wasn’t the easiest to set up and customize, but all of the people that participate in the support forum (especially Rui) really helped get me across the finish line on that aspect of the project.

Speaking of plugins, I encountered a few issues that needed to be resolved. There were two plugins that I’ve been using for a long time that do not appear to be supported any longer, one breaking with PHP8 (timeago) and the other apparently pulled from the WordPress directory (add-meta-tags). I’ve been using the excellent WordPress security plugin Wordfence for many years and it now alerts me to issues like this, which is very handy. Timeago hadn’t been updated in 13 years and was based on a jQuery plugin of the same name (which was last updated in 2014). Decided to drop the custom dates and just use the standard get_the_date() call for now.

Add-Meta-Tags started development in 2006 and has officially been deprecated and is no longer recommended for production sites. It was easy enough to find another tag plugin – decided to use Meta Tag Manager, by Pixelite (which also has free and paid versions). I thought I previously wrote about the PHP Everywhere plugin issues, but in any case replaced that with Insert PHP Code Snippet by xyzscripts.com a while back. Looks like the Gmail SMTP plugin might be next on the hit list, according to WordFence…

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Soft launch of 7 Minute Miles 2023

Posted January 22, 2023

Welcome to the long-delayed new theme for 7 Minute Miles! I’ve had a number of design goals for quite some time, the biggest of which was making this site appear better on mobile devices. A few months ago, I set up a test environment using the excellent WordPress development tool Local, by WP Engine. While there is still a lot of tweaking to do, it’s time to make the switch and make updates to production (I know, I know).

So what were some of my key goals?

  • Responsive design
  • Dark theme
  • Larger fonts/easier to read
  • Hamburger menu navigation
  • One design for all devices
  • Clean up and simplify code
  • Full PHP8 support

There were a number of things I initially had on the list that I decided to drop. I still really, really like the three-column newspaper look on larger screens and it was hard to let go of that Masonry codebase that I’ve used for quite a long time. Also decided I just don’t like Gutenberg and don’t want to switch now. That will change if/when the Classic Editor plugin reaches end of life, but I’m comfortable modifying the underlying theme code directly when needed.

So what’s left to do? Lots of testing across different devices (iPhone, iPad, iMac, Windows) and a review of all my previous sub-pages (some of which may not come back). Now that this is live, I need to review the demise of Tweetbot/Twitter and decide how often I want to post here and what format that will take. As always, you can find the RSS feed here and I still highly recommend NetNewsWire for following people.

Thanks for visiting!

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RIP Tweetbot 2011-2023

Pic posted January 20, 2023

Tweetbot *was* Twitter – thanks for nothing, Space Karen

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