As the title of this post implies, I've been working on some stuff lately that's been taking up enough compute cycles that I haven't been around to post much. Some of this is due to work, because we're getting into the really busy time of year and when I haven't been at work I've been relaxing. Some of this is due to yet another run of dental work that, while it hasn't really been worth writing about has resulted in my going to bed and sleeping straight through until the next day. And some of it's due to my hacking on a new project that wound up being... not as hard as I'd imagined it would be, but there certainly has been a steep learning curve.
It seems that there is another influx of refugees from a certain social network that's turned into a never ending flood of bile, vitriol, and cortisol into what we call the Fediverse, a network of a couple of thousand websites running a number of different applications that communicate with each other over a protocol called ActivityPub. Ultimately, the Fediverse is different from Twitter and Facebook in that it's not run as a for-profit entity. There are no analytics, no suggestions of "thought leaders" you might want to follow, no automated curation of the posts you can see versus the ones you really want to see. Socially speaking, you don't find people carefully polishing their brands or trying to game hashtag trends but instead everything from somebody kicking back after work with a cup of coffee to people carefully archiving the firmware of classic computer hardware to in-jokes about pineapples. Rather than fame, you get people.
But that's not what I want to talk about. I've been asked by a couple of people to post a brief tutorial of how I interfaced my Huginn instance with mastodon.social, the Mastodon instance that I spend most of my time hanging out on.
I've mentioned in the past that my exocortex incorporates a number of different kinds of bots that do a number of different things in a slightly different way than Huginn does. Which is to say, rather than running on their own and pinging me when something interesting happens, I can communicate with them directly and they parse what I say to figure out what I want them to do. Every bot is function-specific so this winds up being a somewhat simpler task than it might otherwise appear. One bot runs web searches, another downloads files, videos, and audio, another wakes up and look sat system stats every minute... but where does this all start? How does it all fit together?
It starts with Jabber, the humble XMPP protocol.
If you have multiple systems (like I do), a problem you've undoubtedly run into is keeping your bookmarks in sync across every browser you use. Of course, there are services that'll happily do this job on you behalf, but they're free, and we all know what free means. If you're interested in being social with your link collection there are some social bookmarking services out there for consideration, including what's left of Delicious. For many years I was a Delicious user (because I liked the idea of maintaining a public bookmark collection that could be useful to people), but Delicious got worse and worse every time it was sold to a new holding company. I eventually gave up on Delicious, pulled my data out, and thought long and hard about how often anybody actually used my public link collection. The answer wound up being "In all probability, not at all," largely because I never received any feedback at all, on-site or off. Oh, well.
For a couple of years I used an application called Unmark to manage my link collection, and it did a decent enough job. It also had some annoying quirks that, over time got farther and farther under my skin, and earlier this year I kicked Unmark in the head and started the search for a replacement. Quirks like, about half the time bookmarks would be saved without any of the descriptions or tags I gave them. No search API. The search function sucked so I couldn't plug my own search function in. Eventually, the Unmark hosted service started redirecting to the Github repository, and then even that redirect went away. Unmark hasn't been worked on in eight months, and Github tickets haven't been touched in about as long. In short, Unmark seems dead as a doornail.
So I migrated my link collection to a new application called Shaarli, and I'm quite pleased with it.
A couple of days ago I gave a talk online to some members of the Zero State about my exocortex. It's a pretty informal talk done as a Hangout where I talk about some of the day to day stuff and where the project came from. I didn't have any notes and it was completely unscripted.
Embedding is disabled for some reason so I can't just put the vide here here. Here's a direct link to the recording.
If you've been squirreling away information for any length of time, chances are you tried to keep it all organized for a certain period of time and then gave up the effort when the volume reached a certain point. Everybody has therir limit to how hard they'll struggle to keep things organized, and past that point there are really only two options: Give up, or bring in help. And by 'help' I mean a search engine of some kind that indexes all of your stuff and makes it searchable so you can find what you need. The idea is, let the software do the work while the user just runs queries against its database to find the documents on demand. Practically every search engine parses HTML to get at the content but there are others that can read PDF files, Microsoft Word documents, spreadsheets, plain text, and occasionally even RSS or ATOM feeds. Since I started offloading some file downloading duties to yet another bot my ability to rename files sanely has... let's be honest... it's been gone for years. Generally speaking, if I need something I have to search for it or it's just not getting done. So here's how I fill that particular niche in my software ecosystem.