Slipstream and micro.blog

mumblings

I seem to be continually tinkering with different ways to bring together my various bits of activity on other social media platforms (e.g. bookmarks on Pinboard, photos on Flickr, reviews of films on Letterboxd, and so on) into some kind of vaguely coherent stream, somewhere that is under my own control. The last bit of tinkering about 18 months ago resulted in a cobbled together system in which activity on various sites triggered IFTTT recipes, which created formatted text files in my Dropbox, which I could then tweak to post on a Hugo-generated blog. I really liked the minimal look of the site I created, and having partial automation was great. However, a combination of a busy life (and, let’s face it — laziness) meant that these text files started to pile up in my Dropbox, without me doing the necessary work to turn them into posts and publish them.

Then Manton Reece set up a new micro.blog service via a Kickstarter campaign (which I supported). This service was founded with the Indieweb ‘POSSE’ principles in mind, where POSSE stands for ‘publish on your own site, syndicate everywhere’. In other words, the idea is that you own and control your own content, but take advantage of the interaction that social media sites provide by pushing that content to those sites from your own.

Micro.blog’s launch coincided with a work trip to Indonesia, so I didn’t do much about it for a while, but I was thinking how best to join things together. While my Kickstarter pledge gives me a site hosted on micro.blog for a year, I decided to go my own way by collecting my activity together (and posting new content) at Slipstream, and then piping the RSS feed for that site into my micro.blog stream. I contemplated using Wordrpress (again), which seems to be a favourite of the Indieweb crowd, but ultimately that felt like a much heavier and higher maintenance system than I wanted. Eventually, I went back (again!) to Tumblr. In some ways this is a regression, as Tumblr is not under my control. However, there are ways to export posts from Tumblr (including a Wordpress tool to import Tumblr posts to Wordpress, if I ever decided to go the full Indieweb hog), and the convenience of posting to Tumblr (via the web, the iOS app, or IFTTT) outweighed the loss of control.

So, currently at least, this is what I do:

  1. Various IFTTT applets watch for new content on Flickr (photos tagged ‘tumblr’), Letterboxd (via RSS), Pinboard (public bookmarks), and Instagram and they convert these to Tumblr posts with links back to the original services. Each gets tagged appropriately, so that I can have menus on Slipstream that allow visitors to view only images, films, posts, etc.
  2. The only service I could not automate was my reviews on Goodreads. The RSS feed is structured a bit oddly, so for those, I just use the feature on the site to copy an HTML-formatted version of the review, which I then paste into Tumblr manually and tweak.
  3. Within my micro.blog settings, I specify the RSS feed of my Tumblr site as one of the sources for my activity stream. This means that micro.blog intelligently pulls in whatever I post on Tumblr, formatted appropriately for the 280 character limit.
  4. I could also set up either IFTTT or micro.blog to post to Twitter each time I post on Tumblr/micro.blog, but I haven’t set this up yet. I’m trying to decide whether it would be annoying, and I might end up just cross-posting my text posts rather than everything. I do however announce new posts on this blog by cross-posting automatically to both Twitter and Tumblr (using IFTTT).

Currently it seems to work quite well. The benefit is that I get the convenience of publishing content using the originating services (which are tailored to the content they handle), while bringing all these snippets together in one place. It also feels a bit more personal. I ported across most of the styling from the previous version on Slipstream, though it cannot be quite as minimal-looking because of limitations with the format of Tumblr posts. I have also connected up most of my services with Brid.gy, which should also enable me to pull in comments, likes and so forth to show them on my Tumblr page with the relevant post. I’m not actually sure if this is working yet, but in principle it’s a neat idea.

Given my recent poor track record with keeping Slipstream up to date, who knows how long this current incarnation will last? I will say that it is markedly easier to deal with this way, and as a consequence, the site has been a great deal more active than it has in a long time. If nothing else, it’s a fun thing to tinker with for a while!

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