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News in the fediverse | InfoWorld

In a recent episode of You’re Wrong About, Sarah Marshall delivered a crisp summary of how the 24-hour news cycle came to be. This led me to realize that many of us don’t remember when the news was confined to time slots: the 7 o’clock news, the 11 o’clock news, the morning paper. I think it might be healthy to get that back in some way. From the emotion I heard in her voices, I gather that Sarah Marshall and her co-host Blair Braverman feel the same way. When I hear people complain about Mastodon’s lack of breaking news, I think, “Feature, not bug!” Maybe what the 24 hour cycle has been breaking is us.

So when launched last week, I was a bit conflicted. For one, I’d like to use Mastodon to read top news headlines just like I used to with RSS. (Full disclosure: is run as a public service by, whose founder, Dick Hardt, is a longtime friend.) On the other hand, when I read the Mastodon timelines, I enjoy No know what is happening in the world right now.

What if you could exclude news from the home timeline, put it in a list, and go there when, and only when, with a news mindset? That’s a feature of the Fedilab client, I learned from Keith Soltys.

press cooperative IDG

What would it take to implement the same idea in the Mastodon reader I’m developing? Couldn’t be just an extra WHERE condition, could you?

Well, actually, it could.

news exclude timeline IDG

Problem solved. Now I can read news on Mastodon when and how I want, and never see it any other way.

mastodon news list IDG

If you want that same control, you shouldn’t have to use a particular Android client, or a Steampipe client, or any other. There is a Cambrian explosion of such creatures right now. The more they can share important DNA, the better for all of us.

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I hope the Steampipe plugin for Mastodon, which enables the boards I’m building using Steampipe’s own board system as code, can provide some useful common DNA. A rule like news only in lists, not in timelinesonce expressed in SQL, it can be used (and therefore not reinvented) by any kind of Steampipe client (read: Postgres): psql (or any Postgres CLI), Metabase or Tableau or any BI tool that supports Postgres, Python or JavaScript or any programming language. Steampipe is a versatile component. Its API to SQL mapping can, in theory, provide the data layer for any application.

My Steampipe + Mastodon adventure notwithstanding, let’s keep that bigger idea. The fediverso is our chance to reboot the social web and take control of our information diets. Since all of our diets differ, it should be trivial for anyone, on any client, to trigger a rule like news only in lists, not in timelines. I have shown a way that can be trivial. Please show me others!

These series:

  1. Autonomy, pack size, friction, fanout and speed
  2. Create a Mastodon panel with Steampipe
  3. Navigating the fediverse
  4. A Bloomberg terminal for Mastodon
  5. Create your own Mastodon UX
  6. Lists and people on Mastodon
  7. How many people on my Mastodon feed also tweeted today?
  8. Qualified Mastodon URLs per instance
  9. Mastodon Ratio Charts
  10. Working with Mastodon lists
  11. Images considered harmful (sometimes)
  12. Mapping the broader fediverse
  13. Protocols, APIs and conventions
  14. News in fediversa

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