RB Search Gizmos

Generate Hashtag-Based RSS Feeds for 7 Popular Mastodon Instances With Resstodon

There’s a lot of hand wringing and analysis and punditry about what is happening and what might ultimately happen at Twitter. It’s interesting up to a point but my bigger concern is that Twitter as a content curation platform has turned into absolute garbage, at least for my topics of interest.

Many accounts I follow are gone or dormant. Many other accounts are locked down to avoid harassment or minimizing hashtags to avoid bot swarms. (I stopped using cryptocurrency-related keywords because I would get overwhelmed by reply bots and DMs. Eventually they started responding to non-hashtagged keywords and I locked my account entirely.)

Is this permanent? I don’t know and neither does anybody else. What I do know is this: Twitter is crumbling now and I need to figure out how I’m going to transfer my content curation work to Mastodon and whatever social networks arise. But I’m starting with Mastodon.

Mastodon is decentralized, which will make monitoring more difficult than a centralized resource like Twitter. On the other hand, Mastodon is more open in offering things like RSS feeds.

So RSS feeds are where I’m starting. And though it’s very early days yet, I’m doing a lot of experimenting and needed a way to create RSS feeds for Mastodon instances. So I took an hour and knocked up a very basic tool called Resstodon.

This is a screenshot of the landing screen for the ResearchBuzz search gizmo Resstodon.


Resstodon is a quick-and-simple way to generate RSS feeds for seven popular Mastodon instances:

  1. Enter a hashtag without the #.
  2. Click the button.

Resstodon will generate an OPML file with a hashtag-based RSS feed for each of the seven instances listed above and deposit it wherever your downloaded files go. OPML files are not executables, they’re specially-formatted text files. You can open it with a regular text editor if you want to examine it – it’ll look like this screenshot.

A screenshot of an OPML file as it appears in an average text editor. It's pretty much a jumble of unformatted text.


What OPML files are used for are importing multiple RSS feeds into a feed reader at one time. With Resstodon, you can generate an OPML file in a couple of seconds and import it into your RSS feed reader in a couple of clicks.

While I was testing this, I used Feedly to import the OPML file. It sometimes failed on some of the feed imports, but if I tried re-importing the feed it worked successfully (and avoided duplicating existing feeds.)

This isn’t even step one in my work with Mastodon and RSS feeds. It’s possibly step one-quarter. I’m going to generate some feeds and watch them a little, see how much duplication is taking place between feeds, then decide where to go from there. It might be that I want to focus on an easy external way to filter Mastodon RSS feeds, like IFTTT with custom JavaScript – that would be an easy thing to teach with provided templates. It might be that there’s enough overlap between feeds for common tags that I should instead concentrate on addressing a single RSS feed programmatically with intense filtering.

I have a huge backlogs of Gizmos I want to make, many involving Wikipedia, but I suspect I’m going to start putting a number of Mastodon and wider Fediverse projects there as well.

4 replies »

  1. First thoughts – great idea, thanks!

    I generated a couple of ompl files and Inoreader *says* it imported them, but no content. Not sure if that’s the hashtags I chose, or maybe it takes a while to update, or ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Will keep an eye on it.

    It would *seem* to be a simple enough thing to allow people to enter a list of the mastodon servers they’re interested in monitoring, rather than your hard-coded list. Am I missing something there?

    • I haven’t tested the OPML file on Inoreader, but I know it works in Feedly and NewsBlur.

      This really DID take me less than an hour and the code is super-janky. I am going to put something together that allows user-specified instances, but I also want to look into maybe using an API as well (there’s at least one that serves Mastodon instance information.)

  2. OK, I’m back to report 1) it works in Inoreader; just took some time to refresh, but 2) all the feeds were the same – I wonder if the hashtags are in fact federated, which would make this tool unnecessary? One of the feeds I tested would not be common on any of those broad servers (#abpse) and the results were identical. Are you not seeing the same thing?

    • Congratulations, you have discovered why I only spent an hour on janky code before thinking about adding more features! XD See the next to the last paragraph of the article for where I’m at right now.

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