I have given up trying to figure out Elon Musk’s deal. Several years ago he speculated that we’re living in a simulation. If he truly believes that, then my best guess is that he thinks the simulation is of Wreck-It Ralph. At any rate, the latest incomprehensible decision is the implementation of mandatory subscription fees, which as you might imagine has accelerated the continuing exodus from Twitter.
I really like Mastodon. The API is excellent and I find the process of creating apps for searching and browsing most instructional. I’m not the only one building tools for Mastodon (it has a thread reader now!) — in fact, I think if you tried Mastodon in November of last year and didn’t enjoy it, you’d find it a much different experience now.
Happily, if you have a WordPress blog, you can start a Mastodon account using a WordPress plugin. The plugin will connect your WordPress blog to the fediverse (a collection of decentralized networks where Mastodon resides) and automatically publish your posts on Mastodon. The plugin will also allow you to track how many people are following that account. Best of all, installing this plugin will take less than five minutes. If you’ve been thinking about joining Mastodon, this is a good way to get your feet wet while you’re exploring the options around setting up a personal account.
In this walkthrough, I’ll install the ActivityPub plugin for WordPress on RB Firehose, the blog which indexes the individual articles which make up the ResearchBuzz digest newsletter.
Please note: If you’ve done a lot of SEO tweaking you may have to take a further step or two. Furthermore, if you’re running a blog with several authors, your installation process will be slightly different.
1. Installing the ActivityPub Plugin
What’s ActivityPub? ActivityPub is a networking protocol used by many decentralized social networks, including Mastodon. You can learn more about it here. This plugin will actually make your blog accessible to several social networks in the fediverse, but for the purpose of this article we’re focusing on Mastodon.
From the Plugins section of your WordPress site, search for ActivityPub. You’re looking for “ActivityPub By Matthias Pfefferle & Automattic·”
If you’re using author profiles or you’ve redirected your author pages for SEO purposes, please be sure to read the additional instructions on the plugin page. You also have the option to create a single Mastodon account for your blog instead of creating individual author accounts. We’ll be creating a single account in this article. If everything looks good go ahead and install the plugin. After it’s installed, you’ll find the settings under Settings -> ActivityPub.
2. Setting Up the Plugin
Your settings page starts by showing you your Mastodon user address and profile URL.
The username part is the part that a Mastodon user would paste into a search box in their instance to follow your blog. The icon comes from the author profile, which is why the avatar is a little cartoon me.
I do not like this. I want to create a Mastodon account about the blog, not about me. So I will click on the Settings tab at the top of this page to change it. This page has several sections so let’s take them one at a time.
The first part of the settings lets you specify whether you want to set the account by blog authors or for the blog itself. If you choose that you want a single account for the blog itself, you’ll be able to change the account name. Here I’ve set up a single account called researchbuzz_firehose.
The second part specifies how you want to publish your content on Mastodon and which items you want to publish (posts/pages/attachments.) There’s also a server setting here but it’s a bit outside the scope of this article. Click the Save Changes button when you’re done.
Once you’ve clicked that button and the page refreshes, you’ll see the settings page has a new page called Followers. This is the tab that will show you the people on Mastodon who are following your blog. Of course I don’t have any followers at the moment, but I’ll follow the blog from my own Mastodon account. A search of the new user name finds my account without the cartoon me. (I’m not sure where the blog avatar is pulled from, if anywhere, if anybody knows please let me know.) I’ll follow it.
Now when I look on my followers tab I see one follower! Yay!
To see if this is working, I’ll do a test post on ResearchBuzz Firehose.
Did this post appear on my Mastodon account? Yes it did!
And that’s all there is to it! If you want to create a basic Mastodon account for your blog all you need is the ActivityPub plugin and a few minutes. It’s up to you to promote your site in order to get followers, of course, but congratulations! You have taken your first step into the fediverse by getting your blog on Mastodon.