Tutorial – Mastodon

Command-Line Tooting

There are some interesting command-line clients. Mastotool [11], for example, allows you to log in to your account, search for keywords in your toots, and grab some stats (number of toots, followers, most boosted toot, highest scoring toot, accounts from other people with whom you frequently interact, etc.). That's it, and that is the author's stated purpose for it. It is kind of useful. However, since collecting data is its main point, the fact that the stats are not very comprehensive limits mastotool's usefulness.

On the other hand, toot [12] is more the real deal, allowing you to post, boost, delete, and do all sorts of things from the command line.

To configure your account run

toot login

and follow the instructions. As with Whalebird, at one point you will be required to authorize the toot with your Mastodon instance and copy and post an authorization code into the command line.

Once you are done, tooting with toot is pretty simple. The following

toot post "Tooting from toot" -m Pictures/someimage.jpg

will post "Tooting from toot" and the image to your timeline.

To print out all the available commands that allow you to poll your account, manage lists, follow other users, and so on, use:

toot help

Toot also has an experimental curses interface to read toots (Figure 5). You can scroll through your timeline's list, but that is about it – as far as I can see, you cannot boost, reply, or even switch to another timeline from the curses interface. Maybe these will be features added in a future version.

Figure 5: Toot comes with an experimental curses interface that allows you to browse your timeline from the command line.

Also interesting is madonctl [13], especially as a tool you can integrate into your own scripts.

To log into your account, run:

madonctl config dump -i your_mastodon.instance -L your@email.com -P "Your secret login password" > config.yaml

You usually need to copy the file that this creates into .config/madonctl/madonctrl.yaml, although you can point madonctl to other configuration files with the --config option

madonctl account show --config .config/madonctl/myotheraccount.yaml

This will show stats and data from your non-default account.

If you need to change anything, you can edit the file directly. A typical madonctl configuration file looks like Listing 1.

Listing 1

madonctl.yaml

01 instance: 'https://your_mastodon.instance'
02 app_id: 'e6d56c608a350735868c7884985f1f849f24d3bf43cc316a0fdfc3b1e17bccaf'
03 app_secret: '2fd94d21455cb0f494a4ef09d994f00d84ccb025e6f576ca5f0eaaa05e5b8f9b'
04
05 token: 'f-G932jfd83erfjdfij847WIOSWKsDw9sekdeII'
06 login: 'your@email.com'
07 password: 'Your secret login password'
08 safe_mode: false
09
10 #default_visibility: unlisted
11
12 #template_directory: ''
13 #default_output: theme
14 #default_theme: ansi
15 #color: auto
16 #verbose: false
17 ...

The instance value on line 1 refers to your Mastodon instance (i.e., wherever your account is hosted – mastodon.social, mastodon.technology, etc.). You do not have to supply the app_id (line 2) or the app_secret (line 3), but you do have to get a token (line 5) from your Mastodon instance. You do that by registering a new application as explained earlier when discussing Mastodon Scheduler.

Once you have completed and saved the configuration file, you can start interacting with your new account.

The command

madonctl account show

will give you data about the account you are logged into, such as the description, its ID, number of followers, number of statuses (posts), and so on. And

madonctl toot "Hello"

will post a message to your timeline.

Although neither toot nor madonctl have commands to schedule toots, it is not difficult to imagine ways of using Linux tools to do the scheduling for you. You can use the traditional at [14] command, for example, to do the trick (Figure 6). The disadvantage is that your machine will have to be on at the time the toot is scheduled.

Figure 6: You can use Linux's at tool to schedule a future toot.

Conclusion

The variety of Mastodon clients is wide and diverse, which is a testimony to how easy it is to create applications that interact with Mastodon. Although the mobile applications seem to cover most of the features that make Mastodon great (and then some), their web, desktop, and command-line counterparts all fall short.

That's why in my next installment, I'll be showing you how to easily write your own client and give it the features you need.

Until then, toot along!

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