Just one day ago I released my initial release of the Overseer and I was annoyed by the implementation almost immediately. The requirement to register on another Lemmy instance using a custom username and wait for manual approval (which could also lead to someone sniping that username, and forcing me to manually delete it), and THEN register your instance on the Overseer was just too clunky.
While a few people did register, I realized almost immediately it’s very likely this would never take off. So I started rethinking how I could streamline this process so that it would require far less steps.
My initial plan was to simply register all available instances on the fediverse by default, and allow admins to claim them later. That would require me somehow being able to contact those admins directly. This led me to try to figure out the best way to do that where I discovered I could theoretically talk to any fediverse instance directly, and not have to rely on the a specific lemmy instance with all its limitations.
So I spent many many hours figuring out how to do that. The documentation is frustratingly sparse and incomplete on this point, with my best guide was this blogpost, from half a decade ago for a different language than python. Fortunately this day and age, I had access to ChatGPT, so I could ask it to translate the code on that page to python and then with some trial and error and digging in the official documentation, I had a working DM system for mastodon!
Then I set out to do the same for lemmy which is where the big frustration was waiting, as the documentation is practically non-existent, the messages are cryptic and Rust and the way it’s coded was completely impenetrable to me. Lots and lots of digging in the code, trial and error and asking around in desperation, and I managed to figure out that the main blocking point was a “type” key in my activitypub instance, instead of a fault in my payload.
Unfortunately figuring out how to “speak activitypub” took me the better part of my day. But the good news is that once I had that down, the rest was just a matter of time. I just had to refactor everything. And hell, while I am doing that, why not change the name and domain as well
And that’s how Fediseer.com is born!
I have already updated my previous post with the new workflow, but the big difference is that it completely removes the need for an extra lemmy instance one has to manually register. Instead one just has to “claim” their instance and they will get a PM directly in their mailbox!
Likewise, you can guarantee for a different instance even if their admins haven’t claimed it first and they will get a helpful PM informing them about it. If the instance doesn’t exist yet, all you need to do is search for it in the whitelist and it will be automatically added, and then can be guaranteed. My next step is to automatically import all known instances by pulling them from the federation, which should avoid the manual step of searching for them first.
So let’s see how it goes. Now with the ability to talk to fediverse instances directly, it also opens up some really fascinating doors for automation! Stay tuned!