Medium started 2017 on uncertain footing, laying off a third of its staff in January after admitting that its ad-based business model was not working.
By supporting Micropub, indie-config, and/or action URLs, current feed readers can make it far easier for people on the open web to not only read content the way they currently do on siloed social media services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al. Increased ease-of-use to allow these functionalities with beautiful user interface will help to move users out of walled-gardens where they’re trapped into the larger universe of the free and open internet. Individuals with their own websites can support the acceptance of these posts to save their interactions with what they’ve read, be they comments, likes, bookmarks, or other interactions. They can also close the loop by supporting Webmentions so that their comments can be sent to (and potentially displayed) on others’ websites. All of these pieces combined make for a more open and democratic web.
The article about feed readers that I wrote for the new AltPlatform tech blog is out now. I hope everyone will take a look.
When this publication from Richard MacManus (the founder of ReadWriteWeb.com, one of my old favorite standbys) popped up a few weeks ago with the tagline “A non-profit tech blog about the open web”, I immediately bookmarked it and knew it would be at the top of my subscription list. When I read his founding manifesto for the blog, I was hooked and bumped it to the top of my list and tipped off others:
— ChrisAldrich (@ChrisAldrich) May 31, 2017
There’s also some great articles up by Emre Sokullu, Brian Hendrickson, and Richard MacManus on a variety of other great topics. I hope you’ll take a look at what they’re doing and subscribe.
I’m pleased that they’ve taken something I was planning on posting here on my site and are giving it some wider exposure.
If you’re a journalist, blogger, or writer in the space, do feel free to connect with them to pitch ideas.Syndicated copies to:
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared at AltPlatform.org.
The state-of-the-art in feed readers was frozen in place sometime around 2010, if not before. By that time most of the format wars between RSS and Atom had long since died down and were all generally supported. The only new features to be added were simple functionalities like sharing out links from readers to social services like Facebook and Twitter. For fancier readers they also added the ability to share out to services like Evernote, OneNote, Pocket, Instapaper and other social silos or silo related services.
So the real question facing companies with stand alone traditional feed reader products–like Feedly, Digg Reader, The Old Reader, Inoreader, Reeder, NewsBlur, Netvibes, Tiny Tiny RSS, WordPress reader–and the cadre of others is:
- What features could/should we add?
- How can we improve?
- How can we gain new users?
- How can we increase our market share?
In short the primary question is:
What should a modern RSS feed reader be capable of doing?Syndicated copies to:
Some interesting analysis of what we’re loosing with the death of video stores. In particular, we’re losing some of the same type of recommendations and serendipity we’re loosing with the rise of e-books and less use of libraries/librarians. In particular, loosing well-curated collections is a big issue as we replace them with streaming services which don’t seem to have the same curatorial business models.
I particularly enjoyed this quote:
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A great video store’s library of films is like a little bubble outside the march of technology or economics, preserving the fringes, the forgotten, the noncommercial, or the straight-up weird. Championed by a store’s small army of film geeks, such movies get more traffic than they did in their first life in the theater, or any time since. Not everything that was on VHS made the transition to DVD, and not every movie on DVD is available to stream. The decision to leave a movie behind on the next technological leap is market-driven, which makes video stores the last safety net for things our corporate overlords discard.
He says that, before he became a senior adviser to the President, he was a successful player in the film industry. But what did he actually do?
'Stop Making Sense' filmmaker succumbs to esophageal cancer
I was reminded this morning that two years ago yesterday FriendFeed, one of my favorite social media sites, was finally shut down after years of flagging support (outright neglect?) after it was purchased by Facebook.
This reminded me of something which I can only call one of the most hurtful diagrams I saw in the early days Web 2.0 and the so-called social web. It was from an article from May 16, 2009, entitled Know and Master Your Social Media Flow by Louis Gray, a well-known blogger who later joined Google almost two years later to promote Google+.
Here’s a rough facsimile of the diagram as it appeared on his blog (and on several syndicated copies around the web):
His post and this particular diagram were what many were experimenting with at the time, and certainly inspired others to do the same. I know it influenced me a bit, though I always felt it wasn’t quite doing the right thing.
Sadly these diagrams all managed to completely miss the mark. Perhaps it was because everyone was so focused on the shiny new idea of “social” or that toys like Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, and thousands of others which have now died and gone away were so engaging.
The sad part in searching for new ways to interact was that the most important piece of the puzzle is right there in his original diagram. No, it’s not the sorely missed FriendFeed service represented by the logo in the middle, which has the largest number of arrows pointing into or out of it. It’s not Facebook or Twitter, the companies which now have multi-billion dollar valuations. It’s not even the bright orange icon representing RSS, which many say has been killed–in part because Facebook and Twitter don’t support it anymore. The answer: It’s the two letters LG which represent Louis Gray’s own personal website/blog.
Sadly bloggers, and thousands upon thousands of developers, lost their focus in the years between 2007 and 2009 and the world is much worse off as a result. Instead of focusing on some of the great groundwork that already existed at the time in the blogging space, developers built separate stand-alone massive walled gardens, which while seemingly democratizing the world, also locked their users into silos of content and turned those users into the actual product to monetize them. (Perhaps this is the real version of Soylent Green?) Most people on the internet are now sharecropping for one or more multi-billion dollar companies without thinking about it. Our constant social media addiction now has us catering to the least common denominator, unwittingly promoting “fake news”, making us slower and less thoughtful, and it’s also managing to slowly murder thoughtful and well-researched journalism. Like sugar, fat, and salt, we’re genetically programmed to be addicted, and just like the effect they have on us, we’re slowly dying as a result.
The new diagram for 2017
Fortunately, unlike for salt, fat, and sugar, we don’t need to rely on simple restraint, the diet of the week, or snakeoil to fix the problem. We can do what Louis Gray should have done long ago: put ourselves, our identities, and our web presences at the center of the diagram and, if necessary, draw any and ALL of the arrows pointing out of our own sites. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, FourSquare/Swarm, etc. can all still be there on our diagrams, but the arrows pointing to them should all originate from our own site. Any arrows starting with those same social networks should ALL point (only) back to our sites.
This is how I always wanted my online diagram to look:
How can I do this?
In the past few years, slowly, but surely, I’ve managed to use my own website to create my diagram just like this. Now you can too.
A handful of bright engineers have created some open standards that more easily allow for any website to talk to or reply to any other website. Back in January a new W3C recommendation was made for a specification called Webmention. By supporting outgoing webmentions, one’s website can put a link to another site’s page or post in it and that URL serves the same function as an @mention on services like Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Google+, Instagram, etc. The difference here is that these mentions aren’t stuck inside a walled garden anymore, they can reach outside and notify anyone anywhere on the web that they’ve been mentioned. Further, it’s easy for these mentions to be received by a site and be posted as comments on that mentioned page. Because the spec is open and not controlled by a third party corporation, anyone anywhere can use it.
What does this mean? It means I can post to my own site and if you want to write a comment, bookmark it, like it, or almost anything else, you post that to your own website and mine has the option of receiving it and displaying it. Why write your well thought out reply on my blog in hopes that it always lives there when you can own your own copy that, though I can delete from my site, doesn’t make it go away from yours. This gives me control and agency over my own platform and it gives you ownership and agency over yours.
Where can I get it?
Impatient and can’t wait? Get started here.
More and more platforms are beginning to support this open protocol, so chances are it may already be available to you. If you’re using an open source platform like WordPress.org, you can download a plugin and click “activate”. If you want to take few additional steps to customize it there’s some additional documentation and help. Other CMSes like Known have it built in right out of the box. Check here to see if your CMS or platform is supported. Don’t see your platform listed? Reach out to the developers or company and ask them to support it.
If you’re a developer and have the ability, you can easily build it right into your own CMS or platform of choice (with many pre-existing examples to model off if you need them) and there are lots of tools and test suites built which will let you test your set up.
If you need help, there are people all over the world who have already implemented it who can help you out. Just join the indieweb in your favorite chat client option.
Some parting thoughts
Let’s go back to Louis Gray’s blog and check on something. (Note that my intention isn’t to pick on or shame Mr. Gray at all as he’s done some excellent work over the years and I admire it a lot, he just serves as a good public example, particularly as he was recruited into Google to promote and launch G+.)
If you look at his number of posts over time (in the right sidebar of his homepage), you’ll see he was averaging about 500+ posts a year until about the time of his diagram. That number then drops off precipitously to 7 and 5 in 2015 and 2016 respectively!! While life has its vagaries and he’s changed jobs and got kids, I seriously doubt the massive fall off in posts to his blog was because he quit interacting online. I’ll bet he just moved all of that content and all of his value into other services which he doesn’t really own and doesn’t have direct control over.
One might think that after the demise of FriendFeed (the cog at the center of his online presence) not to mention all the other services that have also disappeared, he would have learned his lesson. Even browsing back into his Twitter archive becomes a useless exercise because the vast majority of the links on his tweets are dead and no longer resolve because the services that made them died ignominious deaths. If he had done it all on his own website, I almost guarantee they’d still resolve today and all of that time he spent making them would be making the world a richer and brighter place today. I spent more than twenty minutes or so doing a variety of complicated searches to even dig up the original post (whose original URL had moved in the erstwhile) much less the original diagram which isn’t even linked to the new URL’s post.
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Etymologically, the word samizdat derives from sam (Russian: сам, “self, by oneself”) and izdat (Russian: издат, an abbreviation of издательство, izdatel’stvo, “publishing house”), and thus translates as “self-published”.
With exception of the jail portion, these ideas underlie much of the Indieweb movement.Syndicated copies to:
“Hi. My name is Chris and I’m a web browser bookmarklet junkie.”
Accelerated Mobile Pages
I’ve been following most of the (Google) Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) discussion (most would say debate) through episodes of This Week in Google where Leo Laporte plays an interesting foil to Jeff Jarvis over the issue. The other day I came across a bookmark from Jeremy Keith entitled Need to Catch Up on the AMP Debate? which is a good catch up by CSS-Tricks. It got me thinking about creating a bookmarklet to strip out the canonical URL for AMP pages (the spec requires them to exist in markup) to make them easier to bookmark and share across social media. In addition to social sites wrapping their URLs with short URLs (which often die or disappear as the result of linkrot) or needing to physically exit platforms (I’m looking at you Facebook with your three extra life-sucking clicks meant to protect your walled garden) to properly bookmark canonical URLs for later consumption, I’ve run across several Google prepended URLs which I’d rather not share in lieu of the real ones.
Clean and Simple URLs
As an example, his canonical bookmarklet will take something ugly like
and strip it down to its most basic
so that if you want to share it, it will remove all of the tracking cruft that comes along for the ride.
Even worse offenders like
suddenly become cleaner and clearer
These examples almost remind me of the days of forwarding chain letter emails where friends couldn’t be bothered to cut out the 10 pages of all the blockquoted portions of forwards or the annoying
> > >> >>
> > >> >>
> > >> >>
nonesense before they sent it to you… The only person who gets a pass on this anymore is Grandpa, and even he’s skating on thin ice.
Remember, friends don’t let friends share ridiculous URLs…
So in that spirit, here are the three bookmarklets that you can easily drag and drop into the bookmark bar on your browser:
The code for the three follow respectively for those who prefer to view the code prior to use, or who wish to fashion their own bookmarklets:
As a bonus tip, Kevin Marks’ post briefly describes how one can use their Chrome browser on mobile to utilize these synced bookmarklets more readily.
Of course, if you want the AMP version of pages just for their clean appearance, then perhaps you may appreciate the Mercury Reader for Chrome. There isn’t a bookmarklet for it (yet?), but it’ll do roughly the same job, but without the mobile view sizing on desktop. And then while looking that link up, I also notice Mercury also has a one line of code AMP solution too, though I recommend you brush up on what AMP is, what it does, and do you really want it before adding it.Syndicated copies to:
For the first time the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is charging a license fee to TV stations and networks that broadcast live shows
With the news that that the latest disaster in Donald Trump’s Lizard Brain Jamboree will bar Oscar nominee Asghar Farhadi from attending the Academy Awards (and Farhadi’s later decision to skip them whether he is allowed to come or not), the film community has been scrambling to find an effective response.
Chris Sim, founder and CEO of Kadaxis, spoke at Digital Book World about how indie authors and publishers can better use keywords to increase book sales.
After six decades in showbiz—she made her film debut opposite James Dean—Lois Smith is finally getting her due as a grieving widow in the Sundance sci-fi drama ‘Marjorie Prime.’
The Manchester by the Sea actor has been accused of sexual harassment.
Constance Wu Is Disgusted by Casey Affleck’s Oscar Nomination: ‘Art Isn’t About Humanity, Right?’
The Manchester by the Sea actor has been accused of sexual harassment.
As anticipated, Casey Affleck received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for Manchester by the Sea this morning. The news served as evidence to some that multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him and a related lawsuit have been successfully swept under the rug, at least in the Academy’s eyes (Affleck has previously denied all allegations against him, and settled the suits out of court for an undisclosed sum). Fresh Off the Boat actress Constance Wu, however, is not about to let the viewing public forget the accusations against Affleck, who is now being celebrated for his talent. “Men who sexually harass women 4 OSCAR! Bc good acting performance matters more than humanity, human integrity! Bc poor kid rly needs the help!,” the actress tweeted sardonically. Continue reading “Constance Wu Slams Casey Affleck’s Oscar Nom | Vulture”