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.
I’ve been officially participating in the IndieWeb movement for almost two years–though from a philosophical standpoint it’s much closer to twenty. While I can see lots of value in the IndieWeb for even the average person on the internet, I’ve always felt that there’s also a tremendous amount of specific value for journalists and web-based publishers.
I suspect that a lot of the value of the IndieWeb philosophy is that it encompasses how many people inherently wish the internet worked. As a result I’ve seen a growing number of people discovering the concept de novo either on their own or by borrowing bits and pieces from their friends and colleagues who are practicing parts of it as well. This harkens back to the early days of the web when bloggers incrementally improved their websites based on what they saw others doing and sharing ideas more directly and immediately with their audiences.
An(other) unwitting example in the wild
Recently I came across the personal website of journalist Marina Gerner which is one of the few, but growing number, I’ve come across that is unknowingly practicing some of the primary tenets of the IndieWeb movement that I suspect more journalists will eventually come to embrace to better reach and engage with their audiences.
Another brief example I’ll mention having seen recently that almost explicitly rewrote the IndieWeb philosophy verbatim was on the the website redesign launch of PressThink, the blog of Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU. It’s a great read individually as is the majority of what Mr. Rosen writes.
Though I read many of the publications for which Ms. Gerner is writing and might see most of what she’s writing organically, having all of her work in one primary location is a spectacular convenience! I can quickly and easily subscribe to all her work by email or RSS. For a working journalist, this is a boon, because like musicians in the evolving music business a lot of the value that they bring to the table (and to the venues in which they play) is a result of their individual fan bases.
While her personal website probably doesn’t drive even a tiny fraction of exposure for her work as when it appears in The Economist or the Financial Times, for example, it does allow her fans to easily keep up with what she’s writing and thinking about. Ideally in the future, outlets will make links to writer’s bylines direct to the writer’s own website rather than to archive pages within their own publications (or perhaps both if necessary).
Journalistic Brand & the Sad Case of Leon Wieseltier: The Counter-example
Here I’m reminded of the seemingly sad case of Leon Wieseltier, the long time literary editor of The New Republic, who was ousted by its editor-in-chief and publisher Chris Hughes, a former Facebook executive. Wieseltier’s brand was almost all-too-wrapped up in The New Republic, where he had worked for decades, and when he was pushed out (ostensibly for the puerile desire to get more clicks and eyeballs), his output and influence seemingly disappeared overnight. Suddenly there just wasn’t as much of him to read. While he still has some output, as a fan who enjoyed reading his work, the problematic hurdles of finding his new work were the equivalent of using a cheese grater to file down one’s knee cap. I suspect that if he had his own website or even a semblance of a Twitter presence, he could easily have taken a huge portion of his fans and readership built up over decades along with him almost anywhere.
While there are some major brand names in journalism (examples like James Fallows, Walt Mossberg, or Steven Levy spring to mind), who are either so wrapped up in their outlet’s identities or who can leave major outlets and take massive readerships with them, this isn’t the case for the majority of writers in the game. Slowly building one’s own personal journalistic brand isn’t easy, but having a central repository that also doubles as additional distribution can certainly be beneficial. It can also be an even bigger help when one decides to move from one outlet to another, bridge the gap between outlets, or even strike out entirely on one’s own.
From a work/business perspective, Ms. Gerner’s site naturally acts as a portfolio of her work for perspective editors or outlets who may want to see samples of what she’s written.
Sadly, however, she doesn’t seem to be utilizing the WordPress category or tag functions which she could use to help delineate her work by broad categories or tags to help find specific types of her writing. She appears to have a “featured” category/tag for some of her bigger pieces to appear at the top of her front page, but I can see the benefit of having a “portfolio” or similar tag to give to prospective outlets to encourage them to read her “best of” work. This would also be helpful to new readers and future fans of her work.
Categories/tags could also be beneficial to readers who may want to follow only her book reviews and not her economics related work, or vice-versa. With a bit of massaging, she could easily have an economics-only RSS feed for those who wanted such a thing. I spent a bit of time in December writing about how I customized my own RSS feeds and helping to make them more discoverable.
An IndieWeb mini-case study of Ms. Gerner’s website
Because it might take some a bit of time to delve into and uncover a lot of the spectacular and inherent value in the the massive and growing wiki behind IndieWeb.org, I thought I’d take a minute or two to point out some of the subtle IndieWeb-esque things that Ms. Gerner’s site does well and point out a few places she (or others) could quickly and easily add a lot of additional value.
IndieWeb-forward things that she is doing
She has her own domain name.
If you’re looking for all things Marina Gerner on the web, where better to start than http://www.marinagerner.com?
She owns her own data.
Technically, it looks like her site is hosted on WordPress.com, so they own, backup, and maintain it for her, but there is a very robust export path, so she can easily export it, back it up, or move it if she chooses.
She’s posting her own content on her own site.
I’m not sure if she’s posting on her site first using the concept of Post on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere (POSSE), but even if she’s posting it secondarily (known as PESOS), she’s still managing to capture it on her site and thereby own a full copy of her output. If any of the publications for which she’s published should go out of business or disappear from the internet, she will still own a copy of her work. (See and compare also the commentary at Anywhere but Medium.)
She’s even got a syndication link (or attribution) at the bottom of each article to indicate alternate locations where the content lives on the internet. Since she’s not using Webmentions to back-port the resulting commentary (see below for more), this is highly useful for finding/reading the potential ensuing commentary on her posts or interacting with it in the communities in which it was originally intended.
Missing IndieWeb pieces that could provide additional value
Syndication Links to Social Media
There are no syndication links to where her content may be living on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media spaces to give an idea of the conversations that are taking place around her work. In addition to the value that these conversations add to her work, they also give an idea of the breadth of the reach of her work, which could be useful not only to her, but to future outlets/employers.
Webmention and back-feed from Brid.gy
She’s clearly not using Webmention (now a W3C Recommendation) or services like Brid.gy which would allow her to have the comments and conversation about her articles from other sites or social media silos come back to live with the original articles on her own site. Given the quality of what she’s writing, I’m sure there are some interesting threads of thought stemming from her work which she’s not capturing back on her own site, but certainly could. As it stands, it’s highly unlikely (and perhaps nearly impossible) that I would go trolling around the thousands or hundreds of thousands of links to try to uncover even a fraction of it myself, but it wouldn’t take much for her to be able to capture all that data and make it easy to consume.
Webmention is a simple protocol that allows one website to indicate to another that it has been mentioned elsewhere on the web–it’s akin to Twitter @mentions, but is something that works internet-wide and not just within Twitter. Brid.gy is a service that bootstraps services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Flickr via API to make them support webmention until they choose to implement it directly themselves.
Given the schedules of many journalists, they may not always have time to pay attention to the commentary on past articles, but if she were aggregating them back to her own site, she could occasionally check back in on them and interact as necessary or appropriate. Even better she could do this herself without necessarily needing to spend the additional time and energy to go to multiple other social websites to do so. I suspect that a lot of the value that journalists get out of Twitter could be better had by aggregating some of it within their own websites instead.
As an example, the reader will note that I also have syndication links (by means of icons) at the bottom of this post, but I’ve enabled Webmentions and have most of the replies and commentary from these social silos coming back to this original post to aggregate as much of the conversation back to this original post. In the event that any of these social media sites are acquired or go out of business for any reason, all of this commentary will be archived here on the site. As an experiment, if you’d like, click on the Twitter icon at the bottom of this post and reply to that post on Twitter, your reply will be sent to me via webmention through Brid.gy and I can choose to display it as a comment under this post.
Owning her replies to others
Naturally if she does interact with her pieces via other social channels (Twitter, for example), she could post those replies on her own site and automatically syndicate them to Twitter. This would also allow her to own all of that subsidiary content and conversation as well.
Search and SEO
Once she owns all of her own writing and subsidiary data, her platform of choice (WordPress along with many others) also provides her with some good internal search tools (for both public-facing and private posts), so that her online hub becomes an online commonplace book of sorts for not only searching her past work, but potentially for creating future work. Naturally this search also extends to the broader web as her online presence gives her some reasonable search engine optimization for making it more discoverable to future fans/followers.
And much more…
Naturally the IndieWeb encompasses far more than what I’ve written above, but for journalists, some of these highlighted pieces are likely the most immediately valuable.
I’ll refer those interested in learning more to browse the wiki available at IndieWeb or join the incredibly helpful community of developers who are almost always in the online chatroom which is accessible via multiple methods (online chat, Slack, IRC, etc.) Major portions of the IndieWeb have become easily attainable to the average person, particularly on ubiquitous platforms like WordPress which have simple configurable plugins to add a lot of this simple functionality quickly and easily.
Another IndieWeb Journalism Example
While I was writing this piece, I heard Mathew Ingram, who currently writes for Fortune, say on This Week in Google that he’s been posting his work to his own website for several years and “syndicating” copies to his employers’ sites. This means he’s got a great archive of all of his own work, though I suspect, based on his website, that much of is posted privately, which is also an option, though it doesn’t help me much as a fan.
I’d love to hear thoughts, comments, or questions journalists have about any of the above. Are there other online tools or features journalists would like to see on their own websites for improved workflow?
Please post them below, on your own website along with a permalink back to the original article (see “Ping Me” below), via webmention, or even by responding/replying on/to one of the social media silos listed just below in the syndication links, or natively on the social platform on which you’re currently reading.Syndicated copies to:
I’ve been invited to participate in a panel discussion as part of an Intersession course by the Johns Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program. I hope fellow alumni in the entertainment and media sectors will come out and join us in Culver City on Thursday.
Join the Hopkins in Hollywood Affinity Group (AEME LA) as they welcome Linda DeLibero, Director of the JHU Film and Media Studies Program, and current students of the program for a dynamic evening of networking which features an alumni panel of industry experts.
Open to alumni, students, and friends of Hopkins, this event is sponsored by Donald Kurz (A&S ’77), Johns Hopkins University Emeritus Trustee and School of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board Member, and the Hopkins in Hollywood (AEME LA) Affinity Group.
Event Date: Thursday, January 12, 2017
Start Time: 6:30pm
End Time: 8:30pm
Donald Kurz, A&S ’77
Jason Altman, A&S ’99
Jason Altman is an Executive Producer at Activision working on the Skylanders franchise and new development projects. Prior to Activision, he spent the past 5 years at Ubisoft Paris in different leadership roles, most recently as the Executive Producer of Just Dance, the #1 music video game franchise. He is a veteran game producer who loves the industry, and is a proud graduate of the media studies program at Johns Hopkins.
Paul Harris Boardman, A&S ’89
Paul Boardman wrote The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) and Devil’s Knot (2014), both of which he also produced, and Deliver Us From Evil (2014), which he also executive produced. In 2008, Paul produced The Day the Earth Stood Still for Fox, and he did production rewrites on Poltergeist, Scream 4, The Messengers, and Dracula 2000, as well as writing and directing the second unit for Hellraiser: Inferno (2000) and writing Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000). Paul has written screenplays for various studios and production companies, including Trimark, TriStar, Phoenix Pictures, Miramax/Dimension, Disney, Bruckheimer Films, IEG, APG, Sony, Lakeshore, Screen Gems, Universal and MGM.
Devon Chivvis, A&S ’96
Devon Chivvis is a showrunner/director/producer of narrative and non-fiction television and film. Inspired by a life-long passion for visual storytelling combined with a love of adventure and the exploration of other cultures, Devon has made travel a priority through her work in film and television. Devon holds a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University in International Relations and French, with a minor in Italian.
Chris Aldrich, Engr ’96
Chris started his career at Hopkins while running several movie groups on campus and was responsible for over $200,000 of renovations in Shriver Hall including installing a new screen, sound system, and 35mm projection while also running the 29th Annual Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium “Framing Society: A Century of Cinema” on the 100th anniversary of the moving picture.
Following Hopkins he joined Creative Artists Agency where he worked in Motion Picture Talent and also did work in music-crossover. He later joined Davis Entertainment with a deal at 20th Century Fox where he worked on the productions of Heartbreakers, Dr. Dolittle 2, Behind Enemy Lines as well as acquisition and development of Alien v. Predator, Paycheck, Flight of the Phoenix, Garfield, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I, Robot and countless others.
Missing the faster pace of representation, he later joined Writers & Artists Agency for several years working in their talent, literary, and book departments. Since that time he’s had his own management company focusing on actors, writers, authors, and directors. Last year he started Boffo Socko Books, an independent publishing company and recently put out the book Amerikan Krazy.
Part of the course:
Students will have the opportunity to spend one week in Los Angeles with Film and Media Studies Director Linda DeLibero. Students will meet and network with JHU alums in the entertainment industry, as well as heads of studios and talent agencies, screenwriters, directors, producers, and various other individuals in film and television. Associated fee with this intersession course is $1400 (financial support is available for those who qualify). Permission of Linda DeLibero is required. Film and Media Studies seniors and juniors will be given preference for the eight available slots, followed by senior minors.Students are expected to arrive in Los Angeles on January 8. The actual course runs January 9-13 with lodging check-in on January 8 and check-out on January 14.
|Course Number: AS.061.377.60
Days: Monday 1/9/2017 – Friday 1/13/2017
Times: M – TBA | Tu- TBA | W- TBA | Th- TBA | F- TBA
Instructor: Linda DeLibero
Many academics are using academic related social platforms (silos) like Mendeley, Academia.edu, Research Gate and many others to collaborate, share data, and publish their work. (And should they really be trusting that data to those outside corporations?)
A few particular examples: I follow physicist John Carlos Baez and mathematician Terry Tao who both have one or more academic blogs for various topics which they POSSE work to several social silos including Google+ and Twitter. While they get some high quality response to posts natively, some of their conversations are forked/fragmented to those other silos. It would be far more useful if they were using webementions (and Brid.gy) so that all of that conversation was being aggregated to their original posts. If they supported webmentions directly, I suspect that some of their collaborators would post their responses on their own sites and send them after publication as comments. (This also helps to protect primacy and the integrity of the original responses as the receiving site could moderate them out of existence, delete them outright, or even modify them!)
While it’s pretty common for researchers to self-publish (sometimes known as academic samizdat) their work on their own site and then cross-publish to a pre-print server (like arXiv.org), prior to publishing in a (preferrably) major journal. There’s really no reason they shouldn’t just use their own personal websites, or online research journals like yours, to publish their work and then use that to collect direct comments, responses, and replies to it. Except possibly where research requires hosting uber-massive data sets which may be bandwidth limiting (or highly expensive) at the moment, there’s no reason why researchers shouldn’t self-host (and thereby own) all of their work.
Instead of publishing to major journals, which are all generally moving to an online subscription/readership model anyway, they might publish to topic specific hubs (akin to pre-print servers or major publishers’ websites). This could be done in much the same way many Indieweb users publish articles/links to IndieWeb News: they publish the piece on their own site and then syndicate it to the hub by webmention using the hub’s endpoint. The hub becomes a central repository of the link to the original as well as making it easier to subscribe to updates via email, RSS, or other means for hundreds or even thousands of researchers in the given area. Additional functionality could be built into these to support popularity measures as well to help filter some of the content on a weekly or monthly basis, which is essentially what many publishers are doing now.
In the end, citation metrics could be measured directly on the author’s original page by the number of incoming webmetions they’ve received on it as others referencing them would be linking to them and therefore sending webmentions. (PLOS|One does something kind of like this by showing related tweets which mention particular papers now: here’s an example.)
Naturally there is some fragility in some of this and protective archive measures should be taken to preserve sites beyond the authors lives, but much of this could be done by institutional repositories like University libraries which do much of this type of work already.
I’ve been meaning to write up a much longer post about how to use some of these types of technologies to completely revamp academic publishing, perhaps I should finish doing that soon? Hopefully the above will give you a little bit of an idea of what could be done.Syndicated copies to:
I’m frustrated right now. I’ve been looking for someone to write about a technology that tons of people have no doubt used and am coming up short. Really, this is my own fault, because I was hoping I’d find someone who wasn’t a white male to address the topic. There’s nothing wrong with a white male addressing the topic, but I’ve been recommending a lot of white males to write about technologies and I was hoping to put my money where my mouth is in terms of my hopes for the diversity of the field in which I work.
I checked a bunch of related repos on GitHub and found that the maintainers were white guys and the committers were white guys and the people filing issues were white guys. So I checked the Following lists of related Twitter accounts and found.. more white guys. The few women I found either didn’t blog or had Tumblrs full of inspirational quotes and cupcake photos and shit. (Which is fine. But not what I happened to be looking for an expert on.)
And so this is how I became frustrated, because I don’t want to hit up people I know over and over again, and I need a way to know people are interested in and knowledgeable about certain topics, and the internet was giving me fuck-all.
Which brings me to the subject of this post, which is that you, developer in an underrepresented group who hopefully received this link somehow through the magical machinations of social media, should be blogging more. I need you to blog more. Little future developers who look or act or dress or think like you need you to blog more. Your slightly confused and defensive developer community needs you to blog more. Please please please please. And if you are like, “I give zero fucks about what those people need, I need to get off work at six and build charming birdhouses or customize my bicycle or something,” the best part is giving zero fucks is totally fine.
See, if you were an ambitious type, you wouldn’t need me to prevail upon you to blog more. You would be doing that and speaking at conferences and merrily on your way to becoming the next Marissa Mayer and that would be just fine for everyone. But there are a lot more not-Marissa-Mayers in the world than there are Marissa Mayers and those people need representation, lest we get it into our obsessive little developer heads that if you are not constantly being the very best at everything you should just go home. We need blog posts that aren’t about big fluffy TED topics like programmer diversity and are instead about that fucking stubborn and reprehensible bug you spent five hours on today because you couldn’t find a goddamned thing on StackOverflow.
So here are some simple guidelines for blogging about code while giving barely any fucks at all from someone who used to do exactly that and still has a job and outside interests too and it’s fine:
no quality control
Fuck quality control. If you wanted a code review, you’d put it on GitHub, amirite? It’s an idea, or a solution, or just a list of links. If you start thinking for even one second that isn’t valuable, try to picture you yourself finding such a thing when you started your day this morning and all the agony and yak-shaving it would have saved you. The internet is full of horrible crap! If your horrible crap is at least well-intentioned, it’s probably a step up from the other horrible crap. You don’t have to be perfect, or convert your glorious tabs to spaces, or even spell-check the damned thing. Just hit Post. The worst that will happen is nothing. Which brings us to..
assume no one will ever see it
People don’t click every link they see in a Twitter bio or a GitHub repo. I don’t even normally do that, which probably half explains why I can’t find you right now when I need you to write about this really important thing. This is great! It means there’s nothing for you to be embarrassed about. It means no haters will leave you nasty comments about how you should indent with spaces. It means your blogging is a nice record for you of all the problems you struggled with and overcame that, believe me, you will completely forget ever happened if you don’t write them down. If you don’t want it to, it never has to be anything more than that.
write like yourself
Writing is not fun if you have to stress over it, but if you can entertain yourself with it, it can be. So, I apologize for the excessive-even-for-me sweariness of this particular blog post, but I will also tell you that it is getting written a shitload faster than things I try to write in a professional and grammatically correct voice. If you want to “write” a whole blog post that is nothing but code examples and reaction gifs, that is valid as heck. Write it without capitalization or apostrophes. Who cares. They say you should write drunk and edit sober, and the thrill of getting something written down really quickly and in a way that amuses you is not unlike drunkenness. But also..
Or if that’s not your vice, eat ice cream. Have America’s Next Top Model playing on the TV in the background. Reflecting on your work shouldn’t have to feel like being at work. Take your pants off. Get comfortable.
actually write about code
I don’t know why, but I think it makes you feel like a better coder. It’s good to be able to explain things, or at least lay them out in snippets so it’s clear how they work together. It’s fun. And if it’s something you already coded, it means that shit is already mostly finished.
If you are currently averaging 0 comments per blog post, it might seem validating to accept each and every potential future comment immediately so at least someone is responding, but don’t. Statistically, the internet is 97% trolls, and you would think that trolls would not bother with a blog where there are normally 0 comments but that would be incorrect. Speaking from experience here, the thrill of seeing a new comment appear only to find out it’s baseless and nasty is far, far less than the thrill of seeing a four-page screed about Bitches Need To Stay In The Kitchen; And Also Impeach Obama in your moderation queue, considering all the time that went into writing it, and hitting Delete. Remember, this is your blog, and no one asked Hacker News for its feedback.
don’t hit post immediately
If you want to not worry about what might happen if other people someday see your blog, do yourself a solid and never post anything in the heat of the moment. Save it as a draft and come back and reread it in the morning. And if you like it in the morning, it’s good! Moreover, if you like it in the morning, you are good at blogging. If you can amuse yourself when you just woke up and you heard all the jokes about the text selection API last night, you have done a good job. And if you can’t, fuck it, leave it in the drafts and don’t worry about rewriting it. Do you want to know how many drafts I have saved on this blog? It is a lot. But not rewriting it is also very important. If you thought it was kind of a piece of shit the first time and you sit down to write it again thinking, “Don’t write a piece of shit. Don’t write a piece of shit,” you will write an even worse piece of shit. Write it later, when a new angle or really clever hack suddenly inspires you. Or not at all. Some blog posts make really good first drafts.
promote it. or don’t.
You might like having a little secret blog where you quietly explain all the things that are wrong with contenteditable that you never ever intend on filing a bug for. Or you might eventually begin to desire some recognition. Both are fine. I mean, please link to the damned thing somewhere, but you are not obligated to tweet once per timezone to alert the internet that You Have Written a Thing. However, if you write a thing and you feel pretty certain it’s brilliant or hilarious or just really elegantly executed clickbait, you don’t have to feel weird about sharing it. The internet is huge. There’s probably at least one other person out there who will feel the same way.
just please please please do it
The same goes for putting your stuff on GitHub, and speaking at your local meetups, and going to your local meetups in the first place, but those can be a lot more intimidating. All joking aside, our communities need to hear from people who aren’t the maintainers and conference speakers and web celebrities. We need to hear from people who give zero fucks, who never worry about their Klout scores or how many people starred their repo. The big names create an echo chamber where ideas are safe and popular and failure and being wrong are covered up so no one else can learn from them. We don’t really badly need any more of that crap. We need you.
E.B. White’s backstory
Elwyn Brooks “E. B.” White (July 11, 1899 – October 1, 1985) was an acclaimed American writer who contributed to The New Yorker magazine and co-authored the quintessential English language style guide The Elements of Style, which is commonly known as “Strunk & White” ostensibly making him the writer’s writer.
While re-reading Charlotte’s Web and then watching the movie version of Charlotte’s Web (Paramount, 2006) while thinking about the struggling writer in White (and all of us really), I’ve found a completely different theme in the piece as an adult that I certainly didn’t consider as a child when I viewed it simply as a maudlin, coming-of-age, commentary on the cycle of life.
An Alternate Theme
One can think of the characters Charlotte, the heroine spider, and Templeton, the despicable rat, as the two polar opposite personalities of almost any (good) writer. Charlotte represents the fastidious, creative, thinking, and erudite writer that writers aspire to be–which White espouses in The Elements of Style.
Templeton is a grubbing, greedy, and not-so-discerning writer who takes almost any word to get the story written so he can feast on his next meal of left-over slop.
Wilbur, the runt Spring pig desperately wanting to live to see the first snow, represents the nascent story. It too starts out stunted and scrawny, and it’s not really quite clear that it will live long enough to get published.
And so the struggle begins between the “Templeton” in the writer, and the “Charlotte” that the writer wants to become.
Charlotte represents care, devotion, creation, and even life (she not only desperately tries to creatively save Wilbur’s life, but dies to give birth to hundreds), while Templeton is a scavenger, doing the least he can to get by and generally taking advantage of others. Charlotte is crafting art while Templeton represents the writer churning out dreck in hopes of making a buck.
Alas, once the written work emerges to finally see its first “Spring”, one finds that Charlotte has died the death we knew was coming, while Templeton remains–as selfish and dreadful as before–ready to gorge himself once more.
There’s also the bleak and looming fact that Charlotte is now gone and only the vague hope that one of her few progeny will survive to live up to even a fraction of her good name. (Will my next book be as good as the first??)
The Writer takes on the Editor
The other two voices a writer often hears in her head are those represented by the characters of Fern, the doe-eyed youngster, and John Arable, the pragmatic farmer whose sir name is literally defined as “suitable for farming”, but not too coincidentally similar to parable, but without the ‘p.’ The sensible farmer (editor) says kill the runt pig (read: story) before you fall in love with it, while Fern (the creative writer) advocates to let it live a while longer–naively perhaps–wanting to know what results.
Who will you be?
So as you work on your own writing process, who will you be? Templeton, Charlotte, Fern, or John Arable? Whichever you choose for the moment, remember that all of them are ultimately necessary for the best story seeing the proverbial Spring.
Though your story may not win the “blue ribbon at the fair”, the fact that it has a life that extends the winter is a special prize all on its own to the team that created it.
On Why E.B. White Actually Wrote Charlotte’s Web
Now that I’ve sketched out the argument, I suspect that most writers will now know, as I do, why E.B. White wrote Charlotte’s Web.
–Achoo!Syndicated copies to:
Not a day goes by that I don’t run across a fantastic blog built or hosted on WordPress that looks gorgeous–they do an excellent job of making this pretty easy to accomplish.
Invariably the blog’s author has a generic avatar (blech!) instead of a nice, warm and humanizing photo of their lovely face.
Or, perhaps, as a user, you’ve always wondered how some people qualified to have their photo included with their comment while you were left as an anonymous looking “mystery person” or a randomized identicon, monster, or even an 8-bit pixelated blob? The secret the others know will be revealed momentarily.
Which would you prefer?
Somehow, knowing how to replace that dreadful randomized block with an actual photo is too hard or too complicated. Why? In part, it’s because WordPress separated out this functionality as a decentralized service called Gravatar, which stands for Globally Recognized Avatar. In some sense this is an awesome idea because then people everywhere (and not just on WordPress) can use the Gravatar service to change their photo across thousands of websites at once. Unfortunately it’s not always clear that one needs to add their name, email address, and photo to Gravatar in order for the avatars to be populated properly on WordPress related sites.
(Suggestion for WordPress: Maybe the UI within the user account section could include a line about Gravatars?)
So instead of trying to write out the details for the third time this week, I thought I’d write it once here with a bit more detail and then point people to it for the future.
Another quick example
Can you guess which user is the blog’s author in the screencapture?
The correct answer is Anand Sarwate, the second commenter in the list. While Anand’s avatar seems almost custom made for a blog on randomness and information theory, it would be more inviting if he used a photo instead.
How to fix the default avatar problem
What is Gravatar?
Your Gravatar is an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Avatars help identify your posts on blogs and web forums, so why not on any site?
Need some additional motivation? Watch this short video:
Step 1: Get a Gravatar Account
If you’ve already got a WordPress.com account, this step is easy. Because the same corporate parent built both WordPress and Gravatar, if you have an account on one, you automattically have an account on the other which uses the same login information. You just need to log into Gravatar.com with your WordPress username and password.
If you don’t have a WordPress.com account or even a blog, but just want your photo to show up when you comment on WordPress and other Gravatar enabled blogs, then just sign up for an account at Gravatar.com. When you comment on a blog, it’ll ask for your email address and it will use that to pull in the photo to which it’s linked.
Step 2: Add an email address
Log into your Gravatar account. Choose an email address you want to modify: you’ll have at least the default you signed up with or you can add additional email addresses.
Step 3: Add a photo to go with that email address
Upload as many photos as you’d like into the account. Then for each of the email addresses you’ve got, associate each one with at least one of your photos.
Example: In the commenters’ avatars shown above, Anand was almost there. He already had a Gravatar account, he just hadn’t added any photos.
Step 4: Fill out the rest of your social profile
Optionally you can additional social details like a short bio, your other social media presences, and even one or more websites or blogs that you own.
Step 5: Repeat
You can add as many emails and photos as you’d like. By linking different photos to different email addresses, you’ll be able to change your photo identity based on the email “key” you plug into sites later.
If you get tired of one photo, just upload another and make it the default photo for the email addresses you want it to change for. All sites using Gravatar will update your avatar for use in the future.
Step 6: Use your email address on your WordPress account
Now, go back to the user profile section on your blog, which is usually located at http://www.YOURSITE.com/wp-admin/users.php.
In the field for the email, input (one of) the email(s) you used in Gravatar that’s linked to a photo.
Don’t worry, the system won’t show your email and it will remain private–WordPress and Gravatar simply use it as a common “key” to serve up the right photo and metadata from Gravatar to the WordPress site.
Once you’ve clicked save, your new avatar should show up in the list of users. More importantly it’ll now show up in all of the WordPress elements (like most author bio blocks and in comments) that appear on your site.
WordPress themes need to be Gravatar enabled to be able to use this functionality, but in practice, most of them do, particularly for comments sections. If yours isn’t, then you can usually add it with some simple code.
In the WordPress admin interface one can go to
Settings>>Discussion and enable
View people's profiles when you mouse over their Gravatars under the heading “Gravatar Hovercards” to enable people to see more information about you and the commenters on your blog (presuming the comment section of your theme is Gravatar enabled.)
Some WordPress users often have several user accounts that they use to administer their site. One might have a secure administrator account they only use for updates and upgrades, another personal account (author/editor admin level account which uses their name) for authoring posts, and another (author/editor admin level) account for making admin notice posts or commenting as a generic moderator. In these cases, you need to make sure that each of these accounts has an email address with an an associated Gravatar account with the same email and the desired photo linked to it. (One Gravatar account with multiple emails/photos will usually suffice, though they could be different.)
Example: In Nate’s case above, we showed that his photo didn’t show in the author bio box, and it doesn’t show up in some comments, but it does show up in other comments on his blog. This is because he uses at least two different user accounts: one for authoring posts and another for commenting. The user account he uses for some commenting has a linked Gravatar account with email and photo and the other does not.
Want more information on how you can better own and manage your online identity? Visit IndieWeb.org: “
A people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’.”
To help beautify your web presence a bit, if you notice that your photo doesn’t show up in the author block or comments in your theme, you can (create and) use your WordPress.com username/password in an account on their sister site Gravatar.com. Uploading your preferred photo on Gravatar and linking it to an email will help to automatically populate your photo in both your site and other WordPress sites (in comments) across the web. To make it work on your site, just go to your user profile in your WordPress install and use the same email address in your user profile as your Gravatar account and the decentralized system will port your picture across automatically. If necessary, you can use multiple photos and multiple linked email addresses in your Gravatar account to vary your photos.Syndicated copies to:
Live Tweeting and Twitter Lists
While attending the upcoming conference Dodging the Memory Hole 2016: Saving Online News later this week, I’ll make an attempt to live Tweet as much as possible. (If you’re following me on Twitter on Thursday and Friday and find me too noisy, try using QuietTime.xyz to mute me on Twitter temporarily.) I’ll be using Kevin Marks‘ excellent Noter Live web app to both send out the tweets as well as to store and archive them here on this site thereafter (kind of like my own version of Storify.)
In getting ramped up to live Tweet it, it helps significantly to have a pre-existing list of attendees (and remote participants) talking about #DtMH2016 on Twitter, so I started creating a Twitter list by hand. I realized that it would be nice to have a little bot to catch others as the week progresses. Ever lazy, I turned to IFTTT.com to see if something already existed, and sure enough there’s a Twitter search with a trigger that will allow one to add people who mention a particular hashtag to a Twitter list automatically.
Here’s the resultant list, which should grow as the event unfolds throughout the week:
🔖 People on Twitter talking about #DtMH2016
Feel free to follow or subscribe to the list as necessary. Hopefully this will make attending the conference more fruitful for those there live as well as remote.
Not on the list? Just tweet a (non-private) message with the conference hashtag: #DTMH2016 and you should be added to the list shortly.
IFTTT Recipe for Creating Twitter Lists of Conference Attendees
For those interested in creating their own Twitter lists for future conferences (and honestly the hosts of all conferences should do this as they set up their conference hashtag and announce the conference), below is a link to the ifttt.com recipe I created for this, but which can be modified for use by others.
Naturally, it would also be nice if, as people registered for conferences, they were asked for their Twitter handles and websites so that the information could be used to create such online lists to help create longer lasting relationships both during the event and afterwards as well. (Naturally providing these details should be optional so that people who wish to maintain their privacy could do so.)Syndicated copies to:
Instagram filter used: Lark
Photo taken at: Porta Via
I had lunch today with author Henry James Korn who revealed big chunks of the plot of his upcoming novel Zionista to me. I should be getting a copy of the first draft to read over the weekend, and I can’t wait. It sounds like it continues the genius of his political satire in Amerikan Krazy.
We met at Charlie’s Coffee House, 266 Monterey Road, South Pasadena, CA, where we stayed until closing at 8:00. Deciding that we hadn’t had enough, we moved the party (South Pasadena rolls up their sidewalks early) over to the local Starbucks, 454 Fair Oaks Ave, South Pasadena, CA where we stayed until they closed at 11:00pm.
Quiet Writing Hour
Angelo manned the fort alone with aplomb while building intently. If I’m not mistaken, he did use my h-card to track down my phone number to see what was holding me up, so as they say in IRC: h-card++!
Introductions and Demonstrations
Needing no introductions this week, Angelo launched us off with a relatively thorough demo of his Canopy platform which he’s built from the ground up in python! Starting from an empty folder on a host with a domain name, he downloaded and installed his code directly from Github and spun up a completely new version of his site in under 2 minutes. In under 20 minutes of some simple additional downloads and configuration of a few files, he also had locations, events, people and about modules up and running. Despite the currently facile appearance of his website, there’s really a lot of untapped power in what he’s built so far. It’s all available on Github for those interested in playing around; I’m sure he’d appreciate pull requests.
Along the way, I briefly demoed some of the functionality of Kevin Marks’ deceptively powerful Noterlive web app for not only live tweeting, but also owning those tweets on one’s own site in a simple way after the fact (while also automatically including proper markup and microformats)! I also ran through some of the overall functionality of my Known install with a large number of additional plugins to compare and contrast UX/UI with respect to Canopy.
We also discussed a bit of Angelo’s recentnetwork crawling project, and I took the opportunity to fix a bit of the representative h-card on my site. (Angelo, does a new crawl appear properly on lahacker.net now?)
Before leaving Charlie’s we did manage to remember to take a group photo this time around. Not having spent enough time chatting over the past few weeks, we decamped to a local Starbucks and continued our conversation along with some addition brief demos and discussion of other itches for future building.
We also spent a few minutes discussing the upcoming IndieWebCamp LA logistics for November as well as outreach to the broader Los Angeles area dev communities. If you’re interested in attending, please RSVP. If you’d like to volunteer or help sponsor the camp, please don’t hesitate to contact either of us. I’m personally hoping to attend DrupalCamp LA this weekend while wearing a stylish IndieWebCamp t-shirt that’s already on its way to me.
In keeping with the schedule of the broader Homebrew movement, so we’re already committed to our next meeting on September 7. It’s tentatively at the same location unless a more suitable one comes along prior to then. Details will be posted to the wiki in the next few days.
Thanks for coming everyone! We’ll see you next time.
Live Tweets Archive
Though not as great as the notes that Kevin Marks manages to put together, we did manage to make good use of noterlive for a few supplementary thoughts:
On my way to Homebrew Website Club Los Angeles in moments. http://stream.boffosocko.com/2016/homebrew-website-club-la-2016-08-24 #
I’ve torn some things down, but slowly rebuilding. I’m just minutes away from rel-me to be able to log into wiki #
My github was receiving some autodumps from a short-lived indieweb experiment. #
is describing his canopy system used to build his site #
Canopy builds in a minute and 52 secs… inside are folders roots and trunk w/ internals #
Describing how he builds in locations to Canopy #
Apparently @t has a broken certificate for https, so my parser gracefully falls back to http instead. #
This morning while breezing through my Woodwind feed reader, I ran across a post by Rick Mendes with the hashtags #readlater and #readinglist which put me down a temporary rabbit hole of thought about reading-related post types on the internet.
I’m obviously a huge fan of reading and have accounts on GoodReads, Amazon, Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, and literally dozens of other services that support or assist the reading endeavor. (My affliction got so bad I started my own publishing company last year.)
READ LATER is an indication on (or relating to) a website that one wants to save the URL to come back and read the content at a future time.
I started a page on the IndieWeb wiki to define read later where I began writing some philosophical thoughts. I decided it would be better to post them on my own site instead and simply link back to them. As a member of the Indieweb my general goal over time is to preferentially quit using these web silos (many of which are listed on the referenced page) and, instead, post my reading related work and progress here on my own site. Naturally, the question becomes, how does one do this in a simple and usable manner with pretty and reasonable UX/UI for both myself and others?
Currently I primarily use a Pocket bookmarklet to save things (mostly newspaper articles, magazine pieces, blog posts) for reading later and/or the like/favorite functionality in Twitter in combination with an IFTTT recipe to save the URL in the tweet to my Pocket account. I then regularly visit Pocket to speed read though articles. While Pocket allows downloading of (some) of one’s data in this regard, I’m exploring options to bring in the ownership of this workflow into my own site.
For more academic leaning content (read journal articles), I tend to rely on an alternate Mendeley-based workflow which also starts with an easy-to-use bookmarklet.
I’ve also experimented with bookmarking a journal article and using hypothes.is to import my highlights from that article, though that workflow has a way to go to meet my personal needs in a robust way while still allowing me to own all of my own data. The benefit is that fixing it can help more than just myself while still fitting into a larger personal workflow.
A Broader Reading (Parent) Post-type
Philosophically a read later post-type could be considered similar to a (possibly) unshared or private bookmark with potential possible additional meta-data like: progress, date read, notes, and annotations to be added after the fact, which then technically makes it a read post type.
A potential workflow viewed over time might be: read later >> bookmark >> notes/annotations/marginalia >> read >> review. This kind of continuum of workflow might be able to support a slightly more complex overall UI for a more simplified reading post-type in which these others are all sub-types. One could then make a single UI for a reading post type with fields and details for all of the sub-cases. Being updatable, the single post could carry all the details of one’s progress.
Indieweb encourages simplicity (DRY) and having the fewest post-types possible, which I generally agree with, but perhaps there’s a better way of thinking of these several types. Concatenating them into one reading type with various data fields (and the ability of them to be public/private) could allow all of the subcategories to be included or not on one larger and more comprehensive post-type.
- Not including one subsection (or making it private), would simply prevent it from showing, thus one could have a traditional bookmark post by leaving off the read later, read, and review sub-types and/or data.
- As another example, I could include the data for read later, bookmark, and read, but leave off data about what I highlighted and/or sub-sections of notes I prefer to remain private.
A Primary Post with Webmention Updates
Alternately, one could create a primary post (potentially a bookmark) for the thing one is reading, and then use further additional posts with webmentions on each (to the original) thereby adding details to the original post about the ongoing progress. In some sense, this isn’t too far from the functionality provided by GoodReads with individual updates on progress with brief notes and their page that lists the overall view of progress. Each individual post could be made public/private to allow different viewerships, though private webmentions may be a hairier issue. I know some are also experimenting with pushing updates to posts via micropub and other methods, which could be appealing as well.
This may be cumbersome over time, but could potentially be made to look something like the GoodReads UI below, which seems very intuitive. (Note that it’s missing any review text as I’m currently writing it, and it’s not public yet.)
Ideally, better distinguishing between something that has been bookmarked and read/unread with dates for both the bookmarking and reading, as well as potentially adding notes and highlights relating to the article is desired. Something potentially akin to Devon Zuegel‘s “Notes” tab (built on a custom script for Evernote and Tumblr) seems somewhat promising in a cross between a simple reading list (or linkblog) and a commonplace book for academic work, but doesn’t necessarily leave room for longer book reviews.
I’ll also need to consider the publishing workflow, in some sense as it relates to the reverse chronological posting of updates on typical blogs. Perhaps a hybrid approach of the two methods mentioned would work best?
Potentially having an interface that bolts together the interface of GoodReads (picture above) and Amazon’s notes/highlights together would be excellent. I recently noticed (and updated an old post) that they’re already beta testing such a beast.
I’ll keep thinking about the architecture for what I’d ultimately like to have, but I’m always open to hearing what other (heavy) readers have to say about the subject and the usability of such a UI.
Please feel free to comment below, or write something on your own site (which includes the URL of this post) and submit your URL in the field provided below to create a webmention in which your post will appear as a comment.
We met at Charlie’s Coffee House, 266 Monterey Road, Pasadena, CA.
Quiet Writing Hour
The quiet writing hour started off quiet with Angelo holding down the fort while others were stuck in interminable traffic, but if the IRC channel is any indication, he got some productive work done.
Introductions and Quick Demonstrations
Following introductions, I did a demo of the browser-based push notifications I enabled on this site about a week ago and discussed some pathways to help others explore options for doing so on theirs. Coincidentally, WordPress.com just unveiled some functionality like this yesterday that is more site-owner oriented than user oriented, so I’ll be looking into that functionality shortly.
Angelo showed off some impressive python code which he’s preparing to opensource, but just before the meeting had managed to completely bork his site, so everyone got a stunning example of a “502 Bad Gateway” notice.
At the break, we were so engaged we all completely forgot to either take a break or do the usual group photo. My 1 minute sketch gives a reasonable facsimile of what a photo would have looked like.
Peer-to-Peer Building and Help
With a new group, we spent some time discussing some general Indieweb principles, outlining ideas, and example projects.
Since Michael was very new to the group, we helped him install the WordPress IndieWeb plugin and configure a few of the sub-plugins to get him started. We discussed some basic next steps and pointers to the WordPress documentation to provide him some direction for building until we meet again.
We spent a few minutes discussing the upcoming IndieWebCamp logistics as well as outreach to the broader Los Angeles area community.
For a new group, there’s enough enthusiasm to do at least two meetings a month, in keeping with the broader Homebrew movement, so we’re already committed to our next meeting on August 24. It’s tentatively at the same location unless a more suitable one comes along prior to then.
Thanks for coming everyone! We’ll see you next time.Syndicated copies to:
A push notification (AKA client notification) is a notification that shows up on one or more of your client devices without you having to explicitly request it — it’s “pushed” to you, instead of you having to poll for it. –Source: IndieWeb.org
Today I came across a beta web service called Pushpad that provides easy-to-install push notifications. As a result, for people who spend a lot of time in front of their screens, they can now subscribe to updates on the site here via web browser push notifications. Subscribers will get a small toaster-like pop up notification in real time on their screen to indicate that new content was published.
The service was quick and simple to set up with lots of documentation. While geared at large corporations looking for a simple turnkey implementation for push notifications on most major web browsers, it’s also easily usable by smaller sites. Even better it’s free for providing less than 10,000 notifications a month, which covers most small sites.
They provide an “Express” version that requires no serious technical skills and sets up in just a few minutes and a separate “Pro” version which provides a lot of additional customization (including a white labeled version) for those with the development skills to implement it.
For those on WordPress, they also have an easy to use plugin.
Pushpad supports the Push API for Chrome and Firefox and APNs for Safari.
Pushpad also supports integration with Zapier (currently in beta), which means that any of the hundreds of applications that are integrated with Zapier can be used to create push notifications on the desktop. Hopefully they include IFTTT.com soon too. I’m already using Pushbullet with IFTTT for integration between my Android phone and my desktop, but additional integrations for personalized notifications could be cool.
Roll Your Own
But maybe you’re hard core? If you prefer not relying on outside services, you can always build your own push notifications! In particular, IndieWeb.org provides some thoughts and tips about how to implement these for yourself based on open web standards.
Push Notifications for BoffoSocko.com
Now that we’ve been talking about them, would you like to try receiving them in the future? You can subscribe to push notifications for my blog by simply clicking on the icon below and then authenticating your subscription:
Not into push notifications? Maybe this isn’t your favorite way to find out about my content? If not, I offer a number of other ways to subscribe and consume my content.Syndicated copies to:
Bioinformatics is a broad discipline in which one common denominator is the need to produce and/or use software that can be applied to biological data in different contexts. To enable and ensure the replicability and traceability of scientific claims, it is essential that the scientific publication, the corresponding datasets, and the data analysis are made publicly available [1,2]. All software used for the analysis should be either carefully documented (e.g., for commercial software) or, better yet, openly shared and directly accessible to others [3,4]. The rise of openly available software and source code alongside concomitant collaborative development is facilitated by the existence of several code repository services such as SourceForge, Bitbucket, GitLab, and GitHub, among others. These resources are also essential for collaborative software projects because they enable the organization and sharing of programming tasks between different remote contributors. Here, we introduce the main features of GitHub, a popular web-based platform that offers a free and integrated environment for hosting the source code, documentation, and project-related web content for open-source projects. GitHub also offers paid plans for private repositories (see Box 1) for individuals and businesses as well as free plans including private repositories for research and educational use.