Today is My Third Indieweb Anniversary

I suppose I’ve had a few dozen domains and sites at earlier points, but three years ago today was when I began conglomerating it all here at boffosocko.com. It’s amazing to see the changes (big and small) I’ve been able to effect since I celebrated last year. It’s had a profound effect at how I interact on the internet and consume content.

For those who aren’t aware of the broader concept of Indieweb, here is a great introduction with some history by Tantek Çelik entitled The Once and Future IndieWeb

IndieWeb Summit

This is also a good time to remind those who are interested, that the annual IndieWebSummit is coming up soon and RSVP’s are now open:

June 24-25, 2017
Portland, Oregon
The seventh annual gathering for independent web creators of all kinds, from graphic artists, to designers, UX engineers, coders, hackers, to share ideas, actively work on creating for their own personal websites, and build upon each others creations.

I hope to see people there in person, though I’ll note that remote attendance is possible as well.

A Brief Look Back

This post started out initially as a brief status update and I extended it with the video and notice about the upcoming Summit.

Now that I’m past what I would consider “note” length, and since it’s a milestone of sorts, I thought it would be interesting to take a nostalgic look back at my last year of Indieweb. I didn’t think it would be quite so much, but it’s really amazing what you can do if you take things in small steps over time. So here’s a quick review of some of the things I’ve done in the last year on my site. (Thank goodness for documentation!)

Other Indieweb activities, which don’t necessarily appear on my site:

As a separate statistic I made approximately 1,071 posts to my (main) site in the last year compared to 136 in the same time frame the year prior. There are over 2,400 posts on my social stream site this past year. It’s great owning it all here now instead of having it spread out all over hundreds of other sites and thousands of URLs over which I have no control.

To my recollection I’ve only joined 6 new silos in the past year (to which I really only syndicate into). In that same time frame at least 15 services of which I was a member or used at one time or another have shut down and disappeared. Entertainingly (and perhaps miraculously) one which had previously disappeared came back to life: Upcoming.org!

Syndicated copies to:

@Mentions from Twitter to My Website

An outline of how I used Indieweb technology to let Twitter users send @mentions to me on my own website.

You can tweet to my website.

One of my favorite things about the indieweb is how much less time I spend on silo sites like Facebook and Twitter. In particular, one of my favorite things is not only having the ability to receive comments from many of these sites back on the original post on my own site, but to have the ability for people to @mention me from Twitter to my own site.

Yes, you heard that right: if you @mention me in a tweet, I’ll receive it on my own website. And my site will also send me the notification, so I can turn off all the silly and distracting notifications Twitter had been sending me.

Below, I’ll detail how I set it up using WordPress, though the details below can certainly be done using other CMSes and platforms.

rel=”me”

The rel=”me” is put on the link that wraps this Twitter icon in my h-card on my homepage.

On my homepage, using a text widget, I’ve got an h-card with my photo, some basic information about me, and links to various other sites that relate to me and what I’m doing online.

One of these is a link to my Twitter account (see screenshot). On that link I’m using the XFN’s rel=”me” on the link to indicate that this particular link is a profile equivalence of my identity on the web. It essentially says, “this Twitter account is mine and also represents me on the web.”

Here’s a simplified version of what my code looks like:

<a href="https://twitter.com/chrisaldrich" rel="me">@chrisaldrich</a>

If you prefer to have an invisible link on your site that does the same thing you could alternately use:

<link href="https://twitter.com/twitterhandle" rel="me">

Similarly Twitter also supports rel=”me”, so all I need to do there is to edit my profile and enter my website www.boffosocko.com into the “website” field and save it. Now my Twitter profile page indicates, this website belongs to this Twitter account. If you look at the source of the page when it’s done, you’ll see the following:

<a class="u-textUserColor" title="http://www.boffosocko.com" href="https://t.co/AbnYvNUOcy" target="_blank" rel="me nofollow noopener">boffosocko.com</a>

Though it’s a bit more complicated than what’s on my site, it’s the rel=”me” that’s the important part for our purposes.

Now there are links on both sites that indicate reciprocally that each is related to the other as versions of me on the internet. The only way they could point at each other this way is because I have some degree of ownership of both pages. I own my own website outright, and I have access to my profile page on Twitter because I have an account there. (Incidentally, Kevin Marks has built a tool for distributed identity verification based on the reciprocal rel=”me” concept.)

Webmention Plugin

Next I downloaded and installed the Webmention plugin for WordPress. From the plugin interface, I just did a quick search, clicked install, then clicked “activate.” It’s really that easy.

It’s easy, but what does it do?

Webmention is an open internet protocol (recommended by the W3C) that allows any website to send and receive the equivalent of @mentions on the internet. Unlike sites like Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Google+, Instagram, etc. these mentions aren’t stuck within their own ecosystems, but actually work across website borders anywhere on the web that supports them.

I use the domain name BoffoSocko as my online identity.

The other small difference with webmention is instead of using one’s username (like @chrisaldrich in my case on Twitter) as a trigger, the trigger becomes the permalink URL you’re mentioning. In my case you can webmention either my domain name http://www.boffosocko.com or any other URL on my site. If you really wanted to, you could target even some of the smallest pieces of content on my website–including individual paragraphs, sentences, or even small sentence fragments–using fragmentions, but that’s something for another time.

Don’t use WordPress?

See if there’s webmention support for your CMS, or ask your CMS provider or community, system administrator, or favorite web developer to add it to your site based on the specification. While it’s nice to support both outgoing and incoming webmentions, for the use we’re outlining here, we only need to support incoming webmentions.

Connect Brid.gy

Sadly, I’ll report that Twitter does not support webmentions (yet?!) otherwise we could probably stop here and everything would work like magic. But they do have an open API right? “But wait a second now…” you say, “I don’t know code. I’m not a developer.”

Worry not, some brilliant engineers have created a bootstrap called Brid.gy that (among many other useful and brilliant things) forces silos like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and Flickr to send webmentions for you until they decide to support them natively. Better, it’s a free service, though you could donate to the ASPCA or EFF in their name to pay it forward.

So swing your way over to http://brid.gy and under “Get started” click on the Twitter logo. Use OAuth to log into Twitter and authorize the app. You’ll be redirected back to Brid.gy which will then ensure that your website and Twitter each have appropriate and requisite rel=”me”s on your links. You can then enable Brid.gy to “listen for responses.”

Now whenever anyone @mentions you (public tweets only) on Twitter, Brid.gy will be watching your account and will automatically format and send a webmention to your website on Twitter’s behalf.

On WordPress your site can send you simple email notifications by changing your settings in the Settings >> Discussion dashboard, typically at http://www.exampl.com/wp-admin/options-discussion.php. One can certainly use other plugins to arrange for different types of notifications as well.

Exotic Webmentions

A bonus step for those who want more control!

In the grand scheme of things webmentions are typically targeted at specific pages or posts on your site. General @mentions on Twitter not related to specific content on your site will usually be sent to your homepage. Over time, this may begin to get a bit overwhelming and may take your page longer to load as a result. An example of this is Kevin Marks’ site which has hundreds and hundreds of webmentions on it. What to do if this isn’t your preference?

In my case, I thought it would be wise to collect all these unspecific or general mentions on a special page on my site. I decided to call it “Mentions” and created a page at http://boffosocko.com/mentions/.

Then I inserted a small piece of custom code in the functions.php file of my site’s (child) theme like the following:

// For allowing exotic webmentions on homepages and archive pages

function handle_exotic_webmentions($id, $target) {
// If $id is homepage, reset to mentions page
if ($id == 55669927) {
return 55672667;
}

// do nothing if id is set
if ($id) {
return $id;
}

// return "default" id if plugin can't find a post/page
return 55672667;
}

add_filter("webmention_post_id", "handle_exotic_webmentions", 10, 2);

This simple filter for the WordPress Webmention plugin essentially looks at incoming webmentions and if they’re for a specific page/post, they get sent to that page/post. If they’re sent to either my homepage or aren’t directed to a particular page, then they get redirected to my /mentions/ page.

In my case above, my homepage has an id of 55669927 and my mentions page has an id of 55672667, you should change your numbers to the appropriate ids on your own site when using the code above. (Hint: these id numbers can usually be quickly found by hovering over the “edit” links typically found on such pages and posts and relying on the browser to show where they resolve.)

Tip of the Iceberg

Naturally this is only the tip of the indieweb iceberg. The indieweb movement is MUCH more than just this tiny, but useful, piece of functionality. There’s so much more you can do with not only Webmentions and even Brid.gy functionality. If you’ve come this far and are interested in more of how you can better own your online identity, connect to others, and own your data. Visit the Indieweb.org wiki homepage or try out their getting started page.

If you’re on WordPress, there’s some additional step-by-step instructions: Getting Started on WordPress.

Syndicated copies to:

My First Internet Meme! 🍍

A short story about how I was involved in the birth of the Mastodon 🍍 meme

Joining Mastodon.social

A few months ago, I was reading Hacker News and saw a note about the new social media platform Mastodon built on top of GNU Social. Then, through the #Indieweb IRC chat logs, I came across another mention of the platform by Kevin Marks. Shortly thereafter, he appeared on This Week in Google talking about it, an episode which I listened to on December 7. Two days later I finally joined Mastodon to see what was going on, though I’d been on GNU Social sites Quitter.se and Quitter.no much earlier.

An early Mastodon experience

I lurked around on the platform for a bit to check it out and then promptly walked away with the determination that it was “just another silo” and I’d prefer to keep posting on my own site and syndicating out if necessary. It wasn’t until ADN (a Twitter-like social media platform that was previously at app.net) was shutting down on March 15th and people were leaving there to find other communities that I was reminded of Mastodon as I was also looking at platforms like 10 Centuries and pnut.io. Others were obviously doing the same thing and it was then that articles began popping up in the more mainstream tech media. I thought I’d give Mastodon another try and popped into my account to see what had changed, how, and importantly could I build any of the functionality into my own site?

Within a few minutes of rejoining and following a few people in the local stream, I was greeted with this:

My immediate thought, having grown up in the South, was “How welcoming–A pineapple!”

A quick comment later and I realized that it was just coincidence.

A flurry of articles about Mastodon

Fast forward about a week, dozens of Mastodon articles later, and last night I’m reading (courtesy of yet another link posted in the #Indieweb chat–hint: if you want to know where the bleeding edge of the social web is, you should be either lurking or participating there) the article What I wish I knew before joining Mastodon: Where I attempt to explain Mastodon through Harry Potter gifs by Qina Liu, the Digital Engagement Editor at The Buffalo News (on Medium for some odd reason rather than The Buffalo News itself).

The article is well written and is a pretty good tutorial on what Mastodon is, how it works, and how to begin participating. Toward the end it also gets into some of the Mastodon culture. Like a great reporter, Liu obviously spent some time to get to know the natives. She finishes off the story with a short vignette on pineapples which I found eerily familiar. Hey, it’s my friend @acw! As the article wears on, I begin to think, “Oh dear, what have I done?!”

I’m excerpting the tail end of the article for more context about the pineapple meme:

Why am I seeing pineapples all over Mastodon?

Alright, so I’m no P.J. Vogt, Alex Goldman or any of the other awesome producers at the podcast “Reply All,” but I’m going to attempt to “Yes, Yes, No” this for you guys.

🍍🍍🍍 on Mastodon got started by Alex Weiner (@acw@mastodon.social), a software developer who uses APL. Since APL sounds like 🍎, he really likes 🍎 and any words including 🍎 like 🎄🍎.

So he started tooting 🍍 to new people as a form of “hello,” “welcome,” “aloha” — and you get the idea.

And he also started boosting toots with 🍍.

So 🍍 became the emoji shorthand for boost.

And 🍍ing also became Internet slang for when your Mastodon follower count surpasses your Twitter follower count.

But pineapple appreciation didn’t end there. Other people started posting 🍍 in their display name.

And even Rochko made a pineapple joke.

So to recap, if you get a 🍍 on Mastodon, it’s…

Plus, pineapples are awesome.

Except if you’re the president of Iceland, who doesn’t like 🍍🍕.

So was that a “Yes, Yes, Yes”?

So apparently my short note about the “meaning” behind the pineapple has helped to turn it into a “thing” on the internet.

For the historians, here’s the thread of the original conversation:

Ultimately, because the pineapple is such a long-standing symbol of welcoming, it has to be a good thing. Right?

So if you were lucky enough to get into Mastodon.social before registration was turned off (maybe they’ll turn it back on one day, or you can get into one of the many other instances), feel free to give me a follow there and enjoy the pineapples.

You’re Welcome! 🍍

Syndicated copies to:

A New Way to “Know and Master Your Social Media Flow”

On the anniversary of the death of FriendFeed, I update Louis Gray's flawed social media diagram.

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):

Louis Gray’s Social Media Flow Diagram from 2009

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:

This is how I always thought that the diagram should have been drawn since before 2009. Now it can be a reality. POSSE definition. Backfeed definition.

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+.)

Number of posts by year on Louis Gray’s personal blog.

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.

 

Syndicated copies to:

Mastodon.Social isn’t as Federated or as Decentralized as the Indie Web

Mastodon may be the hot thing in social media right now, but you could be living closer to the bleeding edge of true openness and freedom

Mastodon.social is the cool new social platform[1][2], and certainly prettier than many of the other federated GNU social instances. My Twitter feed is full of mastodon mentions right now with many people saying “I’m on mastodon.social now as _____, come follow me.”–a phrase I haven’t seen since the last social boom in 2009 before the new class of multi-billion dollar corporations began monetizing their users.

I like the cute mastodon imagery and the concept of a “toot”, but isn’t this yet another social media silo that’s going to own all my content and have control over how I interact with it? What happens when everyone gets tired of it? What happens weeks, months, years from now when it decides to shut down or gets bought out like so many others?

Federated and Decentralized

The buzzwords of the week seem to be “federated” and “decentralized”. I’m glad that tens of thousands of people are being introduced to these concepts this week, but they’re definitely not new, and they’re far from perfected.

If we want openness, federation, identity, flexibility, and control why not just have our own website? They can do pretty much everything that most of the social networks can do now, but with much greater freedom. They’d probably be even stronger if people hadn’t ceded their lives and all their thoughts to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al.  Many people in the Indieweb community are already leveraging their own sites and some simple code to do just this.

My Website is an Example

My site is mine. I own the domain name and all the data that gets posted to it. I can write as much or as little as I want about anything I like. No one is artificially limiting me for length. I can post photos. I can post audio, even video. I can write a comment on my own site about something on another site and I don’t have to hope it won’t be moderated out of existence. If I don’t like it, I can edit it (I’m looking at you Twitter) or delete it at any time and know it’s gone (I’m looking at you Facebook).

I support the W3C Webmention recommendation so you can write something on your site and send me the equivalent of an @mention (one which will work across website boundaries instead of being stuck inside them like Twitter, Medium, and Facebook all do). Your mention will then allow your post to show up on my site as a comment! Yes, you hear that correctly. You can use one website to comment on another that’s completely unrelated to the first.

If you don’t have webmention set up yet (via a plugin or other implementation), just add the permalink of my post to your reply on your own site and then put your post’s permalink into the URL labeled box below and click “Ping Me”. Shazam! I have a copy of your comment, but you still own what you wrote to me. Now that’s true website to website federation because it uses open standards that aren’t controlled by third party corporations.

Incidentally I also syndicate many of my posts to the walled gardens like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ (where people apparently really love ads served within their content) so I’m not completely cut off from my social graph. Comments and reactions from those silos come back to live with my original posts so everything lives here on my site–future-proofed against their possible disappearance. It also means the conversation doesn’t need to be fragmented across multiple platforms anymore.  Are you reading this on or from one of them? Go back, click like, favorite, or write a reply/response/comment where you saw it and it will magically be transported back to me–with the ability for me to moderate it away if you’re rude.

Dig a few layers deeper

So if we’re going to be excited about federating and decentralizing this week, why don’t we take it one or two layers further?!

Domains can be as inexpensive as $1 with most in the $10-15 a year range and simple web hosting (usually with one-button website installations) costing from $5-20 a month at the lower ends. You can do it yourself–I promise. And if you think you can’t, try a quick web search for the answer or start with http://indieweb.org/getting_started. It’ll give you something to do while signups for the Mastodon.social server are turned off due to overload. Why try to be one of the trendy kids when you can easily go “old-school” and do it yourself with more control? (And heck, if you really can’t do it yourself, I can either help you or you can try it out on an instance of WithKnown that I spun up just to let people try the concept out: http://known.boffosocko.com/.

What are you waiting for? Your own follow button? You can have that too if you really want:

But you can at least allow people a choice in how and where you’re followed and read. Prefer to follow me via Email, Newsletter, Social Media, RSS, or even Push Notification? View all subscription methods here.

References

[1]
“Mastodon.social is an open-source Twitter competitor that’s growing like crazy,” The Verge, 04-Apr-2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.theverge.com/2017/4/4/15177856/mastodon-social-network-twitter-clone. [Accessed: 05-Apr-2017]
[2]
“Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis, So Why Are We Not Using It?,” Motherboard, 04-Apr-2017. [Online]. Available: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mastodon-is-like-twitter-without-nazis-so-why-are-we-not-using-it. [Accessed: 05-Apr-2017]
Syndicated copies to:

Indieweb and Education Tweetstorm

Chris Aldrich:

I’ve posted an article about Indieweb and Education on the #Indieweb wiki at https://indieweb.org/Indieweb_for_Education

I’ve posted an article about Academic Samizdat on the #Indieweb wiki at https://indieweb.org/academic_samizdat

I’ve also posted an article about commonplace books on the #Indieweb wiki at https://indieweb.org/commonplace_book

I’m writing a multi-part series for academics on #Indieweb & Education based on these links.

Perhaps @profhacker might be interested in running such a series of articles? #Indieweb

I’m contemplating a proposal to @osbridge on #Inieweb and Education based on @t‘s recommendation ‏http://opensourcebridge.org/call-for-proposals/

May have to come up with something related for @mattervc based on @benwerd‘s tweet https://twitter.com/benwerd/status/847115083318607872

In #Indieweb fashion, I’ve archived this tweetstorm using NoterLive.com on my own site: http://boffosocko.com/2017/03/29/indieweb-and-education-tweetstorm/

Syndicated copies to:

Indieweb Quote of the Day: Vladimir Bukovsky On Samizdat

Vladimir Konstantinovich Bukovsky (— ), a Russian writer, neurophysiologist, and activist who was prominent in the Soviet dissident movement of the 1960s and 1970s and spent a total of twelve years in psychiatric prison-hospitals, labor camps and prisons within the Soviet Union
in To Build a Castle: My Life as a Dissenter (Viking Press, 1979, ISBN 978-0-670-71640-1)

 

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:

To AMP, or Not To AMP, That is the Question: Whether ’tis Nobler in the Mind to Bookmarklet

“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.

Apparently I wasn’t the first to think of such a thing, nor am I the second. Last night I came across a bit of research and genius by Kevin Marks who referenced a bookmarklet by Alan Storm back in January for switching to an AMP’d version of a web page (in an effort to cut down on the large JavaScript and advertising payloads that come along with most modern web pages). Naturally there was also a bookmarklet to switch back to the canonical (and non-Google) URL included for those who want to share an original.

Clean and Simple URLs

Kevin then took it a step further and included a JavaScript bookmarklet that shortens URLs down to their pure essence.

As an example, his canonical bookmarklet will take something ugly like
http://mashable.com/2017/03/26/dog-chasing-hockey-puck-joy/?utm_cid=mash-com-Tw-main-link#xvCRlgf_vsqY
and strip it down to its most basic
http://mashable.com/2017/03/26/dog-chasing-hockey-puck-joy
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
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/24/opinion/sunday/chinas-communists-embrace-religion.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0
suddenly become cleaner and clearer
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/24/opinion/sunday/chinas-communists-embrace-religion.html

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:

🔲 To AMP

🔳 Not to AMP

✁ Base URL

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.

Alternatives

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:

A brief analogy of food culture and the internet

food:McDonalds:obesity :: internet:Facebook:intellectual laziness

tantek [10:07 AM]
I made a minor cassis.js auto_link bug fix that is unlikely to affect folks (involves a parameter to explicitly turn off embeds)
(revealed by my own posting UI, so selfdogfooding FTW)
selfdogfood++

tantek [10:10 AM]
/me realizes his upcoming events on his home page are out of date, again. manual hurts.

Tantek’s thoughts and the reference to selfdogfooding, while I’m thinking about food, makes me think that there’s kind of an analogy between food and people who choose to eat at restaurants versus those who cook at home and websites/content on the internet.

The IndieWeb is made of people who are “cooking” their websites at home. In some sense I hope we’re happier, healthier, and better/smarter communicators as a result, but it also makes me think about people who can’t afford to eat or afford internet access.

Are silos the equivalent of fast food? Are too many people consuming content that isn’t good for them and becoming intellectually obese? Would there be more thought and intention if there were more home chefs making and consuming content in smaller batches? Would it be more nutritious and mentally valuable?

I think there’s some value hiding in extending this comparison.

Syndicated copies to:

I love Eat This Podcast

Food as a vehicle to explore the byways of taste, economics and trade, culture, science, history, archaeology, geography and just about anything else.

Many who follow my blog recently will know that I’ve been binge listening to Jeremy Cherfas‘ wonderful podcast series: Eat This Podcast.

I’m now so many wonderful episodes in, that it was far past time to give something back to Jeremy for the hours of work he’s put in to give me so much entertainment, enjoyment, and even knowledge. So I just made a pledge to support him on Patreon.

If you haven’t been paying attention, Eat This Podcast is a fantastic series on food, but it it uses the “foods we eat to examine and shed light on the lives we lead, from authenticity to zoology”. Food becomes his “vehicle to explore the byways of taste, economics and trade, culture, science, history, archaeology, geography and just about anything else.”

It’s unlike much of anything I’ve seen or followed in the food space for some time. As someone who is a fan of the science of food and fantastic writers like Harold McGee, Herve This, Alton Brown, Tom Standage, Michael Pollan, Nathan Myhrvold, Maxime Bilet, Matt Gross, and Michael Ruhlman (to name only a few), Eat This Podcast is now a must listen for me.

Not only are the episodes always interesting and unique, they’re phenomenally well researched and produced. You’d think he had a massive staff and production support at the level of a news organization like NPR. By way of mentioning NPR, I wanted to highlight the thought, care, and skill he puts into not only the stunning audio quality, but into the selection of underlying photos, musical bumpers, and the links to additional resources he finds along the way.

And if my recommendation isn’t enough, then perhaps knowing that this one person effort has been nominated for the James Beard Award in both 2015 and 2016 may tip the scales?

If you haven’t listened to any of them yet, I highly recommend you take a peek at what he has to offer. You can subscribe, download, and listen to them all for free. If you’re so inclined, I hope you’ll follow my lead and make a pledge to support his work on Patreon as well.

Subscription information:

Syndicated copies to:

Transitioning from Pocket to PressForward

I’ve recently been attempting to own all of my online bookmarks and online articles I’d like to read to replace services like Pocket and Instapaper. While I feel like I’m almost there using PressForward, there are still one or two rough edges.

One of them is creating a simple mobile workflow to take headlines from Twitter and get them into my reading queue. Previously I had used an IFTTT.com recipe to take things I “liked” in my Twitter stream to strip off URLs and put them into Pocket for reading later. In fact, very few of my thousands of likes in Twitter are traditional “likes” because I’m really using that functionality to indicate “I’d like to read the article linked to in this Tweet at a later date”. Somewhere in the past couple of months I’ve mused to at least one person on the PressForward team that it would be nice to have a simple indicator to send articles from Twitter to PressForward like this, but even if I were building it all by hand, this would be a bit further down the list of priorities. What to do in the erstwhile?

RSS has long been going out of fashion, particularly among the major social silos who want to keep you in their clutches, but it dawned on me to check to see if Pocket or Instapaper provide RSS feeds. Sure and gloriously enough, they do! In fact, Pocket has an unread feed, an archive feed, an all items feed (that includes both of the other two), and as a lovely additional touch, they’ve even got the ability to make feeds private. Instapaper has RSS feeds too, though they were a bit more hidden and took a right click/view source along with a manual completion of their base URL. The nice part is that one can take these RSS feeds and plug them straight into one’s PressForward RSS feed et voilà there they are on my own site! (From the viewpoint of PressForward, this is also very close to being able to nominate items directly from Twitter.) While this is more of a PESOS feed, the result is a no-brainer and provides a near real-time experience that’s more than adequate for my needs (at least until yet another silo goes down).

And as added bonuses, if I feel like using Pocket or Instapaper from time to time, I can do so without loss of data along the stream and the small handful of people with whom I interact on Pocket won’t notice the fact that I’ve disappeared.

For the millionth time, G-d bless RSS, a wonderful tool I use every single day.

Syndicated copies to:

Buzzfeed implements the IndieWeb concept of backfeed to limit filter bubbles

The evolution of comments on articles takes a new journalistic turn

Outside Your Bubble

This past Wednesday, BuzzFeed rolled out a new feature on their website called “Outside your Bubble”. I think the concept is so well-described and so laudable from a journalistic perspective, that I’ll excerpt their editor-in-chief’s entire description of the feature below. In short, they’ll be featuring some of the commentary on their pieces by pulling it in from social media silos.

What is interesting is that this isn’t a new concept and even more intriguing, there’s some great off-the-shelf technology that helps people move towards doing this type of functionality already.

The IndieWeb and backfeed

For the past several years, there’s been a growing movement on the the internet known as the IndieWeb, a “people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’.” Their primary goal is for people to better control their online identities by owning their own domain and the content they put on it while also allowing them to be better connected.

As part of the movement, users can more easily post their content on their own site and syndicate it elsewhere (a process known by the acronym POSSE). Many of these social media sites allow for increased distribution, but they also have the side effect of cordoning off or siloing the conversation. As a result many IndieWeb proponents backfeed the comments, likes, and other interactions on their syndicated content back to their original post.

Backfeed is the process of pulling back interactions on your syndicated content back (AKA reverse syndicating) to your original posts.

This concept of backfeed is exactly what BuzzFeed is proposing, but with a more editorial slant meant to provide additional thought and analysis on their original piece. In some sense, from a journalistic perspective, it also seems like an evolutionary step towards making traditional comments have more value to the casual reader. Instead of a simple chronological list of comments which may or may not have any value, they’re also using the feature to surface the more valuable comments which appear on their pieces. In a crowded journalistic marketplace, which is often misguided by market metrics like numbers of clicks, I have a feeling that more discerning readers will want this type of surfaced value if it’s done well. And discerning readers can bring their own value to a content publisher.

I find it interesting that not only is BuzzFeed using the concept of backfeed like this, but in Ben Smith’s piece, he eschews the typical verbiage ascribed to social media sites, namely the common phrase “walled garden,” in lieu of the word silo, which is also the word adopted by the IndieWeb movement to describe a “centralized web site typically owned by a for-profit corporation that stakes some claim to content contributed to it and restricts access in some way (has walls).”

To some extent, it almost appears that the BuzzFeed piece parrots back portions of the Why IndieWeb? page on the IndieWeb wiki.

Helping You See Outside Your Bubble | BuzzFeed

A new feature on some of our most widely shared articles.

BuzzFeed News is launching an experiment this week called “Outside Your Bubble,” an attempt to give our audience a glimpse at what’s happening outside their own social media spaces.

The Outside Your Bubble feature will appear as a module at the bottom of some widely shared news articles and will pull in what people are saying about the piece on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, the web, and other platforms. It’s a response to the reality that often the same story will have two or three distinct and siloed conversations taking place around it on social media, where people talk to the like-minded without even being aware of other perspectives on the same reporting.

Our goal is to give readers a sense of these conversations around an article, and to add a kind of transparency that has been lost in the rise of social-media-driven filter bubbles. We view it in part as a way to amplify the work of BuzzFeed News reporters, and to add for readers a sense of the context in which news lives now.

And if you think there’s a relevant viewpoint we’re missing, you can contact the curator at bubble@buzzfeed.com.

Source: Helping You See Outside Your Bubble | Ben Smith for BuzzFeed

Editorial Perspective and Diminishing Returns

The big caveat on this type of journalistic functionality is that it may become a game of diminishing returns. When a new story comes out, most of the current ecosystem is geared too heavily towards freshness: which story is newest? It would be far richer if there were better canonical ways of indicating which articles were the most thorough, accurate, timely and interesting instead of just focusing on which was simply the most recent. Google News, as an example, might feature a breaking story for several hours, but thereafter every Tom, Dick, and Harry outlet on the planet will have their version of the story–often just a poorer quality rehash of the original without any new content–which somehow becomes the top of the heap because it’s the newest in the batch. Aram Zucker-Scharff mentioned this type of issue a few days ago in a tweetstorm which I touched upon last week.

Worse, for the feature to work well, it relies on the continuing compilation of responses, and the editorial effort required seems somewhat wasted in doing this as, over time, the audience for the article slowly diminishes. Thus for the largest portion of the audience there will be no commentary, all the while ever-dwindling incoming audiences get to see the richer content. This is just the opposite of the aphorism “the early bird gets the worm.” Even if the outlet compiled responses on a story from social media as they were writing in real time, it becomes a huge effort to stay current and capture eyeballs at scale. Hopefully the two effects will balance each other out creating an overall increase of value for both the publisher and the audience to have a more profound effect on the overall journalism ecosystem.

Personally and from a user experience perspective, I’d like to have the ability to subscribe to an article I read and enjoyed so that I can come back to it at a prescribed later date to see what the further thoughts on it were. As things stand, it’s painfully difficult and time consuming as a reader to attempt to engage on interesting pieces at a deeper level. Publications that can do this type of coverage and/or provide further analysis on ongoing topics will also have a potential edge over me-too publications that are simply rehashing the same exact stories on a regular basis. Outlets could also leverage this type user interface and other readers’ similar desire to increase their relationship with their readers by providing this value that others won’t or can’t.

Want more on “The IndieWeb and Journalism”?
See: Some thoughts about how journalists could improve their online presences with IndieWeb principles along with a mini-case study of a site that is employing some of these ideas.

In some sense, some of this journalistic workflow reminds me how much I miss Slate.com’s Today’s Papers feature in which someone read through the early edition copies of 4-5 major newspapers and did a quick synopsis of the day’s headlines and then analyzed the coverage of each to show how the stories differed, who got the real scoop, and at times declare a “winner” in coverage so that readers could then focus on reading that particular piece from the particular outlet.

Backfeed in action

What do you think about this idea? Will it change journalism and how readers consume it?

As always, you can feel free to comment on this story directly below, but you can also go to most of the syndicated versions of this post indicated below, and reply to or comment on them there. Your responses via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ will be backfed via Brid.gy to this post and appear as comments below, so the entire audience will be able to see the otherwise dis-aggregated conversation compiled into one place.

If you prefer to own the content of your own comment or are worried your voice could be “moderated out of existence” (an experience I’ve felt the sting of in the past), feel free to post your response on your own website or blog, include a permalink to this article in your response, put the URL of your commentary into the box labeled “URL/Permalink of your Article”, and then click the “Ping Me” button. My site will then grab your response and add it to the comment stream with all the others.

Backfeed on!

H/T to Ryan Barrett for pointing out the BuzzFeed article.

Syndicated copies to:

Tweetstorms, Journalism, and Noter Live: A Modest Proposal

Tweetstorms and Journalism

Tweetstorms have been getting a horrific reputation lately. [1][2] But used properly, they can sometimes have an excellent and beneficial effect. In fact, recently I’ve seen some journalists using it for both marketing and on the spot analysis in their areas of expertise.[3] Even today Aram Zucker-Scharff, a journalism critic in his own tweetstorm [4], suggests that this UI form may have an interesting use case in relation to news outlets like CNN which make multiple changes to a news story which lives at one canonical (and often not quickly enough archived) URL, but which is unlikely to be visited multiple times:


A newsstorm-type user experience could better lay out the ebb and flow of a particular story over time and prevent the loss of data, context, and even timeframe that otherwise occurs on news websites that regularly update content on the same URL. (Though there are a few tools in the genre like Memento which could potentially be useful.)

It’s possible that tweetstorms could even be useful for world leaders who lack the focus to read full sentences formed into paragraphs, and possibly even multiple paragraphs that run long enough to comprise articles, research documents, or even books. I’m not holding my breath though.

Technical problems for tweetstorms

But the big problem with tweetstorms–even when they’re done well and without manthreading–is actually publishing them quickly, rapidly, and without letting any though process between one tweet and the next.

Noter Live–the solution!

Last week this problem just disappeared: I think Noter Live has just become the best-in-class tool for tweetstorms.

Noter Live was already the go-to tool for live tweeting at conferences, symposia, workshops, political debates, public fora, and even live cultural events like the Superbowl or the Academy Awards. But with a few simple tweaks Kevin Marks, the king of covering conferences live on Twitter, has just updated it in a way that allows one to strip off the name of the speaker so that an individual can type in their own stream of consciousness simply and easily.

But wait! It has an all-important added bonus feature in addition to the fact that it automatically creates the requisite linked string of tweets for easier continuous threaded reading on Twitter…

When you’re done with your screed, which you probably wrote in pseudo-article form anyway, you can cut it out of the Noter Live app, dump it into your blog (you remember?–that Twitter-like app you’ve got that lets you post things longer than 140 characters at a time?), and voila! The piece of writing that probably should have been a blog post anyway can easily be archived for future generations in a far more readable and useful format! And for those who’d prefer a fancier version, it can also automatically add additional markup, microformats, and even Hovercards!

Bonus tip, after you’ve saved the entire stream on your own site, why not tweet out the URL permalink to the post as the last in the series? It’ll probably be a nice tweak on the nose that those who just read through a string of 66 tweets over the span of 45 minutes were waiting for!

So the next time you’re at a conference or just in the mood to rant, remember Noter Live is waiting for you.

Aside: I really wonder how it is that Twitter hasn’t created the ability (UX/UI) to easily embed an entire tweetstorm in one click? It would be a great boon to online magazines and newspapers who more frequently cut and paste tweets from them to build articles around. Instead most sites just do an atrocious job of cutting and pasting dozens to hundreds of tweets in a long line to try to tell these stories.

References

[1]
D. Magary, “Fuck Tweetstorms,” Deadspin, 01-Dec-2016. [Online]. Available: http://deadspin.com/fuck-tweetstorms-1789486776. [Accessed: 31-Jan-2017]
[2]
A. Hope Levinson, “Men, Please Stop Manthreading,” Gizmodo, 13-Dec-2016. [Online]. Available: http://gizmodo.com/men-please-stop-manthreading-1790036387. [Accessed: 31-Jan-2017]
[3]
“Charles Ornstein on Healthcare and Trump’s #Travelban,” Twitter, 30-Jan-2017. [Online]. Available: https://twitter.com/charlesornstein/status/826264988784459777. [Accessed: 01-Feb-2017]
[4]
A. Zucker-Scharff, “Aram Zucker-Scharff on Twitter,” Twitter, 10-Feb-2017. [Online]. Available: https://twitter.com/Chronotope/status/830096151957344256. [Accessed: 10-Feb-2017]
Syndicated copies to:

Recap and Photos from Hopkins in Hollywood

A Johns Hopkins Alumni and Student Networking Event and Panel Discussion in Los Angeles on 1-12-17

Over 75 alumni, students, and faculty from Johns Hopkins got together on January 12, 2017 for a networking mixer and panel discussion relating to the entertainment and media business. Johns Hopkins alum and emeritus board of trustees member Don Kurz (A&S ’77) graciously hosted the event at his company Omelete in Culver City.

Just prior to the event the current students, primarily seniors and juniors who were visiting Los Angeles as part of an Intersession course within the Film and Media Studies Program, met with alum and cinematography legend Caleb Deschanel (A&S ’66) to hear about his industry experiences and ask questions. Following this there was an hour long drinks/hors d’oeuvres mixer of both students and alumni.

Host Don Kurz then thanked everyone for attending and introduced Film and Media Studies Program Director Linda DeLibero. She gave a quick overview of the program and its growth over the past few years and introduced the group of students who had traveled out from Baltimore for the class.

Don Kurz (JHU A&S ’77) welcomes everyone to Omelete while Caleb Deschanel and Linda DeLibero watch from the far left.

Following this Don moderated a panel discussion and Q&A featuring alumni Paul Boardman (A&S ’89), Jason Altman (A&S ’99), Devon Chivvis (A&S ’96), and Chris Aldrich (Engr. ’96). Panelists discussed how some of their Hopkins experiences helped to shape their subsequent careers in the entertainment and media sectors.

Panelist Paul Boardman (seated at far end) describing how his experience in breaking down films scene by scene at Hopkins helped to prepare him for a subsequent career as a screenwriter. Jason Altman and Devon Chivvis sit to his right.

After the discussion, Linda presented Don with a gift of a framed artistic print of the newly renovated Center Theatre, part of Station North and a hub for the Film and Media Studies Program. She thanked him for all of his work and effort on behalf of the program, saying she knew he’s “always got our back.”

Panelist Devon Chivvis (right) watches as Linda DeLibero presents host Don Kurz (left) with a small token of the Film and Media Studies Program’s gratitude.

Emily Hogan gave a brief overview of her work at the JHU Career Center and encouraged alumni who had job openings or internship opportunities within their companies or knew of other opportunities for students/alumni to contact her with details and help in filling them.

Following some additional networking, a portion of the crowd retired to nearby pub/restaurant Public School 310 to continue the discussion.

Alumni continue the conversation at Public School 310. Picutred left to right: Jason Somerville, Jason Altman, Paul Boardman (obscured), Devon Chivvis, Cari Ugent, Karen Swift, Mark Swift, and Kathryn Alsman.

Event Photo Gallery

Syndicated copies to: