Valerie Alexander on How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace (Despite Having “Female Brains”)

This morning, at the Friday morning coffee meetup of Innovate Pasadena held at Cross Campus, I saw one of the singularly best and most valuable talks I’ve heard in a long time. Many of these types of speakers, while engaging or even entertaining, are telling the same tired stories and at best you learn one sentence’s worth of value. Definitively not the case this morning!!!

How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace (Despite Having “Female Brains”) by Valerie Alexander

Entitled How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace (Despite Having “Female Brains”) writer and speaker Valerie Alexander presented a brief discussion of human evolutionary history (a topic I’ve studied closely for several decades) that featured the difference in development of male and female human brains. Based on this and with a clearer picture of what broadly differentiates the sexes, Valerie then gave a multitude of highly relate-able examples from her professional life highlighting how women can simply take back control in the workplace to not only better succeed for themselves, but to also help their companies see their true value and succeed simultaneously.

Further, she also included some simple and very actionable advice (for men and women) to be able to make a better space within corporations so that they’re able to extract more of the value women bring to the workplace. Hint: Women bring a HUGE amount of value, and a majority of companies are not only undervaluing it, but they are literally throwing it away.

Not only were the messages tremendously valuable and imminently actionable by both women AND men, but she delivered it with fantastic confidence, grace, wit, charm, and warmth. In fact, I’d say it was not only strikingly informative, but it was also very entertaining. If you’re in the corporate space and looking to turn around your antediluvian or even pre-historic work culture (I’m looking ominously at you Uber and similar Silicon Valley brogrammer cultures), then jump in line as quickly as you can to book up what I can only expect is the diminishing time in her speaking and travel schedule.

Innovate Pasadena recorded the talk and I’ll try to post it here as soon as it’s available. Until then I will highly recommend purchasing her book How Women Can Succeed in the Workplace (Despite Having “Female Brains”), which I’m sure has not only the content of her lecture, but assuredly includes a whole lot more detail and additional examples than one could fit into such a short time frame. I also suspect it’s the type of book one would want to refer back to frequently as well. I’ve already got a half a dozen copies of it on their way to me to share with friends and family. I’m willing to make a substantial bet that for uncovering inherent value, this book and her overall message will eventually stand in the pantheon of texts and work of those like those of Frederick Winslow Taylor, Lillian Gilbreth, Frank Gilbreth, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, J.M. Juran, and W. Edwards Deming.


Psst… If the good folks at TED need some fantastic content, I saw a shortened 25 minute version of her hour-long talk. It could be tightened a hair for content and length, but it’s got exactly the tone, tempo and has the high level of presentation skills for which you’re known. Most importantly, it’s definitively an “Idea worth spreading.”

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Feed reader revolution

It's time to embrace open & disrupt social media
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared at AltPlatform.org.

The state-of-the-art in feed readers was frozen in place sometime around 2010, if not before. By that time most of the format wars between RSS and Atom had long since died down and were all generally supported. The only new features to be added were simple functionalities like sharing out links from readers to social services like Facebook and Twitter. For fancier readers they also added the ability to share out to services like Evernote, OneNote, Pocket, Instapaper and other social silos or silo related services.

So the real question facing companies with stand alone traditional feed reader products–like Feedly, Digg Reader, The Old Reader, Inoreader, Reeder, NewsBlur, Netvibes, Tiny Tiny RSS, WordPress reader–and the cadre of others is:

  • What features could/should we add?
  • How can we improve?
  • How can we gain new users?
  • How can we increase our market share?

In short the primary question is:

What should a modern RSS feed reader be capable of doing?

Continue reading “Feed reader revolution”

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Review and notes from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing Book Cover The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
Marie Kondo
House & Home
Ten Speed Press
October 14, 2014
Kindle e-book
226

Presents a guide to cleaning and organizing a living space, discussing best methods for decluttering and the impact that an organized home can have on mood and physical and mental health.

I originally picked this up on April 18th when my brother Steve had asked me if I could track down a copy for him. Last week another friend mentioned it at brunch with her recommendation, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Kondo does an excellent job of highlighting the most important parts of the book as she goes along, so it’s rather easy to skim back through the book for important parts.

The basic gist is to get rid of everything in one’s home that doesn’t “spark joy” when physically holding it. It’s not too dissimilar to the philosophy set forward by designer/artist William Morris who once said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Most of the book is devoted to some of the basic philosophy as well as recommendations about how to go about paring things down and storing them. In particular I found some of her ideas about folding things interesting and I was a bit surprised at how one can differently fold things to not only save space in drawers, but to also make them easier to see and choose.

I went so far as to watch some videos about how she folds:

This series of short videos and a few longer talks do a relatively good job of encapsulating the contents of the book.

An interesting thing I find in what I’m supposing is a translation from Japanese is that though the translation is strong, the flavor of the writer’s Japanese culture still burns through the philosophy and story of the work. To me these were some of the most interesting parts of her story.

Reading Progress
  • 05/06/17 started reading
  • 05/06/17 72.0% done; “A quick and breezy read with some simple prescriptive actions.”
  • 05/08/17 100.0% done
  • Finished book on 05/08/17

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Why can’t I keep my house in order?

If you tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little, you can dramatically change your mind-set.

Highlight (yellow) – Why can’t I keep my house in order? > Location 247

Added on Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.

Highlight (yellow) – Why can’t I keep my house in order? > Location 300

Added on Saturday, May 6, 2017

Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved. […] This is why tidying must start with discarding.

Highlight (yellow) – Why can’t I keep my house in order? > Location 320

Added on Saturday, May 6, 2017

…the space I live in is graced only with those things that speak to my heart.

Highlight (yellow) – Why can’t I keep my house in order? > Location 402

Added on Saturday, May 6, 2017

Finish discarding first

Start by discarding, all at once, intensely and completely

Highlight (yellow) – Finish discarding first > Location 407

Added on Saturday, May 6, 2017

The urge to point out someone else’s failure to tidy is usually a sign that you are neglecting to take care of your own space.

Highlight (yellow) – Finish discarding first > Location 620

Added on Saturday, May 6, 2017

In fact, that particular article of clothing has already completed its role in your life, and you are free to say, “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you,” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me,” and let it go.

Highlight (yellow) – Finish discarding first > Location 698

\Added on Saturday, May 6, 2017

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.

Highlight (yellow) – Finish discarding first > Location 706

Added on Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tidying by category works like magic

You may have wanted to read it when you bought it, but if you haven’t read it by now, the book’s purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it.

Highlight (yellow) – Tidying by category works like magic > Location 1013
This is essentially sacrilege to me, but then again most all books give me a spark of joy.

Added on Saturday, May 6, 2017

Storing your things to make your life shine

…storage “solutions” are really just prisons within which to bury possessions that spark no joy.

Highlight (yellow) – Storing your things to make your life shine > Location 1426

Added on Saturday, May 6, 2017

Never pile things: vertical storage is the key

Highlight (yellow) – Tidying by category works like magic > Location 1551

Added on Saturday, May 6, 2017

Never hang on to them in the belief that you might use them someday.

Highlight (yellow) – Tidying by category works like magic > Location 1602

Added on Monday, May 8, 2017

This is why I urge you to refrain from stocking up on things.

Highlight (yellow) – Tidying by category works like magic > Location ####
TOKUMNOTE

Added on Monday, May 8, 2017

This is why I urge you to refrain from stocking up on things.

Highlight (yellow) – Tidying by category works like magic > Location 1759
She’s talking about socks/stockings here. Pun intended? 🙂

Added on Monday, May 8, 2017

When you treat your belongings well, they will always respond in kind. For this reason, I take time to ask myself occasionally whether the storage space I’ve set aside for them will make them happy. Storage, after all, is the sacred act of choosing a home for my belongings.

Highlight (yellow) – Tidying by category works like magic > Location 1831

Added on Monday, May 8, 2017

The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

I truly believe that our possessions are even happier and more vibrant when we let them go than when we first get them.

Highlight (yellow) – The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life > Location 2044

Added on Monday, May 8, 2017

Guide to highlight colors

Yellow–general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
Orange–Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
Green–Reference to read
Blue–Interesting Quote
Gray–Typography Problem
Red–Example to work through

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Title-less Status Updates for Micro.blog

Micro.blog just launched in beta recently and one of the biggest things burning up the airwaves there is how to easily post content from one’s own site as notes without including titles. Why? If a post has a title, then micro.blog thinks it’s an article and just posts the title along with a permalink to it rather than the desired content of the status update.

In the long run and for easier mass adoption, I’m hoping Manton can figure out how to parse RSS feeds in a simpler way so that users don’t need to do serious gymnastics to import their microblog posts from other sources. I’d imagine it’s far easier for him to adapt to the masses than for the masses to adapt to micro.blog. At the very worst, he could create a checkbox on the RSS import feeds to indicate which feeds are status updates and which aren’t and this would quickly solve the problem for the average user as most CMSes allow users to define custom feeds based on content type.

While there are a number of people doing things from simply adding date/time stamps (which micro.blog ignores) to functions.php tweaks to to custom plugins, some of which I’ve tried, I thought I’d come up with my own solution which has helped to kill two proverbial birds with one stone. (Note: I’ve listed some of these others on the Indieweb wiki page for micro.blog.)

The other day, I’d had a short conversation about the issue in the Indieweb chat with several people and decided I’d just give up on having titles in notes altogether. Most people contemplating the problem have an issue doing this because it makes it more difficult to sort and find their content within their admin UI dashboard which is primarily keyed off of the_title() within WordPress. I share their pain in this regard, but I’ve also been experiencing another admin UI issue because I’ve got a handful of plugins which have added a dozen or so additional columns to my posts list. As a result the titles in my list are literally about four characters wide and stretch down the page while knucklehead metadata like categories needlessly eat up massively wide columns just for fun. Apparently plugins aren’t very mindful of how much space they decide to take up in the UI, and WordPress core doesn’t enforce reasonable limits on these things.

So my solution to both problems? If found a handly little plugin called Admin Columns with over 80,000 users and which seems to be frequently updated that allows one to have greater simple control over all of the columnar UI interfaces within their sites.

In just a few minutes, I was able to quickly get rid of several columns of data I’ve never cared about, expand the title column to a reasonable percentage of the space so it’s readable, and tweak all the other columns to better values. Even better, I was able to add the slug name of posts into the UI just after the title columns, so I can leave status update titles empty, but still have a field by which I can see at least some idea of what a particular post was about.

My first title-less status update with a descriptive slug
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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!

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@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.

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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! 🍍

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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.

 

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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]
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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/

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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.

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