Eclipse Photos August 21, 2017

A series of photos taken in Glendale, Los Angeles County on the morning of the eclipse of 2017

9:52 AM Pacific

10:01-02 AM

10:04 AM

10:11-12 AM

10:14 AM

10:19-20 AM

10:21-22 AM

10:23-24 AM

10:27 AM

Glendale, CA 91205

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Post Kinds Plugin for WordPress

A WordPress plugin that allows you to easily create a huge variety of social media post types to own your social media life online.

Post Types

Within the broader social media world there are a huge variety of types of posts. These range from common articles to status updates to likes or favorites to more varied post types like photos, bookmarks, RSVPs, checkins, videos, reviews, jams, reads, audio, exercise, food, recipes, and even an exotic and rare chicken post type. While this list barely scratches the surface, the IndieWeb wiki has an almost exhaustive list along with examples.

Many social platforms sub-specialize in only one specific post type while others provide support for multiple types. Here are some common examples:

  • Twitter: status updates
  • Instagram: photos, videos
  • Facebook: status updates, articles, photos, videos, links, events, life events, checkins, emotions
  • LinkedIn: status updates, articles,  résumés
  • Tumblr: text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio and video
  • Swarm/FourSquare: checkins
  • Last.fm: listens (aka scrobbles)
  • Pinboard: bookmarks
  • GoodReads: reads

Wouldn’t it be better to have a single personal website where you could post all these types of content easily and quickly?!

For a few years now, I’ve been posting these and many other types of posts on my personal website. When it’s appropriate I crosspost many of them to the social media silos that support these types so that friends, family, and colleagues can subscribe to them in the way that’s easiest for them.

Post Kinds Plugin

The simple meta box the Post Kinds Plugin displays for choosing what kind of post one is creating.

The Post Kinds Plugin for WordPress attempts to make it much easier to create customized displays for and format each of these types of posts (and many more). It leverages the flexibility and power of WordPress to be your single social media hub while, along with other IndieWeb friendly plugins, still allowing you to interact with other social networks.

Post Kinds Plugin not only indicates in the metadata what each post type is, but provides each post with some contextualization as well as the appropriate microformats classes to make it easier for other sites or parsers to interpret these posts. In short it helps to make status updates look like status updates; favorites appear like favorites; (schnozzberrys look like schnozzberrys); and RSVPs look like RSVPs in keeping with common user interfaces on many social platforms. (And in case you didn’t know, you can now post an RSVP on your own website and send a notification to posts elsewhere on the web of your intention!)

Post Kinds Plugin is different from WordPress’s Post Formats functionality

This sounds a little bit like the WordPress theme specific functionality of Post Formats, doesn’t it? Yes and resoundingly no!

Post Formats was a WordPress feature introduced in version 3.1, ostensibly to compete with other social platforms like Tumblr which offers the explicit post types of text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio and video.

The interface for choosing particular post types from within Tumblr.
WordPress Post Format meta box with all of the available post types. Note that it’s far more limited than the options for Post Kinds.

Within WordPress, post formats are available for users to choose from if the theme enables support for them. And typically if they do support them they often provide specific display outputs and CSS styling that are controlled by the theme, often to make them look like what users have come to expect these post types to look like on other social media platforms. As an example, a “Status” post would typically display a short update which doesn’t include a title. Each theme that supports post formats chooses which ones they support, how to display them, and they can vary quite a bit from one theme to the next.

Below is the list of the nine supported formats with brief descriptions of their purpose taken from the WordPress codex:

  • aside – Typically styled without a title. Similar to a Facebook note update.
  • gallery – A gallery of images. Post will likely contain a gallery shortcode and will have image attachments.
  • link – A link to another site. Themes may wish to use the first <a href=” “> tag in the post content as the external link for that post. An alternative approach could be if the post consists only of a URL, then that will be the URL and the title (post_title) will be the name attached to the anchor for it.
  • image – A single image. The first <img /> tag in the post could be considered the image. Alternatively, if the post consists only of a URL, that will be the image URL and the title of the post (post_title) will be the title attribute for the image.
  • quote – A quotation. Probably will contain a blockquote holding the quote content. Alternatively, the quote may be just the content, with the source/author being the title.
  • status – A short status update, similar to a Twitter status update.
  • video – A single video or video playlist. The first <video width=”300″ height=”150″> tag or object/embed in the post content could be considered the video. Alternatively, if the post consists only of a URL, that will be the video URL. May also contain the video as an attachment to the post, if video support is enabled on the blog (like via a plugin).
  • audio – An audio file or playlist. Could be used for Podcasting.
  • chat – A chat transcript

There is anecdotal evidence that the WordPress Post Format functionality is slowly falling out of favor and there hasn’t been much, if any, change in how the feature works in the past several years.

The Post Kinds Plugin in many respects picks up where Post Formats left off, extends them significantly, and also builds a stronger platform for more modern website to website interactions.

Plugin Display

The Post Kinds Plugin out of the box generally does an excellent job of styling with some generic CSS to make these various post types look and behave as one expects without any changes or modifications to one’s theme. However, designers are more than welcome to either customize their CSS to their hearts’ content, or, if they prefer, they can manually code specific template views to override the plugin’s original views within their theme or child theme.

Microformats

Because, in part, the Post Kinds Plugin is designed for use with IndieWeb philosophies in mind, it has built in microformats support. What are microformats? They’re simple semantic classes added to the HTML of one’s site that allow parsers or other programs to read the data on your posts and pages to provide extended or increased functionality. WordPress’s core functionality already includes some microformats version 1 support; Post Kinds Plugin extends this quite a bit and uses the more modern version 2 specifications. Because Post Kinds takes care of these additional microformats, some older themes will have a leg up in the IndieWeb space despite having either limited or no theme support.

As an example using the reply post kind, the context from the site for which the particular post is actually a reply to is wrapped with the semantic class “p-in-reply-to”. As an example of the extended functionality provided by microformats, if one is using the Webmentions Plugin to send a webmention to the post that is being replied to, that remote site can parse the reply and display it properly as a reply in their comments section. (For WordPress sites receiving these webmentions, they can utilize the parser built into the Semantic Linkbacks Plugin.)

Similarly, bookmarklets, feed readers, or other programs could utilize these microformats and the data on your page to create customized views and displays.

Plugin Installation and Configuration

Installation of the plugin is relatively straightforward. From the Plugin tab in the WordPress admin interface, one can click the Add New button at the top of the page and either search for the plugin within the repository and install and activate it, or they can use the Upload Plugin button and install it from a prior download from either the WordPress repository or from the GitHub repository.

Options for installing the Post Kinds Plugin from the administrative interface within WordPress.

Configuration can be done from the Settings tab within the WordPress admin interface or, if the IndieWeb Plugin is installed, the settings can be found under IndieWeb » Post Kinds tabs in the admin interface.

Within the settings you can choose the post kinds you wish to enable on a particular site–not all sites will necessarily need or even want all types. I recommend only enabling the specific kinds you will actively be using; you can always come back and add additional types in the future. Some types may be enabled by other specific plugins that work in conjunction with Post Kinds Plugin.

Post Kinds Settings
Click the appropriate check boxes for the kinds of posts you’d like to enable on your personal website.

Not having a post kind enabled will not disable the functionality on existing posts, it only hides the selection in adding new posts. This way if you enable favorites as a type and only use it a few times before deciding to disable it, the old posts will still exist and display properly.

You can also enable a Default Kind for New Posts. Most people will likely choose Article which is the default, but if your site is primarily used like a microblog for short status updates, then obviously Note may be your best default. Are you building a linkblog? Then you could enable the Bookmark kind.

How to use Post Kinds in practice

So how does this all actually work for creating posts?

Let’s start with a simple example. Let’s say I read a lot online and I’d like to have a linkblog of all of the articles I read. Let’s say I’m reading the article Lyme Disease’s Worst Enemy? It Might Be Foxes in the New York Times. I’d like to start out by creating a read post to indicate to those following me that I’ve read this particular article.

While I could do it manually, typically I’ll use a custom bookmarklet (more on how to do this shortly), which I click on in my browser bar as I read the article. The bookmarklet will create a new WordPress post and automatically fill in the URL of the article into the “Post Properties” metabox created by the Post Kinds Plugin in the admin UI of my WordPress site.

The Post Properties meta box in the administrative user interface in WordPress. The URL for the post can be either automatically included or manually filled in.

Then, I will click on the blue Retrieve button (pictured above) just under the post’s URL. The Post Kinds Plugin will parse the New York Times article page for either explicit metadata or Open Graph data to fill in some context about the article I’m reading in the Post Properties meta box. The main tab will autofill with the Name/Title of the article, a Summary/Quote of the article, and Tags if available. Similarly the other tabs in the Post Properties meta box including Details, Author, and Other will fill in with any available metadata about the Lyme disease post I’m reading.

In this particular example, the Times didn’t do a good job on the author data, so I’ll go to that tab and manually cut/paste the author’s name into the Author/Artist Name field, their URL into the Author/Artist URL field, and (optionally) the URL for their photo image as well. If other fields are improperly filled out or you would like to change them, one can manually adjust them if necessary. Not all kinds need (or show) all theses metadata fields when they’re ultimately published.

After retrieving the metadata most of the appropriate fields in the Post Properties box should be filled out. Here we see the “Main” tab filled in.
The Details tab of the Post Properties meta box.
The Author tab of the Post Properties meta box.

The retrieve button will also attempt to fill in an appropriate post Title into the posts’ field for that, but it can be modified manually if necessary. On many post kinds, though one may fill in an explicit (traditional WordPress post) title, it may not display on the final post because an explicit title isn’t really needed and the Post Kinds Plugin won’t display it. The note kind is a particular example of this behaviour.

Now that the contextual part of the post I’m reading is handled, I can, if I choose, add any notes, quotes, thoughts, or other personal data about what I’ve read into the main text box for the particular post.

The bookmarklet should have automatically set the post kind selector in the Kind metabox to Read and, if available, the older WordPress post format to link. (These can be changed or overridden manually if necessary.) Post Kinds does its best to properly and appropriately map Post Kinds to Post Formats, but the relationship isn’t always necessarily one-to-one and there are obviously many more kinds available than there are post formats.

Finally, the article can be published (unless you want to add any additional metadata to your post for other plugins or needs.)

Now I can also go to the URL of my personal site at http://example.com/kind/read/ where I can find an archive of this and all the posts I’ve read in the past.

A screen capture of what the final “Read” post looks like on my site. (Note that it may look slightly different depending on your theme and other customizations.)

Other post kinds work relatively similarly, though some may take advantage of other appropriate metadata fields in the Post Property meta box. (For example RSVPs use the RSVP dropdown field within the Other tab in the Post Property box.)

Custom feeds for Post Kinds

For sites adding lots of different post kinds all at once, the extra possible “noise” in one’s RSS feeds may have the potential to turn a site’s subscriber’s off. Fortunately the plugin also has custom RSS feeds for each of the particular post kinds which follows a particular format. As an example, the RSS feed for all the posts marked as “Note”,  could be found at either the URL http://www.example.com/kind/note/feed
or http://www.example.com/feed/?kind=note (if one doesn’t have pretty permalinks enabled). Other feeds can be obtained by replacing “note” with the base names of the other kinds (reply, article, etc.).

Archive Displays

Post Kinds Plugin also handles the display of archives for individual post kinds. To view all the posts marked as notes, for example, one could visit the URL http://www.YOURSITE.COM/kind/note/. Simply replace YOURSITE.COM with your particular site name and the particular post kind name to access the others. In some areas of the social media world, this particular archive display of notes might be considered a personal Twitter-like microblog.

Bookmarklet Configuration

For Post Kinds Plugin users who like the simplicity and ease of use of bookmarklets, one can add ?kindurl=URL to their post editor URL and it will automatically fill this into the URL box in post properties. Adding ?&kind=like to the post editor URL will automatically set the kind.

As a full example, the URL pattern https://www.example.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?kindurl=URL&kind=like will automatically create a new post, set the post kind as like and auto-import the permalink URL for the page into the URL field of the Post Properties meta box.

The following code could also be used as a template to create a full set of browser bookmarklets. (Keep in mind the base URL example.com will need to be changed to the base URL of your personal site for it to work properly. One would also change the word bookmark in the code to any of the other types.)

javascript:(function(a,b,c,d){function e(a,c){if("undefined"!=typeof c){var d=b.createElement("input");d.name=a,d.value=c,d.type="hidden",p.appendChild(d)}}var f,g,h,i,j,k,l,m,n,o=a.encodeURIComponent,p=b.createElement("form"),q=b.getElementsByTagName("head")[0],r="_press_this_app",s=!0;if(d){if(!c.match(/^https?:/))return void(top.location.href=d);if(d+="&kindurl="+o(c),c.match(/^https:/)&&d.match(/^http:/)&&(s=!1),a.getSelection?h=a.getSelection()+"":b.getSelection?h=b.getSelection()+"":b.selection&&(h=b.selection.createRange().text||""),d+="&buster="+(new Date).getTime(),s||(b.title&&(d+="&t="+o(b.title.substr(0,256))),h&&(d+="&s="+o(h.substr(0,512)))),f=a.outerWidth||b.documentElement.clientWidth||600,g=a.outerHeight||b.documentElement.clientHeight||700,f=800>f||f>5e3?600:.7*f,g=800>g||g>3e3?700:.9*g,!s)return void a.open(d,r,"location,resizable,scrollbars,width="+f+",height="+g);(c.match(/\/\/(www|m)\.youtube\.com\/watch/)||c.match(/\/\/vimeo\.com\/(.+\/)?([\d]+)$/)||c.match(/\/\/(www\.)?dailymotion\.com\/video\/.+$/)||c.match(/\/\/soundcloud\.com\/.+$/)||c.match(/\/\/twitter\.com\/[^\/]+\/status\/[\d]+$/)||c.match(/\/\/vine\.co\/v\/[^\/]+/))&&e("_embeds[]",c),i=q.getElementsByTagName("meta")||[];for(var t=0;t<i.length&&!(t>200);t++){var u=i[t],v=u.getAttribute("name"),w=u.getAttribute("property"),x=u.getAttribute("content");x&&(v?e("_meta["+v+"]",x):w&&e("_meta["+w+"]",x))}j=q.getElementsByTagName("link")||[];for(var y=0;y<j.length&&!(y>=50);y++){var z=j[y],A=z.getAttribute("rel");("canonical"===A||"icon"===A||"shortlink"===A)&&e("_links["+A+"]",z.getAttribute("href"))}b.body.getElementsByClassName&&(k=b.body.getElementsByClassName("hfeed")[0]),k=b.getElementById("content")||k||b.body,l=k.getElementsByTagName("img")||[];for(var B=0;B<l.length&&!(B>=100);B++)n=l[B],n.src.indexOf("avatar")>-1||n.className.indexOf("avatar")>-1||n.width&&n.width<256||n.height&&n.height<128||e("_images[]",n.src);m=b.body.getElementsByTagName("iframe")||[];for(var C=0;C<m.length&&!(C>=50);C++)e("_embeds[]",m[C].src);b.title&&e("t",b.title),h&&e("s",h),p.setAttribute("method","POST"),p.setAttribute("action",d),p.setAttribute("target",r),p.setAttribute("style","display: none;"),a.open("about:blank",r,"location,resizable,scrollbars,width="+f+",height="+g),b.body.appendChild(p),p.submit()}})(window,document,top.location.href,"http:\/\/example.com\/wp-admin\/post-new.php?kind=bookmark");

Development / Issues

Development for the Post Kinds Plugin takes place on GitHub. While users can certainly report issues/bugs on the page for the WordPress plugin, the developer actively watches the issue queue on GitHub and problems will be seen (if not resolved) there more quickly.

List of available Post Kinds

Now that we’ve seen a few examples and gotten things set up, let’s take a brief look at all of the Post Kinds that are available. To make things a bit easier, we’ll break them up into four groups based on some shared qualities.

The Non-Response Kinds

These kinds have an analog in WordPress’s original post formats. Adding context to one of these may make it a passive kind.

  • Article – traditional long form content – a post with an explicit post title
  • Note – short content or status update – a post with just plain content and usually without an explicit post title
  • Photo – a post with an embedded image as its primary focus. This uses either the featured image or attached images depending on the theme.
  • Video – a post with an embedded video as its primary focus
  • Audio – a post with an embedded sound file as its primary focus

The Response Kinds

Response kinds differ from the non-response in that they are usually intended to be interactions with other external sites. For the best experience and improved functionality with these post kinds, it is recommended, but not required, that one have the Webmentions and the Semantic Linkbacks Plugins installed and activated. Doing so will send notifications of the replies and other interactions to those external sites which often display them. (These help your site work just like replies and mentions do on many other social media platforms, they just do so in distributed ways, so that neither you nor your friends necessarily need to be on the same platform or content management system to communicate.)

  • Reply – used for replying to someone else’s post
  • Repost – a complete repost of someone else’s content
  • Like – compliments to the original post/poster
  • Favorite – content which is special to the favoriter
  • Bookmark – this is basically sharing/storing a link/bookmark.
  • Quote – quoted content
  • RSVP – a specific type of reply regarding attendance of an event

The Passive Kinds

To “Scrobble” a song is to make a related post on your website when listening to it. This is the most well-known example of a passive kind of post. These kinds are formed by having content in the context box on one of these types of posts.

  • Listen – scrobble – listening to an audio post
  • Jam – Indicates a specific personally meaningful song
  • Watch – watching a video
  • Play – playing a game
  • Read – reading a book, magazine, or other online material

Reserved Kinds

The following kinds are reserved for future use within the plugin but will not currently show up in the interface unless enabled directly within the code. In some cases, these kinds don’t have the appropriate metadata fields within the plugin to make them user friendly without significant work.

  • Wish – a post indicating a desire/wish. The archive of all of these posts would be a wishlist, such as a wedding, birthday, or gift registry.
  • Weather – a weather post would be about current weather conditions
  • Exercise – represents some form of physical activity
  • Trip – represents a trip or journey and would require location awareness
  • Itinerary – refers to scheduled transit, plane, train, etc. and does not generally require location awareness
  • Check-In – identifying you are at a place. This would use the extended WordPress Geodata. It will require the Simple Location Plugin or something equivalent to add location awareness to posts. Some people are beginning to use this with the OwnYourSwarm application, which may require further configuration of your site to work properly.
  • Tag – allows you to tag a post as being of a specific tag, or person tagging.
  • Eat – for recording what you eat, perhaps for a food diary
  • Drink – similar to Eat, but for beverages
  • Follow – a post indicating you are now following someone’s activities (online)
  • Mood – feelings or emotions you’re having at the time of posting
  • Recipe – ingredients and directions for preparing food or other items
  • Issue – an article post that is typically a reply to some source code, though potentially anything at a source control repository
  • Event – a post kind that in addition to a post name (event title) has a start datetime, (likely an end datetime), and a location.

Additional Examples

If you’re reading this on my personal website, you can click on and view a variety of these post kinds described above to give you an idea of what they look like (and how they function with respect to Webmentions and other IndieWeb functionalities).

Go Forth and Post All the Things!

I’ve tried to cover as much of the basics of the plugin and provide some examples and screenshots to make things easier, but as always, there are ways to do additional custom configuration under the hood. I’m sure there are also off-label uses of the plugin to get it to do things the creator didn’t intend.

For additional details, one is certainly encouraged to skim through the code. If you have specific questions or problems, you can usually find the developer of the plugin and many of its users in the IndieWeb chat (web chat, IRC, Slack, etc.) for possible real-time help or support, or you can post questions or issues at the GitHub repo for the project.

Post all the things

Thanks

Special thanks to David Shanske for creating and doing a stellar job of maintaining the Post Kinds Plugin. Additional thanks to those in the IndieWeb community who continue to refine and revise the principles and methods which make it constantly easier for people to better own and control their social lives online by owning their own websites and data.

​​​

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An Information Theory Playlist on Spotify

In honor of tomorrow’s release of Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman’s book A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age, I’ve created an Information Theory playlist on Spotify.

Songs about communication, telephones, conversation, satellites, love, auto-tune and even one about a typewriter! They all relate at least tangentially to the topic at hand. To up the ante, everyone should realize that digital music would be impossible without Shannon’s seminal work.

Let me know in the comments or by replying to one of the syndicated copies listed below if there are any great tunes that the list is missing.

Enjoy the list and the book!

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The Facebook Algorithm Mom Problem

How I temporarily cut my mom out of my social media life to reach a larger audience.

POSSE

For quite a while now, I’ve been publishing most of my content to my personal website first and syndicating copies of it to social media silos like Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Facebook. Within the Indieweb community this process is known as POSSE an acronym for Post on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.

The Facebook Algorithm

Anecdotally most in social media have long known that doing this type of workflow causes your content to be treated like a second class citizen, particularly on Facebook which greatly prefers that users post to it manually or using one of its own apps rather than via API. [1][2][3][4] This means that the Facebook algorithm that decides how big an audience a piece of content receives, dings posts which aren’t posted manually within their system. Simply put, if you don’t post it manually within Facebook, not as many people are going to see it.

Generally I don’t care too much about this posting “tax” and happily use a plugin called Social Media Network Auto Poster (aka SNAP) to syndicate my content from my WordPress site to up to half a dozen social silos.

What I have been noticing over the past six or more months is an even more insidious tax being paid for posting to Facebook. I call it “The Facebook Algorithm Mom Problem”.

Here’s what’s happening

I write my content on my own personal site. I automatically syndicate it to Facebook. My mom, who seems to be on Facebook 24/7, immediately clicks “like” on the post. The Facebook algorithm immediately thinks that because my mom liked it, it must be a family related piece of content–even if it’s obviously about theoretical math, a subject in which my mom has no interest or knowledge. (My mom has about 180 friends on Facebook; 45 of them overlap with mine and the vast majority of those are close family members).

The algorithm narrows the presentation of the content down to very close family. Then my mom’s sister sees it and clicks “like” moments later. Now Facebook’s algorithm has created a self-fulfilling prophesy and further narrows the audience of my post. As a result, my post gets no further exposure on Facebook other than perhaps five people–the circle of family that overlaps in all three of our social graphs. Naturally, none of these people love me enough to click “like” on random technical things I think are cool. I certainly couldn’t blame them for not liking these arcane topics, but shame on Facebook for torturing them for the exposure when I was originally targeting maybe 10 other colleagues to begin with.

This would all be okay if the actual content was what Facebook was predicting it was, but 99% of the time, it’s not the case. In general I tend to post about math, science, and other random technical subjects. I rarely post about closely personal things which are of great interest to my close family members. These kinds of things are ones which I would relay to them via phone or in person and not post about publicly.

Posts only a mother could love

I can post about arcane areas like Lie algebras or statistical thermodynamics, and my mom, because she’s my mom, will like all of it–whether or not she understands what I’m talking about or not. And isn’t this what moms do?! What they’re supposed to do? Of course it is!

mom-autolike (n.)–When a mother automatically clicks “like” on a piece of content posted to social media by one of their children, not because it has any inherent value, but simply because the content came from their child.

She’s my mom, she’s supposed to love me unconditionally this way!

The problem is: Facebook, despite the fact that they know she’s my mom, doesn’t take this fact into account in their algorithm.

What does this mean? It means either I quit posting to Facebook, or I game the system to prevent these mom-autolikes.

Preventing mom-autolikes

I’ve been experimenting. But how?

Facebook allows users to specifically target their audience in a highly granular fashion from the entire public to one’s circle of “friends” all the way down to even one or two specific people. Even better, they’ll let you target pre-defined circles of friends and even exclude specific people. So this is typically what I’ve been doing to end-around my Facebook Algorithm Mom problem. I have my site up set to post to either “Friends except mom” or “Public except mom”. (Sometimes I exclude my aunt just for good measure.) This means that my mom now can’t see my posts when I publish them!

Facebook will let you carefully and almost surgically define who can see your posts.

What a horrible son

Don’t jump the gun too quickly there Bubbe! I come back at the end of the day after the algorithm has run its course and my post has foreseeably reached all of the audience it’s likely to get. At that point, I change the audience of the post to completely “Public”.

You’ll never guess what happens next…

Yup. My mom “likes” it!

I love you mom. Thanks for all your unconditional love and support!!

Even better, I’m happy to report that generally the intended audience which I wanted to see the post actually sees it. Mom just gets to see it a bit later.

Dear Facebook Engineering

Could you fix this algorithm problem please? I’m sure I’m not the only son or daughter to suffer from it.

Have you noticed this problem yourself? I’d love to hear from others who’ve seen a similar effect and love their mothers (or other close loved ones) enough to not cut them out of their Facebook lives.

References

[1]
R. Tippens, “Drop the Autobot: Manual Posting to Facebook Outperforms Automated,” ReadWrite, 01-Aug-2011. [Online]. Available: https://readwrite.com/2011/08/01/manually_posting_to_facebook_significantly_outperf/. [Accessed: 11-Jul-2017]
[2]
“How to Increase Your Traffic from Facebook by 650% in 5 Seconds,” WPMUDEV, 02-Aug-2011. [Online]. Available: https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-increase-your-traffic-from-facebook-by-650-in-5-seconds/. [Accessed: 11-Jul-2017]
[3]
J. D. Lasica, “Demystifying how Facebook’s news feeds work,” SocialMedia.biz, 11-Feb-2011. [Online]. Available: http://socialmedia.biz/2011/02/07/how-facebook-news-feeds-work/. [Accessed: 11-Jul-2017]
[4]
D. Hay, “Will auto-posting stunt the reach of your Facebook posts?,” SocialMedia.biz, 26-Jul-2011. [Online]. Available: http://socialmedia.biz/2011/07/26/will-auto-posting-stunt-the-reach-of-your-facebook-posts/. [Accessed: 11-Jul-2017]
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The beginnings of a blogroll

Inspired by Richard MacManus’ recent post, I spent a little bit of time rebuilding/refreshing some old blogroll functionality (cum follow list functionality) into my site.

It’s far from finished (particularly from the data perspective), but it’s starting to shape up and look like something. I’m currently publishing an Indieweb blogroll on my front page. (Don’t presume anything if you’re not on it yet, I’ve a long way to go.) I’m still contemplating how to break it up into more manageable/consumable chunks primarily for myself, but also for others like Richard who were looking for ways to subscribe to others in this particular community.

For those who have readers that allow them to either subscribe to OPML files and/or import them, here’s my open OPML file. It’s a full firehose of everything, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to divide it into chunks more easily. I’d recommend subscribing to it if you can as it’s sure to see some reasonable changes in the coming weeks/months.

A snippet of the admin UI of my blogroll functionality. Pictures are always nice!
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I’m apparently the king of the microformat rel=”me”

More important however is the reason why I hold the title!

Today, at the IndieWeb Summit 2017, Ryan Barrett, while giving a presentation on some data research he’s been doing on the larger Indieweb community, called me out for a ridiculous number of rel-me’s on a single page. His example cited me as having 177 of them on a single page! I tracked it down and it was actually an archive page that included the following post How many social media related accounts can one person have on the web?!.

What is a rel=”me”?

Rel=”me” is a microformat tag put on hyperlinks that indicates that the paged linked to is another representation of the person who controls the site/page you’re currently looking at. Thus on my home page the Facebook bug has a link to my facebook account which is another representation of me on the web, thus it has a rel=”me” tag on it.

His data is a bit old as I now maintain a page entitled Social Media Accounts and Links with some (but far from all) of my disparate and diverse social media accounts. That page currently has 190 rel=”me”s on it! While there was one other example that had rel-mes pointing to every other internal page on the site (at 221, if I recall), I’m proud to say, without gaming the system in such a quirky way, that each and every one of the rel=”me” URLs is indeed a full legitimate use of the tag.

I’m proud to be at the far end of the Zipf tail for this. And even more proud to be tagged as such during the week in which Microformats celebrates its 12th birthday. But for those doing research or who need edge cases of rel-me use, I’m also happy to serve as a unique test case. (If I’m not mistaken, I think my Google+ page broke one of Ryan’s web crawlers/tools in the past for a similar use-case a year or two ago).

The Moral of the Story

The take away from this seemingly crazy and obviously laughable example is simply just how fragmented one’s online identity can become by using social silos. Even more interesting for some is the number of sites on that page which either no longer have links or which are crossed out indicating that they no longer resolve. This means those sites and thousands more are now gone from the internet and along with them all of the data that they contained not only for me but thousands or even millions of other users.

This is one of the primary reasons that I’m a member of the Indieweb, have my own domain, and try to own all of my own data.

While it seemed embarrassing for a moment (yes, I could hear the laughter even in the live stream folks!), I’m glad Ryan drew attention to my rel-me edge case in part because it highlights some of the best reasons for being in the Indieweb.

(And by the way Ryan, thanks for a great presentation! I hope everyone watches the full video and checks out the new site/tool!)

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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.”

Innovate Pasadena has finally uploaded a copy of the video of Valerie Alexander’s talk:

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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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