Reply to Introducing Speed of Light Discussions by Jason Brennan

Introducing Speed of Light Discussions by Jason Brennan (Near the Speed of Light)
Today I’m happy to announce I’ve added a discussions section to the website, directly below each article. Here you’ll be able to directly respond to what you’ve just read, share your thoughts, and have a discussion with other readers of my site. Today’s post is going to take a bit of a look inside why I’m doing this and how discussions work.

Jason your blogpost does a great job of laying out the values (and distractions) of comments on blogs and why someone would want to have them. I particularly like your choice to call this area of his personal site a “Discussion” area instead of the traditional “Comments” moniker most would give it.

Some of your early discussion reminded me of articles by Audrey Watters in which she delineated pieces of why she’s turned off comments on her site and why she also turned off annotations recently. It’s definitely important to have control and agency over one’s own domain, which she also writes about rather eloquently in A Domain of One’s Own in a Post-Ownership Society.

While you use the oft-quoted statement (usually said in a dismissive tone in my experience):

If you want to respond, do so on your own website and tell me.

in the section espousing not allowing comments, I realize that this long-held concept of writing on your own website not only has significant value, but that the Indieweb way of replying and utilizing Webmentions (with moderation enabled if one prefers) for the notifications portion adds even more tremendous value.

Far too often, either in a blog’s comments section or even within social media, it’s all too easy to post an ill-conceived or hurtful drive-by response. It takes little time and thought to say “me too”, “I hate you”, “insert slur here”, or even click an innocuous “like” button many which do nothing for the conversation or discussion being proffered by the site owner. Worse, a very small portion of the world will see that a reader took these actions because they don’t really reflect heavily, if at all, within the reader’s own online presence–who searches for comments others have made online? How would you easily? It’s usually in these interactions that only the writer who spent some significant time trying to communicate can be crushed by overwhelming negativity rather than being showered with the intelligence, logic, or forethought they deserve for putting themselves out there, much less receiving praise for their work. It’s no wonder that people prefer to turn off comments.

Earlier this evening as I was reviewing the online discussion from the San Francisco Homebrew Website Club, I saw a comment from bdesham captured by Tantek Çelik, “I heard not having comments on Tumblr was a deliberate design, to avoid abuse, so to comment you have to reblog?” I recall having an HWC at Yahoo’s LA headquarters and hearing from someone within Yahoo that indeed this was exactly the reason that drove this piece of UX/UI. If you wanted to comment on Tumblr, you had to repost the content to your own front page along with the comment. This meant that you had to take true ownership of your words as they appeared front and center on your own site there. Who wants to publicly mark themselves with a proverbial Scarlet Letter just to be mean? (Some will, but increasingly many won’t because it redounds directly to their reputation.) Perhaps this is why some of the most marginalized people on the internet heavily use Tumblr and feel safe within their communities there?

As some will know, for the past few years I’ve been using the W3C’s recommended Webmention specification, a sort of cross-website universal @mention or @reply, which I’ve implemented on WordPress with the Webmention plugin and a few others, to accept replies/comments and other associated interactions on my blog in addition to the traditional comments box. While the traditional comment box has largely been unused on my site–making it often feel in the early days like I was “spewing words out into the void” as Jason describes–the Webmention piece seems to have made a far larger difference to me.

The majority of the interaction my site receives comes via Webmentions from Brid.gy in the form of short one-offs or simple “likes” which are backfed from Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. However a growing number of interactions are actually interesting and more substantive discussions. It’s these more “traditional” replies via Webmention that have the most value to me. They are better thought out replies and helpful commentary, which almost always appear front and center on the commenter’s own site (much the way Tumblr designed theirs) before they ever appear on my site  as a comment. As Jason astutely points out, having comments that are longer than 140 characters can be very valuable as well; since my commenters are posting on their own sites where they have ultimate freedom, most of them aren’t constrained in any way except perhaps for the amount of time they wish to take.

So here you are Jason, I’ve commented by posting on my own site first and notifying you by manually copying it to your discussion section where others can participate as well. (If you supported receiving Webmentions, the interaction would be automatic and nearly seamless.) I’m curious if you’d consider implementing the Webmention spec (both sending and receiving) on your website and if you think it would have the same intended effect you mean when you enabled “Discussions” on yours?–I know it feels like it has on mine.

If you care to reply back, feel free to reply on your own site, include a permalink to my original and use the manual Webmention form (below the traditional comment box) and click “Ping Me!” Of course, if you’re old school, feel free to dust off the old comment box and give that a whirl too!


Some additional miscellaneous thoughts, highlights, and short comments on Jason’s post:

Comments sections often become shouting matches or spam-riddled.

They can also become filled with “me too” type of commentary which more than often doesn’t add anything substantive to the conversation.

One of my all-time favorite comment moderation notes comes from the FAQ section of Peter Woit’s blog under “Why Did you Delete my comment?” He writes:

I delete a lot of the comments submitted here. For some postings, the majority of submitted comments get deleted. I don’t delete comments because the commenter disagrees with me, actually comments agreeing with me are deleted far more often than ones that disagree with me. The overall goal is to try and maintain a comment section worth reading, so comments should ideally be well-informed and tell us something true that we didn’t already know. The most common reason for deleting a comment is that it’s off-topic. Often people are inspired by something in a posting to start discussing something else that interests them and that they feel is likely to interest others here. Unfortunately I have neither the time nor inclination to take on the thankless job of running a general discussion forum here.

I hope my thoughts pass the Woit-comment-test for Jason.

 

For a website the size and popularity of Daring Fireball, it’d probably be madness to foster any kind of coherent conversation.

Certainly to do it without a staff would be difficult… Again here, Audrey Watter’s post about turning off comments indicates to some extent that even though she views her site as her personal blog, it’s audience, like that of Daring Fireball, has gotten so large that it’s not just friends, family, and community, but something beyond “community” (beyond the pale) that changes the dynamic of accepting comments.

 

I never felt like I was talking with anyone or anyone’s website, but more like I was spewing words out into the void.

I often feel this way, but supporting Webmentions and backfeed has largely negated these feelings for me in the last few years. I can now communicate directly with websites (and their authors) that support these open protocols.

 

It has the added benefit of making one-word smart-ass posts impossible.

I do remember the days of old, when people would comment “First!”, but beyond that #OneWordSmartAss is usually overrated unless you’re a professional comedian like Jon Stewart.

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Reply to I defy the world and go back to RSS by Bryan Alexander

I defy the world and go back to RSS by Bryan Alexander (bryanalexander.org)
It may be perverse, but in this age of Facebook (now 2 billion strong) I’ve decided to rededicate myself to RSS reading. That’s right: old school, Web 2.0 style. Why? A big reason is that Facebook’s front page is so, so massively unreliable. Despite having huge numbers of people that are my friends, clients, and contacts, it’s just not a good reading and writing service. Facebook’s black box algorithm(s) may or may not present a given’s user’s post for reasons generally inscrutable. I’ve missed friends’ news about new jobs, divorces, and deaths because the Zuckerbergmachine deems them unworthy of inclusion in my personalized river of news. In turn, I have little sense of who will see my posts, so it’s hard to get responses and very hard to pitch my writing for an intended audience. Together, this makes the FB experience sketchy at best. To improve our use of it we have to turn to experiments and research that remind me of Cold War Kremlinology.

Bryan, so much of what you’re saying is not only not backwards, but truly awesome and inspiring, and not just with respect to RSS.

I’ve lately become more enamored of not only RSS, but new methods for feeds including lighter weight versions like microformats h-feeds. A few months ago I was inspired to embed the awesome PressForward plugin for WordPress into my site, so I could have an integrated feed reader built right in. This makes it far easier to not only quickly share the content from my site, but it means I can also own archival copies of what I’m reading and consuming for later reference, some of which I store privately on the back end of my site as a sort of online commonplace book.

There also seems to be a recent renaissance with the revival of blogrolls. I’ve even recently revived my own to provide subscribe-able OPML lists that others can take advantage of as well. Like your reading list, it’s a work in progress.

On the subject of blogs not being dead and decrying the abuses of the social silos, you might be interested to hear about the Indieweb movement which is helping to both decentralize and re-democratize the web in useful and intelligent ways. They’re helping people to take back their identities online and let them own their own content again. They’re also using open protocols like Webmention (a platform agnostic and universal @mention) and Micropub or syndication methods like POSSE to make it easier to publish, share, and interact with people online anywhere, regardless of the platform(s) on which they’re publishing.

As an example of what they’re doing, I’m publishing this comment on my own site first, and only then sending it as a comment to your post. If you supported Webmention, this would have happened seamlessly and automatically. I’ll also syndicate it as a reply to your tweet, and if you reply on twitter, the comment will be pulled back into my comment stream at the original.

As you may expect, some educators are also using some of these tools and specs for educational reasons.

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Reply to What the New Webmention and Annotation W3C Standards Mean for WordPress | WPMUDEV

What the New Webmention and Annotation W3C Standards Mean for WordPress
Commenting on blog posts and other website articles is a divisive topic in web circles. WPMU DEV has as many articles about dispensing with comments altogether as it does with fostering conversation through WordPress!

Michael, good job bringing some attention to these two new specs!

After having used Webmentions on my site for 2+ years, I think you (and the Trackbacks vs Pingbacks vs Webmentions for WordPress article) are heavily underselling their true value. Yes, in some sense they’re vaguely similar to pingbacks and trackbacks, but Webmentions have evolved them almost to the point that they’re now a different and far more useful beast.

I prefer to think of Webmentions as universal @mentions in a similar way to how Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Medium and others have implemented their @mentions. The difference is that they work across website boundaries and prevent siloed conversations. Someone could use, for example, their Drupal site (with Webmentions enabled) and write (and also thereby own) their own comment while still allowing their comment to appear on the target/receiving website.

The nice part is that Webmentions go far beyond simple replies/comments. Webmentions can be used along with simple Microformats2 mark up to send other interactions from one site to another across the web. I can post likes, bookmarks, reads, watches, and even listens to my site and send those intents to the sites that I’m using them for. To a great extent, this allows you to use your own website just as you would any other social media silo (like Facebook or Twitter); the difference is that you’re no longer restrained to work within just one platform!

Another powerful piece that you’re missing is pulling in comments and interactions from some of the social services using Brid.gy. Brid.gy bootstraps the APIs of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Flicker so that they send webmentions. Thus, I can syndicate a post from my WordPress site to Twitter or Facebook and people commenting in those places will be automatically sending their commentary to my original post. This way I don’t really need to use Facebook natively to interact anymore. The added bonus is that if these social sites get shut down or disappear, I’ve got a copy of the full conversation from other places across the web archived in one central location on my personal site!

To add some additional perspective to the value of Webmentions and what they can enable, imagine for a moment if both Facebook and Twitter supported Webmentions. If this were the case, then one could use their Facebook account to comment on a Tweet and similarly one could use their Twitter account to like a Facebook post or even retweet it! Webmentions literally break down the walls that are separating sites on the web.

For the full value of the W3C Webmention spec within WordPress, in addition to the Webmention plugin, I’d also highly recommend Semantic Linkbacks (to make comments and mentions look better on your WordPress site), Syndication Links, and configure Brid.gy. A lot of the basics are documented on the Indieweb wiki.

If it helps to make the entire story clearer and you’d like to try it out, here’s the link to my original reply to the article on my own site. I’ve syndicated that reply to Twitter and Facebook. Go to one of the syndicated copies and reply to it there within either Twitter/Facebook. Webmentions enable your replies to my Twitter/Facebook copies to come back to my original post as comments! And best of all these comments should look as if they were made directly on my site via the traditional comment box. Incidentally, they’ll also look like they should and absolutely nothing like the atrociousness of the old dinosaurs trackbacks and pingbacks.

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Reply to Gutenberg: First Impressions | MattCromwell.com

Gutenberg: First Impressions by Matt Cromwell (MattCromwell.com)
Gutenberg is the future of content in WordPress. It will deliver the elegance of Medium but with far more power and flexibility of layouts and content types

I love how this looks and works and it’s certainly about time that WordPress had alternate means of publishing to its platform. (I miss the days when Twitter had thousands of different configurable apps to post to it, though these were far simpler.)

Not only does it remind me a bit of Medium.com’s interface, it is highly reminiscent of Aaron Parecki’s Quill editor which uses the open Micropub spec to publish to the Micropub endpoint on my blog. Though his isn’t as fully featured as the Gutenberg example, he could certainly add to it, but then it could be used to publish to any site that supports the spec.

A sample of the Quill interface for posting to WordPress via Micropub.

The nice part about Micropub (and the fact that there’s already a Micropub plugin for WordPress) is that developers can build multiple competing publishing interfaces to publish to any website out there. (Or developers could even build custom publishing interfaces for their clients.)

In fact, if they wanted to do a highly valuable pivot, Medium.com could add publishing via Micropub to their platform and really become the billionaire’s typewriter that some have suggested it to be.

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Indie, Open, Free: The Fraught Ideologies of Ed-Tech | Hybrid Pedagogy

Indie, Open, Free: The Fraught Ideologies of Ed-Tech by Kris Shaffer (Hybrid Pedagogy)
But the ability to work on indie projects is not available to all. The time and resources required to work indie are a sign of privilege, as is encouraging (and certainly expecting) all to work indie. As Anne Pasek writes, “all materials and practices … have a cost and thus a tollgate for participation.” (And there are many, often intersecting, forms of privilege that contribute to that “toll” ― race, gender, orientation, cultural background, economic background, able-bodiedness, etc.) So while indie work is great, and I’ve done a lot of it myself, we need to be careful about the ways in which we encourage and characterize indie work, noting in particular what it costs and who may be left behind or left out.

This is all important and certainly true.

However, as someone who knows he’s certainly privileged, I view my definition of indie as something that is also open for others to come behind me and use for free or have the ability to reuse and remix in a way that corporate interests or non-indie work wouldn’t. In a large sense, to me this means that while I may be privileged (whether that be socio-economically or even the time-encumbered), I’m helping to lower the cost and the burden for the less privileged who may come behind me to be able to do more, go further, or go faster.

In some sense too, as described, indie has such a nebulous definition. Often when I see it in a technology related space I really read it as “Open Sourced”.

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A reply to John Carlos Baez on “Bye-bye, Google+ — but what next?”

Bye-bye, Google+ — but what next? by John Carlos Baez (Google+)
Google+ is sliding downhill. A couple years ago my posts would garner comments from lots of smart people, leading to long and deep discussions. These days only a few stalwarts remain — a skeleton crew. I've copied most of my posts here to my website and blog. I mainly post here out of inertia: for certain purposes, I haven't found anything better yet. As for the reasons, I agree with +Gideon Rosenblatt's analysis. Also read the many comments on his post! But the more important question is: what to do now? Instead of whining about our masters, we should be our own masters — and unleash our creative energies! A bottom-up approach, run by all of us, could be better than top-down corporate control. A diverse, flexible federation could be better than a single unified platform.

Mastodon

I’ve been watching or on Mastodon since about October of last year. While it does have some interesting/useful features that differentiate it from the rest of the corporate silos, in some senses it’s got worse problems.

Average users are still putting blind trust in the (mostly/completely anonymous) administrators of the individual federated versions–and these are even more likely than well financed corporations, which have some reputation to maintain, to do questionable things with your data. These individuals are also taking on the financial burden of hosting and storing all their users’ data in addition to continually building and maintaining the platform itself. As a result, you’re setting yourself up for potential disappointment yet again, unless you’re going to set up and run your own Mastodon instance. (Especially since there’s no contract for them to maintain their instance on your behalf–they could literally turn it off tomorrow if they liked. Here’s link to a great article comparing and contrasting how well or poorly some communities are run to give you an idea of how drastically different they can be.)

Micro.blog

Since January I’ve also been following a project called Micro.blog which is expected to be released in Beta next Monday, April 24th to its Kickstarter backers. It’s an inexpensive paid service that will provide a domain and hosting to those who don’t want to manage those things themselves. Most importantly, it is built on open protocols with a decentralized architecture which will give you greater control of both your identity online, but also ownership of your data. Because of its structure, it’ll also be inter-operable with other platforms like WordPress. In some senses, it takes the Mastodon federation structure and flattens it down an addition level to the point that it’s much easier for the average user to have their own personal version of the service so they’re more self-reliant in many respects and far less reliant on corporate entities. Since it’s a paid service, the level of service will likely be better than the free services offered by silos like G+ where the user (and their data) ultimately become the product.

Indieweb

This said, I still believe a more future-proof long-term alternative is to have your own domain and post your content on it first. This will still allow you to syndicate it out to one or more social media silos to reach individual audiences who still choose to use them. Because it’s your own site, you’re far less constrained by what an outside corporation might dictate, and you have a lot more freedom and control.

John, since I’d mentioned the indieweb movement to you last, it’s come a long way, particularly on CMS platforms like WordPress and Known which both support the W3C spec for webmentions (you can now use your own website to @mention people all across the web who also support the spec), and can use Brid.gy to backfeed all the interactions (comments, likes) you have on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, and Flickr back to your original post so it appears the entire conversation around your content is on your own site. Last week I actually wrote a small piece about setting up functionality for having @mentions from Twitter come back to my own website, which is just a small piece of this type of functionality.

When you (or others) have time to chat about potentially implementing something like this, I’m happy to walk you though a few demos and help you set things up to better support all this new open technology.

If anyone wants to test-drive WithKnown, I’ve set up an open instance at http://known.boffosocko.com where you can register and try out some of the basic functionality. I haven’t completely finished setting up all the configuration options for the major social media sites including a new one for Mastodon, but the settings should allow one to OAuth with Twitter to cross-post content there and then one can register (in the settings) with Brid.gy to backfeed replies and likes. I’ll also recommend installing the browser bookmarklet to make interacting with it easier for bookmarking and replying to things.

Reply to Rachel Andrew’s “It’s more than just the words”

It's more than just the words by Rachel Andrew (rachelandrew.co.uk)
Personal sites, our blogs, these were once our playgrounds. My own site was the first place I added rollover images, CSS for fonts, tried out a “table free” design. I wrote about the web, surrounded by my own experiments with the web. We all did, and it was only in reading those words from 1999 that I realised there was more to owning your own content than simply not publishing your words elsewhere.

Rachel, To a great extent it sounds like you’ve independently discovered and rewritten a lot of the indieweb philosophy which can be found at https://indieweb.org. It’s a diverse group of web developers who have taken back the web and their identities from where things left off around 2007 when the social media silos drastically changed the way we all use the internet.

I suspect that given your interests, background, and what you’ve written here, you’ll not only feel right at home in this group, but you’ll get a lot of real value out of it both personally and professionally. In particular, I think you’ll enjoy concepts like webmention and micropub, services like Brid.gy, and many others. When you have time I invite you to come join us both on the wiki as well as in chat/IRC/Slack as we all continue building and improving our own personal websites in much the same way we did as “kids.”

There are also meetups (known as Homebrew Website Clubs) and regional IndieWebCamps where you can meet people in person as well.

We look forward to seeing you around while you bring your content back home in 2017 and beyond.

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A reply to Kimberly Hirsch: Doing my part to fix the internet

Doing my part to fix the internet by Kimberly Hirsh
I have put all the tech in place that I need to, I think, for my publishing to happen here at kimberlyhirsh.com, go out to my various social places, and then have responses come back here.

Kimberly, Congratulations and welcome to the #indieweb! Interestingly, I’m seeing your post via Superfeedr piped into an IRC channel on freenode rather than webmention to my own site (since upgrading to the most recent version of Webmention for WordPress, I apparently need to re-enable exotic webmentions to my homepage).

I’m amazed that such a short comment that I wrote on my site back in November (and syndicated manually to another’s) should not only crop up again, but that it could have had such an influence. Further, the fact that there’s now a method by which communication on the internet can let me know that any of it happened really warms my heart to no end. As a counter example, I feel sad that without an explicit manual ping, Vicki Boykis is left out of the conversation of knowing how influential her words have been.

Kimberly, I’m curious to know how difficult you found it to set things up? A group of us would love to know so we can continue to make the process of enabling indieweb functionality on WordPress easier for others in the future. (Feel free to call, email, text, comment below, or, since you’re able to now, write back on your own website–whichever is most convenient for you. My contact information is easily discovered on my homepage.)

If it helps to make mobile use easier for you, you might find Sharing from the #IndieWeb on Mobile (Android) with Apps an interesting template to follow. Though it was written for a different CMS, you should be able to substitute WordPress specific URLs in their place:

Template examples
Like: http://kimberlyhirsh.com.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?kind=like&kindurl=@url
Reply: http://kimberlyhirsh.com.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?kind=reply&kindurl=@url

You might also find some useful functionality hiding at WordPress Bookmarklets for Desktop if you haven’t come across it yet.

As someone who works in academic circles and whose “professional and personal interests are intertwined, I choose not to separate the two” on my site either, to help people more easily subscribe to subsets of data from my site more easily, I did a few things I’ve documented here: RSS Feeds. Additionally, choosing what gets syndicated to other sites like Twitter and Facebook rounds out the rest.

There are a number of other folks including myself using their sites essentially as commonplace books–something you may appreciate. Some of us are also pushing the envelope in areas like hightlights, annotationsmarginalia, archiving, etc. Many of these have topic pages at Indieweb.org along with examples you might find useful to emulate or extend if you’d like to explore, add, or extend those functionalities.

If you need help to get yourself logged into the indieweb wiki or finding ways to interact with the growing community of incredibly helpful and generous indeweb people, I am (and many others are) happy to help in any way we can. We’d love to hear your voice.

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Reply to Web Annotations are Now a W3C Standard, Paving the Way for Decentralized Annotation Infrastructure

Web Annotations are Now a W3C Standard, Paving the Way for Decentralized Annotation Infrastructure by Sarah Gooding (WordPress Tavern)
Web annotations became a W3C standard last week but the world hardly noticed. For years, most conversations on the web have happened in the form of comments. Annotations are different in that they usually reference specific parts of a document and add context. They are often critical or explanatory in nature.

Hypothesis Aggregator

Be careful with this plugin on newer versions of WordPress >4.7 as the shortcode was throwing a fatal error on pages on which it appeared.

p.s.: First!

Kris Shaffer, the plugin’s author

Here’s his original post announcing the plugin. #

Web annotation seems to promote more critical thinking and collaboration but it’s doubtful that it would ever fully replace commenting systems.

But why not mix annotations and comments together the way some in the IndieWeb have done?! A few people are using the new W3C recommendation spec for Webmention along with fragmentions to send a version of comments-marginalia-annotations to sites that accept them and have the ability to display them!

A good example of this is Kartik Prabhu’s website which does this somewhat like Medium does. One can write their response to a sub-section of his post on their own website, and using webmention (yes, there’s a WordPress plugin for that) send him the response. It then shows up on his site as a quote bubble next to the appropriate section which can then be opened and viewed by future readers.

Example: https://kartikprabhu.com/articles/marginalia

For those interested, Kartik has open sourced some of the code to help accomplish this.

While annotation systems have the ability to overlay one’s site, there’s certainly room for serious abuse as a result. (See an example at https://indieweb.org/annotation#Criticism.) It would be nice if annotation systems were required to use something like webmentions (or even older trackback/pingbacks) to indicate that a site had been mentioned elsewhere, this way, even if the publisher wasn’t responsible for moderating the resulting comments, they could at least be aware of possible attacks on their work/site/page. #

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Annotation is now a web standard – Hypothesis

Annotation on "Annotation is now a web standard" by Jeremy Dean (hypothes.is)
Though clearly the Amazon system is limited, you can actually do this with Kindle. See this tutorial.

What about sharing my personal annotations on my own website? Is there a way for an individual annotator to relink something like the annotations/highlights at http://boffosocko.com/2012/06/17/big-history/#Highlights%2C+Quotes%2C+%26+Marginalia back to the original document (in this case an ebook)?

I’ve started into the documentation, but I’m curious if there’s a simple way of doing this without some 3rd party like Hypothes.is, Genius, etc. or some other massive framework?

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My reply to Micro.blog Project Surges Past $65K on Kickstarter, Gains Backing from DreamHost | WordPress Tavern

Micro.blog Project Surges Past $65K on Kickstarter, Gains Backing from DreamHost by Sarah Gooding (WordPress Tavern)
With one week remaining on its Kickstarter campaign, the Micro.blog indie microblogging project has surged past its original $10K funding goal with $66,710 pledged by 2,381 backers. This puts proje…

I love that Micro.blog is doing so well on Kickstarter! I’m even more impressed that DreamHost is backing this and doubling down in this area.

I coincidentally happened to have a great conversation yesterday with Jonathan LaCour before I saw the article and we spoke about what DreamHost is doing in the realm of IndieWeb and WordPress. I love their approach and can’t wait to see what comes out of their work and infectious enthusiasm.

I’m really surprised that WordPress hasn’t more aggressively taken up technologies like Webmention, which is now a W3C recommendation, or micropub and put them directly into core. For the un-initiated, Webmention works much like @mention on Twitter, Medium, Facebook, and others, but is platform independent, which means you can use it to ping any website on the internet that supports it. Imagine if you could reply to someone on Twitter from your WordPress site? Or if you could use Facebook to reply to a post on Medium? (And I mean directly and immediately in the type @mention/hit publish sense, not doing any laborious cut and paste from one platform to another nonsense that one is forced to do now because all the social silos/walled gardens don’t inter-operate nicely, if at all.) Webmention can make all that a reality.  Micropub is a platform independent spec that allows one to write standalone web or mobile apps to create publishing interfaces to publish almost any type of content to any platform–think about the hundreds of apps that could publish to Twitter in its early days, now imagine expanding that to being able to use those to publish to any platform anywhere?

While Twitter has been floundering for a while, WordPress has the structure, ecosystem, and a huge community to completely eat Twitter’s (and even Facebook/ Instagram’s, Medium’s, & etc.) lunch not only in the microblog space, but the larger space which includes blogging, photos, music, video, audio, and social media in general. The one piece they’re missing is a best-in-class integrated feed reader, which, to be honest, is the centerpiece of both Twitter and Facebook’s services. They seem to be 98% readers and 2% dead-simple posting interface while WordPress is 98% posting interface (both more sophisticated/flexible and more complicated), and nearly non-existent (and unbundled) reader.

WordPress has already got one of the best and most ubiquitous publishing platforms out there (25+% of the web at last count). Slimming down their interface a tad to make it dead simple for my mom to post, or delegating this to UX/UI developers with micropub the way that Twitter allowed in the early days with their open API and the proliferation of apps and interfaces to post to twitter, in addition to Webmentions could create a sea-change in the social space. Quill is a good, yet simple example of an alternate posting interface which I use for posting to WordPress. Another is actually Instagram itself, which I use in conjunction with OwnYourGram which has micropub baked in for posting photos to my site with Instagram’s best-in-class mobile interface. Imagine just a handful of simple mobile apps that could be customized for dead-simple, straightforward publishing to one’s WordPress site for specific post types or content types…

With extant WordPress plugins, a lot of this is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet, to borrow the sentiment from William Gibson.

For just a few dollars a year, everyday people could more easily truly own all their content and have greater control over their data and their privacy.

I will note that it has been interesting and exciting seeing the Drupal community stepping on the gas on the Webmention spec (in two different plugins) since the W3C gave it recommendation status earlier this month. This portends great things for the independent web.

I haven’t been this excited about what the web can bring to the world in a long, long time.

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Reply to Antonio Sánchez-Padial about webmentions for academic research

a tweet by Antonio Sánchez-PadialAntonio Sánchez-Padial (Twitter)
Hi there @ChrisAldrich! I'd like to add webmentions, but I haven't worked on it yet. What kind of collaboration are you thinking about?

Many academics are using academic related social platforms (silos) like Mendeley, Academia.edu, Research Gate and many others to collaborate, share data, and publish their work. (And should they really be trusting that data to those outside corporations?)

A few particular examples: I follow physicist John Carlos Baez and mathematician Terry Tao who both have one or more academic blogs for various topics which they POSSE work to several social silos including Google+ and Twitter. While they get some high quality response to posts natively, some of their conversations are forked/fragmented to those other silos. It would be far more useful if they were using webementions (and Brid.gy) so that all of that conversation was being aggregated to their original posts. If they supported webmentions directly, I suspect that some of their collaborators would post their responses on their own sites and send them after publication as comments. (This also helps to protect primacy and the integrity of the original responses as the receiving site could moderate them out of existence, delete them outright, or even modify them!)

While it’s pretty common for researchers to self-publish (sometimes known as academic samizdat) their work on their own site and then cross-publish to a pre-print server (like arXiv.org), prior to publishing in a (preferrably) major journal. There’s really no reason they shouldn’t just use their own personal websites, or online research journals like yours, to publish their work and then use that to collect direct comments, responses, and replies to it. Except possibly where research requires hosting uber-massive data sets which may be bandwidth limiting (or highly expensive) at the moment, there’s no reason why researchers shouldn’t self-host (and thereby own) all of their work.

Instead of publishing to major journals, which are all generally moving to an online subscription/readership model anyway, they might publish to topic specific hubs (akin to pre-print servers or major publishers’ websites). This could be done in much the same way many Indieweb users publish articles/links to IndieWeb News: they publish the piece on their own site and then syndicate it to the hub by webmention using the hub’s endpoint. The hub becomes a central repository of the link to the original as well as making it easier to subscribe to updates via email, RSS, or other means for hundreds or even thousands of researchers in the given area. Additional functionality could be built into these to support popularity measures as well to help filter some of the content on a weekly or monthly basis, which is essentially what many publishers are doing now.

In the end, citation metrics could be measured directly on the author’s original page by the number of incoming webmetions they’ve received on it as others referencing them would be linking to them and therefore sending webmentions. (PLOS|One does something kind of like this by showing related tweets which mention particular papers now: here’s an example.)

Naturally there is some fragility in some of this and protective archive measures should be taken to preserve sites beyond the authors lives, but much of this could be done by institutional repositories like University libraries which do much of this type of work already.

I’ve been meaning to write up a much longer post about how to use some of these types of technologies to completely revamp academic publishing, perhaps I should finish doing that soon? Hopefully the above will give you a little bit of an idea of what could be done.

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Reply to Dave Rupert’s Poll with another alternative

a tweet by Dave RupertDave Rupert (Twitter)
Anyone else starting to look for a way out of Twitter?

#4 IndieWeb: Publish on your own site, syndicate elsewhere. (The missing option.)

I’ve been microblogging from my own site and syndicating content to Twitter and other social silos for a while.

I usually consume Twitter via an RSS hack and respond either via Woodwind.xyz which micropubs directly to my site or from a built in RSS reader on my own site. I use Brid.gy and webmention to collect replies back to my site to continue the conversation.

For me, my personal website is my end-all-be-all hub for reading/publishing and Twitter, Facebook, et al. are just distribution channels.

From what I understand about Manton’s proposed implementation, he’ll be using or making a lot of these technologies available, he’ll just be making it a bit easier for my parents and the “masses” to do it.

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Reply to Ben Hanowell about Hypothes.is, Fragmentions, and Annotations

a tweet by Brash EquilibriumBrash Equilibrium (Twitter)
@ChrisAldrich is this the fragmentions plugin along with @hypothes_is or just the latter? Link to instructions por favor!!!!

Hypothes.is’ reply will get you most of the way, but I’ll add some additional thoughts below.

There are a couple of fragmentions plugins in the WordPress repository. I use and recommend WP Fragmention. Mostly it comes down to supporting a chunk of javascript that is the brainchild of Kevin Marks.

For Hypothes.is, I use the plugin referenced in the tweet above, but I’ve also been using Hypothes.is Aggregator by Kris Shaffer. I will note that the latter broke for me recently (possibly with the upgrade to WP 4.7, but I’ve filed a ticket and hopefully it’ll get sorted shortly). Shaffer’s plugin also makes using and posting with Hypothes.is’ Chrome extension more useful and interesting to me, since I can own copies of my highlights/annotations on my own website.

I’m hoping that sometime soon that Hypothes.is highlights and annotations on pages will also support sending webmentions so that when someone annotates one of my pages that I’ll receive a notification about it, almost as if it were a comment. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, Kartik Prabhu has a fantastic write up and some code on mixing marginalia and webmentions which I’m hoping to implement sometime soon myself.

If you need any help with any of the above, I (and surely others) are happy to help you via IndieWeb Chat.

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Reply to Manton Reece: This morning I launched the Kickstarter project for Micro.blog. Really happy with the response. Thank you, everyone!

Manton Reece by Manton Reece (manton.org)
This morning I launched the Kickstarter project for Micro.blog. Really happy with the response. Thank you, everyone!

Manton, I’ve been following your blog and your indieweb efforts for creating a microblogging platform for a while. I’m excited to see your Kickstarter effort doing so well this afternoon!

As a fellow IndieWeb proponent, and since I know how much work such an undertaking can be, I’m happy to help you with the e-book and physical book portions of your project on a voluntary basis if you’d like. I’ve got a small publishing company set up to handle the machinery of such an effort as well as being able to provide services that go above and beyond the usual low-level services most self-publishing services might provide. Let me know if/how I can help.

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