Reply to Colin Walker on the idea of a required reading page

I've been thinking some more about the idea of a required reading page. by Colin Walker (Social Thoughts)
Could the things held here be placed on an About page? Possibly - it depends what they are. If they are links to your own posts then almost certainly. External links? Maybe, maybe not. So, why have a required page and what does it give the reader?

In classical studies in the Renaissance the number of texts which were popular and considered expected/required reading for a “learned” person were a relatively set number and generally completely consumable and completely known by those with an education. Thus a writer could make a reference to the old testament or to Cato and the vast majority of the audience would get that reference (without footnotes or explicit references) having read these same texts.

Sadly the depth and breadth of available literature has exploded since Gutenberg making it nearly impossible for anyone in a modern audience to have read and know what the author may presume them to know. As an example, in Shakespeare’s day many of his side references would be known by even the uneducated, while most modern students have to rely on Cliff’s Notes or annotated editions to understand those cultural references. The modern day equivalent is that most avid fans of the Simpsons television show are also generally well educated on popular film since the 1940s, otherwise they’re missing 90% of the jokes.

Things become much more stilted within the blogging arena, particularly when a writer may cover a dozen areas or more in which they may have significant experience, but which will likely be completely unknown to some of their regular readers, much less new readers who aren’t specialists in these fields themselves. This may turn away readers at worst, but will destroy the conversation at best. (Though I will admit it doesn’t seem deter some of the lookie-loos from taking at shot at interacting on the lowest levels at Terry Tao’s blog.)

In some sense, in knowing their audience, writers have to have some grasp of what they do or don’t know, otherwise it becomes difficult to communicate those progressively more expanding thoughts. Having hyperlinks certainly helps within a piece, much the way academics footnote journal articles, but it can be just as painful for the writer to constantly be referring back to the same handful of articles constantly. In this sense, having a recommended/required reading section may be useful, particularly if it were ubiquitous, but I suspect that the casual drive-by reader may not notice or care very much. However, for that rare <5% it may be just the primer they’re looking for to better understand you and what you’re writing about.

One of the most difficult things to do in a new job or when entering a new field is to become aware of the understood culture and history of the company or the field itself. One must learn the jargon and history to contextualize the overarching conversation. Jumping into Dave Winer’s blog without knowing his background and history is certainly a more painful thing than starting to read someone whose blog is less than a year old and could thus be consumed in a short time versus thousands upon thousands of posts since the literal start of blogging on the internet. It’s somewhat reminiscent of David Shanske’s problem of distilling down a bio for an h-card from the rest of his site and his resume. What do you want someone you’ve just met to know about you to more quickly put you into a broader context, especially when you want them to get to know you better?

I think we’re all in the same boat as David in figuring out the painful path of distilling all this down in a sensible and straightforward manner. I’m curious to see what you come up with and how it evolves over time.

Reply to Reading Weapons of Math Destruction: the plan by Bryan Alexander

Reading Weapons of Math Destruction: the plan by Bryan Alexander (BryanAlexander.org)
Our new book club reading is Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction. In this post I’ll lay out a reading agenda, along with ways to participate. The way people read along in this book club is through the web, essentially. It’s a distributed experience.

It occurs to me while reading the set up for this distributed online book club that posting on your own site and syndicating elsewhere (POSSE) while pulling back responses in an IndieWeb fashion is an awesome idea for this type of online activity. Now if only the social silos supported salmention!

I’m definitely in for this general schedule and someone has already gifted me a copy of the book. Given the level of comments I suspect will come about, I’m putting aside the fact that this book wasn’t written for me as an audience and will read along with the crowd. I’m much more curious how Bryan’s audience will see and react to it. But I’m also interested in the functionality and semantics of an online book club run in such a distributed way.

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Reply to Homebrew Website Club: One Year In by Jonathan Prozzi

Homebrew Website Club: One Year In by Jonathan Prozzi (jonathanprozzi.net)
There’s some amazing themes and plugins being developed for WordPress that handle some of the more complex technical requirements for implementing the Indieweb principles, so I want to now be able to focus on helping others through two methods of outreach. First, to help any current WordPress users understand and integrate Indieweb principles into their site. Second, to help anyone who is interested in setting up a site and open to using WordPress get an Indieweb web presence up and running from the ground up. This will remain the core thrust of my Indieweb exploration from now on, but I want to also deepen my knowledge of what can be done with WordPress. There’s lots of exciting things on the horizon, and I want to give back to both the WordPress and Indieweb communities through sharing my experiences and lessons learned from the last year.

Congratulations Jonathan!

I really appreciate your “Updated Goals and Purpose” section as they’re something I’ve been slowly beginning to crack away at as well. I’ve begun some work on a book geared toward Gen2+ users as well as doing some additional outreach. I’ve even got a domain registered to target that particular market.)

If you think it would help, I’m happy to help spitball with you to create a more cohesive plan that some of us can work on both individually and as a group.

A reply to Aaron Davis on setting up IndieWeb replies in WordPress

a tweet by Aaron DavisAaron Davis (Twitter)


Aaron, there are a couple of different ways to set up IndieWeb replies in WordPress (or even on other platforms like Known).

Known has a simple reply mechanism, but isn’t always good at including the original context for the reply making the individual post as stand-alone as one might like. Known includes the URL of the post it’s a reply to, but that’s about it. It’s contingent upon the user reading the reply clicking on the link to the original post to put the two together. This is pretty simple and easy when using it to reply to posts on Twitter, but isn’t always as flexible in other contexts.

One of the added values of replies in WordPress is that there’s a bit more flexibility for including a reply context to the post. You’ll note that this reply has some context at the top indicating exactly to what it is I’m replying.

Manual Replies

The first way to generically set up a reply on almost any platform that supports sending Webmentions is to write your reply and and include some simple semantic HTML along with the URL of the post you’re replying to that includes a class “u-in-reply-to” within the anchor tag like so:
<div class="h-entry">
<a class="u-in-reply-to" href="http://example.com/note123">The post you're replying to</a>
<div class="p-name p-content"> Good point! Now what is the next thing we should do?</div>
</div>

Some of this with additional information is detailed in the reply page on the IndieWeb wiki.

If you’re using WordPress, you can do this manually in the traditional content block, though you likely won’t need the div with h-entry as your theme more likely than not already includes it.

More automated replies

If you’d like a quicker method for WordPress, you can use a few simple plugins to get replies working. Generally I recommend David Shanske’s excellent and robust Post Kinds Plugin which handles both reply contexts as well as all of the required markup indicated in the manual example above. Naturally, you’ll also want to have the Webmention Plugin for WordPress installed as well so that the reply is sent via Webmention to the original post so that it can display your reply (if it chooses to–many people moderate their replies, while others simply collect them but don’t display them.)

A few weeks ago I wrote about configuring and using the Post Kinds Plugin in great detail. You should be able to follow the example there, but just choose the “reply” kind instead of the “read” example I’ve used. In the end, it will look a lot like this particular reply you’re reading right now, though in this case, I’ve manually included your original tweet in the body of my reply. A more native Post Kinds generated reply to a tweet can be seen at this example: http://boffosocko.com/2016/08/17/why-norbert-weiner/

Syndicating Elsewhere

Naturally, your next question may be how to POSSE your replies to other services like Twitter. For that, there’s a handful of methods/plugins, though often I suggest doing things manually a few times to familiarize yourself with the process of what’s happening. Then you can experiment around with one or more of the methods/plugins. In general the easier the plugin is to set up (example: JetPack), the less control you have over how it looks while the more complicated it is (example: SNAP), the more control you have over how the output looks.

Experiment

If you’d like, feel free to experiment sending replies back to this post while you try things out. If you need additional help, do join one or more of us in the IndieWeb chat.

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🎧 It’s putrid, it’s paleo, and it’s good for you | Eat This Podcast

It’s putrid, it’s paleo, and it’s good for you by Jeremy Cherfas (Eat This Podcast)
How do you get your vitamin C where no fruit and veg will grow? As our ancestors moved north out of Africa, and especially as they found themselves in climates that supported less gathering and more hunting, they were faced with an acute nutritional problem: scurvy. Humans are one of the few mammals that cannot manufacture this vital little chemical compound (others being the guinea pig and fruit bats). If there are no fruit and veg around, where will that vitamin C come from? That’s a question that puzzled John Speth, an archaeologist and Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He found clues in the accounts of sailors and explorers shipwrecked in the Arctic. Those who, often literally, turned their noses up at the “disgusting” diet of the locals sometimes paid with their lives. Those who ate what the locals ate lived to tell the tale. John Speth told me the tale of how he came to propose the idea that putrid meat and fish may have been a key part of Neanderthal and modern human diet during the Palaeolithic.

As always a brilliant episode from Jeremy.

There’s quite a lot to unpack here and I’m sure there’s a few days of research papers to read to even begin to scratch the surface of some of what’s going on here with regard to the disgust portion of the program.

One of the things that strikes me offhand within the conversation of botulism and its increase when Arctic peoples went from traditional life ways to more modern ones are related stories I’ve heard, even recently, from researchers who are looking for replacement antibiotics for evolving superbugs. Often their go-to place for searching for them is in the dirt which can be found all around us. I’m curious if there’s not only specific chemistry (perhaps anaerobic or even affected by temperature) but even antibiotics found in the ground which are killing microbes which could cause these types of sickness? Of course, with extreme cold usually comes frozen ground and permafrost which may make burying foods for fermenting more difficult. I’m curious how and were native peoples were doing their burying to give an idea for what may have been happening to protect them.

Another piece which dovetails with this one is a story I heard yesterday morning on NPR as I woke up. Entitled To Get Calcium, Navajos Burn Juniper Branches To Eat The Ash, it also covered the similar idea that native peoples had methods for fulfilling their dietary needs in unique ways.

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🎧 Jam Tomorrow | Eat This Podcast

Jam tomorrow? by Jeremy Cherfas (Eat This Podcast)
What is jam? “A preserve made from whole fruit boiled to a pulp with sugar.” Lots of opportunities to quibble with that, most especially, if you’re planning to sell the stuff in the UK and label it “jam,” the precise amount of sugar. More than 60% and you’re fine calling it jam. Less than 50% and you need to call it reduced-sugar jam. Lower still, and it becomes a fruit spread. All that is about to change though, thanks to a UK Goverment regulation that will allow products with less than 60% sugar to be labelled jam. There’s nothing like a threat to the traditional British way of life to motivate the masses, although as an expat, I had no idea of the kerfuffle this had raised until I read about it on the website of the Campaign for Real Farming.

I realize that I’m probably ruined by eating soft set American jams and jellies all my life, aside from a half a dozen or so homemade versions I’ve made myself over the years. Here in the states, we’ve slipped even further–most jams are comprised of high fructose corn syrup instead of sugar. If only that revolution had happened after the 1920s instead of the 1770s perhaps things would be different.

I’m curious what’s become of this issue four years on? Did the “hard”-liners win out, or did the regulations turn to (soft set) jelly?

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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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