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.”
Next month, two seminal image-sharing communities, FFFFOUND! and MLKSHK, will close their doors within a week of each other. There's a profound difference in how they're doing it as noted by someone who's previously sold off a community.
This is a great little piece comparing and contrasting how to relatively similar online communities and social silos are shutting down their services. One is going a much better route than the other and providing export tools and archive ability to preserve the years of work and effort.
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):
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:
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.
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.
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+.)
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.
Etymologically, the word samizdat derives from sam (Russian: сам, “self, by oneself”) and izdat (Russian: издат, an abbreviation of издательство, izdatel’stvo, “publishing house”), and thus translates as “self-published”.
With exception of the jail portion, these ideas underlie much of the Indieweb movement.
In a project which I started just before IndieWebCamp LA in November, I’ve moved a big step closer to perfecting my “Read” posts!
Thanks in large part to WordPress, PressForward, friends and help on the IndieWeb site too numerous to count, and a little bit of elbow grease, I can now receive and read RSS feeds in my own website UI (farewell Feedly), bookmark posts I want to read later (so long Pocket, Instagram, Delicious and Pinboard), mark them as read when done, archive them on my site (and hopefully on the Internet Archive as well) for future reference, highlight and annotate them (I still love you hypothes.is, but…), and even syndicate (POSSE) them automatically (with emoji) to silos like Facebook, Twitter (with Twitter Cards), Tumblr, Flipboard, LinkedIn, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Delicious among others.
Syndicated copies in the silos when clicked will ping my site for a second and then automatically redirect to the canonical URL for the original content to give the credit to the originating author/site. And best of all, I can still receive comments, likes, and other responses from the siloed copies via webmention to stay in the loop on the conversations they generate without leaving my site.
Here’s an example of a syndicated post to Twitter:
A Snap is a universal Linux package that works on (just about) any distribution or device. Snaps are faster to install, easier to create, safer to run, and they update automatically and transactionally so the software is always fresh and never broken. What this means for a normal person is that a tiny computer the size of a Starbucks coffee could be shipped to them and run on their home network. This would then interface with another server they have running in "the cloud". Rather than SSH into a Linux machine and install a bunch of disparate software packages, fiddle with configuration settings, and rage at Apache misconfigurations, a person would instead type something like the following into the public web server:
sudo snap install 10centuries
For those in the IndieWeb who want to take “own your data” to the highest level, 10centuries sounds like an interesting project.
An overview of an app for tracking your reading that offers different tools than Goodreads or Litsy
I’ve been using Zotero, a free, open-source application, to track my reading for several years now. Originally designed for scholars, Zotero has a number of features that make it ideal for readers who want to track a bit more about their books and reading habits than sites like Goodreads or Litsy allow. Of course, I have accounts on Litsy and Goodreadsand I still use Zotero. I just use them for really different things (it’s also possible that I’m a little too uptight about tracking my reading). If reading Emma’s post that outlined 8 Reasons to Catalog Your Books got you itching to start tagging and cataloging, I’d strongly suggest Zotero. Continue reading “Why You Should Use Zotero To Track Your Reading | BOOK RIOT”
I thought I’d take a few minutes to go back and “own” the bookmarks I had put into Delicious since I joined on July 5, 2009, so I could have them on my own website. Sadly I ran into the following message:
We’re sorry, but due to heavy load on our database we are no longer able to offer an export function. Our engineers are working on this and we will restore it as soon as possible.
Hopefully they get things working properly so I can export them one of these days without resorting to more arcane methods to get the data back.
My recent post about owning our digital homes prompted some good feedback and discussion. When I talk about this topic with the people in my life who don't work daily in the world of websites, domain names and content management, the most common reaction I get is, "that's sounds good in theory, I'm not sure … Continue reading Getting started owning your digital home
Both his concept and that of your own post fit right into the broader themes and goals of the Indieweb community. If you weren’t aware of the movement, I highly recommend you take a look at its philosophies and goals.
There’s already a pretty strong beachhead established for WordPress within the Indieweb community including a suite of plugins for helping to improve your personal web presence, but we’d certainly welcome your additional help as the idea seems right at home with your own philosophy.
I’m happy to chat with you about the group via website, phone, email, IRC, or social media at your leisure if you’re interested in more information. I’m imminently findable via details on my homepage.
@ChrisHardie, this sounds a lot like Indieweb philosophy.
Thoughts on post types/kinds relating to reading within the Indieweb construct
This morning while breezing through my Woodwind feed reader, I ran across a post by Rick Mendes with the hashtags #readlater and #readinglist which put me down a temporary rabbit hole of thought about reading-related post types on the internet.
I’m obviously a huge fan of reading and have accounts on GoodReads, Amazon, Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, and literally dozens of other services that support or assist the reading endeavor. (My affliction got so bad I started my own publishing company last year.)
READ LATER is an indication on (or relating to) a website that one wants to save the URL to come back and read the content at a future time.
I started a page on the IndieWeb wiki to define read later where I began writing some philosophical thoughts. I decided it would be better to post them on my own site instead and simply link back to them. As a member of the Indieweb my general goal over time is to preferentially quit using these web silos (many of which are listed on the referenced page) and, instead, post my reading related work and progress here on my own site. Naturally, the question becomes, how does one do this in a simple and usable manner with pretty and reasonable UX/UI for both myself and others?
Currently I primarily use a Pocket bookmarklet to save things (mostly newspaper articles, magazine pieces, blog posts) for reading later and/or the like/favorite functionality in Twitter in combination with an IFTTT recipe to save the URL in the tweet to my Pocket account. I then regularly visit Pocket to speed read though articles. While Pocket allows downloading of (some) of one’s data in this regard, I’m exploring options to bring in the ownership of this workflow into my own site.
For more academic leaning content (read journal articles), I tend to rely on an alternate Mendeley-based workflow which also starts with an easy-to-use bookmarklet.
I’ve also experimented with bookmarking a journal article and using hypothes.is to import my highlights from that article, though that workflow has a way to go to meet my personal needs in a robust way while still allowing me to own all of my own data. The benefit is that fixing it can help more than just myself while still fitting into a larger personal workflow.
A Broader Reading (Parent) Post-type
Philosophically a read later post-type could be considered similar to a (possibly) unshared or private bookmark with potential possible additional meta-data like: progress, date read, notes, and annotations to be added after the fact, which then technically makes it a read post type.
A potential workflow viewed over time might be: read later >> bookmark >> notes/annotations/marginalia >> read >> review. This kind of continuum of workflow might be able to support a slightly more complex overall UI for a more simplified reading post-type in which these others are all sub-types. One could then make a single UI for a reading post type with fields and details for all of the sub-cases. Being updatable, the single post could carry all the details of one’s progress.
Indieweb encourages simplicity (DRY) and having the fewest post-types possible, which I generally agree with, but perhaps there’s a better way of thinking of these several types. Concatenating them into one reading type with various data fields (and the ability of them to be public/private) could allow all of the subcategories to be included or not on one larger and more comprehensive post-type.
Not including one subsection (or making it private), would simply prevent it from showing, thus one could have a traditional bookmark post by leaving off the read later, read, and review sub-types and/or data.
As another example, I could include the data for read later, bookmark, and read, but leave off data about what I highlighted and/or sub-sections of notes I prefer to remain private.
A Primary Post with Webmention Updates
Alternately, one could create a primary post (potentially a bookmark) for the thing one is reading, and then use further additional posts with webmentions on each (to the original) thereby adding details to the original post about the ongoing progress. In some sense, this isn’t too far from the functionality provided by GoodReads with individual updates on progress with brief notes and their page that lists the overall view of progress. Each individual post could be made public/private to allow different viewerships, though private webmentions may be a hairier issue. I know some are also experimenting with pushing updates to posts via micropub and other methods, which could be appealing as well.
This may be cumbersome over time, but could potentially be made to look something like the GoodReads UI below, which seems very intuitive. (Note that it’s missing any review text as I’m currently writing it, and it’s not public yet.)
Ideally, better distinguishing between something that has been bookmarked and read/unread with dates for both the bookmarking and reading, as well as potentially adding notes and highlights relating to the article is desired. Something potentially akin to Devon Zuegel‘s “Notes” tab (built on a custom script for Evernote and Tumblr) seems somewhat promising in a cross between a simple reading list (or linkblog) and a commonplace book for academic work, but doesn’t necessarily leave room for longer book reviews.
I’ll also need to consider the publishing workflow, in some sense as it relates to the reverse chronological posting of updates on typical blogs. Perhaps a hybrid approach of the two methods mentioned would work best?
I’ll keep thinking about the architecture for what I’d ultimately like to have, but I’m always open to hearing what other (heavy) readers have to say about the subject and the usability of such a UI.
Please feel free to comment below, or write something on your own site (which includes the URL of this post) and submit your URL in the field provided below to create a webmention in which your post will appear as a comment.