Feed reader revolution

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

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

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

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

In short the primary question is:

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

Continue reading “Feed reader revolution”

Syndicated copies to:

Mastodon.Social isn’t as Federated or as Decentralized as the Indie Web

Mastodon may be the hot thing in social media right now, but you could be living closer to the bleeding edge of true openness and freedom

Mastodon.social is the cool new social platform[1][2], and certainly prettier than many of the other federated GNU social instances. My Twitter feed is full of mastodon mentions right now with many people saying “I’m on mastodon.social now as _____, come follow me.”–a phrase I haven’t seen since the last social boom in 2009 before the new class of multi-billion dollar corporations began monetizing their users.

I like the cute mastodon imagery and the concept of a “toot”, but isn’t this yet another social media silo that’s going to own all my content and have control over how I interact with it? What happens when everyone gets tired of it? What happens weeks, months, years from now when it decides to shut down or gets bought out like so many others?

Federated and Decentralized

The buzzwords of the week seem to be “federated” and “decentralized”. I’m glad that tens of thousands of people are being introduced to these concepts this week, but they’re definitely not new, and they’re far from perfected.

If we want openness, federation, identity, flexibility, and control why not just have our own website? They can do pretty much everything that most of the social networks can do now, but with much greater freedom. They’d probably be even stronger if people hadn’t ceded their lives and all their thoughts to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al.  Many people in the Indieweb community are already leveraging their own sites and some simple code to do just this.

My Website is an Example

My site is mine. I own the domain name and all the data that gets posted to it. I can write as much or as little as I want about anything I like. No one is artificially limiting me for length. I can post photos. I can post audio, even video. I can write a comment on my own site about something on another site and I don’t have to hope it won’t be moderated out of existence. If I don’t like it, I can edit it (I’m looking at you Twitter) or delete it at any time and know it’s gone (I’m looking at you Facebook).

I support the W3C Webmention recommendation so you can write something on your site and send me the equivalent of an @mention (one which will work across website boundaries instead of being stuck inside them like Twitter, Medium, and Facebook all do). Your mention will then allow your post to show up on my site as a comment! Yes, you hear that correctly. You can use one website to comment on another that’s completely unrelated to the first.

If you don’t have webmention set up yet (via a plugin or other implementation), just add the permalink of my post to your reply on your own site and then put your post’s permalink into the URL labeled box below and click “Ping Me”. Shazam! I have a copy of your comment, but you still own what you wrote to me. Now that’s true website to website federation because it uses open standards that aren’t controlled by third party corporations.

Incidentally I also syndicate many of my posts to the walled gardens like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ (where people apparently really love ads served within their content) so I’m not completely cut off from my social graph. Comments and reactions from those silos come back to live with my original posts so everything lives here on my site–future-proofed against their possible disappearance. It also means the conversation doesn’t need to be fragmented across multiple platforms anymore.  Are you reading this on or from one of them? Go back, click like, favorite, or write a reply/response/comment where you saw it and it will magically be transported back to me–with the ability for me to moderate it away if you’re rude.

Dig a few layers deeper

So if we’re going to be excited about federating and decentralizing this week, why don’t we take it one or two layers further?!

Domains can be as inexpensive as $1 with most in the $10-15 a year range and simple web hosting (usually with one-button website installations) costing from $5-20 a month at the lower ends. You can do it yourself–I promise. And if you think you can’t, try a quick web search for the answer or start with http://indieweb.org/getting_started. It’ll give you something to do while signups for the Mastodon.social server are turned off due to overload. Why try to be one of the trendy kids when you can easily go “old-school” and do it yourself with more control? (And heck, if you really can’t do it yourself, I can either help you or you can try it out on an instance of WithKnown that I spun up just to let people try the concept out: http://known.boffosocko.com/.

What are you waiting for? Your own follow button? You can have that too if you really want:

But you can at least allow people a choice in how and where you’re followed and read. Prefer to follow me via Email, Newsletter, Social Media, RSS, or even Push Notification? View all subscription methods here.

References

[1]
“Mastodon.social is an open-source Twitter competitor that’s growing like crazy,” The Verge, 04-Apr-2017. [Online]. Available: http://www.theverge.com/2017/4/4/15177856/mastodon-social-network-twitter-clone. [Accessed: 05-Apr-2017]
[2]
“Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis, So Why Are We Not Using It?,” Motherboard, 04-Apr-2017. [Online]. Available: https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mastodon-is-like-twitter-without-nazis-so-why-are-we-not-using-it. [Accessed: 05-Apr-2017]
Syndicated copies to:

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.

Syndicated copies to:

A WordPress plugin for posting to IndieNews

WordPress IndieNews by Matthias Pfefferle (github.com)
Automatically send webmentions to IndieNews

I just noticed that Matthias Pfefferle has kindly created a little WordPress plugin for posting to IndieNews.

Syndicated copies to:

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.

Syndicated copies to:

How to Own & Display Your Twitter Archive on Your Website in Under 10 Minutes

As part of my evolving IndieWeb experience of owning all of my own internet-based social data, last year I wanted a “quick and dirty” method for owning and displaying all of my Twitter activity before embarking on a more comprehensive method of owning all of my past tweets in a much more comprehensive way. I expected even a quick method to be far harder than the ten minute operation it turned out to be.

Back in early October, I had also replied to a great post by Jay Rosen when he redesigned his own blog PressThink. I saw a brief response from him on Twitter at the time, but didn’t get a notification from him about his slightly longer reply, which I just saw over the weekend:

I don’t like the way tweets displayed on a blog look. I am fussy about that. Would I like to have a searchable archive in my possession so I don’t lose it all when Twitter goes under? I would.

Jay Rosen, journalism professor NYU,
in reply to my comment on PressThink’s new design and third space

 

So, for his benefit as well as others who are interested in the ability to do something like this quickly and easily, I thought I’d write up a short outline of what I’d originally done so that  without spending all the time I did, others can do the same or something similar depending on their needs.

If part of Mr. Rosen’s reply doesn’t give you enough motivation for why one would want to do this, IndieWeb.org has a laundry list of motivations along with a list of dead and defunct sites and social media silos that have taken pedabytes of data with them when they died.

How to (Quickly) Own and Display Your Tweets on Your Own Site

Download all your tweets

  1. Go to: https://twitter.com/settings/account
  2. Near the bottom of the page you should see a “Your Twitter archive” section
  3. See the Request your archive button? Click it.
  4. After a (hopefully) short wait, a link to your archive should show up in your email associated with the account. Download it.
  5. Congratulations, you now own all of your tweets to date!
  6. You can open the index.html file in the downloaded folder to view all of your tweets locally on your own computer with your browser.
Click the button to request your Twitter archive be emailed to your account email address.
Click the button to request your Twitter archive be emailed to your account email address.

Display your Twitter archive

The best part is now that you’ve got all your tweets downloaded, you can almost immediately serve them from your own server without any real modification.

Simply create an (accessible–use the same permissions as other equivalent files) folder named twitter on your server and upload all the files from your download into it. You’re done. It’s really that simple!

In my case I created a subfolder within my WordPress installation, named it “twitter”, and uploaded the files. Once this is done, you should be able to go to the URL http://example.com/twitter and view them.

The twitter folder in my WordPress directory with all of the downloaded files.
The twitter folder in my WordPress directory with all of the downloaded files.

As an example and to see what my archive looks like, visit http://boffosocko.com/twitter.

Alternately one could set up a subdomain (eg. http://twitter.example.com) and serve them from there as well. You can change the URL by changing the name of the folder. As an alternate example, Kevin Marks uses the following: http://www.kevinmarks.com/tweets/.

When you’re done, don’t forget to set up a link from your website (perhaps in the main menu?) so that others can benefit from your public archive. Mine is tucked in under the “Blog” heading in my main menu.

The user interface of your Twitter archive.
The user interface of your Twitter archive.

Caveats

Unfortunately, while you’ve now got a great little archive with some reasonable UI and even some very powerful search capabilities, most of the links on the archive direct back to the originals on Twitter and don’t provide direct permalinks within the archive. It’s also a static archive, so you’ve periodically got to re-download and upload to keep your archive current.  I currently only update mine on a quarterly basis, at least until I build a more comprehensive set up.

Current Set Up

At the moment, I’m directly owning all of my Twitter activity on my social stream site, which is powered by Known, using the POSSE philosophy (Post on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere). There I compose and publish all of my Tweets and re-Tweets (and even some likes) directly and then I syndicate them to Twitter in real-time. I’ve also built and documented a workflow for more quickly tweeting using my cell phone in combination with either the Twitter mobile app or their mobile site.  (Longer posts here on BoffoSocko are also automatically syndicated (originally with JetPack and currently with Social Network Auto-Poster, which provides a lot more customization) to Twitter, so I also own all of that content directly too.)

You’ll notice that on both sites, when content has been syndicated, there’s a section at the bottom of the original posts that indicates to which services the content was syndicated along with permalinks to those posts. I’m using David Shanske’s excellent Syndication Links plugin to do this.

The syndication block that follows posts on my site so one can easily/quickly see alternate versions in other social silos.
The syndication block that follows posts on my site so one can easily/quickly see alternate versions in other social silos.

Ultimately, I’d like to polish the workflow a bit and post all of my shorter Twitter-like status updates from BoffoSocko.com, but I still have some work to do to better differentiate content so that my shorter form content doesn’t muddy up or distract from the people who prefer to follow my longer-form content. Based on his comment, I also suspect that this is the same semantic issue/problem that Jay Rosen has. I’d also like to provide separate feeds/subscription options so that people can more easily consume as much or as little content from my site as they’d like.

Next steps

For those who are interested in more comprehensive solutions for owning and displaying their Tweets, I’ve looked into a few WordPress-based possibilities and like the following two which could also be potentially modified for custom display:

Both of these not only allow you to own and display your tweets, but they also automatically import new Tweets using the current API. Keep in mind that they use the PESOS philosophy (Post Elsewhere, Syndicate to your Own Site) which is less robust than POSSE, mentioned above.

I’ll note that a tremendous number of WordPress-based plugins within the plugin repository that are Twitter related predate some of the major changes in Twitter’s API in the last year or two and thus no longer work and are no longer supported, so keep this in mind if you attempt to explore other solutions.

Those with more coding ability or wokring on other CMS platforms may appreciate a larger collection of thought and notes on the Twitter wiki page created by the IndieWeb Community. [3]

Thoughts?

Do you own your own Tweets (either before or after-the-fact)? How did you do it? Feel free to tell others about your methods in the comments, or better yet, write them on your own site and send this post a webmention (see details below).

The IndieWeb movement is coding, collecting, and disseminating UI, UX, methods, and opensource code to help all netizens to better control their online identities, communicate, and connect themselves to others at IndieWeb.org. We warmly invite you to join us.

References

[1]
O. Richard, “ Ozh’ Tweet Archiver (Backup Twitter With WordPress) « planetOzh,” Planet Ozh, 21-Sep-2010. [Online]. Available: http://planetozh.com/blog/my-projects/ozh-tweet-archiver-backup-twitter-with-wordpress/. [Accessed: 05-Dec-2016]
[2]
J. Reifman, “Import and Archive Your Tweets With WordPress,” Envato Tuts+, 28-Jan-2015. [Online]. Available: http://code.tutsplus.com/tutorials/import-and-archive-your-tweets-with-wordpress–cms-22656. [Accessed: 05-Dec-2016]
[3]
“Twitter,” IndieWeb.org. [Online]. Available: http://indieweb.org/twitter. [Accessed: 05-Dec-2016]

Syndicated copies to:

Reply to Something the NIH can learn from NASA

Something the NIH can learn from NASA by Lior Pachter (& Comments by Donald Forsdyke)Lior Pachter (& Comments by Donald Forsdyke) (Bits of DNA)
Pubmed Commons provides a forum, independent of a journal, where comments on articles in that journal can be posted. Why not air your displeasure there? The article is easily found (see PMID: 27467019) and, so far, there are no comments.

I’m hoping that one day (in the very near future) that scientific journals and other science communications on the web will support the W3C’s Webmention candidate specification so that when commentators [like Lior, in this case, above] post something about an article on their site, that the full comment is sent to the original article to appear there automatically. This means that one needn’t go to the site directly to comment (and if the comment isn’t approved, then at least it still lives somewhere searchable on the web).

Some journals already count tweets, and blog mentions (generally for PR reasons) but typically don’t allow access to finding them on the web to see if they indicate positive or negative sentiment or to further the scientific conversation.

I’ve also run into cases in which scientific journals who are “moderating” comments, won’t approve reasoned thought, but will simultaneously allow (pre-approved?) accounts to flame every comment that is approved [example on Sciencemag.org: http://boffosocko.com/2016/04/29/some-thoughts-on-academic-publishing/ — see also comments there], so having the original comment live elsewhere may be useful and/or necessary depending on whether the publisher is a good or bad actor, or potentially just lazy.

I’ve also seen people use commenting layers like hypothes.is or genius.com to add commentary directly on journals, but these layers are often hidden to most. The community certainly needs a more robust commenting interface. I would hope that a decentralized version using web standards like Webmentions might be a worthwhile and robust solution.

Syndicated copies to:

The Indieweb Frees Me From “Awaiting Moderation”

I run across notices on the web like this regularly and it used to aggravate me to no end:

The dreaded "awaiting moderation" notice. Is my content lost forever or not?
The dreaded “awaiting moderation” notice. Is my content lost forever or not?

Infuriatingly it usually involved having just spent 5 minutes reading something and then spending 10 minutes to hours writing a reasoned and thoughtful response. (Because every troll knows that’s what the internet was designed to encourage, right?)

After pressing the reply button (even scarier than hitting the “Publish” button because you don’t have the ability to edit it after-the-fact and someone else now “owns” your content), you see the dreaded notice that your comment is “AWAITING MODERATION…”

Will they approve it? Will they delete it? Is it gone forever? Did they really get it, or did it disappear into the ether? Oh #%@$!, I wish I’d made a back up copy because that took a bit of work, and I might like to refer to it again later. Are they going to censor my thoughts? Silence my voice?

I Get It: The Need for Moderation

I completely get the need for moderation on the web, particularly as almost no one is as kind, considerate, courteous, or civil as my friend P.M. Forni. (And who could be — he literally wrote the book(s) on the subject!)

On a daily basis, I’m spammed by sites desperate to sell or promote FIFA coins, Ray Bans, Christian Louboutin shoes, or even worse types of hateful blather, so I too gently moderate. I try to save my own readers from having to see such drivel, and don’t want to provide a platform or audience for them to shout from or at, respectively.

I won’t be silenced anymore

No longer can I be silenced by random moderators that I often don’t know.

Why, you ask?

I now post everything I write online onto a site I own first.

Because now, thanks to philosophies from the Indieweb movement and technologies like webmention, which growing numbers of websites are beginning to support, I now post everything I write online onto a site I own first. There it can be read in perpetuity by anyone who chooses to come read it, or from where I can syndicate it out to the myriad of social media sites for others to read en masse. (And maybe my voice has more reach than the site I’m posting to?)

Functionality like webmention (a more modern version of pingback or trackback) then allows my content to be sent to the website I was replying to in an elegant way for (eventual?) display. Or I can copy and paste it directly if they don’t support modern protocols.

Sure, they can choose to moderate me or choose not to feature my viewpoint on their own site if they wish, but at least I still own the work I put into those thoughts. I don’t have to worry about where they went or how I might be able to find them in the future. They will always be mine, and that is empowering.

Join me

Would you like to own your own data? Own your own domain? Free yourself from the restrictions of the social media silos like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? Visit Indieweb.org to see how you can do these things. Chat with like-minded individuals who can also help you out. Attend an upcoming IndieWebCamp or a local Homebrew Website Club in your area, or start one of your own!

Syndicated copies to:

IndieWebCamp Los Angeles 2016 Announced for November 4-6

The IndieWeb movement is a global community that is building an open set of principles and methods that empower people to take back ownership of their online identity and data instead of relying on 3rd party websites. Come learn more about the next generation of the Web.

For the first time since 2013, when it appeared in Hollywood, IndieWebCamp is coming to Los Angeles! I’m definitely going, and I invite you to join us. For the past two years or so, I’ve been delving into the wealth of tools and resources the community has been developing. I’m excited to attend a local camp, help out in any way I can, and will help anyone who’s interested in learning more.

Join us in LA (Santa Monica) for two days of a BarCamp-style gathering of web creators building and sharing open web technologies to empower users to own their own identities & content, and advance the state of the #indieweb!

The IndieWeb movement is a global community that is building an open set of principles and methods that empower people to take back ownership of their identity and data instead of relying on 3rd party websites.

At IndieWebCamp you’ll learn about ways to empower yourself to own your data, create & publish content on your own site, and only optionally syndicate to third-party silos. Along the way you’ll get a solid grounding in the history and future of Microformats, domain ownership, IndieAuth, WebMention and more!

For remote participants, tune into the live chat (tons of realtime notes!) and the video livestream (URL TBD).

General IndieWeb Principles

icon 4611.png Your content is yours
When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation. Too many companies have gone out of business and lost all of their users’ data. By joining the IndieWeb, your content stays yours and in your control.
icon 31635.png You are better connected
Your articles and status messages can go to all services, not just one, allowing you to engage with everyone. Even replies and likes on other services can come back to your site so they’re all in one place.
icon 2003.png You are in control
You can post anything you want, in any format you want, with no one monitoring you. In addition, you share simple readable links such as example.com/ideas. These links are permanent and will always work.

 Where

Pivotal
1333 2nd Street, Suite 200
Santa Monica, CA, 90401
United States
Map

When

Friday (optional): 2016-11-04
Saturday: 2016-11-05
Sunday: 2016-11-06

RSVP

Indie Event
Eventbrite
Lanyrd
Facebook

Guest List
For more details see: IndieWebCamp LA 2016

Tentative Schedule

Day 0 Prep Night

Day 0 is an optional prep night for people that want to button up their website a little bit to get ready for the IndieWebCamp proper.
18:30 Organizer setup
19:00 Doors open
19:15 Introductions
19:30 Build session
22:00 Day 0 closed

Day 1 Discussion

Day 1 is about discussing in a BarCamp-like environment. Bring a topic you’d like to discuss or join in on topics as they are added to the board. We make the schedule together!
08:00 Organizer setup
08:30 Doors open – badges
09:15 Introductions and demos
10:00 Session scheduling
10:30 Sessions
12:00 Group photo & Lunch
13:00 Sessions on the hour
16:00 Last session
17:00 Day 1 closing session, break, meetup later for dinner

Day 2 Building

Day 2 is about making things on and for your personal site! Work with others or on your own.
09:30 Doors open – badges
10:10 Day 2 kick-off, session scheduling
10:30 Build sessions
12:00 Catered lunch
14:30 Build sessions continue
15:00 Demos
16:30 Community clean-up
17:00 Camp closed!

Sponsorship opportunities are available for those interested.

im-attending-indiewebcamp

Syndicated copies to: