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

Replied to I defy the world and go back to RSS by Bryan Alexander (
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.

Published by

Chris Aldrich

I'm a biomedical and electrical engineer with interests in information theory, complexity, evolution, genetics, signal processing, IndieWeb, theoretical mathematics, and big history. I'm also a talent manager-producer-publisher in the entertainment industry with expertise in representation, distribution, finance, production, content delivery, and new media.

10 thoughts on “Reply to I defy the world and go back to RSS by Bryan Alexander”

  1. Thomas Lau says:

    That’s awesome, and i think RSS reading starts from the Web 2.0, but it doesn’t belong to Web 2.0, like reading or eating start Before the Flood, but we are still reading or eating now.

    1. I’m sorry about that, you blue man. It’s been a season of planes, cars, trains, and intense overwork, plus another family medical emergency. I’ve been digging out ever since.

      Catching up: thank you, once more, for a sweet post.

      Indieweb: I’m aware of the movement, but haven’t had time to really dig in. You and Alan Levine are going to get me doing more WordPress magic, for which I thank you.

      I must confess to one problem with going back to RSS: people persisting in talking to me on Facebook. Those aren’t trolls, but friends, colleagues, etc. It’s a deep time sink.

      -How is PressForward working out for you as an RSS reader?
      -I can’t load WebMention to my blog. WordPress claims I need a business account. Is that right?

      1. Bryan, no worries, I certainly know how it can be.

        I’m aware of some of Alan Levine’s work in the area, but I’m not sure how deeply he’s delved into some of the specific tools which aren’t specific to pedagogy. As an example, I don’t think he supports Webmentions yet (think of them as cross-platform and platform agnostic @mentions), and I find those to be a big centerpiece of the next iteration of the internet. In a sense, they also go toward your issue of people still trying to talk to you on Facebook as tools like can force Facebook to send webmentions back to your site so you’re aware of them without needing to really be on Facebook to be aware and interact directly. Though I still post to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram (now only via API instead of through their interfaces) the IndieWeb tech tools have all of the likes, mentions, replies, comments, etc. coming back to my site directly as native looking comments which then allows me to reply back to them when necessary. This way, my personal choice for open doesn’t dictate how others may choose to communicate, but still provides an easy way to aggregate the entire conversation on my site and make it easier for me. As an example of this, I’ve written up some details about how I’ve set things up so that people who @mention me on Twitter are really communicating directly with my website:

        I’ve been generally enjoying PressForward on my own site and have pushed a few issues on their Github repo over the past year to help make some of my (and surely others’) usability problems with it disappear. It wasn’t built specifically as a feed reader, but it certainly does that and more. There are still a few pieces that it (and other feed readers) could certainly use to better dovetail into the IndieWeb world. I’ve detailed some of these functionalities here:

        From what I can see, I suspect it’s the case that you’re using WordPress.COM instead of self-hosting your site using a WordPress.ORG version of the software. If so, then yes, you’d need to have a business account to add some of the plugins that make it easier to IndieWebify your site. (Though I suspect that within the next five years WordPress will wake up and add Webmention functionality into their core product–some of their core committers are already experimenting with it themselves.)

        I do know that some people have used to bootstrap their websites to send/receive webmentions. Some of the details can be found at, but you can add the functionality by clicking on the button on the front page of the site. If you decide to do this, I’d recommend you first create a new user on your installation and name it something like “Commenter” with an appropriate Gravatar so that the incoming webmentions display more logically from a UI perspective. As an example, Kevin Marks is using a similar bootstrap on Blogger and you can see how his webmentions there appear in this sample: Because of the way he originally registered to, it appears as if his webmentions are coming from him (with his avatar) when they’re really coming from other places as indicated just below his name/avatar. This seems to be one of the biggest, albeit cosmetic, issues with using this workaround method.

        If you’d like a crash course on some of this, I’m happy to help walk you through it via phone/Skype/Hangouts/other and even help you implement it (gratis, of course, as I’d like to see more in the education field using it both for themselves and students). I’m currently working on a book (WordPress focused) to help non-technical people get sites set up to support this, so your thoughts on the setup and use of it would also be helpful from that front.

        If you want to experiment a bit with a separate site that supports some of this technology before going all-in on it, I’m happy to spin one up for you.

        Thanks again for circling back around!

        Syndicated copies:

        1. My dear Chris, what a response!
          Thank you for taking the time to thoughtfully address my questions in such detail.
          And thank you for the kind offer.
          Let me finish this insane month (travel: Philadelphia, Singapore, Orlando, Minneapolis in 4 weeks; seeing podcast into production; business issues), read through these links, then reach out to you for tutoring.


  • 💬 Mike McCallister

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *