Reply to Blog Engines and Indieweb Controlling Upstream by Brad Enslen

Replied to Blog Engines and Indieweb Controlling Upstream by Brad EnslenBrad Enslen (Brad Enslen)
All this WordPress 5.0 Gutenberg stuff got me thinking.  With WordPress it seems like the Indieweb starts making serious and cool progress and the WordPress people come along and knock the game board and pieces off the table.  And it sounds like the disruption from WordPress is going to continue f...
Brad, I like and agree with your general thoughts, but I think that looking at the long term broader picture, most of what you’re describing is covered under the umbrella principle of plurality. For things to grow and thrive, we all need plurality to flourish. As a result there are several hundred projects within the broader IndieWeb which are growing and thriving. It seems far slower because a large number of the projects are single-maintainer single-user ones which are being built for personal use.

It’s nice that there are mass-scale projects like WordPress, WithKnown, Get Perch, Grav, Drupal, and a few others which have one or more “IndieWeb-centric” developers working on them that allow those without the coding skills to jump in and enjoy the additional freedom and functionality. The occasional drawback is that those big-hearted developers also fit into the broader fabric of those massively distributed projects and sometimes their voices aren’t as well heard, if at all.

I’m aware of the disruption of the Gutenberg Editor within WordPress v5.0 and how it applies to those using IndieWeb technology on WordPress. I’m sure it will eventually get sorted out in a reasonable fashion. Sadly, throwing out the baby out with the bathwater as it comes to WordPress and IndieWeb may not be the best solution for many people and may actually be a painful detriment to several hundreds.

While it would be interesting to see a larger group of developers converge on building an open and broadly used IndieWeb system as you suggest, it takes a massive amount of work and community collaboration to get such a thing moving. I think this bears out if you look at the lay of the land as it already exists. Just think of the time effort and energy that the core IndieWeb community puts into the tremendous amount of resources that exist today.

Looking back on the past 4+ years of IndieWeb within the WordPress community, I’m really amazed to see exactly how far things have come and where things currently stand. There used to be a dozen or more pieces that required custom code, duct tape, and baling wire to get things working. Now it’s a handful of relatively stable and well set up pieces that—particularly for me—really makes WordPress deliver as an open source content management system and next generation social medial platform that aims to democratize publishing. In terms of building for the future, I suspect that helping to bring new people into the fold (users, developers, designers, etc.) will increase and improve the experience overall. To some degree, I feel like we’re just getting started on what is possible and recruiting new users and help will be the best thing for improving things moving forward. IndieWeb integration into large-scale projects like WordPress, Drupal, etc. are very likely to be the place that these ideas are likely to gain a foothold in the mainstream and change the tide of how the internet works.

While it may seem daunting at times, in addition to the heroic (part-time, it needs to be noted) developers like Mathias Pfefferle, David Shanske, Micah Cambre, Michael Bishop, Ashton McAllan, Jack Jamieson,  Ryan Barrett, Peter MolnarAmanda Rush; enthusiastic supporters like you, Greg McVerry, Aaron Davis, Manton Reece; and literally hundreds of others (apologies to those I’ve missed by name) who are using and living with these tools on a daily basis, there are also quieter allies like Brandon Kraft, Ryan Boren, Jeremy Herve and even Matt himself, even if he’s not directly aware of it, who are contributing in their own ways as well. Given the immense value of what IndieWeb brings to the web, I can’t imagine that they won’t ultimately win out.

If it helps, some of the current IndieWeb issues pale in comparison to some of the accessibility problems that Gutenberg has neglected within the WordPress community. Fortunately those a11ys are sticking with the greater fight to make things better not only for themselves, but for the broader community and the world. I suggest that, like them, we all suit up and continue the good fight.

Of course part of the genius of how IndieWeb is structured: anyone is free to start writing code, make better UI, and create something of their own. Even then they benefit from a huge amount of shared work, resources, and simple standards that are already out there. 

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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.

6 thoughts on “Reply to Blog Engines and Indieweb Controlling Upstream by Brad Enslen”

  1. Interesting post by @bradenslen about WordPress 5.0 Gutenberg, which I’ve noted many people don’t like. Brad asks, “why not come out with an Indieweb compatible blog engine of our own?” @c had an excellent response to this, basically saying IndieWeb should continue to integrate “into large-scale projects like WordPress, Drupal, etc.”

    I agree with Chris, because I think WordPress is an outstanding open source publishing platform. I’d add that some of us are interested in using IndieWeb tools and/or philosophy in creating what used to be called pro blogs. I’m not sure that term meaningfully exists anymore, but to me I’m very interested in building digital media businesses that go beyond the data lock-in of the Web 2.0 model. I don’t see this pov reflected much in the MB community, right now. Hopefully I can represent it going forward.

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  2. Chris, your argument that the “Indieweb should stay with WordPress because that is where the users are,” is valid. I’d not really considered that but it makes sense. Also, I’m more confident that Known offers something close to what I suggested. That was not true when I wrote the orginal post. I ended up finding more detailed information on Known on the Indieweb wiki Known page, than I did on the Withknown site, which is odd if you think about it.
    I think we will just have to wait and see if WordPress 5.0 and later can remain a viable Indieweb platform. As you pointed out the team of volunteers dealing with the WordPress side are doing an impressive job despite the adversities so if anyone can pull it off they can. So with that, and some better knowledge about what’s going on with Known, Pause I am somewhat reassured.

    1. Known started as a business focusing on the education market (following some of the founders’ and developers’ background in creating Elgg), so its primary website tends to swing heavily in that direction and less on the opensource part of what WithKnown is. While there are several participating in its opensource project side, the overall project seems to have slowed a bit since the education company side has essentially shut down this past year. Perhaps the community will pick up pace on development and also reconfigure the business’ old website to better reflect what the opensource project’s future goals and directions are? Like many, I love what the project represents, its simplicity, and the functionality it provides out of the box. Ben recently wrote an update on the project at!topic/known-dev/XCpVUkkp8m0 and there’s some good background and history in that Google Group that is sure to help you out.

  3. I don’t have much to add to the discussion but wanted to voice my dissatisfaction with Gutenberg and how it disrupts my recently discovered IndieWeb power (Webmentions). I considered switching to Jekyll, Hugo or Grav but ran into challenges migrating over 15 years of content and several thousand posts.

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