The Logos, Ethos, and Pathos of IndieWeb

Editor’s note: This is another in a continuing series of essays about the IndieWeb.


Where is the IndieWeb?

Logos

One might consider the IndieWeb’s indieweb.org wiki-based website and chat the “logos” of IndieWeb. There is a small group of about a hundred active to very active participants who hang out in these spaces on a regular basis, but there are also many who dip in and out over time as they tinker and build, ask advice, get some help, or just to show up and say hello. Because there are concrete places online as well as off (events) for them to congregate, meet, and interact, it’s the most obvious place to find these ideas and people.

Ethos

Beyond this there is an even larger group of people online who represent the “ethos” of IndieWeb. Some may have heard the word before, some have a passing knowledge of it, but an even larger number have not. They all act and operate in a way that either seemed natural to them because they grew up in the period of the open web, or because they never felt accepted by the thundering herds in the corporate social enclosures. Many are not necessarily easily found or discovered because they’re not surfaced or highlighted by the sinister algorithms of corporate social media, but through slow and steady work (much like the in person social space) they find each other and interact in various traditional web spaces. Many of them can be found in spaces like Micro.Blog, Tilde Club or NeoCities, or through movements like A Domain of One’s Own. Some can be found through a variety of webrings, via blogrolls, or just following someone’s website and slowly seeing the community of people who stop by and comment. Yes, these discovery methods may involve a little more work, but shouldn’t healthy human interactions require work and care?

Pathos

The final group of people, and likely the largest within the community, are those that represent the “pathos” of IndieWeb. The word IndieWeb has not registered with any of them and they suffer with grief in the long shadow of corporate social media wishing they had better user interfaces, better features, different interaction, more meaningful interaction, healthier and kinder interaction. Some may have even been so steeped in big social for so long that they don’t realize that there is another way of being or knowing.

These people may be found searching for the IndieWeb promised land on silo platforms like Tumblr, WordPress.com, Blogger, or Medium where they have the shadow on the wall of a home on the web where they can place their identities and thoughts. Here they’re a bit more safe from the acceleration of algorithmically fed content and ills of mainstream social. Others are trapped within massive content farms run by multi-billion dollar extractive companies who quietly but steadily exploit their interactions with friends and family.

The Conversation

All three of these parts of the IndieWeb, the logos, the ethos, and the pathos comprise the community of humanity. They are the sum of the real conversation online.

Venture capital backed corporate social media has cleverly inserted themselves between us and our interactions with each other. They privilege some voices not only over others, but often at the expense of others and only to their benefit. We have been developing a new vocabulary for these actions with phrases like “surveillance capitalism”, “data mining”, and analogizing human data as the new “oil” of the 21st century. The IndieWeb is attempting to remove these barriers, many of them complicated, but not insurmountable, technical ones, so that we can have a healthier set of direct interactions with one another that more closely mirrors our in person interactions. By having choice and the ability to move between a larger number of service providers there is an increasing pressure to provide service rather than the growing levels of continued abuse and monopoly we’ve become accustomed to.

None of these subdivisions—logos, ethos, or pathos—is better or worse than the others, they just are. There is no hierarchy between or among them just as there should be no hierarchy between fellow humans. But by existing, I think one could argue that through their humanity these people are all slowly, but surely making the web a healthier, happier, fun, and more humanized and humanizing place to be.

I’d appreciate others’ thoughts and perspectives on this regardless of where they choose to post them. 

While the new community members section of the IndieWeb newsletter is just a tiny subset of people who are joining the IndieWeb movement by actively adding themselves to the wiki, it’s been encouraging to see expanding growth both here and in the broader web (even Tumblr) and Fediverse space since Musk announced the acquisition of Twitter.

Here’s to more positive growth to a healthier and happier online social experience.

Replied to a tweet by Moritz WallawitschMoritz Wallawitsch (Twitter)
I’ve created a Zotero group for Tools of Thought that many are beginning to contribute to. It’s got lots of material and history that is afield from the more common computer-centric resources you’ve listed thus far. https://www.zotero.org/groups/4676190/tools_for_thought
Playing around with Kevin Markschanges to the base Tumblr theme which has added some microformats. It’s looking pretty good in most of the parsers I’ve tested. Here’s a good visual one: https://monocle.p3k.io/preview?url=https%3A%2F%2Fchrisaldrich.tumblr.com.

This makes me want to use and syndicate to it more often.

Replied to a tweet by Ed HeilEd Heil (Twitter)
The whole idea behind IndieWeb is that you can use your website to own all your content on a domain you own/control. You’ve got a site with webmentions set up, so we could be having this whole conversation from site to site. Instead, I’m choosing to syndicate/POSSE my replies from my site(s) to Twitter, to meet you where you’re currently at. Integrating my site with Brid.gy allows me to get your responses from Twitter back to my website. Here’s some more on threaded conversations between WordPress and Twitter that may help frame what you’re attempting. (It also includes a link of WordPress to WordPress or other site conversations as well.)

How to Live the IndieWeb Dream

I’ve posted this in a threaded conversation hidden away on my own website, but it really needs to be highlighted as its own post, so I’m putting another copy of it here for discoverability. Thanks Chris (@fncll@social.coop)  for your kind compliment. I’d welcome you and anyone else to come join me. There are a bunch of us out here who are ready, willing, and able to help!

 

a comment by Chris LottChris Lott (from BoffoSocko.com (Comments))

I feel like I’ve been here before, looking at this site and feeling like that Chris is living the federated dream…all your posts, articles, annotations, quotes, etc. truly having a single home “here,” including hypothes.is annotations, whatever. I also feel like I’ve been here wondering where to start?
It’s overwhelming. I’m relatively tech-literate, I have decent WordPress chops, do some minor coding and hacking, but find myself in the rare position of needing a guide, not necessarily for Dummies, but close, to get started traveling through the Fediverse. Is there such a thing?


My reply:

“There’s only one way to eat a whale: ‘one bite at a time’.”
—Anonymous

I’ll tell you the secret: I’ve been working on this site and learning from it slowly but surely since around 2005. Things saw an uptick in 2008 when I moved it over to this domain and there was another uptick around 2015ish when I found and joined the IndieWeb community. That has made all the difference.

Since then I’ve been slowly playing and experimenting to build the home online that I’ve always wanted. Having a community around me like IndieWeb.org has helped me immeasurably. It’s great having others around who come up with interesting ideas, write code I can borrow, provide a sounding board for ideas, can tell me about the pitfalls and traps I’d have never expected.

I started off as many did in the old blogosphere days by looking at what others had on their websites and trying to puzzle together how I could have it for myself. Then I made an ordered list of what sorts of functionalities, design, and layout I wanted to have. I did some research on plugins and methods until I could get each part roughly the way I wanted it. Each step along the way I was able to get the help and support I needed from the IndieWeb, Domain of One’s Own, and other communities and friends. Slowly but surely over time, I’ve been able to slowly tweak and refine things so that they work the way I’d like them to.

I was also able to provide my thoughts and feedback both on what worked and didn’t for me personally which I think has helped refine some of the code and plugins I’ve borrowed. I’ve also tried to document how I did many things (both on the IndieWeb wiki and on my own website), so that folks who find intriguing pieces can more easily have it for themselves. In many years of doing this, nothing warms my cockles more than to see others use the same paths I’ve walked, borrow functionality or documentation, and even—in some cases—completely copy entire pages of text from my website.

I’m far from done, but it’s been an entertaining, engaging, and incredibly fun hobby. Over time it has slowly turned into something. Even better, along the way, I’ve been able to not only save my memories for myself, document how things work, but I’ve made lots of friends and had a great time doing it.

Another not-so-secret, I do a lot of tinkering, and only know enough code to break things, but haven’t really built or written large amounts of code for myself, so if I can do it, I’m sure that with some help others certainly can too. I’ve seen some of the most creative, highly paid, and busy web designers, developers, and engineers on the planet take newcomers aside and show them how to register a domain name and write HTML from scratch. Our collective goal is to allow anyone to be able to do what we’re doing.

Given what it looks like you’ve already got Chris, you’re most of the way there and have a more solid base than when I started out. If you’re game, I’m happy to help and provide other advice about particular pieces based on my experience. My first recommendation is that you, or anyone else for that matter, pop over to chat.indieweb.org and introduce yourself. Then take a look at their Wikifying page, and work your way through it. In particular start thinking about this part: Write down your “dreams”. Once you’ve got a list of things you’d like your site to do, start searching the wiki, looking at sites, and asking questions in chat.

(For others who aren’t as far along as Chris, maybe think about what domain name you’d like to use for your website and start asking questions in chat. We’ll try to help you get what you’d like to have—there are millions of options and routes you can take.)

You’ll find lots of friendly, welcoming help because you’re definitely not alone.

I’ve been following “Welsh Twitter” off and on, but TIL that there’s a Welsh Mastodon: Tŵt Cymru at https://toot.wales/about.

Bore da. Chris dw i. Dw i’n dysgu Cymraeg. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

I’ll have to figure out how to automate POSSE of my Welsh-related posts to my new account: https://toot.wales/@chrisaldrich. Until then it’s manual until it hurts.

But first, figuring out how to work this into my practice…

Followed Chuck Grimmett (Chuck Grimmett)

I’m on the WordPress.com Special Projects Team at Automattic. When I’m not online, I prefer to be hiking, reading, or woodworking.

I blog about food and drink over at Cook Like Chuck. I used to work at Crash, eResources, and The Foundation for Economic Education.

My three favorite bands are Underworld, Tycho, and A Tribe Called Quest.

Around the web, you can generally find me with the username cagrimmett.

So much to love about Chuck Grimmett: interested in WordPress, Digital Gardens, woodworking, economics, ReadLists, a personal digital library… Need I go on?

Replied to a thread by Mia (not her best work) and Zach Leatherman (Twitter)
I always circle back to the Lost Infrastructure chart here https://indieweb.org/lost_infrastructure and wonder:

  • in which boxes can the technology requirements be simplified for publishers and maintainers of individual websites but still allow for the broadest inter-operation?
  • which axes are missing?
  • which boxes need to be expanded with technology for better plurality?
Replied to As I continue reading and sometimes re-posting ... by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas (Jeremy Cherfas)
As I continue reading and sometimes re-posting things written on this day, I've decided to do one more thing at the end of a session: go to a random site in the IndieWeb WebRing. Today, I found something that resonates down the years: how to organise the content of a weblog.
These are fascinating questions, though looking at them from various perspectives and imagined audiences over time scales makes them more intriguing. 

Most often we privilege the chronological time order because that’s how we ourselves live them, write them, and how much of our audience experiences them.

But consider looking at someone’s note collections or zettelkasten after they’re gone? One wouldn’t necessarily read them in physical order or even attempt to recreate them into time-based order. Instead they’d find an interesting topical heading, delve in and start following links around.

I’ve been thinking about this idea of “card index (or zettelkasten) as autobiography” for a bit now, though I’m yet to come to any final conclusions. (References and examples see also: https://hypothes.is/users/chrisaldrich?q=%22card+index+as+autobiography%22). 

I’ve also been looking at Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project which is based on a chunk of his (unfinished) zettelkasten notes which editors have gone through and published as books. There were many paths an editor could have taken to write such a book, and many of them that Benjamin himself may not have taken, but there it is at the end of the day, a book ostensibly similar to what Benjamin would have written because there it is in his own writing in his card index.

After his death, editors excerpted 330 index cards of Roland Barthes’ collection of 12,000+ about his reactions to the passing of his mother and published them in book form as a perceived “diary”. What if someone were to do this with your Tweets or status updates after your death?

Does this perspective change your ideas on time ordering, taxonomies, etc. and how people will think about what we wrote? 

I’ll come back perhaps after I’ve read Barthes’ The Death of the Author


Also in reply to: 

Replied to Open Educators on Mastodon by Clint LalondeClint Lalonde (EdTech Factotum)
It is great to see many people in my network again testing the Mastodon waters in the wake of the news of the sale of Twitter. Discovering and developing a new network can be difficult and is often a big barrier to moving to a new platform so to help get you started, here is a list of peo...
Thanks for this Clint!

I wish that Mastodon’s list functionality was easier to use, but this method works well too. I won’t say anything about the irony of using the OG social network of the blogosphere to spread this useful information. 😉