A Domain of One’s Own for use as a personal Learning Management System (pLMS)

I love that Johannes Klingbiel’s article Building a new website highlights having his own place on the Internet as a means to learn.

To learn—A rather obvious one, but I wanted to challenge myself again. 

While I suspect that part of the idea here is to learn about the web and programming, it’s also important to have a place you can more easily look over and review as well as build out on as one learns. This dovetails in part with his third reason to have his own website: “to build”. It’s much harder to build out a learning space on platforms like Medium and Twitter. It’s not as easy to revisit those articles and notes as those platforms aren’t custom built for those sorts of learning affordances.

Building your own website for learning makes it by definition a learning management system. The difference between my idea of a learning management system here and the more corporate LMSes (Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, etc.) is that you can change and modify the playground as you go. While your own personal LMS may also be a container for holding knowledge, it is a container for building and expanding knowledge. Corporate LMSes aren’t good at these last two things, but are built for making it easier for a course facilitator to distribute and grade material.

We definitely need more small personal learning management systems. (pLMS, anyone? I like the idea of the small “p” to highlight the value of these being small.) Even better if they have social components like some of the IndieWeb building blocks that make it easier for one to build a personal learning network and interact with others’ LMSes on the web. I see some of this happening in the Digital Gardens space and with people learning and sharing in public.

[[Flancian]]’s Anagora.org is a good example of this type of public learning space that is taking the individual efforts of public learners and active thinkers and knitting their efforts together to facilitate a whole that is bigger than the sum of it’s pieces.

Call for Interest: IndieWebCamp pop up session on Goodreads replacements and decentralized book projects

Based on some recent discussions with a variety of people I’m helping to organize an IndieWebCamp pop-up session on personal libraries online. If you’ve ever considered how to own all your own Goodreads-like reading data and still interact with others or you’ve got an website, product, or application that attempts to do this, this is sure to be your cup of tea (or maybe we should say “favorite genre”).

If you’re interested, comment or reply to this post, or add your interest and preferred dates to the IndieWeb wiki.

  • Date: Sometime in February 2022
  • Time: TBD (approximately 3 hours in duration)
  • Streaming video/audio platform: Zoom
  • Hashtag for the session:

We’ll focus discussion on personal libraries on one’s site(s) and how they can interact with each other. How can we pool data and resources for the common good? How can we provide Goodreads like functionality in a decentralized manner? What pieces are we missing? How can we add them? Are there any easy ways we can standardize the pieces for better site-to-site interoperability? How can we interoperate with other projects like Mastodon and BookWyrm or data sources like Open Library?

Organizationally, depending on attendees and needs we may break our time up into two or three facilitated sub-sessions to focus on and cover specific topics of interest. If you have an idea for a sub-session topic (we’ll operate Bar-Camp style the day of the event) you’d like to see or facilitate please indicate it below.

If you’d like to help facilitate the session or volunteer in running it, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Want to start discussing the topic prior to the session? Feel free to meet up online in the IndieWeb chat.

We’ll try to announce a date around mid-January to provide time for people to reserve the time.

Replied to a tweet by Craig Mod (Twitter)
If iA is getting into physical notebooks, I’m hoping they’ll also attach the other leg of the triangle with their app’s Micropub support and allow me to publish my handwriting to my website. See: https://boffosocko.com/2021/12/20/55799844/ for details.

Handwriting my Website with a Digital Amanuensis

A Capital User Interface Idea

A few weeks ago I saw Ben Stokes’ post about PaperWebsite.com and my immediate reaction was, “I have to be able to do that!” I’ve long enjoyed writing by hand over typing as the tactile feel of of pen or pencil and paper is such an enjoyable one. I particularly enjoy using a nice fountain pen on high quality paper.

Obviously there was a route to doing a workflow like this as Ben had shown. I just needed to figure out a method with a low enough barrier that I could personally implement for doing this with my own WordPress website.

A Quick Solution

Not being a serious coder, I immediately began looking for ways I could leverage some of the IndieWeb building blocks my site supports. Micropub seemed like a no-brainer for the posting portion since I’ve got an endpoint using the Micropub WordPress plugin. Certainly not wanting to manually re-type everything once I was finished writing, I needed a way of converting my handwriting to text and then automating a way to plug that into my micropub client.

A short burst of searching revealed that Google Docs could do Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on photos. I pulled out my IFTTT app and found a recipe for taking a photo and saving it to Google Drive. Then I set up another recipe to watch a particular folder in Google Drive and take whatever text appears in new documents and send it to my website using a webhook that uses my Micropub endpoint. The whole thing only took a half hour from idea to a working prototype. In the end it took a tap to open IFTTT on my phone and another tap to take the photo. Then I had to manually open the document to trigger the OCR. Finally, I had to manually open and edit the post before posting.

I had set the micropub client to post as a draft as a default just in case the OCR wasn’t perfect. This was fortunate as the Google photo OCR was so solid that the letters “Dia” of the microscopic text from the word “Diamond” partially visible on my pen cap that was in the photo got pulled into the post.

In the few times I’ve used this workflow so far, I’ve mostly done straight text and syndicated posts to Twitter, Mastodon, and Micro.blog. Perhaps in the future I might set things up to add HTML links, but they’re fairly easy to add at the editing stage.

Since I started my experimentation, a few others in the IndieWeb community have noticed the paperwebsite.com site. Greg McVerry popped up and linked to it as well. He mentioned that he had a digital notebook with OCR capability. This reminded me that I’ve got both a Livescribe Echo pen and a Rocketbook notebook with a Pilot Frixion pen that has an app for uploading digitized images of notebook pages. I hadn’t done OER with Livescribe in ages, so I pulled out the Rocketbook, which is cleverly erasable and thus reusable not to mention being fairly inexpensive. A bit of quick set up allowed me to take a photo of a page which automatically uploads to Google Drive and does its own OCR process. This already dovetails with my prior process, so the whole thing is much smoother. As a result, I’m composing this post in my Rocketbook notebook and will automatically upload and post it to my site as a draft. I’ll probably add some links, a photo or two, and then publish it in a bit.

Rocketbook Interface

The Rocketbook notebook has some solid pages with an odd shiny texture and feel, presumably part of the technology that makes it easy to wipe them clean for reuse. The bottom of each page has seven different faint icon images which are meant to allow the app to determine where to send the digital copy of the notes. One can send them via email or to a variety of storage or sharing services. I could imagine having different recipes set up to allow one to publish their notes to different websites based on the icon X-ed out. Given the micropub possibilities, one could also use the icons as a means of differentiating post kinds (for example, indicating that a particular post is a note, an article, or a bookmark). Another alternate idea would be to use the icons as a means of selecting which services to syndicate your content to (for example, the diamond could mean syndicate this post to Micro.blog, the bell could mean Mastodon, and the clover syndicates the post to Twitter).

The printed interface at the bottom of the Rocketbook notebook: a QR code eith icons for a rocket, a diamond, an apple, a bell, a clover, a star, and a horseshoe. The last one has an "X" over it to indicate choosing the horseshoe.

The overall process is quite elegant and pleasant. The OCR for Rocketbook is reasonably good aside from a few spelling errors which are easy enough to click and fix. I’ll admit that I far prefer using a fountain pen on some Tomoe River paper to using the Rocketbook paper and the Frixion pen, but really, who wouldn’t?

Handwritten notes for your digital zettelkasten or personal wiki

Since I’ve already got most of the infrastructure, I’ve gone the extra mile and set things up so that I can take notes on index cards zettelkasten-style and use a similar set up to post them to my Obsidian vault using similar IFTTT recipes.

Try it yourself

For those who want to set this up themselves, I’ve documented the IFTTT/micropub portion before. I’ll post the specific code I’m using below for these who may want it. The nice part is that as long as you have a micropub server for your website platform (there are many CMSs that have native or plugin support) the WordPress portion isn’t a deal breaker for others.

I’m sure, now that there are multiple proofs of concept, some enterprising developer will build a custom micropub client to do all of this work automatically or with a few options built into a clever interface.

I could see pen and paper manufacturers (Moleskin, Leuchtturm, Rocketbook, etc.) creating apps for doing this too. I’d love to see and hear about others trying this out for themselves. Hopefully it can be done with almost no code or some easy cut and paste from my example. Ask if you need help, and I’ll see what I can do to help.

IFTTT Webhook settings

This following will be roughly standard for WordPress endpoints using the plugin, but they can obviously be modified for your platform of choice.

  • URL: https://example.com/wp-json/micropub/1.0/endpoint
  • Method: POST
  • Content type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded
  • Body: access_token=PasswordHere&content=<<<{{Body}}>>>&h=entry&category[]=Social%20Stream&post-status=published&visibility=private

Historical examples

While doing some of this I did come across some older examples of handwriting to websites. Aside from handwriting typography which I think is usually ugly, I saw some interesting examples from Jeff Bridges[1] [2], gRegor Morrill, and scrolled through some great examples of handwritten and typed Tweets by Alton Brown. In his case, he was simply taking photos of his writing, but it worked! I’ll admit he had some fun and was definitely creative about it. Hopefully Twitter always exists to save the copies for him.

Conclusion

In short, I’ve now got another great way to post to my website. I love the great old school tactile user interface of pen and paper. Now I’m glad to have a reason to be able to do more of it in an ever-digitized culture.

Until I start working on cuneiform solutions…

Write On! 🖋


Editor’s note: This post was originally handwritten on Dec 16, 2021 at 20:15.

IndieWeb as a Service (IaaS) Idea: PESOS from all the Silos with Feeds using Micropub

IndieWeb as a Service idea:

Imagine a Micropub client that could accept any form of feed (RSS/Atom/JSON/h-entry/etc.) as an input and publish the content to your personal website.

Then any silo service (Soundcloud, Goodreads, Flickr, etc.) with such feeds could be used to syndicate all of one’s content to their own personal website with reasonable fidelity.

I’d love to see services like IFTTT, Integromat, Zapier, etc. provide this sort of service. Using the individual APIs they’ve already got, they could provide higher fidelity of content mapping (eg. tags which many feed types don’t support) to people with their own websites

Social media services that have widgets that people can embed into their websites should pivot to this sort of model for publishing their users’ data. They could still serve as discovery clearinghouses/hubs and serve ads. This would help make them less dependent on the major corporate social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for ancillary distribution and engagement. 

#BridgeAllTheThings  

Replied to a tweet by Kevin SmoklerKevin Smokler (Twitter)
The StoryGraph looks like yet-another-silo in the merry-go-round of social reading sites. I prefer IndieWeb solutions like Gregor Morrill‘s (@gRegorLove) https://indiebookclub.biz/, an app/platform that posts your book reading data and updates to your own website.

Tagging Tom Critchlow (@TomCritchlow) and Ton Zijlstra (@ton_zylstra) for their thoughts and maybe an update on any recent experimentation.

I do wonder if StoryGraph are planning on making the ownership of your own data on your own site easier? That might be a reason for some buy-in.

Some notes about the semantic change of “interlink” and “backlink”

I’m reasonably certain that he’s raised the question or issue about the definition of “interlink” or “backlink” before, but it’s come up again today with some discussion and notes which I wanted to capture permanently here with few modifications for myself:

doubleloop[m] APP 12:30 PM
I have some notes I’ve taken on interlinking wikis here – https://commonplace.doubleloop.net/interlinking-wikis

tantek 12:39 PM
doubleloop[m], what’s the difference between “just” a link and an “interlink” from a user perspective?
genuine question (feel free to also answer if you have an idea @chrisaldrich) because Wikipedia seems to consider “interlink” as a common noun to be a synonym for “hyperlink” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interlink

Chris Aldrich 20:45 PM
I think that the definition for interlinking is expanding based on actual use cases. Historically Tim Berners Lee tried to create hyperlinks as bi-directional and then scrapped the idea as not easily implementable. As a result we’ve all come to expect that links are uni-directional.

In the digital gardens, wiki spaces and now, even with Webmention, there’s an expectation (I would suggest) by a growing number of people that some links in practice will be bi-directional.

If Neil puts a link to something within his own wiki/digital garden, he’s expecting that to be picked up in a space like the Agora and it will interlink his content with that of others.

Many who are practicing POSSE/PESOS are programatically (or manually) placing backlinks between their content and the copies that live on silos creating a round trip set of links that typically hasn’t been seen on the web historically.

Because we’ve mostly grown up with a grammar of single directional links and no expectation of visible reverse links (except perhaps in the spammy framing of SEO linkfarms), the word “interlink” has taken on the connotation seen in Wikipedia. I think that definition is starting to change.

Among a class of users in the note taking/personal knowledge management space (Roam Research, Obsidian, Logseq, TiddlyWiki, et al) most users are expecting tools to automatically interlink (in my definition with the sense of an expected bi-directional link) pages. Further, they’re expecting that if you change the word(s) that appear within a [[wikilink]] that it will globally change all instances of that word/phrase that are so linked within one’s system.

In many of those systems you can also do a manual /redirect the way we do on the IndieWeb wiki, but they expect the system to actively rename their bi-directional links without any additional manual work.

tantek 1:08 PM
ok, the bidirectionality as expectation is interesting

Chris Aldrich 1:08 PM
By analogy, many in the general public have a general sense of what /syndication is within social media, but you (Tantek) and others in the IndieWeb space have created words/phrases/acronyms that specify a “target” and “source” to indicate in which direction the syndication is being done and between sites of differing ownership (POSSE, PESOS, PASTA, PESETAS, POOSNOW,… not to mention a linear philosophical value proposition of which are more valuable to the end user). There is a group of people who are re-claiming a definition of the words “interlink” and perhaps “backlink” to a more logical position based on new capabilities in technology. Perhaps it may be better if they created neologisms for these, but linguistically that isn’t the path being taken as there are words that would seem to have an expandable meaning for what they want. I’d classify it as a semantic change/shift/drift in the words meanings: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_change

I suspect that if Roam Research, or any of the other apps that have this bi-directionality built in, were to remove it as a feature, they’d loose all of their userbase.

tantek 1:11 PM
yes, such a semantic shift in the meaning of “interlink” seems reasonable, and a useful distinction from the now ubiquitously expected unidirectionality of “hyperlink”

Chris Aldrich 1:12 PM
I’m expecting that sometime within the next year or so that major corporate apps like Evernote and OneNote will make this bi-directional linking a default as well.

tantek 1:12 PM
in sci-fi metaphor terms, one-way vs two-way wormholes (per other uses of “hyper”)

Chris Aldrich 1:14 PM
I can only imagine what a dramatically different version of the web we’d be living in if the idea of Webmention had existed in the early 90s. Particularly as there’s the ability to notify the other end in changes/updates/deletions of a page. Would the word “linkrot” exist in that world?

Joe Crawford 1:22 PM
Or in a world with Xanaduian transclusions, for that matter.
Alas

Chris Aldrich 1:25 PM
Related to this and going into the world of the history of information is the suggestion by Markus Krajewski in “Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548-1929” that early card catalog and index card systems are really an early paper/manual form of a Turing Machine: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/paper-machines.

One might imagine the extended analogy libraries:books:index cards :: Internet:websites:links with different modes and speeds of transmission.

Annotated Have you “Moved to Substack”? by Ray (Blogroll.org)
...when I browse from someone’s blog over to their Substack it feels like going from a sweet little neighborhood into a staid corporate park. A little piece of joy dies in me when that happens because it’s another reminder of the corporatization of the web. 

IndieWeb Committment for New Year’s Eve 2021

The annual page for IndieWeb New Year’s Commitments is up. I always have trouble with coming up with something new and interesting to work on. (There are really so many things, to be honest, and so many that I ought to do, but which seem so droll… What might be fun!?!)

I was recently enamored of the idea behind Paper Websites, so I quickly wired up something as a minimal example. It works, but I’d like to commit to rounding off some of the rough edges, exploring other potential methods, maybe slipping in the ability to write HTML into it as well, and writing up some of the details of how I’ve done it.

As a stretch goal, I’m also considering publishing a physical paper notebook/journal to have as a companion to the project—a true “Paper Blog”. To be honest, this sounds like some quirky, creative fun, so maybe I’ll do it first. 😀

Pen and paper publishing to your website? PaperWebsite is on to something.

Handwriting to Website #​​​FTW

While browsing today I ran across an awesome concept called PaperWebsite.com. It allows you to write on paper, take a photo, and then upload it to a website. Your handwritten words published to your website. A tactile writer’s dream.

My immediate thought—I need to have this now!

Articles written by hand in my journal to my website? Short notes that I write on index cards published as microblog updates.  How cool would that be? I was also talking to someone this morning about voice-to-text as a note taking concept. What about that too?

Of course, as you may know, I’ve already got a website. Do I need another one like this for $10/month? Probably not.

Value Proposition

But this has got me wondering “what the value proposition is for Paper Website as a company?” What are they really selling? Domain names? Hosting? Notebooks? They certainly seem to be selling all of the above, but the core product they’re really selling is an easy-to-use interface for transferring paper ideas to digital publishing. And this is exactly what I want!

The problem now is to buy this sub-service without all the other moving pieces like a domain name, hosting, etc., which I don’t need. Taking just the core service and abstracting it to the wider universe of websites could be a major technical hurdle (and nightmare).

IndieWeb and Micropub

Perhaps I could try find an OCR solution and wire it all together myself? I’d rather see the original developer run away with the idea though. So instead I’ll quietly suggest that they could take their current infrastructure and add a small piece.

Since PaperWebsite’s already got the front end up and running, why not add on Micropub support to the back end? Maybe Ben Stokes could take the OCR output and create a new Micropub client that could authenticate to any website with Micropub support? I have to imagine that he could probably program it in a couple of days (borrowing from any of the pre-existing open source clients or libraries out there) and suddenly it’s a product that could work with WordPress, Drupal, WithKnown, Craft, Jekyll, Kirby, Hugo, Blot, and a variety of other platforms that support the W3C spec recommendation or have plugins for it.

The service could publish in “draft” form and allow editing after-the-fact. There’s also infrastructure for cross-syndicating to other social services with Micropub clents, so note cards to my website and automatically syndicated to Twitter, Mastodon, or micro.blog? Yes, please.

And maybe it could be done as a service for a dollar a month or a few dollars a year?

I made a short mention of the idea in the IndieWeb chat, and it’s already a-buzz with implementation ideas… If you’re around Ben, I’m sure folks there would lend a hand if you’re interested.

The website, commonplace book, note taking, stationery, and fountain pen nerd in me is really excited about where this could go from a user interface perspective.

How Moleskine, Leuchtturm, LiveScribe or the other stationery giants haven’t done this already is beyond me. I could also see serious writing apps like  iA Writer or Ulysses doing something like this too.

A lot of this metaverse business sounds like what Ramon Llull was creating in the 13th century with his art of memory and combinatoric wheels. Admittedly, it was a single user space, but he was creating images in his mind and then combinatorically combining them with each other to create new external/imagined ideas, thoughts, and experiences.

It gets (a lot) complicated to see this without significant background reading and experience of what he was doing. (I think even Frances Yates misunderstood some of his intention in her magisterial tome.)

IndieWeb is doing some of what he imagined, but rather than doing it in our physical brains (memory), we’re doing together from website to website in a similar communal manner.