Long thread – buckle up. TL:DR; yes, you should join Mastodon. But you should stay on Twitter as well. What we need are more and different online communities, not just an exodus from a troubled platform.
— Ethan “no blue check before it was cool” Zuckerman (@EthanZ) November 4, 2022
If we view the social media landscape from this perspective, an IndieWeb world in which people are purchasing services like the ability to move their domain name and URL permalinks from one web host to another; easy import/export of their data; and CMS (content management system) services/platforms/functionalities, represents the successful market mode for our personal data and online identities. Here competition for these sorts of services will not only improve the landscape, but generally increased competition will tend to drive the costs to consumers down. The internet landscape is developed and sophisticated enough and broadly based on shared standards that this mode of service market should easily be able to not only thrive, but innovate.
At the other end of the spectrum, if our data are viewed as assets in an asset market between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, et al., it is easy to see that the market has already failed so miserably that one cannot even easily move ones’ assets from one silo to another or really protect them in any meaningful way. Social media services don’t compete to export or import data because the goal is to trap you and your data and attention there, otherwise they lose. The market corporate social media is really operating in is one for eyeballs and attention to sell advertising, so one will notice a very health, thriving, and innovating market for advertisers. Social media users will easily notice that there is absolutely no regulation in the service portion of the space at all. This only allows the system to continue failing to provide improved or even innovative service to people on their “service”. The only real competition in the corporate silo social media space is for eyeballs and participation because the people and their attention are the real product.
As a result, new players whose goal is to improve the health of the social media space, like the recent entrant Cohost, are far better off creating a standards based service that allows users to register their own domain names and provide a content management service that has easy import and export of their data. This will play into the services market mode which improves outcomes for people. Aligning in any other competition mode that silos off these functions will force them into competition with the existing corporate social services and we already know where those roads lead.
Those looking for ethical and healthy models of this sort of social media service might look at Micro.blog platform which provides a wide variety of these sorts of data services including data export and taking your domain name with you. If you’re unhappy with his service, then it’s relatively easy to export your data and move it to another host using WordPress or some other CMS. On the flip side, if you’re unhappy with your host and CMS, then it’s also easy to move over to Micro.blog and continue along just as you had before. Best of all, Micro.blog is offering lots of the newest and most innovative web standards including webmention notifications which enable website-to-website conversations, micropub, and even portions of microsub not to mention some great customer service.‘s
I like to analogize the internet and social media to competition in the telecom/cellular phone space In America, you have a phone number (domain name) and can then have your choice of service provider (hosting), and a choice of telephone (CMS) for interacting with the network. Somehow instead of adopting a social media common carrier model, we have trapped ourselves inside of a model that doesn’t provide the users any sort of real service or options. It’s easy to imagine what it would be like to need your own AT&T account to talk to family on AT&T and a separate T-Mobile account to talk to your friends on T-Mobile because that’s exactly what you’re doing with social media despite the fact that you’re all still using the same internet. Part of the draw was that services like Facebook appeared to be “free”. It’s only years later that we’re seeing the all too real costs emerge.
This sort of competition and service provision also goes down to subsidiary layers of the ecosystem. New service providers don’t necessarily need to take the soup to nuts approach that Micro.Blog does. Take for example the idea of writing interface and text editing. There are (paid) services like iA Writer, Ulysses, and Typora which people use to compose their writing. Many people use these specifically for writing blog posts. Companies can charge for these products because of their beauty, simplicity, and excellent user interfaces. Some of them either already do or ostensibly could support the micropub and IndieAuth web standards which allow their users the ability to log into their websites and directly post their saved content from these editors directly to their website. Sure there are also a dozen or so other free micropub clients that also allow this, but why not have and allow competition for beauty and ease of use? Let’s say you like WordPress enough, but aren’t a fan of the Gutenberg editor. Should you need to change to Drupal or some unfamiliar static site generator to exchange a better composing experience for a dramatically different and unfamiliar back end experience? No, you could simply change your editor client and continue on without missing a beat. Of course the opposite also applies—WordPress could split out Gutenberg as a standalone (possibly paid) micropub client and users could then easily use it to post to Drupal, Micro.blog, or other CMSs that support the micropub spec, and many already do.
Social media should be a service to and for people all the way down to its core. The more companies there are that provide these sorts of services means more competition which will also tend to lure people away from silos where they’re trapped for lack of options. Further, if your friends are on services that interoperate and can cross communicate with standards like Webmention from site to site, you no longer need to be on Facebook because “that’s where your friends and family all are.” The more competition there is for cleaner, nicer user interfaces and simple solutions, the less lock in effects will be felt from existing and predatory social services.
I have no doubt that we can all get to a healthier place online, but it’s going to take companies and startups like Cohost to make better choices in how they frame their business models. Co-ops and non-profits can help here too. I can easily see a co-op adding webmention to their Mastodon site to allow users to see and moderate their own interactions instead of forcing local or global timelines on their constituencies. Perhaps Garon didn’t think Webmention was a fit for Mastodon, but this doesn’t mean that others couldn’t support it. I personally think that‘s Hometown fork of Mastodon which allows “local only” posting a fabulous little innovation while still allowing interaction with a wider readership, including me who reads his content from there in a microsub enabled social reader. Perhaps someone forks Mastodon to use as a social feed reader, but builds in micropub so that instead of posting the reply to a Mastodon account, it’s posted to one’s IndieWeb capable website which sends a webmention notification to the original post? Opening up competition this way makes lots of new avenues for every day social tools. One might posit that it was this lack of diverse solutions and common standards in the early 2000s that allowed corporations like Facebook, Twitter, et al. to entirely consume the market and fragment our online identities this way.
Continuing the same old siloing of our data and online connections is not the way forward. We’ll see who stands by their ethics and morals by serving people’s interests and not the advertising industry.
Primarily composed on July 03, 2022 at 02:36PM in support of and partially in response toby Ariadne Conill.
Platforms like Wikipedia and Twitter already have these patterns as links to resources within themselves, but why couldn’t/shouldn’t a browser or browser plugin allow me an option when clicking on them to go to other resources outside of the expected (narrow) search provided? Perhaps I’m in my own wiki and a redlink [[wikilink]] obviously doesn’t exist on my site. Why shouldn’t I be able to click on it to go to another source like Wikipedia to find it?
These search resources can still be larger platforms like Google, Wikipedia, and Twitter, but could be subspecialized to include Twitter users I follow, smaller wikis I use (including my own), websites of people I follow in my feed reader or social reader (by searching on categories/tags or even broad text search). I should be able to easily define a multitude of resources for each custom search using common standards. This affordability could give me a much more refined and trusted set of search results, particularly in a post-fact society.
One could go further still and highlight a word or words on one’s browser screen and use these as a custom search query.
If built properly, I ought to be able to create “playlists” of sites and resources to search for myself and be able to share these with other friends, family, and colleagues who may trust those sources as well.
I’m curious what others think of this idea. What should the UI look like to make it clear and easy to use? What other things might one want to search on beyond plain text, hashtags, and wikilinks? Am I missing anything? What downsides or social ills might this pattern potentially entail?
Your challenge question is tough, not just for the mere discovery portion, but for the multiple other functions involved, particularly a “submit/reply” portion and a separate “I want to subscribe to something for future updates”.
I can’t think of any sites that do both of these functionalities at the same time. They’re almost always a two step process, and quite often, after the submission part, few people ever revisit the original challenge to see further updates and follow along. The lack of an easy subscribe function is the downfall of the second part. A system that allowed one to do both a cross-site submit/subscribe simultaneously would be ideal UI, but that seems a harder problem, especially as subscribe isn’t well implemented in IndieWeb spaces with a one click and done set up.
Silo based spaces where you’re subscribed to the people who might also participate might drip feed you some responses, but I don’t think that even micro.blog has something that you could use to follow the daily photo challenges by does it?
https://daily.ds106.us/ is a good example of a sort of /planet that does regular challenges and has a back end that aggregates responses (usually from Twitter). I imagine that people are subscribed to the main feed of the daily challenges, but I don’t imagine that many are subscribed to the comments feed (is there even one?)
Maxwell’s Sith Lord Challenge is one of the few I’ve seen in the personal site space that has aggregated responses. I don’t think it has an easy way to subscribe to the responses though an h-feed of responses on the page might work in a reader? Maybe he’s got some thoughts about how this worked out?
Ongoing challenges, like a 30 day photography challenge for example, are even harder because they’re an ongoing one that either requires a central repository to collect, curate, and display them (indieweb.xyz, or a similar planet) or require something that can collect one or more of a variety of submitted feeds and then display them or allow a feed(s) of them. I’ve seen something like this before with http://connectedcourses.net/ in the education space using RSS, but it took some time to not only set it up but to get people’s sites to work with it. (It was manual and it definitely hurt as I recall.)
I don’t think of it as a challenge, but I often submit to the IndieWeb sub on indieweb.xyz and I’m also subscribed to its output as well. In this case it works as an example since this is one of its primary functions. It’s not framed as a challenge, though it certainly could be. Here one could suggest that participants tag their posts with a particular hashtag for tracking, but in IndieWeb space they’d be “tagging” their posts with the planet’s particular post URL and either manually or automatically pinging the Webmention endpoint.
Another option that could help implement some fun in the system is to salmention all the prior submissions on each submission as an update mechanism, but one would need to have a way to unsubscribe to this as it could be(come) a spam vector.
The term independently-hosted is used here to describe online publishing practices that utilise the World Wide Web (hereafter the Web) as a decentralised socio-technical system, where individuals and communities operate as the owners or controllers of the online infrastructures they use in order to share content. Such practices may be adopted as an alternative of, or as a complement to, the use of centralised content-sharing systems that belong to and are entirely operated by third parties. The term “publishing” is used here in a rather inclusive way and refers to the act of making content available online, rather than being restricted to the editorial processes that characterise, for instance, academic publishing.
Where is the IndieWeb?
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.
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?
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.
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.
Here’s to more positive growth to a healthier and happier online social experience.
- 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?
Much of my short status updates cross post to @email@example.com while everything can be found at the “Mastodon account” @firstname.lastname@example.org, which is really just my personal website pretending to be a Mastodon server.
If you have difficulty finding/reading my content wherever your new internet home is, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to help. I try to support a number of open standards to be read in many forms and formats.
Before you leave, do let me know where I might find and stay in touch with you, because it’s the friends and the people that make any of this worthwhile at all.
Apparently early last year Jim Nielsen (Twitter) cleverly rebuilt an IndieWeb friendly version of readlist functionality! He describes his motivation and provides some examples in his post (Re)Introducing Readlists. You can try it out at https://readlists.jim-nielsen.com/.
I fondly remember the original ReadLists site, and I too have desperately missed my account and the ability to more easily create and share “mixtapes, but for reading” from my own site or in formats like .epub, .mobi, and .pdf. I still remember the now missing textbook I made with ReadLists because I foolishly relied on an embeddable widget to display content on my website.
Just a month ago I wanted to pull out all the archived articles of Manfred Keuhn’s excellent and now memory-holed blog Taking Notes and turn them into an e-book. The process was just too painful and tedious, in part because some of the individual articles weren’t individually archived though they were archived on monthly archive pages.
With Jim’s tool the process has now gotten a bit easier.
Brainstorming improvements and other options
It does make me wonder how we might make the the process of doing this sort of thing easier. What sorts of formats and building blocks could mitigate some of the work? Are there an potential standards that could be leveraged? How could one take linkblogs and convert them into a book for reading offline? Could one take an
h-feed and pipe it into such a tool? Or RSS/Atom to e-book tools? Could I take collections from tools like Zotero and pipe them into such a service to bundle up journal articles? Could the idea be expanded into something along the lines of Huffduffer and provide similar sorts of native APIs? How could it be made more IndieWeb friendly? Micropub support, perhaps? Could Microsub readers take inputs and provide e-book outputs?
I know that there are a handful of browser extensions that will help one convert URLs into e-books. Some even take lists of open browser tabs and automatically convert them into an e-book, but these don’t allow one to easily share the lists so that users can pick and choose what to omit, or add other content to them.
How might we encourage community curated readlists?
How might this all tie into the rise of the prominence of the newsletter over the past several years? How could I more easily pipe subscriptions into such a tool to give me daily/weekly/monthly e-books of content?
What else are we missing?
Exploring ways to build social infrastructure around books and reading on the open web