At Berkman we're studying weblogs, how they're used, and what they are. Rather than saying "I know it when I see it" I wanted to list all the known features of weblog software, but more important, get to the heart of what a weblog is, and how a weblog is different from a Wiki, or a news site managed with software like Vignette or Interwoven. I draw from my experience developing and using weblog software (Manila, Radio UserLand) and using competitive products such as Blogger and Movable Type. This piece is being published along with my keynotes at OSCOM and the Jupiter weblogs conference. And a disclaimer: This is a work in progress. There may be subsequent versions as the art and market for weblog software develops. Dave Winer, June 2003, Cambridge MA.
The unedited voice of a person
7/13/2018 In 2003, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society (now the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society) began an unusual experiment: we launched a blogging platform. That seems q…
Learn in six easy steps how to become a master blogger (Caveat the only way is to read and write a lot)
Big changes happening here on the blog. Here's what's happening, what's busted, and what's coming.
RSS died. Whether you blame Feedburner, or Google Reader, or Digg Reader last month, or any number of other product failures over the years, the humble protocol has managed to keep on trudging along despite all evidence that it is dead, dead, dead. Now, with Facebook’s scandal over Cambridge Analyt…
Just throwing out some thoughts on what I really want in a blog: Cross-device accessibility – compose, read, and manage from any device Decentralized – Easy, lightweight setup on my own server, or Raspberry Pi Federated – this provides: Discoverability – my feed shows up elsewhere, others ca...
Link Manager Update
The Link Manager still seems relatively solid and much of the infrastructure still works well, despite the warnings and lack of updates over the past several years. It would be nice to see it make a comeback and I can personally see many ways it could come back as a means of allowing people to better own their personal social graph as well as dovetail with readers. (This could also be the cornerstone of helping to make WordPress it’s own decentralized social network so that those who want to leave Facebook, Twitter, et al. could more easily do so and maintain their own data and infrastructure.)
If it were being updated, here are a few things that I might suggest as being imminently useful:
- Update to the latest version of OPML; While the old version still works, there are some new toys that folks like Dave Winer have been iterating on including OPML subscription1,2 as well as some discovery tools.
- Add in additional microformats support, particularly for display. Things like h-card, u-url, u-photo, etc. could make displaying these more useful for the growing number of microformats parsers. I also suspect that having OPML subscription support could be a major boon to the feed reader resurgence that is happening with the split of the server side/display side split occurring with the improving Microsub spec which now has one server implementation with several more coming and at least three front end implementations. I know of one person building a Microsub server for WordPress already.
- It’s non-obvious where one’s OPML file lives within the plugin or that one can have or target OPML files by category. Making this more apparent from a UI perspective would be both useful and help adoption.
- Provide a bookmarklet or browser extension to make it easier to scrape data off of someone’s homepage (or any page for that matter) and put it into the Links Manager data fields. This would allow people to do a one (or two click) solution for quickly and immediately following someone, saving their data into their site, and then via OPML subscription, they’ll automatically be following that feed in their reader of choice.
- For doing the parsing portion of this, I might recommend the parsing algorithm being used by the Post Kinds Plugin, which parses a web page and searches for microformats, open graph protocol, and one or two other standards to return all or most all of the data that would be needed to fill out the data Links Manager can take. As I recall, this parser was being discussed by Kraft for potential inclusion into the Press This bookmarklet functionality to expand on what it had already provided.
- From a UI perspective this would allow people to follow friends or others via a WordPress workflow almost as easily as any of the social media silos.
- Another UI approach for comparison can be found by looking at the SubToMe universal follow button which was developed by Julien Genestoux (also of PubSub/WebSub fame). This version also uses some of the standard feed discovery mechanisms which a bookmarklet would want to be able to do as well.
- As I’d written, following/subscribing has become more central to the social space, so upgrading the humble blogroll from a widget to a full page would certainly be in order. Having the infrastructure (short link perhaps?) to easily create a WordPress page out of the data would be quite helpful.
As Ryan indicates, the planet-like features that OPML subscriptions provide are immensely valuable in general, but also solves a tough problem that some of the best minds in the educational tech space have found perennially problematic.3
As for the title-less post types that are proliferating by the independent microblogging community (including the recent micro.blog as well as post types in the vein of likes, favorites, reads, replies, etc. which mimic functionality within the broader social space), the so-called
(no title) problem can be somewhat difficult since so many things are built to expect a title. Many feed readers don’t know how to react to them as a result. The Post Kinds Plugin faced a similar issue and recently pushed an update so that within the admin UI at
/wp-admin/edit.php the title field would still indicate (no title) but it would also include a 28 character synopsis from
the_excerpt to provide at least some indication of what the post was about. This also seems to be a potential issue in other areas of WordPress including widgets like “Recent Posts” which want to display a title where none exists. As the aside post format can attest, not all themes deal with this well, though there are other alternate methods for displaying some useful data.
My favorite incarnation of the idea is that blogs or personal websites are a digital and public shared commonplace book. Commonplaces go back to the 15th century and even certainly earlier, but I like to think of websites as very tech-forward versions of the commonplaces kept by our forebears.
I’ve seen a few educators like Aaron Davis and Ian O’Byrne take to the concept of a commonplace, though both have primary websites for writing and broader synthesis and secondary sites for collecting and annotating the web. I tend to aggregate everything (though not always published publicly) on my primary site after having spent some time trying not to inundate email subscribers as you’ve done.
There’s also a growing movement, primarily in higher education, known as A Domain of One’s Own or in shortened versions as either “Domains” or even #DoOO which is a digital take on the Virgina Woolf quote “Give her a room of her own and five hundred a year, let her speak her mind and leave out half that she now puts in, and she will write a better book one of these days.”
There are a growing number of educators, researchers, and technologists reshaping how the web is used which makes keeping an online commonplace much easier. In particular, we’re all chasing a lot of what you’re after as well:
Part of what I’m after is consolidating my presence online as much as possible, especially onto platforms that I can control.
To me, this sounds like one of the major pillars of the IndieWeb movement which is taking control of the web back from corporate social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et. al. Through odd serendipity, I came across your micro.blog account this morning which led me to your website. A lot of the underpinnings of micro.blog are informed by the IndieWeb movement. In many subtle ways, I might suspect the two had a lot of influence on your particular choice of WordPress theme.
Tonight I’ve also seen your reply to Dan Cohen’s question:
Has anyone set up WordPress so that “standard” post types continue to show up on your blog, but “status” (or “aside”) post types feed into social media platforms such as Twitter or https://t.co/kisv1mbGgT?
— Dan Cohen (@dancohen) June 6, 2018
No worries! Replies/notifications stay within their own domains, for better or for worse. The good news is that the original post can reach people where they are; the bad news is that the conversation around it is increasingly diffuse.
— Kathleen Fitzpatrick (@kfitz) June 7, 2018
I had previously replied to Dan’s original question, but somehow missed your side thread at the time. I suspect you didn’t see our branch of the conversation either.
Interestingly, your presumption that the replies/notifications stay within their own domains isn’t necessarily fait accompli, at least not any more. There’s a new web specification in the past few years called Webmention that allows notifications and replies to cross website boundaries unlike Twitter @mentions which are permanently stuck within Twitter. Interestingly, because of the way you’ve set up your WordPress website to dovetail with micro.blog you’re almost 90 percent of the way to supporting it easily. If you add and slightly configure the Webmention and Semantic Linkbacks plugins, the asides and other content you’re syndicating into micro.blog will automatically collect the related conversation around them back to your own posts thus allowing you to have a copy of your content on your own website as well as the surrounding conversation, which is no longer as diffuse as you imagined it needed to be. Here’s an example from earlier this evening where I posted to my site and your response (and another) on micro.blog came back to me. (Sadly there’s a Gravatar glitch preventing the avatars from displaying properly, but hopefully I’ll solve that shortly.)
This same sort of thing can be done with Twitter including native threading and @mentions, if done properly, by leveraging the free Brid.gy service to force Twitter to send your site webmentions on your behalf. (Of course this means you might need to syndicate your content to Twitter in a slightly different manner than having micro.blog do on your behalf, but there are multiple ways of doing this.)
I also notice that you’ve taken to posting copies of your tweeted versions at the top of your comments sections. There’s a related IndieWeb plugin called Syndication Links that is made specifically to keep a running list of the places to which you’ve syndicated your content. This plugin may solve a specific need for you in addition to the fact that it dovetails well with Brid.gy to make sure your posts get the appropriate comments back via webmention.
I’m happy to help walk you through setting up some of the additional IndieWeb tech for your WordPress website if you’re interested. I suspect that having the ability to use your website as a true online hub in addition to doing cross website conversations is what you’ve been dreaming about, possibly without knowing it. Pretty soon you’ll be aggregating and owning all of your digital breadcrumbs to compile at a later date into posts and eventually articles, monographs, and books.
Perhaps more importantly, there’s a growing group of us in the education/research fields that are continually experimenting and building new functionalities for online (and specifically academic) communication. I and a plethora of others would welcome you to join us on the wiki, in chat, or even at upcoming online or in-person events.
In any case, thanks for sharing your work and your thoughts with the world. I wish more academics were doing what you are doing online–we’d all be so much richer for it. I know this has been long and is a potential rabbithole you may disappear into, so thank you for the generosity of your attention.
I relished Om Malik's post "Blogs are thought spaces" in which he said that he started blogging for two reasons: to share what he had learnt as a reporter, and to have a place to think out loud. This reminded me of something I wrote in 2014 where, I too, said I like to think out loud. Blogging has a...
Nice reflection Colin. I find it interesting the way that focuses and intents associated with blogging develop and evolve over time. Although I do sometimes go back to my Twitter feed to find past conversations, I agree with you that it is a bit of dumping spot. For a long time my habit has been to ...
Having read a number of posts recently about people's experiences rediscovering blogging, and others questioning whether blogging was still a valid exercise in 2017, I thought it would be a good idea to re-examine why I do this. My own rediscovery period was last year. I was still writing but not tr...
Over the last couple of months, I opened Generous Thinking to a community review process at Humanities Commons. I am thrilled with how the discussion went and am thoroughly enjoying the process of revision started.
Doing that work has had me reflecting a fair bit of late on my working processes, how they’ve changed over the last several years, and how I might want to transform them yet again. And one bit of that potential transformation is leading me, with Dan Cohen, back to blogging, and, with Alan Jacobs, to ponder returning to some related technologies as well.
My friend Alan Jacobs, a key inspiration in my return (such as it is, so far) to blogging and RSS and a generally pre-Twitter/Facebook outlook on the scholarly internet, is pondering the relationship between blogging and other forms of academic writing in thinking about his next project. Perhaps needless to say, this is something I’m considering as well, and I’m right there with him in most regards.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
The blog was not just the venue in which I started putting together the ideas that became my second book, the one that made promotion and various subsequent jobs possible, but it was also the way that I was able to demonstrate that there might be a readership for that second book, without which it’s much less likely that a press would have been interested. ❧
This sounds like she’s used her blog as both a commonplace book as well as an author platform.
In fact blog posts are not the kind of thing one can detail on one’s annual review form, and even a blog in the aggregate doesn’t have a place in which it’s easy to be claimed as a site of ongoing scholarly productivity. ❧
Mine have gone more like (1) having some vague annoying idea with a small i; (b) writing multiple blog posts thinking about things related to that idea; (iii) giving a talk somewhere fulminating about some other thing entirely; (4) wondering if maybe there are connections among those things; (e) holy carp, if I lay the things I’ve been noodling about over the last year and a half out in this fashion, it could be argued that I am in the middle of writing a book! ❧
Here’s another person talking about blogs as “thought spaces” the same way that old school bloggers like Dave Winer and Om Malik amongst many others have in the past. While I’m thinking about it I believe that Colin Walker and Colin Devroe have used this sort of idea as well.
“Ego nullam dolore.” translated back into English is “I have no pain.”
I’ve written a lot about this in the past, and I’ll try to include some links to content/posts as I respond to the prompts. This is a bit long as I get into the weeds, so consider yourself warned.
And now…let’s get to it…
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
Having a domain is important to me as I research, develop, and teach.
example of a domain as thinking out loud or thought spaces
blogging as thinking
This should be a space where you can create the identity that you want to have. You can write yourself into existence.
I like this sentiment. Had René Descartes been born a bit later might he have said “Blogeō, ergo sum”?
Most of this work is focused on collaboration, transparency, and working/thinking in the open.
The plan is to use the site to share surveys, interviews, and researcher notes.
teachers hid their Facebook accounts for fear of being fired.
The sound of this to me know reminds me of the type of suppression of thought that might have occurred in the middle ages. Of course open thought and discussion is important for teachers the same way it is for every other person. However there are a few potential counterexamples where open discussion of truly abhorrent ideas can run afoul of community mores. Case in point:
- Florida public school teacher has a white nationalist podcast | Huffington Post
- Forida teacher says her racist podcast was satire | New York Times
personal learning network perhaps marking it up with <abbr> tags would be useful here?
I feel like this culture in academia may be changing.
academia is built on the premise (IMHO) of getting a good idea, parlaying that into a job and tenure, and waiting for death. I’ve had a lot of colleagues and acquaintances ask why I would bother blogging. Ask why I share all of this content online. Ask why I’m not afraid that someone is going to steal my ideas.
Though all too true, this is just a painful statement for me. The entirety of our modern world is contingent upon the creation of ideas, their improvement and evolution, and their spreading. In an academic world where attribution of ideas is paramount, why wouldn’t one publish quickly and immediately on one’s own site (or anywhere else they might for that matter keeping in mind that it’s almost trivially easy to self-publish it on one’s own website nearly instantaneously)?
Early areas of science were held back by the need to communicate by handwriting letters as the primary means of communication. Books eventually came, but the research involved and even the printing process could take decades. Now the primary means of science communication is via large (often corporate owned) journals, but even this process may take a year or more of research and then a year or more to publish and get the idea out. Why not write the ideas up and put them out on your own website and collect more immediate collaborators? Funding is already in such a sorry state that generally, even an idea alone, will not get the ball rolling.
I’m reminded of the gospel song “This little light of mine” whose popular lyrics include:
“Hide it under a bushel? No! / I’m gonna let it shine” and
“Don’t let Satan blow it out, / I’m gonna let it shine”
I’m starting to worry that academia in conjunction with large corporate publishing interests are acting the role of Satan in the song which could easily be applied to ideas as well as to my little light.
Senior colleagues indicate that I should not have to balance out publishing in “traditional, peer-reviewed publications” as well as open, online spaces.
Do your colleagues who read your work, annotate it, and comment on it not count as peer-review? Am I wasting my time by annotating all of this? 🙂 (I don’t think so…)
or at least they pretend
I don’t think we’re pretending. I know I’m not!
Let me know when you’re done and we’ll see about helping you distribute it in .epub and .mobi formats as e-books as well.
This is due to a natural human reaction to “Google” someone before we meet them for the first time. Before we show up to teach a class, take a class, interview for a job, go on a date…we’ve been reviewed online. Other people use the trail of breadcrumbs that we’ve left behind to make judgements about us. The question/challenge is that this trail of breadcrumbs is usually incomplete, and locked up in various silos. You may have bits of your identity in Facebook or Twitter, while you have other parts locked up in Instagram, Snapchat, or LinkedIn. What do these incomplete pieces say about you? Furthermore, are they getting the entire picture of you when they uncover certain details? Can they look back to see what else you’re interested in? Can they see how you think all of these interests fit together…or they seeing the tail end of a feverish bout of sharing cat pics?
I can’t help but think that doing this is a form of cultural anthropology being practiced contemporaneously. Which is more likely: someone a 100 years from now delving into my life via my personal website that aggregated everything or scholars attempting to piece it all back together from hundreds of other sites? Even with advanced AI techniques, I think the former is far more likely.
Of course I also think about what @Undine is posting about cats on Twitter or perhaps following #marginaliamonday and cats, and they’re at least taking things to a whole new level of scholarship.
Guide to highlight colors
Yellow–general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
Orange–Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
Green–Reference to read
Red–Example to work through