Simultaneously saving journalism and social media

As I’m reading the notes from the New Affordability session at IndieWebCamp Austin I can’t help but to think back on my old IndieWeb business hosting idea which I’ve been meaning to flesh out more fully.

What if local newspapers/magazines or other traditional local publishers ran/operated/maintained IndieWeb platforms or hubs (similar to micro.blog, Multi-site WordPress installs, or Mastodon instances) to not only publish, aggregate, curate, and disseminate their local area news, but also provided that social media service for their customers?

Reasonable mass hosting can be done for about $2/month which could be bundled in with regular subscription prices of newspapers. This would solve some of the problems that people face with social media presences on services like Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously solving the problem of newspapers and journalistic enterprises owning and managing their own distribution. It would also give a tighter coupling between journalistic enterprises and the communities they serve.

The decentralization of the process here could also serve to prevent the much larger attack surfaces that global systems like Twitter and Facebook represent from being disinformation targets for hostile governments or hate groups. Tighter community involvement could be a side benefit for local discovery, aggregation, and interaction.

Many journalistic groups are already building and/or maintaining their own websites, why not go a half-step further. Additionally many large newspaper conglomerates have recently been building their own custom CMS platforms not only for their own work, but also to sell to other smaller news organizations that may not have the time or technical expertise to manage them.

 A similar idea is that of local government doing this sort of building/hosting and Greg McVerry and I have discussed this being done by local libraries. While this is a laudable idea, I think that the alignment of benefits between customers and newspapers as well as the potential competition put into place could be a bigger beneficial benefit to all sides.

Featured photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

Read Paywall blockers: how publishers should prepare for this changing technology by Mary-Katharine Phillips (Twipe)
With more than a quarter of all readers globally using ad blockers, the news media industry has had to come up with new ways to overcome this, whether it be technically or through new strategies. But as the industry makes the move towards reader revenue strategies, we’re seeing more readers employ...
Bookmarked Zebras Unite (Zebras Unite)

“Zebras” has become a shorthand for aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, media, and adjacent communities as the expression and signal of a forward-thinking, long-game economy and business culture where ambitious companies build the goods and services we need for the society we want.

Zebras Unite is a community of entrepreneurs, investors and allies dedicated to building companies that balance both profit and purpose. 

Join the community to learn from likeminded individuals, pool resources and best practices and collectively build a new model for inclusive and ethical entrepreneurship. 

Together we are creating an emergent, grassroots movement to create a pluralistic approach to business processes and development. Won't you join us join us? 

A great reframing of the start up culture with more honesty and a great deal more morality.

📑 We Have Never Been Social | Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Annotated We Have Never Been Social by Kathleen FitzpatrickKathleen Fitzpatrick (Kathleen Fitzpatrick)
That is to say: if the problem has not been the centralized, corporatized control of the individual voice, the individual’s data, but rather a deeper failure of sociality that precedes that control, then merely reclaiming ownership of our voices and our data isn’t enough. If the goal is creating more authentic, more productive forms of online sociality, we need to rethink our platforms, the ways they function, and our relationships to them from the ground up. It’s not just a matter of functionality, or privacy controls, or even of business models. It’s a matter of governance.  

👓 Create your own WordPress.com! | WP Ultimo

Read Create your own WordPress.com! – WP Ultimo (WP Ultimo)
With WP Ultimo you will be able to setup a Website as a Service platform, like WordPress.com or Wix.com, in a matter of minutes, not months!
This is just the sort of thing one could leverage to build a gen2+ IndieWeb platform… 

👓 Hey there, Pro Sites user! | WP Ultimo

Read Hey there, Pro Sites user! (WP Ultimo)
WP Ultimo is a WordPress multisite plugin that allows you to create a network of Premium Sites. Its value proposition is the same as Pro Sites: you can create different subscription tiers and have customers pay you a recurring fee to have a site hosted in your Multisite network. In fact, WP Ultimo was created after I needed a solution for a premium network I was building and found that Pro Sites didn’t quite work for the specific requirements of my project. Instead of trying to adapt Pro Sites, I decided to build my own solution from scratch. This was 2.5 years ago and that codebase is now WP Ultimo.

👓 This Is Gonna Be Emotional, We’re Setting over 90% of Our Premium Plugins Free! | WPMU DEV

Read This Is Gonna Be Emotional, We’re Setting over 90% of Our Premium Plugins Free! (WPMU DEV Blog)
WordPress is evolving, and so are we, even though it’s hard to see the kids leave home. It’s almost 12 years since Andrew and I launched WPMU DEV Premium as ‘a subscription-based service that offers advanced plugins for WordPress Multi-User’ and I reckon it’s fair to say that, well, it’s been quite the ride. And as of today, we’re taking another corner, guided by you, our members, and bringing all of our focus and efforts to the core services and functionality you care most about when it comes to running a great WordPress site, or two, or a few thousand.
This is awesome and sad at the same time. They’ve got an interesting reader hiding in here as well as the backbone of the edublogs platform. This latter could be used to create a platform for a WordPress-based IndieWeb platform.

👓 The “Free” Model | Geek&Poke

Read The "Free" Model by Oliver Widder (Geek&Poke)
A single cartoon panel of two pigs having a conversation with the caption 'Pigs talking about the 'Free' Model'. Pig 1: Isn't it great? We have to pay nothing for the barn. Pig 2: Yeah! And even the food is free.     See David Dalka's post "Dear Facebook, Please Return Our Social Networking Space".     Tweet
This is an awesome cartoon.

I’m reminded a bit of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s concept of the Thanksgiving Turkey in The Black Swan.

👓 Spotify’s Podcast Aggregation Play | Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Read Spotify’s Podcast Aggregation Play by Ben Thompson (Stratechery)
Spotify is making a major move into podcasts, where it appears to have clear designs to be the sort of Aggregator it cannot be when it comes to music.
An interesting take on Spotify’s recent acquisitions. I’m worried what a more active aggregator play in the podcast space will look like, particularly with most of the players (by this I mean companies) in the audio game using players (by this I mean the actual JavaScript interfaces that play online audio) hiding the actual audio files.

👓 Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company | Medium

Read Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company by Sahil Lavingia (Medium)
I left my job as the second employee at Pinterest–before I vested any of my stock–to turn Gumroad into a billion-dollar company. And…
A great little essay. We need more entrepreneurs building things like this rather than chasing the dream of being a unicorn. We need more stories like this, because this is how the world really works, not the other way around.

👓 Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms | Nieman Journalism Lab

Read Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms by Marie K. ShanahanMarie K. Shanahan (Nieman Lab)
"Local news organizations should become a driving force for better online public discourse, because Facebook and Twitter aren’t cutting it."
I wonder in an age of caustic social media why newspapers don’t build their own (open and IndieWeb-flavored) social media platforms into their products as a benefit to not only their readers but for the communities they service? This could help not only their bottom line, allow them to add a useful service to their product, but fight the vagaries of what social media networks have done to them and give them some additional ways to help improve community conversations.

This idea isn’t too dissimilar to Greg McVerry’s idea of having local libraries allow users to “check” out domain names and pre-built IndieWeb content management systems to use. (Greg, have you fleshed this out on your site somewhere?)

In any case, I’ve outlined a bit about how newspapers and journalistic outlets could use read posts in an IndieWeb way to take more control over their comments sections instead of farming them out to caustic social media platforms that they have no control over. There’s at least one outlet that has begun experimenting with these types of read posts.  Some of these ideas (and similar ones on podcasting) might begin to address Marie’s idea about improving online discourse and making a better forum.

I see she’s got a book on the topic entitled Journalism, Online Comments, and the Future of Public Discourse. I’ll have to take  a look at it soon.

👓 The perils of mixing open source and money | DHH

Read The perils of mixing open source and money by David Heinemeier HanssonDavid Heinemeier Hansson (dhh.dk)

Fundraising for open source has become trivial through venues like Kickstarter, so it's natural more projects are asking for money. "Imagine all the good I could do if I was able to work on this full time for the benefit of the community". Yes, let's imagine indeed.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

You’re solving the problems for you and your mates, likely in the simplest way you could, so you can get back to whatever you originally intended to do before starting to shave the yak.
But once there is money involved, work will expand to fill the amount raised (to paraphrase Parkinson’s law).

External, expected rewards diminish the intrinsic motivation of the fundraising open-source contributor. It risks transporting a community of peers into a transactional terminal. And that buyer-seller frame detracts from the magic that is peer-collaborators.

Take Ruby on Rails. More than 3,000 people have committed man-decades, maybe even man-centuries, of work for free. Buying all that effort at market rates would have been hundreds of millions of dollars. Who would have been able to afford funding that?

👓 It’s time for a new branch of public media | Ben Werdmüller

Read It's time for a new branch of public media by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)
President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act in 1967, which established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Previously, an independent public broadcaster had been established through grants by the Ford Foundation, but Ford began to withdraw its support. Here's what he said: "It...