In this post I want to show with which services and tools it is possible to run a completely free website. An own website not only offers the possibility to create your own professional web presence, it can also make you independent from silos like Facebook, Twitter or Medium. It is always better to...
I just set up b2evolution CMS/blog(s) ver 6.11.4. It has the ability to send and receive Webmentions as per the Indieweb. This was discussed before but now I can confirm. I’m still wandering around the backend getting familier with it.
Greg McVerry, Ian O’Byrne, and I have integrated Hypothes.is into our digital/online commonplace books in different ways. Greg’s are embedded at https://jgregorymcverry.com/annotations, Ian discusses his process on his site, while mine show up as annotation or highlight posts.
I’ve not published the full idea yet, but I’ve spent some time contemplating using Hypothes.is as a blogging platform/CMS. It might require a bit of flexibility, but it generally has reasonable support for:
- Writing posts with a reasonably full-featured text editor and the ability to edit and delete posts later;
- HTML and markdown support;
- Public and private posting as well as sharing content with other private groups;
- The ability to reply to other websites;
- The ability for others to comment on your posts natively;
- A robust tagging functionality;
- The ability to socially bookmark web pages (blank page notes);
- An RSS feed;
- The ability to share posts to other social platforms including meta data for Twitter cards;
- Naturally, it’s very easy to use for writing short notes, creating highlights and annotations, and keeping track of what you’ve read;
- It has a pseudo-social media functionality in that your public posts appear on a global timeline where people can read and interact with them.
- It’s also opensource, so you can self-host, modify it, or add new features.
I have been personally using Hypothes.is to follow the public feed, several tag feeds, and several friends’ specific feeds as a discovery tool for finding interesting content to read.
And a final off-label use case that could be compelling, but which could have some better UI and integration would be to use Hypothes.is as an embeddable commenting system for one’s own website. It has in-line commenting in much the same way that Medium does, but the entire thing could likely be embedded into a comment section under a traditional blog post and be used in much the same way people use Disqus on blogs. I’ll note that in practice, I find Hypothes.is far faster than Disqus ever was. I’ve yet to see anyone offloading the commenting functionality of their blog this way, but I’d be willing to bet dollars to donuts that someone could hack it together as a simple iframe or via the API pretty quickly and with solid results.
And naturally I’m missing many, potentially including some I’ve thought about before. Maybe worth checking the old Hypothes.is tag in my digital notebook?
If people have others, I’m enamored to hear them.
I've been blogging - albeit not consistently on the same site - since 1998. That's a long time in internet years, and in human years, and over time I've conditioned out any self-editing impulse I might have. I write, hit publish, and share. Done. Because I'm fairly prolific, friends and colleagues o...
My OPML Domains Project
Not being able to attend Domains 2019 in person, I was bound and determined to attend as much of it as I could manage remotely. A lot of this revolved around following the hashtag for the conference, watching the Virtually Connecting sessions, interacting online, and starting to watch the archived videos after-the-fact. Even with all of this, for a while I had been meaning to flesh out my ability to follow the domains (aka websites) of other attendees and people in the space. Currently the easiest way (for me) to do this is via RSS with a feed reader, so I began collecting feeds of those from the Twitter list of Domains ’17 and Domains ’19 attendees as well as others in the education-related space who tweet about A Domain of One’s Own or IndieWeb. In some sense, I would be doing some additional aggregation work on expanding my blogroll, or, as I call it now, my following page since it’s much too large and diverse to fit into a sidebar on my website.
For some brief background, my following page is built on some old functionality in WordPress core that has since been hidden. I’m using the old Links Manager for collecting links and feeds of people, projects, groups, and institutions. This link manager creates standard OPML files, which WordPress can break up by categories, that can easily be imported/exported into most standard feed readers. Even better, some feed readers like Inoreader, support OPML subscriptions, so one could subscribe to my OPML file, and any time I update it in the future with new subscriptions, your feed reader would automatically update to follow those as well. I use this functionality in my own Inoreader account, so that any new subscriptions I add to my own site are simply synced to my feed reader without needing to be separately added or updated.
The best part of creating such a list and publishing it in a standard format is that you, dear reader, don’t need to spend the several hours I did to find, curate, and compile the list to recreate it for yourself, but you can now download it, modify it if necessary, and have a copy for yourself in just a few minutes. (Toward that end, I’m also happy to update it or make additions if others think it’s missing anyone interesting in the space–feedback, questions, and comments are heartily encouraged.) You can see a human-readable version of the list at this link, or find the computer parse-able/feed reader subscribe-able link here.
To make it explicit, I’ll also note that these lists also help me to keep up with people and changes in the timeframe between conferences.
Anecdotal Domains observations
In executing this OPML project I noticed some interesting things about the Domains community at large (or at least those who are avid enough to travel and attend in person or actively engage online). I’ll lay these out below. Perhaps at a future date, I’ll do a more explicit capture of the data with some analysis.
The largest majority of sites I came across were, unsurprisingly, WordPress-based, which made it much easier to find RSS feeds to read/consume material. I could simply take a domain name and add
/feed/ to the end of the URL, and voilà, a relatively quick follow!
There are a lot of people whose sites didn’t have obvious links to their feeds. To me this is a desperate tragedy for the open web. We’re already behind the eight ball compared to social media and corporate controlled sites, why make it harder for people to read/consume our content from our own domains? And as if to add insult to injury, the places on one’s website where an RSS feed link/icon would typically live were instead populated by links to corporate social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In a few cases I also saw legacy links to Google+ which ended service and disappeared from the web along with a tremendous number of online identities and personal data on April 2, 2019. (Here’s a reminder to remove those if you’ve forgotten.) For those who are also facing this problem, there’s a fantastic service called SubToMe that has a universal follow button that can be installed or which works well with a browser bookmarklet and a wide variety of feed readers.
I was thrilled to see a few people were using interesting alternate content management systems/site generators like WithKnown and Grav. There were also several people who had branched out to static site generators (sites without a database). This sort of plurality is a great thing for the community and competition in the space for sites, design, user experience, etc. is awesome. It’s thrilling to see people in the Domains space taking advantage of alternate options, experimenting with them, and using them in the wild.
— Lauren Brumfield (@brumface) June 10, 2019
I’ll note that I did see a few poor souls who were using Wix. I know there was at least one warning about Wix at the conference, but in case it wasn’t stated explicitly, Wix does not support exporting data, which makes any potential future migration of sites difficult. Definitely don’t use it for any extended writing, as cutting and pasting more than a few simple static pages becomes onerous. To make matters worse, Wix doesn’t offer any sort of back up service, so if they chose to shut your site off for any reason, you’d be completely out of luck. No back up + no export = I couldn’t recommend using.
I also noticed a few people had generic domain names that they didn’t really own (and not even in the sense of rental ownership). Here I’m talking about domain names of the form
username.domainsproject.com. While I’m glad that they have a domain that they can use and generally control, it’s not one that they can truly exert full ownership over. (They just can’t pick it up and take it with them.) Even if they could export/import their data to another service or even a different content management system, all their old links would immediately disappear from the web. In the case of students, while it’s nice that their school may provide this space, it is more problematic for data portability and longevity on the web that they’ll eventually lose that institutional domain name when they graduate. On the other hand, if you have something like
yourname.com as your digital home, you can export/import, change content management services, hosting companies, etc. and all your content will still resolve and you’ll be imminently more find-able by your friends and colleagues. This choice is essentially the internet equivalent of changing cellular providers from Sprint to AT&T but taking your phone number with you–you may change providers, but people will still know where to find you without being any the wiser about your service provider changes. I think that for allowing students and faculty the ability to more easily move their content and their sites, Domains projects should require individual custom domains.
If you don’t own/control your physical domain name, you’re prone to lose a lot of value built up in your permalinks. I’m also reminded of here of the situation encountered by faculty who move from one university to another. (Congratulations by the way to Martha Burtis on the pending move to Plymouth State. You’ll notice she won’t face this problem.) There’s also the situation of Matthew Green, a security researcher at Johns Hopkins whose institutional website was taken down by his university when the National Security Agency flagged an apparent issue. Fortunately in his case, he had his own separate domain name and content on an external server and his institutional account was just a mirrored copy of his own domain.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
—Mel Brooks from The Producers (1968), obviously with the it being a referent to A Domain of One’s Own.
Also during my project, I noted that quite a lot of people don’t list their own personal/professional domains within their Twitter or other social media profiles. This seems a glaring omission particularly for at least one whose Twitter bio creatively and proactively claims that they’re an avid proponent of A Domain of One’s Own.
And finally there were a small–but still reasonable–number of people within the community for whom I couldn’t find their domain at all! A small number assuredly are new to the space or exploring it, and so I’d give a pass, but I was honestly shocked that some just didn’t.
(Caveat: I’ll freely admit that the value of Domains is that one has ultimate control including the right not to have or use one or even to have a private, hidden, and completely locked down one, just the way that Dalton chose not to walk in the conformity scene in The Dead Poet’s Society. But even with this in mind, how can we ethically recommend this pathway to students, friends, and colleagues if we’re not willing to participate ourselves?)
Too much Twitter & a challenge for the next Domains Conference
One of the things that shocked me most at a working conference about the idea of A Domain of One’s Own within education where there was more than significant time given to the ideas of privacy, tracking, and surveillance, was the extent that nearly everyone present gave up their identity, authority, and digital autonomy to Twitter, a company which actively represents almost every version of the poor ethics, surveillance, tracking, and design choices we all abhor within the edtech space.
Why weren’t people proactively using their own domains to communicate instead? Why weren’t their notes, observations, highlights, bookmarks, likes, reposts, etc. posted to their own websites? Isn’t that part of what we’re in all this for?!
One of the shining examples from Domains 2019 that I caught as it was occurring was John Stewart’s site where he was aggregating talk titles, abstracts, notes, and other details relevant to himself and his practice. He then published them in the open and syndicated the copies to Twitter where the rest of the conversation seemed to be happening. His living notebook– or digital commmonplace book if you will–is of immense value not only to him, but to all who are able to access it. But you may ask, “Chris, didn’t you notice them on Twitter first?” In fact, I did not! I caught them because I was following the live feed of some of the researchers, educators, and technologists I follow in my feed reader using the OPML files mentioned above. I would submit, especially as a remote participant/follower of the conversation, that his individual posts were worth 50 or more individual tweets. Just the additional context they contained made them proverbially worth their weight in gold.
Perhaps for the next conference, we might build a planet or site that could aggregate all the feeds of people’s domains using their categories/tags or other means to create our own version of the Twitter stream? Alternately, by that time, I suspect that work on some of the new IndieWeb readers will have solidified to allow people to read feeds and interact with that content directly and immediately in much the way Twitter works now except that all the interaction will occur on our own domains.
— Mo Pelzel (@MorrisPelzel) June 10, 2019
As educators, one of the most valuable things we can and should do is model appropriate behavior for students. I think it’s high time that when attending a professional conference about A Domain of One’s Own that we all ought to be actively doing it using our own domains. Maybe we could even quit putting our Twitter handles on our slides, and just put our domain names on them instead?
Of course, I wouldn’t and couldn’t suggest or even ask others to do this if I weren’t willing and able to do it myself. So as a trial and proof of concept, I’ve actively posted all my interactions related to Domains 2019 that I was interested in to my own website using the tag Domains 2019. At that URL, you’ll find all the things I liked and bookmarked, as well as the bits of conversation on Twitter and others’ sites that I’ve commented on or replied to. All of it originated on my own domain, and, when it appeared on Twitter, it was syndicated only secondarily so that others would see it since that was where the conversation was generally being aggregated. You can almost go back and recreate my entire Domains 2019 experience in real time by following my posts, notes, and details on my personal website.
So, next time around can we make an attempt to dump Twitter!? The technology for pulling it off certainly already exists, and is reasonably well-supported by WordPress, WithKnown, Grav, and even some of the static site generators I noticed in my brief survey above. (Wix obviously doesn’t even come close…)
I’m more than happy to help people build and flesh out the infrastructure necessary to try to make the jump. Even if just a few of us began doing it, we could serve as that all-important model for others as well as for our students and other constituencies. With a bit of help and effort before the next Domains Conference, I’ll bet we could collectively pull it off. I think many of us are either well- or even over-versed in the toxicities and surveillance underpinnings of social media, learning management systems, and other digital products in the edtech space, but now we ought to attempt a move away from it with an infrastructure that is our own–our Domains.
Creative Growth 2013 Home show and fashion show (72) flickr photo by origamiguy1971 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license Plurality stitches a beautiful quilt of complex choices, and each person adds their own unique spin on the #IndieWeb. As long as you wrap yourself in the warmth of #...
Simple self-publishing: a distributed platform for free creative expression on Humm…
I noted the other day that Textpattern might be a good fit for some people trying to build their own websites, but that there wasn’t much in the way of resources to get them plugged into the IndieWeb. Well, I went and started to do something about that. #IndieWeb TextPattern is a site where I will...
Perhaps the quickest start for getting Webmention working is to use Webmention.io and have people add the appropriate headers. Then you can build or set up methods to either show that data directly or build a full endpoint.
Once upon a time I was heavily involved with the Textpattern community, but I haven’t used or kept track of TXP for several years now. It randomly popped into my head over lunch that Textpattern originally had an ethos which aligned really well with IndieWeb ideals. It had a plugin system for exte...
How content-management systems will shape the future of media businesses big and small.
For a low cost per month, it could be an interesting side business, or even be bundled with paid subscriptions?
I might suggest that you’re framing in an odd way, particularly given what I think you’d ultimately like to see on the web which you mention in your closing paragraphs.
To put things somewhat in “Automattic” terms, micro.blog is almost just like WordPress.com in that it’s a hosted content management system with a somewhat both open and closed community attached to it. If you’ve got a WordPress.com account you can easily post replies and likes on other blogs within the WordPress.com ecosystem and WordPress.com also has a slick feed reader you can use to easily subscribe to content (and even more easily subscribe if you’re within that WordPres.com community).
Just like WordPress.com, micro.blog-based sites (if you’re using their CMS) provide you with a physical website that includes RSS feeds and most of the other typical website functionality, so in fact, if you’ve got a micro.blog-based site, you’re fully on the web. If you’d like you can take your domain, export your content and move to WordPress, Drupal, SquareSpace, or any other CMS out there.
The real difference between micro.blog and WordPress.com happens in that micro.blog sends webmentions to provide their commenting functionality (though their websites don’t receive webmentions in a standalone way technically and in fact they don’t even allow manual comments as micro.blog-based websites don’t have traditional commenting functionality (yet?).) Micro.blog also supports Micropub natively, so users can use many of the micropub apps for posting to their sites as well.
Now where things get a bit wonky is that the micro.blog feed reader will let you subscribe to other m.b. users (and recently ActivityPub accounts like those on Mastodon) which is why it feels like a Twitter or Facebook replacement. But the difference is that while it feels like you’re in yet-another-silo like Twitter or Facebook, over on the side, you’ve got a traditional free standing website!
Incidentally micro.blog also uses their feed reader as a side method for displaying the replies of others to your posts within the ecosystem. If you have a non-micro.blog website that feeds into the system (like you and I–and incidentally Brad too–do with WordPress) then micro.blog sends webmentions to those sites so that they don’t necessarily need to be “within the community” to interact with it.
In summation, I might suggest that while some people might be framing micro.blog as a replacement for Facebook or Twitter, the better framing is that micro.blog is really what you were hoping it might be. It is a traditional web host with its own custom content management system that supports web standards and newer technologies like Webmention, Micropub, WebSub, and pieces of Microsub. Or similarly and more succinctly, Micro.blog is a turnkey IndieWeb CMS that allows users to have a website without needing to manage anything on the back end.
Now that we’ve re-framed it to look like what you had hoped for, let’s see if we can talk Manton into open sourcing it all! Then Automattic might have some more competition. 😉
This is a golden age for indie digital media creators, who have more content creation options than ever in 2019. In fact, there are arguably too many tools to chose from. That’s why I’m going to regularly examine the tools of digital media creation here on IDM - for everything…
"If we do it right, users benefit from a feedback loop that helps make our work more valuable and relevant to them. And no journalist ever again has to wear their clunky CMS as a badge of honor."
Eric Ulken, product director for newsroom tools at the USA TODAY NETWORK, has a great list of UI elements in the article that many journalists, newsrooms, and even average people would love to see built into content management systems. I hope that as people build and iterate that they write about their experiences and open source pieces so others can use and leverage them.
Some things your tools will soon do for you — if they don’t already:
- Automatically find and link relevant background material.
- Suggest topics and contextualize newly created content as part of a bigger story arc, when relevant.
- Show which topics, story forms and content types, in the aggregate, are resonating with priority audience segments and help you take action based on that info.
- Dynamically alert you when there’s potential for promoting your work on other platforms and help you prioritize those efforts.
- Keep track of the things you’ve published, show you how they’re doing with key audiences and suggest follow-up opportunities.
- Call out popular evergreen content that could use freshening.
- Run headline tests and other content experiments directly from the authoring and curation environment.
- Identify missed opportunities and help you find out where your content fell flat with readers.
- Enable the creation of mobile-first multimedia narratives and other non-text story forms.
- Help you productively interact with your audiences and help them inform your coverage.
- Calculate — at the staff, team and individual level — effort spent on things that don’t serve audiences well (thereby helping you devote more time to the things that do).
- Elevate your phone from in-the-field last resort to full-fledged content creation and management tool, because the best device is the one you have with you.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
Today’s leading-edge content tools are integrated context, collaboration and insight machines. We’re moving from unidirectional publishing of articles to organizing all our work and closing the feedback loop with our customers. I call this “full-stack publishing”. ❧
December 21, 2018 at 08:02PM
And while content analytics tools (e.g., Chartbeat, Parsely, Content Insights) and feedback platforms (e.g., Hearken, GroundSource) have thankfully helped close the gap, the core content management experience remains, for most of us, little improved when it comes to including the audience in the process. ❧
December 21, 2018 at 08:00PM
It’s nice that there are mass-scale projects like WordPress, WithKnown, Get Perch, Grav, Drupal, and a few others which have one or more “IndieWeb-centric” developers working on them that allow those without the coding skills to jump in and enjoy the additional freedom and functionality. The occasional drawback is that those big-hearted developers also fit into the broader fabric of those massively distributed projects and sometimes their voices aren’t as well heard, if at all.
I’m aware of the disruption of the Gutenberg Editor within WordPress v5.0 and how it applies to those using IndieWeb technology on WordPress. I’m sure it will eventually get sorted out in a reasonable fashion. Sadly, throwing out the baby out with the bathwater as it comes to WordPress and IndieWeb may not be the best solution for many people and may actually be a painful detriment to several hundreds.
While it would be interesting to see a larger group of developers converge on building an open and broadly used IndieWeb system as you suggest, it takes a massive amount of work and community collaboration to get such a thing moving. I think this bears out if you look at the lay of the land as it already exists. Just think of the time effort and energy that the core IndieWeb community puts into the tremendous amount of resources that exist today.
Looking back on the past 4+ years of IndieWeb within the WordPress community, I’m really amazed to see exactly how far things have come and where things currently stand. There used to be a dozen or more pieces that required custom code, duct tape, and baling wire to get things working. Now it’s a handful of relatively stable and well set up pieces that—particularly for me—really makes WordPress deliver as an open source content management system and next generation social medial platform that aims to democratize publishing. In terms of building for the future, I suspect that helping to bring new people into the fold (users, developers, designers, etc.) will increase and improve the experience overall. To some degree, I feel like we’re just getting started on what is possible and recruiting new users and help will be the best thing for improving things moving forward. IndieWeb integration into large-scale projects like WordPress, Drupal, etc. are very likely to be the place that these ideas are likely to gain a foothold in the mainstream and change the tide of how the internet works.
While it may seem daunting at times, in addition to the heroic (part-time, it needs to be noted) developers like Mathias Pfefferle, David Shanske, Micah Cambre, Michael Bishop, Ashton McAllan, Jack Jamieson, Ryan Barrett, Peter Molnar, Amanda Rush; enthusiastic supporters like you, Greg McVerry, Aaron Davis, Manton Reece; and literally hundreds of others (apologies to those I’ve missed by name) who are using and living with these tools on a daily basis, there are also quieter allies like Brandon Kraft, Ryan Boren, Jeremy Herve and even Matt himself, even if he’s not directly aware of it, who are contributing in their own ways as well. Given the immense value of what IndieWeb brings to the web, I can’t imagine that they won’t ultimately win out.
If it helps, some of the current IndieWeb issues pale in comparison to some of the accessibility problems that Gutenberg has neglected within the WordPress community. Fortunately those a11ys are sticking with the greater fight to make things better not only for themselves, but for the broader community and the world. I suggest that, like them, we all suit up and continue the good fight.
Of course part of the genius of how IndieWeb is structured: anyone is free to start writing code, make better UI, and create something of their own. Even then they benefit from a huge amount of shared work, resources, and simple standards that are already out there.