Review of Typlog as a turnkey platform for IndieWeb as a Service

Yesterday I ran across a tweet in the IndieWeb chat announcing that Typlog, a hosted website/blogging platform, now supports Webmention.

I looked at their website, and it also looks like they support a few other IndieWeb building blocks including WebSub and RelMeAuth by leveraging Twitter and GitHub. (The developer indicated they supported IndieAuth, but I highly suspect it’s just RelMeAuth, which is still a solid option for many IndieWeb tools.) 

Having just put together a Quick Start IndieWeb chart that includes services like micro.blog, i.haza.website, and pine.blog, I was immediately intrigued. This new platform (proprietary and not self-hostable, but very similar to the others) looks like a solid looking little platform for hosting one’s personal website (or podcast) that includes some IndieWeb building-blocks.

It’s got a 7 day free trial, so naturally I spun up a quick website. With just a few simple defaults, I had something pretty solid looking in only a few minutes with a pleasant on-boarding experience.

I’ll note that some functionality like importing content from WordPress, Tumblr, Ghost, or a podcast feed requires an actual subscription. Once you’ve finally subscribed, there are instructions to set it up to use your own domain name. However, most of the basic functionality is available in the trial. Another important indie feature is that it has a built-in export using JSON format, so that one can take their domain and content to another service provider if they wish.

It looks like it’s got a ton of common useful features! This includes support for podcasting, password protected posts, scheduling posts, membership posts, and integrations for Stripe, CloudFlare, Google Analytics, and MailChimp among many others. The platform is built with some basic and beautiful page templates and prefers to have markdown in the editor, but seems to work well with raw HTML.

They also allow adding custom code into <header> and <footer> so it should be straightforward to add support Microsub to one’s site using a service like Aperture so that you can have (feed) reader support.

Unfortunately it looks like there’s no Micropub support yet. I suspect that Typlog would be quite pleased to have a number of posting applications for both desktop and mobile available to it by adding this sort of support.

Also on testing, it looks like while the platform supports incoming Webmention, it doesn’t seem to be sending webmentions to links within posts. (Perhaps they’re batch processed asynchronously, but I haven’t seen anything yet.)

The platform seems to do really well for posting articles and podcasts and even has a custom template for reviews, but all of the user interface I’ve seen requires one to add a title on all posts, so it doesn’t lend itself to adding notes (status updates) or other indie-like posts like bookmarks, likes, or simple replies. It has a minimal built in h-card, but it could be expanded a bit for sending webmentions.

The pricing for the service starts at a very reasonable $4/month and goes up to $12/month with some additional discounts for annual payments.

In sum, I love this as another very indy-flavored web hosting service and platform for those looking to make a quick and easy move into a more IndieWeb way of hosting their website and content. While services like micro.blog and i.haza.website may be ahead of it on some technical fronts, like pine.blog, Typlog has a variety of different and unique features that many are likely to really appreciate or wish that other services might have. I imagine that over time, all of them will have relative technical parity, but will differentiate themselves on user interface, flexibility, and other services. I could definitely recommend it to friends and family who don’t want to be responsible for building and managing their websites.

One of my favorite parts of Typlog is that the company building it is based in Japan, where I’ve seen a little bit of development work for IndieWeb, but not as much as in portions of Europe, America, or Australia. It’s been great seeing some growth and spread of IndieWeb philosophy and platforms in Asia, Africa, and India recently.

And of course, who couldn’t love the fact that the developer is obviously eating their own cooking by using the platform to publish their own website! I can’t wait to see where Typlog goes next.

Read Manifold Version 4.0 Overview | Building Manifold (blog.manifoldapp.org)
The Manifold team is delighted to announce the release of Manifold version 4.0. The hallmark features for this release are the addition of reading groups, which allow readers to annotate texts publicly, privately, or anonymously, and standalone mode, which allows creators to set up projects that appear without the library. We’ve also made notable strides in improving Manifold’s accessibility and are now publishing docker images to Docker Hub.
Read My 100,000th Annotation: Looking back, forging ahead! by Heather StainesHeather Staines (web.hypothes.is)
Recently, I made my 100,000th annotation with Hypothesis. I know what you must be thinking: Doesn’t she have a life? Why would anyone make 100,000 annotations? Just a few short years ago, I would have dismissed this prospect as preposterous. I disliked reading online and abandoned most online tools at the first hurdle. Yet, here I am, a self-diagnosed annotation addict. (For those of you who don’t know me, I used to work for Hypothesis. Leaving to build open infrastructure didn’t mean that I left the tool behind — far from it!)
I’ve outlined the potentiality of using Hypothes.is as a CMS platform in the past. Heather has apparently taken it to heart and gone full bore.

I hadn’t included it at the time, but private groups are also an interesting way to share ideas and private posts with small groups of people. You could also use those groups as taxonomies for keeping private notebooks as well. While the primary instance of Hypothes.is that many use would technically be considered a silo, keep in mind that it’s open source, so you could technically host it for yourself as an IndieWeb project! Now to get support for Webmention and Micropub! 😉

I’d also recently done a quick survey of some of the bigger accounts I was aware of and suspected that there must be one or two edge cases in the 10,000+ range. I knew a bot user or two were likely way ahead, but figured there was at least one person with a huge number of posts hiding out there. Great to know my hypothesis was right!

Read How to Get a Completely Free Website by Jan-Lukas ElseJan-Lukas Else (jlelse.blog)
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...
Replied to a tweet by Dr. Ryan StraightDr. Ryan Straight (Twitter)
What a great prompt! Here are a few interesting off-label use cases I’ve used, imagined, or seen in the wild:

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.

Liked The best way to blog in 2020 by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)
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...
Amen Ben!

Domains 2019 Reflections from Afar

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.

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.

If your account or any of your services are cancelled, it may result in loss of content and data. You are responsible to back up your data and materials. —Wix Terms of Use

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.

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.

👓 Why I chose Known over WordPress | Greg McVerry

Read Why I chose Known over WordPress by Greg McVerryGreg McVerry (Quick Thoughts)
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 #...

🔖 Humm | Simple self-publishing: a distributed platform for free creative expression

Bookmarked Humm | Simple self-publishing: a distributed platform for free creative expression (Humm)
Simple self-publishing: a distributed platform for free creative expression on Humm…
Looks like an interesting author platform meant that could be used for journalism as well. Has a very IndieWeb flavor.

👓 Launching #IndieWeb Textpattern | Chris McLeod

Read Launching Textpattern by Chris McLeodChris McLeod (Mr.Kapowski)
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. TextPattern is a site where I will...
This is awesome news. I’ve started a stub page on the IndieWeb wiki that hopefully folks will be able to add to in the future.

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.

Good luck!

👓 Textpattern | Mr.Kapowski

Read Textpattern by Chris McLeodChris McLeod (Mr.Kapowski)
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...
This looks like a cool little project.

📑 What the earliest fragments of English reveal | BBC

Annotated What the earliest fragments of English reveal by Cameron Laux (bbc.com)
If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.  
So sad to see that they’ve abrogated their responsibility for comments on their site to Twitter and Facebook

👓 In the Shadow of the CMS | The Nation

Read In the Shadow of the CMS by Kyle ChaykaKyle Chayka (The Nation)
How content-management systems will shape the future of media businesses big and small. 
With all these self-made CMSes for distributing journalism, why not go a half step further and create a full-on network of hosted and managed IndieWeb websites? These could be for both their journalists to use (the way many do with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) in their research as well as for their own users which could also incidentally use them to interact with the paper itself as well as their surrounding communities?

For a low cost per month, it could be an interesting side business, or even be bundled with paid subscriptions?