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.
All this WordPress 5.0 Gutenberg stuff got me thinking. With WordPress it seems like the Indieweb starts making serious and cool progress and the WordPress people come along and knock the game board and pieces off the table. And it sounds like the disruption from WordPress is going to continue for a couple of years.
Why not take a page out of Apple’s playbook and take control higher up in the food chain? Why not come out with an Indieweb compatible blog engine of our own? Either fork an existing open source project or build new? This does not mean you have to make it exclusive but make it the way the Indieweb wants the Indieweb elven magic to function. Also put in the standard blogging features most people expect. Why keep trying to adapt the Indieweb stuff to blog or CMS platforms that are at best indifferent, never designed for or just that don’t want to play ball?
This isn’t a slam on the coders who are working so hard to make everything work on WordPress, I’m just asking if maybe it’s not time to find better terrain to fight from.
If the Indieweb really wants widespread adoption they need to come out with a turnkey solution. It would act as a solution for many and a proof of concept for others to emulate. Something that can be put in hosting C-panels for one touch install. Something that just works, is easy to move to and move away from. Something supported, active, growing with enough polish that it inspires confidence in the user.
I’d really like to hear serious discussion on this.
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With the new update to Tumblr's community guidelines announcing that they will no longer permit adult content on their site, we'd like to take a moment to reassure all y'all that we have your backs. With a very few exceptions (such as spam and the like), if it's legal under US law, it's okay to post here. We're 100% user-supported, with no advertisers and no venture capitalists to please, and that means we're here for you, not for shady conglomerates that buy up your data and use it in nefarious ways.
Much like the demise of the innovation on the web and within the blogosphere as the result of the commodification of social media by silo corporations like Facebook, Twitter, and others around 2006, the technology space in education has become too addicted to corporate products and services. Many of these services cover some broad functionality, but they have generally either slowed down or quit innovating, quit competing with each other, are often charging exorbitant prices, and frequently doing unethical things with the data they receive from their users. The major difference between the two spaces is that Big Social Media is doing it on a much bigger scale and making a lot more money and creating greater damage as a result.
Instead, let me make some recommendations to thought leaders in the space for more humanistic and holistic remedy. Follow the general philosophies and principles of the IndieWeb movement. Dump (or at least gradually move away from) your corporately built LMS and start building one of your own. Ideally, open source what you build so that others can improve it and build upon it. In the end, you, your classes, your departments, and your institutions will be all the stronger for it. You can have more direct control over your own data (and that of your students, which deserves to be treated more ethically). You can build smaller independent pieces that are interchangeable and inter-operable. The small pieces may also allow new unpredictable functionalities when put together. You can build to make better user interfaces, better functionality, and get what you’d like to have instead of just what you’re given.
Sure, doing this may be somewhat uncomfortable in the near term, but many hands over many institutions, building and crafting a variety of solutions will result in a much better and more robust product–and one that we all can “own” and benefit from. By open sourcing, many hands will make light work. Imagine what the state of online learning, Open Educational Resources (OER), and open pedagogy would look like if the hundreds of institutions had put all of their LMS related funding over the past decade into even a handful of open source programmers instead of corporately controlled interests?
Already within the article, there is a short list of potential solutions one could look to as LMS replacements. Those that are open source are literally crying out to not only be used, but to be improved upon so that everyone can benefit from those improvements. Other related options might include
For solid examples of what can be accomplished, we can also look toward individual developers like Stephen Downes and projects like gRSShopper or Alan Levine and his many open source repositories. There are also individuals like Greg McVerry, who is using free and opensource content management systems like WordPress and WithKnown to push the envelope of what is possible with classroom interactions using simple internet protocols like Webmention, Micropub, WebSub, and bleeding edge readers using MicroSub, and Robin DeRosa, who is creating her own OER materials. These are just a few of thousands of individuals hacking away at small, but discrete problems and then helping out others.
At the higher end we can see broad movements like A Domain of One’s Own (DoOO), which empowers students students and faculty by giving them their own domain names and hosting as well as web-based tools to leverage these benefits. (I often look at the DoOO movement as IndieWeb for Education, but without as much emphasis on building for oneself.)
There are even ethical companies like Reclaim Hosting who are doing some excellent and tremendous work in the DoOO space. The benefit of the way these systems are built and maintained however, is that should Reclaim cease offering their excellent support, benefits, and add-ons, individuals or institutions could relatively easily take all of their data and applications and move them to another provider. This provides a massive incentive for service companies to continue iterating and improving on their work as well as the services they offer. Sadly, some of these mechanisms don’t exist this way within much of the corporate LMS space. But they certainly could and should.
For those who are interested, feel free to do some research into some of these areas and tools. Join the DoOO or IndieWeb.org communities. Build your own tools, give feedback to developers of opensource projects to help them improve. Give them some of your time and resources to make these communities and spaces better and stronger over time. Feel free to join the IndieWeb chat to meet folks virtually and discuss these ideas, or use the IndieWeb wiki (the IndieWeb for Education page is an excellent place to start) to not only read, but to contribute back ideas, tools, links, and resources for others. (The wiki has a CC0 license.)
I’m always happy to help people begin to find their way in some of these resources if they need it to get started.
Here’s the short of it. LMS’s do some things really well and are not going to go away. We still use an LMS at our institution, and while I would really like the vendor to invest some of our hard earned license fees into making it a more user friendly tool, we still need an LMS. However, I’ve tried really hard to make sure our online strategy does not start and finish with the LMS, and yes, it is an ongoing battle.
It is increasingly the tech stack of choice for major news publishers. But now Arc wants to be the backbone of your digital advertising and subscriptions, too.
Big changes happening here on the blog. Here's what's happening, what's busted, and what's coming.
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