Some recent work in the feed reader and discovery space

I’ve noticed a lot of quiet, but very interesting and heartening feed reader and discovery work going on in the IndieWeb and related communities lately, so I thought I’d highlight it briefly for those who are interested in the topic, but may not have been following as closely:

  • Inoreader has been working on a beta product that will make following social feeds in Twitter, Micro.blog, the Fediverse, and even IndieWeb sites with h-entry easier and prettier.
  • Kicks Condor has been iterating and doing some interesting work on the FraidyCat reader over the past few weeks.
  • Malcolm Blaney has a fantastic little feed reader in his Unicyclic site (not to mention that he’s also got a cool looking IndieWeb as a Service site with i.haza.website that I desperately want to have time to try out).
  • The volume of different and interesting content going into IndieWeb.xyz as a discovery hub has been increasing lately.
  • I’ve been admiring the discovery/aggregation work of Terry Greene on his OpenLearnerPatchbook and OpenFacultyPatchbook sites within the education space.
  • CJ Eller and others have been contributing to Blogging Futures as an extended online conversation in the form of an aggregated blogchain.

And none of this even touches on the excellent continuing work on Microsub readers which continues to astound me. Even with all of this activity, I’m sure I’m missing some fun little gems, so please don’t hesitate to mention them.

Bookmarked The Open Faculty Patchbook | A Community Quilt of Pedagogy (openfacultypatchbook.org)
Fleming College faculty (and anyone else who’d like to add!) are building a community patchwork of ‘chapters’ into a quasi-textbook about pedagogy for teaching & learning in college. This space is that work in progress. Each patch of the quilt/chapter of the book (let’s call it a patch book) will focus on one pedagogical skill and be completed and published by an individual faculty member. Wherever possible, we’d like to have the student perspective embedded in the work as well.
Read Proposal for Near-Future Blogging Megastructures by Brendan Schlagel (Brendan Schlagel)
Blogging is great, but it sometimes feels like every blog is an island. To have a robust blog society requires connection, community, conversation. Part of the problem is we don’t have many great ways to connect blogs together into larger conversation structures.

I suspect this response (part read post, part annotation post, part reply, and with Webmentions enabled) will be somewhat different in form and function than those in the preceding conversations within the blogchain, but I offer it, rather than the standard blogpost or even reply, as the sort of differently formed response that blogging futures suggests we might experimentally give.

Sure we have hyperlinks, and even some esoteric magic with the likes of webmentions. But I want big, simple, legible ways to link blog discussions together. I want: blogging megastructures!

In practice, building massive infrastructure is not only very difficult, but incredibly hard to maintain (and also thus generally expensive). Who exactly is going to maintain such structures?

I would argue that Webmentions aren’t esoteric, particularly since they’re a W3C recommendation with several dozens of server implementations including support for WordPress, Drupal, and half a dozen other CMSes.

Even if your particular website doesn’t support them yet, you can create an account on webmention.io to receive/save notifications as well as to send them manually.
–November 17, 2019 at 02:14PM

Cabinet: one author or several; posts curated into particular collections or series’, often with thematic groupings, perhaps a “start here” page for new readers, or other pointers to specific reading sequences

Colin Walker has suggested something like this in the past and implemented a “required reading” page on his website.
–November 17, 2019 at 02:18PM

Chain: perhaps the simplest collaborative blogging form; a straightforward back and forth exchange of posts exploring a particular topicMesh: like a chain, but with multiple participants; still a legible structure e.g. alternating / round-robin style, but with more possibilities for multiplicity of perspectives and connections across postsFractal: multiple participants and multi-threaded conversation; more infinite game branching; a possibly ever-evolving and mutating conversation, so could probably use some kind of defined endpoint, maybe time-bound

In the time I’ve been using Webmentions, I’ve seen all of these sorts of structures using them. Of particular interest, I’ve seen some interesting experiments with Fragmentions that allow one to highlight and respond to even the smallest fragments of someone’s website.
–November 17, 2019 at 02:20PM

I tend to think of blogging as “thinking out loud”, a combination of personal essay, journaling, brainstorming and public memo.

Another example in the wild of someone using a version of “thinking out loud” or “thought spaces” to describe blogging.
–November 17, 2019 at 02:25PM

Baroque, brutalist, Borgesian — let’s build some blogging megastructures.

Take a peek at https://indieweb.xyz/ which is a quirky and interesting example of something along the lines of the blogging megastructure you suggest.
–November 17, 2019 at 02:27PM

I’m subscribed to a handful of subs on IndieWeb.xyz, but I’ve noticed after having been away for a while that the number of subs has nearly tripled! This is great, but I’m curious if there’s a way to get notified of new subs that I might like to follow in the future. I’ve taken a stab at subscribing to the subs page at https://indieweb.xyz/subs/en using microformats in hopes that I’ll see new subs pop up.

I’ll try creating a discovery sub and we’ll see what happens?!

On Blogging Infrastructure

I’ve been reading through a series of essays on Blogging Infrastructure that are part of CJ Eller’s Blogging Futures. There are some interesting ideas hiding in there including the idea of a blogchain, which appears to have originated on Venkatesh Rao’s site Ribbon Farm. As best as I can tell it amounts to linking series of blog posts by potentially multiple authors into a linear long form piece. It reminds me of the idea of a webring, but instead of being random (though some may have historically been completely linear in nature), they’ve got slightly more structure, and instead of linking entire websites, they’re linking posts on a particular idea or topic. 

I’ve also seen some tangential mentions among the Blogging Futures crowd of Webmention, which is essentially a standardized web technology that allows notifications or @mentions between websites on different domains and running completely different software. I know that Tom Critchlow, who is a memeber of the blogchain, has recently set up webmentions, so I’m curious to hear his impression of what a blogchain means after he’s begun using webmention. (Difficultly, he’s using a static site generator, which will tend to make his experience with them a tad more fraught compared with services that have it built in or available by simple plugins.) To me there’s more value in combining the two ideas of Webmention and blogchain wherein each post is able to webmention the other posts within a particular blogchain and thereby create a broader web of related ideas. 

Of course this is all very similar to ideas like IndieNews and Kicks Condor’s IndieWeb.xyz aggregation hub which allow users to post to them by means of Webmention. In some sense this allows for a central repository or hub that collects links to all of the responses for those who want to to participate. These responses could obviously be sorted by topic (aka tag/category), author, and even date. Naturally if each post includes links to all the other pieces in such a blogchain, and all the sites accept and display webmentions, then there will be a more weblike chain of discussion of the topic rather than a more linear one.

I’m not aware of it being done, but I’ve always sort of wished that someone would add webmention support to a wiki platform. Many has been the time I wish I could have added a link into the See also section of the IndieWeb wiki simply by linking to a particular page and sending a webmention. Lots of my online documentation references that wiki and it would be wonderfully useful for links to my content to automatically show up there. Later, others could add some of my content back into the wiki in a more fully fleshed out way, but at least the references would be there. Imagine how the world’s knowledge would be expanded if a larger wiki like Wikipedia had the ability to accept incoming links this way!?

I’ll mention that both the aggregation hubs and the wikis can help to serve as somewhat more centralized means of discovery on the web, which also helps to fuel idea and content production.

All the people I know who have added Webmention have generally fallen in love with it as a new means of posting into and interacting within a rejuvenated blogosphere. There’s more power in posting to one’s own website while still being able to interact in a more social sort of way. 

Replied to a post by Jörg WurzerJörg Wurzer (jwurzer.micro.blog)
I’m struggling with micro.blog. I have tried it since it was stsrted after the Kickstarter campaign. Unfortunately it’s not possible to get in contact with people or to reach any audience. I thnk the conceptual problem of micro.blog is, that I can’t search for interesting people and posts. Maybe it’s time to say good bye to micro.blog. My hope was to have an alternative to Twitter, without censorship and manipulation.

@jwurzer I recall that @macgenie had a good piece called Where Discover Doesn’t Help that may also be useful to you. I had responded to it with some related ideas around Micro Monday. Another good place to find people is to visit the micro.blog profile pages of people you do find interesting and then click through the “Following XYZ users you aren’t following” to see people who may be similar.

To some extent, just like you did with Twitter and all your other social networks, you’ll likely have to (re-)”build” and “discover” your audience and people you want to interact with. The nice part about it is that it’s built on open protocols, so as more and more sites and services support them, you’ll be able to interact from one place instead of the typical 4 or more.

Personally, while I highly leverage m.b. and its many discovery aspects, I do it with my own feed reader where I pick and choose who I follow (whether they’re on Twitter, Instagram, micro.blog, or their own site) and then read them all there. Then I’m using my own website to collect, write, respond, and interact. It’s taken me a while to reframe how I use the social layers of the internet, but ultimately I find it much more healthy and rewarding.

Podcast discovery, Huffduffer, and listen feeds

As I was reading through some of the subscriptions in Aaron Davis’ well-curated blogroll which I’m subscribed to via OPML Subscription in Inoreader, I was reminded that I should be following my own Huffduffer Collective. This is a feed of audio that comes from all of the accounts I’m following on Jeremy Keith’s awesome Huffduffer audio service. For those looking for a great method for discovering new and interesting audio content and podcasts, this is by far the best discovery service I know.

While finding content which others have bookmarked is an excellent discovery mechanism, I think that finding it by means of things they’ve actually listened to would be even more powerful. By saying you’ve listened to something, it means you’ve put some skin in the game and spent some of your own valuable time actually consuming the content and then separately posting about it. I wonder how Huffduffer might incorporate this sort of “listen” functionality in addition to their bookmarking functionality? I can’t help but thinking that more audio applications should have Micropub functionality for posting listens.

Here I’ll remind people that my website provides just such a feed of my own listens, so if you want to hear exactly what I’ve been listening to, you can have your own feed of it, which I call my faux-cast and you should be able to subscribe to it in most podcatchers. I do roughly the same thing for all the things I read online and off as well. I may bookmark something as interesting, but you know it was even more valuable to me when I’ve spent the time to actually listen to or read it from start to finish.

Do you have a listen feed I could subscribe to?  Perhaps a Huffduffer account I should follow? How do you discover audio content online? How could this be used in the education technology space?

Following People on Hypothes.is

I get a LOT of value out of using Hypothes.is, but one of my favorite parts is having the RSS feeds of about a dozen interesting peoples’ H feeds piped into my reader. I get not only interesting things to read, but highlights and annotations of the best of it all.

The general format for feeds to subscribe to is https://hypothes.is/stream.atom?user=XYZ.  As an example my personal feed is at https://hypothes.is/stream.atom?user=chrisaldrich. Some of my other favorites are judell, actualham, nateangell, mpelzel, mrkrndvs, jgmac1106, and jeremydean.

(By the way, you can do a similar thing for tag topics like: https://hypothes.is/stream.atom?tag=OER.)

I wish that the system had some more social features to make discovery and following of friends and colleagues easier, but doing it the hard way sort of makes it that much more valuable.

Who are you following there? Which other interesting Hypothes.is users should I be following? Do let me know.

Read On planets and reading lists by Malcolm BlaneyMalcolm Blaney (unicyclic.com)

This is going to be a long one, so the short version is summed up in this screenshot:
screen shot of a page that reads This is a planet that follows members of the IndieWeb community. Anyone can join, all you need to do is send a webmention from a follow post to this page, and it will follow you back!

That's from the top of this page: unicyclic.com/indieweb, which is a feed combined from different sources, commonly referred to as a planet. Up until now I've been adding new feeds to that page as people join th...

This may be the first time I’ve heard this, though it’s possible that Kicks Condor or Bran Enslen has mentioned something along these lines:

the year of the indieweb directory  

Social Reading User Interface for Discovery

I read quite a bit of material online. I save “bookmarks” of all of it on my personal website, sometimes with some additional notes and sometimes even with more explicit annotations. One of the things I feel like I’m missing from my browser, browser extensions, and/or social feed reader is a social layer overlay that could indicate that people in my social network(s) have read or interacted directly with that page (presuming they make that data openly available.)

One of the things I’d love to see pop up out of the discovery explorations of the IndieWeb or some of the social readers in the space is the ability to uncover some of this social reading information. Toward this end I thought I’d collect some user interface examples of things that border on this sort of data to make the brainstorming and building of such functionality easier in the near future.

If I’m missing useful examples or you’d like to add additional thoughts, please feel free to comment below.

Examples of social reading user interface for discovery

Google

I don’t often search for reading material directly, but Google has a related bit of UI indicating that I’ve visited a website before. I sort of wish it had the ability to surface the fact that I’ve previously read or bookmarked an article or provided data about people in my social network who’ve done similarly within the browser interface for a particular article (without the search.) If a browser could use data from my personal website in the background to indicate that I’ve interacted with it before (and provide those links, notes, etc.), that would be awesome!

Screen capture for Google search of Kevin Marks with a highlight indicating that I've visited this page in the recent past
Screen capture for Google search of Kevin Marks with a highlight indicating that I’ve visited his page several times in the past. Given the March 2017 date, it’s obvious that the screen shot is from a browser and account I don’t use often.

I’ll note here that because of the way I bookmark or post reads on my own website, my site often ranks reasonably well for those things.

On a search for an article by Aaron Parecki, my own post indicating that I’ve read it in the past ranks second right under the original.

In some cases, others who are posting about those things (reading, commenting, bookmarking, liking, etc.) in my social network also show up in these sorts of searches. How cool would it be to have a social reader that could display this sort of social data based on people it knows I’m following

A search for a great article by Matthias Ott shows that both I and several of my friends (indicated by red arrows superimposed on the search query) have read, bookmarked, or commented on it too.

Hypothes.is

Hypothes.is is a great open source highlighting, annotation, and bookmarking tool with a browser extension that shows an indicator of how many annotations  appear on the page. In my experience, higher numbers often indicate some interesting and engaging material. I do wish that it had a follower/following model that could indicate my social sphere has annotated a page. I also wouldn’t mind if their extension “bug” in the browser bar had another indicator in the other corner to indicate that I had previously annotated a page!

Screen capture of Vannevar Bush’s article As We May Think in The Atlantic with a Hypothes.is browser extension bug indicating that there are 329 annotations on the page.

Reading.am

It doesn’t do it until after-the-fact, but Reading.am has a pop up overlay through its browser extension. It adds me to the list of people who’ve read an article, but it also indicates others in the network and those I’m following who have also read it (sometimes along with annotations about their thoughts).

What I wouldn’t give to see that pop up in the corner before I’ve read it!

Reading.am’s social layer creates a yellow colored pop up list in the upper right of the browser indicating who else has read the article as well as showing some of their notes on it. Unfortunately it doesn’t pop up until after you’ve marked the item as read.

Nuzzel

Nuzzel is one of my favorite tools. I input my Twitter account as well as some custom lists and it surfaces articles that people in my Twitter network have been tweeting about. As a result, it’s one of the best discovery tools out there for solid longer form content. Rarely do I read content coming out of Nuzzel and feel robbed. Because of how it works, it’s automatically showing those people in my network and some of what they’ve thought about it. I love this contextualization.

Nuzzel’s interface shows the title and an excerpt of an article and also includes the avatars, names, network, and commentary of one’s friends that interacted with the piece. In this example it’s relatively obvious that one reader influenced several others who retweeted it because of her.

Goodreads

Naturally sites for much longer form content will use social network data about interest, reviews, and interaction to a much greater extent since there is a larger investment of time involved. Thus social signaling can be more valuable in this context. A great example here is of Goodreads which shows me those in my network who are interested in reading a particular book or who have written reviews or given ratings.

A slightly excerpted/modified screen capture of the Goodreads page for Melanie Mitchell’s book Complexity that indicates several in my social network are also interested in reading it.

Are there other examples I’m missing? Are you aware of similar discovery related tools for reading that leverage social network data?

📑 Where Discover Doesn’t Help | Jean MacDonald

Annotated Where Discover Doesn't Help by Jean MacDonald (micro.welltempered.net)

Tip: One of the Discover curation guidelines is the Buddy Bench principle. If you want to find someone who shares a particular interest, write a micropost asking “Hey, are there any fans of ___ out there?” We add posts like that to Discover.  

Another useful tip on this front is to post a Micro Monday following recommendation aggregating a few people you know are interested in a particular topic. As an example, I posted one about a few educators and researchers I knew on micro.blog in July 2018 and it quickly blew up with lots of additional recommendations from others following me within the community.

Over time I’ve kept up with adding to it, and even within the last month that post is still helping to benefit others on the service:

blair says: “@c this made me very happy, thanks for tagging me, I’ve now got a bunch more interesting folks to follow!”
May 30, 2019 at 4:28 pm

👓 Where Discover Doesn’t Help | Jean MacDonald

Read Where Discover Doesn't Help by Jean MacDonald (micro.welltempered.net)
A discussion is going on about how to discover people with your interests when the Micro.blog Discover timeline doesn’t really help. In a post in this thread, Khürt wrote: I’d like to discuss F1 and photography and hiking in New Jersey etc. I actually share Khürt’s frustration when it comes ...

 

📑 Where Discover Doesn’t Help | Jean MacDonald

Annotated Where Discover Doesn't Help by Jean MacDonald (micro.welltempered.net)

We are not filtering out topics like F1. There just are not any posts to add. For a lively community on that topic or other specialized topics, you probably need to find a forum or follow hashtags on Twitter.  

This is also a potential space that Webmention-based aggregation services like IndieWeb news, or the multi-topic Indieweb.xyz directory could help people aggregate content for easier discovery and community building.

👓 Curating the Micro.blog Discover Timeline | Jean MacDonald

Read Curating the Micro.blog Discover Timeline by Jean MacDonaldJean MacDonald (micro.welltempered.net)
Micro.blog is a blogging platform with a social engagement component. We have a timeline where you can follow and interact with other bloggers. Sometimes it feels like Twitter, because of the timeline, mentions, and conversations. But there are key differences, built into Micro.blog, to make it a sa...