Webmentions with WordPress for Open Pedagogy

Abstract: With growing support for the W3C Webmention spec, teachers can post assignments on their own websites & students can use their sites to respond and interact. Entire classes can have open discussions from site-to-site owning all their data and eschewing corporate surveillance capitalism.

Missed my presentation for PressEdConf20 on Twitter earlier and want to read it all bundled up instead? The “article” version appears blow. You can also enjoy the Twitter moment version if you like. 


ONE

Chris Aldrich
Chris Aldrich

Hello everyone! My name is Chris Aldrich. I’m an independent researcher in a variety of areas including the overlap the internet and education. You can find more about me on my website https://boffosocko.com

Today I’ll be talking about Webmentions for open pedagogy. 


TWO

For a variety of reasons (including lack of budget, time, support, and other resources) many educators have been using corporate tools from Google, Twitter, Facebook, and others for their ease-of-use as well as for a range of functionality that hadn’t previously existed in the blogosphere or open source software that many educators use or prefer.

This leaves us and our students open to the vagaries and abuses that those platforms continually allow including an unhealthy dose of surveillance capitalism.

Wall of security cameras looking down at two women
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

THREE

In the intervening years since the blogosphere and the rise of corporate social media, enthusiasts, technologists and open source advocates have continued iterating on web standards and open protocols, so that now there are a handful of web standards that work across a variety of domains, servers, platforms, allowing educators to use smaller building blocks to build and enable the functionalities we need for building, maintaining, and most importantly owning our online courseware.


FOUR

Some of these new W3C specs include Webmention, Micropub, WebSub, IndieAuth, and Microsub. Today I’ll talk abut Webmentions which are simply site-to-site @mentions or notifications which don’t involve corporate social media silos.

For those who’d like more information about Webmentions and how they could be used, I’ve written a primer for A List Apart entitled Webmentions: Enabling Better Communication on the Internet.

Cartoon of baseball player hitting a ball with a bat to a waiting player with a tennis raquet
Illustration by Dougal MacPherson
Image courtesy of A List Apart

FIVE

Many common content management systems support Webmention either out of the box or with plugins including: our friend WordPress, Drupal, WithKnown, Grav, and many others.

Webmention rocks logo
Webmention rocks

SIX

WordPress can use this new standard with the Webmention plugin. (Surprise!) I also highly recommend the Semantic Linkbacks plugin which upgrades the presentation of these notifications (like Trackback, Pingback, or Webmention) to more user-friendly display so they appear in comments sections much like they do in corporate social media as commentsrepostslikes, and favorites, detected using microformats2 markup from the source of the linkback.


SEVEN

Another plugin I love is Post Kinds Plugin (Classic editor only at present) which automatically parses URLs I want to reply to, like, bookmark, etc. and saves the reply context to my website which helps prevent context collapse. My commentary and notes then appear below it.

(I also use a plugin that saves the content of URLs on my site to the Internet Archive, so I can reference them there later if necessary.)

Example of a reply context with author name, image, title, and short synopsis


EIGHT

These plugins with WordPress allow teachers to post course content and students can then post their responses on their own sites and send notifications that they’ve read, listened to, or watched that content along with their ideas and commentary.


NINE

Examples of webmentions in a course setting: Greg McVerry and I ran an experiment with Webmentions in a class in 2018. 

Example assignment: https://archive.jgregorymcverry.com/5570-2/

Notice the replies underneath which came from other sites including my response which is mirrored on my site at https://boffosocko.com/2018/08/04/highlighting-some-of-my-favorite-edtech-tools/

Example podcast post for a class: https://archive.jgregorymcverry.com/2toponder-episode-one/

Notice the listen webmention in the comments which links to my listen response at: https://boffosocko.com/2018/08/06/2toponder-episode-one-intertextrevolution/ where I own a copy of the context and my own response. As a student, even if the originals disappear, I’ve got the majority of the important content from the course.


TEN

When the course is over, the student has an archive of their readings, work, and participation (portfolio anyone?) on a site they own. They can choose to leave it public or unpublish it and keep private copies.

[Copies for Facebook, Google+ or Big EdTech Giants? They can ask for them nicely if they want them so desperately instead of taking them surreptitiously.]


ELEVEN

As a concrete example, I now have tagged archives for all the work I’ve done for EDU522 with Greg McVerry who also has his related posts in addition to a variety that he subsequently archived.

Fluffy cat head that moves with the fur underneath it appearing more like rocket exhaustion as the cat "takes off" into the air


TWELVE

By taking the content AND the conversation around it out of the hands of “big social media” and their constant tracking and leaving it with the active participants, we can effect far more ethical EdTech.

Gif of grain silo on a farm collapsing in on itself.

[No more content farming? What will the corporate social media silos do?]


THIRTEEN

Imagine Webmentions being used for referencing journal articles, academic samizdat, or even OER? Suggestions and improvement could accumulate on the original content itself rather than being spread across dozens of social silos on the web.

gif of Kermit the frog sitting on a desk excitedly flailing his arms and legs

[Webmentions + creativity: How might you take their flexibility and use it in your online teaching practices?]


FOURTEEN

There’s current research, coding work, and thinking going on within the IndieWeb community to extend ideas like private webmentions and limiting audience so that this sort of interaction can happen in more secluded online spaces.

I’d welcome everyone who’s interested to join in the effort. Feel free to inquire at an upcoming IndieWebCamp, Homebrew Website Club, event, or in online chat right now.

Huge group of diverse attendees at IndieWebSummit 2019 waving


FIFTEEN

I’ve also been able to use my WordPress website to collect posts relating to my participation in conferences like PressEdConf20 or Domains 2019 which included syndicated content to Twitter and the responses from there that have come back to my site using Brid.gy which bootstraps Twitter’s API to send Webmentions back to my website.

If Twitter were to go away, they may take some of my connections, but the content and the conversations will live on in a place under my own control.


Thanks for your time and attention! I’m around on Twitter–or better: my own website!–if you have any questions.

FOURTEEN

There’s current research, coding work, and thinking going on within the IndieWeb community to extend ideas like private webmentions and limiting audience so that this sort of interaction can happen in more secluded online spaces. I’d welcome everyone who’s interested to join in the effort. Feel free to inquire at an upcoming IndieWebCamp, Homebrew Website Club, event, or in online chat right now.

Huge group of diverse attendees at IndieWebSummit 2019 waving

 
TWELVE

By taking the content AND the conversation around it out of the hands of “big social media” and their constant tracking and leaving it with the active participants, we can effect far more ethical EdTech.

Gif of grain silo on a farm collapsing in on itself.

 
 
EIGHT

These plugins with WordPress allow teachers to post course content and students can then post their responses on their own sites and send notifications that they’ve read, listened to, or watched that content along with their ideas and commentary.

ONE

Hello everyone! My name is Chris Aldrich. I’m an independent researcher in a variety of areas including the overlap the internet and education. You can find more about me on my website https://boffosocko.com.

Today I’ll be talking about Webmentions for open pedagogy.

 

Participating in PressEdConf20 directly from WordPress

Last year I thought it would be fun to outline how people might use their websites to actively participate in by posting content on their WordPress website and syndicating copies to Twitter for those following that way.

(Meta: Welcome to my talk: I know it’s cheating & early, but I’m hoping a few presenters will borrow this method.) 


My general thought was:

The only thing better than A WordPress and Education, Pedagogy and Research Conference on Twitter would be A WordPress and Education, Pedagogy and Research Conference using WordPress itself!

(Meta: Sure, post it to Twitter: but why not own a copy of your presentation on your own website when you’re done?)

Wordpress > Twitter in logos


So let’s give it a spin by providing an outline for how to accomplish it in true #IndieWeb & #DoOO fashion? Perhaps a few people might trying doing this year’s conference this way? Here’s an early presentation to get the juices flowing.

Upside down Twitter Logo(Meta: Hint for those on Twitter: I’m including links to my website, so you can get just a little bit more information than Twitter limits me to–oh, the fringe benefits of having one’s website where they’re not censored by the confines of the platform on which they’re creating!)


First, we’ll start off by making the humble presumption that you’ve got your own domain and an install of WordPress running on it. Hopefully this covers most attendees.

(Meta: If it doesn’t there are lots of options: You could do something similar a bit more manually if you like using WordPress.com. You’ve also got a great community of people who could help you to better own your online identity and domain right here! I’ll bet our friends at Reclaim Hosting could help as well.)


Next we’ll want the Webmention Plugin (+Semantic Linkbacks) which will let our site communicate with other websites as well as to receive replies and reactions on Twitter with the help of Brid.gy. Install and activate both.

(Want to go deeper into the idea of what Webmention is and how one could use it?  I wrote an article for A List Apart that goes into details.)

Cartoon of baseball player hitting a ball with a bat to a waiting player with a tennis raquet
Illustration by Dougal MacPherson
Image courtesy of A List Apart

One could manually syndicate content from WordPress to Twitter, but there are multiple plugins and ways to syndicate it. My favorite is the Syndication Links plugin, which we can use for syndicating to other services. Install and activate. 


Next we’ll want an account on Brid.gy for Twitter. This will allow us to publish from our website to Twitter; it will also allow us to reverse syndicate reactions  from on Twitter back to our posts using Webmention.

(Meta: Publishing this way will require Microformats: Your theme will need the proper microformats support to use this method, but again other methods are available.)


Authenticate your website and Twitter account with Bridgy and enable Bridgy publish on your account page: https://brid.gy/twitter/username.

Bridgy Logo


In Syndication Links settings at example.com/wp-admin/admin.php?page=syndication_links

  • Enable Syndication to Other Sites
  • Enable Twitter via Bridgy

Add a custom provider using the following:

  • name: XYZ pressEdconf20
  • UID: XYZ-pressEdconf20
  • target URL: https://indieweb.xyz/en/pressEdconf20/

Save the settings.

WordPress' cartoon character Wapuu holding a ball with the IndieWebCamp logo(Meta: Syndication Links Settings: These will help you set up syndication targets on other platforms and can be configured for a variety of social media.)
 
 
 
 

Now write all of your posts in your presentation as status updates (without titles) and include any media (photos, videos, etc.) making sure to mark up the photos with a class of u-photo in the HTML. Don’t forget the hashtag .

Meme photo from Ferris Bueller's Day Off with Ferris in the bathroom of Chez Louis with superimposed text: A personal IndieWeb site with Webmention, Micropub, Microsub, and WebSub support is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.


Set posts for one every minute. Use the SL Syndicate To meta box to syndicate your Twitter account and to the indieweb.xyz sub where everyone can find them (if they’re not following the proceedings via Twitter).

indieweb.xyz logo


Others at with Webmentions can reply to your posts on their sites. Replies will show up in comments depending on settings. Bridgy will also find responses to your content on Twitter & syndicate those back to your website automatically.

(Meta: Give it a whirl!: Reply to this post on Twitter to see it boomerang back to the comment section of my website.)

Webmention rocks logo
Webmention rocks

Those who are paying attention at will see the value in webmention for allowing cross-site interactions without the need for “social media”. WithKnown, Drupal, Grav, and other CMSs are capable of doing this too.

(Meta: Ownership of your Open Pedagogy Anyone? Who needs invasive corporate social media to interact online now?)


With luck, I’ll have created this entire presentation on my own website and syndicated it to Twitter without actually needing to visit Twitter itself. I’m around for questions. Thank you for your time and attention. [more…]

Those looking for more details can find documentation on the IndieWeb wiki at https://indieweb.org/Getting_Started_on_WordPress, or https://boffosocko.com/2018/04/27/setting-up-wordpress-for-indieweb-use/

I’m also happy to help people set things up and make alternate suggestions via video chat or you can find online help in the IndieWeb WordPress chat.

IndieWebCamp Logo featuring the stylized letters "I W C" over the text "#IndieWebCamp"


P.S. There’s still some time to submit your talk for . Since it’s all designed to be online from the start, I’m hoping it won’t be cancelled like all the other events lately.

(Meta: PressEdConf 2020: A WordPress and Education, Pedagogy and Research Conference on Twitter March 26, 2020)

Replied to Questions (Reclaim Hosting Community)
Everyone has questions and most likely someone here has an answer for you. Whether it be about hosting, domains, or anything else you need help with, this is the place to ask.
I’ve been looking closer at wikis, online commonplace books, and similar personal/work/lab/research notebooks recently and have come across TiddlyWiki as a useful, simple, but very flexible possibility.

While most of its ecosystem revolves around methods for running the program locally (and often privately) or in Google or Dropbox storage, I’ve come across a growing number of people hosting their instances on their own servers and using them publicly as a melange of personal websites, blogs, and wikis.

Has anyone tried hosting one (particularly the newer TW5) through Reclaim before? Of the many methods, I’m curious which may be the easiest/simplest from a set up perspective?

Here are some interesting examples I’ve come across:
* “A Thesis Notebook” by Alberto Molina
* PESpot Lesson Planner by Patrick Detzner (this one seems to be heavily modified)
* sphygm.us

Can’t make it to IndieWebCamp London in person this weekend? Why not try attending remotely?! There’s usually pretty good streaming video and online chat options. Details for what to expect & how to set up for remote participation: https://indieweb.org/IndieWebCamps/Attending

Maybe the EdTech, Open Pedagogy, and Domain of One’s Own crowds could use the opportunity to brainstorm remote class attendance and owning their own teaching/pedagogy/content on their websites?
IndieWebCamp Logo featuring the stylized letters "I W C" over the text "#IndieWebCamp"

Extra Feeds Plugin for WordPress

David Shanske has built a simple new IndieWeb friendly plugin for WordPress.

For individual posts, the Extra Feeds plugin will add code into the <header> of one’s page to provide feed readers that have built-in discovery mechanisms the ability to find the additional feeds provided by WordPress for all the tags, categories, and other custom taxonomies that appear on any given page. 

Without the plugin, WordPress core will generally only provide the main feed for your site and that of your comments feed. This is fine for sites that only post a few times a day or even per week. If you’re owning more of the content you post online on your own website as part of the IndieWeb or Domain of One’s Own movements, you’ll likely want more control for the benefit of your readers.

In reality WordPress provides feeds for every tag, category, or custom taxonomy that appears on your site, it just doesn’t advertise them to feed readers or other machines unless you add them manually or via custom code or a plugin. Having this as an option can be helpful when you’re publishing dozens of posts a day and your potential readers may only want a subsection of your posting output.

In my case I have a handful of taxonomies that post hundreds to thousands of items per year, so it’s more likely someone may want a subsection of my content rather than my firehose. In fact, I just ran across a statistician yesterday who was following just my math and information theory/biology related posts. With over 7,000 individual taxonomy entries on my site you’ve got a lot of choice, so happy hunting and reading!

This plugin also includes feeds for Post Formats, Post Kinds (if you have that plugin installed), and the author feed for sites with one or more different authors.

This is useful in that now while you’re on any particular page and want to subscribe to something on that specific page, it will be much easier to find those feeds, which have always been there, but are just not easily uncovered by many feed reader work flows because they weren’t explicitly declared.

Some examples from a recent listen post on my site now let you more easily find and subscribe to:

  • my faux-cast:
    <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Chris Aldrich &raquo; listen Kind Feed" href="https://boffosocko.com/kind/listen/feed/rss/" />
  • the feed of items tagged with Econ Extra Credit, which I’m using to track my progress in Marketplace’s virtual book club:
    <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Chris Aldrich &raquo; Econ Extra Credit Tag Feed" href="https://boffosocko.com/tag/econ-extra-credit/feed/rss/" />
  • the feed for all posts by an author:
    <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Chris Aldrich &raquo; Posts by Chris Aldrich Feed" href="https://boffosocko.com/author/chrisaldrich/feed/rss/" />
Reposted a tweet by Chris WiegmanChris Wiegman (Twitter)
“Not all my own experiments have been successful but that doesn't mean I'm still not hosting some of my own services. On 13 Feb I'll talk about how to host your own using Traefik 2.0 in a free online webinar. Check it out! https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_PRadmjWCRxqmpkgZvE3lAw
This seems like something that the IndieWeb and Domain of One’s Own crowds might appreciate.