Jeffrey Zeldman, Nothing Fails Like Success:
On an individual and small collective basis, the IndieWeb already works. But does an IndieWeb approach scale to the general public? If it doesn’t scale yet, can we, who envision and design and build, create a new generation of tools that will help give birth to a flourishing, independent web? One that is as accessible to ordinary internet users as Twitter and Facebook and Instagram?
I think so. I hope so. My part is to write a free RSS reader — and make it open source so that other people can easily use RSS in their apps.
RSS isn’t the only part of the solution, but writing an RSS reader is in my wheelhouse. So this is what I choose.
Do I claim it’s as accessible to ordinary internet users as Twitter (for instance)? I do not. But it’s the step forward that I know how to take.
My point is: don’t give in to despair. Take a step, even if it’s not the step that will solve everything. Maybe your step is just to start a blog or open a Micro.blog account. Whatever it is — do it! :) #LetsFixThis
I remember thinking over a decade ago how valuable it would be if researchers kept open notebooks (aka digital commonplace books) like the one Kimberly Hirsh outlines in her article . I’d give my right arm to have a dozen people in research areas I’m interested in doing this very thing!
The best I could hope for back in 2008, and part of why I created the @JohnsHopkins Twitter handle, was that researchers would discover Twitter and be doing the types of things that some of the Johns Hopkins professors outlined in this recent article are now finally doing. It seems sad that it has taken over a decade and this article is really only highlighting the bleeding edge of the broader academic scene now. While what they’re doing is a great start, I think they really aren’t going far enough. They aren’t doing their audiences as much service as they could because there’s only so much that Twitter allows in terms of depth of ideas and expressiveness. It would be far better if they were doing this sort of work from their own websites and more directly interacting with their colleagues on the open web. The only value that Twitter is giving them is a veneer of reach to a broader audience, but they’re also opening themselves up to bigger attacks as is described in the article.
In addition to Kimberly’s example, another related area of potential innovation would be moving the journal clubs run by many research groups and labs online and opening them up. Want to open up science? Then let’s really do it! By bookmarking a variety of articles on their own websites, various members could be aggregated to contribute to a larger group, which could then use their own websites with protocols like Webmention or even simple tools like Hypothes.is to guide and participate in larger online conversations to move science communication along at an even faster pace. Greg McVerry and I have experimented in taking some of these tools into the classroom in the past.
If you think about it, arXiv and other preprint servers are really just journal clubs writ large. The problem is that they’re only communicating in one direction by aggregating the initial content, but they’re dramatically failing their audiences in that they aren’t facilitating or aggregating any open discussion around that content. As a result, the largest portion of their true value is still locked away in the individual brains of their readers rather than as commentary or even sentence level highlights and annotations on particular pieces out in the open. Often is the time that I’ll tweet about an interesting article only to receive a (lucky) reply that the results have been debunked, yet that information is almost never disclosed in or around the journal article (especially online) where it certainly belongs. Academic publishers are not only gouging us financially by siloing their content, they’re failing us far worse than most realize.
Another idea: Can’t get a journal of negative results to publish your latest research failure? Why not post a note or article on your own website to help out future researchers? (or even demonstrate to your students that not everything always works out?)
Naturally having aggregation services like indieweb.xyz, building planets, using OPML subscriptions, or the coming wave of feed readers could make a lot of these things easier, but we’re already right on the cusp for people who are willing to take a shot for doing this type of research online on their own websites and out in the open.
Want to try out some of the above? I’m happy to help (gratis) researchers who’d like to experiment in the area to get themselves set up. Just send me a note or give me a call.
I’ve written about why I think we need the IndieWeb before. I’m going to the Popular Culture Association Conference in April and will present about this there as part of the Internet Culture track. I’ve been talking to friends about what they might want to know about the IndieWeb as a way of getting a sense of what to present about. I realized that I have additional thoughts about the importance of the IndieWeb community so that’s what this post is about. Once the presentation is complete, I’ll make the slide deck available as a supplement to this post.
A great article and good overview, particularly within the broader context of several of her recent pieces on the broader topic.
I have heard some who think that POSSE is difficult and only worthwhile for the additional reach. I hope that one day when we’ve got some better readers and discovery options people will flock to more IndieWeb-centric solutions. If enough eventually do, then the silos may be forced to open up to be able to continue competing.
My online social experience is mostly through the indieweb. For following people and blogs, I use Aperture, a Microsub server, to subscribe to various social feeds. And then I read and interact with those feeds in various clients – e.g. Indigenous on Android, and Monocle on the web. Although I don...
I haven’t migrated over to a microsub-based reader yet, but this is an excellent description of some tools for freeing yourself from reading friends and family in Twitter.
Ik gebruik Inoreader al een paar jaar maar ik wist niet dat het mogelijk was om er nieuwsbrieven in te ontvangen. Je kunt een specifieke tag aanmaken waarna je een uniek mailadres krijgt. Met dat mailadres kun je je op allerlei nieuwsbrieven abonneren en deze dus in je feedreader krijgen. https://di...
I use Inoreader a lot and never noticed it did emails to pull in newsletters! This is awesome!
Gillmor Gang X - Keith Teare and Steve Gillmor. Produced on Anchor and GarageBand June 18, 2018
I’ve been getting back into Gillmor Gang episodes from the last year and noticed there’s a new shorter offshoot called Gillmor Gang X series. Steve has apparently taken to Anchor to put out slighly shorter episodes. You’ve got to love that just a few minutes into the show he mentions RSS and says (somewhat ironically) that as of six minutes ago we now have an RSS feed. Of course that doesn’t mean that he’s bothering to have any sort of feed for his primary show which still eschews RSS.
Given his long term interest in the music business and watching what the deans of the music business are doing with respect to distribution, I’m surprised that he doesn’t want to own and control his own masters and their own distribution. Perhaps the ease of recording and distribution on platforms like Anchor.fm (for this show) and TechCrunch for his other show is more than enough? They do discuss in the episode that the company is one of John Borthwick’s which may have prompted this series of experiments.
In any case, this seems like an interesting shorter format with fewer guests, so I’m interested in seeing where it goes.
I started using this site as the canonical root of all of my “social” content in 2018, but got lured back into the convenience of Twitter and Mastodon and sort of gave up on that idea. With yet more Facebook and Instagram controversies closing out the year, I had a sudden reminder that I should own my content—not irresponsible corporations like them or Twitter.
Colin, I saw this article last week and I agree with your thoughts. Your analysis and the concept of the fear of missing out is a strong one. It’s even more paralyizing when one is following feeds with longer and potentially denser articles instead of short status updates or even bookmarks.
RSS definitely needs a UI makeover. I’ve been enamored of the way that SubToMe has abstracted things to create a one click button typically with a “Follow Me” or “Subscribe” tag on it. It looks a whole lot more like the follow buttons on most social services, but this one can recommend a feed reader or provide a list of potential readers to add the subscription to. Cutting out several layers and putting the subscription into something where it can be immediately read certainly cuts through a lot of the UI problems generally presented to the average person. It would be nice to see more sites support this sort of functionality rather than needing the crufty pages full of XML and pages describing what RSS is, how it works, and how to add a particular site to a reader.
We’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to to continue on.
@manton, I’m not sure if anyone would have thought to ask or do such a thing, but does micro.blog provide users any feeds (RSS, JSON, etc.) of the sites the’re subscribed to for reading in a reader that isn’t necessarily micro.blog’s primary interface?
I ask because I’m curious about the ease of maintaining contacts if one wanted a different reader experience, were to leave micro.blog, or simply wanted to transfer from following 100s within micro.blog to follow them using other interfaces?
Any thoughts perhaps of providing an exportable OPML file for making functionality like this easier? Or for taking an OPML file and putting it into a feed reader that supports subscribing to OPML files?
Before the internet was consolidated into centralized information silos, RSS imagined a better way to let users control their online personas.
Paul, I like how you’re questioning what is going on with micro.blog and what it is. The toughest part about it is that it is being sold by many different people in many different ways and it’s something slightly different depending on who you are and what you’re coming to it with. It’s all a question of framing.
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 sounds a lot like the Microsub spec which abstracts and separates the parsing and displaying of content. There are already several separate server and reader implementations if you’re interested in tinkering.
I want exactly this. Let me know what you come up with. The closest thing I’ve seen recently is https://aaronparecki.com/2018/03/12/17/building-an-indieweb-reader
I’ve now removed the titles in the RSS feed from posts in the micro category using the_title_rss. So I’ve reenabled adding of titles through wp_insert_post_data. If this works this post will have a title in my dashboard, but all get through to micro.blog
This seems like a cool potential way of doing all sorts of things in the IndieWeb space for WordPress. I’m curious what it looks like from other perspectives. I’ll have to think this through a bit…
In the end though, it still feels too much like individuals trying to solve problems that should be better handled by feed readers and the platforms.