An Indieweb Podcast: Episode 8 Interflux

Episode 8: Interflux


Running time: 1h 23m 35s | Download (26.2 MB) | Subscribe by RSS

Summary: David Shanske and I recap the recent IndieWeb Summit 2018 in Portland Oregon including recent developments like microsub, readers, Vouch, and even the comeback of webrings!

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Shownotes

Recap of IndieWeb Summit 2018

Vouch(🎧 00:7:13)

The Year of the Reader (🎧 00:38:32)

Webrings (🎧 00:59:03)

Aaron Parecki posts (🎧 1:12:10)

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👓 WordPress Hidden Gems: Dashboard Feed Readers | Stephanie Leary

Read WordPress Hidden Gems: Dashboard Feed Readers by Stephanie Leary (stephanieleary.com)
Did you know that the Incoming Links and the two WordPress news Dashboard widgets are just RSS readers? Click “configure” in the upper right corner of each widget, and you’ll be able to change the feed to one that you choose.

Apparently this functionality got ripped out long ago because of it’s primary use. It would have been better to keep it for the feed reader portion of things though…

It’s the missing reader that’s always made WordPress a 4th class citizen in the social world.

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Reply to Flogging the Dead Horse of RSS by Dean Shareski

Replied to Flogging the Dead Horse of RSS by Dean ShareskiDean Shareski (Ideas and Thoughts)
And I think it’s true. I don’t use RSS the way I did in 2004. That said, I remember reading that blogging was dead ten years ago. And while it’s maybe not trendy, many educators have seen its value and maintained a presence. Apparently, RSS has some valid uses as well but like most everyone, I tend to use social as a place to find new and emerging ideas. But I also think using Twitter and Facebook to haphazardly find content lacks intention and depth. I also value reading a person’s blog over time to understand better their voice and context. So I’m asking for some advice on how to update my module on finding research. What replaces RSS feeds? What works for you that goes beyond “someone on Twitter/Facebook shared….” to something that is more focused and intentional?

Dean, I can completely appreciate where you’re coming from. I too am still addicted to RSS (as well as a plethora of other feed types including Atom, JSON, and h-feeds). I didn’t come across your article by feed however, but instead by Aaron Davis’ response to your post which he posted on his own website and then pinged my site with his repsonse using a web specification called Webmention. We’re both members of a growing group of researchers, educators, and others who are using our own websites to act as our social media presences and using new technologies like Webmention to send notifications from website to website to carry on conversations.

While many of us are also relying on RSS, there are a variety of new emerging technologies that are making consuming and replying to content online easier while also allowing people to own all of their associated data. In addition to my article about The Feed Reader Revolution which Aaron mentioned in his reply, Aaron Pareck has recently written about Building an IndieWeb Reader. I suspect that some of these ideas encapsulate a lot of what you’d like to see on the web.

Most of us are doing this work and experimentation under the banner known as the IndieWeb. Since you know some of the web’s prior history, you might appreciate this table that will give you some idea of what the group has been working on. In particular I suspect you may appreciate some of the resources we’re compiling for IndieWeb for Education. If it’s something you find interest in, I hope you might join in our experimentations. You can find many of us in the group’s online chat.

I would have replied in your comments section, but unfortunately through a variety of quirks Disqus marks everything I publish to it immediately as spam. Thus my commentary is invariably lost. Instead, I’m posting it to a location I do have stricter control over–my own website. I’ll send you a tweet to provide you the notification of the post. I will cross-post my reply to Disqus if you want to dig into your spam folder to unspam it for display. In the meanwhile, I’m following you and subscribing to your RSS feed.

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👓 Flogging the Dead Horse of RSS | Ideas and Thoughts

Read Flogging the Dead Horse of RSS by Dean Shareski (ideasandthoughts.org)
I have included a module on RSS to allow my students to create their own research teams on topics of interest. Because I’m old, I still have my students set up Feedly accounts and plug in the RSS feeds of their classmates and hopefully add other blogs to their feeds as well. And like blogging, I realize only a handful will continue but I want to expose them to the power of sharing their own research/learning via blogging and how to find others who do as well via Feedly.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

Because I’m old, I still have my students set up Feedly accounts and plug in the RSS feeds of their classmates and hopefully add other blogs to their feeds as well. And like blogging, I realize only a handful will continue but I want to expose them to the power of sharing their own research/learning via blogging and how to find others who do as well via Feedly.  

I also value reading a person’s blog over time to understand better their voice and context. So I’m asking for some advice on how to update my module on finding research. What replaces RSS feeds? What works for you that goes beyond “someone on Twitter/Facebook shared….” to something that is more focused and intentional?  

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Reply to Tom Critchlow on feeds

Replied to a post by Tom CritchlowTom Critchlow (tomcritchlow.com)
This is a list of the feeds I'm reading. The page auto-updates every 10 minutes or so. Why? Because we need to resist the hyperfeeds and build our own small feeds in the open

I’m curious how you’re generating your particular feeds. For over a year now I’ve been using a simple bookmarklet system to post what I’m reading, listening to, and watching to my own website and providing it as various feeds (RSS, JSON, and a microformats-based hfeed/h-feed) for others as well as syndicating some of these to other sources. (For the RSS feeds just add /feed/ to the end of the links above. You can also chain them like so http://boffosocko.com/kind/read,listen,watch/ to get multiple feeds at once.)

I wish others were providing this type of data outside of the big silos as well, but it obviously needs to be much simpler.

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👓 Microsub and the new reader evolution | skippy.net

Read Microsub and the new reader evolution by Scott MerrillScott Merrill (skippy.net)
I was an avid Google Reader user.  When it shut down, I started hosting my own RSS reader: first tt-rss, and later miniflux. I very much liked being able to subscribe to sites and read them at my leisure. I also appreciated not having my reading habits tracked or quantified. I had maybe two dozen f...

What I was really after was the confluence of RSS feeds and Twitter and the ability to post to my own site.

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IndieWeb Summit 2018 Recap

Last week was the 8th annual IndieWeb Summit held in Portland, Oregon. While IndieWeb Camps and Summits have traditionally been held on weekends during people’s free time, this one held in the middle of the week was a roaring success. With well over 50 people in attendance, this was almost certainly the largest attendance I’ve seen to date. I suspect since people who flew in for the event had really committed, the attendance on the second day was much higher than usual as well. It was great to see so many people hacking on their personal websites and tools to make their personal online experiences richer.

The year of the Indie Reader

Last year I wrote the post Feed Reader Revolution in response to an increasingly growing need I’ve seen in the social space for a new sort of functionality in feed readers. While there have been a few interesting attempts like Woodwind which have shown a proof-of-concept, not much work had been done until some initial work by Aaron Parecki and a session at last year’s IndieWeb Summit entitled Putting it all Together.

Over the past year I’ve been closely watching Aaron Parecki; Grant Richmond and Jonathan LaCour; Eddie Hinkle; and Kristof De Jaeger’s collective progress on the microsub specification as well as their respective projects Aperture/Monocle; Together; Indigenous/Indigenous for iOS; and Indigenous for Android. As a result in early May I was overjoyed to suggest a keynote session on readers and was stupefied this week as many of them have officially launched and are open to general registration as relatively solid beta web services.

I spent a few minutes in a session at the end of Tuesday and managed to log into Aperture and create an account (#16, though I suspect I may be one of the first to use it besides the initial group of five developers). I also managed to quickly and easily add a microsub endpoint to my website as well. Sadly I’ve got some tweaks to make to my own installation to properly log into any of the reader app front ends. Based on several of the demos I’ve seen over the past months, the functionality involved is not only impressive, but it’s a properly large step ahead of some of the basic user interface provided by the now-shuttered Woodwind.xyz service (though the code is still available for self-hosting.)

Several people have committed to make attempts at creating a microsub server including Jack Jamieson who has announced an attempt at creating one for WordPress after having recently built the Yarns reader for WordPress from scratch this past year. I suspect within the coming year we’ll see one or two additional servers as well as some additional reading front ends. In fact, Ryan Barrett spent the day on Wednesday hacking away at leveraging the News Blur API and leveraging it to make News Blur a front end for Aperture’s server functionality. I’m hoping others may do the same for other popular readers like Feedly or Inoreader to expand on the plurality of offerings. Increased competition for new reader offerings can only improve the entire space.

Even more reading related support

Just before the Summit, gRegor Morrill unveiled the beta version of his micropub client Indiebookclub.biz which allows one to log in with their own website and use it to post reading updates to their own website. For those who don’t yet support micropub, the service saves the data for eventual export. His work on it continued through the summit to continue to improve an already impressive product. It’s the fist micropub client of its kind amidst a growing field of websites (including WordPress and WithKnown which both have plugins) that offer reading post support. Micro.blog has recently updated its code to allow users of the platform the ability to post reads with indiebookclub.biz as well. As a result of this spurt of reading related support there’s now a draft proposal to add read-of and read-status support as new Microformats. Perhaps reads will be included in future updates of the post-type-discovery algorithm as well?

Given the growth of reading post support and a new micropub read client, I suspect it won’t take long before some of the new microsub-related readers begin supporting read post micropub functionality as well.

IndieAuth Servers

In addition to David Shanske’s recent valiant update to the IndieAuth plugin for WordPress, Manton Reece managed to finish up coding work to unveil another implementation of IndieAuth at the Summit. His version is for the micro.blog platform which is a significant addition to the community and will add several hundred additional users who will have broader access to a wide assortment of functionality as a result.

The Future

While work continues apace on a broad variety of fronts, I was happy to see that my proposal for a session on IndieAlgorithms was accepted (despite my leading another topic earlier in the day). It was well attended and sparked some interesting discussion about how individuals might also be able to exert greater control over what they’re presented to consume. With the rise of Indie feed readers this year, the ability to better control and filter one’s incoming content is going to take on a greater importance in the very near future. With an increasing number of readers to choose from, more people will hopefully be able to free themselves from the vagaries of the blackbox algorithms that drive content distribution and presentation in products like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. Based on the architecture of servers like Aperture, perhaps we might be able to modify some of the microsub spec to allow more freedom and flexibility in what will assuredly be the next step in the evolution of the IndieWeb?

Diversity

While there are miles and miles to go before we sleep, I was happy to have seen a session on diversity pop up at the Summit. I hope we can all take the general topic to heart to be more inclusive and actively invite friends into our fold. Thanks to Jean for suggesting and guiding the conversation and everyone else for continuing it throughout the rest of the summit and beyond.

Other Highlights

Naturally, the above are just a few of the bigger highlights as I perceive them. I’m sure others will appear in the IndieNews feed or other blogposts about the summit. The IndieWeb is something subtly different to each person, so I hope everyone takes a moment to share (on your own sites naturally) what you got out of all the sessions and discussions. There was a tremendous amount of discussion, debate, and advancement of the state of the art of the continually growing IndieWeb. Fortunately almost all of it was captured in the IndieWeb chat, on Twitter, and on video available through either the IndieWeb wiki pages for the summit or directly from the IndieWeb YouTube channel.

I suspect David Shanske and I will have more to say in what is sure to be a recap episode in our next podcast.

Photos

Finally, below I’m including a bunch of photos I took over the course of my trip. I’m far from a professional photographer, but hopefully they’ll give a small representation of some of the fun we all had at camp.

Final Thanks

People

While I’m thinking about it, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who came to the summit. You all really made it a fantastic event!

I’d particularly like to thank Aaron Parecki, Tantek Çelik, gRegor Morrill, Marty McGuire, and David Shanske who did a lot of the organizing and volunteer work to help make the summit happen as well as to capture it so well for others to participate remotely or even view major portions of it after-the-fact. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Martijn van der Ven for some herculean efforts on IRC/Chat in documenting things in real time as well as for some serious wiki gardening along the way. As always, there are a huge crew of others whose contributions large and small help to make up the rich fabric of the community and we wouldn’t be who we are without your help. Thank you all! (Or as I might say in chat: community++).

And finally, a special personal thanks to Greg McVerry for kindly letting me join him at the Hotel deLuxe for some late night discussions on the intersection of IndieWeb and Domain of One’s Own philosophies as they dovetail with the education sector.  With growing interest and a wealth of ideas in this area, I’m confident it’s going to be a rapidly growing one over the coming years.

Sponsors

I’d also like to take a moment to say thanks to all the sponsors who helped to make the event a success including Name.com, GoDaddy, Okta, Mozilla, DreamHost, and likely a few others who I’m missing at the moment.

I’d also like to thank the Eliot Center for letting us hosting the event at their fabulous facility.

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Reply to I attended IndieWeb Summit 2018 | Fogknife

Replied to I attended IndieWeb Summit 2018 by Jason McIntosh (Fogknife)
Notes and thoughts from the eighth annual IndieWeb conference, held in Portland, Oregon.

My heart forever broken by social-media silos, I’m not really interested in using Micro.blog as yet another “Okay, I’m over here now” social network. I get the impression that it has potential for much deeper use than that, if I can only get my head around it.

Micro.blog can be many things to many people which can be confusing, particularly when you’re a very tech savvy person and can see all the options at once. I’d recommend looking at it like a custom feed reader for a community of people you’d like to follow and interact with. Spend some time in the reader and just interact with those you’re following and they’ll do likewise in return.

It’s purposely missing some of the dopamine triggers other social silos have, so you may need to retrain your brain to use it appropriately, but I think it’s worthwhile if you do.


I really need to hash out my domain situation! IndieWeb encourages its memership to claim a single domain and use it as their personal stamp for everything they do on the internet. I, though, have two domains: my long-held personal catch-all domain of jmac.org, and fogknife.com, which I use exclusively for blogging. My use of both predates my involvement with IndieWeb.

Don’t fret too much over having multiple websites. As you continue on the answer to what you want to do with them will eventually emerge more organically than if you force it to. For some thoughts and inspiration, check out https://indieweb.org/multi-site_indieweb.

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👓 A Close Look at How Facebook’s Retreat From the News Has Hurt One Particular Website—Ours | Slate

Read A Close Look at How Facebook’s Retreat From the News Has Hurt One Particular Website—Ours by Will Oremus (Slate Magazine)
New data shows the impact of Facebook’s pullback from an industry it had dominated (and distorted).

(Roose, who has since deleted his tweet as part of a routine purge of tweets older than 30 days, told me it was intended simply as an observation, not a full analysis of the trends.)

Another example of someone regularly deleting their tweets at regular intervals. I’ve seem a few examples of this in academia.


It’s worth noting that there’s a difference between NewsWhip’s engagement stats, which are public, and referrals—that is, people actually clicking on stories and visiting publishers’ sites. The two have generally correlated, historically, and Facebook told me that its own data suggests that continues to be the case. But two social media professionals interviewed for this story, including one who consults for a number of different publications, told me that the engagement on Facebook posts has led to less relative traffic. This means publications could theoretically be seeing less ad revenue from Facebook even if their public engagement stats are holding steady.


From Slate’s perspective, a comment on a Slate story you see on Facebook is great, but it does nothing for the site’s bottom line.


(Remember when every news site published the piece, “What Time Is the Super Bowl?”)

This is a great instance for Google’s box that simply provides the factual answer instead of requiring a click through.


fickle audiences available on social platforms.

Here’s where feed readers without algorithms could provide more stability for news.

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Reply to Allow reading friends feeds in a feed reader

Replied to Allow reading friends feeds in a feed reader · Issue #16 · akirk/friends by Alex KirkAlex Kirk (GitHub)
We can do this by providing a download for a OPML file.

Perhaps better than allowing simply the download of an OPML file, it would be nice to have the ability to provide a link to an OPML file as well? This way feed readers like Inoreader that support OPML subscription would be able to auto update themselves when new feeds/friends are added to the list?

Depending on your infrastructure, you could potentially leverage the old Link Manager within WordPress which provided OPML outputs as well as outputs arranged by category. This would prevent you from needing to rebuild the side-files unless you’re doing that already.

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👓 Google News Drops RSS Feed Subscription Buttons | Search Engine Roundtable

Read New Google News Drops RSS Feed Subscription Buttons (seroundtable.com)
With the new Google News, they didn't just drop the standout tag and editors pick but it seems like the direct method to subscribe to Google News via RSS and Google News keyword searches is gone.
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👓 It’s Time For an RSS Revival | Wired

Read

This article, which I’ve seen shared almost too widely on the internet since it came out, could almost have been written any time in the past decade really. They did do a somewhat better job of getting quotes from some of the big feed readers’ leaders to help to differentiate their philosophical differences, but there wasn’t much else here. Admittedly they did have a short snippet about Dave Winer’s new feedbase product, which I suspect, in combination with the recent spate of articles about Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, motivated the article. (By the way, I love OPML as much as anyone could, but feedbase doesn’t even accept the OPML feeds out of my  core WordPress install though most feed readers do, which makes me wonder how successful feedbase might be in the long run without better legacy spec support.)

So what was missing from Wired’s coverage? More details on what has changed in the space in the past several years. There’s been a big movement afoot in the IndieWeb community which has been espousing a simpler and more DRY (don’t repeat yourself) version of feeds using simple semantic microformats markup like h-feed. There’s also been the emergence of JSON feed in the past year which many of the major feed readers already support.

On the front of people leaving Facebook (and their black box algorithmic monster that determines what you read rather than you making an implicit choice), they might have mentioned people who are looking for readers through which they can also use their own domains and websites where they own and maintain their own data for interaction. I’ve written about this in more depth last year: Feed reader revolution.

One of the more bleeding edge developments which I think is going to drastically change the landscape in the coming years for developers, feed readers, and the internet consumption space is the evolving Microsub spec which is being spearheaded by a group of projects known as the Aperture microsub server and the Together and Indigenous clients which already use it. Microsub is going to abstract away many of the technical hurdles that make it far more difficult to build a full-fledged feed reader. I have a feeling it’s going to level a lot of the playing field to allow a Cambrian explosion of readers and social related software to better leverage more easily reading content on the web without relying on third party black box services which people have been learning they cannot fully trust anymore. Aaron Parecki has done an excellent job of laying out some parts of it in Building an IndieWeb Reader as well as in recent episodes of his Percolator microcast. This lower hurdle is going to result in fewer people needing to rely solely on the biggest feed readers like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for both consuming content and posting their own content. The easier it becomes for people to use other readers to consume content from almost anywhere on the web, the less a monopoly the social networks will have on our lives.

I truly hope Wired circles around and gives some of these ideas additional follow up coverage in the coming months. They owe it to their readership to expand their coverage from what we all knew five years ago. If they want to go a step or two further, they might compare the web we had 15 years ago to some of the new and emerging open web technologies that are starting to take hold today.

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❤️ Microsub bridge by Ryan Barrett

Liked Microsub bridge by Ryan Barrett (snarfed.org)
If you’re familiar with much of my IndieWeb work, you probably know I’m drawn to building translators, proxies, and bridges to connect different protocols and services that do similar things. There’s been a lot of activity recently around Microsub, a standard API for feed reader clients to talk to feed reader servers. Many existing readers have APIs, so I’ve been thinking about a bridge that would translate those APIs to Microsub, so that reader clients like Together and Indigenous could use traditional reader services like Feedly and NewsBlur as their backend.

This article brings such warmth to my heart. It’s even beyond what I had originally envisioned in Feed Reader Revolution.

I’m salivating what this portends for the web and my ability to read it better in the future!

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Reply to Jon Mitchell on reading bots

Replied to Are you familiar with Reading.am by Jon Mitchell (Everything is ablaze!)
@brentsimmons Are you familiar with Reading.am and/or the many homespun varieties of feeds people use to share what they′re reading online with minimal friction? For me this solved the problem of wanting RSS to have a social component, but it needs no centralized back end. People build a reading bot however they want, and they fire it off when they want to tell the internet “I am reading this.” For example, I trigger mine by using Pinboard just the way I normally would, and its RSS feeds feed the bot.For me this solved the problem of wanting RSS to have a social component, but it needs no centralized back end. People build a reading ...

I like the general idea behind what you’re talking about here Jon, though I may be missing part of the conversation as I came across it via a GitHub issue and it’s taken some time to find even a portion of the conversation on micro.blog, though I suspect I’m missing what I’m sure might be a fragmented conversation.

I too love the idea of indicating what I’ve been reading online. The problem I see is that very few platforms, social or otherwise are focusing on what people are actually reading. Reading.am is the only one I’m aware of. Pocket and Instapaper let people bookmark things they want to read, but typically don’t present feeds of things after they’ve been checked off as having been read.

Most others are systems meant for a specific purpose that are being bent to various other purposes and it’s rarely ever explicit so that everyone knows their intention. As an example, I know people who star, like, favorite or do something else on various platforms to indicate what they’re reading. Some also use these to indicate bookmarks. As a personal example, on Twitter, I sometimes “star” a tweet to indicate I “like” it or it’s a “favorite” while most other times I’m really using the functionality to quickly bookmark an article and use an IFTTT.com recipe to automatically add the URLs of these starred posts to my Pocket account for later reading.

The overarching issue with these is that the general concept is painfully spread out and the meaning isn’t always concrete or explicit. Wouldn’t it be better if it were vastly more specific? In an attempt to do just this, I use my own website, in linkblog-like fashion, to indicate what I’m physically reading. It has an RSS feed that others could subscribe to if they wish to read it elsewhere. I also “syndicate” copies to places like Reading.am or occasionally to Twitter, Facebook, etc. for those who prefer to follow in those locations. Incidentally on Twitter, mine often look a lot like your Twitter feed with visual icons to indicate specific intents.

For something like Evergreen, or any reader really, I’d much prefer if there was UI and functionality to allow me to directly interact with the content I’m reading and post that interaction to my own website (and own it) in a relatively frictionless way. This would be far better than using things like stars to do something that others may not grasp.

In the reading case, it would be cool if I could physically mark something explicitly as “read” in Evergreen, and the reader would post to my website that I’ve actually read the thing. While there are many ways to do this (including RSS), perhaps one of the most interesting currently is the open web standard called Micropub. So my WordPress site has a micropub endpoint (via a plugin) and apps that support it could post to my site on my behalf. If the reader could post to my site via micropub, I could use it to collect and create a feed of everything I’m reading. Similarly readers could also do similar things to explicitly indicate that I mean to bookmark something, or I could use the reader to compose a reply directly in the reader and post that reply to my website (which incidentally could send webmentions to the original website to publish those replies as comments on their site.)

As an example we’re all familiar with, micro.blog has micropub support, so I can use micro.blog’s app to post and micro.blog uses micropub to send the post to my own website.

With the proper micropub support, a reader could allow me to post explicit bookmarks, likes, favorites, replies, reads, etc. to my own website. All of these could then have individual feeds from my site back out. Thus people could subscribe to any (or all) of them as they choose. Want to know what I’m reading? Easy. Want to know what I’m bookmarking or liking? Which events I’ve RSVP’d to? Shazam!

My homepage has a full list of post types I’m currently supporting, and each one of them can be subscribed to individually by adding /feed/ onto the end of the URL.

In summary, let’s try not to impute too much meaning onto a simple star’s functionality when we can be imminently more specific about it. Of course, for completeness, for most readers, we’d also need to change the meaning of the traditional “mark as read” which in reality means, “mark as done” or “don’t show me this anymore”.

For more detail on how this could work in an advanced reader-based world I’ve written a more explicit set of details here: Feed Reader Revolution

And to quote Brent back:

…it’s okay if this is a work in progress and isn’t ready for everybody yet. It’s okay if it takes time. We don’t know how it will all work in the end.

We’re discovering the future as we build it.

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A better way to subscribe to or follow sites on the open web

Just as I was getting sick last week, Colin Walker wrote “There has to be a better way to subscribe to sites.” He’s definitely hit the nail right on the head. The process is currently painful and disorganized, it’s also working on technology that’s almost two decades old and difficult for newcomers at best.

I’ve always posited that one of the reasons that social media silos have been so successful is that they’ve built some fantastic readers. Sure their UI is cleaner and just dead simple, but to a great extent 95% of their product is an evolved feed reader while the other 5% is a simple posting interface that makes it easy to interact. To compare, most CMSes are almost completely about posting interface, and spend very little time, if any, worrying about providing a reading experience.

The IndieWeb has been making some serious strides on making cross-site interactions easier with the Webmention and Micropub protocols, but the holy grail is still out there: allowing people to have an integrated feed reader built into their website (or alternately a standalone feed reader that’s tightly integrated with their site via Micropub or other means).

For those watching the space with as much interest as I have, there are a couple of interesting tools in the space and a few on the immediate horizon that are sure to make the process a whole lot easier and create a new renaissance in the open web.

SubToMe: a Universal Subscribe Button

First, for a relatively simple one-size-fits-all subscribe button, I recommend people take a look at SubToMe which touts itself as a “Universal Follow button” because it  “makes it easy for people to follow web sites,because browsers don’t do it.” The button is fairly straightforward and has an awful lot of flexibility built in. In the simplest sense it has some solid feed detection so it finds available feeds on a web page and then provides a handful of recommended major readers to the user. With two clicks, one can pretty quickly and almost immediately subscribe to almost any feed in their reader of choice. 

For publishers, one can quickly install a simple button on their site. They can further provide a list of specific feeds they want to advertise, and they can even recommend a particular feed reader if they choose.

For consumers, the service provides a simple browser bookmarklet so that if a site doesn’t have a button, they can click a subscribe button in their browser. Then click on a provider. Done. One can also choose a preferred provider to shorten the process.

Almost all the major feed readers are supported out of the box and the process of adding new ones is relatively simple.

Microsub

Since last June there’s been a quietly growing new web spec called Microsub  that will assuredly shake up the subscription and reader spaces. In short it provides a standardized way for clients to consume and interact with feeds collected by a server.

While it gets pretty deep pretty quickly, the spec is meant to help decouple some of the heavy architecture of building a feed reader. In some way it’s analogous to the separation of content and display that HTML and CSS allows, but applied to the mechanics of feed readers and how readers display their content.

There are already a few interesting projects by the names of Together and Indigenous that are taking advantage of the architecture

I can’t wait to see how it all dovetails together to make a more integrated reading and posting interface as well as the potential it has for individual CMSs to potentially leverage the idea to include integrated interfaces into their products. I can’t wait for the day when my own personal website is compatible with Microsub, so that I can use any Microsub client to read my timeline and follow people.

I’m also sure that decoupling the idea of displaying posts from actually fetching remote feeds will make it easier to build a reader clients in general. I hope this has a Cambrian explosion-type of effect on the state of the art of feed readers.

I’d recommend those interested in a high level discussion to have a listen to the following thee short episodes of Aaron Parecki’s Percolator microcast.

Episode 3: Following

Episode 10: Microsub for Readers

Episode 17: It’s 2018!

Featured photo credit: Flock of sheep flickr photo by Jo@net shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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