Improving user experience with links, notifications, and Webmentions

Back in December, I was thinking about html links and the functionality of sending notifications using webmentions. Within the IndieWeb, this is known as mentioning or potentially person-tagging someone (inline). By adding a link to a person’s website onto any mentions of their name in my posts, my website will automatically send them a notification that they were mentioned. They can then determine what they want to do or not do with that information.

While I want people that I mention in some of my posts to be aware that they’ve been mentioned by me, I don’t necessarily need to add to the visual cruft and clutter of the pages by intentionally calling out that link with the traditional color change and underline that <a> links in HTML often have. After all, I’m linking to them to send a notification to them, not necessarily to highlight them to everyone else. In some sense, I’m doing this because I’ve never quite liked that Twitter uses @names highlighted within posts. All the additional cruft in Twitter like the “@” and “#” prefixes, while adding useful functionality, have always dramatically decreased the readability and enjoyment of their interface for me. So why not just get rid of them?! I’m glad to have this power and ability to do so on my own website and hope others appreciate it.

In the past I’ve tried “blind notifying” (or bcc’ing via Webmention) people by adding invisible or hidden links in the page, but this has been confusing to some. This is why one of the general principles of the IndieWeb is to

Use & publish visible data for humans first, machines second.

Thus, I’ve added a tiny bit of CSS to those notification links so that they appear just like the rest of the text on the site. The notifications via Webmention will still work, and those who are mentioned will be able to see their names appear within the post.

For those interested, I’ve left in some hover UI so if you hover your mouse over these “hidden” links, they will still indicate there’s a link there and it will work as expected.

As an example of the functionality here within this particular post, I’ve hidden the link on the words “mentioning” and “person-tagging” in the first paragraph. Loqi, the IndieWeb chat bot, should pick up the mention of those wiki pages via WebSub and syndicate my post into the IndieWeb meta chat room, and those interested in the ideas can still hover over the word and click on it for more details. In practice, I’ll typically be doing this for less relevant links as well as for tagging other people solely to send them notifications.

I’m curious if there are any edge cases or ideas I’m missing in this sort of user interface? Sadly it won’t work in most feed readers, but perhaps there’s a standardizable way of indicating this? If you have ideas about improved presentation for this sort of functionality, I’d be thrilled to hear them in the comments below.


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There are a lot of reasons to love WordPress, but one of the reasons I keep WordPressing is the supportive community. While I have no formal training as a web developer, I don’t like describing myself as “self-taught.” I didn’t figure this out on my own, I was taught by a supportive communit...

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It began, as many things do, with a silly conversation. In this case, I was talking with our Front End Technology Competency Director (aka "boss man")

I can’t wait to try this out on some sites. I love that it’s got a browser bookmarklet that will let one test out other sites too.

👓 Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus shun HTML, causing the infographic plague. | Kevin Marks

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By choosing images over links, and by restricting markup, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are hostile to HTML. This is leading to the plague of infographics crowding out text, and of video used to convey minimal information. The rise of so-called infographics has been out of control this year, though the term was unknown a couple of years ago. I attribute this to the favourable presentation that image links get within Facebook, followed by Twitter and Google plus, and of course though other referral sites like Reddit. By showing a preview of the image, the item is given extra weight over a textual link; indeed even for a url link, Facebook and G+ will show an image preview by default.

👓 The Infographic Plague is actually a plague of lazy journalists and bloggers | The Next Web

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I breathed a sigh of relief when I read Megan McCardle's Ending the Infographic Plague on The Atlantic a few days ago. Someone had said it at last! As useful as a really well-produced infographic can be, there's some real dross out there and it's time we talked about the problem.

👓 Thoughts on The Rule of Links | Amit Gawande

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Every post I write oftentimes has a link to an external post, either as a reference or as a recommendation. And every single time, I go through this struggle of deciding which word should carry the link. It was so naive of me to think Dave Winer won’t have written about it. Of course, Dave had. He...

👓 The Missing Building Blocks of the Web | Anil Dash – Medium

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At a time when millions are losing trust in the the web’s biggest sites, it’s worth revisiting the idea that the web was supposed to be made out of countless little sites. Here’s a look at the neglected technologies that were supposed to make it possible.

Though the world wide web has been around for more than a quarter century, people have been theorizing about hypertext and linked documents and a global network of apps for at least 75 years, and perhaps longer. And while some of those ideas are now obsolete, or were hopelessly academic as concepts, or seem incredibly obvious in a world where we’re all on the web every day, the time is perfect to revisit a few of the overlooked gems from past eras. Perhaps modern versions of these concepts could be what helps us rebuild the web into something that has the potential, excitement, and openness that got so many of us excited about it in the first place.

Anil is great at describing a fundamental problem on the web here. I feel a bit like he’s written a variation of this article a few times now.1–3

I wish that when he pivoted from ThinkUp he’d moved towards building an open platform for helping to fix the problem. He’s the sort of thinker and creator we could use working directly on this problem.

I do think he’d have a bit more gravitas if he were writing this on his own website though instead of on Medium.


Dash A. The lost infrastructure of social media. Medium. Published August 10, 2016. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Dash A. Rebuilding the Web We Lost. Anil Dash. Published December 18, 2012. Accessed March 23, 2018.
Dash A. The Web We Lost. Anil Dash. Published December 13, 2012. Accessed March 23, 2018.

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I recently had the opportunity to speak at Web Directions Code 2017 over in Melbourne. While there, I was part of a panel with Mark Dalgleish and Glen Maddern (who gave spectacular talks I might add). We’d just finished a set of talks about CSS, and during the panel we got a question along the lines of (paraphrasing): “Is there a place in the industry for people who just write css and html” To me, this could easily be interpreted as, “Is there any value in people who cannot write JavaScript?”, based on some comments from the audience after, this seemed to be how many understood question. So, we asked the audience if they hire people who just write CSS and HTML. No-one put their hand up. And I, for one, was disappointed.