Replied to Fixing the financial dilemma at the heart of our broken tech industry by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)

I was recently forwarded Jeffrey Zeldman's piece on A List ApartNothing Fails Like Success, on the impact of venture capital on startup business models. At the end, he questions whether the indieweb is a possible answer to the predicament we find ourselves in.

I feel uniquely positioned to answer, because I've been a venture capitalist (at mission-driven accelerator Matter Ventures) and have literally started an indieweb startup, Known. I've also bootstrapped a startup and worked at one that raised hundreds of millions of venture capital dollars.

Ben does an excellent job (in a short space) encapsulating what the VC world is and how it works. He also provides some insight into ways forward for those who might want to build businesses or infrastructure that have an indie web flavor.

I agree with him that we should ultimately be looking for more zebras instead of unicorns. This model is a much better method for building value and particularly for building long term societal value.  

In sum, Ben seems to be saying that it won’t be easy–but what process of business building ever is? This may seem to paint a less-than-rosy picture, but keep in mind that Ben also doesn’t touch on the sea change of individual people who are personally choosing IndieWeb solutions for their online identities, presences, and communication. And it’s just this audience of people which Jeffrey’s piece was trying to reach out to. At the same time a lot of that audience is also most likely to begin building out businesses based upon these things, and here Ben’s expertise will stand in good stead.

Ultimately I’m sure this technology will continue to build until it reaches a full boil, and this will make it much easier for a wide array of creative and service businesses to be built upon it.

For those considering businesses who’d like a leg up, especially if you’d ever written a Twitter client of any kind, take a look at the Micropub and Microsub concepts. I’ll bet that with some modular pieces (and potentially pre-existing ones), you could add these to that old client and bring it back to life for a growing universe of more than 10,000 active websites and a potential universe of millions more. Based on the reaction to my recent presentation of some example Micropub use cases at a WordCamp, there is a huge group of people who are excited to see and use these tools.

Thanks for writing this all out for us Ben.

👓 Fixing the financial dilemma at the heart of our broken tech industry | Ben Werdmüller

Bookmarked Fixing the financial dilemma at the heart of our broken tech industry by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)

I was recently forwarded Jeffrey Zeldman's piece on A List ApartNothing Fails Like Success, on the impact of venture capital on startup business models. At the end, he questions whether the indieweb is a possible answer to the predicament we find ourselves in.

I feel uniquely positioned to answer, because I've been a venture capitalist (at mission-driven accelerator Matter Ventures) and have literally started an indieweb startup, Known. I've also bootstrapped a startup and worked at one that raised hundreds of millions of venture capital dollars.

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👓 12 days of microblogging: business sites | Manton Reece

Read 12 days of microblogging: business sites by Manton ReeceManton Reece (manton.org)
It’s the 8th day in our 12 days of microblogging blog post series. Most Micro.blog accounts use the author’s name — personal blogs, writing about everyday topics or sharing stories and photos. But since Micro.blog-hosted blogs can have a custom design, separate pages, and a domain name, you ca...

👓 Why Founders Should Start With a Website, Not a Mobile App | Atrium | Julia Enthoven

Read Why Founders Should Start With a Website, Not a Mobile App by Julia Enthoven (atrium)
When I was a Stanford undergraduate in 2012, everyone seemed to be building apps. The sexiest tech startups—Snap, Uber, Facebook—were almost synonymous with the word “app,” and that the world was moving increasingly towards ?...

There’s a valuable lesson in here and it’s something that a lot of app builders don’t even consider.

👓 Journalism is the conversation. The conversation is journalism. | Jeff Jarvis

Read Journalism is the conversation. The conversation is journalism. by Jeff Jarvis (Medium)
I am sorely disappointed in The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo, CNN’s Brian Stelter, and other journalists who these days are announcing to…

I appreciate Jeff Jarvis’ points here about not succumbing to the techno-panic, but at the same time we do need some better ways to find and disseminate these stories than relying on toxic platforms. The conversation needs more space and flexibility and perhaps this is also part of the problem. There’s no reason we couldn’t simultaneously hope for better tools for journalists while still doing as Jeff indicates. Some journalists enjoy and find value in doing battlefield reporting, but this obviously isn’t for everyone. While platforms like Twitter make finding some unseen stories easier, they definitely aren’t the end-all-be-all of the depth and breadth of stories out there. Relying solely on looking at the conversation through the lens of Twitter isn’t always the best or even only way to appreciate the broader conversation. There are far more trenches we all need to be exploring.

Here yet again, I can’t help but think that journalistic outlets ought to be using their platforms and their privilege and extend them to their audiences as a social media platform of sorts. This could kill the siren song of the toxic platforms and simultaneously bring the journalists and the public into a more direct desperate congress. There is nothing stopping CNN or The New York Times from building an open version of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or even blogging platform on which everyone could participate. In fact, there are already several news outlets that have gotten into the content management system business and are selling their wares to other newspapers and magazines. Why not go a half-step further and allow the public to use them as well? The IndieWeb model for this seems like an interesting one which could dramatically benefit both sides and even give journalism another useful revenue stream.

👓 What is Discourse? | Discourse

Read What is Discourse? (Discourse - Civilized Discussion)
Discourse is the 100% open source discussion platform built for the next decade of the Internet.

As I look at this it makes me wonder when small, single-purpose services might allow themselves to be white listed and/or custom styled to live on a users personal domain, yet still look like they’re part and parcel of that user’s native site.

As an example, Disqus and Webmention.io are interesting examples of how a company could specialize into handling comments for user’s sites. These two are both doing things very differently and at much different price points. Disqus is large and bloated and seems to have quite innovating and iterating. I have to wonder what it would look like with more players and more competition in the space?

In fact, I’m still wondering why hasn’t Disqus picked up and run away with the Webmention spec?

👓 Why I’m Leaving Medium | Praxis – Medium

Read Why I’m Leaving Medium by Tiago Forte (Praxis – Medium)
I’ve been writing on Medium for three and a half years.

Some of these reasons are very pragmatic for everyone, but he’s also got some business specific ones that touch on things many small businesses would want control over as well. He additionally points out some very subtle changes in media for people who are reaching out to niche audiences. Some of this is reminiscent to things Leo Laporte has spoken about in the past with respect to leaving television and cable to start a podcast network, except in that case there really wasn’t a huge amount of competing media, so instead of moving to silos (which didn’t exist at the time for his use case) he went straight to using his own platform.

Replied to Indie Communities and Making Your Audience Known by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)

It sounds ludicrous now, but back in 2014, when I cofounded Known as a startup, a lot of people were questioning whether a business even needed a website. Pockets of people - for example in the indieweb community, which I enthusiastically joined - were pointing out how short-sighted this was, but it was a minority opinion. There was Facebook and Twitter! Why would you want to have any kind of property that you fully controlled on the internet?

Fast forward to today, and... 

As I read this, there are some underlying ideas that again make me think that newspapers, magazines, and other journalistic outlets should pick up the mantle of social media and help their readers (aka community) by providing them with websites that they can control and use to interact. Many newspapers and other outlets are already building their own CMSes and even licensening them out to other papers, why not take the next step and build a platform that can host and manage websites for individual users? They’ve got most of the infrastructure there already? Why not tack on a few simple things that allow their users to better interact with them on the open web. It solves their ownership issues as well as their reliance on social media silos and could even provide a nice, modest income stream (or even a bonus that comes along with one’s subscription?)

Perhaps Kinja wasn’t a bad idea for a CMS cum commenting system, it just wasn’t open web enough?

👓 The year we step back from the platform | Nieman Journalism Lab | Ernie Smith

Read The year we step back from the platform by Ernie SmithErnie Smith (Nieman Lab)
"Let's replace the shadows that Twitter and Facebook and Google have been on the media with some business-model fundamentals. As 2018 has shown, they've offered us a lot more heartache than it feels like they're actually worth."

This is a very staid and sober statement about the ills of social media platforms (aka silos) and a proposed way forward for 2019. His argument is tremendously bolstered by the fact that he’s actually got his own website where he’s hosting and distributing his own content.

Ernie, should you see this, I’d welcome you to come join a rapidly growing group of creators who have been doing almost exactly what you’ve prescribed. We’re amassing a wealth of knowledge, tools, code, and examples at Indieweb.org to help you and others on their journey to better owning and controlling their online identities in almost the exact way in which you’re talking about in your article. Both individually and together we’re trying to build web websites that allow all the functionality of the platforms, but in a way that is both easy and beautiful for everyone to manage and use. Given the outlet for your piece, I’ll also mention that there’s a specific page for IndieWeb and Journalism.

I’d invite you to join the online chat and add yourself as an example to any of the appropriate pages, including perhaps for Craft. Also feel free to discuss your future plans and ask for any help or support you’d like to see for improving your own website. Together I hope we can all make your prediction for 2019 a reality.

 

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

But what if, in 2019, we take a step back and decide not to let the platform decide how to run the show?  

The IndieWeb has already made some solid strides.

January 09, 2019 at 07:55AM

I’ve been working on a redesign of my site recently, using a more robust CMS, and the advantages of controlling the structure of the platform soup-to-nuts are obvious, even if it requires more upfront work.  

January 09, 2019 at 07:57AM

2019 is the year when publishers — whether big ones like Axios or the Los Angeles Times or tiny ones like mine or Judd Legum’s Popular Information — move away from letting someone else call all the shots. Or, at least, they should.  

There’s already some work and movement in the IndieWeb with respect to journalism.

January 09, 2019 at 08:01AM

👓 You don’t have to live in public | Austin Kleon

Read You don’t have to live in public by Austin Kleon (austinkleon.com)
I tried very hard in that book, when it came to social media, to be platform agnostic, to emphasize that social media sites come and go, and to always invest first and foremost in your own media. (Website, blog, mailing list, etc.)  

Though it doesn’t specifically come right out and say it, this article is very pro IndieWeb and particularly so for artists and people who are promoting themselves on the web.

🎧 This Week in Google 481 Stoned on Cheese | TWIG.tv

Listened to This Week in Google 481 Stoned on Cheese by Leo Laporte, Jeff Jarvis, Stacey Higginbotham from TWiT.tv
Foldable Phone, Online Civility

  • The Samsung Developers Conference Keynote features a foldable phone, SmartThings IoT, and Bixby innovations.
  • Android will support foldable phones.
  • Google employees stage a walkout over sexual harassment
  • Tim Berners-Lee's Contract for the Web
  • How to encourage civility online
  • YouTube Content ID
  • Facebook and "White Genocide"
  • Young people are deleting Facebook in droves
  • Facebook's holiday pop-up store
  • Everybody gets free Amazon shipping
  • Amazon's new HQ2(s)
  • 8 new Chromebook features
  • Google Home Hub teams up with Sephora
  • Ajit Pai's FCC is hopping mad about robocalls

Picks of the Week

  • Jeff's Number: Black Friday home tech deals
  • Stacey's Thing: Extinct cables, Alexa Christmas Lights

Leo Laporte doesn’t talk about it directly within an IndieWeb specific framework, but he’s got an interesting discussion about YouTube Content ID that touches on the ideas of Journalism and IndieWeb and particularly as they relate to video, streaming video, and YouTube Live.

While most people are forced to rely on Google as their silo of choice for video and specifically live streaming video, he points out a painful single point of failure in their system with regard to copyright rules and Google’s automatic filters that could get a user/content creator permanently banned. Worse, as Leo indicates, this ban could also extend to related Google accounts (YouTube, Gmail, etc.) One is thus open to potential chilling effects of intimidation, censorship, and deplatforming.

Leo discusses the fact that he’s not as beholden to YouTube because he streams and hosts all of his content on his own website and only utilizes silos like YouTube as ancillary distribution. In IndieWeb parlance what he does is known as POSSE or Post to your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere and this prevents his journalism, commentary, and even his business from being ravaged by the whims of corporate entities whose rules he can’t control directly.

The discussion starts at 1:05:11 into the episode and goes for about 10 minutes for those who are interested in this particular sub-topic.

This idea also impinges on Cal Newport’s recent article Is YouTube Fundamental or Trivial? which I read the other day.

 

Reply to It’s time for a new branch of public media by Ben Werdmüller

Replied to It's time for a new branch of public media by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)
President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act in 1967, which established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Previously, an independent public broadcaster had been established through grants by the Ford Foundation, but Ford began to withdraw its support. Here's what he said: "It...

I’ve been thinking very similarly along these lines for six months or more, but with a particular slant at journalistic enterprises. I’ve specifically been considering what would happen if small local newspapers and other journalistic outlets were running IndieWeb-esque platforms for their local communities. This would potentially help to moderate and encourage local conversations and consumption of local grown content and journalism and potentially improve the toxicity of general social media or massive issues like those that Facebook is facing with genocidal effects of their platform in Myanmar where they didn’t have any local presence or moderation much less people in-house who had language capabilities to even begin to deal with these issues. This type of mission could better empower entities to improve both local journalism by binding it to a different substrate as a financial model  and fix many of the issues we see with social media simultaneously.

This general idea also isn’t too dissimilar from Greg McVerry’s idea of having local libraries allow patrons to “check out” (aka set up) their own domains and social presences/identities using their library cards.

The difficulty I see is that as the world moves toward increased specialization, that looking for newspapers or even municipalities to oversee and maintain such infrastructure may be difficult. I already see issues with smaller outlets building and maintaining their own publishing platforms with simple out-of-the-box CMS solutions that are relatively easy-to-use and modify with simple plugins. (In a recent inventory of my local news sources, I’ll note here that nearly 100% of the local online news sources for my community are running on WordPress, but not all of them have a huge amount of technical knowledge about what and how they’re doing it in those spaces). The growth of content management systems like Ghost, which has a journalistic bent, also indicates that there isn’t a “perfect solution” to the CMS problem, much less the issues of running IndieWeb-like platforms/clusters based on simpler platforms like WordPress or even Known. There’s certainly a lot of space out there for third party companies to help grow and expand in both of these areas (community-based social platforms as well as journalism platforms and admixtures thereof.)

If local institutions or even governments did move in this direction, then their users are at the potential mercy of third-party businesses which may not necessarily be aligned with local values.  An example of something akin to this was covered recently in The Daily on their episode Taking Over Local News. I’m also reminded about of my poor experiences  with un-moderated third party platforms like Nextdoor.com can be.

Another microcosm to look at is how hundreds of thousands of public libraries are interfacing with the four or more media suppliers of e-books and what that financial model looks like as, if taken, I would suspect a similar trajectory for local social public media. Similarly looking at how municipalities interface with cable franchising can reveal some pitfalls to avoid moving forward with respect to monopolies and competition.

Certainly some additional thought about how to solve these issues at the smaller local and personal levels is welcome. Thanks for dipping into and expanding my surface area of thinking Ben.

📺 The Future of SEO is on the SERP | Rand Fishkin | BrightonSEO 2018 | YouTube

Watched The Future of SEO is on the SERP | BrightonSEO 2018 by Rand Fishkin from YouTube

The good news is: the number of searches on Google keeps growing. The bad news is: decreasing clickthrough rates on organic results ( especially in mobile), fewer big companies dominating the world’s Google search results and more results answered entirely in Google’s SERPs.

As Google answers a higher and higher percent of queries in the results themselves and refers out less traffic to websites, we’re all gonna have to think about how we influence search audiences through what Google shows rather than just focusing on driving traffic to our own sites.

A big part of SEO’s future will be on the SERP rather than driving traffic to websites.

Rand Fishkin is the founder of SparkToro - https://sparktoro.com/-and was previously co-founder of Moz and Inbound.org. He’s dedicated his professional life to helping people do better marketing through the Whiteboard Friday video series, his blog, and his book, Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World.

About BrightonSEO
BrightonSEO – is a major search marketing event in the UK. One of our favourite events of the year, This is a superb conference for search marketing professionals, novice or expert. BrightonSEO - https://www.brightonseo.com/ - is a chance to learn from some of the best minds in search, and then rub shoulders with them at one of the friendliest, and largest, gatherings of Digital Marketers in Europe.

Some interesting perspective on the future of the internet from an SEO-related perspective.

While a lot of the net is going to mobile first and the rise of the assistants (Google Home and Amazon Alexa) are taking a lot of eyeballs, I’m curious if the move toward immediate answers is more for the “I don’t have time for more in-depth search because I just want a quick answer” versus buyers and people looking for more depth that are going to prefer desktop or sit-back experiences where they’ll spend some time browsing and/or reading. Are the numbers in this presentation specific to this phenomenon or indicative of something much worse as is predicted in the video?

#1. It’s never been harder to earn organic traffic from the web’s major players.  

#2. It’s never been more important to make your website (and email list)–rather than someone else’s property–the center of your campaigns.  

The second slide point is directly from the video with the “rather than someone else’s property” part quoted and inserted from the audio portion. I love that this is a direct incarnation of the IndieWeb philosophy for business use cases. Earlier this morning I actually heard a radio advertisement use the phrase, “or find us on our socials” with word socials being indicative of a generic term for ubiquitous social media platforms which would presumably include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Perhaps the fact that companies aren’t directly differentiating social silos in their advertising anymore means that some better social readers would portend a more IndieWeb-first approach? Eventually companies are going to find that maintaining dozens of presences on multiple sites isn’t as cost-effective as just maintaining their one site and perhaps the market drops back to a more distributed web approach?

🎧 This Week in the IndieWeb Audio Edition • March 31st – April 6th, 2018 | Marty McGuire

Listened to This Week in the IndieWeb Audio Edition • March 31st - April 6th, 2018 by Marty McGuire from martymcgui.re

IndieWeb for Drupal, IndieWeb for Businesses, and Foodspotting going under. It’s the audio edition for This Week in the IndieWeb for March 31st - April 6th, 2018.