Last October, we announced that we'd partnered with Kickstarter to start a new project to succeed Drip, their subscription platform for independent artists. Unfortunately, we’ve decided to cancel the project, and wanted to talk a little about why.
A couple of years ago, a small publisher called Kroncker Wallis issued a handsome, minimalist take on Isaac Newton’s Principia. Now, the publisher is embarking on its next project: Euclid's Elements.
The publisher is using Kickstarter to fund this new edition. Euclid’s Elements is a mathematical text written by Greek mathematician Euclid around 300 BCE and has been called one of the most influential textbooks ever produced. The treatise contains 13 separate books, covering everything from plane geometry, the Pythagorean theorem, golden ratio, prime numbers, and quite a bit more. The books helped to influence scientists such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, and Sir Isaac Newton. In 1847, an English mathematician named Oliver Byrne re-wrote the first six books of Euclid's Elements, taking its concepts and illustrating them.
I coincidentally happened to have a great conversation yesterday with Jonathan LaCour before I saw the article and we spoke about what DreamHost is doing in the realm of IndieWeb and WordPress. I love their approach and can’t wait to see what comes out of their work and infectious enthusiasm.
I’m really surprised that WordPress hasn’t more aggressively taken up technologies like Webmention, which is now a W3C recommendation, or micropub and put them directly into core. For the un-initiated, Webmention works much like @mention on Twitter, Medium, Facebook, and others, but is platform independent, which means you can use it to ping any website on the internet that supports it. Imagine if you could reply to someone on Twitter from your WordPress site? Or if you could use Facebook to reply to a post on Medium? (And I mean directly and immediately in the type @mention/hit publish sense, not doing any laborious cut and paste from one platform to another nonsense that one is forced to do now because all the social silos/walled gardens don’t inter-operate nicely, if at all.) Webmention can make all that a reality. Micropub is a platform independent spec that allows one to write standalone web or mobile apps to create publishing interfaces to publish almost any type of content to any platform–think about the hundreds of apps that could publish to Twitter in its early days, now imagine expanding that to being able to use those to publish to any platform anywhere?
While Twitter has been floundering for a while, WordPress has the structure, ecosystem, and a huge community to completely eat Twitter’s (and even Facebook/ Instagram’s, Medium’s, & etc.) lunch not only in the microblog space, but the larger space which includes blogging, photos, music, video, audio, and social media in general. The one piece they’re missing is a best-in-class integrated feed reader, which, to be honest, is the centerpiece of both Twitter and Facebook’s services. They seem to be 98% readers and 2% dead-simple posting interface while WordPress is 98% posting interface (both more sophisticated/flexible and more complicated), and nearly non-existent (and unbundled) reader.
WordPress has already got one of the best and most ubiquitous publishing platforms out there (25+% of the web at last count). Slimming down their interface a tad to make it dead simple for my mom to post, or delegating this to UX/UI developers with micropub the way that Twitter allowed in the early days with their open API and the proliferation of apps and interfaces to post to twitter, in addition to Webmentions could create a sea-change in the social space. Quill is a good, yet simple example of an alternate posting interface which I use for posting to WordPress. Another is actually Instagram itself, which I use in conjunction with OwnYourGram which has micropub baked in for posting photos to my site with Instagram’s best-in-class mobile interface. Imagine just a handful of simple mobile apps that could be customized for dead-simple, straightforward publishing to one’s WordPress site for specific post types or content types…
With extant WordPress plugins, a lot of this is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet, to borrow the sentiment from William Gibson.
For just a few dollars a year, everyday people could more easily truly own all their content and have greater control over their data and their privacy.
I will note that it has been interesting and exciting seeing the Drupal community stepping on the gas on the Webmention spec (in two different plugins) since the W3C gave it recommendation status earlier this month. This portends great things for the independent web.
I haven’t been this excited about what the web can bring to the world in a long, long time.
See the invisible with a powerful yet affordable microscope that fits in your pocket. Curiosity, discovery, and science for everyone!
As a fellow IndieWeb proponent, and since I know how much work such an undertaking can be, I’m happy to help you with the e-book and physical book portions of your project on a voluntary basis if you’d like. I’ve got a small publishing company set up to handle the machinery of such an effort as well as being able to provide services that go above and beyond the usual low-level services most self-publishing services might provide. Let me know if/how I can help.