Some ideas about tags, categories, and metadata for online commonplace books and search

Earlier this morning I was reading The Difference Between Good and Bad Tags and the discussion of topics versus objects got me thinking about semantics on my website in general.

People often ask why WordPress has both a Category and a Tag functionality, and to some extent it would seem to be just for this thing–differentiating between topics and objects–or at least it’s how I have used it and perceived others doing so as well. (Incidentally from a functionality perspective categories in the WordPress taxonomy also have a hierarchy while tags do not.) I find that I don’t always do a great job at differentiating between them nor do I do so cleanly every time. Typically it’s more apparent when I go searching for something and have a difficult time in finding it as a result. Usually the problem is getting back too many results instead of a smaller desired subset. In some sense I also look at categories as things which might be more interesting for others to subscribe to or follow via RSS from my site, though I also have RSS feeds for tags as well as for post types/kinds as well.

I also find that I have a subtle differentiation using singular versus plural tags which I think I’m generally using to differentiate between the idea of “mine” versus “others”. Thus the (singular) tag for “commonplace book” should be a reference to my particular commonplace book versus the (plural) tag “commonplace books” which I use to reference either the generic idea or the specific commonplace books of others. Sadly I don’t think I apply this “rule” consistently either, but hope to do so in the future.

I’ve also been playing around with some more technical tags like math.NT (standing for number theory), following the lead of arXiv.org. While I would generally have used a tag “number theory”, I’ve been toying around with the idea of using the math.XX format for more technical related research on my site and the more human readable “number theory” for the more generic popular press related material. I still have some more playing around with the idea to see what shakes out. I’ve noticed in passing that Terence Tao uses these same designations on his site, but he does them at the category level rather than the tag level.

Now that I’m several years into such a system, I should probably spend some time going back and broadening out the topic categories (I arbitrarily attempt to keep the list small–in part for public display/vanity reasons, but it’s relatively easy to limit what shows to the public in my category list view.) Then I ought to do a bit of clean up within the tags themselves which have gotten unwieldy and often have spelling mistakes which cause searches to potentially fail. I also find that some of my auto-tagging processes by importing tags from the original sources’ pages could be cleaned up as well, though those are generally stored in a different location on my website, so it’s not as big a deal to me.

Naturally I find myself also thinking about the ontogeny/phylogeny problems of how I do these things versus how others at large do them as well, so feel free to chime in with your ideas, especially if you take tags/categories for your commonplace book/website seriously. I’d like to ultimately circle back around on this with regard to the more generic tagging done from a web-standards perspective within the IndieWeb and Microformats communities. I notice almost immediately that the “tag” and “category” pages on the IndieWeb wiki redirect to the same page yet there are various microformats including u-tag-of and u-category which are related but have slightly different meanings on first blush. (There is in fact an example on the IndieWeb “tag” page which includes both of these classes neither of which seems to be counter-documented at the Microformats site.) I should also dig around to see what Kevin Marks or the crew at Technorati must surely have written a decade or more ago on the topic.


cc: Greg McVerry, Aaron Davis, Ian O’Byrne, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Cherfas

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👓 Introducing Trashy.css | CSS Tricks

Read Introducing Trashy.css by Nathan Smith (CSS-Tricks)
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.

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Reply to Curtis McHale and David Wolfpaw on rel-alternate

Replied to a tweet by DΛVID V3.0.6DΛVID V3.0.6 (Twitter)

The conversation started in the IndieWeb Chat last week with:
15:27 aaronpk: “my post permalinks now have a rel=alternate link to an mf2 and jf2 JSON version of the post”

And continued over the next several hours and days primarily with participation of aaronpk, GWG, and pfefferle among a few others.

David Shanske (GWG) and I discussed an overview of it in the most recent episode of An IndieWeb Podcast. The conversation about rel=”alternate” begins at the 11:00 minute mark.

Somewhere there’s a note that GWG has already built a big chunk of code into the Webmention/Semantic Linkbacks plugin that implements a large chunk of the work already. There’s also some work done in https://github.com/indieweb/wordpress-mf2-feed as well.

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🔖 ❤️ vilhalmer tweet

Liked a tweet by vil vil (Twitter)
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An Indieweb Podcast: Episode 9 30 Days of Indieweb

Episode 9: 30 Days of Indieweb


Running time: 0h 58m 33s | Download (18.9MB) | Subscribe by RSS | Huffduff

Summary: David is about to head off abroad for a month. We talk about what’s been happening recently and his plans for his upcoming sojourn.

Recorded: August 5, 2018

Shownotes

IndieWeb Camp NYC–September 28-29, 2018–RSVPs are open now

Micropub Plugin work for WordPress
It will include a Media endpoint
Code for integration with the WordPress REST API

rel=”alternate”
This sketch solution may be an end-around the issue of getting WordPress (or potentially other CMSes) Themes to be microformats 2 compatible, and allow a larger range of inter-compatibility for websites and communication.

Facebook API changes cause breakage of Brid.gy
Ditchbook, a micropub-based tool for exporting data from Facebook and importing into other services

Greg McVerry’s EDU522 course Digital Teaching and Learning Too (🎧 00:47:57)

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👓 Classical music metadata | Imani Mosley

Replied to Classical music metadata by Imani Mosley (Imani Mosley)

This metadata project came about in a very practical fashion: NPR's in-house music database has a legacy file naming convention for its art music back from when it was digitizing LPs and moving from a physical collection to an online one. I won't go too much into why the system exists as it does but what's important to know is that it is as anachronistic as possible. There is very little connection between it and any other "standard" and makes it nearly impossible to discover anything as the search is exact rather than flexible. So being good librarians, we want to fix it. Making that statement was the easy part.

What followed was a very intense meeting in which my supervisor and I went through the pros and cons of various metadata & cataloging systems (our in-house database, iTunes, and others). There were far more cons than pros. It gave us a lot to consider and some things we could put in place but still left an uneasy feeling.

Imani, I didn’t see a comment box on your website and it doesn’t appear to support the Webmention spec yet, so I’ll post my reply on my site (something I’d do anyway) and send you a ping via Twitter.

I can’t help but thinking that this may be a potential use case for microformats. I notice there’s already some useful pages and research on music and even sheet music on their website.

If nothing else, I’d recommend that you or others delving into the process of looking at music metadata try to emulate the process behind what microformats are and how they work. I think it’s highly useful to take an overview of what and how people are already doing things in real life situations, figure out common patterns, and then documenting them to make the overall scope of work potentially smaller as well as to indicate a best path forward. Many companies will have created proprietary formats and methods which are likely to be highly incompatible or described, but not actually implemented in actual practice. (Hint: avoid unimplemented suggestions at all costs.) Your small polling sample already indicates a lot of variability, and I suspect your poll is very biased give people who would most likely be following your account.

A good starting point for answering your problem might be to do a bit of reading on microformats and then asking questions in the microformat community’s online chat. I suspect there are several people in the community who have done large-scale work on the web and categorization who might be able to help you out as well as point you in the direction of prior art and others who are working on these problems.

If you need help in understanding some of the microformats material, I’m happy to help you out via phone or online video chat and introduce you to some folks in the area.

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👓 IndieWeb has many meanings and a singluar meaning | Gist

Liked a post by Michael Bishop (Gist)

Note: this will probably be rambling and will need editing to add links and such, but I needed to put it odwn and put it out there

IndieWeb has many meanings and a singluar meaning–own your content on a domain you control. Plumbing, how you create the content, how it is stored and how you display it is all up to you. As long as it is your content that you can take with you on a domain name you control, you are IndieWeb already.

But with the recently published article about Webmentions, IndieWeb also takes on having the ability to also interact from your own site. A practical example:

  • I publish this post its syndicated to Twitter, micro.blog and a feed (atom as well as jsonfeed).
  • You reply with a tweet, it shows up as a comment on the site. Someone else replies within micro.blog, same thing. Someone else reads it in their feed reader and writes a blog post sendinga webmention, same - shows up as a comment.
  • I can reply natively to each comment and it will aggregate back to my site.

All accomplished with existing WordPress plugins available in the wp.org repo.

The catch? Microformats. Specifically Microformats 2. That is the semantic markup in the theme that facilitates communicating the context of the content.

WordPress still supports the original microformats, which can cause problems when parsing mf2. There was an attempt to introduce mf2 into WP core

Then, it was closed as wontfix because changing a class name might break themes that used it as a style hook.

I can't see how the change could be made without breaking a majority of WordPress sites.

That was 2 years ago. And while I'm still trying to get an exact current state of affairs to know precisely what needs changed, I'm saying its time to rethink this decision.

WordPress has always had the tag line "democratizing the web." As we enter a new phase of the Internet and fears of walled gardens and homogonized social silos, now more than ever WordPress should use a major update to introduce what I would suggest a minor breaking change in display on some sites to allow further development of inter-site communication using WordPress.

Gutenberg is ushering in a slew of changes in how themes will work best, so if there is a good time to change something like a css class, why not now?

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Reply to Brad Enslen about The Future of Blog Snoop

Replied to Memo: Announcement: The Future of Blog Snoop Blog Directory by Brad EnslenBrad Enslen (Brad Enslen)
I’m hitting a fork in the road with this site and the experiment of using a blog as a directory of blogs.  The problem here is me: I’m running out of time.  I’m duplicating a lot … Source: Announcement: The Future of Blog Snoop – Blog Snoop Weblog Directory We’ll see what happens.  It...

Brad, much like Kicks Condor, I think you’re making a laudable effort, and one of the ways our work grows is to both keep up with it and experiment around.

If I recall, programming wasn’t necessarily your strong suit, but like many in the IndieWeb will say: “Manual until it hurts!” By doing things manually, you’ll more easily figure out what might work and what might not, and then when you’ve found the thing that does, then you spend some time programming it to automate the whole thing to make it easier. It’s quite similar to designing a college campus: let the students walk around naturally for a bit then pave the natural walkways that they’ve created. This means you won’t have both the nicely grided and unused sidewalks in addition to the ugly grass-less beaten paths. It’s also the broader generalization of paving the cow paths.

In addition to my Following page I’ve also been doing some experimenting with following posts using the Post Kinds Plugin. It is definitely a lot more manual than I’d like it to be. It does help to have made a bookmarklet to more quickly create follow posts, but until I’ve got it to a place that I really want it, it’s not (yet) worth automating taking the data from those follow posts to dump them into my Follow page for output there as well. Of course the fact that my follow posts have h-entry and h-feed mark up means that someone might also decide to build a parser that will extract my posts into a feed which could then be plugged into something else like a microsub-based reader so that I could make a follow post on my own site and the source is automatically added to my subscription list in my reader automatically.

In addition to Kicks Condor, I’me seeing others start to kick the tires of these things as well. David Shanske recently wrote Brainstorming on Implementing Vouch, Following, and Blogrolls, but I think he’s got a lot more going on in his thinking than he’s indicated in his post which barely scratches the surface.

I also still often think back to a post from Dave Winer in 2016: Are you ready to share your OPML? This too has some experimental discovery features that only scratch the surface of the adjacent possible.

And of course just yesterday, Kevin Marks (previously of Technorati) reminded us about rel=”directory” which could have some interesting implications for discovery and following. Think for a bit of how one might build a decentralized Technorati or something along the lines of Ryan Barrett’s indie map.

As things continue to grow, I’m seeing some of all of our decisions and experiments begin to effect others as these are all functionality and discovery mechanisms that we’ll all need in the very near future. I hope you’ll continue to experiment and make cow paths that can eventually be paved.

Featured Image: Cows on the path flickr photo by Reading Tom shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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👓 Metadata, Part 2: Microformats | Locked Down SEO

Read Metadata, Part 2: Microformats by John Locke (Lockedown Design & SEO)
Today, we’ll look at another widely used form of structured data markup, Microformats.

Interesting to see how others see and define these for themselves. This has a heavy bent toward SEO obviously.

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👓 Wrapping My Head Around Webmentions Pt 2 | Interdependent Thoughts

Read Wrapping My Head Around Webmentions Pt 2 by Ton ZijlstraTon Zijlstra (Interdependent Thoughts)
I very much appreciate how Sven Knebel extensively responded to my previous posting on some Webmention issues I came across. Some of his responses do make me have new questions. About the wrong URL, i.e. not the source of the webmention, showing up in a Webmention, Sven writes: …. There’s a href...
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👓 A short update about microformats | Digging the digital – Full blogdrift

Read Een korte update over microformats by Frank Meeuwsen (Digging the digital)
Het voordeel van bloggen en zo je gedachten publiek maken, is dat anderen mee kunnen denken en je van mogelijke oplossingen voorzien. Na mijn vragen over webmentions, kwam Ton al snel met een eigen blogpost, gevolgd door Peter (digging the title and URL there Peter!). Ton geeft een korte uitleg over...
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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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👓 Sending your First Webmention from Scratch | Aaron Parecki

Read Sending your First Webmention from Scratch by Aaron PareckiAaron Parecki (Aaron Parecki)
Webmention is one of the fundamental indieweb building blocks. It enables rich interactions between websites, like posting a comment or favorite on one site from another site. This post will walk you through the simplest way to get started sending webmentions to other sites so that you can use your ...

A stupendous article, I just wish I’d had it all those many years ago. Thanks Aaron!

One useful thing for beginners that I don’t think got mentioned (pun intended!) in the article is that for receiving websites which don’t have a built in webmention form you can use a service like http://mention-tech.appspot.com/ which will allow you to manually put in the sending site and the receiving site and it will act as a bridge to send the webmention for you.

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Testing out a new (secret) micropub client for read posts. It’s got way more functionality than I though it would have to start and has a stunning and clean UI. There are some smart choices all around and it’s naturally got some fantastic semantic markup hiding behind the curtains.

Even without the micropub portion it makes a fantastic microblog for those who are into reading.

More details later as I try to get all the moving pieces working properly.