Some recent work in the feed reader and discovery space

I’ve noticed a lot of quiet, but very interesting and heartening feed reader and discovery work going on in the IndieWeb and related communities lately, so I thought I’d highlight it briefly for those who are interested in the topic, but may not have been following as closely:

  • Inoreader has been working on a beta product that will make following social feeds in Twitter, Micro.blog, the Fediverse, and even IndieWeb sites with h-entry easier and prettier.
  • Kicks Condor has been iterating and doing some interesting work on the FraidyCat reader over the past few weeks.
  • Malcolm Blaney has a fantastic little feed reader in his Unicyclic site (not to mention that he’s also got a cool looking IndieWeb as a Service site with i.haza.website that I desperately want to have time to try out).
  • The volume of different and interesting content going into IndieWeb.xyz as a discovery hub has been increasing lately.
  • I’ve been admiring the discovery/aggregation work of Terry Greene on his OpenLearnerPatchbook and OpenFacultyPatchbook sites within the education space.
  • CJ Eller and others have been contributing to Blogging Futures as an extended online conversation in the form of an aggregated blogchain.

And none of this even touches on the excellent continuing work on Microsub readers which continues to astound me. Even with all of this activity, I’m sure I’m missing some fun little gems, so please don’t hesitate to mention them.

Comparing Inoreader’s user interface for their internal tweets versus RSS tweets

For a long time I’ve been consuming the majority of my Twitter feed within various feed readers. My most frequent feed reader is Inoreader, though I’ve been experimenting with and using some IndieWeb influenced microsub-based feed readers for quite a while.

Earlier today I thought I’d try out Inoreader’s Twitter integration and subscribe to some of my twitter lists using that instead of importing feeds directly from outside services. (I’ve been a big fan of using Ryan Barrett’s Twitter-Atom and related tools.) One of the things that had always bothered me about third party RSS feeds into most feed readers is that the author of the post is in such tiny text and there is no avatar indicator of who wrote the post. As a result I’m stuck spending a lot more cognitive load trying to discern the author of a tweet before or after reading it. It just boils down to less than optimal user interface.

Fortunately Inoreader seems to have a slightly better method for doing this (since they control the user interface and are presumably using the Twitter API). Within their reader, Tweets look a tad bit more standard with respect to the usual Twitter client and include an avatar and the name of the author in larger font. Sadly, though they have control over the UI, they’re still including a bolded version of the the text of the tweet as a title and thereby needlessly duplicating some of the content. It would be far better for notes, status updates and other content that typically doesn’t have (or need) a title if they would simply just leave it out. They could then use the extra space to have a larger font for reading the short status update. In fact, most of the IndieWeb-based feeds I read in Inoreader have these unnecessary titles included which typically not only look bad from a UI perspective, but they again needlessly duplicate content I don’t need.

Below I’m including screenshots of the two different methods of reading Tweets via Inoreader. I’m also including a screenshot of how Tweets look like in Monocle when fed in via the same Atom feed that was used in the Inoreader case. In Monocle’s version, it’s got a nice larger and easier to discern author name, but it too is missing the author photo (or avatar), in part because the feed doesn’t include it as a default. I suspect that if the feed included it, Monocle would display it properly though the Inoreader version probably wouldn’t. The Monocle version also includes a copy of the photo in the Tweet twice because the feed adds it in a second time as an enclosure.

UI example of a tweet within Inoreader using their native Twitter support.
UI example of a tweet within Inoreader imported using a third party RSS-based client.
UI example of a tweet within Monocle imported using a third party RSS-based client.

For completeness, I’m including the text of the Atom feed for this particular tweet so that we can see what is or isn’t being included in the Inoreader and Monocle versions.

<entry>
<author>
 <activity:object-type>http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/person</activity:object-type>
 <uri>https://twitter.com/BigHistoryPro</uri>
 <name>Big History Project</name>
</author>
    <activity:object-type>http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/note</activity:object-type>
  <id>https://twitter.com/BigHistoryPro/status/1195385992728985600</id>
  <title>In an ideal world, you’d have 1-on-1 time with every student to discuss every...</title>
  <content type="xhtml">
  <div xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
In an ideal world, you’d have 1-on-1 time with every student to discuss every aspect of every writing assignment. With BHP score, you come close. <br />
<a href="https://bh-p.co/2N1xopV">bh-p.co/2N1xopV</a>
<p>
<a class="link" href="https://twitter.com/BigHistoryPro/status/1195385992728985600">
<img class="u-photo" src="https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EJbdObjXkAQ6QNw.jpg" alt="" />
</a>
</p>
  </div>
  </content>
  <link rel="alternate" type="text/html" href="https://twitter.com/BigHistoryPro/status/1195385992728985600" />
  <link rel="ostatus:conversation" href="https://twitter.com/BigHistoryPro/status/1195385992728985600" />
      <link rel="ostatus:attention" href="https://bh-p.co/2N1xopV" />
      <link rel="mentioned" href="https://bh-p.co/2N1xopV" />   <activity:verb>http://activitystrea.ms/schema/1.0/post</activity:verb>
  <published>2019-11-15T17:00:04+00:00</published>
  <updated>2019-11-15T17:00:04+00:00</updated>
  <link rel="self" type="application/atom+xml" href="https://twitter.com/BigHistoryPro/status/1195385992728985600" />
      <link rel="enclosure" href="https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EJbdObjXkAQ6QNw.jpg" type="image/jpeg" />
</entry>

In sum, I generally like the UI of the Inoreader version, though they could still do with removing the redundant and unnecessary title. The Monocle version is likely the best, but I’d need to find a feed method that also includes the avatar to have a better representation of the original Tweet. Even with these differences, I think I tend to prefer Monocle at the end of the day because it also automatically includes Micropub functionality which means that I can post my reactions (likes, reposts, or comments) directly to my website and syndicate copies directly to Twitter. (This is also in consideration of my previously having set up some separate functionality for forcing Inoreader to allow me to post some of this same sort of data to my website by other means.)

Has anyone found better/prettier or more useful ways of consuming Twitter in third party means while allowing one to own their data?

👓 Yarns Microsub Server: Getting started guide | Jack Jamieson

Read Yarns Microsub Server: Getting started guide by Jack JamiesonJack Jamieson (jackjamieson.net)
This is a quick getting started guide for Yarns Microsub Server. This post will be updated and expanded. Yarns is a Microsub server that runs on your WordPress site. This means it can help you follow feeds from blogs, websites, and social media all in place, running on your own server. You tell Yarn...

 

Social Reading User Interface for Discovery

I read quite a bit of material online. I save “bookmarks” of all of it on my personal website, sometimes with some additional notes and sometimes even with more explicit annotations. One of the things I feel like I’m missing from my browser, browser extensions, and/or social feed reader is a social layer overlay that could indicate that people in my social network(s) have read or interacted directly with that page (presuming they make that data openly available.)

One of the things I’d love to see pop up out of the discovery explorations of the IndieWeb or some of the social readers in the space is the ability to uncover some of this social reading information. Toward this end I thought I’d collect some user interface examples of things that border on this sort of data to make the brainstorming and building of such functionality easier in the near future.

If I’m missing useful examples or you’d like to add additional thoughts, please feel free to comment below.

Examples of social reading user interface for discovery

Google

I don’t often search for reading material directly, but Google has a related bit of UI indicating that I’ve visited a website before. I sort of wish it had the ability to surface the fact that I’ve previously read or bookmarked an article or provided data about people in my social network who’ve done similarly within the browser interface for a particular article (without the search.) If a browser could use data from my personal website in the background to indicate that I’ve interacted with it before (and provide those links, notes, etc.), that would be awesome!

Screen capture for Google search of Kevin Marks with a highlight indicating that I've visited this page in the recent past
Screen capture for Google search of Kevin Marks with a highlight indicating that I’ve visited his page several times in the past. Given the March 2017 date, it’s obvious that the screen shot is from a browser and account I don’t use often.

I’ll note here that because of the way I bookmark or post reads on my own website, my site often ranks reasonably well for those things.

On a search for an article by Aaron Parecki, my own post indicating that I’ve read it in the past ranks second right under the original.

In some cases, others who are posting about those things (reading, commenting, bookmarking, liking, etc.) in my social network also show up in these sorts of searches. How cool would it be to have a social reader that could display this sort of social data based on people it knows I’m following

A search for a great article by Matthias Ott shows that both I and several of my friends (indicated by red arrows superimposed on the search query) have read, bookmarked, or commented on it too.

Hypothes.is

Hypothes.is is a great open source highlighting, annotation, and bookmarking tool with a browser extension that shows an indicator of how many annotations  appear on the page. In my experience, higher numbers often indicate some interesting and engaging material. I do wish that it had a follower/following model that could indicate my social sphere has annotated a page. I also wouldn’t mind if their extension “bug” in the browser bar had another indicator in the other corner to indicate that I had previously annotated a page!

Screen capture of Vannevar Bush’s article As We May Think in The Atlantic with a Hypothes.is browser extension bug indicating that there are 329 annotations on the page.

Reading.am

It doesn’t do it until after-the-fact, but Reading.am has a pop up overlay through its browser extension. It adds me to the list of people who’ve read an article, but it also indicates others in the network and those I’m following who have also read it (sometimes along with annotations about their thoughts).

What I wouldn’t give to see that pop up in the corner before I’ve read it!

Reading.am’s social layer creates a yellow colored pop up list in the upper right of the browser indicating who else has read the article as well as showing some of their notes on it. Unfortunately it doesn’t pop up until after you’ve marked the item as read.

Nuzzel

Nuzzel is one of my favorite tools. I input my Twitter account as well as some custom lists and it surfaces articles that people in my Twitter network have been tweeting about. As a result, it’s one of the best discovery tools out there for solid longer form content. Rarely do I read content coming out of Nuzzel and feel robbed. Because of how it works, it’s automatically showing those people in my network and some of what they’ve thought about it. I love this contextualization.

Nuzzel’s interface shows the title and an excerpt of an article and also includes the avatars, names, network, and commentary of one’s friends that interacted with the piece. In this example it’s relatively obvious that one reader influenced several others who retweeted it because of her.

Goodreads

Naturally sites for much longer form content will use social network data about interest, reviews, and interaction to a much greater extent since there is a larger investment of time involved. Thus social signaling can be more valuable in this context. A great example here is of Goodreads which shows me those in my network who are interested in reading a particular book or who have written reviews or given ratings.

A slightly excerpted/modified screen capture of the Goodreads page for Melanie Mitchell’s book Complexity that indicates several in my social network are also interested in reading it.

Are there other examples I’m missing? Are you aware of similar discovery related tools for reading that leverage social network data?

From Following Posts and Blogrolls (Following Pages) with OPML to Microsub Servers and Readers

I’m still tinkering away at pathways for following people (and websites) on the open web (in my case within WordPress). I’m doing it with an eye toward making some of the UI and infrastructure easier in light of the current fleet of Microsub servers and readers that will enable easier social reading without the centralized reliance on services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Medium, LinkedIn, et al.

If you haven’t been following along, here are some relevant pieces for background:

Generally I’ve been adding data into my Following Page (aka blogroll on steroids) using the old WordPress Links Manager pseudo-manually. (There’s also a way to bulk import to it via OPML, using the WordPress Tools Menu or via /wp-admin/import.php?import=opml). The old Links Manager functionality in WordPress had a bookmarklet to add links to it quickly, though it currently only seems to add a minimal set–typically just the URL and the page title. Perhaps someone with stronger JavaScript skills than I possess could improve on it or integrate/leverage some of David Shanske’s Parse This work into such a bookmark to pull more data out of pages (via Microformats, Schema.org, Open Graph Protocol, or Dublin Core meta) to pre-fill the Links Manager with more metadata including page feeds, which I now understand Parse This does in the past month or so. (If more than one feed is found, they could be added in comma separated form to the “Notes” section and the user could cut/paste the appropriate one into the feed section.) Since I spent some significant time trying to find/dig up that old bookmarklet, I’ll mention that it can be found in the Restore Lost Functionality plugin (along with many other goodies) and a related version also exists in the Link Library plugin, though on a small test I found it only pulled in the URL.

Since it wasn’t completely intuitive to find, I’ll include the JavaScript snippet for the Links Manager bookmarklet below, though note that the URL hard coded into it is for example.com, so change that part if you’re modifying for your own use. (I haven’t tested it, but it may require the Press This plugin which replaces some of the functionality that was taken out of WordPress core in version 4.9. It will certainly require one to enable using the Links Manager either via code or via plugin.)

javascript:void(linkmanpopup=window.open('https://exanple.com/wp-admin/link-add.php?action=popup&linkurl='+escape(location.href)+'&name='+escape(document.title),'LinkManager','scrollbars=yes,width=750,height=550,left=15,top=15,status=yes,resizable=yes'));linkmanpopup.focus();window.focus();linkmanpopup.focus();

Since I’ve been digging around a bit, I’ll note that Yannick Lefebvre’s Link Library plugin seems to have a similar sort of functionality to Links Manager and adds in the ability to add a variety of additional data fields including tags, which Ton Zijlstra mentions he would like (and I wouldn’t mind either). Unfortunately I’m not seeing any OPML functionality in the plugin, so it wins at doing display (with a huge variety of settings) for a stand-alone blogroll, but it may fail at the data portability for doing the additional OPML portion we’ve been looking at. Of course I’m happy to be corrected, but I don’t see anything in the documentation or a cursory glance at the code.

In the most ideal world, I’d love to be able to use the Post Kinds Plugin to create follow posts (see my examples). This plugin is already able to generally use bookmarklet functionality to pull in a variety of meta data using the Parse This code which is also built into Post Kinds.

It would be nice if these follow posts would also copy their data into the Links Manager (to keep things DRY), so that the blogroll and the OPML files are automatically updated all at once. (Barring Post Kinds transferring the data, it would be nice to have an improved bookmarklet for pulling data into the Links Manager piece directly.)

Naturally having the ability for these OPML files be readable/usable by Jack Jamieson’s forthcoming Yarns Microsub Server for WordPress (for use with social readers) would be phenomenal. (I believe there are already one or two OPML to h-feed converters for Microsub in the wild.) All of this would be a nice end -to-end solution for quickly and easily following people (or sites) with a variety of feeds and feed types (RSS, Atom, JSONfeed, h-feed).

An additional refinement of the blogroll display portion would be to have that page display as an h-feed of h-entries each including properly marked up h-cards with appropriate microformats and discoverable RSS feeds to make it easier for other sites to find and use that data. (This may be a more IndieWeb-based method of displaying such a page compared with the OPML spec.) I’ll also note that the Links Manager uses v1 of the OPML spec and it would potentially be nice to have an update on that as well for newer discovery tools/methods like Dave Winer’s Share Your OPML Subscription list, which I’m noting seems to be down/not functioning at the moment.

👓 Looking for this #IndieWeb Tool | Timothy Chambers

Read Looking for this Tool by Timothy Chambers (timothychambers.net)
Looking for an tool for personal aggregation of social media. Maybe a bit like Feedly, a bit like Nuzzel, but more specifically a webtool that aggregates and does a pesonal curation and display of Twitter Lists, Facebook feeds, YouTube Subscriptions, and if possible FB Groups, and displays the content that I hand curated in one dashboard.

👓 Mark All Read in Monocle | Chris McLeod

Read Mark All Read in Monocle by Chris McLeodChris McLeod (mrkapowski.com)
If you’re a Monocle user, you might have noticed a new feature in your UI today. If you self-host, you’ll want to update your installation to the latest version. Two nice “quality of life” features have gone live, and I’m a little excited, because I helped build one of them The bigges...

👓 📺 Bokeh is on Kickstarter | Bright Pixels

Read Bokeh is on Kickstarter by Timothy Smith (Bright Pixels)
It’s been a crazy two days. Yesterday, I published the Kickstarter for Bokeh. At the time of writing this, the project is 36 percent funded. I’m grateful to everyone who’s backed the project and shared it. There’s been a lot of stress building up to this moment. I believe in this ...

There’s not quite as much detail here as one could want. On first blush there’s nothing here when I read it because I missed the fact that there’s a video. But even with the video the details were awfully muddled about what exactly this will end up being. The fact that he mentions that it will be IndieWeb friendly could be interesting. I’m worried if some of the forthcoming microsub readers will render parts of this less useless unless it expands into other content types the way micro.blog has already.

👓 Final Indigenous Log: The Future of the App | Eddie Hinkle

Read Final Indigenous Log: The Future of the App by Eddie HinkleEddie Hinkle (eddiehinkle.com)
Over a year ago, I was working on Indigenous, the first app I've released in the App Store. It was a great experience but it originally started as a native share sheet extension. From there, more Micropub features were added and then as Microsub was announced, that was built in as well. Ultimately i...

The clickbait headline had me scared for a minute, then I realize there might be three times the goodness…

WPCampus 2019 Draft Proposal: Dramatically extending a Domain of One’s Own with IndieWeb technology

Below is a draft proposal which I’m submitting for a possible upcoming talk at WPCampus from July 25-27, 2019 in Portland, OR. If you don’t have the patience and can’t wait for the details, feel free to reach out and touch base. I’m happy to walk people through it all before then. If you’re looking for other upcoming events or need help, check out any of the upcoming Homebrew Website Clubs, IndieWebCamps, the IndieWeb Summit 2019, or even Domains2019.

Session Title

Dramatically extending a Domain of One’s Own with IndieWeb technology: How to improve your online research notebooks, commonplace books, and digital pedagogy

Session description

(This description will be edited and used on the website. Please include 1-2 paragraphs and a list of key takeaways for the audience.)

Having a Domain of One’s Own and using it as a “thought space” to own your online identity and work is just the tip of the iceberg. Can you imagine how useful it would be if you could use your Twitter account to reply to someone on Facebook (without needing a Facebook account) or vice versa? Open web technology from the IndieWeb movement that utilizes simple plugins, modules, or even built-in functionality now exists so that people can now use WordPress, Drupal, WithKnown, Grav and many other content management systems on any domain name to have rich site-to-site communications in a simple and intuitive way. Third party (and often unethical) corporate platforms are no longer needed to have rich interactions between scholars on the web.

It is now easily possible to have a teacher write a post on their own website and their students to easily reply/react to that post on their own websites (along with a useful reply context) and send that reply to the teacher’s website for possible display. Each participant can now own a copy of both sides of the conversation.

  • Teachers and students will learn how to (individually or together) collect, analyze, write, collaborate, and interact easily online while doing so in a space they own and control without giving away their data to third party platforms.
  • Researchers can now easily bookmark, highlight, or annotate portions of the web and keep this data (public/private) on their own website (aka digital commonplace book or notebook) for future reference or use.
  • We’ll show how courseware can be decentralized so that the instructor and the students each own their own pieces of the learning processes and can keep them for as long as they wish.
  • We will demonstrate how one can use their WordPress-based website with a few simple plugins to own all of the traditional social media types (bookmarks, items read, highlights, annotations, comments/replies, photos, status updates, audio, checkins, etc.) on their own site while still allowing interacting (if desired) with other websites as well as in social spaces like Twitter, Instagram, Swarm, etc.
  • We will demonstrate a new generation of free feed readers that allow composing in-line responses and reactions that post them directly to one’s own website as well as send notification to the site being read and interacted with.

You can now have the joy of a Domain of Your Own and still easily interact just as if your site were a (better-than) first class social media platform.

More Information About Your Session

(Please describe your session in greater detail for the organizers. You may be more casual in this description as it will not be posted on the website.)

In some sense, this session will be a crash course on using IndieWeb technologies and building-blocks with WordPress in the Education space. I’ll aim to remove a lot of technical jargon and keep coding examples to a bare minimum (if using any at all) so that those with the technical ceiling of downloading and installing a plugin can immediately benefit from the talk. I will also provide enough pointers and describe the broad outlines that developers will have a broad overview of the IndieWeb space to find and extend these plugins and functionality if they wish.

I’ll be covering the basics of new W3C recommendations like Webmention, Micropub, and WebSub along with forthcoming specs like Microsub in combination with IndieAuth (a version of OAuth2 for login). I’ll show how they can be applied to personal websites in research, teaching, collaboration, and other educational domains like creating Open Educational Resources. Many of these can be easily implemented in WordPress with just a handful of simple plugins that allow the web to become the social media platform we all wish it would be.

I’ll use examples from my own personal website and several others (which use Drupal, WithKnown, Grav, etc.) to show how these plugins can be used in educational settings and will walk through a case study of a course built using DoOO and IndieWeb philosophies and technologies (EDU 522: Digital Teaching and Learning at Southern Connecticut State University) on which I collaborated with Dr. Gregory McVerry.

👓 Following Twitter peeps in an indiereader with granary.io and Microsub | Neil Mather

Read Following Twitter peeps in an indiereader with granary.io and Microsub by Neil MatherNeil Mather (doubleloop)
My online social experience is mostly through the indieweb. For following people and blogs, I use Aperture, a Microsub server, to subscribe to various social feeds. And then I read and interact with those feeds in various clients – e.g. Indigenous on Android, and Monocle on the web. Although I don...

I haven’t migrated over to a microsub-based reader yet, but this is an excellent description of some tools for freeing yourself from reading friends and family in Twitter.

📑 Publishers build a common tech platform together | Nieman Lab

Annotated Publishers build a common tech platform together by Jonathan GillJonathan Gill (Nieman Lab)

One way to meet the many needs that most if not all publishers share would be to collaboratively develop their digital products. Specifically, they should build for interoperability. One publisher’s CMS, another’s content APIs, a third company’s data offering — they might one day all work together to allow all ships to rise and to reclaim advertising and subscription revenue from the platforms. This might allow publishers to refocus on differentiating where it truly matters for the user: in the quality of their content.  

Some of this is already afoot within the IndieWeb community with new protocols like Webmention, Micropub, WebSub, and Microsub. Journalists should know about this page on their wiki.

A cursory look at my website for 2018

I just added it up quickly and realized that I posted publicly to my website/blog/commonplace book a total of 4,694 times in 2018! Holy cow!

I don’t have quite the crazy analysis that Jeremy Keith has done of his posts, and I initially thought that there was no way I’d posted as much as he had. Perhaps it might be worth delving deeper into the numbers to see exactly what is going on?

Possibly worse(?!), that total posting number is up from 1,762 public posts in 2017. I can only attribute the increase in quantity to the ability to increasingly easily post to my site via micropub clients and some simple bookmarklets I use in conjunction with David Shanske’s brilliant Post Kinds plugin. G-d bless the IndieWeb and its tremendously helpful community for helping me take back ownership of my digital online life. I can only imagine how much higher that number goes this coming year if I can manage to build a Microsub set up and indie reader into my website and make the entire processes even more friction-less.

I unwittingly spent a few minutes last night on cleaning up some plumbing on my back end that will make it easier to follow up (when necessary) on likes, reads, and bookmarks that I collect.

I can’t bear to go through and count the number of private posts for the year, but I will say that having my own online searchable database of things  I’ve written, replied to, bookmarked, read, listened to, watched, annotated, etc. has been incredibly useful over the past few years.

Replied to a thread by James King James King (Twitter)

This sounds a lot like the Microsub spec which abstracts and separates the parsing and displaying of content. There are already several separate server and reader implementations if you’re interested in tinkering.

Reply to uonaiii on Twitter

Replied to a tweet by Uonai Uonai (Twitter)

I want exactly this. Let me know what you come up with. The closest thing I’ve seen recently is https://aaronparecki.com/2018/03/12/17/building-an-indieweb-reader