FOUR

Some of these new W3C specs include Webmention, Micropub, WebSub, IndieAuth, and Microsub. Today I’ll talk abut Webmentions which are simply site-to-site @mentions or notifications which don’t involve corporate social media silos.

For those who’d like more information about webmentions and how they could be used, I’ve written a primer for A List Apart entitled Webmentions: Enabling Better Communication on the Internet.

 

Own Your Followers: Redirecting Feeds on the Web

Every four months or so I go through and tidy up many of my feeds. Invariably a dozen or so feeds die out, but I’m noticing a recurring quirk. Most of them are within my IndieWeb folder!

A lot of the changes seem to be related to people who are shifting from one shiny toy or project to another. They all seem to say something like:

Hey Mom! Look at my fancy new static site that builds in 0.001 seconds!
Can you believe what Drupal supports in the IndieWeb now? See ya! 
I’ve moved back to good ol’ WordPress. Ahhh…
Micro.blog is awesome and requires such little maintenance. I migrated… while on vacation… in the wilderness… from my cell phone!!!
Wheee!

They’re often redirecting all their old URLs to the new site, but the one URL they commonly neglect is to create a redirect for their primary RSS, Atom, JSON or other feeds to their new feed structure. This means that the feed goes dead, and I (and others) have to notice it, then revive it. For some who simply have h-feed structures on their home page things may continue apace, particularly for the Microsub readers out there, though I haven’t been using those for as long to see as many issues.

Why are you doing all that work and making your followers do the extra manual work to go back and resubscribe?! Over the past four or five years there have been fifty or more people I’ve seen do this dance (some multiple times and even a few every 4 months or so). I totally get why they do it (because why not?!) But there should be a better way of keeping track of our major URLs and redirecting them properly.

From a continuity or even business perspective, this could be an even bigger thing as sites will likely spend a lot of time building an audience and could potentially throw it all away with the flip of a switch. I’ll be the first to admit that most of these people may not have a lot of people following them via RSS or similar means, but still?! It seems like at least once a week there’s some big newspaper, magazine, or corporate site I want to follow and I have to complain about finding their feeds. Why would you want to start all over again? 

If a social media framing is easier for some, it’s the equivalent of changing your Twitter handle for your account with a hundred thousand followers to something new with no followers instead of creating a dummy account and swapping the usernames so you can have the new name, but keep all your followers.

There are also a few serial bloggers/writers who will start up a project for 3-6 months and build a following only to shut things down though they’ll keep the domain name. Why not redirect that primary domain to one of their other or newer projects and redirect those feeds as well? You’ve spent the time building an audience, why wouldn’t you want to keep it? Am I missing something fundamental here?

We often say, own your online identity, own your domain, and own your data. Perhaps we need to remember to also “own” our friends, family, followers, our community, or more broadly our audience?

Until then, I’m still flailing away out here. Manually changing your feeds in my reader…

Replied to Apps of a Feather (Apps of a Feather)
Third-party Twitter apps are going to break on August 16th, 2018.
If Twitter doesn’t love you, the IndieWeb would. I wish Twitter clients like @tweetings @twitterrific @tweetbot @TalonAndroid would support Micropub for publishing and Microsub for reading/following. Spend a few days to convert your apps and support the independent web. #BreakingMyTwitter
 
Imagine if we could use these clients not only to interact with Twitter, but almost any website on the planet? How cool would it be if I could use Twitterific to post to my WordPress website and Dries could use Tweetbot to post to post to his Drupal site? Maybe I could dump Feedly and Inoreader and dovetail Aperture to work with Tweetings or Talon to read all the content I’m interested in?
 
Manton Reece’s Micro.blog platform is an interesting multi-use case/example that has quickly usurped lots of social functionality using IndieWeb building blocks and has a handful of posting clients while it serves as a reader as well. (And of course it still allows cross-posting to Twitter as well.)
 
Since these W3C specs are full recommendations and work on the open web with dozens of implementations, it could allow social media apps/clients like those mentioned to not only gain new audience, but give them tremendously more autonomy as businesses and prevent any future social networks from pulling the rug out from underneath them the way Twitter has done in the past. The open web can bring back true competition to the space and collectively allow the community to keep innovating and creating while they’re interacting.
 
Replied to a tweet by Carolina GilabertCarolina Gilabert (Twitter)

I’m enamored of Aaron Parecki‘s Monocle reader. I can subscribe to almost anything I want, read it without interfering algorithms, and reply to posts directly in the reader, which uses Micropub to post those directly on my site, which has Webmentions to send notifications to those sites in turn.

I’m similarly in love with an app version called Indigenous for Android.

But really, who can have just one favorite?!? I also love: 

They’ve not only got interesting sites, but they’re always doing cool things that are worth following.

And if you want some other interesting ones to take a peek at, I have longer list (with RSS/OPML) at https://boffosocko.com/about/following/

I’ve become so wrapped up in using it as a feed reader on my phone, that I’ve nearly overlooked the fact that Indigenous for Android is one of the most versatile Micropub clients out there for publishing content to your website. It also supports about twice as many post types as some of the more flexible clients out there for all your publishing needs.
Replied to Introducing Indigenous for Android by swentelswentel (realize.be)
You can now download the app from Google Play. If you want to install it manually, you can also go over to the release section on GitHub. Use GitHub to post issues, ideas, documentation, nicer icons, design mockups ... everyone can help out!
Congratulations on the fantastic updates on Indigenous! The recent changes are making me wonder how I’ve lived all this time without it. 

My first use of the read post functionality was a tad confusing because I wasn’t aware that either the WordPress Micropub client or Post Kinds supported the read-status set up that IndieBookClub.biz had pioneered.

The vast majority of my read posts are for online articles which are relatively short in nature and so don’t use the read-status features and are simply marked up with read-of. When I originally suggested that Indigenous support read posts, I only expected the read-of support and didn’t imagine the additional read-status support for “to-read”, “reading”, or “finished” to be included. These are highly experimental and have thus far only been supported by IndieBookClub which focuses on much longer book-length content that can take better advantage of the ideas of the idea of a bookmark to read, ongoing reading, and finished reading markers. Even with this support gRegor still thinks that it may be better to use the addition of p-category or u-category microformats instead of the read-status tags. The WordPress Micropub server is the only other software that supports these additional read-statuses besides gRegor’s own website.

Given that:

  • an exceedingly small number of sites have support for read-status;
  • the read-of microformat has somewhat better support (though it is still an experimental microformat itself);
  • the majority of posts that Indigenous users are likely to use for creating read posts will be articles (as opposed to either smaller posts like notes, likes, favorites, checkins, RSVPs, etc. or book length material),

I would recommend that you have a default setting in Indigenous for just read-of  without a specific read-status (the UI could either indicate “none” or “read” without a read-status value). However for the occasional longer form usages leaving the other options in would be useful. I can easily imagine myself using the option for “to-read” over the simpler bookmark functionality now that it exists!

Thanks again for all your work! 

Microsub reader clients and unread entries

I’ve become inextricably ensnared by the wealth of awesome Microsub feed readers out there. However, one small piece of UI keeps rearing its ugly head as I move variably from one to another either to move from mobile to desktop or just to enjoy the variety of user interfaces available.

While they all do a fantastic job of keeping track of what I’ve read or left unread, many of them are missing the ability to explicitly ask for just the unread items in particular channels. Invariably, I’ll find one or two pieces that I want to leave unread to revisit later, but then finding them in a stream of hundreds later becomes an impossible task.

Aaron Parecki‘s model version in Monocle has a handy menu item to request just the unread items in a channel.

Screencapture of the Monocle UI
Monocle has a simple dropdown to allow me to see just the unread entries.

 

Either it’s missing or I’m not able to easily find the same functionality in Kristof De Jaeger‘s Indigenous for Android or Grant Richmond‘s Together. (I’ve yet to have time to try out some of the others.)

I suppose I should simply start bookmarking those pieces I still want to read later and rely on my site for the memory. Of course this also then makes me itch for having private feeds in these readers to find my unpublished bookmarks for reading via my favorite Microsub clients on a future date.

Read settings page in Indigenous

I’ve noticed that Indigenous for Android does have the ability to create an additional channel for all unread items. This seems useful while I’ve only got a few dozen feeds and a handful of channels, but I don’t expect it to be quite as useful when I’ve moved over several dozen channels with hundreds of feeds. The benefit is that it does replicate the sort of functionality that most social silos like Facebook and Twitter have of an unending stream of unread posts. 

Indigenous also allows one to either manually mark items as read individually or automatically mark them read a page at a time. The page at a time seems to clear out the entire channel rather than marking things read as they’re scrolled, so it’s a bit too broad for my taste. Monocle does a much better job at this marking read while scrolling functionality. Indigenous also says it has a “Mark all read” button per channel, but somehow I’m not seeing it in the UI despite the many ways I toggle the options.

Indigenous also has the ability to set a Read later channel, which seems useful. There is another setting for “Move items” that indicates one can move posts from one channel to another, but when choosing individual posts to move, the UI reads “Select channel to add the feed to”. I was leery at first because I didn’t want to move my entire feed to the new channel, but after  trying it there’s a pop up that said “Post moved to channel X”. Perhaps Kristof might change the word “feed” to “post” in that part of the interface? Sadly though, I have to report that looking at my Unread items channel doesn’t actually show the things that were to have been moved.

 

 

Replied to Feed WordPress 101: Feeding The Machine by Alan LevineAlan Levine (CogDogBlog)
If you are just syndicating a few feeds into your own site, or maybe for a single class of students, it’s not much work to manually add the feeds. Collecting them can be as simple as asking students to email you the address for their blog, or collecting them via something like a Google Form. Many of us dream of a single one button solution, but my experience in creating at least half a dozen of these sites are is… feeds can be messy.
Alan, this series is great. Coincidentally I came across it courtesy of Greg McVerry (#) after having spent some time over the past few days discussing feed discovery with David Shanske who recently wrote a small WordPress plugin for helping to uncover RSS feeds for tags and categories. Today he wrote some broader thoughts about feed discovery you may appreciate.

In addition to all of this, since you’re a coder, you might also appreciate some of the more advanced feed discovery code David has written into the Yarns Microsub Server for WordPress (code on Github). You may be able to build some of the discovery bits into some of your syndication hubs/planets in the future.

Of course, like FeedWordPress and the relatively similar PressForward plugin, you might also be able to bend Yarns into an aggregator in similar ways.

Read Instagram-like app to track photographer websites by Matt Maldre (Spudart)
I’m thinking about what the domain would be for my photo website. And then an idea struck me. What if someone made an app that looked JUST like Instagram. But all the photos came from RSS feeds from individual photographer websites. You could subscribe to a whole list of photographer websites, and their photos will …
I could totally see this as an IndieWeb-based app! Perhaps there’s a way to modify or use one of the Microsub clients to filter for photos for focusing on and doing just this very thing?

My photos are far from the sort of artistic thing you’re looking for, but it would be nice if one could find a broader section of websites that provided photo-specific feeds like mine.

Micro.blog has a photo specific feed and Pixelfed is in this general wheelhouse, but possibly not quite what you’re talking about.

Replied to a tweet by Tournez à gauche | alt-wrongTournez à gauche | alt-wrong (Twitter)
“So, RSS fans, particularly those who wish google hadn't shuttered reader: what would you pay to have it back as an indieweb project?”
I’d definitely go up to the $75/year range for a solid full-featured reader like Feedly or Inoreader but that included Micropub and Microsub infrastructure. (See also Using Inoreader as an IndieWeb feed reader.)

Looking at the current responses it seems like most respondents don’t have a very solid conceptualization of how to define “indieweb”. Almost none of the products mentioned in your thread are IndieWeb from my perspective.  Most of them are corporately owned data silos.

To me IndieWeb needs to have a focus on allowing the user to keep and own big portions of their data. Things like read status and old articles history should be owned by the user and not by a third party. Readers that do this are just as bad as Google Reader which took that data down when they closed.

If you’re using the IndieWeb.org definition of a reader, would you be considering building a Microsub server, Microsub client, or both?

I remember running across Serendeputy just around IndieWebSummit. I wonder how something like this that’s built for the open web might support discovery methods for the IndieWeb? Is there a way to dovetail it with Microsub services somehow?

Jason Butler has an interesting looking product.

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?