Hello everyone! My name is Chris Aldrich. I’m an independent researcher in a variety of areas including the overlap the internet and education. You can find more about me on my website https://boffosocko.com
Today I’ll be talking about Webmentions for open pedagogy.
For a variety of reasons (including lack of budget, time, support, and other resources) many educators have been using corporate tools from Google, Twitter, Facebook, and others for their ease-of-use as well as for a range of functionality that hadn’t previously existed in the blogosphere or open source software that many educators use or prefer.
This leaves us and our students open to the vagaries and abuses that those platforms continually allow including an unhealthy dose of surveillance capitalism.
In the intervening years since the blogosphere and the rise of corporate social media, enthusiasts, technologists and open source advocates have continued iterating on web standards and open protocols, so that now there are a handful of web standards that work across a variety of domains, servers, platforms, allowing educators to use smaller building blocks to build and enable the functionalities we need for building, maintaining, and most importantly owning our online courseware.
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.
Many common content management systems support Webmention either out of the box or with plugins including: our friend WordPress, Drupal, WithKnown, Grav, and many others.
WordPress can use this new standard with the Webmention plugin. (Surprise!) I also highly recommend the Semantic Linkbacks plugin which upgrades the presentation of these notifications (like Trackback, Pingback, or Webmention) to more user-friendly display so they appear in comments sections much like they do in corporate social media as comments, reposts, likes, and favorites, detected using microformats2 markup from the source of the linkback.
Another plugin I love is Post Kinds Plugin (Classic editor only at present) which automatically parses URLs I want to reply to, like, bookmark, etc. and saves the reply context to my website which helps prevent context collapse. My commentary and notes then appear below it.
(I also use a plugin that saves the content of URLs on my site to the Internet Archive, so I can reference them there later if necessary.)
These plugins with WordPress allow teachers to post course content and students can then post their responses on their own sites and send notifications that they’ve read, listened to, or watched that content along with their ideas and commentary.
Examples of webmentions in a course setting: Greg McVerry and I ran an experiment with Webmentions in a class in 2018.
Example assignment: https://archive.jgregorymcverry.com/5570-2/
Notice the replies underneath which came from other sites including my response which is mirrored on my site at https://boffosocko.com/2018/08/04/highlighting-some-of-my-favorite-edtech-tools/
Example podcast post for a class: https://archive.jgregorymcverry.com/2toponder-episode-one/
Notice the listen webmention in the comments which links to my listen response at: https://boffosocko.com/2018/08/06/2toponder-episode-one-intertextrevolution/ where I own a copy of the context and my own response. As a student, even if the originals disappear, I’ve got the majority of the important content from the course.
When the course is over, the student has an archive of their readings, work, and participation (portfolio anyone?) on a site they own. They can choose to leave it public or unpublish it and keep private copies.
[Copies for Facebook, Google+ or Big EdTech Giants? They can ask for them nicely if they want them so desperately instead of taking them surreptitiously.]
By taking the content AND the conversation around it out of the hands of “big social media” and their constant tracking and leaving it with the active participants, we can effect far more ethical EdTech.
[No more content farming? What will the corporate social media silos do?]
Imagine Webmentions being used for referencing journal articles, academic samizdat, or even OER? Suggestions and improvement could accumulate on the original content itself rather than being spread across dozens of social silos on the web.
[Webmentions + creativity: How might you take their flexibility and use it in your online teaching practices?]
There’s current research, coding work, and thinking going on within the IndieWeb community to extend ideas like private webmentions and limiting audience so that this sort of interaction can happen in more secluded online spaces.
I’ve also been able to use my WordPress website to collect posts relating to my participation in conferences like PressEdConf20 or Domains 2019 which included syndicated content to Twitter and the responses from there that have come back to my site using Brid.gy which bootstraps Twitter’s API to send Webmentions back to my website.
If Twitter were to go away, they may take some of my connections, but the content and the conversations will live on in a place under my own control.
Thanks for your time and attention! I’m around on Twitter–or better: my own website!–if you have any questions.