The ideas of being independent and signed are inherently contradictory, and this contradiction is what makes indie hard to define. Its ephemerality gives it both a mystique and a resistance to criticism ― after all, you can’t critique what you can’t define. And thus, using the term indie is often a great marketing move. But it’s a problematic critical move.
However, as someone who knows he’s certainly privileged, I view my definition of indie as something that is also open for others to come behind me and use for free or have the ability to reuse and remix in a way that corporate interests or non-indie work wouldn’t. In a large sense, to me this means that while I may be privileged (whether that be socio-economically or even the time-encumbered), I’m helping to lower the cost and the burden for the less privileged who may come behind me to be able to do more, go further, or go faster.
In some sense too, as described, indie has such a nebulous definition. Often when I see it in a technology related space I really read it as “Open Sourced”.
Since just before IndieWebCamp LA, I’ve been working on better ways to own the articles I’ve been reading and syndicate/share them out to other social platforms. The concept initially started out as a simple linkblog idea and has continually been growing, particularly with influence from my attendance of the Dodging the Memory Hole 2016: Saving Online News conference at UCLA in October. Around that same time, it was announced that Pinterest was purchasing Instapaper and they were shutting down some of Instapaper’s development and functionality. I’ve been primarily using Pocket for several years now and have desperately wanted to bring that functionality into my own site. I had also been looking at the self-hostable Wallabag alternative which is under heavy active development, but since most of my site is built on WordPress, I really preferred having a solution that integrated better into that as a workflow.
I’ve been looking closely at PressForward for the past week and change as a self-contained replacement for third party services like Pocket and Instapaper. I’ve been looking around for this type of self-hosted functionality for a while.
PressForward was originally intended for journalists and news organizations to aggregate new content, add it to their newsroom workflow, and then use it to publish new content. From what I can see it’s also got a nice following in academia as a tool for aggregating content for researchers focused on a particular area.
It only took a minute or two of looking at PressForward to realize that it had another off-label use case: as a spectacular replacement for read-later type apps!
In an IndieWeb fashion, this fantastic WordPress plugin allows me to easily own private bookmarks of things I’d like to read (PressForward calles these “Nominations” in keeping with its original use case). I can then later read them on my own website (with Mercury f.k.a Readability functionality built in), add commentary, and publish them as a read post. [Note: To my knowledge the creators of PressForward are unaware of the IndieWeb concept or philosophies.]
After some playing around for a bit and contemplating several variations, configurations, and options, I thought I’d share some thoughts about it for others considering using it in such an off-label manner. Hopefully these may also spur the developers to open up their initial concept to a broader audience as it seems very well designed and logically laid out.
The developers obviously know the value of dogfooding as at least two of them are using it in a Pocket-like fashion (as they many not have other direct use-cases).
PressForward includes a beautiful, full built-in RSS Feed Reader!
This feature alone is enough to recommend using it even without any other feature. I’ve tried Orbit Reader and WhisperFollow (among others) which are both interesting in their own rights but are somewhat limited and have relatively clunky interfaces. The best part of WhisperFollow’s premise is that it has webactions built in, but I suspect these could easily be added onto PressForward.
In fact, not just hours before I’d discovered PressFoward, I’d made this comment on the WordPress Reader Refresh post announcing the refresh of WordPress.com’s own (separate) reader:
Some nice visual changes in this iteration. Makes it one of the most visually pretty feed readers out there now while still maintaining a relatively light weight.
I still wish there were more functionality pieces built into it like the indie-reader Woodwind.xyz or even Feedly. While WordPress in some sense is more creator oriented than consumption oriented, I still think that not having a more closely integrated reader built into it is still a drawback to the overall WordPress platform.
- It’s IndieWeb and POSSE friendly
- It does automatic link forwarding in a flexible/responsible manner with canonical URLs
- Allows for proper attributions for the original author and content source/news outlet
- Keeps lots of metadata for analyzing reading behavior
- Taggable and categorizable
- Allows for comments/commenting
- Could be used for creating a linkblog on steroids
- Archives the original article on the day it was read.
- Is searchable
- Could be used for collaboration and curation
- Has Mercury (formerly known as Readability) integrated for a cleaner reading interface
- Has a pre-configured browser bookmarklet
- Is open source and incredibly well documented
- One can count clicks to ones’ own site as the referer while still pushing the reader to the original
- Along with other plugins like JetPack’s Publicize or Social Networks Auto-Poster, one can automatically share their reads to Twitter, Facebook, or other social media silos. In this case, you own the link, but the original publisher also gets the traffic.
No clear path for nominating articles on mobile.
This can be a dealbreaker for some, so I’ve outlined a pretty quick and simple solution below.
No direct statistics
Statistics for gauging ones’ reading aren’t built in directly (yet?), but some scripts are available. 
No larger data aggregation
Services like Pocket are able to aggregate the data of thousands of users to recommend and reveal articles I might also like. Sadly this self-hosted concept makes it difficult (or impossible) do have this type of functionality. However, I usually have far too much good stuff to read anyway, so maybe this isn’t such a loss.
Adding the ability to do webactions directly from the “Nominated” screen would be fantastic, particularly for the RSS reader portion.
Default to an unread view of the current “All Content” page. I find that I have to filter the view every time I visit the page to make it usable. I suspect this would be a better default for most newsrooms too.
It would be nice to have a pre-configured archive template page in a simple linkblog format that filters posts that were nominated/drafted/published via the Plugin. This will prevent users from needing to create one that’s compatible with their current theme. Something with a date read, Title linked to the original, Author, and Source attribution could be useful for many users.
A PressForward Nomination “Bookmarklet” for Mobile
One of the big issues I came up against immediately with PressForward is ease of use on mobile. A lot of the content I read is on mobile, so being able to bookmark (nominate) articles via mobile or apps like Nuzzel or Twitter is very important. I suspect this may also be the case for many of their current user base.
Earlier this year I came across a great little Android mobile app called URL Forwarder which can be used to share things with the ubiquitous mobile sharing icons. Essentially one can use it to share the URL of the mobile page one is on to a mobile Nomination form within PressForward.
I’d suspect that there’s also a similar app for iOS, but I haven’t checked. If not available, URL Forwarder is open source on Github and could potentially be ported. There’s also a similar Android app called Bookmarklet Free which could be used instead of URL Forwarder.
PressForward’s built in bookmarklet kindly has a pre-configured URL for creating nominations, so it’s a simple case of configuring it. These details follow below for those interested.
Configuring URL Forwarder for PressForward
- Open URL Forwarder
- Click the “+” icon to create a filter.
- Give the filter a name, “Nominate This” is a reasonable suggestion. (See photo below.)
- Use the following entry for the “Filter URL” replacing
example.comwith your site’s domain name:
- Leave the “Replaceable text” as “@url”
- Finish by clicking on the checkmark in the top right corner.
Nominating a post via mobile
With the configuration above set up, do the following:
- On the mobile page one wants to nominate, click the ubiquitous “share this” mobile icon (or share via a pull down menu, depending on your mobile browser or other app.)
- Choose to share through URL Forwarder
- Click on the “Nominate” option just created above.
- Change/modify any data within your website administrative interface and either nominate or post as a draft. (This part is the same as one would experience using the desktop bookmarklet.)
Given the data intensity of both the feed reader and what portends to be years of article data, I’m left with the question of hosting it within my primary site or putting it on a subdomain?
I’ve also run across an issue with the automatic redirect which needs some troubleshooting as well. Hopefully this will be cleared up quickly and we’ll be off to the races.
For all sorts of reasons, some people have a problem with updating WordPress installs properly. I will state now that for both our free and premium plugins we do not support anything but the latest and the prior to last version. At the time of writing that’s WordPress 4.5 and WordPress 4.6 . If you’re running anything else, we can’t help you. But mostly, I want to convince you to upgrade by dispelling all the reasons why you shouldn’t or “couldn’t” upgrade.
I maintain many open source projects on GitHub and elsewhere (over 160 as of this writing). I have merged and/or closed thousands of Pull Requests (PRs) and patches in the past few years, and would like to summarize here many of the reasons I don't merge many PRs.
A few of my projects have co-maintainers, but most are just me. The bus factor is low, but I offset that by granting very open licenses and encouraging forks. I also devote a set amount of time (averaging 5-10 hours/week) to my OSS project maintenance, and have a personal budget of around $1,000/year to devote to infrastructure to support my projects (that's more than most for-profit companies who use my projects devote to OSS, sadly).
I don't like closing a PR without merging, because a PR means someone liked my project enough to contribute back. But sometimes it's necessary. I'm not trying to be a jerk (and I usually start by thanking the contributor to try to soften the blow of a closed PR), I'm just ensuring the continued health of the project. Below are the principles behind how I maintain my projects, and hopefully by reading through them you'll understand more about why I choose to close PRs instead of merging.
Anyone who knows me knows that I like to try new things — phones, gadgets, apps. Last week I downloaded the new Wix (closed, proprietary, non-open-sourced, non-GPL) mobile app. I’m always int…
The camp sold out in just hours a month and change ago, in part because it was limited to about 200 people given the fantastic space provided by UC Irvine’s Advanced Innovation. There aren’t many spaces one could go with such spectacular amenities and support in addition to a huge plethora of screens, recording equipment, and audio/visual supplements. Thanks for hosting us Applied Innovation!
Sadly the limited space meant that some people missed out, and the most unrepresented group was likely new users who may not have heard about it in time to get tickets. However, this didn’t mean that anyone else was underrepresented: there were attendees of every ability, age (10 months to over 90), race, sex and creed. I was honestly astounded by the diversity of people in attendance.
One of the best programming decisions was having food trucks show up to cater lunch, which kept everyone close and socially engaged rather than dispersing everyone to the wind by means of forcing outside food options.
Sadly, even knowing that Sundays are always slower than Saturdays, there were 2-3 empty rooms with no sessions at all on Sunday afternoon. I wish there had been some type of offering to assist in putting together impromptu sessions or BoF sessions in these empty rooms. Alternately doing a beginner build track on Sunday and releasing “Sunday only” tickets might have been interesting and also better utilized the space.
Below are some thoughts on the individual sessions I attended. Most should be on WordPress.TV shortly and nearly everyone was posting slides.
Development Workshop: Intro to Core Concepts by Erick Hitter
This was a great quick introduction to most of the basics of WP Core and at just about the right time as I’ve been wanting to delve more directly into portions for a few projects. I’d definitely recommend the slide deck once it’s posted. This was one of my favorite sessions of the weekend.
Content Development by Greg Taylor
This was one of the more entertaining sessions and had more conversation back and forth than any camp session I’ve ever attended. Sadly it stayed to the basics and in a room which seemed to have some more advanced participants, I wish it had gone further.
What is oEmbed and why you should use it by Jason Tucker
This was mostly what I expected, but included some additional tips that I didn’t know existed. In particular, knowing that I can provide formatting for others when they oEmbed my site is something I’ll have to look into.
Getting Started With SVGs For WordPress Theme Building by Jacob Arriola
I’ve played a bit with SVG’s but hadn’t delved into them very significantly. This was a good overview/crash course on some of the particulars.
Curating a Pattern Library by Brianna Privett
This was a nice start to some intro information on talking about design patterns, but I would have preferred something at the intermediate or advanced level. In particular, it made me consider some quirky potential new visual grammars for mobile use (particularly in advertising). It also inspired me to think about creating a disorenting experience built on the visual/time grammar of the movie Inception.
Development Discussion: Improving WordPress Search by Aaron Holbrook
Aaron was a fun and very dynamic speaker who obviously truly loves his topic. This was by far the best session I attended over the weekend. I want to try to get Elastic Search and ElasticPress set up on my site soon as it looks like what modern search should be on a website.
Using WordPress as an App Framework by Nathan Tyler
I’m somewhat shocked I’d never thought of doing this myself before, but just knowing the concept exists is more than half the battle. The sad part is that it sounds like for half the stuff you get for free, one needs to rebuild or re-engineer something else to get it working.
Contributing to Open Source by Andy Fragen
Andy is a practicing physician and a great WordPress “hobby-ist” who drove in from Palm Springs to give a great overview of the philosophy of Open Source and a broad range of tools used to help further that goal. One can’t help but be affected by his enthusiasm.
For a session meant to be primarily entertainment, I was actually surprised to learn about coding/development by hearing a panel of others critique four plugins. Condensed down, this could have been a session on the intangible things one would want to think about before building a plugin.
A Developer’s Guide to Support by Thomas Patrick Levy
Everyone can be put into a better mindset to help others. This was a great presentation for just that.
WordCamp Los Angeles 2016
Because one just can’t get enough, I can’t wait to attend WordCamp LA on September 10th & 11th at Cal State University Los Angeles.
IndieWeb and WordPress
Since they’ve already made a Call for Speakers for the LA camp, I’ve already submitted the following talk application which focuses on the IndieWeb:
The IndieWeb is a people-focused alternative to the “corporate web” which has recently been covered in Wired, Fast Company, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Newsweek, and Slate. It encourages everyone to own their own data/content, be better connected to engage with everyone, and provide users with more control of their content and identity online. With the rise of social media silos everyone is seemingly incentivized to split up their online identity to participate in multiple various communities and a variety of platforms which are often bought out, shut down, or simply disappear, very often taking users’ data with them.
Why not allow your own WordPress site to truly be your primary hub online? Post your content on your own site/server so that you not only own it, but then, if you choose, syndicate it out to social media networks in a native and simpler fashion to take advantage of their network effects and engagement. Even better, new web specs like WebMention from the W3C (essentially a universal/internet-wide method of @mention) allow you to easily bring back comments, likes, and similar data back to your original post as native comments. You can now truly own all of the data and subsequent related data (comments) you place on most major social networks.
In this session we’ll briefly cover the basic history and philosophy of the IndieWeb movement before moving into more advanced topics like microformats, WebMention, IndieAuth, micropub, and a growing wealth of related tools which will be of interest to developers and designers alike. While primarily geared at individual users, these philosophies and techniques can be of huge value to writers/authors, bloggers, podcasters, and even businesses for drastically improving their reach and marketing efforts online while simultaneously saving them time and effort.
I spoke to a number of people over the weekend about some IndieWeb concepts and basics, but for those who can’t wait for more details, I’m happy to discuss more of the specifics at anyone’s leisure. If you’re really chomping at the bit, I’ll be at the WordPress Pasadena Meetup tonight and hopefully be setting up a Homebrew Website Club meeting in the LA area sometime in the next few weeks in anticipation of IndieWeb Camp Los Angeles in November.