Replied to a tweet by @mrled (Twitter)
Discord. Ha!

What we really need is a planet of posts tagged with RSS that has its own RSS feed! I’ll start by offering my feed about RSS: https://boffosocko.com/tag/RSS/feed/

Or maybe if you’re daring, we need a shareable OPML file of feeds? Send me your feed about RSS, and I’ll add it to my list.

But seriously what is really new in RSS land?

RSS 2.0 will celebrate it’s 12th birthday at the end of the month on March 30th. It hasn’t changed or evolved since that time.

While many say it’s dead, it’s still thriving all around the web as a serious form of glue that’s supported by almost every major platform out there.

People are still adding these sidefiles to their sites all these years later. In fact, I just read a colleague’s article about moving from ATOM to RSS the other day. And it wasn’t that long ago that the Knight First Amendment Institute fixed their RSS feed.

But who is still iterating on doing new and interesting things with RSS?

One of the more interesting things I’ve seen is Julien Genestoux‘s work with SubToMe, which iterates significantly on making RSS easier to use and subscribe to sites.

There’s also Dave Winer‘s work with OPML and FeedBase which are intriguing.

Last year I saw some ideas out of Matt Webb who also made https://aboutfeeds.com/.

Ryan Barrett has some great RSS translation tools in Granary.

I’m using RSS and OPML to power a blogroll on steroids.

What are your favorite RSS tools and experiments?

Read Hypothes.is Social (and Private) Annotation by Dan AllossoDan Allosso (danallosso.substack.com)

How I use Hypothesis myself and with my students

Private groups are also my solution to the potential “saturation” problem that many people have asked me about. I DO think that there’s a potential disincentive to students who I’ve asked to annotate a document, if they open it and find hundreds of comments already there. I already face a situation when I post questions for discussion that people answer in a visible way, where some students say their peers have already made the point they were going to make. It’s easier to address this objection, I think, when EVERY LINE of a document isn’t already yellow! 

I’ve run into this issue myself in a few public instances. I look at my annotations as my own “conversation” with a document. Given this, I usually flip the switch to hide all the annotations on the page and annotate for myself. Afterwards I’ll then turn the annotation view back on and see and potentially interact with others if I choose.
Annotated on February 23, 2021 at 10:28PM

Small world of annotation enthusiasts, but hopefully getting bigger! 

I’ve always wished that Hypothes.is had some additional social features built in for discovering and following others, but they do have just enough for those who are diligent.

I’ve written a bit about [how to follow folks and tags using a feed reader](https://boffosocko.com/2019/11/07/following-people-on-hypothesis/).

And if you want some quick links or even an OPML feed of people and material I’m following on Hypothesis: [https://boffosocko.com/about/following/#Hypothesis%20Feeds](https://boffosocko.com/about/following/#Hypothesis%20Feeds)
Annotated on February 23, 2021 at 11:33PM

👋

Annotated on February 23, 2021 at 11:35PM

Replied to Lets bring back the blogroll to WordPress by Michael Beckwith (Michaelbox)
Come with me as I briefly explore Blogrolls and re-introducing them in 2021 and creating a WordPress Block for their display.
I have so many ideas about this. The first one being that it’s awesome.

While WordPress is about websites, it’s also got a lot of pieces of social media sites hiding under the hood and blogrolls are generally precursors of the following/followed piece.

Blogrolls were traditionally stuck on a small widget, but I think they now deserve their own full pages. I’d love to have one with a list of all the people I follow (subscribe to) as well as a similar one with those who follow me (and this could be implemented with webmention receipts of others who have me on their blogroll). I’ve got versions/mock ups of these pages on my own site already as examples.

Next up is something to make these easier to use and import. I’d love a bookmarklet or a browser extension that I could use one click with to have the person’s page imported into my collection of links that parses the page (perhaps the h-card or meta data) and pulls all the data into the link database.

I always loved the fact that the original generated OPML files (even by category) so that I could dump the list of data from my own site into a feed reader and just go. Keeping this would be awesome, but the original hasn’t been updated in so long it doesn’t use the updated OPML spec

If such a curated list is able to be maintained on my site it would also be cool if I could export it in such a way (similar to OPML) as to dovetail it with social readers like Aperture, Yarns, or other Microsub servers to easily transport or mirror the data there.

Here are some related thoughts: https://boffosocko.com/2017/11/10/a-following-page/

I’m happy to chat about other useful/related features relating to this any time!

Replied to a thread by Ian Guest, Aaron Davis, and John Johnston (Twitter)
Keeping my follows on my site as an OPML file allows me to use Inoreader for OPML subscribe. Then I can use their built-in search (and saved searches) to get information from personal websites I’m following.
Bookmarked Openring | ~sircmpwn/openring - sourcehut git (git.sr.ht)
"This is a tool for generating a webring from RSS feeds, so you can link to other blogs you like on your own blog. It's designed to be fairly simple and integrate with any static site generator."
Read How would I improve RSS? Three ideas by Matt Webb (interconnected.org)
My sense is that RSS is having a mini resurgence. People are getting wary of the social media platforms and their rapacious appetite for data. We’re getting fatigued from notifications; our inboxes are overflowing. And people are saying that maybe, just maybe, RSS can help. So I’m seeing RSS being discussed more in 2020 than I have done for years. There are signs of life in the ecosystem.
Matt has got a good overview and some useful ideas and I like the direction he’s moving. There has been more work on not only RSS but other feeds and specs like Microsub in the past few years. The IndieWeb has moved the needle a bit on this topic as well as related work on things like OPML. Even then, we still have a way to go on making the UI as easy as social media sites do.
Replied to a tweet (Twitter)
I’ve always loved OPML subscription: you follow an OPML source that automatically updates your feed over time. Sadly @inoreader is one of the few apps that supports it.
Replied to Making RSS more visible again with a /feeds page by Marcus HerrmannMarcus Herrmann (marcus.io)
A few years ago you could easily tell if a page offered an RSS feed. Browsers (at least good ones) had a feed symbol close to their location bar, and if you were really lucky (or used a really good browser), that indicator was even a button, empowering you to subscribe to a website with only one cli...
The overall idea to make it easier to subscribe to a personal website is certainly a laudable one.

Sadly the general concept presented here, while it sounds potentially useful, is far too little and misdirected. Hopefully better potential solutions are still not too late.

First, let’s step back a moment. The bigger problem with feeds was that website designers and developers spent far too long in the format wars between RSS and Atom while the social media giants focused on cleaner and easier UI. This allowed the social silos to dramatically close the gap in functionality and usability. While website owners were spending time on formats and writing long articles about what RSS was, how it worked, and how to use it, the public lost interest. We need something really dramatic to regain this ground and /feeds just is not going to cut it.

The first problem I see with this is that on it’s face /feeds both looks and sounds like code. No user really wants to interact with code if they don’t have to. Why not simply have a page or button called something much more user friendly like “subscribe” or “follow”? Almost every major social silo has a common pattern like this and has a simple “follow” button on every user’s page. A quick click and one is done with the transaction!

Instead the solution offered here is to have not only yet-another-page but one that needs to be maintained. (As good as the /now idea may seem, the fact that it needs to be regularly and manually updated makes it a failure out of the gate. I’ll bet that less than half the /now pages out there have been updated in the last 6 months. I know mine hasn’t.) Worse, suppose I click over to a /feeds page, as an average person I’m still stuck with the additional burden of knowing or learning about what a feed reader is, why I’d need or want one, and then knowing what RSS is and how I might use that. I might see a one click option for Twitter or Mastodon, but then I’m a mile away from your website and unlikely to see you again in the noise of my Twitter feed which has many other lurking problems.

One of the best solutions I’ve seen in the past few years is that posited by SubToMe.com  which provides a single, customizable, and universal follow button. One click and it automatically finds the feeds hidden in the page’s code and presents me with one or more options for following it in a feed reader. Once I’ve chosen a reader, it remembers my choice and makes the following pattern easier in future transactions. This is a far superior option over /feeds because it takes away a huge amount of cognitive burden for the user. As a developer, I’ve got a browser bookmarklet that provides this functionality for sites that don’t provide it for me. How nice would it be if browsers went back and offered such a one button collection mechanism?

Want to give this a try? I’ve got a “Follow Me” button in the side bar of my website. And if that doesn’t float your boat, I’ve tinkered with other methods of subscribing to my content that you can find at my subscribe page. Some developers might not be too scared of what’s on my subscribe page (a /feed page by a slightly friendlier name), but less technically minded people are sure to have a dramatically different perspective.

The other piece here that I might take umbrage with is the offering to provide feeds to subscriptions to alternate services like Twitter and Mastodon. (This doesn’t take into any account that RSS feeds of social services are positively atrocious, not to mention that attempting to access Marcus’ Twitter feed in RSS Box returns the interminable error message: “There was a problem talking to Twitter. Please try again in a moment.”) 

Ideally I see a future in which every person has the ability to own both their own domain name and their content in a simple manner. If this happens and it’s easier to subscribe to the sites of my friends, then I don’t need corporate social media to intermediate the transactions on my behalf. I also don’t need them to intermediate what I’m actually seeing with their blackbox algorithmic feeds either.  Friends, family, and colleagues could simply come to my website and subscribe to all or portions of my content in which they’re interested. While I still presently syndicate some of my content to silos like Twitter and Mastodon for the ease of friends or family who don’t know about the technical side of potential solutions, I post everything on my website first where one can subscribe in a feed reader or by email. Subscriptions in Twitter or Mastodon, while nice to have, are just a poor simulacrum of the real things being served by my site in better ways with more context and a design that better reflects what I’d like to portray online. A /feed page is going to be a failure from the start if you’re going to cede all the subsequent power directly to Twitter, Mastodon, and others anyway.

While I like the volume of the reactions to the post (indicating that there’s not only a readership, but a desire for this sort of functionality), I’m disheartened that so many designers and developers think that the idea of /feeds is “enough” to stem the tide.

For those who might be truly interested in designing our way out of this problem, I’d recommend looking at some of the design and development work of the IndieWeb community which is trying (slowly, but surely) to improve these sorts of technical hurdles. Their wiki has large number of examples of things that do and don’t work, discussion of where problems lie, and a community conversing about how to potentially make them better through actual examples of things that are currently working on peoples’ websites.

A good example of this is the increasing improvement of social readers that allow one to subscribe to a variety of sources in a reader which also allows one to respond to posts in-line and then own that content on one’s website. If I can subscribe to almost anything out there in one interface and sort and filter it in any way I’d like, that’s far better than having twenty different feed readers named Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Soundcloud, etc. which I have to separately and independent manage and check. Now I’ve yet to see an IndieWeb reader with a one click SubToMe-type of solution for adding feeds to it, but I don’t think it will be very long before that’s a reality. The slowly improving Microsub spec that splits some of the heavy lifting needed to build and design a stand alone feed reader is certainly helping to make some massive headway on these issues.

Maybe we’ll soon have an easy way for people to post who they’re following on their own websites, and their readers will be able to read or parse those pages and aggregate those followed posts directly into a nice reading interface? Maybe someone will figure out a way to redesign or re-imagine the old blogroll? Maybe we’ll leverage the idea of OPML subscriptions so that a personal blogroll (maybe we rename this something friendlier like a following page or personal recommendations, subscriptions, etc.) can feed a person’s subscriptions into their social reader? There are certainly a lot of solid ideas being experimented on and in actual use out there. 

We obviously still have a long way to go to make things better and more usable, not only for ourselves as designers and developers, but for the coding averse. I feel like there’s already a flourishing space out there doing this that’s miles ahead of solutions like /feeds. Why don’t we start at that point and then move forward?

Exploring Pine.blog

I’d noticed Pine.blog before at a previous IndieWebCamp, but not had time to delve into it very deeply. Seeing some of what Brian Schrader has been working on while following IndieWebCamp Austin remotely this weekend has reminded about the project. As a result, I’ve been spending some time tonight to check out some of the functionality that it’s offering. In part, I’m curious how similar, or not, it is to what Micro.blog is offering specifically with respect to the idea of IndieWeb as a Service which I’ve recently begun documenting. It’s always great to see the growing diversity and plurality of solutions in the space.

My brief prior experience with the platform was simply adding my website to their discovery service. Tonight I’ve found that Pine.blog has got a very pretty little feed reader experience with some fun discovery functionality. You can apparently create multiple timelines to follow content, but one needs a paid account for more than one timeline. It allows both following sites as well as recommending them to others. It also appears that Brian is supporting the rel=”payment” microformat as I see at least one feed that has a “$ Support” button in the Pine.blog interface to allow me to go to the site’s payment page to support it. I think this may be one of the first times I’ve seen this functionality in an app in the wild outside of the Overcast podcast app which added it a couple of years ago.

It has webmention support, so I can “like” things within the reader and notify others. Without a paid account I don’t see the ability to reply to or mention other sites though. It also looks like it allows for import/export of OPML too, though I haven’t tried it out yet–I can only test drive so many feed readers at a time and Indigenous is taking up all of my bandwidth at present.

I do wonder a bit about potentially importing/exporting my content if I were to go all-in on Pine.blog. I’d bet the idea is on the product map, but that’s a huge bit of work to build without a paid user base to support it. I’d personally want at least an export function if I were to change over, though I’m more likely to want to dovetail my own site with it much the way I’m currently doing with Micro.blog.

It looks like it should be able to post to my website, but I’m finding the “publish” and “preview” buttons don’t work–perhaps I need a paid account for this functionality? Of course, I only see UI to provide pine.blog with my URL and my account name, but it hasn’t authenticated using a password or other method, so perhaps that portion isn’t finished? I’ll circle back around to it later when I do a free trial. I do notice that Brian, the developer of the project, has an account on pine.blog which is mirrored on one of his subdomains running WordPress. Quirkily I’ve noticed that the header on his main website changes to alternately serve the pine.blog version and the WordPress version!

More to come as I continue exploring… Later on I’ll take a look at some of their paid functionality, but for now, it’s a pretty compelling set of features and some well-laid out user interface to start. I look forward to seeing how it continues to evolve.

Bookmarked Twitter OPML Export by Luca HammerLuca Hammer (opml.glitch.me)
Get websites and RSS Feeds of the people you follow on Twitter. Import the OPML-file with your favorite feedreader.
I love nothing more than OPML related tools! I just finished exporting all of my YouTube subscriptions the other day, now I can get the RSS feeds from the websites of all the people I’m following on Twitter?! This is awesome. I’ll need to work out how I might be able to import it all into my following page.

As I look at this wonderful little app, I can’t help but think at how nice it might be if they added the SubToMe universal following button for these. I haven’t looked in a while, but it’s possible that the Feed.ly integration for SubToMe needed a tweak to get it working again.

Today I exported all my YouTube subscriptions as an OPML file and imported them to my website’s following page (aka blogroll). I still have a bit of clean up to do to categorize and present them all the way I’d like, but I’ve got a huge start on it.

I’m hoping now that I’ve cut the cord, I’ll be able to use my various feed readers to watch and stream more video content.

It’s amazing how many inactive channels I was following. 

Special thanks to Martijn van der Ven who had done some great research on YouTube Atom feeds and OPML and created documentation on the IndieWeb wiki YouTube page.

I finally mucked about a bit and updated my Following Page (aka blogroll) on my website.

Because I was using some quirky gymnastics and a hacked up plugin, I’ve now been able to define a custom page and page content so that the explanation of the page appears at the top rather than at the bottom as before.

Viva the blogroll! Viva OPML! Viva RSS!