I was considering doing a follow post for Malcolm Blaney’s unicyclic IndieWeb Planet, then I realized that I’m already on it! Definitely an interesting experiment here. Nice that he includes an OPML file too.
This is going to be a long one, so the short version is summed up in this screenshot:
That's from the top of this page: unicyclic.com/indieweb, which is a feed combined from different sources, commonly referred to as a planet. Up until now I've been adding new feeds to that page as people join th...
the year of the indieweb directory ❧
My OPML Domains Project
Not being able to attend Domains 2019 in person, I was bound and determined to attend as much of it as I could manage remotely. A lot of this revolved around following the hashtag for the conference, watching the Virtually Connecting sessions, interacting online, and starting to watch the archived videos after-the-fact. Even with all of this, for a while I had been meaning to flesh out my ability to follow the domains (aka websites) of other attendees and people in the space. Currently the easiest way (for me) to do this is via RSS with a feed reader, so I began collecting feeds of those from the Twitter list of Domains ’17 and Domains ’19 attendees as well as others in the education-related space who tweet about A Domain of One’s Own or IndieWeb. In some sense, I would be doing some additional aggregation work on expanding my blogroll, or, as I call it now, my following page since it’s much too large and diverse to fit into a sidebar on my website.
For some brief background, my following page is built on some old functionality in WordPress core that has since been hidden. I’m using the old Links Manager for collecting links and feeds of people, projects, groups, and institutions. This link manager creates standard OPML files, which WordPress can break up by categories, that can easily be imported/exported into most standard feed readers. Even better, some feed readers like Inoreader, support OPML subscriptions, so one could subscribe to my OPML file, and any time I update it in the future with new subscriptions, your feed reader would automatically update to follow those as well. I use this functionality in my own Inoreader account, so that any new subscriptions I add to my own site are simply synced to my feed reader without needing to be separately added or updated.
The best part of creating such a list and publishing it in a standard format is that you, dear reader, don’t need to spend the several hours I did to find, curate, and compile the list to recreate it for yourself, but you can now download it, modify it if necessary, and have a copy for yourself in just a few minutes. (Toward that end, I’m also happy to update it or make additions if others think it’s missing anyone interesting in the space–feedback, questions, and comments are heartily encouraged.) You can see a human-readable version of the list at this link, or find the computer parse-able/feed reader subscribe-able link here.
To make it explicit, I’ll also note that these lists also help me to keep up with people and changes in the timeframe between conferences.
Anecdotal Domains observations
In executing this OPML project I noticed some interesting things about the Domains community at large (or at least those who are avid enough to travel and attend in person or actively engage online). I’ll lay these out below. Perhaps at a future date, I’ll do a more explicit capture of the data with some analysis.
The largest majority of sites I came across were, unsurprisingly, WordPress-based, which made it much easier to find RSS feeds to read/consume material. I could simply take a domain name and add
/feed/ to the end of the URL, and voilà, a relatively quick follow!
There are a lot of people whose sites didn’t have obvious links to their feeds. To me this is a desperate tragedy for the open web. We’re already behind the eight ball compared to social media and corporate controlled sites, why make it harder for people to read/consume our content from our own domains? And as if to add insult to injury, the places on one’s website where an RSS feed link/icon would typically live were instead populated by links to corporate social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In a few cases I also saw legacy links to Google+ which ended service and disappeared from the web along with a tremendous number of online identities and personal data on April 2, 2019. (Here’s a reminder to remove those if you’ve forgotten.) For those who are also facing this problem, there’s a fantastic service called SubToMe that has a universal follow button that can be installed or which works well with a browser bookmarklet and a wide variety of feed readers.
I was thrilled to see a few people were using interesting alternate content management systems/site generators like WithKnown and Grav. There were also several people who had branched out to static site generators (sites without a database). This sort of plurality is a great thing for the community and competition in the space for sites, design, user experience, etc. is awesome. It’s thrilling to see people in the Domains space taking advantage of alternate options, experimenting with them, and using them in the wild.
— Lauren Brumfield (@brumface) June 10, 2019
I’ll note that I did see a few poor souls who were using Wix. I know there was at least one warning about Wix at the conference, but in case it wasn’t stated explicitly, Wix does not support exporting data, which makes any potential future migration of sites difficult. Definitely don’t use it for any extended writing, as cutting and pasting more than a few simple static pages becomes onerous. To make matters worse, Wix doesn’t offer any sort of back up service, so if they chose to shut your site off for any reason, you’d be completely out of luck. No back up + no export = I couldn’t recommend using.
I also noticed a few people had generic domain names that they didn’t really own (and not even in the sense of rental ownership). Here I’m talking about domain names of the form
username.domainsproject.com. While I’m glad that they have a domain that they can use and generally control, it’s not one that they can truly exert full ownership over. (They just can’t pick it up and take it with them.) Even if they could export/import their data to another service or even a different content management system, all their old links would immediately disappear from the web. In the case of students, while it’s nice that their school may provide this space, it is more problematic for data portability and longevity on the web that they’ll eventually lose that institutional domain name when they graduate. On the other hand, if you have something like
yourname.com as your digital home, you can export/import, change content management services, hosting companies, etc. and all your content will still resolve and you’ll be imminently more find-able by your friends and colleagues. This choice is essentially the internet equivalent of changing cellular providers from Sprint to AT&T but taking your phone number with you–you may change providers, but people will still know where to find you without being any the wiser about your service provider changes. I think that for allowing students and faculty the ability to more easily move their content and their sites, Domains projects should require individual custom domains.
If you don’t own/control your physical domain name, you’re prone to lose a lot of value built up in your permalinks. I’m also reminded of here of the situation encountered by faculty who move from one university to another. (Congratulations by the way to Martha Burtis on the pending move to Plymouth State. You’ll notice she won’t face this problem.) There’s also the situation of Matthew Green, a security researcher at Johns Hopkins whose institutional website was taken down by his university when the National Security Agency flagged an apparent issue. Fortunately in his case, he had his own separate domain name and content on an external server and his institutional account was just a mirrored copy of his own domain.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
—Mel Brooks from The Producers (1968), obviously with the it being a referent to A Domain of One’s Own.
Also during my project, I noted that quite a lot of people don’t list their own personal/professional domains within their Twitter or other social media profiles. This seems a glaring omission particularly for at least one whose Twitter bio creatively and proactively claims that they’re an avid proponent of A Domain of One’s Own.
And finally there were a small–but still reasonable–number of people within the community for whom I couldn’t find their domain at all! A small number assuredly are new to the space or exploring it, and so I’d give a pass, but I was honestly shocked that some just didn’t.
(Caveat: I’ll freely admit that the value of Domains is that one has ultimate control including the right not to have or use one or even to have a private, hidden, and completely locked down one, just the way that Dalton chose not to walk in the conformity scene in The Dead Poet’s Society. But even with this in mind, how can we ethically recommend this pathway to students, friends, and colleagues if we’re not willing to participate ourselves?)
Too much Twitter & a challenge for the next Domains Conference
One of the things that shocked me most at a working conference about the idea of A Domain of One’s Own within education where there was more than significant time given to the ideas of privacy, tracking, and surveillance, was the extent that nearly everyone present gave up their identity, authority, and digital autonomy to Twitter, a company which actively represents almost every version of the poor ethics, surveillance, tracking, and design choices we all abhor within the edtech space.
Why weren’t people proactively using their own domains to communicate instead? Why weren’t their notes, observations, highlights, bookmarks, likes, reposts, etc. posted to their own websites? Isn’t that part of what we’re in all this for?!
One of the shining examples from Domains 2019 that I caught as it was occurring was John Stewart’s site where he was aggregating talk titles, abstracts, notes, and other details relevant to himself and his practice. He then published them in the open and syndicated the copies to Twitter where the rest of the conversation seemed to be happening. His living notebook– or digital commmonplace book if you will–is of immense value not only to him, but to all who are able to access it. But you may ask, “Chris, didn’t you notice them on Twitter first?” In fact, I did not! I caught them because I was following the live feed of some of the researchers, educators, and technologists I follow in my feed reader using the OPML files mentioned above. I would submit, especially as a remote participant/follower of the conversation, that his individual posts were worth 50 or more individual tweets. Just the additional context they contained made them proverbially worth their weight in gold.
Perhaps for the next conference, we might build a planet or site that could aggregate all the feeds of people’s domains using their categories/tags or other means to create our own version of the Twitter stream? Alternately, by that time, I suspect that work on some of the new IndieWeb readers will have solidified to allow people to read feeds and interact with that content directly and immediately in much the way Twitter works now except that all the interaction will occur on our own domains.
— Mo Pelzel (@MorrisPelzel) June 10, 2019
As educators, one of the most valuable things we can and should do is model appropriate behavior for students. I think it’s high time that when attending a professional conference about A Domain of One’s Own that we all ought to be actively doing it using our own domains. Maybe we could even quit putting our Twitter handles on our slides, and just put our domain names on them instead?
Of course, I wouldn’t and couldn’t suggest or even ask others to do this if I weren’t willing and able to do it myself. So as a trial and proof of concept, I’ve actively posted all my interactions related to Domains 2019 that I was interested in to my own website using the tag Domains 2019. At that URL, you’ll find all the things I liked and bookmarked, as well as the bits of conversation on Twitter and others’ sites that I’ve commented on or replied to. All of it originated on my own domain, and, when it appeared on Twitter, it was syndicated only secondarily so that others would see it since that was where the conversation was generally being aggregated. You can almost go back and recreate my entire Domains 2019 experience in real time by following my posts, notes, and details on my personal website.
So, next time around can we make an attempt to dump Twitter!? The technology for pulling it off certainly already exists, and is reasonably well-supported by WordPress, WithKnown, Grav, and even some of the static site generators I noticed in my brief survey above. (Wix obviously doesn’t even come close…)
I’m more than happy to help people build and flesh out the infrastructure necessary to try to make the jump. Even if just a few of us began doing it, we could serve as that all-important model for others as well as for our students and other constituencies. With a bit of help and effort before the next Domains Conference, I’ll bet we could collectively pull it off. I think many of us are either well- or even over-versed in the toxicities and surveillance underpinnings of social media, learning management systems, and other digital products in the edtech space, but now we ought to attempt a move away from it with an infrastructure that is our own–our Domains.
I'm glad to see a few #indieweb people building on OPML. There's a lot you can do with it. For example, the native file format of LO2 is OPML. So it's really good for editing subscription lists for feed readers. And editing blogrolls. My listicle tool takes OPML files as input. And River6, coming soon, does a bunch with OPML. There's also feedBase which will blow your mind if you love sharing subscription lists. Yes there's a lot to discover in OPML-land and more on the way.
I should write a howto to explain editing subscription lists in LO2. I wrote one for the OPML Editor in 2008. It still runs btw, I use it, sometimes even to edit subscription lists. Two key bits for LO2: 1. You can make outlines public. Look in the File menu. 2. And you can edit the attributes of a headline, click the suitcase icon in the left margin.
Some interesting tidbits to poke into here.
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:
- The beginnings of a blogroll
- A Following Page (aka some significant updates to my Blogroll)
- OPML files for categories within WordPress’s Links Manager
- Was WP Links the Perfect Blogroll All Along? by Ton Zijlstra
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
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.)
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 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.
Ton, this is great! Though perhaps you’re reinventing the wheel a bit more than you may have needed to?
I’ll see you your blogroll and add in images and descriptions as well! https://boffosocko.com/about/following/
A while back I did something similar to what you and Peter have done, I just did it with the old built in Link Manager feature of WordPress. The primary difference is that I’ve got some meta data about what the site/feed is about in addition to an image. I left out the feed in the human readable version as it’s less likely to be used, while it’s more valuable to the computer readable version. I’ve also figured out the a URL query parameter for breaking my blogroll up by category, so that folks can copy smaller subsections of it.
Another added bonus is that I’m using Inoreader which supports OPML subscriptions so that any time I update my OPML file, my feed reader auto-updates for me without needing to manually upload the new OPML file! This means I just add the follow in one place and everything else follows without any additional work.
Here are the details for how I did most of it:
- The beginnings of a blogroll
- A Following Page (aka some significant updates to my Blogroll)
- OPML files for categories within WordPress’s Links Manager
Perhaps what we really need is to give some love to that Link Manager in core to update it to OPML v2 and add in the rel attributes from XFN microformats to the links?
Thanks for experimenting to bring back the blogroll! (And thanks for sharing, there are a few of your feeds I see that I ought to be following and I also recognize those we have in common of many educators I already do follow.)
After my recent posting where I asked people which RSS feeds they read, I received several responses. One of them is Peter’s. Like me he was publishing an OPML file of his feeds already. OPML is a machine readable format that most RSS readers will be able to import, so you can subscribe to blogs I...
If it helps Domains 2019 attendees, I’ve got a Twitter list of educators, researchers, technologists, and others who are using DoOO, IndieWeb, or other related ethical edTech technologies. The list includes people who attended in 2017, many of those tweeting during 2019, as well as those regularly tweeting about DoOO and closely related topics throughout the year or on the list of Educators in the IndieWeb.
I’ve also got a regularly updated OPML file for many of the same people if you prefer to subscribe to/follow their websites directly (this method is more Domains-friendly right!?!). If you use Inoreader or other services that support OPML subscription technology, this feed will auto-update for you as new people are added to the list, preventing you from needing to regularly refresh the OPML file manually. I’ll try to update this OPML file this evening for today’s/tomorrow’s attendees based on their websites in their Twitter profiles.
Don’t hesitate to ping me if you’d like to be added to the lists, or if I’m missing anyone. Be sure to include your most relevant RSS feed(s) for the OPML portion of that list. Feel free to copy/modify either of the lists to your heart’s content.
Imagine if there were a database of feeds we all subscribed to, and we could get recommendations of new feeds to follow, based on what we already follow.That's the idea behind Share Your OPML, a service I started in 2006. The story of SYO is one of success followed by scaling issues. Now we have better technology so it should scale better.Help us get it started by:1. Export your subscription list in whatever RSS reader or podcast client you use.2. Upload it to the new SYO site. (It's simple, just sign in with Twitter and drag-drop your OPML on the gray box. Takes less than a minute.)If you have questions, post a comment here. Dave
A new service that shares feed information gleaned from OPML subscription lists. It's a reboot of a service I had in 2006 which was quite popular.
I’m curious if you use Inoreader’s OPML subscription functionality at all? It’s kind of like Twitter lists in a sense, but a lot more open and distributed.
Much like your version piped into an LMS, it could be used used to create a planet of all of the participants in a course, but set up in such a way that only one person needs to create and maintain an OPML file that everyone else can use instead of needing to manually find and subscribe to a bunch of feeds or worry about missing out on that one feed of the student who joined the course two weeks late.
As an example, here’s an OPML file on my own website (through my following page) of all the educators I’m following who are tangentially involved in the IndieWeb movement. If you subscribe to the OPML file in Inoreader, when I update it with additional feeds, you get all the changes synced automatically.
I’d be interested to see exactly how you’re using Inoreader–particularly the off-label methods. Have you written up any of the details anywhere? It looks like you’re using tags in Inoreader and piping those details back to the LMS so that you can filter portions of the class content?
I recently documented some of my personal use here: Using Inoreader as an IndieWeb feed reader. A big portion of it is about being able to use Inoreader to interact within its interface, but also have those interactions reflected on my own website (aka digital commonplace book) which sends notifications to the original content on the web instead of just leaving it siloed within Inoreader.
Personal sites are awesome, so this site was built so we can all discover each others. All the links are by folks that want to share their site with the world.
It’s built by IndieWeb aware. I’ve added the example to the IndieWeb wiki page for directories. While interesting and useful, like some of the other directories I’ve seen floating around, there is a small hurdle that one needs to be able to fork a GitHub repo, edit it, and send a PR to be included, though I do like that he has an email option to bring the technical hurdle down. The other benefit is that it allows people to modify or delete their data as well. I do like the decentralized nature of of it, but I wonder about scale and search-ability.who has been building his own website and is at least
I can’t help but wonder about building a similar directory site that aggregates its data by Webmention and uses the h-cards from websites to automatically update itself. Naturally having an OPML file(s) (think various versions that are sortable using tags/categories) or some other exportable and/or subscribe-able ability for feed readers would be highly useful.
In addition to resources like chat-names, Indie Map‘s list, as well as some planets, OPML resources like my own IndieWeb list, and the IndieWeb web ring, this could be another interesting directory creation method for IndieWeb-specific websites.
@manton, I’m not sure if anyone would have thought to ask or do such a thing, but does micro.blog provide users any feeds (RSS, JSON, etc.) of the sites the’re subscribed to for reading in a reader that isn’t necessarily micro.blog’s primary interface?
I ask because I’m curious about the ease of maintaining contacts if one wanted a different reader experience, were to leave micro.blog, or simply wanted to transfer from following 100s within micro.blog to follow them using other interfaces?
Any thoughts perhaps of providing an exportable OPML file for making functionality like this easier? Or for taking an OPML file and putting it into a feed reader that supports subscribing to OPML files?
Great post Aaron. I’ll also say thanks for including me in such an illustrious list. But to the others, I’ll suggest that you’re holding out on us. The meatier list he’s hiding is at: https://readwriterespond.com/wp-links-opml.php
Throw it into a feed reader like Inoreader that will let you import or subscribe to OPML lists and then come back to thank him all over again.
Because of the decentralized nature of the IndieWeb, it’s most likely that more centralized services in the vein of Indie Map or perhaps a Microsub client might build in this sort of recommendation engine functionality. But this doesn’t mean that all is lost! Until more sophisticated tools exist, bootstrapping on smaller individually published sorts of recommendations like follow posts or things like my Following Page (fka blogroll) with OPML support are more likely to be of interest and immediately fill the gap. Several feed readers like Feedly and Inoreader also have recommendation engines built in as well.
Of course going the direction of old school blogs and following those who comment on your own site has historically been a quick way to build a network. I’m also reminded of Colin Walker’s directory which creates a blogroll of sorts by making a list of websites that have webmentioned his own. Webrings are also an interesting possibility for topic-related community building.
Since Tumblr is unlikely to shut down immediately, those effected could easily add their personal websites to their bios to help transition their followerships to feed readers or other methods for following and reading.
Of course the important thing in the near term is to spend a moment downloading and backing up one’s content just in case.