I’ve seen a lot of people freaking out about the Google+ data leak and even more so about it’s pending shut down. In response many are looking at where they’re planning on going next that will give them the functionality they’re looking for. Sadly, however, almost every one of them is contemplating moving to identical types of platforms which are either incredibly similar to or even worse than Google+ given the criterion by which they are considering. They’re simply looking for and prioritizing the wrong types of functionality.

Quit repeating the mistakes of the past, learn from them, and do something different this time around or I guarantee history will be repeating itself.

While there are a handful of reasonable options (and by this I DO NOT mean Mastodon, Diaspora, Pluspora, MeWe, Vero, Twitter, Facebook, or Solid, etc.) I’d recommend looking at some of the ideas and solutions within the IndieWeb movement. For the less technical minded I highly recommend taking a look at a self-hosted WordPress option or micro.blog.

I’m happy to help people out with making the jump when they’re ready or if they need help.

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👓 Custom Domains service deprecation | Medium

Read Custom Domains service deprecation (Medium Support)
Medium is no longer offering new custom domains as a feature. Instead, you can create a publication on Medium that will live on a medium.com/publication-name URL. Existing publications on custom do...

The amount of work required to support this feature should be exceedingly low. It’s probably a good indication that Medium won’t be around within a year or so.

This definitely signals the fact that Medium has moved toward the more silo end of the spectrum from a data ownership standpoint. While I might have recommended it with reservations as a potential IndieWeb solution, this change means I can’t recommend it at all.

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Some thoughts on silos, divisions, and bridges

Replied to a tweet by Cruce SaundersCruce Saunders (Twitter)

The #IndieWeb community has been working on this for a while. There’s even a service called Brid.gy to help enact it. At the same time, as Ben Werdmüller indicates, we need to be careful not to put too much reliance on silos’ APIs which can, and obviously will, be pulled out from underneath us at any moment.

As any kindergartner can tell you, “It’s difficult to play ball when the local bully owns the ball and wants to make up their own rules or leave in a huff.”

One of the things I love about IndieWeb is that we’re all trying to create a way for balls to be roughly standardized and mass manufactured so that everyone can play regardless of what the bully wants to do or what equipment people bring to the game.1

And as Nikhil Sonnad has reminded us very recently, we also need more than just connections, we need actual caring and thinking human interaction.2

References

1.
Aldrich C. Webmentions: Enabling Better Communication on the Internet. A List Apart. https://alistapart.com/article/webmentions-enabling-better-communication-on-the-internet. Published July 19, 2018. Accessed July 31, 2018.
2.
Sonnad N. Everything bad about Facebook is bad for the same reason. Quartz. https://qz.com/1342757/everything-bad-about-facebook-is-bad-for-the-same-reason/. Published July 30, 2018. Accessed July 31, 2018.
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Stepping back from POSSE | Ben Werdmüller

Liked Stepping back from POSSE by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)
Just a quick note: ostensibly to fight algorithmic propaganda, Facebook is shutting off API access to publish to profiles tomorrow. I expect other platforms to follow. That's completely their right. The indieweb has this intrinsic idea of Publishing on your Own Site, Syndicating Elsewhere: automatic...

An IndieWeb Magazine on Flipboard

This morning I set up an IndieWeb Magazine on Flipboard. While it is “yet another silo”, it’s one that I can easily and automatically syndicate content from my site (and others) into. I’ve already seeded it with some recent posts for those who’d like to start reading.

Until more tools and platforms like micro.blog exist to make it easy for other Generation 2+ people to join the IndieWeb, I thought it made at least some sense to have some additional outreach locations to let them know about what the community is doing in a silo that they may be using.

While I’ll syndicate articles of a general and how-to nature there, I’m likely to stay away from posting anything too developer-centric.

If you’d like to contribute to the magazine there are methods for syndicating content into it via POSSE, which I’d recommend if you’re able to do so. Otherwise they have some useful bookmarklets, browser extensions, and other manual methods that you can use to add articles to the magazine. Click this link to join as a contributor. For additional information see also Flipboard Tools.

View my Flipboard Magazine.

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🔖 Timelinely

Bookmarked Timelinely (Timelinely)

Create interactive video stories on Timelinely. Timelinely empowers people to go beyond just video.

Highlight interesting parts of a video on a timeline with interactive comments, pictures, links, maps, other videos, and more.

This tool reminds me of a somewhat more commercialized version of Jon Udell’s Clipping tools for HTML5 audio, HTML5 video, and YouTube. I wonder if this is the sort of UI that Hypothes.is might borrow? I can definitely see it being useful functionality in the classroom.  

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👓 Instapaper is going independent | Instapaper

Read Instapaper is going independent (blog.instapaper.com)
Today, we’re announcing that Pinterest has entered into an agreement to transfer ownership of Instapaper to Instant Paper, Inc., a new company owned and operated by the...
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Reply to 50cent tweet about Instagram abuse

Replied to a tweet by 50cent (Twitter)

Why rely on yet another corporation that may do the same? Come join the #IndieWeb!
#silosgonnasilo #ownyourdata

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👓 SoundCloud, Which Rose to Stardom on Indie Talent, Lays Off 173 | NYTimes

Read SoundCloud, Which Rose to Stardom on Indie Talent, Lays Off 173 by Ben Sisario (New York Times)
The layoffs cut the streaming music site’s work force by about 40 percent and could be a way to make it more attractive to a buyer.

Yet another reminder to own your own data and have your own website. Exporting and hosting all this data won’t be easy and if it goes under, it’s a huge hole in the internet.

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Read posts nearly perfected!

Hoorah, hooray!

In a project which I started just before IndieWebCamp LA in November, I’ve moved a big step closer to perfecting my “Read” posts!

Thanks in large part to WordPressPressForward, friends and help on the IndieWeb site too numerous to count, and a little bit of elbow grease, I can now receive and read RSS feeds in my own website UI (farewell Feedly), bookmark posts I want to read later (so long Pocket, Instagram, Delicious and Pinboard), mark them as read when done, archive them on my site (and hopefully on the Internet Archive as well) for future reference, highlight and annotate them (I still love you hypothes.is, but…), and even syndicate (POSSE) them automatically (with emoji) to silos like Facebook, Twitter (with Twitter Cards), Tumblr, Flipboard, LinkedIn, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Delicious among others.

Syndicated copies in the silos when clicked will ping my site for a second and then automatically redirect to the canonical URL for the original content to give the credit to the originating author/site. And best of all, I can still receive comments, likes, and other responses from the siloed copies via webmention to stay in the loop on the conversations they generate without leaving my site.

Here’s an example of a syndicated post to Twitter:

I’m now more resistant to a larger number of social media silos disappearing with my data. Huzzah!

What’s next?

 

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Buzzfeed implements the IndieWeb concept of backfeed to limit filter bubbles

The evolution of comments on articles takes a new journalistic turn

Outside Your Bubble

This past Wednesday, BuzzFeed rolled out a new feature on their website called “Outside your Bubble”. I think the concept is so well-described and so laudable from a journalistic perspective, that I’ll excerpt their editor-in-chief’s entire description of the feature below. In short, they’ll be featuring some of the commentary on their pieces by pulling it in from social media silos.

What is interesting is that this isn’t a new concept and even more intriguing, there’s some great off-the-shelf technology that helps people move towards doing this type of functionality already.

The IndieWeb and backfeed

For the past several years, there’s been a growing movement on the the internet known as the IndieWeb, a “people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’.” Their primary goal is for people to better control their online identities by owning their own domain and the content they put on it while also allowing them to be better connected.

As part of the movement, users can more easily post their content on their own site and syndicate it elsewhere (a process known by the acronym POSSE). Many of these social media sites allow for increased distribution, but they also have the side effect of cordoning off or siloing the conversation. As a result many IndieWeb proponents backfeed the comments, likes, and other interactions on their syndicated content back to their original post.

Backfeed is the process of pulling back interactions on your syndicated content back (AKA reverse syndicating) to your original posts.

This concept of backfeed is exactly what BuzzFeed is proposing, but with a more editorial slant meant to provide additional thought and analysis on their original piece. In some sense, from a journalistic perspective, it also seems like an evolutionary step towards making traditional comments have more value to the casual reader. Instead of a simple chronological list of comments which may or may not have any value, they’re also using the feature to surface the more valuable comments which appear on their pieces. In a crowded journalistic marketplace, which is often misguided by market metrics like numbers of clicks, I have a feeling that more discerning readers will want this type of surfaced value if it’s done well. And discerning readers can bring their own value to a content publisher.

I find it interesting that not only is BuzzFeed using the concept of backfeed like this, but in Ben Smith’s piece, he eschews the typical verbiage ascribed to social media sites, namely the common phrase “walled garden,” in lieu of the word silo, which is also the word adopted by the IndieWeb movement to describe a “centralized web site typically owned by a for-profit corporation that stakes some claim to content contributed to it and restricts access in some way (has walls).”

To some extent, it almost appears that the BuzzFeed piece parrots back portions of the Why IndieWeb? page on the IndieWeb wiki.

Helping You See Outside Your Bubble | BuzzFeed

A new feature on some of our most widely shared articles.

BuzzFeed News is launching an experiment this week called “Outside Your Bubble,” an attempt to give our audience a glimpse at what’s happening outside their own social media spaces.

The Outside Your Bubble feature will appear as a module at the bottom of some widely shared news articles and will pull in what people are saying about the piece on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, the web, and other platforms. It’s a response to the reality that often the same story will have two or three distinct and siloed conversations taking place around it on social media, where people talk to the like-minded without even being aware of other perspectives on the same reporting.

Our goal is to give readers a sense of these conversations around an article, and to add a kind of transparency that has been lost in the rise of social-media-driven filter bubbles. We view it in part as a way to amplify the work of BuzzFeed News reporters, and to add for readers a sense of the context in which news lives now.

And if you think there’s a relevant viewpoint we’re missing, you can contact the curator at bubble@buzzfeed.com.

Source: Helping You See Outside Your Bubble | Ben Smith for BuzzFeed

Editorial Perspective and Diminishing Returns

The big caveat on this type of journalistic functionality is that it may become a game of diminishing returns. When a new story comes out, most of the current ecosystem is geared too heavily towards freshness: which story is newest? It would be far richer if there were better canonical ways of indicating which articles were the most thorough, accurate, timely and interesting instead of just focusing on which was simply the most recent. Google News, as an example, might feature a breaking story for several hours, but thereafter every Tom, Dick, and Harry outlet on the planet will have their version of the story–often just a poorer quality rehash of the original without any new content–which somehow becomes the top of the heap because it’s the newest in the batch. Aram Zucker-Scharff mentioned this type of issue a few days ago in a tweetstorm which I touched upon last week.

Worse, for the feature to work well, it relies on the continuing compilation of responses, and the editorial effort required seems somewhat wasted in doing this as, over time, the audience for the article slowly diminishes. Thus for the largest portion of the audience there will be no commentary, all the while ever-dwindling incoming audiences get to see the richer content. This is just the opposite of the aphorism “the early bird gets the worm.” Even if the outlet compiled responses on a story from social media as they were writing in real time, it becomes a huge effort to stay current and capture eyeballs at scale. Hopefully the two effects will balance each other out creating an overall increase of value for both the publisher and the audience to have a more profound effect on the overall journalism ecosystem.

Personally and from a user experience perspective, I’d like to have the ability to subscribe to an article I read and enjoyed so that I can come back to it at a prescribed later date to see what the further thoughts on it were. As things stand, it’s painfully difficult and time consuming as a reader to attempt to engage on interesting pieces at a deeper level. Publications that can do this type of coverage and/or provide further analysis on ongoing topics will also have a potential edge over me-too publications that are simply rehashing the same exact stories on a regular basis. Outlets could also leverage this type user interface and other readers’ similar desire to increase their relationship with their readers by providing this value that others won’t or can’t.

Want more on “The IndieWeb and Journalism”?
See: Some thoughts about how journalists could improve their online presences with IndieWeb principles along with a mini-case study of a site that is employing some of these ideas.

In some sense, some of this journalistic workflow reminds me how much I miss Slate.com’s Today’s Papers feature in which someone read through the early edition copies of 4-5 major newspapers and did a quick synopsis of the day’s headlines and then analyzed the coverage of each to show how the stories differed, who got the real scoop, and at times declare a “winner” in coverage so that readers could then focus on reading that particular piece from the particular outlet.

Backfeed in action

What do you think about this idea? Will it change journalism and how readers consume it?

As always, you can feel free to comment on this story directly below, but you can also go to most of the syndicated versions of this post indicated below, and reply to or comment on them there. Your responses via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ will be backfed via Brid.gy to this post and appear as comments below, so the entire audience will be able to see the otherwise dis-aggregated conversation compiled into one place.

If you prefer to own the content of your own comment or are worried your voice could be “moderated out of existence” (an experience I’ve felt the sting of in the past), feel free to post your response on your own website or blog, include a permalink to this article in your response, put the URL of your commentary into the box labeled “URL/Permalink of your Article”, and then click the “Ping Me” button. My site will then grab your response and add it to the comment stream with all the others.

Backfeed on!

H/T to Ryan Barrett for pointing out the BuzzFeed article.

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