The Logos, Ethos, and Pathos of IndieWeb

Editor’s note: This is another in a continuing series of essays about the IndieWeb.


Where is the IndieWeb?

Logos

One might consider the IndieWeb’s indieweb.org wiki-based website and chat the “logos” of IndieWeb. There is a small group of about a hundred active to very active participants who hang out in these spaces on a regular basis, but there are also many who dip in and out over time as they tinker and build, ask advice, get some help, or just to show up and say hello. Because there are concrete places online as well as off (events) for them to congregate, meet, and interact, it’s the most obvious place to find these ideas and people.

Ethos

Beyond this there is an even larger group of people online who represent the “ethos” of IndieWeb. Some may have heard the word before, some have a passing knowledge of it, but an even larger number have not. They all act and operate in a way that either seemed natural to them because they grew up in the period of the open web, or because they never felt accepted by the thundering herds in the corporate social enclosures. Many are not necessarily easily found or discovered because they’re not surfaced or highlighted by the sinister algorithms of corporate social media, but through slow and steady work (much like the in person social space) they find each other and interact in various traditional web spaces. Many of them can be found in spaces like Micro.Blog, Tilde Club or NeoCities, or through movements like A Domain of One’s Own. Some can be found through a variety of webrings, via blogrolls, or just following someone’s website and slowly seeing the community of people who stop by and comment. Yes, these discovery methods may involve a little more work, but shouldn’t healthy human interactions require work and care?

Pathos

The final group of people, and likely the largest within the community, are those that represent the “pathos” of IndieWeb. The word IndieWeb has not registered with any of them and they suffer with grief in the long shadow of corporate social media wishing they had better user interfaces, better features, different interaction, more meaningful interaction, healthier and kinder interaction. Some may have even been so steeped in big social for so long that they don’t realize that there is another way of being or knowing.

These people may be found searching for the IndieWeb promised land on silo platforms like Tumblr, WordPress.com, Blogger, or Medium where they have the shadow on the wall of a home on the web where they can place their identities and thoughts. Here they’re a bit more safe from the acceleration of algorithmically fed content and ills of mainstream social. Others are trapped within massive content farms run by multi-billion dollar extractive companies who quietly but steadily exploit their interactions with friends and family.

The Conversation

All three of these parts of the IndieWeb, the logos, the ethos, and the pathos comprise the community of humanity. They are the sum of the real conversation online.

Venture capital backed corporate social media has cleverly inserted themselves between us and our interactions with each other. They privilege some voices not only over others, but often at the expense of others and only to their benefit. We have been developing a new vocabulary for these actions with phrases like “surveillance capitalism”, “data mining”, and analogizing human data as the new “oil” of the 21st century. The IndieWeb is attempting to remove these barriers, many of them complicated, but not insurmountable, technical ones, so that we can have a healthier set of direct interactions with one another that more closely mirrors our in person interactions. By having choice and the ability to move between a larger number of service providers there is an increasing pressure to provide service rather than the growing levels of continued abuse and monopoly we’ve become accustomed to.

None of these subdivisions—logos, ethos, or pathos—is better or worse than the others, they just are. There is no hierarchy between or among them just as there should be no hierarchy between fellow humans. But by existing, I think one could argue that through their humanity these people are all slowly, but surely making the web a healthier, happier, fun, and more humanized and humanizing place to be.

I’d appreciate others’ thoughts and perspectives on this regardless of where they choose to post them. 

Replied to a tweet by Kevin SmoklerKevin Smokler (Twitter)
The StoryGraph looks like yet-another-silo in the merry-go-round of social reading sites. I prefer IndieWeb solutions like Gregor Morrill‘s (@gRegorLove) https://indiebookclub.biz/, an app/platform that posts your book reading data and updates to your own website.

Tagging Tom Critchlow (@TomCritchlow) and Ton Zijlstra (@ton_zylstra) for their thoughts and maybe an update on any recent experimentation.

I do wonder if StoryGraph are planning on making the ownership of your own data on your own site easier? That might be a reason for some buy-in.

Social Media, Fast and Slow

I like the differentiation that Jared has made here on his homepage with categories for “fast” and “slow” posts.

It’s reminiscent of the system 1 (fast) and system2 (slow) ideas behind Kahneman and Tversky’s work in behavioral economics. (See Thinking, Fast and Slow)

It’s also interesting in light of this tweet which came up recently:

Because the Tweet was shared out of context several years later, someone (accidentally?) replied to it as if it were contemporaneous. When called out for not watching the date of the post, their reply was “you do slow web your way…”#

This gets one thinking. Perhaps it would help more people’s contextual thinking if more sites specifically labeled their posts as fast and slow (or gave a 1-10 rating)? Sometimes the length of a response is an indicator of the thought put into it, thought not always as there’s also the oft-quoted aphorism: “If I Had More Time, I Would Have Written a Shorter Letter”.

The ease of use of the UI on Twitter seems to broadly make it a platform for “fast” posting which can too often cause ruffled feathers, sour feelings, anger, and poor communication.

What if there were posting UIs (or micropub clients) that would hold onto your responses for a few hours, days, or even a week and then remind you about them after that time had past to see if they were still worth posting? This is a feature based on Abraham Lincoln’s idea of a “hot letter” or angry letter, which he advised people to write often, but never send.

Where is the social media service for hot posts that save all your vituperation, but don’t show them to anyone? Or which maybe posts them anonymously?

The opposite of some of this are the partially baked or even fully thought out posts that one hears about anecdotally, but which the authors say they felt weren’t finish and thus didn’t publish them. Wouldn’t it be better to hit publish on these than those nasty quick replies? How can we create better UI to solve for this?

I saw a sitcom a few years ago where a girl admonished her friend (an oblivious boy) for liking really old Instagram posts of a girl he was interested in. She said that deep-liking old photos was an obvious and overt sign of flirting.

If this is the case then there’s obviously a social standard of sorts for this, so why not hold your tongue in the meanwhile, and come up with something more thought out to send your digital love to someone instead of providing a (knee-)jerk reaction?

Of course now I can’t help but think of the annotations I’ve been making in my copy of Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things. Do you suppose that Lucretius knows I’m in love?

Bookmarked Tending the Digital Commons by Alan JacobsAlan Jacobs (The Hedgehog Review | Spring 2018: The Human and the Digital)
The complexities of social media ought to prompt deep reflection on what we all owe to the future, and how we might discharge this debt.
This fantastic essay touches on so many things related to IndieWeb and A Domain of One’s Own. We often talk about the “why” of these movements, but Alan Jacobs provides some underlying ethics as well.

For those who don’t have a subscription, Alan has kindly and pleasantly provided a samizdat version on his site in .pdf format.

Read Social Attention: a modest prototype in shared presence by Matt Webb (Interconnected, a blog by Matt Webb)
My take is that the web could feel warmer and more lively than it is. Visiting a webpage could feel a little more like visiting a park and watching the world go by. Visiting my homepage could feel just a tiny bit like stopping by my home. And so to celebrate my blogging streak reaching one year, this week, I’m adding a proof of concept to my blog, something I’m provisionally calling Social Attention.
You had me at “select text”…

If somebody else selects some text, it’ll be highlighted for you. 

Suddenly social annotation has taken an interesting twist. @Hypothes_is better watch out! 😉
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:03AM

How often have you been on the phone with a friend, trying to describe how to get somewhere online? Okay go to Amazon. Okay type in “whatever”. Okay, it’s the third one down for me…
This is ridiculous!
What if, instead, you both went to the website and then you could just say: follow me. 

There are definitely some great use cases for this.
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:05AM

A status emoji will appear in the top right corner of your browser. If it’s smiling, there are other people on the site right now too. 

This is pretty cool looking. I’ll have to add it as an example to my list: Social Reading User Interface for Discovery.

We definitely need more things like this on the web.

It makes me wish the Reading.am indicator were there without needing to click on it.

I wonder how this sort of activity might be built into social readers as well?
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:13AM

If I’m in a meeting, I should be able to share a link in the chat to a particular post on my blog, then select the paragraph I’m talking about and have it highlighted for everyone. Well, now I can. 

And you could go a few feet farther if you added [fragment](https://indieweb.org/fragmention) support to the site, then the browser would also autoscroll to that part. Then you could add a confetti cannon to the system and have the page rain down confetti when more than three people have highlighted the same section!
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:18AM

I want the patina of fingerprints, the quiet and comfortable background hum of a library. 

A great thing to want on a website! A tiny hint of phatic interaction amongst internet denizens.
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:20AM

What I’d like more of is a social web that sits between these two extremes, something with a small town feel. So you can see people are around, and you can give directions and a friendly nod, but there’s no need to stop and chat, and it’s not in your face. It’s what I’ve talked about before as social peripheral vision (that post is about why it should be build into the OS). 

I love the idea of social peripheral vision online.
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:22AM

streak: New posts for 52 consecutive weeks. 

It’s kind of cool that he’s got a streak counter for his posts.
Annotated on March 28, 2021 at 10:24AM

Annotated Social networks are finally competitive again by Casey Newton (The Verge)
Dispo is an invite-only social photo app with a twist: you can’t see any photos you take with the app until 24 hours after you take them. (The app sends you a push notification to open them every day at 9AM local time: among other things, a nice hack to boost daily usage.) Founded by David Dobrik, one of the world’s most popular YouTubers, Dispo has been around as a basic utility for a year. 
This is the first reference to Dispo I’ve come across.
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

Read How and why to tell your story online, revisited (Jon Udell)
I wrote this essay in 2006 as part of a series of Internet explainers I did for New Hampshire Public Radio. It never aired for reasons lost to history, so I’m publishing this 15-year-old time…

Thomas Mahon is a Savile Row tailor. His shop in London caters to people who can spend two thousand pounds on a classic handmade suit. I’ll never be in the market for one of those, but if I were I’d be fascinated by Mahon’s blog, EnglishCut.com, which tells you everything you might want to know about Savile Row past and present, about how Mahan practices the craft of bespoke tailoring, and about how to buy and care for the garments he makes. 

I went down a rabbit hole just the other day on this topic. Bookmarking this for for some future journeys.
Annotated on February 06, 2021 at 12:38AM

We’ve always used the term ‘social networking’ to refer to the process of finding and connecting with those people. And that process has always depended on a fabric of trust woven most easily in the context of local communities and face-to-face interaction. 

Too much of modern social networking suffers from this fabric of trust and rampant context collapse. How can we improve on these looking forward?
Annotated on February 06, 2021 at 12:40AM

Listened to You Missed a Spot from On the Media | WNYC Studios

Revealing Zello's role in last week's riot, making a case for deplatforming, and exploring the idea of responsible social media. 

Evidence shows that insurrectionists used the walkie-talkie app Zello to help organize the riot at the capitol. On this week’s On the Media, a look at how the platform has resisted oversight, despite warnings that it was enabling right-wing extremism. Plus, how to sniff out the real corporate boycotts from the PR facades. And, how to build social media that doesn't exploit users for profit.

1. OTM reporter Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] on Zello's role in last week's insurrection, and what the app is finally doing about its militia members. Listen.

2. Casey Newton [@CaseyNewton], writer for Platformer, on why this wave of social media scrubbing might not be such a bad thing. Listen.

3. Siva Vaidhyanathan [@sivavaid], professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, and Americus Reed II [@amreed2], professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business, on the true costs of corporate boycotts. Listen.

4. Eli Pariser [@elipariser], co-director of Civic Signals, on how to build digital spaces that do not monetize our social activity or spy on us for profit. Listen.

Music from the show:
Fallen Leaves — Marcos Ciscar
The Hammer of Loss — John Zorn — A Vision in Blakelight
Hard Times — Nashville Sessions — Songs of the Civil War
What’s that Sound? — Michael Andrews
In the Bath — Randy Newman
Boy Moves the Sun — Michael Andrews
Ain’t Misbehavin’ — Hank Jones

Replied to a tweet by Alex Voss (Twitter)

Results were promised back in September. Any update on them? Some of us are anxious to see them.

Read Fractal communities vs the magical bullhorn by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)
In her book Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown eloquently describes a model for decentralized leadership in a world of ever-changing emergent patterns. Heavily influenced by the philosophy laid out in Octavia Butler's Earthseed novels - God is change - it describes how the way we show up in the...