Liked a tweet by EJ Fox (Twitter)
Read 7 Things Roam Did Right by tre (Proses.ID)
Sections Seven things Roam did rightPotentialsIs Roam just a fad, a shiny new tool?All the small thingsAnecdotesThe trifecta: getting things into, out of, and across heads Roam Research is a phenomenon that took the tools for thought space by storm. Let’s appreciate the seven things it did right a...
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?

Read How to style RSS feed by Hsiaoming YangHsiaoming Yang (Just lepture)
Let's create a beautiful RSS feed UI for human before its dead in next year again.
This seems like quite a clever way of adding some human readable styling to RSS feeds. While it seems like yet another side-file, it could be a useful one. I think if I were implementing it I’d also want to include a SubToMe universal follow button on it as well
Replied to a tweet by Thread Reader AppThread Reader App (Twitter)
I’m happy to see the response so far. I hope it rises above the threshold for wanting to build it into ThreadReaderApp as a feature.

I’ll note, hopefully for ease of implementation, that a Micropub solution will already allow you to post to WordPress, Drupal, WithKnown, Craft, Jekyll, Kirby, Hugo, Blot, Micro.blog and others.

There is also an open source project called Silo.pub that provides a micropub endpoint for services like Tumblr, WordPress.com, Blogger, and Twitter (among others). Aaron Parecki has a public version I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you tried.

Other platforms could quickly allow the functionality and so much more by building their own micropub servers, which would be a major boon to the social media space and the open web. 

If you have questions about implementation while building, feel free to pop into the IndieWeb chat (where prior implementers and others) are available for help. (Alternate chat modalities including Slack and IRC are available if you prefer.)

 

Replied to fixing reposts by Malcolm BlaneyMalcolm Blaney (mblaney.xyz)
I received some feedback during the week that creating a full content re-post wasn't ok. I accept that this is a pretty common view, probably the view of the majority of people. But what to do if you like the idea of full content re-posts? I am more than happy for people to share my writing, but I ...

I totally get where both sides are coming from. It’s definitely a presentation problem.

I’ve even had incoming emails in the past like this. Once a site owner actually asked me to add a rel=”canonical” tag to point back to their site, which I was quite impressed with. Ultimately I just fixed my display and provided only an excerpt. My intention was only to ever provide the reposted site the ultimate credit.

These days I don’t do too much reposting at all, and if I do, I’ll highlight a snippet and then ping the Internet Archive to save a copy on my behalf so that it’s still there in the future if I want to refer back to an original.

In rare cases for things that I find highly important, I’ll also repost, but keep it as a private post on my site that only I can see as an archived copy. Other times I’ll post and also add a rel-canonical back to the original site. I’m certainly never reposting as a means of creating traffic for my own site.

It’s interesting to me how frequently these same sorts of behaviors on personal websites will freak people out when they’re daily occurrences within the social sphere where they may not have better presentation. I had an online magazine send me a take down request a few weeks back for using a photo version of one of their generic mastheads in a spot that was obviously a reply context (and incidentally met all the requirements of fair use). Sometimes you can’t win despite your best intentions–just keep trying and we’ll get there.

Read A fresh look for your Microblogs, Twitter and Facebook Feeds by Inoreader (Inoreader blog)
If you’ve browsed your Twitter or Facebook page feeds in the last week, you have probably noticed that we changed the presentation of the posts, so they are more coherent with how a microblog post should look like. Initially, Inoreader started as a pure RSS reader and titles are an essential part ...
titleless posts!
Read Inoreader mobile apps updated to support Automatic Night Mode, Microblogs, Sort by Magic and popularity indicators. by Inoreader (Inoreader blog)
Hey, it’s been quite some time without updates on this front, but our latest updates to our Android and iOS apps should make up for it. Our apps are now both at version 6.2 and include several cool new features. Automatic Day/Night mode This feature automatically detects if your OS is in Dark mode...
Replied to Introducing Indigenous for Android by swentelswentel (realize.be)
You can now download the app from Google Play. If you want to install it manually, you can also go over to the release section on GitHub. Use GitHub to post issues, ideas, documentation, nicer icons, design mockups ... everyone can help out!
Congratulations on the fantastic updates on Indigenous! The recent changes are making me wonder how I’ve lived all this time without it. 

My first use of the read post functionality was a tad confusing because I wasn’t aware that either the WordPress Micropub client or Post Kinds supported the read-status set up that IndieBookClub.biz had pioneered.

The vast majority of my read posts are for online articles which are relatively short in nature and so don’t use the read-status features and are simply marked up with read-of. When I originally suggested that Indigenous support read posts, I only expected the read-of support and didn’t imagine the additional read-status support for “to-read”, “reading”, or “finished” to be included. These are highly experimental and have thus far only been supported by IndieBookClub which focuses on much longer book-length content that can take better advantage of the ideas of the idea of a bookmark to read, ongoing reading, and finished reading markers. Even with this support gRegor still thinks that it may be better to use the addition of p-category or u-category microformats instead of the read-status tags. The WordPress Micropub server is the only other software that supports these additional read-statuses besides gRegor’s own website.

Given that:

  • an exceedingly small number of sites have support for read-status;
  • the read-of microformat has somewhat better support (though it is still an experimental microformat itself);
  • the majority of posts that Indigenous users are likely to use for creating read posts will be articles (as opposed to either smaller posts like notes, likes, favorites, checkins, RSVPs, etc. or book length material),

I would recommend that you have a default setting in Indigenous for just read-of  without a specific read-status (the UI could either indicate “none” or “read” without a read-status value). However for the occasional longer form usages leaving the other options in would be useful. I can easily imagine myself using the option for “to-read” over the simpler bookmark functionality now that it exists!

Thanks again for all your work! 

Microsub reader clients and unread entries

I’ve become inextricably ensnared by the wealth of awesome Microsub feed readers out there. However, one small piece of UI keeps rearing its ugly head as I move variably from one to another either to move from mobile to desktop or just to enjoy the variety of user interfaces available.

While they all do a fantastic job of keeping track of what I’ve read or left unread, many of them are missing the ability to explicitly ask for just the unread items in particular channels. Invariably, I’ll find one or two pieces that I want to leave unread to revisit later, but then finding them in a stream of hundreds later becomes an impossible task.

Aaron Parecki‘s model version in Monocle has a handy menu item to request just the unread items in a channel.

Screencapture of the Monocle UI
Monocle has a simple dropdown to allow me to see just the unread entries.

 

Either it’s missing or I’m not able to easily find the same functionality in Kristof De Jaeger‘s Indigenous for Android or Grant Richmond‘s Together. (I’ve yet to have time to try out some of the others.)

I suppose I should simply start bookmarking those pieces I still want to read later and rely on my site for the memory. Of course this also then makes me itch for having private feeds in these readers to find my unpublished bookmarks for reading via my favorite Microsub clients on a future date.

Read settings page in Indigenous

I’ve noticed that Indigenous for Android does have the ability to create an additional channel for all unread items. This seems useful while I’ve only got a few dozen feeds and a handful of channels, but I don’t expect it to be quite as useful when I’ve moved over several dozen channels with hundreds of feeds. The benefit is that it does replicate the sort of functionality that most social silos like Facebook and Twitter have of an unending stream of unread posts. 

Indigenous also allows one to either manually mark items as read individually or automatically mark them read a page at a time. The page at a time seems to clear out the entire channel rather than marking things read as they’re scrolled, so it’s a bit too broad for my taste. Monocle does a much better job at this marking read while scrolling functionality. Indigenous also says it has a “Mark all read” button per channel, but somehow I’m not seeing it in the UI despite the many ways I toggle the options.

Indigenous also has the ability to set a Read later channel, which seems useful. There is another setting for “Move items” that indicates one can move posts from one channel to another, but when choosing individual posts to move, the UI reads “Select channel to add the feed to”. I was leery at first because I didn’t want to move my entire feed to the new channel, but after  trying it there’s a pop up that said “Post moved to channel X”. Perhaps Kristof might change the word “feed” to “post” in that part of the interface? Sadly though, I have to report that looking at my Unread items channel doesn’t actually show the things that were to have been moved.

 

 

Extra Feeds Plugin for WordPress

David Shanske has built a simple new IndieWeb friendly plugin for WordPress.

For individual posts, the Extra Feeds plugin will add code into the <header> of one’s page to provide feed readers that have built-in discovery mechanisms the ability to find the additional feeds provided by WordPress for all the tags, categories, and other custom taxonomies that appear on any given page. 

Without the plugin, WordPress core will generally only provide the main feed for your site and that of your comments feed. This is fine for sites that only post a few times a day or even per week. If you’re owning more of the content you post online on your own website as part of the IndieWeb or Domain of One’s Own movements, you’ll likely want more control for the benefit of your readers.

In reality WordPress provides feeds for every tag, category, or custom taxonomy that appears on your site, it just doesn’t advertise them to feed readers or other machines unless you add them manually or via custom code or a plugin. Having this as an option can be helpful when you’re publishing dozens of posts a day and your potential readers may only want a subsection of your posting output.

In my case I have a handful of taxonomies that post hundreds to thousands of items per year, so it’s more likely someone may want a subsection of my content rather than my firehose. In fact, I just ran across a statistician yesterday who was following just my math and information theory/biology related posts. With over 7,000 individual taxonomy entries on my site you’ve got a lot of choice, so happy hunting and reading!

This plugin also includes feeds for Post Formats, Post Kinds (if you have that plugin installed), and the author feed for sites with one or more different authors.

This is useful in that now while you’re on any particular page and want to subscribe to something on that specific page, it will be much easier to find those feeds, which have always been there, but are just not easily uncovered by many feed reader work flows because they weren’t explicitly declared.

Some examples from a recent listen post on my site now let you more easily find and subscribe to:

  • my faux-cast:
    <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Chris Aldrich &raquo; listen Kind Feed" href="https://boffosocko.com/kind/listen/feed/rss/" />
  • the feed of items tagged with Econ Extra Credit, which I’m using to track my progress in Marketplace’s virtual book club:
    <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Chris Aldrich &raquo; Econ Extra Credit Tag Feed" href="https://boffosocko.com/tag/econ-extra-credit/feed/rss/" />
  • the feed for all posts by an author:
    <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Chris Aldrich &raquo; Posts by Chris Aldrich Feed" href="https://boffosocko.com/author/chrisaldrich/feed/rss/" />
Read Local First, Undo Redo, JS-Optional, Create Edit Publish by Tantek ÇelikTantek Çelik (tantek.com)
For a while I have brainstormed designs for a user experience (UX) to create, edit, and publish notes and other types of posts, that is fully undoable (like Gmail’s "Undo Send" yet generalized to all user actions) and redoable, works local first, and lastly, uses progressive enhancement to work wi...
Read Firefighters Rescue People From Rooftop of Burning West LA High-Rise Building (NBC Los Angeles)
Firefighters are battling flames Wednesday at a West Los Angeles high-rise building.
This article is the first time I’ve seen a Waze-based map embedded into a web page. It’s a particularly interesting use case since the fire described is along one of the busiest thoroughfares in West Los Angeles during rush hour, so having real-time traffic surrounding it can be quite useful to telling the real-time story from a local news perspective.

I can imagine that these would also be helpful on event posts or sites like Meetup.com where people are interested in traffic patterns and/or parking surrounding a particular destination.