Replied to a post by Buster Benson (@buster@medium.social)Buster Benson (@buster@medium.social) (Mastodon)
@tchambers@indieweb.social @coachtony @jeffjarvis@mastodon.social @mathowie@xoxo.zone Thanks for these links! Definitely exciting to see how this is being approached from different angles. I’m excited for this next chapter.
@buster@medium.social @tchambers@indieweb.social @coachtony@medium.social @jeffjarvis@mastodon.social @mathowie@xoxo.zone
Another example of longer posts which are folded under a “read more” type link within the Fediverse itself can be seen in the Hometown fork of Mastodon (https://github.com/hometown-fork/hometown), which is running the hcommons.social platform. The admins have upped the character limit to 1000 instead of the usual 500. Ideally those reading in other parts of the network would see the beginning of a post and a “Read more” link to read the remainder of the piece.

I often post to my own WordPress website which has a plugin to make it appear as if it were ActivityPub compatible. If I follow it via a Hometown-based (Mastodon) server, like my hcommons.social account, I see all the full short notes/replies content which are usually 1000 characters or less. For posts over that limit, there’s a “Read More >” which opens up the entirety of the article within the hcommons.social interface where I can read it in its entirety. Naturally there’s a link to the original, so I can also go back to read that if I chose.

I’ve just gone over the 1000 character limit, so I’ll post this on my own site, syndicate a copy to my hcommons.social account, and with any luck it will serve as an example of how all this might work between WordPress, a forked version of Mastodon, and Mastodon itself, as well as for testing it for reading in other parts of the Fediverse if one wished.

Screencapture of post stream seen from within hcommons.social. It features a post with over 1000 characters and displays a Read more > link at the bottom of the post to see the entire article.

Beyond this reading experience, one should also be aware of a separate user interface/interaction problem inherent in how Mastodon and potentially other parts of the Fediverse handle replies and who can see them. I’ll leave this link to explain that issue separately: https://fedi.simonwillison.net/@simon/109559268498004036. (Hopefully your instance will let you see a subsection of some of the replies to it…)

An additional benefit that one gets in bolting on ActivityPub the way it works for my WordPress site is that folks who subscribe to @chrisaldrich@boffosocko.com can see linked text natively from within Mastodon despite the fact that Mastodon doesn’t allow one to wrap text with URLs to link out.

In addition to becoming incomprehensibly js;dr in Mastodon 4.0, why did change it’s default reply workflow to make me copy a URL, switch to a different window, go to my server, log in, paste the URL, search, and then reply? I used to be able to just input my account and go directly to a reply box? This new user interface of 7 steps is far worse than the prior two… 
Perhaps hidden/unknown to many, but hcommons.social and other instances running the Hometown version of Mastodon, have the ability to post only to their local community and specifically not federate their content to the broader Fediverse. In the posting interface, click on the link icon and choose whether you want to allow your post greater reach or stay only within your community. This can be a helpful affordance for having smaller/restricted conversations.

User interface from hcommons.social highlighting the fifth icon, a link, with a drop down menu to choose either federating one's post or making it local only.

Bookmarked History of Philosophy - Summarized & Visualized by Deniz Cem ÖnduyguDeniz Cem Önduygu (denizcemonduygu.com)
A summary of the history of philosophy showing the positive/negative connections between ideas
This could be thought of as a form of digital, single-project zettelkasten dedicated to philosophy. It’s got people, sources, and ideas which are cross linked in a Luhmann-sense (without numbering) though not in a topical index-sense.

Interestingly it has not only a spatial interface and shows spatial relationships between people and ideas over time using a timeline, but it also indicates—using colored links—the ideas of disagreement/contrast/refutation and agreement/similarity/expansion.

What other (digital) tools of thought provide these sorts of visualization affordances?

Read The Quest for a Memex 2022-07-31 by Kevin MarksKevin Marks (kevinmarks.com)
This week John Borthwick put out a call for Tools for Thinking: People want better tools for thinking — ones that take the mass of notes that you have and organize them, that help extend your second brain into a knowledge or interest graph and that enable open sharing and ownership of the “knowl...
I got stuck over the weekend, so I totally missed Kevin Marks’ memex demo at IndieWebCamp’s Create Day, but it is an interesting little UI experiment.

I’ll always maintain that Vannevar Bush really harmed the first few generations of web development by not mentioning the word commonplace book in his conceptualization. Marks heals some of this wound by explicitly tying the idea of memex to that of the zettelkasten however. John Borthwick even mentions the idea of “networked commonplace books”. [I suspect a little birdie may have nudged this perspective as catnip to grab my attention—a ruse which is highly effective.]

Some of Kevin’s conceptualization reminds me a bit of Jerry Michalski’s use of The Brain which provides a specific visual branching of ideas based on the links and their positions on the page: the main idea in the center, parent ideas above it, sibling ideas to the right/left and child ideas below it. I don’t think it’s got the idea of incoming or outgoing links, but having a visual location on the page for incoming links (my own site has incoming ones at the bottom as comments or responses) can be valuable.

I’m also reminded a bit of Kartik Prabhu’s experiments with marginalia and webmention on his website which plays around with these ideas as well as their visual placement on the page in different methods.

MIT MediaLab’s Fold site (details) was also an interesting sort of UI experiment in this space.

It also seems a bit reminiscent of Kevin Mark’s experiments with hovercards in the past as well, which might be an interesting way to do the outgoing links part.

Next up, I’d love to see larger branching visualizations of these sorts of things across multiple sites… Who will show us those “associative trails”?

Another potential framing for what we’re all really doing is building digital versions of Indigenous Australian’s songlines across the web. Perhaps this may help realize Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly’s dream for a “third archive”?

Replied to a thread by Roy Scholten and Sonja Drimmer (Twitter)
@Hypothes_is, you guys are working on this, right? 😜

Annotation Colors Using Hypothes.is: Problems and Solutions

I frequently see the feature request from Hypothes.is users to have the tool add the ability to choose different colors for highlights.

The first occurrence of the issue is probably documented here: https://github.com/hypothesis/vision/issues/123, by the head of the company.

I suspect it may take a while before such a color feature might be built in, if ever. (Here I’ll note that I don’t work for or speak for the company or any of the other open source developers on the project, but I am one what one would consider a “heavy user”.) If they have the time (I know they’re very busy), perhaps they may chime in with a potential roadmap or other ideas.

Color highlights are a difficult user interface problem

While I’m thinking about it, in an academic context for students, colors may be slightly better indicators of different users’ annotations of a particular text as a means of differentiating one annotator from another more subtly, particularly on texts that are extensively marked up.

Just this difference points out what a mixed bag of functionality colored highlights brings from a usability, design, and user interface perspective. While colored highlights is a seemingly “simple” sounding feature in the analog world where a single document is only annotated by one user, mapping it into a digital shared context is a difficult engineering problem to navigate and solve for. What if your color meanings aren’t the same as those of another?, for example.

While colors can be useful for individuals, do they have the same place in a social annotation product?

I already find it difficult to annotate heavily annotated pages that all use the same color, much less a rainbow of others’ colors. (If this is also you, I’ll note that there’s a handy “eye” icon in the annotation drawer that will allow you to turn them on/off.)

Potential Color Highlight Hacks

While the value of colors may be useful in some contexts, you could potentially use a few other features, functionality, and methods to creatively achieve a similar feature in Hypothes.is for yourself today. Below are a few potential creative “hacks” that some might try.

Use the tagging functionality

You could use the tagging system to create specific tags to stand in for your desired colors: As an example, in some systems I might use the following color designators:

  • Yellow—general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
  • Orange—Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
  • Green—Reference to read
  • Blue—Interesting Quote
  • Gray—Typography Problem
  • Red—Example to work through

Instead of colors in Hypothesis, for example, one could use the tags “words” or “vocabulary”, “reference” or “citation“, “typo“, “quotes“, or “examples” to stand in for these particular “colors” respectively. I sometimes practice some of these which you can find by clicking on the links, though you may note that in practice I use other tags for them.

In some sense, this is what the software would be doing, particularly with regard to search for these after-the-fact. If you wanted a list of all your “citations” for example, you’d have to search for the color for that and be able to find them all, presuming this search functionality existed with such a color feature. This isn’t really much different than simply tagging all those particular highlights with words like “citation” or “reference” in the first place.

Use the Group Functionality

You could created different “groups” (private or public) to stand in for the colors you wish you had, thus a “yellow group” could be used for one “color” of highlight and a “green group” for another. ( See Annotating with Groups for more details.)

Switching between groups for annotating isn’t going to be drastically different than a user interface for switching colors of highlighter. The one drawback (or perhaps it’s a feature?) here is that you will only be able to see one “color” at a time.

Roll your own solution with open source

As ever, with some work, you could self-host the open source software and modify your copy to add this functionality in for yourself.

Some clever hacks in your browser with CSS might also give you your preferred output. I know some users have done custom work to the Hypothes.is UI in the past: eg. https://tomcritchlow.com/2019/02/12/annotations/, see his gist at the bottom of the post.

Another custom solution which may give you ideas can also be found at https://web.hypothes.is/blog/do-it-yourself-anchoring-and-the-evolution-of-the-hypothesis-toolkit/.

Perhaps adding custom classes on the tags or usernames might allow people the ability to target highlights on a page so that one could define custom CSS rules for each highlight using either usernames of tags as well? Of course, just like the “eye icon” described above, I’m sure there are times that people will appreciate the ability to turn these colors on and off. I personally don’t want the clean interface dressed up in Josephs Amazing Technicolor Annotation Dreamcoat.

Other solutions and problems?

Are there ideas or potential solutions for color highlights I’ve missed? How about design problems that might be encountered in implementing color-coded highlights in the older single document/single user model being transferred to a multi-user space with infinite scale? Is color the best and most accessible solution? Are there better things that could be done with color in the product?

Feel free to comment below with your ideas or links to examples.

Interested in other Hypothes.is hacks, tips, and ideas? Try browsing my Hypothes.is archive.

A hashtag functionality hiding with the ActivityPub for WordPress Plugin

I discovered yesterday that when I added a # (or hash, pound sign, octothorpe, et al.) in front of any word on my site, it created a native version of something akin to Twitter’s functionality, but it was working on my own website. The primary difference was that the hashed word on the page was, upon publishing the post, automatically wrapped with a URL for that tag on my own website, and it was also automatically added to the list of tags for the post. (As an illustrative example, I’m doing the same thing with the word hashtag earlier in this paragraph.)

I had previously considered adding this type of functionality myself to make syndicating posts (via POSSE) from my own website to sites like Twitter or Mastodon easier. There are a small handful of plugins in the WordPress repository that will add that type of functionality already, but I had eschewed them generally, not wanting yet-another-plugin.

I spent some time trying to track down the plugin that was effecting this change. I couldn’t remember having installed something that would have done this sort of functionality, and I had noticed it only by complete happenstance. I eventually gave up my search halfway through only to later get a message from Matthias Pfefferle that his ActivityPub plugin was the likely culprit. I probably should have guessed as I had literally spent part of that very day looking at the code in his IndieWeb News plugin on GitHub which had code that essentially did the exact same thing, but for a narrower set of results.

The upside of the entire process is that the functionality is now built into a plugin which I’d be using otherwise. As of today’s update, there’s now also a setting for the plugin that will allow one to turn the functionality on or off–I, for one, am definitely keeping it. Of course if you’re looking for the functionality without the extra overhead of the ActivityPub code, I believe you can use Matthias’ WordPress hashtags plugin which does only this.

I’ve never quite liked that Twitter uses @names highlighted within posts. All the additional cruft in Twitter like the “@” and “#” prefixes, while adding useful functionality, have always dramatically decreased the readability and enjoyment of their interface for me. So why not just get rid of them?!

Of course I also remember myself railing against the addition of the symbols @ and # in general text not too long ago, so I’m also now brainstorming and contemplating how one might more quickly (and even in a DRY manner) do this sort of tagging using some other (probably easily accessed, but infrequently used) symbol which could be hidden visually, but which would allow one to add these sorts of tags and the appropriate microformats markup. I suspect there may be some sort of clever CSS I may be able to use too, though it would be better not so that it works easily via syndication and in feed readers with different styling. The goal should be that it would work as plain text from a Micropub client too. With any good luck someone may have thought of it already, otherwise I may be able to hack something simple together to do roughly what I want. The upside would be that simply by writing your post, you could simultaneously be tagging it as well and not need to bother going in and separately adding additional tags!

👓 Twitter fixes their timeline | Colin Devroe

Read Twitter fixes their timeline by Colin Devroe (cdevroe.com)
I saw this tweet last night and immediately turned this on. Now with this new setting I don’t need it. Please keep this Twitter. Please!
Now here’s some welcome news. Will need to play around with some of these new Twitter settings.

👓 MailChimp RSS to Email Newsletter – A Complete Guide | WPism

Read MailChimp RSS to Email Newsletter - A Complete Guide (WPism)
A Complete Guide to set up email Newsletter using MailChimp RSS to Email feature. Learn how to use MailChimp RSS Campaign to send an automated Newsletter.
Nothing stupendous here that I couldn’t figure out by just moving my way through Mail Chimp’s online workflow. Of course this probably speaks reasonably well of Mail Chimp’s user interface.

Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have a weekly newsletter up and running.

👓 Show authors more ❤️ with 👏’s | Medium

Read Introducing Claps, a new way to react on Medium by Katie Zhu (Medium)
Rolling out to Medium users over the coming week will be a new, more satisfying way for readers to give feedback to writers. We call it “Claps.” It’s no longer simply whether you like, or don’t like, something. Now you can give variable levels of applause to a story. Maybe clap once, or maybe 10 or 20 times. You’re in control and can clap to your heart’s desire.
Yet another way to “like” a post….

This reminds me a lot of Path’s pivot to stickers. We all know how relevant it has made them since.

And all this just after Netflix, the company that has probably done more research on ranking than any other, has gone from a multi-star intent to a thumbs up/thumbs down in the past month.

Most of the measurements social media and other companies are really trying to make are signal to noise ratios as well as creating some semblance of dynamic range. A simple thumbs up creates almost no dynamic range compared to thumbs up/nothing/thumbs-down. Major platforms drive enough traffic that the SNR all comes out in the wash. Without the negative intent (dis-like, thumbs down, etc.) we’re missing out on some important data. It’s almost reminiscent to the science community only publishing their positive results and not the negative results. As a result scientific research is losing a tremendous amount of value.

We need to be more careful what we’re doing and why…

Reply to Gutenberg: First Impressions | MattCromwell.com

Replied to Gutenberg: First Impressions by Matt Cromwell (MattCromwell.com)
Gutenberg is the future of content in WordPress. It will deliver the elegance of Medium but with far more power and flexibility of layouts and content types
I love how this looks and works and it’s certainly about time that WordPress had alternate means of publishing to its platform. (I miss the days when Twitter had thousands of different configurable apps to post to it, though these were far simpler.)

Not only does it remind me a bit of Medium.com’s interface, it is highly reminiscent of Aaron Parecki’s Quill editor which uses the open Micropub spec to publish to the Micropub endpoint on my blog. Though his isn’t as fully featured as the Gutenberg example, he could certainly add to it, but then it could be used to publish to any site that supports the spec.

A sample of the Quill interface for posting to WordPress via Micropub.

The nice part about Micropub (and the fact that there’s already a Micropub plugin for WordPress) is that developers can build multiple competing publishing interfaces to publish to any website out there. (Or developers could even build custom publishing interfaces for their clients.)

In fact, if they wanted to do a highly valuable pivot, Medium.com could add publishing via Micropub to their platform and really become the billionaire’s typewriter that some have suggested it to be.

👓 Signl.fm on making a social media interface for Podcasts. | Matter

Read Signl.fm on making a social media interface for Podcasts by Kim Hansen (Matter)
An overview of the history of Signl.fm and some of the experiments they've been doing in podcasting, audio, and social.