Cleaning up feeds, easier social following, and feed readers

I’ve been doing a bit of clean up in my feed reader(s)–cleaning out dead feeds, fixing broken ones, etc. I thought I’d take a quick peek at some of the feeds I’m pushing out as well. I remember doing some serious updates on the feeds my site advertises three years ago this week, but it’s been a while since I’ve revisited it. While every post kind/type, category, and tag on my site has a feed (often found by simply adding /feed/ to the end of those URLs), I’ve made a few custom feeds for aggregated content.

However, knowing that some feeds are broadly available from my site isn’t always either obvious or the same as being able to use them easily–one might think of it as a(n) (technical) accessibility problem. I thought I’d make a few tweaks to smooth out that user interface and hopefully provide a better user experience–especially since I’m publishing everything from my website first rather than in 30 different places online (which is a whole other UI problem for those wishing to follow me and my content). Since most pages on my site have a “Follow Me” button (courtesy of SubToMe), I just needed to have a list of generally useful feeds to provide it. While SubToMe has some instructions for suggesting lists of feeds, I’ve never gotten it to work the way I expected (or feed readers didn’t respect it, I’m not sure which?) But since most feed readers have feed discovery built in as a feature, I thought I’d leverage that aspect. Thus I threw into the <head> of my website a dozen or so links from some of the most typical feeds people may be most interested in from my site. Now you can click on the follow button, choose your favorite feed reader, and then your reader should provide you with a large list of feeds which you might want to subscribe. These now broadly include the full feed, a comments feed, feeds for all the individual kinds (bookmarks, likes, favorites, replies, listens, etc.) but potentially more useful: a “microblog feed” of all my status-related updates and a “linkblog feed” for all my link-related updates (generally favorites, likes, reads, and bookmarks).

Some of these sub-feeds may be useful in some feed readers which don’t yet have the ability for you to choose within the reader what you’d like to see. I suspect that in the future social readers will allow you to subscribe to my primary firehose or comments feeds, which are putting out about 85 and 125 posts a week right now, and you’ll be able to subscribe to those, but then within their interface be able to choose individual types by means of filters to more quickly see what I’ve been bookmarking, reading, listening to or watching. Then if you want to curl up with some longer reads, filter by articles; or if you just want some quick hits, filter by notes. And of course naturally you’ll be able to do this sort of filtering across your network too. I also suspect some of them will build in velocity filters and friend-proximity filters so that you’ll be able to see material from people who don’t post as often highlighted or to see people’s content based on your personal rankings or categories (math friends, knitting circle, family, reading group, IndieWeb community, book club, etc.). I’ve recently been enjoying Kicks Condor’s FraidyCat reader which touches on some of this work though it’s not what most people would consider a full-featured feed reader but might think of as a filter/reader dashboard sort of product.

Perhaps sometime in the future I’ll write a bit of code so that each individual page on my site that you visit will provide feeds in the header for all the particular categories, tags, and post kinds that appear on that page?That might make a clever, and simple little plugin, though honestly that’s the sort of code I would expect CMSes like WordPress to provide out of the box. Of course, perhaps broader adoption of microformats and clever readers will obviate the need for all these bits?

 

Listened to @ Future of Web Apps: Google's Kevin Marks on social networking trends by Jemima KissJemima Kiss from the Guardian

Kevin Marks, Google's developer advocate for Open Social, talked today about the unpredictable, organic growth of social networks

Jemima Kiss interviews Kevin about Open Social at FOWA. Thu 9 Oct 2008 15.50 EDT

Kevin Marks, Google's developer advocate for Open Social, talked today about the unpredictable, organic growth of social networks. Even the biggest networks have seen their audience bases grow exponentially in unexpected communities; this is partly because of the dynamics of relationships between people, who mostly want to connect - or feel most comfortable connecting to people like themselves.

Despite some derogatory write-ups of Google's Orkut social network in the US press - "it's not a proper social network and is full of Brazilian prostitutes" - it's a perfect example of a social networking site with a strong community in one language. A community tends to mould the site to its own culture, which makes it less appealing for other languages and cultures. Clearly those with a strong English-language audience have a big advantage, despite the cultural differences of the Anglo-speaking world.

I asked Marks to explain a bit more about trends in social networking and how Open Social is trying to both facilitate growth, and respond to change. Open Social doesn't have a three-year road map, but is constantly adjusting its templates around the mapping of social information.

Some interesting philosophy of social networks from 2008 that’s still broadly applicable today. This sort of design thinking is something that IndieWeb as a service platforms like Micro.blog, WithKnown, WordPress, and others will want to keep in mind as they build.

People tend to be members of more than one network for a reason.

Originally bookmarked on December 06, 2019 at 09:00PM

Read a Twitter thread by  Mx. Aria Stewart Mx. Aria Stewart (Twitter)
It just crystallized for me what I think has been mistaken about thinking of unwanted interaction on social networks as a "privacy" problem. It's not.

A privacy problem is things becoming known more widely than they should, subject to surveillance and contextless scrutiny. 
The onslaught of sexual harassment on platforms like early Twitter (and later twitter for people of notability), @KeybaseIO, every naive social network is an attack on the right to exist in public. It is the inverse of a privacy problem. 
But the conceiving of this as a privacy problem brings the wrong solutions. It means we are offered tools to remove ourselves from public view, to restrict our public personas, to retreat from public life. It means women are again confined to private sphere, denied civic life. 
 It's so endemic, so entrenched, and so normal that women should have to retreat to protect ourselves that we think of this as part of femininity. A strong civic life is seen as unfeminine, forward. It poisons us politically, socially, and personally. 
It is, at its core, an attack on democracy as well. 
The only way to undo this is to reconceive of this, not as a privacy problem but as an attack on public life. There will be new problems with this but at least they will be new. 
There has been work done on this, but I've never seen it connected to civic life, and this connects with my thoughts and work on community. The unit that social networks must focus on cannot be the individual. We do not exist as individuals first but as members of our communities 
When a new user joins a social network, their connection must be to their peers, their existing social relationships. A new user can only be onboarded in the context of relationships already on the network. 
Early adopters form such a community, but extrapolating from the joining of those initial members to how to scale the network misses the critical transition: from no community to the first, not from the first users to the next. 
New communities can only be onboarded by connections from individuals that span communities. New communities must be onboarded collectively, or the network falls to the army of randos. 
The irony is that surveillance capitalism has the information to do this but not the will, because as objects of marketing, we are individuals, statistics and demographics, not communities. The reality lies in plain sight. 
There have been attempts at social networks, sadly none dense enough to succeed, but that treat people as part of a web, and that their peers can shield and protect them. The idea is solid. 
The other alternative is to stop trying to give people a solitary identity, a profile and onboarding to a flat network, but instead only provide them with community connections. Dreamwidth is this to a large degree, if too sparse for most people to connect. 
Our social networks must connect us, not to our "friends" but to our communities. The ones that succeed do this by intent or by accident.

Facebook has a narrow view of community, but for those it matches, it works. With major flaws, but it does. 
Twitter, its community of early adopters, its creepy onboarding by uploading your contacts and mining data to connect you works. If I were to join and follow a few people I know, it would rapidly suggest many more people in my queer and trans community. It works. 
And this is why Ello failed. This is why Diaspora failed. This is why Mastodon succeeded, if only by scraping by the bare minimum. This is why gnu social failed. This is why a random vbulletin forum can succeed. The ones that succeed connect a dense community. 
Note that gnu social and mastodon are the same protocol! But they are different social networks. The difference in their affordances and the community structures they encourage are vastly different, despite interoperating. 
I'd say I don't know how apparent this problem is to white men — the ones largely designing these networks — but I do know. I know because of the predictable failures we see.

Part of this, I think boils down to how invisible community is when you are the default user. 
At no time am I unaware that I am trans, that I am a woman, that the people I follow and who follow me are distinct from the background. I can spot my people in a crowd on the internet with precision, just like a KNN clustering can. 
Trans culture in particular is Extremely Online. We are exceptionally easy to onboard to a new platform. But the solution can scale if we focus on solving it. And by knowing who is in the community (likely) and who is not, we can understand what is and is not harassment. 
We don't need to even know what the communities are — Twitter does not — and yet it knows how we cluster, and that suffices.

If we stop thinking of this as a privacy problem — letting us hide from the connections that are our solution — we can enlarge public life. 
That exceptional article — — about how bots sow division shows us another facet of this problem and way of thinking. Conceiving of this as a privacy problem fundamentally reacts with division when solidarity is needed. 
We can only fight this with a new, loose solidarity and an awareness of community boundaries. We can build technology that makes space for us to be safe online by being present with those that support us, and react together, rather than as individuals and separating us for safety 
This thread has meandered a bit, but I'm dancing around something important. We fundamentally need to stop organizing online activity the way we do. Follow and be followed is not where it's at.

It's join, manage attention, build connection. 
Stop sorting things topically and trying to find connections in content.

Start looking for clusters of relationships between people.

The question should not be "what is this about?" but "who is this for?"
Some interesting ideas on social hiding in here.
Watched Fraidycat (Prototype Vid) by Kicks CondorKicks Condor from Kicks Condor

Futilely attempting to build an RSS reader that’s not at all an RSS reader.

The year of the reader continues. This is wicked awesome. I want this reader!

There are some interesting UI pieces hiding in here. I love the way things are sortable by importance. I like the sparklines for posting frequency. The color differentiation to give an idea about recency of posts is cool.

And one of the best things is that it’s not really a reader. In true Kicks fashion, it’s all just links, which means that one goes to the original site to read the content. I mentioned just yesterday the fact that some of my “identity” is lost with the CSS and details of my site being stripped within sterile readers. This sort of reader decimates that.

Of course, the verso of that is a reader that could be CSS configurable so that every site looks as busy or crazy as mango zone does in the video. Naturally, many browsers support local CSS, so I suppose I could make the New York Times look like Kicks Condor’s site, but who has the time to do all that configuration?? (Maybe one day…) Maybe some readers will have their simple chrome, but pull in not only the content, but the CSS and visual goodness along with them? The best of both worlds?

<details> tags, Fragment URLs, and the HTML spec

A few weeks ago I read a post by Jamie Tanna on Using <details> tags for HTML-only UI toggles.

I thought it was a pretty slick use of HTML to create some really simple and broadly useful UI.

Then earlier today I noticed that Jeremy Keith has recently switched to using this on his personal site in the comments section to provide toggles for his various webmention types including shares, likes, bookmarks, etc. But this is where I’m noticing a quirky UI issue that isn’t as web friendly as it could be. Jeremy and others (including myself own my own site) will often provide ID tags so that one can give permalinks to the individual comments using fragments of the form:

https://adactio.com/journal/15050#comment70567 or
https://adactio.com/journal/15050#comment71896

But here’s where the UI problem lies. The first fragment URL only resolves to the page instead of the specific bookmark hiding behind a  <details> tag whereas the second fragment URL resolves to the page and automatically scrolls down to a comment by DominoPivot. It does this in both Chrome and FireFox and I would presume operates similarly in other browsers.

I suspect that most users would expect/prefer that the fragment URL should automatically expand the <details> tag and scroll down the page to that ID  or fragment as well.

Perhaps Jamie, Jeremy, Tantek, Kevin or others may have some trickery to make this happen? Otherwise, do we need to start digging into specs and browsers to get them to better support this sort of fragment related functionality?  Perhaps it’s this section of the HTML spec, the URL of which has such a fragment and therefor scrolls down properly if you click on it? (Meta pun intended.)

I don’t use it frequently, but I just noticed that the WordPress.com feed reader has some functionality to concatenate and display multiple posts together for feeds that update relatively frequently. I like the fact that there’s a little less cognitive load in changing contexts from one source’s posts and those of others which have longer inter-post times.

Screencapture of the WordPress reader UI in which the New York Times feed has four items collected together despite other sources being posted between them in time.

While some don’t like feeds that aren’t ordered temporally, this seems like a useful compromise when looking at feeds with large numbers of different sources.

This is somewhat reminiscent of the way Tantek Çelik concatenates likes within his homepage.

A screencapture of Tantek's homepage showing two blocks of concatenated likes amidst other posts

Whether within a stream of posts on a personal site or within a feed reader, this UI pattern is very subtle, but incredibly useful.

🎧 Solving the Facebook Problem at Home and Abroad | On the Media | WNYC Studios

Listened to Solving the Facebook Problem at Home and Abroad by Bob Garfield from On the Media | WNYC Studios

When former Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes penned a New York Times op-ed calling for the breakup of the platform, he was lauded by anti-corporate politicians and the press. Then came a series of hard questions: how exactly would breaking up Facebook, which owns WhatsApp and Instagram, address free speech concerns? Or help stifle the spread of propaganda on the platform? And how would American regulations affect the majority of Facebook users, who live in the global south? According to Michael Lwin, an American-born antitrust lawyer living in Yangon, Myanmar, US regulators should tread lightly. He and Bob speak about how calls to break up Facebook could have wide ranging unintended consequences, especially outside of the US.

As bad as Facebook is, there are some potential second and multiple-order effects to be careful of when considering breaking them up or heavily regulating them.

A Modest Proposal Review

Will you look at this?! Twitter has recreated the WordPress Gutenberg editor interface into their web product. Currently it only has a few blocks for text, photos, gifs, video, embeds, and polls, but it’s not completely horrible and it’s relatively fast and convenient.

The Gutenberg editor in WordPress:

The title of the pending post is "Hello to the New Editor"
Screen capture of the new Gutenberg interface

In fact it appears that they’ve pared the editor down substantially. A few more tweaks and it might be as clean as the Medium editor experience.

Want to add a video, just drop a youtube link:

Want to embed a blog post from somewhere else? Add the link in your tweet and get a spiffy Twitter Card (just like oEmbed!)

An Introduction to the IndieWeb

I can see people getting awfully tired of clicking that “plus” button interminably though. Maybe if the interface could algorithmically choose where to break text the same way it determines what tweets I’m going to see?

Now they just need an edit button and they’ve got a “real” blogging experience, but one that’s editable in tiny 280 character chunks. Who has the attention span for more content than this anyway?

I can already tell that newspapers and magazines are going to love this. Just imagine the ease of doing shareable pull quotes this way?!

I can see journalistic institutions rebuilding their entire platforms on Twitter already!

Old CMS -> Tumblr -> Medium -> Twitter!

What is your favorite editing experience?

  • The Tweetstorm-o-matic
  • WordPress’ Gutenberg
  • WordPress Classic Editor
  • Medium

Uh oh! I’m noticing that they’ve neglected to put a block in for a title area. Maybe we could just do a really short tweet up at the top of the thread instead? If only we could drag and drop tweets to reorder them? At least you can add new tweets into the middle of the stream.

Besides, who’s going to read anything but the headline tweet anyway. No one is ever going to read this far into a tweetstorm. Maybe a blog post where they at least know what they’re getting into, but never a 20+ card tweetstorm.

And would you look at that? They almost jumped ahead of Medium on inline annotations by allowing people to reply to very specific pieces of the text. I’m kind of disappointed that they don’t have the pretty green highlighter colors though.

Screencapture from Medium.com with an example of an inline response.
An inline annotation on the text “Hey Ev, what about mentions?” in which Medium began to roll out their @mention functionality.

Now if only I could register a custom domain on their service and have control over the CSS, Twitter could be a first class open web CMS.

#​I​CanOnlyDream

*Sigh* I suppose until then I’ll just stick with my humble little website that allows me to own and control my own data on my own domain name and communicate with others using simple web standards.

#​​IndieWebForever

User Interface to Indicate Posting Activity

In addition to the sparkline graphs I’ve got in the sidebar of my website, I’ve recently been looking at alternate ways to indicate the posting activity on my own website.

An example of a sparkline graph on Boffosocko.com. A blue line indicates the comment posting velocity and an orange line indicates the comment velocity.
“Monthly activity over 5 years” for both posting activity as well as commenting activity on my website.

Calendar Heatmaps

Yesterday I was contemplating calendar heatmaps which are probably best known from the user interface of GitHub which relatively shows how active someone is on the website. I’ve discovered that JetPack for WordPress provides a similar functionality on the back end (in blue instead of green), but sadly doesn’t make it available for display on the front end of websites. I’ve filed a feature request to see if it’s something they’d work on in the future, so if having something like this seems useful to you, please click through and give the post a +1.

Orderly grid of squares representing dates which are grouped by month with a gradation of colors on each square that indicate in heat map fashion how frequently I post to my website.
A screen capture of what my posting “velocity” looks like on the back end of my website. The darkest squares indicate 30+ posts in a day while the next darkest indicate between 15-30 posts. My “streak” is far longer than this chart indicates. I obviously post a LOT.

Circular Widthmaps

Today I saw a note that led me to the Internet Archive which I know has recently had a redesign. I’m not sure if the functionality I saw was part of this redesign, but it’s pretty awesome. I’m not sure quite what to call this sort of circular bar chart given what it does, but circular widthmap seems vaguely appropriate. Here’s a link to the archive.org page for my website that shows this cool UI, screencaptures of which also appear below: http://web.archive.org/web/sitemap/https://www.boffosocko.com/

Instead of using color gradations to indicate a relative number of posts, the UI is measuring things via width in ever increasing concentric circles. The innermost circle indicates the root domain and successive levels out add additional paths from my site. Because I’m using dated archive paths, there’s a level of circle by year (2019, 2018, 2017, etc.) then another level outside that by months (April 2019, March 2019, etc.), and finally the outermost circle which indicates individual posts. As a result, the width of a particular year or month indicates relatively how active that time frame was on my website (or at least how active Archive.org thinks it was based on its robot crawler.)

Of course the segments on the circles also measure things like categories and tags on my site as well along with the date based archives. Thus I can gauge how often I use particular categories for example.

I’ll also note that in the 2018 portion of the circle for July 11th, I had a post that slashdotted my website when it took off on Hacker News. That individual day is represented as really wide on that circular ring because it has an additional concentric circle outside of it that represents the hundreds of comment URL fragments for that post. So one must keep in mind that things in some of the internal rings aren’t as relative because they may be heavily affected by portions of content further out on the ring.

Interface that presents concentric circles with archived links of a website. The center circle is the domain itself while outside portions of the circle include archive pages, categories, pages, posts, and other portions of a site.
My website posting activity (and a little more) from 2018 and before according to the Internet Archive.
Interface that presents concentric circles with archived links of a website. The center circle is the domain itself while outside portions of the circle include archive pages, categories, pages, posts, and other portions of a site.
My website posting activity (and a little more) from April 2019 and before according to the Internet Archive.

How awesome would it be if this were embed-able and usable on my own website?

Extension of the Insights » Posting Activity functionality

Filed an Issue Automattic/jetpack (GitHub)
Increase your traffic, view your stats, speed up your site, and protect yourself from hackers with Jetpack.
I’ve been enjoying the idea that JetPack is providing a Github contributions-like functionality at https://wordpress.com/stats/insights/example.com under the heading Posting Activity.

Orderly grid of squares representing dates which are grouped by month with a gradation of colors on each square that indicate in heat map fashion how frequently I post to my website.

Seeing this naturally provides me some additional motivation to post more often, which is generally a good thing for the platform. It also dovetails in visually with the “you have posted X days in a row” notifications sent by the mobile app.

I’m sure it all may be on the roadmap somewhere, but in case it’s not I thought I’d leave a few ideas about continuing to extend this awesome functionality and related UI features.

  • It would be nice to be able to display more than one calendar year of activity. Perhaps a tabbed UI could provide access to prior years while still being relatively compact? (This could be similar to “All Time Views” just below it which has button (aka tab) options for “Months and Years” or “Average per Day”.
    A visual representation of the button/tabbed functionality for "All Time Views" described in the text.
  • While hovering over a particular square representing a date provides some useful information like the number of posts on a particular date, it would be awesome if clicking on that date would take one to the correct archive page for that date. This is not too dissimilar to from GitHub’s functionality and the permalinks for each day should already exist in core. Example: https://example.com/2019/04/17 to show all of that day’s posts.
  • Similar to the functionality for posts, it would be interesting to have a similar set up for comments to allow sorting through those visually as well.
  • It would be awesome to have all of the above rolled up into a widget that would allow one to post the visual data for several months and/or years visually on a sidebar, footer, or other widgetizeable area. This also provides site readers the ability to quickly jump to a particular date and/or set of posts much like the Archives widget allows, but with a more visual interface.
  • If there is a widget, while I’m sure that many will love the blue WordPress-based color scheme, many will want to key their colors off of their theme as a customizable widget option.
  • Given the infrastructure for creating a lot of the above functionality, one could go a half step further and create an “On this Day” feature similar to that of Facebook, Timehop, and many others which allow one to create archive page views for what happened on this same day a year ago, two years ago, three, four, etc. This could be wonderfully useful for a wide variety of sites to look back at birthdays, anniversaries, and red letter dates as well as the average Tuesday. To my knowledge there is only one old plugin that I was able to find after some serious search that has somewhat similar functionality: Room 34 presents On This Day. There is also some similar functionality like this recently built into the Post Kinds Plugin which creates archive views for several date-based permalinks. This would be all the better if there is a better API for such an endpoint so that it could be tied into third party platforms like Timehop which are overly focused on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., but which could include WordPress-based websites.

Also as I post this, and as I’m thinking the functionality is relatively new, I notice that my JetPack enabled .org site only has Posting Activity that goes back to mid-October 2018 (despite the fact that it should go back much further), while my wordpress.com site has data that goes far back beyond that date. Is this a potential bug, or could it be the case that my self-hosted site hasn’t been parsed back far enough to cover more time yet? It may also be related to the fact that I’ve recently (this week) disconnected and reconnected JetPack to do some troubleshooting.

Watched For Patients, by Patients: Pioneering a New Approach in Med-Tech Design by  Innovate Pasadena: Friday Coffee Meetup Innovate Pasadena: Friday Coffee Meetup from YouTube

I was ten years into a career as a user experience designer making new digital products when diabetes blew my family's life apart. The complexity and relentlessness of the burden of care that came with my youngest daughter's diagnosis at 1.5 years old, were overwhelming. I learned that people with diabetes are always 10 minutes of inattention away from a coma. Run your blood sugar too low and risk brain injury or death. Run too high and you do cumulative damage to your organs, nerves and eyes. And as a designer and hardware hacker I couldn't accept the limitations and poor User Experience I was seeing in all the tools we were given to deal with it.

Then I discovered Nightscout (a way to monitor my daughter's blood sugar in real time from anywhere in the world) and Loop (a DIY open sourced, artificial pancreas system that checks blood sugar and adjusts insulin dosing every five minutes 24/7) and the #WeAreNotWaiting community that produced them. For the first time I saw the kinds of tools I needed and true power of solutions that come from the people living with the problem. When I learned about the Tidepool's project to take Loop through FDA approval and bring it to anyone who wants to use it to give the same freedom and relief that we've experienced from it, I had to get involved. Now we are taking an open source software through regulatory approval and using real-life user data from the DIY community for our clinical trial in a process that is turning heads in the industry. We'll get into the many ways this story demonstrates ways that user driven design, open source models and a counterculturally collaborative approach with regulators are shifting the incentives and changing the landscape toward one more favorable to innovation.

Here’s the video I mentioned yesterday. Those deeply enmeshed in the IndieWeb movement and many of its subtleties will get a ringing sense of déjà vu as they watch it and realize there’s a lot of overlap with how (and why) Matt Lumpkin is working to help those with type 1 diabetes and the IndieWeb. Perhaps there are some lessons to be learned here?
There was an eerie and surprisingly large overlap of a lot of what Matt Lumpkin said in his talk this morning and the IndieWeb movement. If you just change the disease from Type 1 Diabetes to Social Media, there are a tremendous number of similarities between the two approaches of problems to be solved in terms of giving people agency, ownership of their data, the silo nature of the big corporations in the space, and the lack of solid inter-operability and standards.

I can’t wait for Chuck Chugumulung and the gang to get the video for this week up on YouTube so I can share it with colleagues.

Based on what I’ve heard, it might not be a completely terrible thing to class what the IndieWeb is working on fixing as a broad public health issue–but in its case a mental health one instead of a pancreas and diet related one.

Matt Lumpkin on stage pointing at a slide on the screen stating "Restoring one's own agency is the most critical task for people working to negotiate a healthy relationship with a chronic disease."
Matt Lumpkin during his talk “For Patients, by Patients: Pioneering a New Approach in Med-Tech Design“.
Matt Lumpkin on stage with a slide displaying the text "Do the people who use the things you make feel their power returned to them?"
Another IndieWeb sentiment in a presentation on UX/UI for improving health of people dealing with type 1 diabetes.