Success! As the result of today's project day at IndieWebCamp West I now have a working color scheme selector. In the upper right corner of this page you'll see a slider that'll let you choose a light or dark color scheme for this and every other page on my site. Most of the implementation is nearly...
I had a great time in the sessions at IndieWebCamp West yesterday! Today is project day, so I started the morning off listening to some chill tunes with other folks on the Zoom "hallway track" deciding what to work on. My blog post permalinks have been bothering me for a while, I feel like they are...
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...
What if "feed" is a really terrible product design for news?— Aram Zucker-Scharff (@Chronotope) June 8, 2020
One of my favorite resources is the IndieWeb wiki page for RSS as it’s got some good pros/cons, alternate methods for feeds that don’t require side files, conversion tools, and miscellanea.
I’ve always loved the way that platforms like WordPress provide RSS feeds for so many moving parts including authors, comments, dates, tags, categories and various combinations of these. This is a bit reminiscent of Huffduffer, a bookmarking site for audio and podcasts, that provides RSS feeds for almost every portion of its website.
XSL for creating human-readable OPML & RSS feeds is an interesting quirk I’ve seen a few times in the wild with interesting results and design opportunities.
Of course you can’t get away with writing an article without referencing http://isrssdead.com/. The favicon on the site, which ironically doesn’t have an RSS feed, leads me to believe that it’s owned by Dave Winer, the creator of RSS. It seems like it is giving a nod to http://isabevigodadead.com/, but given the site owner, I don’t think it will ever indicate “yes”.
One of my favorite RSS tangential topics is OPML and OPML subscription. There’s nothing more fun that auto-updating subscriptions of bundled RSS feeds.
An interesting, underreported, and discussed phenomena I’ve noticed over the last few years for many websites that do have RSS is that they’ll change CMSes and redirect all their URLs properly for SEO purposes, but they completely neglect to redirect their RSS/Atom/other feeds and thereby lose all their subscribers or force them to manually fix broken feeds. It’s the sad equivalent of creating a new Twitter account and then trying to regain all of one’s followers one at a time–and a simple thing to fix.
I’m watching your RSS feed for your take.
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?
So I built this wacky thing because it makes me happy. Sorry about the large images. I like them.
Let's create a beautiful RSS feed UI for human before its dead in next year again.
Desirée García is a designer, editor, speaker, and tenacious gardener living in Austin, Texas. She designs for Automattic by day and edits for A List Apart at night. Her superpower is assembling IKEA furniture.
Dezzie is passionate about designing things that enable people to get on with their work and their lives. The design problems that no one wants to solve but have to get done. Life is too short for technology to be unusable or addictive.
Her work has spanned a quirky range of design problems, from financial transparency in the federal government, to some of the first platforms for enabling people to create with AI. She’s spoken at conferences like Front Conf, O’Reilly Design, and podcasts like The Hustle.
When she is working, Dezzie listens to house music. When she is not, you will find her listening to her daughters, her stomach, the dirt, or the mat.
Last year I wrote a thing on Automattic’s design blog about something I keep noodling on, which ultimately boils down to what makes us creative. What gets us to build a website? What the hell is a website today?
I don’t mean “Us” the web community, or tech industry. I mean “Us” as Humankind.
Silly me, I didn’t manage to keep a reference for where I found this article in the first place.
But it is important and has some interesting philosophical questions for the IndieWeb and, for lack of a better framing, future generations of the IndieWeb.
While I have the sort of love and excitement for the web that she talks about, I wonder if others will too?
The other side of me says that one of the great benefits of what the IndieWeb is doing is breaking down all of the larger and complicated pieces of a website down into smaller and simpler component parts. This allows a broader range of people to see and understand them and then potentially remix them into tools that will not only work for them on a day-to-day basis, but to create new and exciting things out of them. I feel like we’re getting closer to this sort of utopia, but even as I see the pieces getting simpler, I also see large projects like WordPress becoming even more difficult and complex to navigate. There is a broader divide between the general public and the professional web developer and not as many people like me who know just enough of both to be dangerous, creative, and yet still productive.
I hope we can continue to break things down to make them easier for everyone to not only use, but to create new and inspiring things.
Originally, MDX was mostly built for interactive documentation. It wasn’t until shortly after that we saw it start to see adoption on blogs in order to embed components.
Long comment threads on blog posts are a mixed blessing. It is great to have stirred up such great community discussion. But anything beyond, say, 20 comments is beginning to get beyond what anyone is willing to actually read. What likely happens is people read the article, read the first few comments, then start just scanning them (at increasingly swift rates) until they hit the bottom, then read the last one or two. At least, that's what I do.
There's lots of things I wish I would have done when I first started my design career, but this one is a big one. The worst bit? It's taken me 15 years to realise it.
In this 9 minute podcast, Craig Burgess speaks about how he wished he’d got started on his Personal Website and doing more blogging early on in his career. Craig also speaks about the IndieWeb and why everyone should get involved.
The world's greatest expert on canned TV laugh tracks helps Dr Laurie Santos demonstrate how the emotions of those around us can make us feel happier or more sad. If happiness is so contagious... can we use them to bring joy to ourselves and our loved ones?
Jeff’s research showed that participants pick up other people’s emotions through text— in say, a quick email note or an online comment— just as easily as they do in face-to-face real world interaction.”
Hancock, J. T., Landrigan, C., & Silver, C. (2007, April). Expressing emotion in text-based communication. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 929-932). ACM.
The social media giant allowed Jeff to run an experiment to figure out the emotional impact of Facebook posts.
Kramer, A. D., Guillory, J. E., & Hancock, J. T. (2014). Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(24), 8788-8790.
The original link has some additional references and research, but I’ve excerpted some small portions of the ethically questionable research Facebook allowed on emotional contagion several years back.