Read Blogging Futures Prompt 3 (Write.as)

Reflection

This is the last week of Blogging Futures!

The final prompt is looking back on the conversation that has grown on the blogchain...

What have you learned from reading or participating?

Primarily I’ve been heartened to have meet a group of people who are still interested in and curious about exploring new methods of communication on the web!
–November 17, 2019 at 02:41PM

Is there a particular project you want to pursue?

Though I joined late, the course has spurred me to think about the concepts of mixing blogchains with webmentions, and resparked my interest in getting wikis to accept webmentions as well for building and cross-linking information.
–November 17, 2019 at 02:42PM

Read Proposal for Near-Future Blogging Megastructures by Brendan Schlagel (Brendan Schlagel)
Blogging is great, but it sometimes feels like every blog is an island. To have a robust blog society requires connection, community, conversation. Part of the problem is we don’t have many great ways to connect blogs together into larger conversation structures.

I suspect this response (part read post, part annotation post, part reply, and with Webmentions enabled) will be somewhat different in form and function than those in the preceding conversations within the blogchain, but I offer it, rather than the standard blogpost or even reply, as the sort of differently formed response that blogging futures suggests we might experimentally give.

Sure we have hyperlinks, and even some esoteric magic with the likes of webmentions. But I want big, simple, legible ways to link blog discussions together. I want: blogging megastructures!

In practice, building massive infrastructure is not only very difficult, but incredibly hard to maintain (and also thus generally expensive). Who exactly is going to maintain such structures?

I would argue that Webmentions aren’t esoteric, particularly since they’re a W3C recommendation with several dozens of server implementations including support for WordPress, Drupal, and half a dozen other CMSes.

Even if your particular website doesn’t support them yet, you can create an account on webmention.io to receive/save notifications as well as to send them manually.
–November 17, 2019 at 02:14PM

Cabinet: one author or several; posts curated into particular collections or series’, often with thematic groupings, perhaps a “start here” page for new readers, or other pointers to specific reading sequences

Colin Walker has suggested something like this in the past and implemented a “required reading” page on his website.
–November 17, 2019 at 02:18PM

Chain: perhaps the simplest collaborative blogging form; a straightforward back and forth exchange of posts exploring a particular topicMesh: like a chain, but with multiple participants; still a legible structure e.g. alternating / round-robin style, but with more possibilities for multiplicity of perspectives and connections across postsFractal: multiple participants and multi-threaded conversation; more infinite game branching; a possibly ever-evolving and mutating conversation, so could probably use some kind of defined endpoint, maybe time-bound

In the time I’ve been using Webmentions, I’ve seen all of these sorts of structures using them. Of particular interest, I’ve seen some interesting experiments with Fragmentions that allow one to highlight and respond to even the smallest fragments of someone’s website.
–November 17, 2019 at 02:20PM

I tend to think of blogging as “thinking out loud”, a combination of personal essay, journaling, brainstorming and public memo.

Another example in the wild of someone using a version of “thinking out loud” or “thought spaces” to describe blogging.
–November 17, 2019 at 02:25PM

Baroque, brutalist, Borgesian — let’s build some blogging megastructures.

Take a peek at https://indieweb.xyz/ which is a quirky and interesting example of something along the lines of the blogging megastructure you suggest.
–November 17, 2019 at 02:27PM

On Blogging Infrastructure

I’ve been reading through a series of essays on Blogging Infrastructure that are part of CJ Eller’s Blogging Futures. There are some interesting ideas hiding in there including the idea of a blogchain, which appears to have originated on Venkatesh Rao’s site Ribbon Farm. As best as I can tell it amounts to linking series of blog posts by potentially multiple authors into a linear long form piece. It reminds me of the idea of a webring, but instead of being random (though some may have historically been completely linear in nature), they’ve got slightly more structure, and instead of linking entire websites, they’re linking posts on a particular idea or topic. 

I’ve also seen some tangential mentions among the Blogging Futures crowd of Webmention, which is essentially a standardized web technology that allows notifications or @mentions between websites on different domains and running completely different software. I know that Tom Critchlow, who is a memeber of the blogchain, has recently set up webmentions, so I’m curious to hear his impression of what a blogchain means after he’s begun using webmention. (Difficultly, he’s using a static site generator, which will tend to make his experience with them a tad more fraught compared with services that have it built in or available by simple plugins.) To me there’s more value in combining the two ideas of Webmention and blogchain wherein each post is able to webmention the other posts within a particular blogchain and thereby create a broader web of related ideas. 

Of course this is all very similar to ideas like IndieNews and Kicks Condor’s IndieWeb.xyz aggregation hub which allow users to post to them by means of Webmention. In some sense this allows for a central repository or hub that collects links to all of the responses for those who want to to participate. These responses could obviously be sorted by topic (aka tag/category), author, and even date. Naturally if each post includes links to all the other pieces in such a blogchain, and all the sites accept and display webmentions, then there will be a more weblike chain of discussion of the topic rather than a more linear one.

I’m not aware of it being done, but I’ve always sort of wished that someone would add webmention support to a wiki platform. Many has been the time I wish I could have added a link into the See also section of the IndieWeb wiki simply by linking to a particular page and sending a webmention. Lots of my online documentation references that wiki and it would be wonderfully useful for links to my content to automatically show up there. Later, others could add some of my content back into the wiki in a more fully fleshed out way, but at least the references would be there. Imagine how the world’s knowledge would be expanded if a larger wiki like Wikipedia had the ability to accept incoming links this way!?

I’ll mention that both the aggregation hubs and the wikis can help to serve as somewhat more centralized means of discovery on the web, which also helps to fuel idea and content production.

All the people I know who have added Webmention have generally fallen in love with it as a new means of posting into and interacting within a rejuvenated blogosphere. There’s more power in posting to one’s own website while still being able to interact in a more social sort of way. 

Liked Webmention believers... by Tom Critchlow (tomcritchlow.com)
So I got webmentions set up working on my site and Kickscondor replied: Hey, glad you got this going! I completely agree that Webmentions are too hard. However, they’ve been rock solid for me after I got my setup in place. And they were ultimately worth it for me. I’m a believer now. The technol...

Congratulations Tom!

Replied to Not enough people want Webmentions by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas (Jeremy Cherfas)
A little while ago (on 19 October, to be precise) someone mentioned commento.io, an open source commenting system for websites. It looked interesting, so I tried to leave a comment on the post that mentioned it. Despite a few problems with login, I managed it, and asked whether Commento could play nicely with webmentions. No reply there, but I also took the matter up with support at Commento.

Given that it’s a paid service, I do see the potential that it could be viewed as an odd bit of competition. But at the same time, if it were my business, I’d take some leadership over the topic and work at building what might bring the product more value. Customers aren’t always communicative and building the things based on stated customer desires isn’t always the best way to go because the customer doesn’t always know what they want. A service provider needs to know the space, potential values, and provide the vision to get their company where it needs to be. Given this, their response seems to be a bit of a cop out. I remember thinking much the same thing about Disqus a few years back. I suspect if they knew their businesses well they’d see the imminent value and know that “if you build it [t]he[y] will come.

Replied to This Website Supports Webmentions by Carl ColglazierCarl Colglazier (carlcolglazier.com)
Here’s a handy little feature I hacked together this weekend. Webmention is a W3C recommendation for a protocol to notify a URL when a website links to it. It reminds me of the Pingback feature I used in my Wordpress days. You can find a list of all the pages mentioning this under the “Mentions” heading below. If you would like to mention this page, there is also a form. Add this page as a link to your page, add it to the input, and click “Submit Webmention”. If everything goes right, your page should then be linked below.

Congratulations!!

Oprah in a red dress celebrating with the text superimposed: "You get a webmention, and you get a webmention, and you get a webmention. Everybody gets a webmention!"

👓 Bridgy stats update: Updated through mid June 2019 | snarfed.org

Read Bridgy stats update by Ryan BarrettRyan Barrett (snarfed.org)

Updated through mid June 2019 for State of the IndieWeb at Summit 2019. Graphs below. The one big noticeable event since Jan was the Google+ shutdown on 2019-03-07.

For fun, we can use this to estimate the total number of webmentions sent in the wild to date. We previously estimated that we hit 1M somewhere around 2017-12-27, at a rate of ~929 new webmentions per day. At that time, ~95% of all webmentions had come from Bridgy, 880 per day.

Since then, Bridgy lost Facebook and Google+, which accounted for ~53% of its webmention volume. We know it’s sent 1,356,878 webmentions total as of today.If we assume non-Bridgy webmention growth has continued apace, from 48 per day at the end of 2017 to 77 per day now, that would add ~53k before then, plus ~33K since, for a total of ~1.44M sent to date, plus or minus a few thousand. Let’s keep it up!

Replied to Testing Out IndieWeb With Poetry (The Daily Connector)
For this Connected Writing Activity — which is taking place rather randomly as a test of something new, so pardon the odd nature of the post — we are testing out Greg’s idea for IndieWeb syndication across blogs. He has a “sub” set up for poetry at IndieWeb, so let’s try that.

You’ve gotten soooo close, but missed by just a hair.

You’ve described the process properly, but in the link at the top of your site, you’ve written:

<a href="https://indieweb.xyz/en/indiewebpoetry” class=">/en/indiewebpoetry</a>

instead of

<a href="https://indieweb.xyz/en/indiewebpoetry” class="u-syndication">/en/indiewebpoetry</a>.

I think the other small portion you’re missing is that Indieweb.xyz works using the Webmention protocol. It doesn’t appear to me that your site is using the Webmention or the Semantic Linkbacks plugins to make that portion work. If you install and activate them, that will get you a bit further and your site will properly ping Indieweb.xyz when you publish your posts to it.

An alternate route, without those plugins, is to manually ping Indieweb.xyz directly. You can use this manual submission link which has instructions and the fields you’ll need to fill out to force a manual webmention.

Looking forward to seeing your poetry on /en/indiewebpoetry!

P.S.: I’m also seeing <pre><a rel="webmention" href="https://brid.gy/webmention/wordpress">-</a></pre> appearing in a widget in your right hand sidebar. I take this to mean that you’re trying to accept webmentions and that you’re using WordPress.com to host your site. I suspect you may not be getting the results you’re looking for on that account because the code is wrapped in <pre></pre>. If you remove that pre tag, you’ll be closer to getting that piece working. If it’s done properly you should only see the dash “-” in that widget. If you prefer to not have a random dash in your sidebar and since that link is only used/read by Brid.gy’s code parser, you can also hide it on your site by using the following code instead <link rel="webmention" href="https://brid.gy/webmention/wordpress">.

Replied to a tweet by Katherine MossKatherine Moss (Twitter)

When you’re logged into OwnYourSwarm there’s a dashboard page with a section entitled “Comments and Responses” with two toggles. The second toggle for “Send Webmention for system comments from Swarm” should be “on” and that should send you the coins and other fun comments that Swarm adds to your posts.

I’ve definitely get them on my site. I think David Shanske updated the Semantic Linkbacks plugin a year or more ago to pares and display them correctly, so it should be just a matter of making sure that the toggle is set to on to get them.

Here’s the relevant link to the documentation.

Replied to a tweet by Rachel CherryRachel Cherry (Twitter)

I’m definitely curious what you come up with! There are so many syndication options and I’m always on the look out for better/more standardized methods. (Of course, nothing beats the feed directly from the source…)

Once you have posting out done, are you going to work on backfeed to have the responses to your posts on Twitter come back to aggregate the conversation on the original site? Perhaps using Webmention and Brid.gy?

👓 Baby Snarf | Tom Woodward

Read Baby Snarf by Tom WoodwardTom Woodward (bionicteaching.com)

This is a ridiculous thing. It came into my head the other day and it amused at least a few of my children . . . once I explained what Snarf was. I plan to make ridiculous things more often. I initially had it up on...

Content Warning (Earworm: Baby Shark)

This does make me wonder if Ryan Barrett’s website name is related? It would have been in his formative youth (circa 1985) in a nascent pre-web era. Do tell…

Incidentally Tom’s example here is another good reason for Why IndieWeb–one needn’t rely on a silo’s algorithm which may remove content for copyright violations even when it was done with fair use and/or satire in mind.

It’s also been a while since I’ve seen someone with a site that had a Trackback/Pingback URL box on their website like Tom does. Very cool and similar to the Webmention box on my own.

Lurking, Twitter, The Commons, and Private Posts

Lurking

Yesterday I was catching up on chat logs and ran across a stub for lurking on the IndieWeb wiki. I cleaned up the formatting a bit and added some additional material. Later Ton Zijlstra dropped a link to his excellent article from 2004 on the topic: Lurking and Social Networks (though honestly, I first came by the link courtesy of our good friend Jeremy Cherfas who added it to the wiki page).

Lurking is the quiet watching/listening that what many people of the web do in chat rooms in order to begin gauging culture, learning jargon or lingo, and other community norms or unspoken principles before diving in to interact on a more direct level with other participants.

While the word lurking can have a very negative connotation, online it often has a much more positive one, especially in regard to the health and civility of the commons. Rather than rehash what Ton has done an excellent job of doing, I won’t go into the heavy details and history of online lurking, but instead, let’s take a look at where it isn’t in today’s social media landscape.

Twitter

Since 2004, Twitter and a slew of other social media has popped up on the scene and changed many of our prior behaviors concerning lurking. In particular, Twitter’s interface has made it far easier to either like/favorite a post or retweet it.

In comparison the the preceding era of the blogosphere represented by Tons’ post, Twitter has allowed people to send simple notifications back and forth about each others’ posts indicating a lower bar of interaction than writing a thoughtful and measured comment. Now instead of not knowing about dozens, hundreds, or thousands of lurkers, a (micro)blogger would more quickly know who many more of their readers were because they were liking or resharing their content. Naturally there are still many more potential lurkers who don’t interact with one’s posts this way, but these interactions in some way are like adding fuel to the fire and prompt the writer to continue posting because they’re getting some feedback that indicates they’ve got an audience. Twitter has dramatically lowered the bar for lurkers and made it more socially acceptable for them to make themselves known.

A mid-century imagining of a Twitter company sign on the side of a commercial building, but aged to the point that the sign is rusted, broken, and decaying from neglect
Twitter image from the collection Social Decay by Andrei Lacatsu

Of course, not all is rosy and happy in Twitterland as a result of this lowering the social bar. Because it’s so easy to follow almost anyone and interact with them, naturally everyone does. This means that while before one may have lurked a blog for weeks or months before posting a response of any sort, people are now regularly replying to complete strangers without an resistance whatsoever. While this can be valuable and helpful in many instances, oftentimes it comes off as rudely as if one butted into the private conversation of strangers at a public gathering. At the farther end of the spectrum, it’s also much easier for trolls to tag and target unsuspecting victims. As a result, we have the dumpster fire that Twitter has become in the past several years for many of its users.

The problem for the continued health of the commons is how can we maintain a bar for online lurking, but still provide some feedback? How can we keep people from shouting and yelling at passer-by from their proverbial front porches or vice-versa? How might we encourage more positive lurking online before directly jumping into a conversation? 

Read Posts and Private Posts

For several years now, as a part of the IndieWeb movement, I’ve been more directly controlling my online identity and owning my content by using my own domain name and my own website (boffosocko.com). While I still use Twitter, I’m generally only reading content from it via a feed reader. When I post to or interact with it, I’m always publishing my content on my own website first and syndicating a copy to Twitter for those who don’t own their online identities or content and (sadly) rely on Twitter to do that for them. 

Within this setting, since roughly late 2016, I’ve been posting almost all of what I read online or in books, magazines, or newspapers on my own website. These read posts include some context and are often simply composed of the title of the article, the author, the outlet, a summary/synopsis/or first paragraph or two to remind me what the piece was about, and occasionally a comment or two or ten I had on the piece.

screencapture of a read post on my website
An example read post with context from my website at https://boffosocko.com/2019/06/02/lurking-and-social-networks-ton-zijlstra/

In tandem with these posts, I’m also sending webmentions to the websites of those pieces. These (experimental) read webmentions are simply notifications to the originating site that I’ve read their piece. In our prior framing of lurking or Twitter, I’m sending them the simplest notification I can think of to say, “I’m here lurking. I’m reading or looking at your work.”

I’m not saying that I liked it, favorited it, disliked it, bookmarked it, commented on it,  or anything else, but simply that I read it, I consumed it, I spent the time to interact with it. But in contrast with Ton’s older method of looking at server logs to see what kind of traffic his posts are getting, he can see exactly who I am and visit my website in return if he chooses. (Ton’s old method of sifting through those logs was certainly not a fun experience and the data was usually relatively anonymous and useless.) These newer read notifications could potentially give him a much richer idea of who his (lurking) audience actually is. Then when someone shows up with a comment or reply, it’s not completely from out of the dark: they’ve previously indicated that they’re at least somewhat aware of the context of a potentially broader conversation on his site.

These read notifications are semantically different from likes, favorites, or even bookmarks on other platforms. In fact many platforms like Twitter, which has moved from “stars” (with the semantic idea of a favorite) to “hearts” (with the semantic idea of a like), have so few indicators of reaction to a post that the actual meaning of them has been desperately blurred. Personally I’ll use Twitter’s like functionality variously to mean: “I’m bookmarking this (or the linked article within it) for reading later”, “I like this post”, “I’ve read this post”, or even “I’m acknowledging receipt of your reply to me”. That’s just too much meaning to pack into a silly little heart icon.

Because I’m using my own website over which I have complete control, I can make it do a better job of unpacking some of this semantic tom-foolery. I’ve written about it a bit in the past if you care to see some of the details: Thoughts on linkblogs, bookmarks, reads, likes, favorites, follows, and related links. See also: the read-posts tag on this site.

If they choose, some website owners display these read post notifications in one or more ways. Some sites like Aaron Parecki’s or Jeremy Keith’s will show my interactions as bookmarks. Others, primarily WordPress-based websites that support Webmention (via plugin), will actually show these interactions in their comment sections under the heading “Read” and display my photo/avatar as an indicator that I’ve interacted with that post. In the case of read posts on which I’ve written one or more comments, the receiving site also has the option of showing my interaction not as a read/bookmark intent, but could also show my comments as a reply to their post. I’ve written a bit about this and its potential for large news outlets before in Webmentions: Enabling Better Communication on the Internet for A List Apart. There are also some older legacy sites that might show my interactions as a trackback or pingback, but these seem few and far between these days, particularly as those systems are major targets for spam and the Webmention protocol has a richer interaction/display model.

screencaputure showing how Jeremy Keith displays my read post as a bookmark. The relevant section reads: "# Bookmarked by Chris Aldrich on Thursday, April 11th, 2019 at 1:31pm"
How Jeremy Keith displays shares, likes, and bookmarks (including my read post) in the comment section of his website.
Facepiled Likes, Reads, and Mentions in the comment section of the online newspaper with a heading "Reading" under which appears an avatar indicating one person has read the article.
The display of a read post on ColoradoBoulevard.net

A new itch

But as I think about these read posts, lurking, and being more civil on the internet, I have a new itch for some functionality I’d like to add to my website. I very frequently use my website as a digital commonplace book to collect links of things I’ve read, watched, and listened to. I’ll collect quotes, highlights, and even my own marginalia. As I mentioned above, my read posts sometimes have comments, and quite often those comments are really meant just for me and not for the author of the original post. In many cases, when my comments may be too egregious, sensitive, or perhaps even insulting to the original author, I’ll make these posts private so that only I can see them on my site.  Of course when they’re private, no notifications are sent to the site at the other end of the line.

Sometimes I would like to be able to send a read notification to the site, but also keep my commentary privately to myself. This allows me to have my notes on the piece and be highly critical without dragging down the original author or piece who I may not know well or the audience of that same piece which I haven’t properly lurked (in the positive community-based sense indicated above) to be as intelligently and sensitively commenting as I would otherwise like. Thus I’d like to build in some functionality so that I can publicly indicate I’ve read a piece (and send a notification), but also so that I can keep the commentary on my read private to either myself or a smaller audience.

I suspect that I can do this in a variety of meta-fields on my website which aren’t shown to the public, but which might be shown to either myself or logged in users. In some sense, this is a subset of functionality which many in the IndieWeb have been exploring recently around the ideas of private posts or by limiting the audience of a post. In my case, I’m actually looking at making a post public, but making smaller sub-portions of it private.

To begin with, I’ll most likely be looking at doing this at a small scale just for myself and my commonplace book, as I can definitely see second and third-order effects and a variety of context collapse issues when portions of posts are private, but others who may be privy to them are commenting on those pieces from the perspective of their public spheres which may not be as private or closed off as mine. i.e.: While I may have something marked as private, privy readers will always have the option of copy/pasting it and dragging it out into the public.

For those interested, I’ll briefly note that Sebastiaan Andeweg just wrote Private posts: the move of the checkins which has some useful and related background to private posts. (Of course I remember exactly when I read it.) I also highly suspect there will be a private posts related session(s) at the upcoming IndieWeb Summit in Portland in June (tickets are still available). I’m interested to see what others come up with on this front.

Replied to a post by Johan BovéJohan Bové (Johan's Known)
Interesting experiment Chris. Too bad that the spam-bots found this site so fast. Especially for that reason I'm keeping the public comments on my own instance closed. What are you using for keeping webmentions to your site spam-free?

To my knowledge, there has yet to be an instance of spam within the broader community using Webmention. Of course, if it does become a problem there are community-based plugins like Akismet which have been very effective in the past. Others are also experimenting with building the idea of Vouch to extend Webmention as well.

cc: Chris Aldrich

Manually reconstructed Bridgy URLs redirect to silos

Filed an Issue snarfed/bridgy (GitHub)
Bridgy pulls comments and likes from social networks back to your web site. You can also use it to publish your posts to those networks.

It’s mentioned in the documentation that one can reconstruct URLs to allow manually resending webmentions for missed backfeed. However, it appears this may no longer work(?) as these reconstructed URLs, which used to be static are now automatically redirecting to their siloed instances.

Example: https://brid.gy/post/twitter/schnarfed/476408043819659264
redirects to https://twitter.com/schnarfed/status/476408043819659264

Separately, though related, the example in the documentation for Instagram no longer seems to exist and could be replaced and the example for Google+ could be removed as the service no longer exists.