Replied to Webmentions by Daniel Pietzsch (danielpietzsch.com)
This site can now receive Webmentions. Either directly or via Twitter (with Bridgy’s help). Webmentions are a standard and open way to send and receive common social-media reactions like “comments”, “likes” or “replies” via and on any site. For this site here, I’m using Aaron Parecki...
Welcome to the party!
Read Adding Some Context to (Web)mentions by Jan BoddezJan Boddez (janboddez.tech)
Triggered by Ton’s “Webmention tweaks”—or is it “Semantic Linkbacks tweaks”?—I decided to have a look at how WordPress generates its increasingly rare pingback “previews.” The resulting gist is a somewhat ugly PHP function that, given an HTML string and target URL, returns the link...
For Homebrew Website Club Wednesday, even though I didn’t make it to an in-person meetup I did manage to make some reasonable visible progress on my website.

I hacked together some tweaks to add the following:

  • Improved support in my theme for time related microformats including dt-published and dt-updated
  • Because I post so frequently, I added a visible timestamp next to the date so it’s easier to follow my timeline of posts.
  • I removed the data for my location, weather, and syndication links from the_body of my posts and appended it to my post meta data. This should prevent it from showing up in Webmentions to others’ websites or in syndicated copies, but still be available to parsers to attach that data to my posts in readers and other services.
  • I modified my CSS so that the text in the Simple Location and Syndication Links plugins matches that of the rest in its section.
  • I added a cute little bullhorn icon in front of my Syndication Links so that it has some parallelism with the rest of the meta data on my site.
  • I’d always liked the idea of adding in related posts data on my site, but didn’t like how it had worked in the past. Things were even worse with replying to other people’s posts as my markup (and far too many others I’ve seen in the WordPress world) was hacky and caused the related posts data to show up in their Webmentions sent to other sites. I looked through some of Jetpack’s documentation and figured out how to remove their Related Posts functionality from the_body, where it defaults, and append it instead to the post meta section of my posts. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s much closer to how I’d like it. Best of all, that data shouldn’t show up in my replies to other sites now either! I had disabled the functionality ages ago because it made me feel like a rude-IndieWebber.

With IndieWebCamp Online 2020 coming up this weekend, I hope to fix a few outstanding issues and roll these changes up into my open sourced IndieWeb Twenty Fifteen WordPress theme as my hackday project. If you’re using it on your own site, do let me know. Not that I can promise to fix it if it’s broken in places, but I’d at least like to know how it’s working out for you or where it could be improved.

Things left over to fix:

  • Simple Location data still needs some CSS help to display the way I want it to.
  • I need to target the Simple Location icon so I can have its color match that of the other icons.
  • Because so many of my posts don’t have titles, I’ll need to tweak something there so that the Jetpack related posts will pick up better meta data as a pseudo-title instead of displaying the relatively context-less commentary that appears in the_body
  • It may take a day or two for the related posts to populate properly, but I should make sure that it’s putting out relevant/interesting results.
  • Is it worth adding a default featured photo for the related posts that don’t have one? Could I pull one from other meta fields for some classes of posts?
Read Reducing Friction and Expanding Participation in the Continuous Improvement of OER by David Wiley (iterating toward openness)
I’m going to write a post or three about some of the friction that exists around using OER. There are some things about working with OER that are just harder or more painful than they need to be, and getting more people actively involved in using OER will require us to reduce or eliminate those po...
This reminds me I should write up something about using Webmention in conjunction with OER.

Manual Backfeed in the Blogosphere

Forcing webmentions for conversations on websites that don’t support Webmention

Within the IndieWeb community there is a process called backfeed which is the process of syndicating interactions on your syndicated (POSSE) copies back (AKA reverse syndicating) to your original posts. As it’s commonly practiced, often with the ever helpful Brid.gy service, it is almost exclusively done with social media silos like Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Github, and Mastodon. This is what allows replies to my content that I’ve syndicated to Twitter, for example, to come back and live here on my website.

Why not practice this with other personal websites? This may become increasingly important in an ever growing and revitalizing blogosphere as people increasingly eschew corporate social sites and their dark patterns of tracking, manipulative algorithmic feeds, and surveillance capitalism. It’s also useful for sites whose owners may not have the inclination, time, effort, energy or expertise to support the requisite technology.

I’ve done the following general reply pattern using what one might call manual backfeed quite a few times now (and I’m sure a few others likely have too), but I don’t think I’ve seen it documented anywhere as a common IndieWeb practice. As a point of fact, my method outlined below is really only half-manual because I’m cleverly leveraging incoming webmentions to reduce some of the work.

Manually syndicating my replies

Sometimes when using my own website to reply to another that doesn’t support the W3C’s Webmention spec, I’ll manually syndicate (a fancy way of saying cut-and-paste) my response to the website I’m responding to. In these cases I’ll either put the URL of my response into the body of my reply, or in sites like WordPress that ask for my website URL, I’ll use that field instead. Either way, my response appears on their site with my reply URL in it (sometimes I may have to wait for my comment to be moderated if the receiving site does that).

Here’s the important part: Because my URL appears on the receiving site (sometimes wrapped as a link on either my name or the date/time stamp depending on the site’s user interface choices), I can now use it to force future replies on that site back to my original via webmention! My site will look for a URL pointing back to it to verify an incoming webmention on my site.

Replies from a site that doesn’t support sending Webmentions

Once my comment appears on the receiving site, and anyone responds to it, I can take the URL (with fragment) for those responses, and manually input them into my original post’s URL reply box. This will allow me to manually force a webmention to my post that will show up at minimum as a vanilla mention on my website. 

The manual webmention box and button that appear on all my posts.

(Note, if your site doesn’t have a native box like this for forcing manual webmentions, you might try external tools like Aaron Parecki’s Telegraph or Kevin Mark’s Mention.Tech, which are almost as easy. For those who are more technical, cURL is an option as well.)

Depending on the microformats mark up of the external site, the mention may or may not have an appropriate portion for the response and/or an avatar/name. I can then massage those on my own site (one of the many benefits of ownership!) so that the appropriate data shows, and I can change the response type from a “mention” to a “reply” (or other sub-types as appropriate). Et voilà, with minimal effort, I’ve got a native looking reply back on my site from a site that does not support Webmention! This is one of the beautiful things of even the smallest building-blocks within the independent web or as a refrain some may wish to sing–“small pieces, loosely joined”!

This method works incredibly well with WordPress websites in particular. In almost all cases the comments on them will have permalink URLs (with fragments) to target the individual pieces, often they’ve got reasonable microformats for specifying the correct h-card details, and, best of all, they have functionality that will send me an email notification when others reply to my portion of the conversation, so I’m actually reminded to force the webmentions manually.

An Illustrative Example

As an example, I posted on my website that I’d read an article on Matt Maldre’s site along with a short comment. Since Matt (currently) doesn’t support either incoming or outgoing webmentions, I manually cut-and-pasted my reply to the comment section on his post. I did the same thing again later with an additional comment on my site to his (after all, why start a new separate conversation thread when I can send webmentions from my comments section and keep the context?).

Matt later approved my comments and posted his replies on his own website. Because his site is built on WordPresss, I got email notifications about his replies, and I was able to use the following URLs with the appropriate fragments of his comments in my manual webmention box:

https://www.spudart.org/blog/xeroxing-your-face/#comment-43843
https://www.spudart.org/blog/xeroxing-your-face/#comment-43844

After a quick “massage” to change them from “mentions” into “replies” and add his gravatar, they now live on my site where I expect them and in just the way I’d expect them to look if he had Webmention support on his website.

I’ll mention that, all of this could be done in a very manual cut-and-paste manner–even for two sites, neither of which have webmention support.  But having support for incoming webmentions on one’s site cuts back significantly on that manual pain.

For those who’d like to give it a spin, I’ll also mention that I’ve similarly used the incredibly old refbacks concept in the past as a means of notification from other websites (this can take a while) and then forced manual webmentions to get better data out of them than the refback method allows.

Read The discovery metadata field by Matt Maldre (Matt Maldre)
The internet would be a really interesting place if every article that was shared automatically had a “via link.” Ok, so the internet is already interesting. But what makes the internet such a great place is its connectivity. Everything is linked together. We can easily share a link to an article. So many links all … The discovery metadata field Read More »
I’ve been fascinated with this idea of vias, hat tips, and linking credit (a la the defunct Curator’s Code) just like Jeremy Cherfas. I have a custom field in my site for collecting these details sometimes, but I should get around to automating it and showing it on my pages rather than doing it manually.

Links like these seem like throwaways, but they can have a huge amount of value in aggregate. As an example, if I provided the source of how I found this article, then it’s likely that my friend Matt would then be able to see a potential treasure trove of information about the exact same topic which he’s sure to have a lot of interest in as well.

One of the things I love about webmentions is that these sorts of links to give credit could be used to create bi-directional links between sites as well. I’m half-tempted to start using custom experimental microformats classes on these links so that when the idea takes off that people could potentially display them in their comments sections as such instead of just vanilla “mentions”. This could be useful for sites that serve as inspiration in much the same way that journalistic outlets might display reads (versus bookmarks, likes, or reposts) or podcasts could display listens. Just imagine the power that displaying webmentions on wikis could have for their editors to later update pages or readers might have to delve into further resources that mention and link to those pages, especially when the content on those linked pages extends the ideas?

Tim Berners-Lee’s original proposal for hypertext was rejected because it didn’t bake bi-directional links into the web (c.f. Webstock ‘18: Jeremy Keith – Taking Back The Web at 13:39 into the video). Webmentions seems to be a simple way of ensconcing them after-the-fact, but in a way that makes them more resilient as well as update-able and even delete-able  by either side.

Of course now I come to wonder just how it was that Jeremy Cherfas finds such a deep link on Matt’s site from over a year ago? 😉

Jeremy Cherfasupdate on the IndieWeb wiki ᔥ the IndieWeb-meta chat ()

Replied to a tweet by Danny Danny (Twitter)
Danny, the IndieWeb page for Hugo has lots of resources for this (and other fun things). You should also check out the static site generator page and links for other examples/documentation which can be roughly similar.

Good luck!

Read a post by Bix Bix (bix.blog)
I’ve changed my mind: I no longer want RSS readers from which you can reply to blog posts via webmention. It completely violates my contention that social media has too little friction; it’s not a flaw an indieweb blogosphere software ecosystem should replicate. One should have to visit the blog...
Bix, I’m not sure I’m 100% sure of your mental model of a bigger system as there are definitely many moving pieces. I don’t think it’s the intention of any feed readers to be sending the Webmentions on the author’s behalf. (This would mean they’d have to save it and have it publicly available on a URL on their site to be able to send a webmention.) The readers in the IndieWeb space are generally meant to use Micropub to publish the replies to the author’s personal website and then that site is responsible for sending the Webmention.

While I suspect that reducing the friction of communicating will cause problems and potentially the attendant spam and abuse, the majority of people aren’t going to post “crap” on their own websites that they own and control.

Because so many websites are reflective of their author’s identities and personalities, I will typically subscribe to their output in a feed reader, but more often than not, read their content natively on their own website. For me that’s a big part of the experience. As an example, one could read Kicks Condor in a feed reader, but why would they choose to?!

Read Eliminating the Human by David ByrneDavid Byrne (MIT Technology Review)
We are beset by—and immersed in—apps and devices that are quietly reducing the amount of meaningful interaction we have with each other.
This piece makes a fascinating point about people and interactions. It’s the sort of thing that many in the design and IndieWeb communities should read and think about as they work.

I came to it via an episode of the podcast The Happiness Lab.

The consumer technology I am talking about doesn’t claim or acknowledge that eliminating the need to deal with humans directly is its primary goal, but it is the outcome in a surprising number of cases. I’m sort of thinking maybe it is the primary goal, even if it was not aimed at consciously.

Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:35AM

Most of the tech news we get barraged with is about algorithms, AI, robots, and self-driving cars, all of which fit this pattern. I am not saying that such developments are not efficient and convenient; this is not a judgment. I am simply noticing a pattern and wondering if, in recognizing that pattern, we might realize that it is only one trajectory of many. There are other possible roads we could be going down, and the one we’re on is not inevitable or the only one; it has been (possibly unconsciously) chosen.

Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:36AM

What I’m seeing here is the consistent “eliminating the human” pattern.

This seems as apt a name as any.
Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:39AM

“Social” media: This is social interaction that isn’t really social. While Facebook and others frequently claim to offer connection, and do offer the appearance of it, the fact is a lot of social media is a simulation of real connection.

Perhaps this is one of the things I like most about the older blogosphere and it’s more recent renaissance with the IndieWeb idea of Webmentions, a W3C recommendation spec for online interactions? While many of the interactions I get are small nods in the vein of likes, favorites, or reposts, some of them are longer, more visceral interactions.

My favorite just this past week was a piece that I’d worked on for a few days that elicited a short burst of excitement from someone who just a few minutes later wrote a reply that was almost as long as my piece itself.

To me this was completely worth the effort and the work, not because of the many other smaller interactions, but because of the human interaction that resulted. Not to mention that I’m still thinking out a reply still several days later.

This sort of human social interaction also seems to be at the heart of what Manton Reece is doing with micro.blog. By leaving out things like reposts and traditional “likes”, he’s really creating a human connection network to fix what traditional corporate social media silos have done to us. This past week’s episode of Micro Monday underlines this for us. (#)
Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:52AM

Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist at USC wrote about a patient he called Elliot, who had damage to his frontal lobe that made him unemotional. In all other respects he was fine—intelligent, healthy—but emotionally he was Spock. Elliot couldn’t make decisions. He’d waffle endlessly over details. ­Damasio concluded that although we think decision-­making is rational and machinelike, it’s our emotions that enable us to actually decide.

Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:56AM

And in the meantime, if less human interaction enables us to forget how to cooperate, then we lose our advantage.

It may seem odd, but I think a lot of the success of the IndieWeb movement and community is exactly this: a group of people has come together to work and interact and increase our abilities to cooperate to make something much bigger, more diverse, and more interesting than any of us could have done separately.
Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:58AM

Remove humans from the equation, and we are less complete as people and as a society.

Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 10:59AM

A version of this piece originally appeared on his website, davidbyrne.com.

This piece seems so philosophical, it seems oddly trivial that I see this note here and can’t help but think about POSSE and syndication.
Annotated on January 22, 2020 at 11:01AM

Read Webmentions work log 20200115 by Jeremy Felt (jeremyfelt.com)
Tonight is Pullman’s first Homebrew Website Club and I’m going to use the allocated hacking time to figure out what might be misfiring in the Webmention plugin’s always approve feature. Side note: It feels weird typing “Webmention” rather than “webmention”. I think I’m going to use t...
Read Webmentions work log 20200117 by Jeremy Felt (jeremyfelt.com)
I hadn’t taken a close look at the IndieWeb comments documentation when I marked up the latest version of comments for this site last week. Today I’m going to follow some of the advice Chris had and stare closer at some prior art. My first objective is to remove all of the unnecessary classes ad...
Reading about Jeremy’s work is inspiring me to do more of my own.
Bookmarked Indieweb Webmentions on Middleman or Jekyll by Evan TraversEvan Travers (evantravers.com)
Recently, @ttscoff asked a little bit about how I’m including twitter replies to a blog post on my site. I like building and hacking on stuff on my site… so one of my experiments is “joining the indieweb.” There isn’t a right way to implement this stuff… one of the beautiful and bewilde...