Holiday is on, and apart from relaxing with the family, I aim to look into a bunch of stuff before I'm back at the factory in January. My Indieweb life is coming on well, thanks to Known, and the #indieweb community in London. I attended my first couple of Homebrew Website Club meetups in town in 20...
Brad, I like and agree with your general thoughts, but I think that looking at the long term broader picture, most of what you’re describing is covered under the umbrella principle of plurality. For things to grow and thrive, we all need plurality to flourish. As a result there are several hundred projects within the broader IndieWeb which are growing and thriving. It seems far slower because a large number of the projects are single-maintainer single-user ones which are being built for personal use.
It’s nice that there are mass-scale projects like WordPress, WithKnown, Get Perch, Grav, Drupal, and a few others which have one or more “IndieWeb-centric” developers working on them that allow those without the coding skills to jump in and enjoy the additional freedom and functionality. The occasional drawback is that those big-hearted developers also fit into the broader fabric of those massively distributed projects and sometimes their voices aren’t as well heard, if at all.
I’m aware of the disruption of the Gutenberg Editor within WordPress v5.0 and how it applies to those using IndieWeb technology on WordPress. I’m sure it will eventually get sorted out in a reasonable fashion. Sadly, throwing out the baby out with the bathwater as it comes to WordPress and IndieWeb may not be the best solution for many people and may actually be a painful detriment to several hundreds.
While it would be interesting to see a larger group of developers converge on building an open and broadly used IndieWeb system as you suggest, it takes a massive amount of work and community collaboration to get such a thing moving. I think this bears out if you look at the lay of the land as it already exists. Just think of the time effort and energy that the core IndieWeb community puts into the tremendous amount of resources that exist today.
Looking back on the past 4+ years of IndieWeb within the WordPress community, I’m really amazed to see exactly how far things have come and where things currently stand. There used to be a dozen or more pieces that required custom code, duct tape, and baling wire to get things working. Now it’s a handful of relatively stable and well set up pieces that—particularly for me—really makes WordPress deliver as an open source content management system and next generation social medial platform that aims to democratize publishing. In terms of building for the future, I suspect that helping to bring new people into the fold (users, developers, designers, etc.) will increase and improve the experience overall. To some degree, I feel like we’re just getting started on what is possible and recruiting new users and help will be the best thing for improving things moving forward. IndieWeb integration into large-scale projects like WordPress, Drupal, etc. are very likely to be the place that these ideas are likely to gain a foothold in the mainstream and change the tide of how the internet works.
While it may seem daunting at times, in addition to the heroic (part-time, it needs to be noted) developers like Mathias Pfefferle, David Shanske, Micah Cambre, Michael Bishop, Ashton McAllan, Jack Jamieson, Ryan Barrett, Peter Molnar, Amanda Rush; enthusiastic supporters like you, Greg McVerry, Aaron Davis, Manton Reece; and literally hundreds of others (apologies to those I’ve missed by name) who are using and living with these tools on a daily basis, there are also quieter allies like Brandon Kraft, Ryan Boren, Jeremy Herve and even Matt himself, even if he’s not directly aware of it, who are contributing in their own ways as well. Given the immense value of what IndieWeb brings to the web, I can’t imagine that they won’t ultimately win out.
If it helps, some of the current IndieWeb issues pale in comparison to some of the accessibility problems that Gutenberg has neglected within the WordPress community. Fortunately those a11ys are sticking with the greater fight to make things better not only for themselves, but for the broader community and the world. I suggest that, like them, we all suit up and continue the good fight.
Of course part of the genius of how IndieWeb is structured: anyone is free to start writing code, make better UI, and create something of their own. Even then they benefit from a huge amount of shared work, resources, and simple standards that are already out there.
Publish blog posts, photos and media to your own site, and syndicate it to your social networks. Keep everything on your own site. Source: Known: social publishing for groups and individuals I’m looking at Known this morning. The website has that Silicon Valley – Apple vibe to it – lots of s...
I’ve been thinking very similarly along these lines for six months or more, but with a particular slant at journalistic enterprises. I’ve specifically been considering what would happen if small local newspapers and other journalistic outlets were running IndieWeb-esque platforms for their local communities. This would potentially help to moderate and encourage local conversations and consumption of local grown content and journalism and potentially improve the toxicity of general social media or massive issues like those that Facebook is facing with genocidal effects of their platform in Myanmar where they didn’t have any local presence or moderation much less people in-house who had language capabilities to even begin to deal with these issues. This type of mission could better empower entities to improve both local journalism by binding it to a different substrate as a financial model and fix many of the issues we see with social media simultaneously.
This general idea also isn’t too dissimilar from Greg McVerry’s idea of having local libraries allow patrons to “check out” (aka set up) their own domains and social presences/identities using their library cards.
The difficulty I see is that as the world moves toward increased specialization, that looking for newspapers or even municipalities to oversee and maintain such infrastructure may be difficult. I already see issues with smaller outlets building and maintaining their own publishing platforms with simple out-of-the-box CMS solutions that are relatively easy-to-use and modify with simple plugins. (In a recent inventory of my local news sources, I’ll note here that nearly 100% of the local online news sources for my community are running on WordPress, but not all of them have a huge amount of technical knowledge about what and how they’re doing it in those spaces). The growth of content management systems like Ghost, which has a journalistic bent, also indicates that there isn’t a “perfect solution” to the CMS problem, much less the issues of running IndieWeb-like platforms/clusters based on simpler platforms like WordPress or even Known. There’s certainly a lot of space out there for third party companies to help grow and expand in both of these areas (community-based social platforms as well as journalism platforms and admixtures thereof.)
If local institutions or even governments did move in this direction, then their users are at the potential mercy of third-party businesses which may not necessarily be aligned with local values. An example of something akin to this was covered recently in The Daily on their episode Taking Over Local News. I’m also reminded about of my poor experiences with un-moderated third party platforms like Nextdoor.com can be.
Another microcosm to look at is how hundreds of thousands of public libraries are interfacing with the four or more media suppliers of e-books and what that financial model looks like as, if taken, I would suspect a similar trajectory for local social public media. Similarly looking at how municipalities interface with cable franchising can reveal some pitfalls to avoid moving forward with respect to monopolies and competition.
Certainly some additional thought about how to solve these issues at the smaller local and personal levels is welcome. Thanks for dipping into and expanding my surface area of thinking Ben.
Before we begin -
- Hi! I'm going to return to spending more time on Known. As you may know, I was Director of Investments at Matter Ventures for the last two years or so, which occupied a disproportionate amount of my time. This is no longer the case. While I'm working on another open source project - Unlock - during the day, I'll be able to devote more attention to Known.
- Known deserves a 1.0 release, and will get one. Marcus and I have spoken quite a bit about the route forward.
- Commercial enhancements to Known, like the hosted service and Convoy, will get their own update. Going forward, any commercial ambitions or support for Known will be secondary to the open source project, if they exist at all.
Okay. With all of that said, I'd like to put the following out for discussion. Replies, questions, and criticisms are welcome!
This may be some of the best news I’ve heard in months! Known is one of my favorite open source CMSes that’s easy to spin up and use. It also supports so many awesome IndieWeb specs like Webmention, Micropub, WebSub, etc. right out of the box.
The runner up awesome news is that Reclaim Hosting is very likely to revamp their installatron version of it.
It took me a moment to realize what it was exactly since I hadn’t yet added a field to indicate it, but since the IndieWeb chat doesn’t send webmentions by itself, I’m glad I support refbacks to be aware of comments on my posts. The avatar didn’t come through quite like it should, but it’s nice to be able to treat refbacks like any other type of mention.
The chat has some reasonable microformats markup, so I suppose the parser could do a more solid job, but this is a pretty great start. Sadly, Refback isn’t as real-time as Webmention, but it’s better than nothing.
I suppose we could all be posting chats on our own sites and syndicating into places like IRC to own our two directional conversations, but until I get around to the other half… (or at least for WordPress, I recall having gotten syndication to IRC for WithKnown working a while back via plugin.)
Don’t keep us in suspense… What was the new plugin?!
It's always fun to use these milestones to take a step back and reflect on the journey so far. On previous birthdays I've talked about revenue milestones and product updates, but this year I'm going to focus more on all the things we've learned since we started.
In reading this, I took a look at downloading and self-hosting a copy of Ghost for myself, but the barrier and work involved was beyond my patience to bother with. For an open source project that prides itself on user experience, this seemed at odds. Perhaps this is playing itself out better for the paid monthly customers? But in this case, it doesn’t support many of the pieces of infrastructure I find de rigueur now: Webmention support and microformats which I understand they have no plans to support anytime soon.
Looking at their project pages and site though it does seem like they’ve got a reasonable layout and sales pitch for a CMS project, though it’s probably a bit too much overkill on selling when it could be simpler. Perhaps it might be a model for creating a stronger community facing page for the WithKnown open source project, presuming the education-focused corporate side continues as a status quo?
They did seem to be relatively straightforward in selling themselves against WordPress and what they were able to do and not do. I’m curious what specifically they’re doing to attract journalists? I couldn’t find anything specifically better than anything else on the market that would set it apart other than their promise on ease-of-use.
There were some interesting insights for those working within the IndieWeb community as well as businesses which might build themselves upon it.
Decentralised platforms fundamentally cannot compete on ease of setup. Nothing beats the UX of signing up for a centralised application.
We spent a very long time trying to compete on convenience and simplicity. This was our biggest mistake and the hardest lesson to learn.
Perhaps in the vein of what you might be looking for, I’ve got a multi-user site built on WithKnown. It functions much like a stand-alone-Facebook-like service where users have their own accounts and can interact with each other on the service. It also has an OAuth server which allows users to use their own websites to log in and be able to post or syndicate content from their own websites into it, that way they have a choice of owning all of the content they post to it or not.
Note: this particular test site is meant more for folks to do quick test drives of the Known platform rather than serving as a platform in the way you’re describing. As an example of what you may be looking for though, here’s an original post on my own website (note the “also on” link at the bottom) and here’s the copy that was syndicated into the separate “community service” on an entirely different domain.
I suspect you could use other sites/services like WordPress to do something like this as well.
(1.0 is coming soon, but yes, I wouldn’t blame you for coming to this entirely correct conclusion. Returning to life.)
— Ben Werdmuller (@benwerd) May 8, 2018
There’s about to be a lot of deleted code. Convoy and commercial elements are going away. But the open source project will be properly revived.
— Ben Werdmuller (@benwerd) May 8, 2018
Summary: Facebook has recently announced it will be shutting off its API access on August 1st for automating posts into its ecosystem. For a large number of users this means it will be much more difficult to crosspost or syndicate their content into the platform. As a result, this week David Shanske and I discuss the good and the bad of this move as well as some general thoughts around the ideas of syndicating content from one site to another.
David also discusses plans he’s got for changes to both the Bridgy Publish Plugin and the Syndication Links Plugin.
Related Articles and Posts
- New Facebook Platform Product Changes and Policy Updates
- Bridgy Publish for Facebook shuts down in August by Ryan Barrett (#)
- Buffer responds to syndication question, but then checks itself (#)
- I’m done with Syndication. Let’s help people be themselves on the web. by Ben Werdmuller (#)
- Deprecating and Replacing Bridgy Publish for WordPress by David Shanske (#)
Resources and mentions within the episode
- ThinkUp (#) — (my instance is still up,though no longer working!)
- BBC Audio Archive (#)
- IndieNews a community-curated list of articles relevant to the IndieWeb (#)
- Convoy a syndication tool for WithKnown (#)
- Faux-casts (#)
- Related IndieWeb wiki pages
- Related WordPress Plugins
# Indicates a direct link to the appropriate part of the audio within the episode for the mentioned portion.
This first half of the episode was originally recorded in March, abruptly ended, and then was not completed until April due to scheduling.
It’s been reported that Cambridge Analytica has improperly taken and used data from Facebook users in an improper manner, an event which has called into question the way that Facebook handles data. David Shanske and I discuss some of the implications from an IndieWeb perspective and where you might go if you decide to leave Facebook.
The originating articles that kicked off the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica issue:
- 3/16/18: Facebook’s Newsroom: Suspending Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group from Facebook by Paul Grewal
- “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do.”
- 3/17/18: The Guardian: Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach
- 3/17/18: New York Times: How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook data of Millions
Related articles and pages
- 3/21/18 Anil Dash: The Missing Building Blocks of the Web, an article bringing the Facebook issue back around to regaining the good parts of the “old web”
- How To Change Your Facebook Settings To Opt Out of Platform API Sharing from the Electronic Frontier Foundation
- 3/24/18: Ars Technica: Facebook scraped call, text message data for years from Android phones
- 3/18/18: The Guardian: Facebook employs psychologist whose firm sold data to Cambridge Analytica
- Mastodon not supporting Webmention specification
- Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil
Recent Documented Facebook Quitters
New York Times Profile of multiple quitters: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/21/technology/users-abandon-facebook.html
IndieWeb Wiki related pages of interest
Potential places to move to when leaving Facebook
You’ve made the decision to leave Facebook? Your next question is likely to be: to move where? Along with the links above, we’ve compiled a short list of IndieWeb-related places that might make solid options.
- Micro.blog for $5/month (or bring your own web site for free)
- WithKnown (Paid service or host your own)
- WordPress.org (self-hosted or managed)
- Mastodon (doesn’t necessarily provide ownership of domain name unless you’re self-hosting an instance)
- Other possible projects/options: https://indieweb.org/projects
Open Source enthusiast and DBA.
Regarding various Known post types there is a story I would say I think so because at least for me it took so long to sort it out on my instance. After I've installed Known on my domain some time in july 2016 I have realized the Repost and Like post types don't appear to be available right on the ma...
Interestingly, Known had a lot of these features hidden in code under the hood. Sadly they weren’t all built out. It in fact, did have much of a reader (something which Ben indicated they were going to take out of the v1.0 release to slim down the code since it wasn’t being used). It also had a follow/following block of code (and even a bookmarklet at /account/settings/following) so you could follow specific sites and easily add them to your reader. Also unbeknownst to most was a built-in notifications UI which could have been found at /account/notifications.
It’s a shame that they put many of these half-built features on hold in their pivot to focus on the education market and creating a viable cash flow based company as this is the half that most CMSs lack. (If you think about what makes Twitter and Facebook both popular and really simple, I think it is that they’re 95% excellent feed readers with 5% built-in posting interfaces.)
I’ve managed to replace some of that missing functionality with Woodwind, a reader at http://woodwind.xyz, which one could connect with Known to do the reading and then integrate the posting, commenting, and replies to complete the loop. I do have a few very serious developer friends who are endeavoring to make this specific feed reader portion of the equation much easier to implement (and even self-host) to make the hurdle of this problem far lower, but I suspect it’ll be another 3-6 months before a usable product comes out of the process. For those looking to get more social into their feed readers, I often recommend Ryan Barrett’s appspot tools including https://twitter-atom.appspot.com/ which has instructions for extracting content from Twitter via Atom/RSS. It includes links at the bottom of the page for doing similar things with Facebook, Instagram and Google+ as well.
Interestingly there are now enough moving pieces (plugins) in the WordPress community to recreate all of the functionality Known has, one just needs to install them all separately and there are even a few different options for various portions depending on one’s needs. This includes adding reply contexts for social media as well as both the ability to syndicate posts to multiple social sites for interaction as well as getting the comments, etc. backfeed from those social sites back into the comments section of your post the way Known did. Sadly, the feed reader problem still exists, but it may soon be greatly improved.