Combining Old and New Ideas for Better Web Communities

created Dec 22, 2017

I like the idea of fusing old, sturdy content creating, consuming, and sharing concepts from the past, such as blog-like personal publishing, RSS, and email with newer initiatives, such as the IndieWeb, Mastodon, and to create useful web communities for the future.

This is not a replacement for today's social media silo giants. Some of today's independent initiatives interact with social media.

But some of us are not heavy social media users. We may not post to social media at all.

The IndieWeb's ideas and the new service enable users to publish on their own websites, optionally syndicate to social media, which permits social media interactions to be backfed to the personal websites, and to engage in cross-site commenting.

The IndieWeb's Webmention concept, which is a W3C spec, can be a highly useful technology for creating future web communities.

Mastodon can be downloaded and installed on users' own servers. Owners can create communities as closed or as open as the owners desire. Users can communicate across the many different, installed, Mastodon instances. It's like zillions of different Twitter systems installed on the internet, and users can communicate across the different systems without creating user accounts on each system.

What about message boards like my, which has existed since January 2003? Niche boards are still useful. Hackers are still creating new message board systems, which is good to see. Today's programmers are re-imagining the old message board concept.

Niche, silo-based communities will probably exist for a while. Example is, which is a private, community site, dedicated to knitters and crocheters and similar crafters.

Building web communities around independent web publishing intrigues me more at the moment, but the tech may still be too complicated for many users.

Related links

Thoughts to include:


Mastodon makes the Internet feel like home again

From The Outline story:

So, why Mastodon? The new social media service is a non-profit, open-source project that has attracted many Twitter refugees over the last year, including myself. Founder Eugen Rochko ( wrote in March that Mastodon was aiming to learn from the “mistakes” of Twitter and be an inclusive, decentralized microblogging platform. The result is a social media service where users actually feel comfortable being themselves, as opposed to a performative, more sarcastic version of who they actually are.

I eventually came back when a Twitter friend announced she was going to start her own Mastodon community, Mellified.Men, that would have closed registration and would only be open to a limited number of users. This time, I started over, with no links to my Twitter life, and built a timeline from scratch. I found being on a smaller community to be more educational in terms of the technical differences between Mastodon and Twitter, and the new social group I built was funnier, kinder, and more interesting.

Over time, my posting habits began to change. I spent less time sharing links or commenting on the news and more time talking about my hobbies and interests. I would get in long conversation threads about how to cook a proper meat pie or the weirdest cell phone form factor of the 2000s. I would write about my mental health problems without feeling the need to put a joke at the end. I was able to stop pretending to be this person my Twitter followers expected me to be and just be myself instead. It felt great.

That sounds like the blogging community of the early aught years. And that type of posting has occurred by me and others on Toledo Talk over the years too.

More from The Outline:

Finding people to follow on Mastodon is a bit like being on the internet in the late 1990s and visiting a message board for the first time, or joining Twitter during its early days in 2007. I had to introduce myself, survey the environment, find people whose posts seemed interesting and figure out how I could contribute, or if I even wanted to at all.

A good comparison for this system would be cell phones and text messaging. My phone provider is T-Mobile and my mom is on Verizon, but we can both text each other because the protocol is the same, and the providers share messages with each other. Similarly, my Mastodon.Social account can read, favorite, or comment on messages posted on my mom’s Mastodon.Xyz account.

While everyone on Mastodon is connected to each other through the federation, the instances add flavor to their users’ experiences. There are hundreds to choose from. Do you want an instance with a particular theme? If so, there are instances that cater specifically to writers, artists, witches, technologists, socialists and many more groups. Do you want an instance with a particular moderation policy? Some instances have teams of moderators and aggressively blacklist other instances that don’t meet their standards, while there are other servers where literally anything goes.

NNTP and Usenet

How to Setup a Unix News Server (1999)

The Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) is an application protocol used for transporting Usenet news articles (netnews) between news servers and for reading and posting articles by end user client applications.

HN comment not from the Usenet thread but from the thread about Mastodon posted above:

NNTP was federated, decentralized, asynchronous, with hierarchical groups and threaded conversations. Decades ahead, in terms of protocol design, of mailing lists, twitter and stuff like Slack.