Moving Toward a More Independent Web in 2018

created Jan 3, 2018

In 2017, the most interesting new website/app that I encountered was micro.blog. It incorporates numerous standards-based features to create a social networking-like service that provides discovery and discussions while giving users the option to host their content on their own websites. micro.blog uses some IndieWeb concepts, such as Webmention, MicroPub, and Microformats.

A user can use micro.blog to reply to someone else's post, and micro.blog will also send that reply to the other person's personal website. And if that other site supports receiving Webmentions, the reply also appears on the user's personal website. I have experienced this.

It's similar when I syndicate a post from my website to Twitter, and another Twitter user replies, likes, or shares my tweet, and that interaction comes back to my personal website as a Webmention.

A key difference: I don't read my Twitter timeline because I prefer micro.blog. I will generally have my micro.blog timeline in a browser tab most of the day. My Twitter account is only for testing IndieWeb concepts. I don't follow anyone on Twitter. I could delete my Twitter account, and I wouldn't miss it. For IndieAuth logins, I can rely on email and not my test Twitter account.

Today in my micro.blog timeline, I saw this Brent Simmons post:

https://micro.blog/brentsimmons/251190

That pointed to his blog post:

http://inessential.com/2018/01/03/2018_some_hope

It's a good read. Excerpts:

The great social network is, or ought to be, the web itself.

The unruly web — unregulated and uncontrolled — is, perhaps paradoxically, the easiest place to limit hate. Not because we can stop people from publishing, but because we don’t have to live by Dorsey’s and Zuckerberg’s rules and designs.

I don’t know all the details of how we get there, or what it will be like once we do. That’s fine: that’s part of what makes the journey fun.

Yep, a fun journey, and probably a long, slow journey, which is okay too. A long, slow approach might create a more sturdy environment for the future.

More from Brent's blog post:

Overcast and Castro and others help ensure that podcasting is not just a vital and exciting medium of independent publishing but is also open and built on standards. Anybody can write any kind of podcasting software they want to — but nobody can control podcasting. And nobody can force you to listen to hate. You pick the shows you want to hear.

MarsEdit lets you write whatever you want to write and publish it on the web. You’re limited only by the law and whatever terms of service your hosting provider may have. All the words you read in MarsEdit are your own. And nobody can make you read what other MarsEdit users write.

Evergreen (which I’m working on), NetNewsWire, Reeder, Unread and other RSS readers work like Overcast and Castro but for written words. You choose what to read, and if a blogger you like suddenly turns hateful, you hit the Delete key.

Then there’s Manton’s new service, which needs its own section ... Micro.blog

It’s a publishing platform and a social network, based on standards. You don’t even have to use Manton’s Mac or iOS apps: you can write posts in MarsEdit or other blog editor, or read your timeline using an RSS reader.

The period from 1995-2008 (roughly speaking) was fun. It seemed like everybody was coming up with new things, and people were experimenting, and we were finding new joys in new connections, both human and technological.

Then, as Facebook and Twitter (and Google Reader; can’t forget that thing) grew, it’s as if we froze. And those things were fun for a while, but they’re not now, and it’s obvious we made a mistake in allowing that much power to concentrate.

It’s time for the thaw: it’s time to get back to having fun. You’re free to make whatever you want.

While reading Brent's post, I'm thinking about the IndieWeb, and, whew, Brent mentioned the IndieWeb at the bottom of his post.

Brent's blog post contained these links, some of which I have read in the past.

http://www.manton.org/2017/12/twitters-weeds.html

http://inessential.com/2011/06/15/what_we_talk_about_when_we_talk_about_rs

http://inessential.com/2013/03/14/why_i_love_rss_and_you_do_too

Tantek Çelik - The once and future IndieWeb - (excellent video that somehow I have missed)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNr0JNwsLy8

http://anildash.com/2012/12/the-web-we-lost.html

http://anildash.com/2012/12/rebuilding-the-web-we-lost.html

Last month, I created a blog site for my wife. But oddly, instead of using one of the many web publishing apps that I have created in recent years and hosting her site on my Digital Ocean Droplet, I chose a CMS-hosted solution by paying for an account at Svbtle.

I think that I wanted to try out Svbtle. It's a simple writing environment, which is good. The focus should be on creating content. It's limited in terms of customization, but for my wife, that shouldn't be a problem.

I mainly wanted to get her interested in writing on her own domain name. And if she posts at least weekly, then I'll consider moving her site to one of my web apps on DO.

She can document all of her "making" activities and other interests. When the question is: "What do I write?", my answer is: "Whatever you want." The most mundane subject can be important to the author, especially as the post ages.

In November, she started making soap. She takes notes on her soap making. She could write web posts about this activity. She cans jams and butters. She could document her canning activity. She likes to sew. She could document her sewing projects. She can include photos with her posts.

That's my goal: Encourage one person per year to create content at his or her own personal domain name.

If people desire to have online identities, then I want to encourage them to make their personal websites their identities.

https://indieweb.org/IndieWeb

The IndieWeb is about owning your domain, using it as your primary identity to publish on your own site (optionally syndicate elsewhere), and owning your data.

I got my wife started or introduced to the idea in December 2017, but 2018 will be the year that I encourage her to post to her site regularly by herself. Maybe in 2019, I'll work with my Stepdaughter.

Both are heavy users of social media, and that's fine. I won't try to get them off social media. I'll only introduce them to the larger web, and that their online identity should be their own domain names.

CMS-hosted solutions are good starts. Eventually, I can host their server-hosted solutions.

In 2018, I'll introduce my wife to micro.blog. I'll try to get her to discover and follow other people on micro.blog. Her Svbtle site contains an RSS feed.

I cannot force people to create content on their own domain names. I cannot force people to use micro.blog. I can only introduce them to those concepts and help them as much as possible. And if they lose interest, oh well, at least I know that I tried.

In the aught years, numerous personal websites and blogs existed in the Toledo area, and it was easy to find them because the bloggers used blogrolls. But now, I don't know if many Toledo area personal blogs exist or even how to discover them. I'm guessing that most area bloggers from the aught years migrated to social media silos.

It would be fun to encourage Toledo Talk users to buy their own domain names, host their own websites, and use micro.blog or some other way to hold cross-site discussions. The Toledo area needs a larger independent web presence. Many creative and opinionated people live here. Lifelong residents to this area contain a lot of historical knowledge in their noggins. It would be great if Toledo area residents dumped their interests onto the open web.

Getting one or two family members a year to use the open web will be a challenge. Encouraging dozens or hundreds of TT users to do the same could be daunting.

Possibly related posts:

http://sawv.org/2017/12/22/combining-old-and-new-ideas-for-better-web-communities.html

http://sawv.org/2017/06/22/rebooting-the-blogroll-or-something-similar.html

http://sawv.org/2017/06/12/create-a-social-network-using-feed-readers-and-the-indieweb-concepts.html

http://sawv.org/2017/10/10/keepitsimple-ideas-for-content-creation-distribution-and-consumption.html

http://sawv.org/2017/05/06/personal-publishing-design-options.html

http://sawv.org/2017/09/14/decentralized-social-networks-do-work.html

http://sawv.org/2017/08/20/decentralization-enables-internet-freedom.html

http://sawv.org/2017/04/06/decentralizing-web-ideas.html

http://sawv.org/2016/11/14/email-newsletters-vs-rss-feeds.html

http://sawv.org/2017/03/03/does-blogging-need-simpler-tools.html

http://sawv.org/2017/03/21/my-march-2017-personal-publishing-thoughts.html

http://sawv.org/2017/12/20/interesting-communities-idea-for-microblog.html

http://sawv.org/2016/10/07/defining-open-web-and-silos.html

http://sawv.org/2017/07/06/indieweb-testing.html

http://sawv.org/2017/03/30/the-future-of-usercontributed-web-content.html

http://sawv.org/2016/01/26/blogosphere-v20.html

http://sawv.org/2014/10/04/jh-are-content-silos-winning.html

http://sawv.org/2017/12/05/silo-stories-that-should-encourage-owning-our-content-on-the-open-web.html

Writing with an app or web browser

This is swerving off-topic. Brent's blog post also pointed to this link.

http://danielpunkass.micro.blog/2018/01/01/im-optimistic-that.html

I'm optimistic that 2018 will bring a revitalization of user-owned content on the open web. Micro.blog for Twitter-like chat on an open platform. Evergreen for reading from open-standard feeds. MarsEdit for publishing to open-standard APIs. Let's do this.

Personal websites, IndieWeb, RSS, and Micro.blog are about openness. MarsEdit and Evergreen are native apps that work only on macOS, but the end result, the blog post, would probably exist on the open web. And when editors and web publishing apps use standards, such as MicroPub, then that's a big step forward for openness.

Writing and feed-reading environments are personal preferences. I became enamored with the web in 1996 when I created my first web page and my first web server app. And since then, I prefer to do as much as possible through web browsers.

For my feed reader, I like theoldreader.com. It's web-based. It's simple. I can view all feeds together or separately. It works well enough for me. I don't need a ton of features. It works across all of my devices.

I like to use the IndieWeb compatible woodwind.xyz feed reader for testing, since Woodwind is also a MicroPub client that permits replying to someone else's post from within Woodwind.

I log into Woodwind, using IndieAuth. When replying to someone's post, Woodwind accesses my MicroPub endpoint to create the post at my website. My web publishing code sees that it's a reply post to another website, and my code makes a Webmention post to that other website, assuming that the site accepts Webmentions.

On the client side, I'm not loyal to any one particular operating system. I prefer Linux on the servers that I use at Amazon Web Services, Hurricane Electric, and Digital Ocean.

On the client side, if I had to choose, I would select Linux. My desktop computer runs Ubuntu Linux. My so-called laptop is a Chromebook that runs Google's Chrome OS, but I can also use Linux Crouton on a thumbdrive with the Chromebook. My phone is an iPhone.

My favorite native app on all devices is the web browser, and I use different browsers, but my writing environment functions the same, regardless of what client hardware device and operating system that I use.

https://www.red-sweater.com/marsedit - My comments in brackets.

Browser-based interfaces are slow [false], clumsy [false], and require you to be online just to use them [well, duh].

If I want to write offline, I use a small, pocket-sized paper notebook and either a ballpoint pen or mechanical pencil. In cold weather, like what we have experienced recently, my iPhone shuts down when I'm outside for more than 20 minutes and when I'm using my phone to take photos.

I like to birdwatch and observe nature year-round, including in the winter. The smartphone is useless as a note-taking device when temperatures dip below 20 degrees. No matter how much battery life my phone possesses, the phone shuts down in the cold even when I don't use it. I suppose that some kind of gadget exists to keep a phone warm when the air temp is around zero.

Ballpoint pens fail to work when temps are below 20 degrees. A Fisher Space Pen would work, but I use a mechanical pencil when the weather is bitter cold. And if it's raining, I use a mechanical pencil with a Rite-in-the-Rain notebook. Works like magic.

One of my afflictions or addictions is observing the world, taking notes with pen or pencil and paper, and sometimes converting those notes into a web post. Notetaking with pen and paper is my offline texting or writing.

More from the MarsEdit homepage:

Browsers are perfect for reading web content, but not ideal for creating it.

Man, that's definitely false. I've been writing on the web regularly since September 2001. I've created thousands of web posts over those 16-plus years, mainly using the humble HTML textarea box and a web server app that uses the Common Gateway Interface.

In recent years, I rely a lot on my own JavaScript "editor" that is simply a gateway or conduit that sends the markup that I wrote in the browser to the server where my web publishing app formats the markup into HTML, saves the markup and the HTML on the server's file system or in an SQL or NoSQL database, and then the server code returns the HTML to my client-side JavaScript app for viewing. Simple. It works on my iPhone, Chromebook, and Desktop computer.

And if I want a JavaScript free environment, then I rely on the HTML textarea box. Both writing options exist in my web publishing apps: HTML textarea box and my JavaScrip conduit editor.

More from MarsEdit:

If you're serious about writing for the web, you need a desktop blog editor.

I think that I'm serious about writing for the web. I have been posting to my own websites since 2001, all through the web browser.

If you're lucky enough to have a Mac, nothing is more powerful, or more elegant than MarsEdit.

I don't want to be tied to one type of hardware and operating system. In my opinion, I'm more efficient by writing Textile or Markdown in a web browser that uses my own web publishing system.

I've been writing in Textile, since 2005 when I built new code for Toledo Talk. I've been writing in Markdown, since 2013. I mainly use Markdown outside of Toledo Talk.

March 2018

Thoughts on Embracing the Social Internet Over Social Media

Related Hacker News thread.

"Publish on Your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere"
https://indieweb.org/POSSE

Related HN thread - Unfortunately, it seems that most of the commenters did not read the IndieWeb documentation, but they had an opinion anyway. That's a sad human trait.

I use Hootsuite to "announce" content, published on sites that I manage, to Twitter and FB.

I also use RSS to "syndicate" content from Site A to x sites in the network.

Sure, but if the person had studied the IndieWeb, he/she would learn that the interactions that occur on social media get backfed to the user's personal website.

Another HN comment that only said:

My first reaction: RSS?

Yes, RSS, Atom, JSON-feed, and the Microformats h-feed are all part of the IndieWeb. So are Webmention, IndieAuth, MicroPub, MicroSub, and many other functions.

Personal publishers can implement as many of those as desired, including none of them.

The main principle is maintaining a personal website at a personal domain name and then optionally syndicating to silos. And if possible via brid.gy, the content can be syndicated to silos with interactions on say Twitter bouncing back to the personal website.

HN comment:

It's sad that "you have to be on the silos" to be seen.

It might be sad, but it's also reality. The media know that it's true.

If authors use social media, then what's wrong with using a personal website to host content, syndicating the content to social media, and having social media interactions backfed to the authors' personal websites?

That last part, backfeeding, is what the HN commenters are ignoring because they have not studied the IndieWeb.

Many IndieWeb users enjoy using social media, in addition to using their personal websites. In fact, they "use" social media from their personal websites. They don't directly use nor directly login into their social media accounts. They can operate everything from their personal websites. The comments at Twitter appear on their personal websites.

But this is all optional. A user like me can only post to my personal website and not use social media for anything. I can use email and the Webmention protocol for comments. I use the IndieWeb webring for discovery. At the most social media-wise, I would use micro.blog for additional discovery and discussions.

-30-