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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Chris Lovie-Tyler on supporting different building blocks of the IndieWeb

Chris Lovie-Tyler, from the other side of our planet:

After reading a handful of Colin Devroe’s posts (links at the bottom), I’ve made a few decisions.

I’m glad my posts, in which I was just thinking out loud and forming my own opinions on these matters, helped him to form his. I believe everyone should do whatever is right and sustainable for themselves.

Colin Walker: “Should replies be posts?”

Colin Walker, in a post on whether or not replies to other posts (or, comments) should be their own posts:

There has to be a line, a point where a comment is just that and not a reply. It’s a question of semantics but not everyone’s answer to “what is a comment and where does it belong?” will be the same.

I struggle with this a lot.

It is likely the point I should have made in my post regarding Micro.blog becoming a commenting service (and the fact that I don’t like that). I don’t want to reply on my blog to every reply to my posts on M.b because then I would have dozens and dozens of posts on my blog that would be very tough for readers to follow contextually. I believe the commenting mechanism that has been around for decades, even un-threaded, is far more useful than dozens of desperate posts stitched together loosely with a link that says “in reply to”.

Webmention attempts to bridge that gap between post and reply but that also is tough to follow along if the thread gets unwieldy.

However, I also don’t want to reply to every reply on my posts directly on M.b either (though, I do from time-to-time) as that isn’t much better than using any other silo like Twitter or Facebook. Should M.b go away, all of those conversations would be lost.

This isn’t a new issue nor is it exclusive to M.b. If I replied on my own blog to other people’s posts on their own blogs (like I am in this post to Colin Walker’s blog) then one side of the conversation could disappear at any time. I can only control my side of the equation. But at least if I have my own blog I have control of that one side.

I think it is good that these topics are being discussed again. The same debates have been swirling since blogging began, they swelled again when the indieweb movement began to take shape, and I think they are happening again as a result of M.b’s growing community. I do not believe there is one single answer to many them. You have to do what is right and sustainable for you.

For now, here are my personal rules for replying to posts. These will most definitely change over time.

  • If I want to say a quick “congrats” or “excellent post” or something of that nature I will leave a reply directly on their blog. If they do not have commenting turned on I will attempt to email. If they do not have email publicly available I’ll say nothing at all.
  • If I have something substantive to add to the conversation, or if I would like my “followers” to see the post I will quote the post on my blog with my additions to the conversation. Like this post.
  • If I simply want to direct people to the content I will use my new repost tag that I’ve been experimenting with. I’ve seen others use the “a post I liked” type post. That could work too.
  • If people reply using M.b, Twitter, or Facebook I will not reply on those services*. But I may reply on my own blog.
  • If I would like to keep my reply private I will attempt to email.

As an aside: I know some of you do not want to leave a public comment. I love getting reader emails. I get a fair number of them. And some of them have been excellent conversations. So please don’t hesitate.

* I no longer have a Twitter or Facebook account. I do have a M.b account but I’m beginning to wonder if I need one as I have my own fully functional weblog. If I didn’t and I wanted a microblog and didn’t want to use Twitter, I could see having an account. If I wanted a more fully featured blog I still believe WordPress is the best tool for that. Also, I’m sure as the M.b community grows it could mean that my content would be discovered by more people. I think M.b may end up being a thriving, well run, community and service. It is why I backed Manton’s efforts via Kickstarter. But, if I have my own blog, and if I really don’t care much about my content being discovered, then I see little reason to syndicate to it. For the time being I’m still going to as I want to see how the service matures.

Zach Leatherman’s garden

Zach Leatherman:

As my own little corner of the web uncermoniously turned ten years old this year, it’s really starting to feel more like a garden than a piece of software. I certainly enjoy tending to it. I can plant what I like and with proper care it can grow into something useful.

First, how cool is his last name?

I like this analogy of comparing a personal web site to tending to your own personal garden.

Ron Chester on Webmentions

Ron Chester:

I have only one reservation about the development of this IndieWeb stuff. While it is in progress, most of these websites have disabled regular comments, if they ever had them. Often there is also no contact information given, or it takes a lot of hunting on their websites to find it. So if one doesn’t have webmentions working on one’s own website, there is no obvious way of communicating with these folks about things they post. I have found that if they’re also on the Microblog website, one can post a message there, addressed to them. But that seems pretty round about, when an old school place to post a comment on their original post would be very easy to leave.

Please go to his site and read his entire post.

I read Ron’s post before making my decision to turn comments back on. Also, my email address is available on every page of my site. So if anyone would like to comment on anything on my site they should be able to do so both publicly and privately with ease.

Side note: One of the reasons we all turned off comments, aside from the benefits of disabling comments like more traffic to your site (I wrote this post 10 years ago!), is that people claimed that moderating comments is too much work. I no longer think that is an issue. Even if my blog became a popular place to comment I think I’d be able to keep up with it with the tools we have available now.

Webmention on Micro.blog

Manton Reece:

We’ve been improving Micro.blog’s support for Webmention. When you reply to a post on Micro.blog, from the web or iOS app, it will ping the site you’re replying to, giving that site a chance to include the comment.

Kudos to Manton as Webmentions seems to work beautifully is Micro.blog. The improvements show and the value is starting to show too. So I guess I just need to stop complaining. I’ve been harping on webmention for a little while. I feel terribly about it. Because I want it to work so badly and I’ve just been frustrated that is seems so inconsistent! So I plan to shut up now and sit down and get it working properly. I’ll likely do that within the next few weeks.

To see Micro.blog’s webmentions in action you can see a few on my posts there and here on my blog. I’m looking forward to their presentation being much more valuable on my blog. My email inbox is open for suggestions.

 

Snapchat is a party, LinkedIn is a business lunch

Colin Walker, like me, struggles with what should be syndicated to networks and what should be brought back into the blog context. He makes this specific point about replies:

Social replies like on Twitter or Facebook don’t, in my opinion, need to be owned – they belong in the context of the social network and that particular conversation.

I suggest reading his entire post so that you get a clearer picture of his struggle.

As you may know I’ve decided to leave social networking altogether and so I don’t have this struggle any more. However, one analogy came to mind when I was reading Colin’s post.

When Snapchat arrived on the scene many in the blogosphere thought it was crazy to have such an ephemeral medium sucking up so much oxygen. I didn’t see it that way. Perhaps I didn’t love Snapchat but I didn’t see it as bad simply because you couldn’t save what you posted there. It reminded me of going to a local pub. If you drop in at a pub for a pint and rattle off some diatribe about your favorite sports team to the other pub-goers – does that really need to be saved somewhere? If I’m having a random conversation about a movie I saw recently while sitting around a campfire with a friend, does that belong in the Internet Archive?

If we view each site on the web as a real physical place then we begin to realize that some places are museums, some libraries, others local pubs, and still others are rowdy nightclubs. Each have their place to make up the human existence but not all need to be saved or syndicated or shared.

I simply do not view Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Snapchat and Instagram the same as I do my blog. So I do not believe that all of the content that I post here should end up there and vice versa. Some things deserve to disappear. And there is a certain beauty in that. The same way I enjoy a good local pub rant.

Colin’s struggle is real – it isn’t easy to choose what gets saved and what doesn’t. What should go to one network and not another. Especially in the moment it is very difficult to know. And, it is complex for a single person to maintain that connective technology to allow that to happen in the first place.

I don’t envy his position. I don’t know what I would do if I were him. But, for me, not being on any social media currently has made my decision very easy. What I share here stays here. Everything else you’ll never see. And I’m totally cool with that.

Colin Walker on the IndieWeb

Colin Walker:

Yet there is still a problem, and that is the apparent insistence on the implementation of specific technologies as implied by the guides and documentation.

Go read his entire post. There are all sorts of “problems” with the IndieWeb and Walker lays some of them out nicely. (Remember, I told you to subscribe to his site.) He mentions that the entire thing can be confusing to non-developers. Well, I am a developer and while the protocols themselves aren’t impossible to grok if you spend some time reading or visiting the IndieWeb IRC chat, I have completely given up trying to support it because it is far too time consuming and nothing ever seems to work for every long.

I’m writing that out of frustration. Sorry. I know it can work. Look at Jeremy Keith’s site. I’m so jealous. He’s put tons of time into making so many of these things work. I want what he has. I simply have chosen not to spend nearly as much time as Jeremy has to get all of this stuff to stick together.

Here is just one example. I have webmention turned on for my site via the “official” WordPress plugin. It doesn’t work. Colin Walker has linked to my site several times. And I to his. His webmentions have yet to show up on my site. Mine have yet to show up on his. And his site isn’t the only site that has linked to me and the only way I’ve found out is via my Jetpack Stats (which I dislike having on but I keep it on for this very purpose). I’m certain that there is a logical reason webmentions aren’t working but I don’t feel like looking under the hood again (and again and again) to figure it out.

I’m not the type of person that needs everything to be easy. I don’t mind some configuration here and there from time-to-time and if something is really worth the effort I’ll even write the code myself. But supporting the IndieWeb (even just a single piece of it like Webmention) has exhausted this developer to the point of giving up.

Supporting WebMentions

Jeremy Cherfas, in response to a recent post of mine:

Not exactly sure what Colin Devroe means when he says he’s “just going to publish her on my blog”. I guess that means he’s not interested in people, like me, publishing our comments on our blogs. Of course there’s no compulsion to POSSE to be part of the #indieweb, and if you don’t want to, you shouldn’t. But I hope he’ll still accept webmentions.

On the contrary, I’d much prefer people publish on their blogs in response to my posts rather than on social media. Which is why I do not plan to continue to POSSE. If people find my posts or subscribe to my blog great. If they don’t, that’s ok with me too.

Chris Aldrich strikes it right:

I’ll agree with Jeremy that you don’t need to syndicate content or even backfeed to be a part of the Indieweb. Particularly when you’re already doing the primary tenets: own your domain, own your data, publish on your own site. (Ideally this is what everyone should be doing in conjunction with webmentions and then all the social networks would be superfluous.

Exactly. If I publish here and people link to it in response, I don’t need any social networks.

So, I’m going to support webmention. Not just accepting them and sending them (as I do now), but displaying them also. I need to find a little time to do that since web mentions generally look terrible by default but when I do I’ll report back.

Thanks to Jeremy and Chris for chiming in.

My old blog is back

You may have noticed a slight uptick in my publishing. That’s because I am, once again, coming back to my blog as the central place that I publish. Except this time I care far less about any of the content getting to any social networks.

It is simply too exhausting to get working correctly. And once you have everything sort of working right, something about these networks change or a new one arises (like Mastodon). So rather than stifle my publishing based on getting each gear properly greased I’m giving up. Sorry indiewebbers. I’m just going to publish here on my blog.

I don’t care if anyone on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram sees or reads any of this. I just want my blog back.

So does Dave Winer:

Before 2010, on my blog, I could have long and short items. I could use HTML. Link to as many places I wanted, where ever I wanted. There was no character limit, so the short items could grow if they needed to. The same format could accommodate post-length bits with titles that were archived on their own pages. Every item appeared in the feed, regardless of length, regardless of whether it had a title.

I plan on turning off a bunch of the code I have running here on my blog to support these networks too. I’m going old school.

If you like my blog subscribe. If not, that’s OK too.

No-pressure blogging

Manton Reece:

I love that blogs can scale from the trivial to the important. The microblog post about what you had for breakfast. The half-baked rant about something you’re passionate about. And sometimes, the rare essay that really hits the mark and makes people think.

Publishing most of my “tweets” here first has led to some frivolous posts. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Takes the pressure off of me to have every post be significant before hitting publish.

Post filtering fixes at Homebrew Website Club

Last night Tucker Hottes, Den Temple and I held the first Homebrew Website Club at The Keys in Scranton, PA. I really appreciate that HWC will force me to set aside some time to work on my personal site since it is often neglected for more pressing projects.

During HWC I began trying to fix my crufty URLs for post format filtering on WordPress. Unless I’m missing something, it doesn’t appear that WordPress has “standard” post format filtering out of the box. It can filter by every other post format – statuses, audio, images – but doesn’t for standard posts. I’m almost sure I am missing something. If anyone knows how to do this more elegantly please let me me know. However, I’ve added this functionality myself months ago and now those URLs are cruft free. You can see them in my sidebar.

To do this isn’t trivial. Here are the steps you need to follow:

I’m glad HWC gave me the time to finally fix this as it had been bothering me for a few months. Looking forward to the next HWC where I’ll tackle a few more Indieweb things I’ve been meaning to bolt on.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s first Homebrew Website Club in Scranton. Details here: https://indieweb.org/events/2017-02-08-homebrew-website-club

Josh Ginter on Instagram pressure

Josh Ginter re: my Instagram pressure post:

I tried to fix this by unfollowing just about everyone I know personally and following as many talented photographers as I could find. The result of that decision: enormous inspiration to get out of the house and travel, but also to a confidence-shattering reflection on my own photos. Now, instead of posting what I thought was one of my best photos, I opt to hold back because it doesn’t measure up.

His example of how his neighbor’s photo of their morning coffee garners more likes than his carefully curated vacation photo is also another type of pressure or anxiety that can come from using networks like Instagram. It is why I hate “likes”. I’ve always hated likes. When I post to Instagram I turn off commenting (same for my blog). If I could turn off likes too I would.  “Likes” create a false sense of value. I’m still struggling with whether or not I want to be pulling the “likes” and “shares” back to my blog from Twitter and Facebook like I have been using the Indieweb Backfeed. I have it on right now but I’m considering turning it off. I may also turn off POSSE soon but I fear my audience will shrink substantially. This is a topic for another post.

If I could turn off commenting on Facebook I would. It isn’t because I don’t want to read people’s comments, on the contrary, I want quality comments (like the one I’m linking to from Josh right now or the one from Chris Aldrich on this same topic). Open network discussion hasn’t fostered quality discourse.

One other note about Instagram and “likes”; their feed algorithm is wreaking havoc with people’s expectations when posting to the service. People that used to get 10,000 likes per photo are now getting very disparate results. One will get a few thousand, the next 10 thousand, some nearly zero. The algorithm is choosing which photos get popped into people’s feed. Some photos are never seen by your followers. So if you were valuing your work based on “likes” you no longer can. And if you think this isn’t a problem imagine someone that makes their living based on having 7M Instagram followers that suddenly cannot guarantee their sponsors any metric at all.

I think this is why I like Instagram Stories so much. When I post to stories I see exactly who viewed each post (good) and if someone wants to reply their reply comes to me privately (also good). The drawback, however, is that the discourse that happens in private isn’t of any value to the public. I’m not sure how to fix that without reintroducing the issues we see on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Scranton’s first Homebrew Website Club

Next Wednesday I’ll be hosting the first Scranton-based Homebrew Website Club at Condron Media‘s headquarters on Penn Avenue. There are other locations HWC will be happening on that day too. If you have your own site and I you care to work on it in anyway at all please do stop by.

Homebrew Website Club is not a typical meetup, like say a WordPress meetup, in that you stop by to learn a particular topic (although I have no doubt you will learn if you attend one). It is more a reoccurring time that is set aside to allow you to work on your personal web site. Perhaps you’ve been meaning to finish up a blog post that has been in draft for weeks, or you need to fix a theme issue, or you want to do something more complex – whatever it is, HWC is your opportunity to do that while sitting next to other people that are trying to do the same.

I’ll be using the this time, each meeting, to fit more Indieweb building blocks into my personal site. I’ve recently added Backfeed, POSSE, Webmention, and others. And I plan on continuing to tweak them to get them just the way I’d prefer. Also, I plan on pushing my code and work back out into the world through this blog, my Github account, and #indieweb on IRC.

So, if this is something you’re into. Drop by.

Dreamhost supports Micro.blog

Jonathan LaCour, SVP, Product & Technology at Dreamhost:

We’d like to make it as easy as possible to launch a WordPress-powered microblog on DreamHost that integrates well with Manton’s upcoming Micro.blog service. In order to support that mission, DreamHost is kicking in a $5,000 pledge to the Kickstarter.

Nice move Dreamhost.

The slow web and POSSE

David Mead:

This year all of my posts, replies, and retweets on Twitter will be coming from this blog and not using the Twitter app (#OwnYourData). That probably means doing it at the end of the day. I’m hoping that will make them more considered (something we may all want to be in the coming years).

I have most notifications off (and have for years). And I plan on keeping it that way.

But, I’m not doing so well on what he’s talking about in the quoted bit above. POSSE, as the indiewebbers call it, is posting on my site here and then syndicating it elsewhere. My blog posts are syndicated to Twitter the way I’d like but not Facebook or Instagram (the other two networks I use the most). And I also find myself lazily posting directly to Twitter rather than through my site because the apps are so easy to use. I wish I did better.

Here is what I would need to do to pull this off personally:

  • Post status updates, posts, audio bits, and photos to Facebook
  • Post photos to Instagram
  • Be able to retweet or quote tweet posts easily from my site (no idea how to do this)
  • Show Twitter likes, replies, retweets, quote tweets on my site
  • Show Facebook likes, replies, shares on my site
  • Show Instagram commends and likes on my site

I wouldn’t have to do all of these to be happy, but I’d at least like to push the content to those networks. Maybe I’ll start there.

The Micro.blog stretch goal

Manton Reece has added a thoughtful stretch goal to Micro.blog’s Kickstarter campaign:

If the Kickstarter reaches $80,000, I will use some of the money to make my very first part-time hire for Micro.blog: a community manager. The community manager will help set the tone for the service, work on documentation and best practices, and be responsible for curation when Safe Replies fails to automatically catch emerging problems.

Safe Replies sounds like something Twitter should have had a long time ago. Run over there and help Manton reach this new goal.

Micro.blog’s iPhone app

Manton Reece recently published an update to Micro.blog’s Kickstarter showing a video demonstration of the iPhone app he’s creating for the service. He mentions a really important point that I think many are missing (as I mentioned just a few moments ago). He says (at 53 seconds into the video):

Now, you can have Micro.blog host a microblog for you. That’s what the paid plan is about that is mentioned in some of the reward tiers on Kickstarter. It is super easy to get started that way. But you can also bring an existing blog. My personal blog, for example, uses WordPress. And so, when I use Micro.blog the iPhone app for the first time it asks me where my WordPress blog is and then I can post directly to my own site.

I’ve been following along with this project since Manton first mentioned it nearly two years ago so I’ve been aware of what he was building. I just don’t think the information on the site or on the Kickstarter has made that clear for people that don’t totally understand the underpinnings of the web. (Though, Micro.blog is arguably be built for those that do.)

The iPhone app looks very nice. Especially for a first public release.

App.net shutting down

Dalton Caldwell:

We envisioned a pool of differentiated, fast-growing third-party applications would sustain the numbers needed to make the business work. Our initial developer adoption exceeded expectations, but that initial excitement didn’t ultimately translate into a big enough pool of customers for those developers.

I’ve been a paying subscriber to App.net for the entire life of the platform (that is, until they cancelled my subscription this week).

When App.net launched many were drawing a line of comparison between it and Twitter. And since this announcement I’m seeing many drawing a line of comparison between App.net and Micro.blog. This isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison.

If you read Dalton’s vision above, it doesn’t read anything at all like Twitter or Micro.blog.

App.net was an API for application developers to build on top of. Yes, something Twitter-like could be build on top of it. But so could so many other things. It had a data storage service, a push notification service, and even a crowd-funding feature called Backer that would, presumably, allow developers to pre-charge for new features for apps.

App.net was a very ambitious platform that, I believe, got pigeon-holed into a Twitter comparison because they created Alpha – a Twitter-like microblogging platform – as a demonstration of their own API. I think this muddied their messaging to the point where most people would describe App.net as a Twitter alternative.

Manton Reece’s forthcoming Micro.blog is not anything at all like App.net. Though, many are confused about Micro.blog similar to how many were confused about App.net. (I’ve had at least three conversations about Micro.blog where people have no idea what it will do.) They are comparing it to Twitter even though Manton doesn’t usually draw that line himself. And I think he will have to find a way to communicate its decentralization and the fact that it will work with your existing blogging platform so it too doesn’t get packaged and framed as simply a Twitter replacement.

Independence is a long play

Jason Kottke re: Medium’s announcement and why he chose not to move Kottke.org to Medium:

New businesses are unstable…that’s just the way it is.

In Silicon Valley (and in other startup-rich areas), these unstable businesses have lots of someone else’s money to throw around — which makes them appear more stable in the short term — but they cannot escape the reality of the extreme risk involved in building a new business, particularly a business that needs to grow quickly (as almost all VC-backed startups are required to do).

And, how he combines services on his own domain:

With kottke.org, even though it hasn’t been easy, I’ve opted for independence and control over a potential rocketship ride. Instead of moving the site to Medium or Tumblr or focusing my activities on one social network or another, I use third-party services like The Deck, Amazon Associates, Stripe, and Memberful that plug in to the site. Small pieces loosely joined, not a monolithic solution. If necessary, I can switch any of them out for a comparable service and am therefore not as subject to any potential change in business goals by these companies. Given the news out of Medium, I’m increasingly happy that I’ve decided to do it this way (with your very kind assistance).

See also; this, this, this, and all of these.