Openness, rivers, the IndieWeb community

Yesterday I wrote a post about blogrolls. I published it on AltPlatform, the new tech blog I recently started with my old ReadWriteWeb friend Emre Sokullu. It was the second post in a series I’m doing about IndieWebifying my personal website. I got some great responses, which I’m going to discuss in this post.

Firstly, a note about what I’m attempting to do in 2017 with blogging. My goal is to explore the latest social web technologies and learn how to do more on the Open Web. The main impetus is my growing dissatisfaction with Walled Garden social networks, like Facebook and Twitter. My spidey sense is picking up similar vibes across the Web. It’s difficult to define at this point, but there’s a feeling that something needs to change. And that something has a lot to do with openness, inclusivity and not letting powerful corporations dictate what we do and think.

One of my blogging heroes, Dave Winer, wrote a very nice post in response to mine. He has been thinking about blogrolls too (amongst many other things – he’s always one step ahead of the rest of us). Dave wants to link blogrolls to the “river of news” products he has been developing in recent times. I need to look more closely at this. I downloaded his Electric River product, which he says is “the closest to what Radio UserLand did with aggregation in 2002.” Radio Userland was how I got my start in blogging, so I’m intrigued. I will play with Electric River and put my thoughts into a separate post soon.

Dave also pointed out the need to be open about which Open Web technologies to try. As he noted, I have been experimenting with the IndieWeb community’s suite of tools – and in particular their WordPress plugins. Also I’ve been following closely what fellow AltPlatform blogger Chris Aldrich has done on his personal website. Chris is a key contributor to the IndieWeb community.

I’ve found the IndieWeb tools to be tremendously helpful, and the community to be open and friendly. But I think my own goals are a little different. I’m less interested in the technologies themselves (like microformats and webmention) and more interested in how they’re being used in the wider Web community. Not dissimilar to my interests when I started ReadWriteWeb. But of course to do this, I need to stand on the shoulders of the developers who build the tools.

I think of it this way… The IndieWeb community is a group of tech people who are creating the building blocks, for which I’m very grateful. Dave Winer also creates building blocks, so I’m equally grateful to him. My “job” (although it’s really just my idea of fun, since AltPlatform is a non-profit blog) is to try out the technologies that IndieWeb, Dave and others are building. Ideally I’d like to help smooth the path for Open Web technologies to be used by non-tech people.

An example perhaps is Tracey Todhunter, who runs a blog called Baking and Making. Tracey left this comment on my AltPlatform post about blogrolls: “I have a list of “blogs I read” – I almost deleted it because someone told me blog rolls were “so last century”! I noticed lots of new visitors to my blog click on these links (and hopefully discover other bloggers, so I’ve kept it.” Tracey’s comment is exactly the type of thing I want to see happen with the Open Web. She has an excellent niche blog and is using the Open Web to connect to other people. This is why blogging is still relevant in 2017.

A couple of other responses I got…

Kevin Marks, one of the founders of the IndieWeb movement, wrote a couple of posts overnight my time. Both were syndicated to the comments section of my AltPlatform post, which I was pleased to see (apologies Kevin that it got caught in our spam filter – we’re still dealing with the quirks of a new blog). In one post, Kevin defended the IndieWeb feed reader product Woodwind: “Woodwind’s integrated reading and posting is the thing I like best about it, so I’m sorry that Richard was unimpressed with it.” To clarify, I was mainly put off by the geeky UI. I certainly admire the sophisticated ‘under the hood’ technology of it. Perhaps I’ll give it another try.

Kevin’s second post was more of a conversation with Dave. The only 2 cents I’d add is… kumbaya, let’s all work together 🙂

Last but not least, Colin Walker also responded to my blogrolls post. He pointed out one problem with blogrolls: “Part of the problem with people based following models on social networks is that you follow the whole person so see everything they post whether it is relevant to you or not. There is no filtering system.” It’s a great point – and one of the reasons I was so interested in topic feeds back in the day. So this is something I’ll need to explore for this era too.

24 thoughts on “Openness, rivers, the IndieWeb community

  1. hey Richard, been enjoying your posts. If you’re looking for more IndieWeb software to try, feel free to try out my reader at unicyclic.com. It can import opml so hopefully provides some of that blogroll / reader integration that you’ve written about 😉

  2. Richard,

    One way in which I implement a list of people I am interested in following is to create a “river” site from the available feeds for those people. Some examples are http://1999bloggers.andysylvester.com (a list of bloggers using the 1999.io blogging tool) and http://osbridge.andysylvester.com (a collection of tweets related to the 2017 Open Source Bridge conference that just ended in Portland, Oregon, info on the setup at http://andysylvester.com/2017/06/16/how-the-open-source-bridge-river-of-news-app-works/). Dave Winer has done similar sites like http://mlbriver.com/. For me, these are good ways of keeping on topic areas, and the list of feeds can be linked from the site.

  3. I’m not a developer, so can’t contribute in that sense. But I am a journalist, have been online since the 1980s and have been writing or blogging or attempting to do something similar since the mid-1990s. I know traditional and online publishing.

    I’m interested in exploring how this can work for those of us who operate somewhere between the mainstream media and independent online publishing. I already syndicate my copy around a handful of sites and would like to extend that. But most of all, I want to keep information, news and knowledge free and independent.

    Have you any pointers to how this works with media companies?

    1. Hi Bill,

      It’s a good question and something for me to look into more as I explore this new IndieWeb world. So I don’t have the answers right now, but I’ll start searching…

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