Don’t solve everything

When I talk about microblogging, sometimes I get feedback asking what we should do about cross-site replies. That is, if you’re distributing microblog posts across different domains rather than centralizing them all on a service like Twitter, how do you solve linking together conversations and @-replies across those sites?

I don’t have a solution for that. Of course I’ve thought about it. I wrote 12 years ago about Trackbacks, which were an attempt at solving this. IndieWebCamp has more recent, related proposals.

For my new project, I’ve chosen to just plainly admit that I don’t have a solution for a next-generation Trackback. I will instead have limited centralized replies and favorites. It’s not ideal, but that’s why I call what I’m working on halfway-decentralized. It’s a next step, not the final step.

It’s okay not to solve everything. Cross-site replies and conversations need to come from the community, evolving organically from what people are building with their customized WordPress themes, experimental RSS readers, and new client software for posting. The open web advances incrementally, not all at once, and trying to fight that by tackling too much will get us nowhere.