Tag Archives: indiewebcamp

IndieWebCamp Austin wrap-up

Over the weekend we hosted the first IndieWebCamp in Austin. I’m really happy with the way the event came together. I learned a lot in helping plan it, made a few mistakes that we can improve next time, but overall came away as inspired as ever to keep improving Micro.blog so that it’s a standout platform of the IndieWeb movement.

There’s nothing like meeting in person with other members of the community. I know this from attending Apple developer conferences, but the weekend in Austin only underscored that I should be more active in the larger web community as well.

IndieWebCamp group photo

The first day of IndieWebCamp started with introductions, a chance for attendees to demo their web sites, an overview of IndieWeb building blocks by Aaron Parecki, and then brainstorming what topics the afternoon sessions should cover. After lunch, we held sessions on WordPress, static sites, Micropub posts, Webmentions, payment APIs, audio, decentralized aggregation, and post kinds.

The second day was a hack day, with a chance to work on our own web sites. This was a very valuable day for me — being able to bounce ideas or questions off other attendees. I chose to make an improvement to Micro.blog’s Micropub API endpoint to accept “bookmark-of” POSTs, mapping them to favorites. This evolved into opening up Micro.blog to allow favoriting any URL, even if the post doesn’t exist in any feed that Micro.blog knows about yet.

At the end of the day I was happy enough with the feature that I deployed my code and database changes. I demoed it using Indigenous for iPhone and Micro.blog for Mac, favoriting an indiewebcat.com post on the web and watching it show up in the app under the post’s domain name. Micro.blog got better support for Microformats with this change, pulling the author info, post text, and photo when you favorite a post via Micropub.

Mac screenshot

For the last few years I’ve attended WWDC and Release Notes each year, and I’d usually give a talk at CocoaConf. This year I added WordCamp and IndieWebCamp, and gave a talk about indie microblogging at Refresh Austin. I hope that it works out to attend another IndieWebCamp or IndieWebSummit in 2018.

Special thanks again to Tom Brown for helping out with planning IndieWebCamp Austin, EFF-Austin for hosting their holiday party after our event, and our sponsors DreamHost, Polycot Associates, and SuperBorrowNet. We should do this again next year.

Timetable on MarsEdit 4 and open APIs

Today I posted another episode of my daily podcast Timetable. It’s a short episode about the MarsEdit 4 release and why even competing apps should be compatible and embrace the open web. Here’s a transcript.

Today, MarsEdit 4 shipped. I posted to my blog with a link to the new version, and I included some comments in the blog post about using MarsEdit with Micro.blog.

Congrats to Daniel. This has been years in the making. It’s great to see it come out, and we’ll be talking more about this on my other podcast Core Intuition later this week.

Even if Daniel wasn’t my friend and co-host of Core Intuition, I’d still be excited about MarsEdit, because more blogging software is a good thing. The Mac version of Micro.blog kind of competes with MarsEdit, since you can use Micro.blog to post to WordPress, just like you can with MarsEdit. But it’s also a nice complement, because you can use MarsEdit to post to blogs that are hosted on Micro.blog. And MarsEdit is full-featured and has more features that you might want to upgrade to, even if you’re using Micro.blog.

And this is how I think software should work, and why the open web and open APIs are important. You should be able to switch between apps without changing everything.

You should be able to use MarsEdit to post to your blog. You should be able to use Micro.blog — the Mac app or the iOS app — to post to that same blog.

Imagine if you could use the official Twitter app to post to Facebook. You open Twitter, you click new tweet, and then you click in the destination (somewhere in the UI), and you select Facebook instead. And instead of going to Twitter, it goes to Facebook.

Sounds crazy. How could that possibly work? Why would Twitter or Facebook ever allow something like that?

But that’s how it should work. We are so used to these silos and these apps that are not compatible with anything, that we just accept it. But that’s how it should work.

You should be able to use multiple apps to post to different services. And that’s what’s happening with apps that are built with some compatibility in mind, especially on IndieWeb standards. That’s what’s happening with MarsEdit and Micro.blog, although on a much smaller scale.

I’ve been thinking about how much work we have to do to reach the audience of potential indie microbloggers. Last night, I attended AustinRB, a local meetup here in Austin for Ruby programmers. There was a great talk on metaprogramming — really enjoyed it. And as I mentioned yesterday, Tom Brown, who is also helping me out with IndieWebCamp planning… He gave a talk on the IndieWeb.

And listening to questions from the audience, it was just so obvious how far we have to go. Everyone is so used to Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, that in a way we have to outline the IndieWeb and services like Micro.blog in a way that mainstream users of other social networks can relate to.

It’s a big jump to go from only thinking about Twitter, to all of a sudden thinking about your own domain name, sending replies between independent web sites perhaps, to thinking about a timeline that is based on feeds from all over the web. It’s a big jump.

And in a way, it’s kind of discouraging when I think about making that case for how the web should work. It’s a massive task to explain the value of the open web and the danger of relying on 100% centralized networks.

But on the other hand, there are a lot of people in the world, a lot of people who want to write on the internet, who care about what they say and how they say it. WordPress powers 29% of the web.

The market is there. It’s just a matter of reaching everyone. And so that’s encouraging.

And it starts in communities like the IndieWeb. And hopefully in the community we’re trying to build on Micro.blog.

It’s not too late to register for IndieWebCamp. It’s this weekend in Austin. Go to IndieWeb.org. I hope you can join us. There’s a lot of work to do to build the web that we need. Thanks for listening today.

Kickstarter update with IndieWebCamp and rollout plans

Today I sent the following email to Kickstarter backers. I’m working through the waiting list of invites to Micro.blog now. I know it’s taken the better part of a year, but we’re almost there.

We are just about ready to open up Micro.blog to the world. Starting later this week, we’ll no longer require an invite code. Up to 100 users will be able to register on Micro.blog each day. This helps us focus our attention on the community and take care of new users as we ramp up to the public launch.

I’m also excited to share 2 more things that are happening next month:

IndieWebCamp: December 9th and 10th in Austin, TX. If you’d like to learn more about indie blogging, work on your own web site, or just chat with me about Micro.blog, consider joining us in Austin. You can register here. More info from the web site:

IndieWebCamp Austin 2017 is a gathering for independent web creators of all kinds, from graphic artists, to designers, UX engineers, coders, hackers, to share ideas, actively work on creating for their own personal websites, and build upon each others creations.

Stickers: I’ve just ordered a new batch of Micro.blog stickers for IndieWebCamp and Kickstarter backers. Expect to receive an email from Kickstarter to confirm your shipping address.

EFF-Austin party after IndieWebCamp

In a little less than 2 weeks we’re holding the first IndieWebCamp in Austin: December 9th and 10th at Capital Factory. You can register here. Doors open at 9am and we’ll have coffee and breakfast tacos while everyone checks in.

Saturday night after IndieWebCamp will be the EFF-Austin Holiday Party. There’s a meetup page to RSVP for the party. Even if you can’t attend IndieWebCamp for the full weekend, you’re welcome to join us anytime Saturday and stick around for the party. (Please register for both so we can better plan for the event.)

Who should attend IndieWebCamp? Anyone who cares about the independent web. Anyone who remembers how the web used to be — the creativity of personal web sites, the freedom of open APIs — and how it could be that way again. From the event web site:

IndieWebCamp Austin 2017 is a gathering for independent web creators of all kinds, from graphic artists, to designers, UX engineers, coders, hackers, to share ideas, actively work on creating for their own personal websites, and build upon each others creations.

I hope you can make it. If you have any questions, email me at manton@micro.blog.

Blog archive format

As I’ve been improving the import and export functionality in Micro.blog, I’ve done a lot of work with WordPress’s WXR format, which is based on RSS. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with WXR, it’s more complicated than it needs to be for non-WordPress sites, especially when you start to tackle image uploads that exist outside of the post text.

Micro.blog can also push an entire site’s Markdown, HTML, and images to GitHub, which is the most complete mirror and perfect for migrating to another Jekyll server. It introduces so many extra files, though, it’s not reasonable to expect that other blog platforms could support the same level of detail.

I’d be happy to ignore the WordPress-centric nature of WXR and use it as a common blog archive format if WXR provided a mechanism to store image uploads. Helping people migrate from WordPress to Micro.blog-hosted blogs has only emphasized to me that a better format is needed.

In chatting with the IndieWeb community, the idea was proposed that an HTML file using h-feed would provide portability and also an added bonus: it could be opened in any web browser to view your archived site. Images could be stored as files with relative references in the HTML file. (I’d throw in a JSON Feed file, too, so that importers could choose between using a Microformats parser or JSON parser.)

The files would look something like this:

  • index.html
  • feed.json
  • uploads
    • 2017
      • test.jpg

The basics from h-feed would follow this structure:

  • h-feed
    • h-entry
      • p-name
      • e-content
      • dt-published
      • u-url
    • h-entry

Only index.html and feed.json would be required. Any other paths in the archive would be determined by the contents of the HTML. (I’m using “uploads” in this example, but it could just as easily be “archive”, “audio”, or any other set of folders.)

For large sites, the HTML could be split into multiple files with appropriate <link> tags in the header to page through the additional files. While it could contain CSS and your full blog’s design, I’m imagining that the HTML would be extremely lightweight: just enough to capture the posts, not a way to transfer templates and themes between blogs.

The whole folder is zipped and renamed with a .bar extension. Easy to move around and upload all at once. I’ve created an example file here (rename it .zip to open it).

I’d love to hear what you think. I talked about this on a recent episode of Timetable as well. Might be a nice topic to follow up on at IndieWebCamp Austin in 2 weeks.

IndieWebCamp Austin set for December

We’re holding an IndieWebCamp in Austin next month! This is a 2-day event — Saturday and Sunday, December 9th and 10th — for anyone who wants to learn more about the IndieWeb, discuss web standards and tools, or just hack on your own web site. We’re lucky to have IndieWeb co-founders Tantek Çelik and Aaron Parecki in town for the event.

There was another IndieWebCamp in Berlin last week. Neil Mather had a great blog post about his experience there:

It ran over 2 days, with day 1 an unconference with a number of discussions, the topics and schedule decided entirely by participants in the morning. Day 2 was hack day, with everyone working on an indieweb related bit of work, be it on their own website or on a shared project.

IndieWebCamp Austin registration is open now. Tickets are just $5. Looking forward to planning some next steps for Micro.blog over that weekend. Hope to see you there!

Decline and return of indie blogs

In announcing plans to move A List Apart away from advertising, Jeffrey Zeldman writes about the decline of independent web sites:

In recent years, we’ve seen our rich universe of diverse, creative blogs and sites implode—leaving fewer and fewer channels available to new voices. As more content centralizes into a handful of all-powerful networks, there’s a dreary sameness in perspective and presentation.

I don’t know what the new A List Apart will look like, but if they can encourage designers and developers to embrace independent blogs again, I’m all for it. I like the way Zeldman has framed the change for A List Apart.

It used to be that A List Apart’s most popular authors were all frequent bloggers. I think the attention on Twitter instead of personal sites has effectively created a gap of lost years for many blogs: long stretches of time with very few if any posts. Perhaps Zeldman’s post is an indication that this trend has already reversed.

Gabe Weatherhead recently made some points on Macdrifter about the decline of indie blogs — that podcasting is a cheap substitute for written posts, and that tweets and link-blogging have killed thoughtful commentary:

I want to hear opinions and ideas from good writers, not pull quotes with a trailing off-the-cuff remark.

It’s a good post, but I see his conclusion differently. The solution isn’t fewer link blogs, but more of them. By taking microblogging back from Twitter, we create a natural place for traditional blogs to grow. Indie microblogging is the gateway drug for long-form content.

To everyone reading Zeldman’s post about A List Apart and nodding your head, retweeting the link, clicking the like button… Dust off your blog and actually post about it. A better web is built one page at a time.

Homebrew Website Club

Tonight we’re starting up a local Austin chapter of the Homebrew Website Club. This is a group from the IndieWeb community which already meets regularly in San Francisco, Portland, other cities, and online.

From the IndieWeb wiki:

Homebrew Website Club is a bi-weekly meetup of people passionate about or interested in creating, improving, building, designing their own website, in the same structure as the classic Homebrew Computer Club meetings.

For Austin, the first meeting will be 6:30pm at Monkey Nest Coffee, 5353 Burnet Rd. Everyone’s welcome. Bring ideas for your own web site, questions about Micro.blog, or just grab a coffee and hang out. We’ll meet in the extra room at the back of the coffee shop.

Medium stumbling forward

Dave Winer isn’t optimistic about the recent Medium changes:

We’re in the long tail of the demise of Medium. They’ll try this, and something else, and then another thing, each with a smaller probability of making a difference, until they turn it off.

This has been the concern with Medium since the very beginning. Because they defaulted to Medium-branded user blogs on medium.com instead of your own blog at a personal domain name, there was a risk that if Medium didn’t work out as a business, many great posts would disappear along with the service. You might get more readers in the short-term, but it’s a bad trade-off when links break and you have to start all over again.

Nick Heer wrote about the “sameness” of Medium sites — how the sites blur together as just pages on Medium’s platform. Several prominent sites have left:

Earlier this year, Film School Rejects and Pacific Standard moved away from the platform; this month, the Awl announced that they went back to WordPress with their old custom theme. The Ringer and Backchannel also left Medium. Once again, I can tell those sites apart from each other.

I think Medium has good intentions. But the premise was wrong, with an emphasis on medium.com/@username URLs that aren’t portable, and no obvious way to get a custom domain. Getting this right is IndieWeb 101.

That’s why on Micro.blog the microblogs are username.micro.blog by default. It sounds like a small thing, but that difference is everything. It’s easy to swap out for a personal domain name, with free SSL hosting, multiple themes, custom CSS, and it’s based on Jekyll so that it can be moved to any host.

Medium is stumbling forward, trying to find the right path because their initial foundation wasn’t right. I hope they get there.

Webmention in action

It’s always cool to see Webmention comments on real sites across the web. It’s not just a W3C spec. Like many ideas from the IndieWeb, this is a simple web technology that actually works today.

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. You can see these replies show up under recent posts from Aaron Parecki and Jonathan LaCour.

Drew McLellan had a good overview of implementing Webmention, including using services like Bridgy to bring in tweet replies:

The end result is that by being notified of the external reaction, the publisher is able to aggregate those reactions and collect them together with the original content.

Colin Walker highlighted Webmention when writing about Micro.blog:

It looks like a basic Twitter-style network but that is only scratching the surface; its simplicity belies its power.

Micro.blog also has limited support for receiving Webmention requests for people replying to a Micro.blog-hosted blog from their own site. As this support improves, both in Micro.blog and as more people enable Webmention on their WordPress sites, the distributed nature of the web as a broad social network will really start to shine.

The open web and Micro.blog progress

I was very excited to see this post from Brandon Kraft, about the potential for an expanded role for WordPress in the IndieWeb movement:

The dream isn’t to return to the past before social media, but help make social media part of the web in an organic way. For this post, you can like it or comment it on via this site, WordPress.com, Twitter, or Facebook, but all of the comments will appear here using Webmentions. The closed gardens will still exist, but it’ll make it easier for people to reach out between them.

People always ask me how Micro.blog is going. There are many answers to that: from the business side, or how the community is growing, or the technical bits of scaling the backend. But one simple answer is how Micro.blog’s success can be judged in posts like Brandon’s.

I still believe strongly in the dual nature of success that I posted about earlier this year:

Key for Micro.blog: it’s a success if more people blog. To provide value it doesn’t need to replace Twitter. But also, it can.

Of course, “if more people blog” is a simplification that leaves out what naturally happens next: the spread of more web standards and better tools for microblogging. If Micro.blog has played even a small part in encouraging IndieWeb standards within WordPress itself, that is great progress. I’ll be happy to raise the bar for what success looks like.

Jeremy Keith on Presentable and the IndieWeb

I know there are so many great podcasts that it’s difficult to listen to everything. I’m still making my way through all the commentary about WWDC. But I just finished Jeff Veen’s Presentable episode 25 this week and particularly enjoyed it.

Jeff talked to Jeremy Keith about his new web design book, and about the web industry repeating the same old mistakes, with a really great discussion about the IndieWeb. When asked about how people prefer to post on a social network, because maybe fewer people will find their own site, Jeremy said:

I always get frustrated when people talk about this as a reason not to do something. For me, that was the whole point of the web — that nobody was stopping you. You’re right, maybe nobody will read this thing that I’ve published, but I could publish it and nobody was stopping me. To see people stop themselves, to act as their own gatekeeper…

There’s much more that I can’t capture in a truncated quote. Highly recommend listening to the full interview in context.

IndieWeb Summit

WWDC is only 1 week away, but I have another event on my mind as well: IndieWeb Summit in Portland, June 24th – 25th. From the description for the 2-day conference:

The seventh annual gathering for independent web creators of all kinds, from graphic artists, to designers, UX engineers, coders, hackers, to share ideas, actively work on creating for their own personal websites, and build upon each others creations.

I’m still trying to figure out if I can make it. If you care about indie blogging and open formats, consider attending. I had a great time in Portland earlier this year meeting more of the IndieWeb folks. They are leading some of the most important work on simple formats and protocols, with a focus on personal web sites instead of silos.

Microblogging community on Slack

Since I launched on Kickstarter, backers have asked if there should be a Slack community to discuss Micro.blog and related microblogging topics. I wasn’t sure. I know some people are already in multiple Slack groups, including the excellent IndieWebCamp IRC/Slack, and I also didn’t want to distract from any posts that should happen in the open on blogs.

Some discussion just fits better in chat, though. There’s an emerging community of indie microbloggers. Having a place to share tips, tools, and ask questions about Micro.blog just makes sense.

I’m experimenting with the Slack channel now, and I’ll be opening it to all Kickstarter backers next week. If you’ve backed the project before Monday, expect a backers-only project update with information on how to join.

Webmention is a W3C Recommendation

Webmention has been on my radar for a little while, and I mention it in the Indie Microblogging text on Kickstarter. It’s great to see it go from an IndieWebCamp spec through the W3C process now as a standard recommendation:

The Social Web Working Group has published a W3C Recommendation of Webmention. A Webmention is a notification that one URL links to another and is a simple way to notify any URL when you mention it on your site. From the receiver’s perspective, it’s a way to request notifications when other sites mention it.

The replies on Micro.blog are kind of a stopgap while infrastructure like Webmention rolls out to more web sites. I think Webmention will become an important part of cross-site mentions.

There’s a lot happening at once right now. As I suggested in a microblog post yesterday, the first measure of success is whether more people are blogging. Meanwhile there are new formats and APIs like Webmention. You don’t replace Twitter overnight, or even try to. But step by step, we’re going to end up with a better web, and I think independent microblogging is part of that.

Tim Berners-Lee’s Solid

I’ve written about IPFS before, but Solid (from Tim Berners-Lee himself, among other MIT folks) is another new proposal for a more distributed web. I wasn’t familiar with it until reading this article at Digital Trends, which first makes the case for independent content vs. the big centralized platforms:

Now a handful of companies own vast swaths of web activity – Facebook for social networking, Google for searching, eBay for auctions – and quite literally own the data their users have provided and generated. This gives these companies unprecedented power over us, and gives them such a competitive advantage that it’s pretty silly to think you’re going to start up a business that’s going to beat them at their own game.

The article continues with the types of data you might share in a Solid application:

For example, you might keep your personal information in one or several pods: the sort of data about yourself that you put into your Facebook profile; a list of your friends, family, and colleagues; your banking information; maps of where you’ve traveled; some health information. That way if someone built a new social networking application—perhaps to compete head-on with Facebook, or, more likely, to offer specialized services to people with shared interests—you could join by giving it permission to access the appropriate information in your pod.

One of the showcase applications is called Client-Integrated Micro-Blogging Architecture, surely named mostly for its pronounceable acronym. From the CIMBA project site:

CIMBA is a privacy-friendly, decentralized microblogging application that runs in your browser. It is built using the latest HTML5 technologies and Web standards. With CIMBA, people get a microblogging app that behaves like Twitter, built entirely out of parts they can control.

Solid and CIMBA are built on the Linked Data Platform, which in turn is based off of RDF. I’m admittedly biased against RDF, because it often brings with it an immediate sense of over-engineering — too abstracted, solving too many problems at once. I’m glad to see this activity around a distributed web, and I’ll be following Solid, but I also continue to believe that the simple microformats and APIs from the IndieWebCamp are the best place to start.

An open Twitter starts with the web

Dave Winer wants an open alternative to Twitter:

I want it to be friendly to Twitter, because as a user and a shareholder, and a developer who uses their platform, I want to see it thrive. But I also strongly believe we need the open system, the Central Park to Twitter’s condo buildings on Fifth Ave and Central Park West.

John Biesnecker, reading Dave’s post, suggested XMPP because it’s an open standard and federated. But as great as XMPP is for messaging, it seems too different from the web; it would be like starting over. The nice thing about building on independent microblogs is that we can leverage the existing open web infrastructure: all the WordPress installs, RSS feeds, and new work from the IndieWebCamp.

That’s what I’ve tried to do for Snippets.today. Learn from the UI innovations of Twitter — the fast timeline experience, the effortless posting — but without skipping the important first step of independent web publishing.

Micropub and the quiet IndieWebCamp revolution

There’s new activity at the W3C around independent blogging, with new proposals recently posted as working drafts. Helped by a push from the IndieWebCamp, two of the highlights include:

  • Micropub: Simple format for adding content to your site from native apps.
  • Webmention: Modern replacement for Pingback/Trackback, for handling cross-site replies.

I want to support these in my new web app. At launch, I hope to allow Micropub POSTs alongside the classic XML-RPC Blogger API (and my own native JSON API).

And of course the IndieWebCamp is also known for POSSE: publish on your own site, syndicate elsewhere. That strategy has helped me refine my own cross-posting.

I don’t think it’s my imagination that more and more people are blogging again. Now’s the time to resume your blog, start a microblog, and take back the future of the web from silos. If we can roll some of these new standards into what we’re building and writing about, the open web will be on the right track.

Here’s a Twitter feed

Whenever someone says “I don’t read RSS”, I actually hear “I don’t read Manton’s blog”. I could give plenty of reasons why they’re missing out by ignoring RSS — it’s still the best way to keep up with bloggers you like who aren’t linked or retweeted often enough to bubble up on Twitter — but some people won’t be convinced.

Over three years ago I stopped posting to Twitter. I know it was the right move on principle because there was a real cost in exposure, with fewer people actively keeping up with what I’ve been working on. As I’ve said before: it wouldn’t mean anything if it didn’t cost me anything.

And yet, many people get their news from Twitter. Since I started microblogging on my own site, I’ve had time to reflect on the role of indie microblogging and cross-posting. I think the IndieWebCamp has it right: publish on your own site, syndicate elsewhere. I wrote more back in July about cross-posting.

Most importantly, as I work on a microblog publishing platform of my own, how can I develop a solid cross-posting feature if I don’t actively use it myself? I’ve recommended IFTTT to beta testers, but only by using it myself can I know where the gaps in functionality are.

So I’ve been experimenting. All of my posts now go out to the Twitter account @manton2. This was an account I created 6 years ago for testing. Except for a few of the first tweets, I’ve cleared out the test content and given it a new life.

It’s worth noting some advantages and disadvantages to this:

  • I can write at my domain name and own my content, but have it automatically sent to Twitter for folks who are there. Unlike how I’ve been treating these cross-posts to App.net, I’m not sure whether I will stay engaged and answer replies on Twitter. We’ll see.
  • Most of my microblog posts are around 200 characters. These will get truncated on Twitter, with a link back to my site. Full essays get a nicer title and link. I’ll continue to improve this.
  • I’m effectively starting over with zero followers, compared to the 5000 followers I left @manton with. I have no plans to resume using my original account, though. Think of the “2” in @manton2 as a reminder that this is a mirror of my posts, and an imperfect one.

You can follow @manton2 on Twitter. Thanks for reading.