Categories
Technology The Internet

What makes RSS better than social timelines?

Replied to The Fail Whale Cascade by Luke Harris (lkhrs.com)

I’m bored of what I call “the timeline era”. Scanning an unending stream of disconnected posts for topics of interest is no longer fun, I prefer deciding what to read based on titles, or topic-based discussion.

I am a huge fan of RSS and have never stopped using it to follow blogs and webcomics. But lately as I’ve read lots of people talking about timelines, a question has been niggling at me: what does make an RSS feed* feel better to use than “the timeline” of social media? They are both streams of information, but I prefer RSS.

*by RSS feed, I mean the stream composed of multiple individual feeds — it is a little confusing that the singular and plural/collective of feed are the same.

Continuing in the vein of exploring what makes a blog a blog, I’m curious why an RSS feed feels better than social media timelines. Are we conflating our like of blogs with a like of RSS, or is there something about RSS feeds inherently that we really do prefer to other timelines?

I think it’s useful to dig into what elements of the experience make a substantive difference, so we can make better design choices with new tools in the future. I’m interested not in the technical details here (yay RSS is open and not owned by a corporation, boo it’s kind of a pain to explain and set up) — I’m interested in how we use the technology, and how we feel about using it.

Categories
Meta The Internet Websites

Understanding blogs

As we in the IndieWeb promote personal websites and encourage more people to write and publish online, and nostalgia for blogs and RSS is high, it’s useful to hone in on what exactly we’re talking about when we say blog.* Because, despite being a form of writing for more than 20 years, blogging is surprisingly hard to pin down.**

There are just a few truly defining characteristics of a blog:

  • Content is published in the form of posts, typically presented in reverse chronological order
  • Content is posted on a website, online, with hypertextual capabilities
  • Blogs are “self-published,” regardless of hosting platform, in that there is no gatekeeper authorizing publication

And yet, I think what makes a blog a blog is more than these technicalities; what makes a book a book is not merely “prose text, more than 50,000 words in length, on a single thesis or theme, collected in a single volume.” Printing off a long blog and binding it together does not necessarily a book make; for one, books are weighted towards linear reading — start to finish — while blog posts do not have to be read in the order they were originally published.

There are elements of bookness that make us say, this is a book. So what is blogness? From one of the many ‘yay let’s blog again’ posts everyone’s blogging about right now (which I enjoy), I wound up on a 2003 post trying to define what a blog is — but it addresses mainly the technical elements and the structure of the content. Blogging as a medium evolved out of the combination of technology and tools used; here, I’m interested in digging into how the writing and format are different from other mediums.

I’m a fan of graphic novels, and consider them a different medium than prose books; it pisses me off that graphic novels and graphic non-fiction are shelved with the comic strips at my library under 741.5. So I wonder: are blogs a distinct enough format to be their own top-level medium, or are they simply a hypertextual version of essay collections or newspapers?*** Where would you shelve blogs in the library: do they get mixed in with the books by topic, do they get their own call number as graphic novels do, are they thrown in with the periodicals, or do they go in their own section? @DavidShanske I’m sure you have an opinion here 😉

Categories
The Internet Websites

Pass it on

Bookmarked Rewilding Your Attention (CJ Eller)

Tom’s message makes me realize that rewilding attention is an active practice. One must not only pursue those tiny signals but share them as well, whether that means writing about them on your blog or by word of mouth. The only way the tiny signal can keep on resonating throughout the web is if we keep passing it on.

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network.

— Tom Critchlow, Small b blogging

Categories
Getting Shit Done Meta Technology

Use different tools for creation and consumption

Replied to

I just realized I have mostly  migrated consumption to my phone somewhat unintentionally — but because I read articles on my phone I also tend to compose my commentary on the phone as well, even though typing on my phone sucks 😂 The editor is also hard to use on my phone, and cutting and pasting doesn’t work correctly, so I edit less than I might on desktop. On my phone, I can only see about two sentences at a time, making it harder to write longer form work.

How much does the tool shape what content people produce? Considering many people no longer have desktops and solely use phones for computing, does lacking a PC deter them from writing? How much of the shift to video is because it’s simpler to film than type on phones? How much is the rise of microblogging and descent of blogging tied to smartphones?

Categories
The Internet Writing

A better word for blogging?

Replied to Bring Back Blogging by Chris Coyier (chriscoyier.net)

I wonder if the term “blog” has too much baggage. Too much history for it to really catch on again and make a dent.

Maybe “publish your own feed” is a better framing.

On the one hand, it’s nice to have a specific word for writing on the internet, on your own website… but I agree that for most people blogging likely has a specific connotation that doesn’t reflect the kind of writing they do online. I doubt most people tweeting or writing on Mastodon think of themselves as microblogging.

So how about just calling it writing online? I know a lot of people don’t think of themselves as writers when they post online, but it still could have fewer prescribed notions than blogging.

There’s also simply posting (on your own site) which borrows the language for sharing content on social media, and is medium-agnostic so it could cover writing and photography and video and audio.

I also like explicitly framing posting your own writing on your own website as self-publishing — though the idea of publishing might sound weightier than writing online need be.

Categories
Reflection The Internet Writing

Questions to guide what you write online to help shape the internet you want

Replied to Revisiting Remarkable Content to Consider Digital Ecology by Tara McMullinTara McMullin (explorewhatworks.com)

1) Do you create the kind of content you want to engage with online?
2) How much would you enjoy (or at least benefit from) an internet where everyone was creating the same kind of content as you are?

I like these questions and her framework of stewardship of the internet you want to see, which is what I feel participating in the IndieWeb now is about — I can be an ‘early’ adopter of technologies that allow people to interact with others from their website, to help show that it can be done and spread its use a little farther beyond tech folk.

The internet is not some towering behemoth, either. It’s something that we produce every single day. Every morning we wake up and re-create the internet. The more people wake up and decide to create something else, the more the internet becomes something else.

In response to her two guiding questions, I am actually pretty happy with what I’m posting online, and do like to read other people’s blogs. My philosophy to using micro.blog is to be empathetic, enthusiastic, and helpful — to applaud people’s accomplishments, heart-eye their cat pics, and share my advice or opinion when it’s asked for — basically, being friendly 🤷‍♀️ I was mostly a lurker on Twitter and never really interacted using Twitter, so it’s been nice to hang out in an online space where I feel comfortable chiming in on anyone’s post.

I also like to read long articles informed by deep knowledge or research, and cultural critiques. This… isn’t necessarily the kind of essay I tend to write even on my blog 😉 I don’t have the confidence in my breadth of knowledge to feel comfortable writing anything that draws on a solid understanding of history or modern mainstream culture. But, I could consider writing more about my areas of expertise. When I had a day job, I wanted a separation between what I think about in my free time (i.e. blogging) and what I was paid to think about, so I have written very little about the environment online. This could be something to reconsider now I’m freelance.

Her prompt of considering “the writers, podcasters, and creators who excited me,” and looking for commonalities across their work seems useful.

Some of the writers whose online work really resonates with me are:

  • Anne Helen Peterson – journalist applying cultural critique to a wide range of social justice issues
  • Craig Mod – multi-talented writer deeply engaging with place and the physicality of experience
  • Oliver Burkeman – reflecting on the creative process with a no-nonsense yet kind approach
  • Ingrid Fetell Lee – centering joy and the pursuit of happiness through daily life and personal growth
  • David Cain – sharing personal experiences generalized to reflect on making life better and less stressful
  • Courtney Milan –  personal reflections universalized and translated into tea and fiction, drawing on determination and clear-eyed, action-driven hope about the future
  • Robin Sloan – channeling excitement and curiosity and playfulness, and building a sense of community and wonder
Categories
The Internet Websites

Rebuilding and spreading an independent web

Liked How to Weave the Artisan Web by John ScalziJohn Scalzi (whatever.scalzi.com)

1. Create/reactivate your own site, owned by you, to hold your own work.

2. When you create that site, write or otherwise present work on your site at least once a week, every week.

3. Regularly visit the sites of other creators to read/see/experience the work they present there.

4. Promote/link the work of others, on your own site and also on your other social media channels where you have followers.

I’ve got 1 and 3 down — it’s 2 and 4 that are the hard part for me 😉

I post here multiple times a week, but don’t write something on my blog Cascadia Inspired every week, nor my pen name website.

Here I link to a lot of other people’s blogs and sites as I bookmark and comment on articles, but not so much on my blog. I post mostly original content there — photos and essays. For visitors to this site, I do have a blogroll plus my new pages of artists and interesting people.

Almost never do I remember to share work from any site — mine or others’ — on social media. Lately I’ve been trying to share my blog posts on micro.blog, though Twitter or LinkedIn would theoretically reach more people 🤷‍♀️

Note to self: offer on LinkedIn to help anyone who wants to set up a new website. 

Categories
The Internet

Transformation and opportunity after Twitter

Liked After Twitter (inessential.com)

The internet’s town square should never have been one specific website with its own specific rules and incentives. It should have been, and should be, the web itself.

“Twitter was the island in the middle of the kitchen where we hung out, and now it’s a junk drawer of brands and nazis.”

😂

+

[The web is] at its best when there’s a sense of community, and a community can benefit from diversity. Take risks and build something different.

(The Vaporwave)

Categories
Learning The Internet Websites

Rediscovering “timeless” posts

Kottke is re-publishing “timeless posts” from his archives during his sabbatical. I brought up a related challenge at yesterday’s Homebrew Website Club: what to do when you find a cool site that’s no longer updating.

My challenge is stumbling upon static indie websites or dead blogs that nevertheless have interesting articles. I can’t usually take the time to dig back through a site’s entire archives when I stumble upon their website — I’ll read three, four, five articles, but there’s only so much I can read at a stretch, especially if I’m trying to process the information too. With a new site that’s still updating, I’d add it to my RSS feed, but I don’t have a solution for retired websites.

There is value in older content, but we read what is put in front of us. A feed — whether email newsletters you subscribe to, RSS feeds, or a social media timeline — is not inherently a bad way to help decide what to read given the vast amount of content out there, but isn’t good or reliable at resurfacing older information, even if it might be higher quality or more valuable than “fresh” information. The feed rewards the opposite of SEO, where you (used to anyway, dunno about now) benefit from your content being older; on the silos, content is washed away downstream, irrelevant as soon as it’s off the feed.

So how can we get these older articles in front of us?

I recently saw a website that manually curates good old articles — useful for finding “classic” content to read. A podcast I was listening to re-aired a popular episode from a previous season. These are manual processes, and not easy for readers to replicate without doing the digging themselves.

What I would love is a way to subscribe to old, dead RSS feeds and have old content sent to my feed reader at a reasonable (weekly?) interval — similar to email courses that send you the subsequent emails at a predetermined span of time after your start point.

Another service I’d love is sending me my starred Pocket articles to read, because I never think to look back at what I’ve saved 😉

Also posted on IndieNews

Categories
Art and Design Resources and Reference Websites

Website roundups

Httpster – Httpster is an inspiration resource showcasing totally rocking websites made by people from all over the world.

Admire the Web

Typewolf site of the day – typography focused collection of websites