Categories
The Internet Writing

With a blog, everything is a prompt

Liked Derek Powazek 🐐 (@fraying@xoxo.zone) (XOXO Zone)

The reason why retweet-style post creation is important is because it turns every post into a prompt.

Normal people need prompts. And social tools like Mastodon need normal people participating.

A blog with IndieWeb tools means that everything on the internet becomes a prompt. The entire Internet is my fuel for thought and writing, not just whatever people shared today on the socials. Everything is part of the “conversation” I’m “participating in” — just today, I’ve used a Mastodon post, email newsletters, and blog post as prompts — all from my home base online.

Of course, anyone on social media can pull in content from outside the silo — but that extra step adds friction. There’s a reason so many people are lurkers.

The practice of writing builds and reinforces an engaged, participatory mindset. The more you write commentary on whatever you feel like, the more comfortable you feel doing it: a virtuous cycle of writing and thinking.

In reading others’ debates over QTs in recent months, I’ve realized this is one of my main ways of interacting with content online: the quote as inspiration for another train of thought. “Reply” is not a good description of much of what I write here; I’d class most of my posts more as commentary than direct response. (To that end, I often post writing others might consider a reply as a like instead. My blog isn’t synced into the Fediverse, so this comment won’t feed back there — but that’s fine because I’m treating his post about QTs as a QT 😉)

A blog also feels like a safer place to write than social media; it’s a space I control, I’m not constrained by character count so I can add nuance, and it’s less subject to context collapse given the formats readers consume it (directly or via RSS). Sure, I reach fewer people, but virality is not something I want. Quality over quantity. (I might prefer a little more feedback than I get now, but I love my current approach to blogging too much to quit at this point.)

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

I asked Substack to add Webmention support

The IndieWeb has had some success in asking nicely for platforms to support web standards — Tumblr recently incorporated microformats into their standard template — so I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask Substack to add Webmention support. I don’t expect them to say yes, but it would be great to have native support instead of manually reposting (POSSEing) in the comments there. And each place that adds support makes it easier to convince another.

Here’s what I posted as a comment, hopefully I conveyed how Webmention works accurately 😂:

Has Substack ever considered adding support for Webmentions? They are recommended by the W3C as a component of an interoperable web, so Substackers could connect with the greater internet community of writers and creators. Adding support for Webmentions could build an even richer conversation between writers across the web. When a Substack newsletter linked to a blog post, the writer of the blog would get notified, so they could join in the conversation. If a blogger linked or replied to a Substack article from their blog, the author could see that along with other comments made directly on Substack. Likewise if a Substack newsletter linked to someone else’s Substack article, their article could be displayed with the original, so it would be easy for readers of the linked article to hear about and discover a new Substack newsletter.

I am concerned that with all the features Substack is adding — chat, podcasting, internal mentions, internal recommendations — they are becoming more and more of an insulated silo. An open web benefits all users, but it doesn’t necessarily benefit silo owners who want to keep all traffic internal. However, because Substack’s revenue is based on subscriptions rather than advertising, I’m hopeful they’d be receptive to the opportunity for discovery and engagement that Webmentions could foster.

There are also plenty of bloggers who also write newsletters, so it could be good PR for Substack among bloggers after the negative press from last spring (IIRC) of funding support voices of hate.

Categories
Science

Rethinking the way we publish science

Liked The dance of the naked emperors by Adam Mastroianni (Experimental History)

To recap, I argued in my last post that:

1. We’ve published science lots of different ways for a long time, and universal pre-publication peer review is both pretty new and historically strange.

2. That system doesn’t seem to accomplish the goals that it claims to or that we wish it would.

3. It’s worthwhile to try other things.

That’s also why I’m not worried about an onslaught of terrible papers—we’ve already got an onslaught of terrible papers.

Sick burn 😂

But seriously, it is not good for society or science when access to scientific research is limited to academics. This only reinforces the perceived division between academics and the public, and exacerbates anti-intellectualism. And, it is hardly helpful for scientists to be silo’d away from the public either — any insular group will miss out on the perspectives and wisdom of other groups of people with different backgrounds and experience. Shifting the expectation that papers should be readable by laypeople would encourage plainer language and force writers to clarify their explanations.

If science weren’t hidden behind expensive paywalls, people outside academia could draw on the latest research for decisions, and participate in conversations about science. Codesign is on the rise in community engagement and graphic design; improving access could enable communities to give input to projects and future research. Instead of researchers coming up with projects on their own, they could listen to the needs of the community to fill in gaps (for example, the gap in medical research for women).

Also learned a new concept, weak-link problem, from his referenced article The Rise and Fall of Peer Review:

Why did peer review seem so reasonable in the first place?

I think we had the wrong model of how science works. We treated science like it’s a weak-link problem where progress depends on the quality of our worst work. If you believe in weak-link science, you think it’s very important to stamp out untrue ideas—ideally, prevent them from being published in the first place. You don’t mind if you whack a few good ideas in the process, because it’s so important to bury the bad stuff.

But science is a strong-link problem: progress depends on the quality of our best work.

See also: Imagining a better way — for everything

Categories
Meta Music Websites

How I re-created my Spotify playlists on my website

I created a list of my annual birthday playlists since 2002.

For this process, I used a third party program to extract the data, Excel to format it, and CSS to style it. I’m assuming you’ve used formulas in Excel before so you can plug in the appropriate cells, and have written simple HTML and CSS.

Getting the data

  1. I used Exportify to download a .csv file of all my Spotify playlists.
  2. Columns included that I used in this process:
    • Track Name,
    • Artist Name,
    • Album Release Date,
    • Album Name,
    • Album Image URL

Track list

I used the CONCATENATE function in Excel to compile the HTML list to paste into WordPress. You could do this all in one step; I did it in multiple steps so I could experiment with showing different things, and so the cell didn’t get crazy long.

  1. I created a column with the link to the track:
    =CONCATENATE("<span class=",CHAR(34),"h-cite track",CHAR(34),"><span class=",CHAR(34),"p-name tracktitle",CHAR(34),">",[CELL WITH SONG TITLE],"</span> by <span class=",CHAR(34),"p-author artist bandname",CHAR(34),">",[CELL WITH ARTIST NAME],"</span></span>")
  2. I created another column that created the list item that I could paste into WordPress:
    =CONCATENATE("<li>",B2,"</li>")

To keep the page from being super long, I added the track list to the page using the <details> property, which allows it to be clicked on and expanded. Then I used CSS to style “details > summary” to look like a link so people know to expand it.

Adding Microformats

I also included (experimental) microformats based on what I use for my books. Microformats allow other programs to correctly interpret specific types of data, such as a book or (in this case) song citation. No program currently reads microformatted playlists, but I figured better to do it now than wish I had done it later 😉 Once it’s done, the odds I’d go back and update it are low. I picked my own microformats because there is no accepted standard.

The microformats I used were:

  • For the whole listing: “h-cite track”
  • For the track name: “p-name tracktitle”
  • For the artist name: “p-author artist bandname”

Apparently only the h- and p- values will actually be parsed so you could omit the other values.

Because microformats are added as classes, it also gives you an opportunity to style specific parts of the text. I chose to style the track title.

Year data

  1. I extracted the year data from their format by adding a column with this formula:
    =TEXT(I2,"YYYY")
  2. I calculated the number of songs per year by using COUNTIF:
    =COUNTIF(J$2:J$23,I25)
    where J2 through J23 contains the year data (created in step one), and I25 is a cell with the year in plain text. Adding the $ signs in the source data range is important so you can drag the formula down without it also shifting the source cells.

Graph by year

I followed this tutorial to create a stacked bar graph. Because I wanted multiple graphs on a page, I substituted class instead of id. I also used inline CSS for the grid display properties so I could define a different fractional breakdown for each graph.

Album art

The data included a link to the album art hosted by Spotify’s CDN. I created a column that created the image link with alt text:
=CONCATENATE("<img src=",CHAR(34),[CELL WITH ALBUM ART URL],CHAR(34)," width=",CHAR(34),"50px",CHAR(34)," alt=",CHAR(34),[CELL WITH ALBUM NAME]," by ",[CELL WITH ARTIST NAME],CHAR(34)," />")

Categories
The Internet Websites

Making the IndieWeb more approachable

Replied to IndieWebCamp Popup: How to Make the IndieWeb More Approachable (events.indieweb.org)

The IndieWeb community welcomes anyone who is interested in expressing themselves on a personal website, regardless of technical experience. In this meetup, we will be asking the question “how can we make the IndieWeb more approachable to encourage greater participation and reach a wider audience?”

My notes and thoughts from today’s discussion about making the IndieWeb more approachable:

What’s working for the IndieWeb?

  • the community — chat allows direct connection with people to help
  • the wiki is a massive wealth of knowledge — if you know what you’re looking for

What are blockers to joining the IndieWeb?

  • Overwhelming amount of information on the wiki
  • Getting started — decision making
  • Sparklines — setting them up is hard
  • Perception of who it’s for — that it’s for tech people

Choice underpins many challenges

Choice is at the core of the IndieWeb approachability and accessibility challenge:

  • choice overwhelm
  • lack of documentation to understand what pieces do and what pieces you need
  • understanding what IndieWeb *is*
  • choosing which steps to undertake
Categories
Activism

What happens to activism after Twitter?

Bookmarked

For all its failings, one space where Twitter has excelled is empowering activism: calling out injustice, community organizing, and on-the-ground reporting from dozens of protests at once. Conservatives bitch about their fascist tweets getting deleted and “misinformation” because they can’t tell you about “the ivermectin cure,” but what actually seems to be censored and misrepresented in mainstream press is disruptions to power: protesters are painted as looters, police spray children with tear gas at nonviolent protests, journalists get black-bagged and shot despite their press badges. I watched all this happening from afar in BLM protests around the country – these three particular instances were in Bellevue, Seattle and Portland. And the “terrifying” Capital Hill Autonomous Zone or whatever they called themselves planted a community garden in a public park — oh the atrocity! 😱 I could read and see accounts from multiple people at various protests, photos and videos from multiple angles, and read accounts from journalists at protests, and real community members could dispel fear mongering and scapegoating.

If Twitter collapses, where do we go for that kind of information?

If we didn’t have Twitter, would any of us have heard about George Floyd or Breonna Taylor?

Activism has adapted to make use of online platforms and advocate to a larger audience. I haven’t been going to protests in person, so I don’t know how essential that link is.

If Twitter collapses, what happens to the women of Iran right now?

Can federated / distributed spaces allow the kind of real-time information spread that has made Twitter invaluable for activism?

Mastodon only searches hashtags within your (an?) instance from my understanding. You need to already know who to follow or be in an instance where people are sharing that kind of information.

(☝️ I do not know this to be true first-hand but wouldn’t be surprised given the model)

And the IndieWeb already struggles with discoverability.

I don’t think TikTok can serve the same function — too easy in their algorithmic model to keep anything from spreading, and video is so much slower to produce and consume than text that you can’t follow as many separate accounts to get an understanding of what’s happening.

Facebook gave us genocide in Myanmar. They’re not going to be a help here. Instagram doesn’t seem built in a way that’s easy to follow trending topics. Their ephemeral posts (stories) aren’t easy to find or follow. I haven’t used it lately so I don’t know how Reels work.

Categories
Art and Design Meta The Internet Websites

Expanding the blogroll, owning my follows

Over the years, I’ve followed hundreds of artists and interesting people on Instagram and Twitter. Social media platforms don’t make it very easy to see everyone you follow, even as they constantly change the way they show you information so you don’t know what updates you’re missing. They also reward frequency and recency. The idea of an algorithm is nice — ‘it’ll show me posts I missed from people I care about!’ — but in practice it’s more like ‘ok thanks for showing me that five people I follow liked a political meme’.

As I move away from regularly using Twitter and Instagram, I don’t want to lose track of everyone who I followed there. So, I made my own lists of people who I follow — their own websites, not their social media accounts or profiles on other platforms:

Cool Artists – artists and craftspeople of all varieties

Interesting People – people with interesting and helpful things to say, from a range of backgrounds (science, art, advocacy, interior design)

Some of these people may also have newsletters and blogs that I don’t know about or am not following, or may have no way to follow their activity at all outside of social media — but at least I’ll always be able to find them. (Presumably anyone who’s bothered to set up a personal website will keep it?)

And maybe a list is a way other people can find new folks to follow too. The main bummer is not having images to represent everyone’s art, but that sounded like a helluva lot of additional work 😉

How I collated these lists

I went through my Twitter and Instagram following lists — which were much longer than I had realized 😨 — and opened bio links to personal websites for everyone who had one. There was probably an easier way to do it, but I manually opened everyone’s profile to remind myself who they were. Instagram’s interface to see who you’re following is Terrible if you’re following any large number of users.

Because I’m into the IndieWeb and everyone having their own website, I decided to be a stickler and only include personal websites, not BigCartel shops or platform profiles or linktrees. That meant a number of artists did get excluded — but honestly the lists are plenty long anyway 🤷‍♀️

I also didn’t duplicate my blogroll, so the websites of people whose blogs and newsletters I’m following aren’t currently on this list… I may go back and add personal websites of people who write newsletters instead of blogs.

When we in the IndieWeb talk about owning our content, the focus is often on the things we have posted ourselves, or saving our likes and bookmarks — but keeping track of who we follow is also useful.

Also posted on IndieNews

Categories
Meta Websites

Deciding what belongs on my website

We discussed syndicating notes from your website to Twitter at yesterday’s Homebrew Website Club in light of the upcoming Twitter ownership transfer, as a way to demonstrate existing POSSE technology and encourage more people to adopt IndieWeb approaches. I expressed that I struggle with *whether* I want to do this rather than *how*. What seems like it should be a simple step — posting to Twitter from my website — reveals itself as a complex decision rooted in how I want to present myself online.

Tl;dr: having one place to host all my content is simplest, but means being ok with uniting all aspects of my identity.

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