Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web

Reminders why blogs remain relevant despite social media

Here’s another reminder by Chris Maiorana why blogs remain relevant despite social media that arguably makes it easier to share with each other:

Those of us who take the idea of democratic publishing seriously rejoice at how the field has opened to include anyone who has something to say and is willing to write it down. That’s why we should be more alarmed when we see social media companies crowd the spaces once occupied by blogs and do-it-yourself content creators. We see a decline in diverse opinions as the web quickly becomes less free and more autocratic.

Bringing Back Blogs in the Age of Social Media Censorship – WordPress Tavern

I’ve also added Cal Newport’s “‘Expert Twitter’ Only Goes So Far. Bring Back Blogs in WIRED” to Pocket to read a bit later.

These calls to blog more aren’t new, just as assertions that blogs are irrelevant in a time when we can share anything with millions (hypothetically) on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and <insert name of hot new social service here> aren’t new either.

Yes, I’m biased given who I work for, and the fact that I still blog (somewhat irregularly). At the same time, does that detract the assertion that blogs remain relevant despite social media? I think you’d be hard-pressed to say that they aren’t.

In many respects, you just can’t beat blogs’ combination of having your own space to publish to, open platforms to power that publishing (such as WordPress), and the flexibility to communicate your ideas in a way that does justice to what you have to say.

On a related note, I also recommend reading Chris Hardie’s post titled “Multimedia journalism and the WordPress block editor“. The more time I spend with the block editor, the more I believe that it’s truly transformational, even at this early stage of its evolution, and despite the initial learning curve.

Categories
Applications Social Web Telecoms

Google Wave 2.0?

According to Ars Technica

Integrating the service into Gmail is an aggressive move and something we haven’t seen the company do since the Google+ days. Reportedly a lot more integrations are coming in the future—the G Suite team apparently wants to make some kind of “new unified communications app” that merges features from Gmail, Drive, Google Chat, and Google Meet.

Google Meet, Google’s Zoom competitor, gets wider Gmail integration

Is “Google Wave” still taken? 🤔

Categories
Blogs and blogging Publishing Social Web

The blog helped build the Web, not break it

I read some wonderful ideas about personal sites as cultivated digital gardens over the weekend (here, here, here, and here), and one post that was linked to in one of these posts caught my attention. It was Amy Hoy’s post titled “Stacking the Bricks: How the Blog Broke the Web“.

We built every new page by hand. When we had more than one web page, we built the navigation by hand. We managed our Table of Contents by hand. We broke out our calculators to code boundaries for our image maps. We talked unironically about “hyperlinks.”

Stacking the Bricks: How the Blog Broke the Web

I remember those early days of the public Web, with the myriad flashing banners, and GIFs all over the place. It wasn’t quite as romantic back then, hacking together sites with the available HTML elements, and trying not to go too crazy with the flashy graphics.

People built sites like that because that was pretty much the only way to do it. It wasn’t easy to build a site. Domains were freakishly expensive, bandwidth was terrible by today’s standards, and building some sort of social fabric for the Web back then was daunting. As Amy explained –

The early web itself, of course, was pretty exclusive: first, you had to be online, then you had to know HTML, and that wasn’t enough, you also had to have a hosting account, and know how to use it. There was no royal road. Each would-be Netizen had to bushwhack their own path.

Blogs changed all of that, and gave more people a much easier way to build their own space on the Web. Sure, many looked pretty similar because templates and themes were a little sparse, but these were spaces that non-coders could create (mostly), and make their own.

Sure, it’s fun to get your hands dirty with HTML, CSS, and other cool Web tools (and there are remarkable sites built on open standards, and that don’t run on CMSes like WordPress), but that’s not a viable option for millions of people who are online today.

No, the blog didn’t break the Web, it changed the Web. It turned the Web into a platform for just about everyone with a smartish device, and a decent Internet connection.

Not all the content on the modern Web is good. There’s plenty of trashy content out there. There’s even more wonderful content that people invest so much effort, creativity, and passion into.

There are no more quirky homepages.

There are no more amateur research librarians.

All thanks to a quirky bit of software produced to alleviate the pain of a tiny subset of a very small audience.

That’s not cool at all.

I disagree. The Web that blogs made possible is not what Hoy describes as the “old web, the cool web, the weird web, the hand-organized web”. It’s much more than that. It’s inspiring.


Disclosure

I work for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, and home of many incredible WordPress developers. I wrote this post using the block editor that I believe is borderline revolutionary.

I’ve also been blogging (erratically) for more than 16 years. So, yes, I’m biased towards blogs.

Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web Useful stuff

How to send a Webmention in comments?

I’ve had Webmentions enabled on this site for some time now. Sending a Webmention is pretty straightforward thanks to plugins like Webmention for WordPress and Semantic-Linkbacks. The question is how to send Webmentions in comments when someone replies to one of my posts? 🤔

I reached out to Chris Aldrich on Twitter, and he pointed me to a few resources in response. I did some testing between two test sites, and sent a couple replies to the initial Webmention (that came through as a comment), like these:

Unfortunately, the Webmentions appear like this on the post I’m replying to:

That’s not especially informative, though.

I’m aiming for a more substantive mention/comment like this:

Chris’ reply originated from his post on his site, here:

I’m pretty sure I’m missing something on my side. I’ll keep digging, and update this post when I find a solution.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Mathyas Kurmann
Categories
Events and Life Mindsets Policy issues Politics and government Social Web

The greatest propaganda machine in history

Sacha Baron Cohen recently spoke about how social media services have become the “greatest propaganda machine in history”.

Much of the media’s focus, when reporting on his remarks, was on his attack on Facebook. While he certainly targeted Facebook, he also spoke about how Google, YouTube, and Twitter shape online discourse, and how they help spread lies, bigotry, and attacks on fact-based discussions.

Think about it.  Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people.  The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear.  It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times.  It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth.  And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history—the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous.  As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”

Sacha Baron Cohen

As much as we embrace free expression, we find it difficult to draw a line when liars and bigots abuse their right to free expression because doing that feels like hypocrisy.

Free expression isn’t unlimited, though. And pushing back against channels that help propagate misinformation, abuse, and false statements that impact substantial segments of the population is becoming more important.

At the very least, it’s worth watching Cohen’s talk, or reading his remarks:

We should also think carefully about how much trust we place in services that profit from the social chaos we see around us.

Featured image by Miguel Henriques
Categories
Coding Design Social Web

Owning your tweets

I really like how Zach Leatherman has taken control over his tweets, and is sharing them on his site with some great analytics. He provides some insights into how he’s taking his tweets, and republishing them on his site in his post “I’m Taking Ownership of My Tweets” –

I fully expect my personal website to outlive Twitter and as such have decided to take full ownership of the content I’ve posted there. In true IndieWeb fashion, I’m taking ownership of my data.

Zach Leatherman

I started doing something similar on a test site here: @pauljacobson tweets – All the tweets

My test site uses a relatively old plugin that hasn’t been updated recently. At the same time, it seems to be working relatively called Ozh’ Tweet Archiver. I prefer how Zach has formatted his tweets, and how the images and links are modified for more sustainable presentation on the assumption that Twitter has gone offline.

I also really like how he’s captured replies, and has added analytics to his tweets to surface all sorts of insights such as more popular tweets, retweets data, and more.

I’ve love to know how he’s actually capturing, and reformatting his tweets, but I don’t see a link to the code he’s using for this. I’d eventually like to bring something like that to this site, so this site becomes a complete archive of my tweets too.

At least with the Ozh’ Tweet Archiver plugin running on my test site, I’ll have a WordPress archive that I can readily import as a starting point. I’d like to have linked media load from my site, and not as embeds from Twitter, for example. The idea here is to capture your tweets, and preserve them so they contain their links and media should Twitter no longer exist.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Ridham Nagralawala
Categories
Blogs and blogging Mindsets Semantic Web Social Web Web/Tech

Resisting closed platforms with the open Web

Simon commented on the state of the Web in a recent post:

Thanks to the open web it was possible to create massive platforms, which inevitably became closed.

He asks an important question:

Do we now abandon the open web or is it essential for keeping the closed platforms in check?

I think the only real answer to this question is not to abandon the open Web. The open Web remains essential, both in itself, and to offer a compelling alternative to closed platforms.

The open Web can offer a healthier, more sustainable alternative to closed platforms. What we need are services that are as good as, or better than, closed platforms. Perhaps more importantly, the open alternatives should be just as convenient to use. This is where open solutions seem to be lacking, for now at least.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Tim Gouw
Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web Useful stuff

Facebook-fed blog someday?

Chris’ reference to a means of linking his site to Facebook touches on something I thinking about this morning.

Even though you can export your Facebook data into what seems like a nicely presented, local site of sorts, I’d like to be able to basically parse my Facebook timeline, and somehow migrate it to a WordPress blog.

This may be possible using an extension of the Keyring plugin for WordPress. I’d like to test this out, even though I’ve never really been able to get the Keyring plugin to work on my site.

I’d need to first configure a private WordPress site first though in case it works, and the site populates with private updates.