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.
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.
I really enjoyed reading Matthias Ott’s post titled Into the Personal-Website-Verse. It’s an essay about why it’s so important to have your own space on the Web, and why IndieWeb is a great way to get there. It’s well worth the read.
There are many reasons to have your own site, at your own domain, that you control. Aside from retaining effective control over your content, the risk of entrusting our stories, and our content to centralised services like social networks is arguably greater:
One day, Twitter and other publishing platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Medium will indeed die, like so many sites before them. And every time this happens, we lose most of the content we created and with it a fair amount of our collective cultural history.
There are so many options for creating a personal site including WordPress.com*, Micro.blog, GitHub Pages, Squarespace, and many more. I prefer platforms that let me take my content out, and move it to another platform if I decide to. I think you should too.
*And yes, as you know, I’m partial to WordPress as a long-time user, and because I work for Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com.
The tutorial runs to about two hours, but it was worth watching. It certainly helped me figure out how to make better use of the plugins I’d installed.
One aspect of this that really impresses me is the Post Kinds plugin. It’s become so much more useful to me. At the same time, it’s only really useful if I publish posts using the WP Admin dashboard on my site.
Nathan mentioned me in a conversation recently that prompted me to revisit Micro.blog. I backed Micro.blog on Kickstarter initially, created my account when it launched, and then didn’t really return to it after initially testing it out.
I took another look today, and noticed that my blog posts have been shared to my Micro.blog feed automatically (I added my RSS feed, then forgot about it). I didn’t have a blog active over there, because I want to have this site as my primary blog.
Still, I poked around a little, and took some time to make more sense of what this Micro.blog thing is all about. Brent Simmons described how he sees Micro.blog fitting into the broader Web ecosystem nicely when he said the following:
Micro.blog is not an alternative silo: instead, it’s what you build when you believe that the web itself is the great social network.
This talk at the recent IndieWeb Summit also offered a nice overview of where Micro.blog is at the moment, and some of the challenges that lie ahead:
While I’m on the topic of IndieWeb, this “State of the IndieWeb” keynote is a great overview of what’s been going on in the IndieWeb community in the last year or so:
The challenge, now, is figuring out how to use them to publish replies that cross-post, and so on. Installing the plugins is only part of the process. I’m pretty sure there’s a degree of configuration involved too to make it all work.
On the one hand, using these tools/extensions will transform your site from a “simple” blog into a pretty interactive, connected hub on the Web. On the other hand, this is not the sort of setup that mainstream users are going to want to configure.
This is where services like Micro.blog fit into the picture. It integrates a number of IndieWeb technologies to produce a pretty seamless experience.
This would have made it easier to send webmention-based badges which could have been done by creating a badge page on which he could have added simple links to all of the student pages that had earned them.
I’m not sure what these would look like, but the idea fascinates me. Also, this reminds me how little I seem to understand about how webmentions work.
Like many people, I’m not exactly in love with Twitter lately (except when I am). I’ve been on the lookout for something better for years (remember Jaiku?). I really like the idea of a federated update/micro-blogging service, and Mastodon has all the features you’d want.
What about the network effect?
The one feature that’s missing is the one factor that either boosts or kills any social service (again, remember Jaiku?) is the all important network effect. As Richard MacManus put it in his post titled “How social media fits into the Open Web” in AltPlatform.org (I can’t seem to load the site and provide a link):
I dip into Mastodon from time to time, but it just hasn’t managed to become part of my daily Web routine. Perhaps it will in future, but the old ‘network effects’ rule applies here: the value of a tool is ultimately in the strength of the community it builds.
This probably isn’t the platform I’d expect to see my friends on (and I don’t expect to). Still, if Mastodon is to be a viable alternative to Twitter for me, I’d want to be able to join communities that feature the people who I follow on Twitter. At the moment, I’m not sure most of them are even aware of Mastodon.
More importantly, what about my blog?
As interested as I am in a federated alternative to Twitter, what I really want is to be able to use my blog as my starting point for everything. Why can’t my personal site be the focal point of my presence on the web (at least one of my primary expressions of my self online)?
This takes me back to the work the IndieWeb community is doing to link all these sites together into a federated identity, and content network. How about extending that work to the point where I can use this blog as my identity that reaches into these federated networks?
This may be wishful thinking but I’d really like to see a future version of WordPress introduce this social connectivity that allows me to extend a unified personal presence to non-blog platforms.
On Mastodon, my identity is linked to the instance I am a part of. There, I am @email@example.com. I can use that identity to participate in other Mastodon instances (I think), so I have the beginnings of a distributed, social identity here. The challenge is that my nascent social identity is distinct from this site.
Richard MacManus wrote about the state of feed readers as he saw it in his AltPlatform.org post titled “The state of feed readers”. He mentioned a couple things in his Feedly wishlist that prompted me to think more about what I’d like to see added to Feedly.
Feedly – ye olde feed reader for the Information Age
If you haven’t heard of Feedly, it is a feed reader. Yup, those old fashioned services that use RSS to subscribe to new blog posts and other content available through RSS and then present it to you to read through at your leisure.
Many people have announced that RSS died with the advent of Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard or any number of other “Web 2.0” services. They are wrong.
While feed readers may not be as popular as they once were, they remain one of the best ways to receive the updates you care most about.
I loved using Google Reader back in the day and I switched to Feedly when Google killed Reader off. I still don’t understand why Google did that. Thankfully Feedly stepped into the void that Reader left behind.
It’s where my stuff is
I really like using Feedly. I think I’ve been using it since about 2008. Twitter is useful for breaking news but when I want to go through the content that matters most to me, I generally go to Feedly.
Like MacManus, I am a Feedly Pro user and it’s been worth it. I probably couldn’t tell you what all the Pro features are but I’m happy with the end result so I keep renewing my subscription.
I was meandering through some dusty directories on my Mac recently and I came across a Feedly benefit that I completely forgot about. It turns out that Feedly has been backing up my OPML files to Dropbox since 2014 (possibly when I started paying for Pro).
Feedly has a “read later” feature but I haven’t really used it all that much. I have preferred using Instapaper or Pocket for that.
I also realised that I forgot that Feedly has also been saving articles I marked to “read later” using its native tool as PDFs in my Dropbox folder. This is a pretty useful feature and it probably would have been even more useful if I remembered that I had enabled it!
A more recent Feedly feature is the ability to highlight text in feed items rendered in Feedly itself. This only really works when you subscribe to full feeds and doesn’t extend to pages that open from Feedly.
I love this feature in Instapaper which I started using as a research tool because I could highlight text as well as annotate it with comments. Feedly doesn’t go quite that far but it has real potential.
My Feedly wishlist
As much as I enjoy using Feedly, I’d love to see a few more features added. For one thing, I’d really like text highlights to be made portable somehow.
I can definitely see myself using Feedly as the research tool I thought Instapaper may become (for me at least) but I’d need to be able to do more with those notations. Here are a few ideas that, if implemented, would make Feedly so much more useful to me.
More useful highlights
I’d like to have the ability to capture text highlights into some sort of text file that preserves the context/source of the highlights (in other words, the article title, source and perhaps even highlight timestamps). IFTTT doesn’t have access to highlights so that isn’t an option at the moment.
It would also be great to be able to share highlighted text coherently and contextually through 3rd party services including to blogs, perhaps using IndieWeb tools.
Better sharing options
On a related note, imagine if Feedly baked IndieWeb functionality such as Micropub that enables users to share highlights or some other form of marked up content outside Feedly?
In particular, I’d really like to be able to share a highlight or even just a post I like directly to my blog on my phone.
I can already do something like this in my desktop browser. Sharing to WordPress from my browser invokes the WordPress “Press This” functionality, which is great.
At the same time, I find that I use my phone more than my laptop and given how many people use their smartphones as their primary computers, it makes sense for Feedly to make mobile a first class citizen.
Perhaps this could take the form of a pre-formatted share directly through the WordPress app or an intermediary step with a text file.
Feedly doesn’t even seem to offer an option to see my highlights in one place like Instapaper does.
I’m not sure what is possible, technically. At the same time, I’d like to be able to select something I have highlighted and share it on my blog with the contextual data about that highlighted text preserved, much like you can see in this screenshot of some of my Instapaper notes.
You could even take that further and enable other Feedly users to highlight that text and capture it into their own profiles almost like Amazon enables people to see what other readers have highlighted in Kindle books and add those highlights to their own collections.
Doing more with Feedly Boards
Feedly has something called “Boards” which are basically lists of articles you save to pre-defined lists. I’d really like to be able to share an RSS feed of my boards on my blog, for example.
Fortunately, I can use IFTTT to capture the articles I save. Still, I’d like to be able to create a sort of link roll based on my Feedly boards as an option from within Feedly.
I imagine I can do something similar to this through IFTTT but this is something that would probably work better as a native Feedly feature.
Just putting the thought out there
As I watch this IndieWeb thing gather steam, I’m hopeful that the ethos spreads not just throughout the online publishing world (aka the Blogosphere vx.0) but also to services like Feedly.
There is a lot to say for social media services. In many ways they have connected the online world in a way that Humanity hasn’t experienced. At the same time, we desperately need independent services like Feedly that empower us to consume the information we choose the way we prefer to do it.
My suggestions may not be even remotely on Feedly’s roadmap so I’m not expecting them to be implemented. At the same time, if they are, the result could be an even better service that we have at the moment.
Thinking back, I don’t think feed readers ever actually had mass appeal, just a dedicated core group of users who saw the value in customisable content streams. ↩
OPML stands for “Outline Processor Markup Language”. My OPML files are basically lists or indices of my RSS subscriptions. They are a great example of data portability in action because you can usually import OPML files into new feed readers and retain all your content sources. ↩