Indieweb as state of mind
After bemoaning the fact my site had received very little below the line interest in the form of comments or pingbacks from other blogs, the same post got three links from other articles. All of which are really good.
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The first thing I’d note is that only one of them generated an incoming webmention. This could be for a number of reasons – the linking site wasn’t configured to send them, my reception implementation isn’t working properly or the sending site was misconfigured. But I think it demonstrates a problem I identifed in the original post: getting this stuff working is difficult, and relies on authors setting something up correctly, even if that is as relatively simple as installing a WordPress plugin. I only found out about Colin’s post because I was trialling Simple Analytics (recommended, incidentally). Manu was cool enough to send an email saying he’d written On the indie web.
And virtually nobody is just filling in a comment form, which would have been how we’d have created networks in the golden, pre-social media age of blogging.
Anyway. I particularly like Colin’s post as it picks at the subject – what indieweb purports to be and its contradictions:
You are better connected, but to connect requires those very protocols that, supposedly, aren’t as important as the user experience. In this instance, the tech helps to define the UX — it cannot be truly separate. If the goal is to create a network of connected sites, it’s a bit pointless to have a wonderful experience on your blog but not have it link to anything or not enable anyone to link back to you. Are we there yet?
I totally agree with this, but think I differ slightly with Colin in that I believe more platforms could be the answer. Yes, everything is a new fucking platform (from Medium to Substack, Hey World etc. etc.) but that’s how most users mediate with the internet, partly because they offer an easy UX, partly because that’s how we understand what the internet actually is. One could envisage a platform that did things the “right”, indieweb way, and encouraged expression through our own websites rather than Twitter and Facebook, by removing all the technical wrangling and making the UX good.
James concurs (and is in fact building a platform called Tanzawa):
The standards for UX have risen a lot over the past decade. Being able to participate with a single click in software that is native to the IndieWeb is table-stakes for growing the community beyond it’s current size or rate. And it needs to be hosted, because most people aren’t capable of or have interest in maintaining their own server. Response to Are we there yet?
However, Colin and Manu are right, this isn’t going to happen in any large way, and perhaps it shouldn’t.
But Colin’s conclusion got me to think about indieweb in a different way (or to simply not overthink it). Indieweb is just publishing to your own website. To focus on likes, retweets, reactions etc. is to betray a social media mentality.
At the most basic level, the IndieWeb is advocating having your own site, your own home on the web, and owning your own data. That’s all it needs to be to get started, just like it used to be before the platforms took over.
And it really never has been easier to set up your own website.
This conclusion chimes with Manu:
I kinda see the point Leon is making but at the same time I think he’s missing the bigger picture. When it comes to human connections happening through the web medium, I believe the path of the indie web is—or at least should be—quality over quantity. A network of personal sites can’t really compete with a platform like Twitter when it comes to reachability and possibility of going viral. Nor it should aspire to honestly… Deeper interactions require time. The indie web has to be slow in order to be effective.
And Manu’s right – I just need to be patient, and write something that’s half interesting. I only started publishing everything to my website just over a year ago, and already some form of network has developed. That’s good in and of itself.
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I found this all an interesting discussion! I’ve certainly enjoyed having my own site again and tinkering to add various IndieWeb features, but it’s not something I’d realistically expect the average person to do. That said, I also agree that the fundamentals of the IndieWeb are really just having your own site – everything else like post types, webmentions, etc. seem mainly there to mimic social media, which I think is an awesome extra, but isn’t necessary just to have your own, “independent” site. The latter is much easier of course (although still not something everyone will want to do).
Another thing I will say I’ve noticed is that most of the people who’ve implemented IndieWeb principles to any degree on their site also have Micro.blog accounts… making it much easier in most cases to comment on Micro.blog than by actually making a reply post on my own site. I guess there’s nothing really wrong with that, but it just seems funny given the “IndieWeb” ethos. I can make the effort to do otherwise (like I’m doing for this, now) but most of the time I wonder what’d be the point, and take the path of least resistance.