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I’m really into the IndieWeb, or the ideas behind it. I like to own my data, I like a space to play and experiment, I like the idea of syndicating content to be read/experienced in a variety of formats. I love microformats, and RSS feeds, and… wait… how do webmentions work?

Slow Social

A few weeks back there was another round of social-media panic (which is reasonable), and the ever-present reminders to Use A Personal Site.

Personal sites are great! But I have some issues with that reply, and I posted about it on Twitter:

Personal sites are wonderful. But they can be a lot of work to set up & maintain. Also: personal solutions don’t solve the problem of building networks & public digital spaces.

If we want ‘personal sites’ to be an answer to social platforms, we have a lot of work to do.

Me, on Twitter

At the core, I’m skeptical about treating “public space” issues as a matter of personal responsibility.

Chris Coyier made a point of replying on his personal site – a lovely little post about how cool RSS is, and the benefits of “slow social” web interactions.

And I agree completely! [insert requisite mourning for Reader]

But then I look at my site – this site, here – and it’s a struggle to get all the pieces working the way that I want, especially when it comes to syndication.

I do have a feed that you can subscribe to, but I’ve struggled to categorize what on my site is a “post” worth syndicating vs a “page” vs ???.

And I’m not always sure I have it set up right? Validators flag the style attribute (setting custom props in some content), or embedded iframes (for audio/video), or scripts (usually for embedding content). How much should I worry about these issues? Do I need to run my content through a tool like sanitize-html, and if so, how strict should it be? I often have similar questions when setting up microformats, and trying to match the needs of the format to the needs of my content.

These are very solvable problems with testing and research – but they start to add up.

WebMentions

Since making that post, I’ve also started to explore WebMentions, following instructions from Matthias Ott, Keith Grant, and Max Böck. I recommend all three articles, but the first thing that becomes clear is that this requires multiple steps, and is not a simple or straight-forward process.

The first round required several online services along with HTML & JS changes to my static site, just to verify my indieweb identity. Then more changes to the site and more online services to help fetch any mentions (so far, nothing to see, but that’s probably expected). It seems the only way to test the setup is to launch all those changes publicly, and then ask for other devs to send you mentions.

(That’s partly the goal of this post.)

Every time I think I have the basics in place, I find some other set of instructions suggesting there’s another step to take.

update [Jun 5, 2022]:

I seem to have things working here now, but I’m still not entirely clear on how it works. In the end I’ve added some metadata to the site head, a number of microformats to the markup, several third-party services, and an API call to download the data from one of them. I’m not convinced I have all the details right, and I’m not sure which validators to test against.

If I want live updates (this is a static site) there’s still more to learn.

A Proof Of Concept (for developers only)

I’m an experienced web developer, and I can figure it out. But the steps aren’t simple, and most of my friends are not web developers. So, to me, this all feels like the prototype of an idea – a proof of concept.

We have the technology to implement a slow social network of personal sites. I’m excited to keep playing with that code. But proving the concept is not the same as actually making it easy & accessible in a way that can replace platforms.

What’s Next?

I know there are plugins for WordPress and other blogging software to help make the setup simpler. That’s great!

What I would like to see is a tool that helps bring the entire system together in one place. Somewhere that non-technical people can:

That’s a large feature set, I know. In my mind, it would make the most sense for those features to live in a browser, but it might be possible to build as a web service with browser plugins?

Whatever it looks like, it will take a lot of work to get there.

WebMentions

Chris Aldrich

on stream.boffosocko.com

@TerribleMia You've got your own site and control your URLs, so you're definitely on it! And you've got Webmentions for additional icing on the cake. Kudos! I'm glad you've managed to get things set up and working for yourself. It definitely helps to have small bite-sized pieces of technology to…

Mia (not her best work)

on twitter.com

Thank you also for demonstrating that I need to filter duplicate mentions, where one is a syndication of the other. I also needed spacing between multiple mentions. Both issues should be fixed once the page rebuilds. :)

Matthias Ott

on twitter.com

“The steps aren’t simple, and most of my friends are not web developers. So, to me, this all feels like the prototype of an idea – a proof of concept. […] What I would like to see is a tool that helps bring the entire system together in one place.…

Hidde

on twitter.com

Fully agree with the need you're identifying… the need for something that makes setting all this up a whole lot easier. Even if for selfish reasons… I want to be able to read great content from all those non technical but interesting people

Chris Coyier

on twitter.com

Right now I think if I had a full day-or-two to dedicate to it I’m not sure I could pull it off. Particularly the “if someone tweets a comment, pull it into my own DB and display it automatically”. Too hard.

jalcine

on twitter.com

This sounds interesting. Just making sure I understand, would this be like a lint tool of sorts that you'd run locally and point at URLs? (jacky.wtf/2022/6/JsFH)

Mia (not her best work)

on twitter.com

Maybe. I was imagining more like browser devtool/plugins to visualize & inspect the 'result' of the code. With RSS, I'd want a built-in reader to view a rendered feed (rather than plain xml) when I navigate to the url. Mentions are a bit more complicated tho. Not sure.

jalcine

on twitter.com

Ahh, that would be _super_ handy (and is probably simpler to implement). I asked because I had an idea that I've been pecking at for a “IndieWeb linting” tool, but a browser extension feels like the more natural place for something like this. (jacky.wtf/2022/6/FYYI)

Geoff Graham

on css-tricks.com

Can’t smash the Like button hard enough for what Miriam Suzanne has to say on the challenging technical hurdles of implementing Webmentions…

Max Glenister

on social.omgmog.net

Yes getting it all up and running is challenging, but when it works it feels like magic and the enthusiasm of the community makes it worth it!

We have the technology to implement a slow social network of personal sites. I’m excited to keep playing with that code. But proving…

Ashley Kolodziej

on ashleykolodziej.com

Reading Miriam Suzanne’s excellent article on the complexity of implementing Webmentions got me thinking about the IndieWeb again. I stepped away from social media a while back, but the one thing I’ve consistently missed is having a way to record all the little moments that make up who I am.…

Christian Engel

on chringel.dev

I actually can’t recall anymore, what got me started with this whole IndieWeb thing. According to my browser history, I visited IndieWeb.org on June 15, 2022, so around a month ago. I read up on Miriam Suzanne’s hugely popular post Am I on the IndieWeb Yet? and searched Google…

Astrid Günther

on astrid-guenther.de

The IndieWeb[^indieweb.org/] is about taking control of your content, sharing your thoughts and ideas in one place and then spreading them on other social platforms. What if a social network becomes so that you don't feel comfortable there anymore? Or it gets shut down altogether? In that case, what…