Wow! @mapkyca is going from strength to strength with Idno plugins. Embeddable posts: http:/
I'm working on idno, a new kind of open source social networking platform (which powers this site).
I'm based in San Francisco and Santa Rosa, California. My email is hosted by Google, I keep documents on Dropbox, and my server is hosted in Dallas, Texas, on SoftLayer. My phone number is powered by Google Voice.
As a general policy, if your site supports #indieweb & I'm replying to you, I won't syndicate the reply via third-party sites (unless I want people there to be able to see the conversation, eg if it's a more public thread).
Today in "why silos are awful": iOS holds your phone number hostage if you move from iPhone. http:/
Here's how it works.
First of all, Idno has a plugin system, that allows new functionality to be added system-wide. As well as new kinds of content like slide presentations, plugins are available that interact with the APIs of Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Flickr.
When I install any of those plugins in Idno, I'm taken through a process where I register my Idno site with the third-party API. Each of those sites has a slightly different process, but in each case it takes about 30 seconds.
Once the link has been made, the plugin shows up as an option in Idno's user settings screen. I click "settings", and then click a button to link my account to the site:
This is exactly the same procedure as logging in with any of those sites, or attaching any third-party application. It's about two clicks: in the case illustrated above, I'm taken to Twitter, which asks me to confirm that I want to give Idno permission to use my Twitter account, and then taken back to my Idno settings. Internally, my OAuth token for that site is saved to my user account.
Here's where things get interesting.
Remember I said that Idno's content types are also provided via plugins? There's a plugin for status updates, for photos, blog posts, events, etc etc. Whenever I want to add a new content type to Idno, I add a plugin. (They're really easy to write; the presentations plugin was written in about an hour, while I was recovering from a root canal operation.)
As well as descriptive content type - "status update" - each plugin announces a generic content type that maps to those used by the activity streams specification. A status update is also a "note"; a blog post is an "article". This allows plugins to extend functionality for certain kinds of content without dictating which plugin you use for that content. Someone can add extra logic for status updates, while not caring which status update plugin I actually use.
When I post new content, the system pulls up an interface supplied by that content's plugin, and also asks any syndication plugins if they're able to handle content of this type. So when I click on my "status update" button, Idno asks plugins if they're able to syndicate content of type "note".
Idno automatically renders some buttons for me based on those plugins. If I enable the "Twitter" button, my content will be syndicated to Twitter when I post it. If I enable the "Facebook" button, it'll go to Facebook, too. If I later decide to add a button for Path or LinkedIn or Friendster via a plugin, it'll show up there, and work in exactly the same way, without me having to change any of the status update plugin.
When I hit Save, the syndication plugin receives information about the content type (but not which plugin created it), as well as information about my account. It retrieves my API token from when I linked my account through my settings panel, and uses that to sign an API request posting the content to that site. It then retrieves the URL of the syndicated content and saves it to the local content in Idno, so a "syndicated to" link can be displayed underneath it. (Check at the bottom of this post's page: you'll see a link to Twitter.)
This process works throughout Idno. Photos (of generic type "image") can be syndicated to Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, and while the logic is different for each site, the user interface flow is the same for each one. This works whether I'm posting from a laptop or a phone, and whether I'm on the standard web interface, a custom interface or the API.
It's important to note that none of this takes much time, for any of the parties involved. Writing a content plugin takes about an hour; writing a syndication plugin can take much less time, if the third-party API uses OAuth. Site admins can install a plugin and set it up in a few minutes. The process for the user takes mere moments, and that's the most important thing.
The following is doing the rounds on social media. It sounds like fun, so I thought I'd adapt it:
I, Ben Werdmuller, promise to send a small work of art for the first fifty people who comment on this post by replying from their own website. Twitter or Facebook is not enough. Just link to this post and let me know you want in; I'll update this and provide an easy way to do that shortly. (If you're a developer, you can get started right away.)
***You may in turn post this on your own site and make something for the first fifty people who comment they want in on your post.***
The rules are simple: it has to be be your work, made by you and the recipient must receive it by the end of 2014 . It can be anything: a drawing, photo, video, a conceptual work of art or anything in between ...
Sometime in the past few years, the blog died. In 2014, people will finally notice. Sure, blogs still exist, many of them are excellent, and they will go on existing and being excellent for many years to come. But the function of the blog, the nebulous informational task we all agreed the blog was fulfilling for the past decade, is increasingly being handled by a growing number of disparate media forms that are blog-like but also decidedly not blogs.
He then goes on to discuss the death of the reverse-chronological stream, as well as the inevitable move to what he calls tightly-bound social media sites. Thematically, it's an interesting companion piece to Anil Dash's seminal The Web We Lost, which was published last year at about this time.
And, despite some hedging on his personal blog, it's clearly true. Almost none of you will have found this link through a feed reader (although my stats show that some of you are using Feedly, Digg Reader, and even Livejournal's RSS feature). Most links will have come through Twitter and Facebook, with a straggling number showing up through app.net and similar sites. If I'm lucky, someone might submit this post to an aggregator like Hacker News.
Note, though, that you're still reading it. The article isn't dying; you can think of the blog, or the stream, or the feed, as the container that the article sits in.
Medium exploits this in a clever way by presenting articles nicely, and then providing a magazine-style site for you to consume them in. Indieweb arguments about whether you should publish posts on a site that you control or on someone else's aside, there's no doubt that Medium's injected new life into long-form text on the web. That's great, and like Facebook and Twitter, you can choose to think of it as a well-executed proof of concept.
If you buy the idea that articles aren't dying - and anecdotally, I know I read as much as I ever did online - then a blog is simply the delivery mechanism. It's fine for that to die. Even welcome. In some ways, that death is due to the ease of use of the newer, siloed sites, and makes the way for new, different kinds of content consumption; innovation in delivery. Jason talks about the ephemerality of Snapchat (which is far from a traditional feed), and there are an infinity of other ways that content might be beamed to us on whichever device we happen to choose to be using at any particular moment. But these content forms are minor details.
The beauty of the independent web is that we can choose to represent ourselves online - and therefore, publish content - in a manner of our choosing. I happen to like the reverse-chronological feed, but if you prefer to publish in the form of an immersive 3D world, or a radio show, or full-screen autoplaying video with annotations, then, hey, that's up to you. It's all part of a rich, interlinking medium. Independence means not necessarily going with the flow.
The counterpart to that is how you read content. In the past, we've been very stream-heavy: RSS readers, Twitter feeds, Facebook timelines, and so on. But there's no need for that to be the case. Part of the joy of a diverse web is that while I might choose to read in the form of a feed or a newspaper, you might want to mash your reading list up in entirely new ways. You could have a robot announcer read to you while you drive to work in the morning (wouldn't that be better than the radio?), or mash related articles up to provide new kinds of content that provide better insight than the sum of their parts. And I can choose to use a completely different form to you. Each one of us can have a completely different experience.
That's a tough concept to get across to an audience that's used to mass media, where everyone consumes the same content in the same form. But we don't need that anymore. Not only can content be personalized, but the form of the content can be personalized. Facebook might agonize over the algorithm that decides which posts are surfaced, but in the future we can each have our own algorithms. Form and content will be separated.
These new kinds of readers will begin to appear in 2014, powered by simple web technologies like HTML and microformats. They will eventually be as easy to use as Twitter and Facebook. And they will make us all more empowered readers and creators, once again connecting us all, but this time on our terms.
Aral Balkan announced IndiePhone today. He did a good job of making it sound exciting, in a very Jobsian way:
I think it's great that he's driving interest in the subject, and of course it's fantastic to see anyone starting something up with these sorts of principles. I particularly agree with his arguments about poorly designed open software. I do have some specific questions though:
I love the ambition here. But I'd also love to know more, and I'm a little bit concerned that the presentation inadvertently co-opts terminology and ideas developed by existing communities, without involving them in the project.
Right now, we have to register with each application we want to use. What if we required each application we used to register with us, in digital identities under our own control?
What if, using these identities, anyone could connect to anyone else, and anyone could store their data anywhere as long as the storage provider followed the same broad standards?
The web itself would become a social networking tool.
By establishing a general standard for social application interactions, the services and technologies used to make connections become less relevant; the Internet is people, one big social network, and users no longer have to worry about how they connect. We can all get on with communicating and collaborating rather than worrying about where we connect.
The full piece was based on a talk I gave at Harvard University's Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. It declares a number of problems to solve:
In the interim, there have been many articles about the continuing silo-ization of the web - notably The Web We Lost by Anil Dash. In other words, the problem has become worse, not better. Generally speaking, users have less control, less ownership, less privacy and fewer platforms to choose from in 2013 than they did in 2009.
A glimmer of hope has been the indieweb, which I've written about at length. This is a movement that champions ownership, but through it, principles like user control, privacy, transparency and a healthy ecosystem of platforms are also promoted. Idno, the open source platform that powers this site, adheres to many indieweb principles.
There's more work to be done. I believe that contextual display advertising is the single biggest obstacle to a web that is under the control of users. In our advertising economy, users are tracked throughout the web in order to determine which ads will be performant for them. Mozilla Lightbeam is an extraordinary project that highlights the pervasiveness of the problem. Wherever we leave a data footprint, we are tracked.
The irony is that contextual advertising isn't even very effective! Fraud is rife in online advertising, and the price of online ads has dropped for eight straight quarters. As a result, publishers need to drive higher and higher visitor numbers, leading to less subtle growth strategies, often bordering on the unethical. Platforms seek vastly increased engagement, leading to an inability to remove your content, what amounts to spamming you to bring you back to the app, and a reduction in integration hooks that might make the software more useful within the context of a user's entire suite of applications.
On the content side, meanwhile, viral sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed are king, which is great if you're writing about the top 15 things you might not know about Miley Cyrus - but death if you're a niche publisher, community or information source trying to make ends meet.
What if we rethink advertising in the same way that we're rethinking personal sites with the indieweb? "Niche" - in other words, highly specialized - communities are in many ways the lifeblood of the web. They're one of the things that makes it special; the fact that there can be a place to meet for any interest group. Finding platforms that will adequately financially support these groups, as well as by giving them responsible software that gives them control, privacy, transparency and ownership, will be hugely empowering.
Building the open web we want isn't just about software. It's about the mechanisms involved that will make it sustainable for people to create the right kinds of businesses that use it as a platform.
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