One of these days I’m going to step outside of my PHP comfort zone and actually build something in Node. One of these days. When I do, this book looks like a good place to start (and the online version is free).
The book by Destiny Montague and Lara Hogan is online for free with a Creative Commons licence:
Learn to build a device lab with advice on purchasing, power solutions, and much more in this handy pocket guide.
Now that Five Simple Steps has closed down, the individual authors are in charge of distributing their own books. This site links to all of those books.
Enduring CSS (not int the sense of “put up with” but in the sense of “long-lasting”) is a new book by Ben Frain all about writing and maintaining modular reusable CSS.
You can read the whole thing for free online or buy an eBook.
It’s in German, but this presentation by Joschi is a great introduction to Indie Web ideas and building blocks.
A new publication from MIT. It deliberately avoids the jargon that’s often part and parcel of peer-reviewed papers, and all of the articles are published under a Creative Commons attribution licence.
The first issue is dedicated to Marvin Minsky and features these superb articles, all of which are independently excellent but together form an even greater whole…
When the cybernetics movement began, the focus of science and engineering was on things like guiding a ballistic missile or controlling the temperature in an office. These problems were squarely in the man-made domain and were simple enough to apply the traditional divide-and-conquer method of scientific inquiry.
Science and engineering today, however, is focused on things like synthetic biology or artificial intelligence, where the problems are massively complex. These problems exceed our ability to stay within the domain of the artificial, and make it nearly impossible for us to divide them into existing disciplines.
This essay proposes a map for four domains of creative exploration—Science, Engineering, Design and Art—in an attempt to represent the antidisciplinary hypothesis: that knowledge can no longer be ascribed to, or produced within, disciplinary boundaries, but is entirely entangled.
The designers of complex adaptive systems are not strictly designing systems themselves. They are hinting those systems towards anticipated outcomes, from an array of existing interrelated systems. These are designers that do not understand themselves to be in the center of the system. Rather, they understand themselves to be participants, shaping the systems that interact with other forces, ideas, events and other designers. This essay is an exploration of what it means to participate.
As our technological and institutional creations have become more complex, our relationship to them has changed. We now relate to them as we once related to nature. Instead of being masters of our creations, we have learned to bargain with them, cajoling and guiding them in the general direction of our goals. We have built our own jungle, and it has a life of its own.
The problem is that performance is a feature that is not on anyone’s product roadmap.
For whatever reason, the fact that it correlates directly to bounce rate, time on site, pages-per-visit etc. has not struck home with many product owners.
Most websites, certainly in the publishing industry where I have worked for a good part of my career, see those metrics as core KPIs. So you would think that anything that improved them would get prioritised. But no.
The slides from Calum’s presentation at Front-end London.
The ability to follow links down and around and through an idea, landing hours later on some random Wikipedia page about fungi you cannot recall how you discovered, is one of the great modes of the web. It is, I’ll go so far to propose, one of the great modes of human thinking.
I invite you not just to follow along here as I expand into topics beyond design and technology, but to start your own personal blog up again if you’ve been neglecting it for a while. I’m really interested in the things you are passionate about. I want to learn from you.
I love this. I really love this. Remy absolutely nails what makes the web so great.
There’s the ubiquity:
If the viewer is using the latest technology beefy desktop computer that’s great. Equally they could view the website from a work computer, something old and locked in using a browser called IE8.
Then there’s the low barrier to entry—yes, even today:
It’s the web’s simplicity. Born out of a need to connect documents. As much as that might have changed with the latest generation of developers who might tell you that it’s hard and complex (and they’re right), at the same time it is not complicated. It’s still beautifully simple.
Anyone can do it. Anyone can publish content to the web, be it as plain text, or simple HTML formed only of <p> tags or something more elaborate and refined. The web is unabashed of it’s content. Everything and anything goes.
I might just print this out and nail it to the wall.
If you sit back for a moment, and think about just how many lives you can touch simply by publishing something, anything, to the web, it’s utterly mind blowing.
I really, really want to like this article—it’s chock full of confirmation bias for me. But it’s so badly-written …I mean like, just the worst.
Here’s an actual sentence:
So with a capable, HTML-based platform and a well-designed program that makes good use of CSS, one site could support phones, tablets, PCs, and just about anything else with one site.
So, yeah, I’m still linking to it, but instead of it being for the content, it’s because I want to lament the dreadful state of technology writing.
Well, this is rather lovely!
I nodded along with host Jen Simmons and guest Jeremy Keith saying some very smart things about the web and its roots as the El train cut across Philadelphia. But at the 48-minute mark things got weird, because Jen and Jeremy basically started writing my column for me while I listened.
Read on for some great advice on conquering your inner critic.
The prognosis for publishers is grim. Repent! Find a way out of the adtech racket before it collapses around you. Ditch your tracking, show dumb ads that you sell directly (not through a thicket of intermediaries), and beg your readers for mercy. Respect their privacy, bandwidth, and intelligence, flatter their vanity, and maybe they’ll subscribe to something.
This looks like being a very handy book on public speaking. I’m going to order a copy for the Clearleft office. I’ll let you know what it’s like.
There’s something about this that I really like: a message transmitted via a modern communications medium converted into the oldest form of writing.
Ben and Erin are shipping experimental support for AMP in the latest version of Known, but Ben has some concerns about the balance of power tilting towards one major player, in this case Google:
But it’s Google’s whitelist of approved ad providers that’s most concerning:
We’ve shipped support for AMP because we see potential here, and recognize that something should be done to improve the experience of loading independently-published content on the web. But attempting to bake certain businesses into a web standard is a malformed idea that is doomed to fail. If this is not corrected in future versions of the specification, we will withdraw support.
Lara and her colleague Destiny Montague have published a ridiculously useful handbook on setting up a device lab. For such a small book, it’s surprisingly packed with information.
I concur with this sentiment:
If you are starting a new blog, or have one already, the best thing you can do is turn off all analytics.
Especially true for your own personal site:
Just turn them off now. Then, write about whatever the fuck you want to write about.
Why Atavist is betting on the web. See also:
Tom’s thoughts on what AMP means for developers and publishers. He was initially sceptical but now he’s cautiously optimistic. Like me, he’s hoping that AMP can force the hand of those third-party advertisers to get their act together.
Publisher’s development teams are very capable of creating fast experiences for mobile users, but they don’t have the clout to coordinate all the additional cruft that is added to the page. However, if all the different publishers dev team’s got together and put their weight behind a single implementation, then we can force third parties to change their habits.
You read a lot and like the idea of writing. You know the best way to get better at writing is to write, so write!
Paul compares publishing on the web to publish on proprietary platforms, and concludes that things aren’t looking great right now.
Performance is the number one selling point for each of these new content platforms.
Kyle Halleman completed one hundred days of writing one hundred words. Respect! I know how hard that is.
Have a read from the first entry onwards.
This is a wonderful, wonderful description of what it feels like to publish on your own site.
When my writing is on my own server, it will always be there. I may forget about it for a while, but eventually I’ll run into it again. I can torch those posts or save them, rewrite them or repost them. But they’re mine to rediscover.
We become obsessed with tools and methods, very rarely looking at how these relate to the fundamental basics of web standards, accessibility and progressive enhancement. We obsess about a right way to do things as if there was one right way rather than looking at the goal; how things fit into the broader philosophy of what we do on the web and how what we write contributes to us being better at what we do.
Will the Big Think piece you just posted to Medium be there in 2035? That may sound like it’s very far off in the future, and who could possibly care, but if there’s any value to your writing, you should care. Having good records is how knowledge builds.
Twenty-six letters of independent publishing building blocks.
Yes! Yes! YES!
Marco makes the same comparison I did between the dark days of pop-up windows and the current abysmal state of bloated ads and tracking on today’s web.
I have one more thing to add to this list…
But publishers, advertisers, and browser vendors are all partly responsible for the situation we’re all in.
…developers. Somebody put those harm-causing
script elements on those pages. Like I said: “What will you be apologising for in decades to come?”
In a few years, after the dust has settled, we’re all going to look back at today’s web’s excesses and abuses as an almost unbelievable embarrassment.
Lara’s fantastic book is now available online in HTML for free. Have a read and then order a copy of the print book for your library.
There’s something so beautifully, beautifully webbish about this: readings of blog posts found through a search for “no one will ever read this.”
Listen to all of them.
Jeffrey weighs on the post I wrote about The Verge. I still feel like there’s a false dichotomy being presented here though: either performance or advertising. But advertising can be performant too. There’s a competitive advantage to be had there.
It’s really good to see that Vox are taking measures to fix their atrocious performance problems. The Verge in particular is a case study in how not to serve up text and images on the web. There have been times in the past when I’ve wanted to link to an article there but then thought “I can’t in good conscience put a fellow human through that.”
Tantek posts a belated round-up of indie web activity in 2014:
2014 was a year of incredible gains, and yet, a very sad loss for the community. In many ways I think a lot of us are still coping, reflecting. But we continue, day to day to grow and improve the indieweb, as I think Chloe would have wanted us to, as she herself did.
A fantastic piece by David Weinberger on the changing uses of the internet—apparently in contradiction of the internet’s original architecture.
Some folks invented the Internet for some set of purposes. They gave it a name, pointed to some prototypical examples—sharing scientific papers and engaging in email about them—shaping the way the early adopters domesticated it.
But over time, the Internet escaped from its creators’ intentions. It became a way to communicate person-to-person via email and many-to-many via Usenet. The web came along and the prototypical example became home pages. Social networking came along and the prototype became Facebook.
I recorded audio versions of some of my favourite blog posts.
I’m quite touched by this—I had no idea anyone was paying that much attention to my 100 words project.
You’ll want to back this—you’ll want to back the hell out of this!
Jaime Caballero on Instagram: “Live blogging by @adactio. He almost didn’t make it for his 100 words challenge.”
When you’re out celebrating at the end of Responsive Day Out and realise it’s just a few minutes to midnight and you haven’t published your 100 words yet.
It seems grossly unfair to refer to this as an article. It’s a short book. It’s a very good short book; lucid and entertaining in equal measure. A very enjoyable read.
It is, unfortunately, surrounded by some distracting “enhancements” but perhaps you can use your cleaner-upper software of choice to route around their damage: Instapaper, Pocket, Readability, whatever works for you.
‘That pig was a good influence’ with Jeremy Keith and Jeffrey Zeldman on Unfinished Business on Huffduffer
I had a lot of fun recording this episode with Andrew and Jeffrey. It is occasionally surreal.
Stick around for the sizzling hot discussion of advertising at the end in which we compare and contrast Mad Men and Triumph Of The Will.
Grant, like Emma, has recently started blogging again. This makes me very, very happy. And he’s doing it for what I consider to be all the right reasons:
But this is mostly a place for me to capture my thoughts, and an excuse to consider them, and an opportunity to understand them more fully.
The Indieweb approach has a lot in common with Ev’s ideas for Medium, but the key difference is that we are doing it in a way that works across websites, not just within one.
The next Neal Stephenson book sounds like it’s going to be great.
Bastian sums up his experience of attending Indie Web Camp:
But this weekend brought a new motivational high that I didn’t expect to go that far. I attended the Indie Web Camp in Düsseldorf, Germany and I’m simply blown away.
This is nifty—Nicholas is also going for the 100 words exercise that I’ve been doing.
Here’s a lovely project with an eye on the Long Now. Trees that were planted last year will be used to make paper to print an anthology in 2114.
Margaret Atwood is one of the contributors.
Slides of really great practical advice on writing clearly.
Sorting out hosting is a big stumbling block for people who want to go down the Indie Web route. Frankly it’s much easier to just use a third-party silo like Facebook or Twitter. I’ve been saying for a while now that I’d really like to see “concierge” services for hosting—”here, you take care of all this hassle!”
Well, this initiative looks like exactly that.
The Web is the printing press of our times; an amazing piece of technology facilitating a free and wide-scale dissipation of our thoughts and ideas. And all of it is based on this near 20-year old, yet timeless idea of the Hyper Text Markup Language.
Rob Larsen was published a book with O’Reilly called “The Uncertain Web: Web Development in a Changing Landscape”. I like it:
A refreshingly honest look at the chaotic, wonderful world of web development, with handy, practical advice for making future-friendly, backward-compatible websites.
There’s more than a whiff of Indie Web thinking in this sequel to the Cluetrain Manifesto from Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger.
The Net’s super-power is connection without permission. Its almighty power is that we can make of it whatever we want.
It’s quite lawn-off-getty …but I also happen to agree with pretty much all of it.
Although it’s kind of weird that it’s published on somebody else’s website.
You can now read Aaron’s excellent book online. I highly recommend reading the first chapter for one of the best descriptions of progressive enhancement that I’ve ever read.
I had the great honour of being invited to speak on the 200th edition of the Working Draft podcast (there are a few sentences in German at the start, and then it switches into English).
I had a lot of fun talking about indie web building blocks (rel=me, indieauth, webmention, h-entry, etc.). Best of all, while I was describing these building blocks, one of the hosts started implementing them!
Stuart has implemented webmentions on his site, which is great. It’s also fitting, as he is the inventor of pingback (of which webmention is a simpler reformulation).
Aaron documents the process of adding webmention support to a static site. He came with an ingenious three-tiered approach:
It’s been a pretty fun mini-project. In the end, I created a useful bit of kit that provides three distinct experiences:
- Static webmentions collected when the site was generated form the baseline experience;
Aaron raises a point that I’ve discussed before in regards to the indie web (and indeed, the web in general): we don’t buy domain names; we rent them.
It strikes me that all the good things about the web are decentralised (one-way linking, no central authority required to add a node), but all the sticking points are centralised: ICANN, DNS.
Aaron also points out that we are beholden to our hosting companies, although—having moved hosts a number of times myself—that’s an issue that DNS (and URLs in general) helps alleviate. And there’s now some interesting work going on in literally owning your own website: a web server in the home.
The transcript of Owen’s talk at The Web Is. It’s a wonderful, thoughtful meditation on writing, web design, and long-term thinking.
One of the promises of the web is to act as a record, a repository for everything we put there. Yet the web forgets constantly, despite that somewhat empty promise of digital preservation: articles and data are sacrificed to expediency, profit and apathy; online attention, acknowledgement and interest wax and wane in days, hours even.
This fracturing of context is, I suspect, peculiar to these early decades of online writing. It’s possible that, in the future, webmentions and the like may heal that up to some extent. But everything from the 90s to today is going to remain mostly broken in that respect. Most of what we said and did had ephemerality long before apps started selling us ephemeral nature as a positive advertising point. Possibly no other generation threw so many words at such velocity into a deep dark well of ghosts.
I hope that many of you will watch me on this journey, and follow in my wagon tracks as I leave the walled cities and strike out for the wilderness ahead.
Companies go out of business, get bought and change policies, so what if you had one place to originate all of your content then publish it out to those great social services? And hey, why not pull comments from those services back to your original post?
That’s the idea behind Indie Web Camp: have your own website be the canonical source of what your publish. But right now, getting all of the moving parts up and running requires a fair dollop of tech-savviness. That’s where Known comes in:
It’s similar to the WordPress model: you can create a blog on their servers, or you can download the software and host it on your own.
This post is a good run-down of what’s working well with Known, and what needs more work.
I’d go along with pretty much everything Anil says here. Wise words from someone who’s been writing on their own website for fifteen years (congratulations!).
Link to everything you create elsewhere on the web. And if possible, save a copy of it on your own blog. Things disappear so quickly, and even important work can slip your mind months or years later when you want to recall it. If it’s in one, definitive place, you’ll be glad for it.
I really like this comparison:
As a zinester and zine librarian, I see the Indie Web as a pretty direct correlation to 1980’s and 1990’s zine culture. The method of production may be completely different (photocopiers and direct mail vs web posts and servers) but the goals are almost identical – controlling the way in which your message and identity are displayed, crafted, and stored while avoiding censorship that corporate media might impose. The end goal of both zine and indieweb technologies is ownership of your own identity without a filter.
But there also challenges:
The key issue right now for diverse populations utilizing the Indie Web is accessibility. As long as the tools for creating & controlling your own identity online are still relatively obtuse & technical to implement, we won’t have great diversity within the Indie Web.
There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you. There is something about linking to one of those blogs and then saying something. It’s like having a conversation in public with each other. This is how blogging was in the early days. And this is how blogging is today, if you want it to be.
In the days before comments on blogs, you could generally have a thoughtful conversation online without everything degenerating into madness and chaos simply because responding to a post required that you wrote a post on your own blog and linked back. This created a certain level of default accountability because if someone wanted to flame you, they had to do it on their own real estate, and couldn’t just crap all over yours anonymously.
Glenn eloquently gives his reasons for building Transmat:
When I was a child, my brothers and I all had a shoebox each. In these we kept our mementoes. A seashell from a summer holiday where I played for hours in the rock pools, the marble from the schoolyard victory against a bully and a lot of other objects that told a story.
Now this is how to shut down a service: switch to a read-only archive, and make the codebase (without user credentials) available on Github.
Tantek’s great talk on the Indie Web from Web Directions Code in Melbourne earlier this year.
Here’s the very brief talk I gave about Indie Web Camp at Aral’s Indie Tech Summit here in Brighton a little while back (I was in the slightly-demeaningly-titled “stop gaps” section).
If you like what you hear, come along to the next Indie Web Camp—also in Brighton—in just over three weeks.
If you enjoy writing, or want to enjoy writing, just do it. You’ll probably worry that you have nothing to say, or that what you write is terrible, or that you couldn’t possibly write as well as Neil Gaiman. But silence those voices, get your head down and hit publish on something. Anything. And then do it again. And again.
I met Cesar at An Event Apart in San Diego earlier this year. We had a nice lunchtime chat and he suggested that I come on his show, Pencil vs Pixel. I was, of course, honoured and I accepted his invitation immediately.
If you were in any doubt that Warren Ellis is going to blow the roof off the Brighton Dome at dConstruct, this is what happens when he decides to write a little something every day.
This year’s collection of twelve sci-fi stories from Technology Review features three dConstruct speakers: Lauren Beukes, Cory Doctorow, and Warren Ellis.
An alternative history from a parallel timeline.
He started coding his own just weeks after Tim Berners-Lee, a tunnel engineer helping to build the STERN protein collider, discovered ancient scrolls buried in the Swiss soil that revealed the secrets of HTML.
Almost six minutes of me squinting in the sun and sharing my reckons while seagulls squawk in the background.
Tantek’s talk at the Personal Democracy Forum on the past, present, and future of independent publishing on the web.
There are many services out there for keeping track of what you’re reading. Susan has found the best one:
Slowly, ever so slowly, as I realize how things come and go on the web, I realize that this is my home. Because this is my home, I want all the things that matter to me to reside here.
A great little piece by Russell Davies on the Indie Web movement.
When I’ve been banging on at conferences about digital preservation, personal publishing and the indie web, I’ve been at pains to point out that there are huge opportunities here for startups looking to build valet services to help people publish on their own domain.
Ben and Erin at Known are doing just that, with some backing from KQED, PRX and the Knight Foundation instead of the usual short-sighted Silicon Valley venture capitalism.
One of the jobs of a startup is to look at where the world is going, extrapolating from current trends and domain knowledge, and meet a future need with a product at exactly the right time. We think the time is right for an independent web that is owned by content creators and readers alike.
A truly wonderful piece by Mandy detailing why and how she writes, edits, and publishes on her own website:
No one owns this domain but me, and no one but me can take it down. I will not wake up one morning to discover that my service has been “sunsetted” and I have some days or weeks to export my data (if I have that at all). These URLs will never break.
A short story set in a science-fictional future that just happens to be our present.
The campaign to restore out-of-print pulp sci-fi books in electronic formats.
A decisive Indie Web move:
This site has become the place that I’m ready to host almost everything I make.
Slides from Tantek’s recent talk at Web Directions Code about the Indie Web.
Well, this is pretty bloody brilliant—Dan Gillmor has published an article on Slate about the Indie Web movement …but the canonical URL is on his own site.
We’re in danger of losing what’s made the Internet the most important medium in history – a decentralized platform where the people at the edges of the networks – that would be you and me – don’t need permission to communicate, create and innovate.
This isn’t a knock on social networks’ legitimacy, or their considerable utility. But when we use centralized services like social media sites, however helpful and convenient they may be, we are handing over ultimate control to third parties that profit from our work, material that exists on their sites only as long as they allow.
or: how I learnt to stop worrying and love the blog.
This is a really nice introduction to the basics of the Indie Web …with nice illustrations too.
A thoughtful in-depth piece that pulls together my hobby horses of independent publishing, responsive design, and digital preservation, all seen through the lens of music:
Music, Publishing, Art and Memory in the Age of the Internet
A great talk by Amber on the history of personal publishing and the ideas and technologies driving the Indie Web movement.
Well, this is pretty nifty: Dan Gilmour is at Indie Web Camp in San Francisco and he’s already got some code up and running on his site.
Y’know, I’m not missing South by Southwest in the slightest this year …but I’m really missing Indie Web Camp.
I did some consulting with the Wellcome Trust on this new magazine-like project, and it’s great to see it go live—excellent stories of science, all published under a Creative Commons licence.
I’m with Frank. He’s going Indie Web for 2014:
I’m returning to a personal site, which flips everything on its head. Rather than teasing things apart into silos, I can fuse different kinds of content together.
Homesteading instead of sharecropping:
So, I’m doubling down on my personal site in 2014.
We were struggling, whether we knew it or not, to found a more fluid society. A place where everyone, not just appointed apologists for the status quo, could be heard. That dream need not die. It matters more now than ever.