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There’s nothing quite so tedious as blogging about blogging, but I came across a few heart-warming thoughts recently that it would be remiss of me to let go unremarked, so please indulge me for a moment as I wallow in some meta-blogging.

Marco Arment talks about the trend that many others have noticed, of personal publishing dying out in favour of tweeting:

Too much of my writing in the last few years has gone exclusively into Twitter. I need to find a better balance.

As he rightly points out:

Twitter is a complementary medium to blogging, but it’s not a replacement.

Andy noticed a similar trend in his own writing:

Twitter and Waxy Links cannibalized all the smaller posts, and as my reach grew, I started reserving blogging for more “serious” stuff — mostly longer-form research and investigative writing.

Well, fuck that.

Amber Hewitt also talks about reviving the personal blog:

Someone made an analogy that describes social networks very well. Facebook is your neighborhood, Twitter is your local bar, and your blog is your home. (I guess Instagram is the cafe? “Look what I’m eating!”)

This made me realized I’m neglecting my home. My posts and photos are spread out on different networks and there is no centralized hub.

That reminds me of what Frank said about his site:

In light of the noisy, fragmented internet, I want a unified place for myself—the internet version of a quiet, cluttered cottage in the country.

The wonderful Gina Trapani—who has has publishing on her own site for years now—follows Andy’s lead with some guidelines for short-form blogging:

  • If it’s a paragraph, it’s a post.
  • Negotiate a comfort zone.
  • Traffic is irrelevant.
  • Simplify, simplify.
  • Ask for trusted collaborator feedback.
  • Have fun.

Good advice.

Indie Web Camp UK 2014

Indie Web Camp UK took place here in Brighton right after this year’s dConstruct. I was organising dConstruct. I was also organising Indie Web Camp. This was a problem.

It was a problem because I’m no good at multi-tasking, and I focused all my energy on dConstruct (it more or less dominated my time for the past few months). That meant that something had to give and that something was the organising of Indie Web Camp.

The event itself went perfectly smoothly. All the basics were there: a great venue, a solid internet connection, and a plan of action. But because I was so focused on dConstruct, I didn’t put any time into trying to get the word out about Indie Web Camp. Worse, I didn’t put any time into making sure that a diverse range of people knew about the event.

So in the end, Indie Web Camp UK 2014 was quite a homogenous gathering. That’s a real shame, and it’s my fault. My excuse is that I was busy with all things dConstruct, but that’s just that; an excuse. On the plus side, the effort I put into making dConstruct a diverse event paid off, but I’ll know better in future than to try to organise two back-to-back events. I need to learn to delegate and ask for help.

But I don’t want to cast Indie Web Camp in a totally negative light (I just want to acknowledge how it could have been better). It was actually pretty great. As with previous events, it was remarkably productive. The format of one day of talks, followed by one day of hacking is spot on.

Indie Web Camp UK attendees

I hadn’t planned to originally, but I spent the second day getting adactio.com switched over to https. Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote:

I’m looking forward to switching my website over to https:// but I’m not going to do it until the potential pain level drops.

Well, I’m afraid that potential pain level has not dropped. In fact, I can confirm that get TLS working is massive pain in the behind. But on the first day of Indie Web Camp, Tim Retout led a session on security and offered up his expertise for day two. I took full advantage of his generous offer.

With Tim’s help, I was able to get adactio.com all set. If I hadn’t had his help, it probably would’ve taken me days …or I simply would’ve given up. I took plenty of notes so I could document the process. I’ll write it up soon, but alas, it will only be useful to people with the same kind of hosting set up as I have.

By the end of Indie Web Camp, thanks to Tim’s patient assistance, quite a few people has switched on TSL for their sites. The https page on the Indie Web Camp wiki is turning into quite a handy resource.

There was lots of progress in other areas too, particularly with webactions. Some of that progress relates to what I’ve been saying about Web Components. More on that later…

Throw in some Transmat action, location-based hacks, and communication tools; all-in-all a very productive weekend.

Selfish publishing

I was in Düsseldorf last week, alas just a little too late to catch any of the talks at Beyond Tellarrand …which is a shame, because it looks like Maciej’s talk was terrific. Fortunately, I did get to see a lot of people who were in town for the event, and myself and Maciej were both participating in Decentralize Camp the day after Beyond Tellerrand.

Decentralize Camp had a surprisingly broad scope. As Maciej pointed out during his presentation, there are many different kinds of decentralization.

For my part, I was focusing specifically on the ideas of the indie web. I made it very clear from the outset that was my own personal take. A lot of it was, unsurprisingly, rooted in my relentless obsession with digital preservation and personal publishing. I recapped some of what I talked about at last year’s Beyond Tellerrand before showing some specific examples of the indie web at work: IndieAuth, webmentions, etc.

I realised that my motivations were not only personal, but downright selfish. For me, it’s all about publishing to my own site. That attitude was quite different to many of the other technologies being discussed; technologies that explicitly set out to empower other people and make the world a better place.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I must admit that one of the reasons why I write and talk about the indie web is that in the back of my mind, I’m hoping others will be encouraged to publish on their own websites instead of (or as well as) giving their creative work to third-party sites. As I’ve said before:

…on today’s web of monolithic roach-motel silos like Facebook and Twitter, I can’t imagine a more disruptive act than choosing to publish on your own website.

That said, I’m under no illusions that my actions will have any far-reaching consequences. This isn’t going to change the world. This isn’t going to empower other people (except maybe people who already tech-savvy enough to empower themselves). I’m okay with that.

At Decentralize Camp, I helped Michiel B. de Jong to run a session on IndieMark, a kind of tongue-in-cheek gamification of indie web progress. It was fun. And that’s an important factor to remember in all this. In fact, it’s one of the indie web design principles:

Have fun. Remember that GeoCities page you built back in the mid-90s? The one with the Java applets, garish green background and seventeen animated GIFs? It may have been ugly, badly coded and sucky, but it was fun, damnit. Keep the web weird and interesting.

During the session, someone asked why they hadn’t heard of all this indie web stuff before. After all, if the first indie web camp happened in 2011, shouldn’t it be bigger by now?

That’s when I realised that I honestly didn’t care. I didn’t care how big (or small) this group is. For me, it’s just a bunch of like-minded people helping each other out. Even if nobody else ever turns up, it still has value.

I have to admit, I really don’t care that much about the specific technologies being discussed at indie web camps: formats, protocols, bits of code …they are less important than the ideas. And the ideas are less important than the actions. As long as I’m publishing to my website, I’m pretty happy. That said, I’m very grateful that the other indie web folks are there to help me out.

Mostly though, my motivations echo Mandy’s:

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.

Voice of the bot-hive

Creating telephone answering systems can be fun as I discovered at History Hack Day when I put together the Huffduffer hotline using the Tropo API. There’s something thrilling about using the human voice as an interface on your loosely joined small pieces. Navigating by literally talking to a machine feels simultaneously retro and sci-fi.

I think there’s a lot of potential for some fun services in this area. What a shame then that the technology has mostly been used for dreary customer service narratives:

Horrific glimpse of a broken future. I sniffed while a voice activated phone menu was being read out and it started from the beginning again.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about injecting personality into web design, often through the tone of voice in the . When personality is conveyed in the spoken as well as the written word, the effect is even more striking.

Have a listen for yourself by calling:

That’s the number for Customer Service Romance:

What happens when Customer Service bots start getting too smart? What if they start needing help too? How would they use the tools at their disposal to reach out to those they care about? What if they start caring about us a little too much?

It’s using the Voxeo service, which looks similar to Tropo.

The end result is amusing …but also slightly disconcerting. You may find yourself chuckling, but your laughter will be tinged with nervousness.

Customer Service Romance on Huffduffer

On the face of it, it’s an amusing little art project. But it’s might also be a glimpse of an impending bot-driven algorithmpocalypse.