Finding the Tools to Sing – A Reflection on Big B Blogging

Quote on tools from Austin Kleon

I started writing this post a few months ago but did not get around to finishing it, subsequently my initial notes have lay waiting. I was reminded of it by recent posts from Jim Groom and Alan Levine reflecting on the purpose of blogging. Here then is my contribution to the conversation.


In the March edition of the Loose Learners podcast, Mariana Funes and John Johnson discussed the difference between small b and big B blogging. In part, this was a response to a post by Tom Critchlow on ideas and the power of the network.

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale.

Although big B blogging maybe associated with link blogging and ‘interesting ideas’, the focus is on broadcasting, rather than connecting and commenting. The notion of big B blogging is usually associated with those like Jason Kottke, John Gruber and Richard Byrne.

In a recent interview, Kottke shared how his blogging has developed over time. He explains in particular how advertising and making money from his site has changed. What is interesting is the connection between big B blogging and making money. Although he shares his workflow and intent, what comes through is that it is still a job. I wonder if there is another possible definition of ‘Big B’ blogging that goes beyond advertising?

When I think about blogging, there is a cross-over between technology and the way it is used. Big B bloggers are those who take each to their extremes. Content is important. But so is process and product. It is something personal, stemming from our changing circumstances and intent.

For me, blogging is about utilising the various features and affordances available, but also trying to push the boundaries in understanding how they work. In Martha Burtis’ keynote for Domains17, she argued that Domain of One’s Own is more than just learning WordPress, rather it is about learning how to “publish online in an open-source Web application”. As she explains,

Every moment in which we walk a student through a fix is a deeply teachable moment — a moment not just to provide step by step instructions but to narrate for them what each step means. When we bring meaning to the breaking and the fixing we are pushing beyond the boundaries of the merely practical.

For some this experience is distributed across several spaces, such as a space to collect ‘breadcrumbs’ and a main space for longer forms. For others, it is about creating spaces specific purposes and then syndicating back to one place.

I think that this is what interests me about the IndieWeb. The focus is not just about content, but how content is presented. This focus on what and how stems from a why of developing a ‘demonstrably better web’.

So big B blogging to me is about allowing growth and development both personally and collectively. Although some spaces may have subscription accounts, this is not necessarily what keeps the lights on.

So what about you? What does blogging mean to you? How do you find balance between creation and construction? As always, comments welcome.


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Managing Content Through Canonical Links

Doctorow on demanding better technology

One of the challenges with the web can be managing content across multiple sites, one answer, create canonical links and share from there.


In a conversation on Twitter discussing the archiving images and canonical URLs, Amy Burvall explained that much of her work was simply stored on Instagram, which can be problematic. She asks whether I had any other suggestions:

This had me reflecting on all the spaces (or ‘cafes’) where I have seen Amy’s multimedia output,

I am sure there are more I may have missed, but it paints something of a picture. Added to this, not only does she frequent these social spaces, but often in different guieses as well.

One of the things that interests me about Amy’s work is that there is not necessarily a central space. If anything, I would say that it is her WordPress.com blog, but there is not a space where all the different parts are collected together. Although she also has her main site – amyburvall.com – this is more of a landing page design to connect, rather than collect.

Here I am reminded of a recent piece by Cory Doctorow where he reflects on the choices associated with technology. He states:

You don’t have to be “protech” or “anti-tech.” Indeed, it’s hard to imagine how someone could realistically be said to be “anti-tech” – your future is going to have more technology in it, so the question isn’t, “Should we use technology?” but rather, “Which technology should we use?”

Douglas Rushkoff recently made the case against social media being used in schools. I agree with this and wonder we more schools do not create their own spaces. However, I also think that schools on the whole should do more to own their presence. What if they actually collected together their media story in one space. I think that Burvall faces that same conundrum.


There seems to be two schools of thought on this:
PESOS: Publish Elsewhere, Syndicate (to your) Own Site
POSSE: Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere

Dries Buytaert’s graphic provides a useful breakdown of the differences.

I remember when I started down the POSSE path, my focus was simply on my long form posts. I would use Jetpack to share links to Twitter and Google+. This approach however has its limits.

Firstly, Jetpack only provides a certain amount of social media sites provided. Secondly, it does not allow for much nuance in regards to content and how it is shared, particularly with media. The template is set within the code of plugin, with links sent out automatically. There are some ways to manipulate this, whether it be in the text box provided or by adding an excerpt, (an optional field in WordPress.) However, it is neither clear nor consistent.

Having spent some time with Edublogs/Global2, I learnt that Jetpack can be modified. I am not aware though how much you can adjust the code associated with sharing links nor anyone who has done this.

Another automated approach to sharing is through the use of a third-party platforms. The easiest and cheapest of these is IFTTT. It allows users to set up ‘recipes’, connecting various services together. These simply run in the background.

Although IFTTT provides more choice, this can still be limited. There are times when you have to work with the options available to rethink what is possible. I am also sceptical how IFTTT are making their money and whether they will pivot like Storify.

A similar third-party platform is Zapier. What is good about Zapier is that it really breaks down the various options clearly. The only catch with Zapier is the cost.

An alternative that does not rely on a third-party platform is SNAP (Social Network Auto-Poster). This WordPress.org plugin connects with a range of applications within your own site. Although the setup is not as simple as Jetpack or IFTTT (you are required to get your own API Keys), there are clear instructions provides to walk users through connecting each application.

Where Jetpack is fine for sharing links, it quickly becomes frustrating when trying to use your blog to share different forms of multimedia. SNAP provides an array of ingredients that can be used to create templates:

  • %TITLE% – Inserts the Title of the post
  • %URL% – Inserts the URL of the post
  • %SURL% – Inserts the shortened URL of your post
  • %IMG% – Inserts the featured image URL
  • %EXCERPT% – Inserts the excerpt of the post (processed)
  • %RAWEXCERPT% – Inserts the excerpt of the post (as typed)
  • %ANNOUNCE% – Inserts the text till the Continue reading

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Hidden in the Code

A quote about URLs from Tom Woodward

This is a collection of code that I often turn to when working with WordPress


Every time that I feel comfortable with my level of knowledge associated with WordPress, there is a problem that leads me to discover a particular attribute that I don’t know how I lived without. This time it is the code seemingly obfuscated beyond the WYSIWIG editor and the dashboard.

For some this code is about command line, while others it is about the bashing out the building blocks. My interest here is the everyday code, the little snippets that find there way in here or there while I work with WordPress, many of which have come from wandering through Chris Aldrich’s commonplace blog:

Webmentions

Webmentions are the building block for conversations across the web. However, with WordPress, they often get caught in moderation and/or flagged as spam by Akismet and other spam filter plugins. To prevent this, you can add this PHP snippet to your theme’s functions.php file:

function unspam_webmentions($approved, $commentdata) { return $commentdata['comment_type'] == 'webmention' ? 1 : $approved; } add_filter('pre_comment_approved', 'unspam_webmentions', '99', 2);

Alan Levine has documented the process of creating a child theme, which is useful when customising the code, while Gregor Morrill has developed code to approve webmentions from domains previously approved.

Microformats

Microformats is a data format built upon adopted standards and prior developments. There are a number of specifications, which can be manually added within the existing HTML. It provides the foundation for software to automatically process information. People like [David

Shanske](https://github.com/dshanske/twentysixteen-indieweb) and Matthias Pfefferle have developed plugins and themes to mark-up content in the backend. You can also use this site to check the microformats on your site, while for a more extensive introduction, listen to Tantek Çelik on the future of web apps.

Two microformats I have worked with are comments and rel=me.

Comment

Although the appropriate microformats are usually built into the Webmentions plugin. The plugin for theaded comments can be a bit more tempremental. [Chris Aldrich](http://boffosocko.com/2017/12/15/threaded-replies-with-webmentions-in-wordpress/] recommends manually adding the reply class and URL just to make sure:

 <a class="u-in-reply-to" href="http://www.example.com"></a>

I have come to do this out of habit for replies now.

Rel-me

Another microformat incorperated into many Indieweb sites is Rel-me. It is used to consolidate identity, as well as domain sign in.

<ul> <li><a href="https://twitter.com/aaronpk" rel="me">@aaronpk on Twitter</a></li> <li><a href="https://github.com/aaronpk" rel="me">Github</a></li> <li><a href="https://google.com/+aaronpk" rel="me">Google</a></li> <li><a href="mailto:me@example.com" rel="me">me@example.com</a></li></ul>

Chris Aldrich has taken rel-me to its extremes by creating a page in which he records all his accounts. I have also started my own. For more on rel-me, watch Ryan Barrett’s keynote at IndieWeb Summit 2017.

Page Bookmarks

I remember coming across in plugin in Edublogs that allowed you to add a table of contents. This reminded me of the functionality in Google Docs and one of the things I noticed in both was the presence of a hashtag at the end of the URL. (Interestingly, now every heading in Google Docs has a unique identifier automatically created.) In Docs, this is something that can be added using the Bookmark feature, I wondered if the same could be done in WordPress. I discovered that within the tags, you insert ‘name=”unique-name”‘:

<a name="unique-name">Target Text</a>

This can then be used to guide readers to a specific point in your text.

Custom URLs for Post Kinds

Using the Post Kinds plugin provides a list a unique urls associated with the kinds of posts on the site. Chris Aldrich provides some guides in how to use these to create custom urls to generate a specific post screen. This can then be used to create a bookmarklet:

 http://example.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?kind=bookmark&kindurl=@url

Dariusz Kuśnierek provides some other examples of custom URLs, which help in U deratamding the way urls work in general.

RSS Feeds

RSS provides a means of following a site without checking in all of the time. To access a feed to follow in WordPress, you simply add ‘/feed/’ to the end:

http://www.example.com/feed

As some feeds can contain a range of content, it is possible to hone down to particular categories by adding ‘?cat=[category id]’ to the end.

http://www.example.com/feed?cat=[category id]

This can be useful if you only want to follow a specific subject or area.

Taking this a step further, you can also produce an RSS based on Post Kinds. Although not all blogs use these, for those that do it can be a useful demarcation. Similar to categories, you add ‘?kind=type’ to the end of the feed.

http://www.example.com/feed/?kind=bookmark 

For more on RSS feeds, see this post from Chris Aldrich.

OPML

Where as RSS is used for a single feed, OPML allows a user to aggregate. I have written about them before. It is possible to store an OPML in WordPress. To access this you add the append ‘/wp-links-opml.php’ to the end.

http://www.example.com/wp-links-opml.php

In addition to this, Chris Aldrich has documented how to split a file into categories:

?link_cat=[category id]

I have yet to categorise my links, however Aldrich provides an extensive example.


So what about you? What little bits of code do you use? As always, comments welcome.


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A Kind of Emoji

The power of emojis is in helping us think differently

A reflection on using emojis as a way to provide visual information about blog posts.


I have dived into my latest #IndieWeb venture of saving links on my own site. I thought that I would simply use the Bookmark post kind to save my links, but I soon realised not every link needed some form of commentary and/or extended quotations. For those where the link and quote/summary was enough, I started labelling as a Like. There were also some links where I would write a Reply to the author. With all these additions, the different kinds of writing were lost in my stream. I was beginning to understand why Chris Aldrich’s site starts with a static page, which guides readers to the different kinds of writing. I was not yet interested in going down the static path, I therefore had to think of some other solution to differentiate between the different content I was adding to the site. After some initial exploration of beginning each title with the kind, I turned to the emoji.

I came upon the use of emojis in the work of John Johnston, who added them to some of his posts to provide additional information. I think this may be something built into the Micro.Blogs platform. In addition, I like the way that Audrey Watters uses icons to break up information in her Weekly News posts. There has also been a lot written about the use of emojis to define Google Drive folders. Although most of the emojis I use correspond with the post kinds, there are times when I use them to add more nuance for particular tags and categories. Here is a list of my emojis so far:

As this is a new iteration, I still have a bit of work going back through my posts adding emojis to other kinds and categories, such as events and mentions.

Beyond the visual, the addition of emojis has had a few interesting side-effects. When I POSSE to Diigo, I have discovered that the title is left blank. My workaround has been to manually create the title for Diigo using the Social Network Auto-Poster (SNAP) plugin. There is no issue with other spaces, such as Twitter, where the emoji is happily embedded.

Another issue is the permalink. Most options involve adding the name of the post to the end of the URL, this includes emojis. For some reasons, this creates issues with sending webmentions. The answer seems to be to manually ping the site using the post ID or manually edit the permalink before posting to remove the emoji.

I remember Eric Curts mentioning problems with some emojis:

Emojis appear differently on different operating systems. Because of this, the images may not look the same on every device. If you are using any modern computer or device (Chromebook, Android, iOS, Mac OS, Windows), the emojis should display well. However if you are using an older version of Windows earlier than Windows 8.1, the emojis do not appear in color and many may be missing.

Maybe the issues are associated with this?

So what about you? Do you use any methods for breaking up content within your spaces? Or maybe you use emojis in some other way? As always, comments welcome and webmentions too.



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Reclaiming My Bookmarks

Bookmarks as a part of serendipity

A reflection on using my own blog to reclaim my bookmarks and then syndicate them to other sites, such as Twitter and Diigo.


My one word this year is intent. For me this means many things, one of which is to consider my digital presence. In a post reflecting on Mark Zuckerberg’s attempts to fix Facebook, Doc Searls says that one of the lessons learnt is that we all live digital lives now:

So let’s at least try to look below what big companies, Trump and other dancing figures in the digital world are doing, and try to look at the floor they’re dancing on—and the ground under it. That ground is new and unlike anything that precedes it in human experience. Nothing matters more than at least trying to understand it.

For me, a part of ‘understanding it’ is in reclaiming some of the processes that have been outsourced to third-party platforms. This does not always mean leaving silos completely, but rather not being dependent on them so that if the door shuts or the terms of use change, there is no concern in having to leave. See for example the recent announcement that Storify is shutting down. One recent attempt I have been tinkering with is an effort to reclaim my bookmarks.


Capturing the Web with Radio3

I have been using Diigo for quite a few years. My workflow has gone through a number of iterations, such as emailing links to batch processing favourited sites. This has largely been dependent on my mobile operating system. For example, I have found the Android Diigo app a lot easier to share to than iOS. (Things may have since changed though). My frustration though was that I was completing a number of steps separately.

After exploring the features and affordances of Google+, I came upon Dave Winer’s Radio3 Linkblog, which allows you to push links out to various platforms, whilst also maintaining your own RSS. It involves selecting a site or quote and clicking on the bookmarklet to generate the short post. The creation of a separate feed provides the means to automate processes with IFTTT. This includes saving links to Diigo.

The problem I have with this process is that although I have an archive of my tweets and links via Diigo, I am dependent on these platforms for maintaining an archive of my linkblog. I trialed using an IFTTT recipe to create a weekly digest as well as the built in option to Diigo, however I was not satisfied with any of these solutions. One problem I faced was the inconsistency of the RSS feed produced by Radio3.

I have found that if I save a link with the bookmarklet without selecting any text, there would be no title included in the feed, even if I added or adjusted the description included in the textbox. Whereas, if I highlighted a chunk of text, the title is added. I guess the workaround would be to select the heading if there is nothing specific I wish to highlight? This seems a strange thing to complain about in regards to one of the forefathers to RSS and probably shows a lack of awareness on my behalf for how Radio3 works.

Another frustration with using Radio3 to send links to Diigo is that I really like capturing quotes when I save links. This is something that I have done for a while and one of the reasons that I like Radio3. I could not figure out how to bring these into the description in Diigo consistently, let alone as annotations. I even took to annotating the quotes with the Diigo browser extension. I wonder if Zapier would do a better job, but until I fork out the money for a paid subscription I am not going to know.

In the end, I could probably make Radio3 work for me. Probably deploying a script to collect everything, as Tom Woodward does with Pinboard, but I feel that I am almost doing that manually with the creation of my newsletter. I just feel apprehensive moving forward depending upon something held together by Dave Winer’s very good will. If it were open sourced, this may be different, but it is not.


Collecting Bookmarks

The next step then in my bookmarking journey has been to test out the idea of saving links on my own site and then syndicating them elsewhere. I have been exploring various post kinds lately, however yet to tinker with bookmarks.

One of the inital challenges was how to syndicate. Like most, I had installed –Jetpack and used that to publicise to various social media sites. This is a relatively easy process where you activate the various connections by giving permissions. However, Jetpack is limited in what sites it supports. There is no option to connect with Diigo.

I therefore installed the Social Network Austo-Poster (SNAP) plugin. Although I could generate a custom feed based on my bookmarks and use this with IFTTT, I would prefer to do something within my own site. One of the differences between SNAP and Jetpack is that rather than just give access you need to go through the process of generating API keys. This to me is closer to Searls’ call to understand our digital reality. Although this might seem daunting for some, the plugin provides thorough documentation to support users.

What I like about SNAP is that you can set a default structure for auto-posts, combining a number of predefined ingredients, but you can also quickly customise these when needs be. So if you want to share with a specific user or hashtag on Twitter, but not on Diigo, then you can adjust the Twitter description.

The last thing to consider with using my own site is developing a clear process for saving bookmarks. My first step was to create a bookmarklet using Chris Aldrich’s Post Kinds template. Also, I setup a process for sharing via Mobile using URL Forwarder app. This was a part of the puzzle missing with Radio3.


What Next?

I like the idea of collecting my bookmarks on my site. However, it has forced me to reflect on a number of things. One is the ability to properly syndicate to Diigo and Twitter. With Radio3, the publicised links connect to the corresponding site, whereas when I bookmark using my site, it shares the link to my post rather than the original site. This has me rethinking why I bookmark and POSSE. Maybe I do not need to share links to the original source, especially when my bookmarks have secondary information.

Another interesting feature to using my blog has been the ability to link to other sources within my descriptions. This is something that I do with my newsletter. On the other hand, I wonder if every link needs this level of detail. An answer to this maybe to utilise some other response post kinds, such as Likes and/or Favourite to support my blog as a resource.

This also leads me to wonder about the place of my Wikity blog. I really like the concept of constructing knowledge and ideas over time, however, I do not connect with other Wikity sites, one of the features Mike Caulfield built into the theme. I therefore wonder if these posts could be added as Notes or Articles, as I like having a title and in some themes the title of notes is chopped off.

Maybe rather than using Likes or combining my Wikity posts I maintain these other spaces, such as Radio3 and use them for specific purposes. Or maybe I need to dive into Known again, even if it seems that people are leaving? I think for now I might continue bookmarking with my site and see where it all goes.


So what about you? What process do you use to bookmark links for later? Has it changed over time? As always, comments welcome, especially if you have any tips or tricks that might help me on my way.



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Co-claiming and Gathering Together – Developing Read Write Collect

Chris Aldrich on developing a better web

A reflection on developing a site building upon the ideas of the #IndieWeb to bring together all my disparate pieces around the web in one place.


Just when I thought I had enough sites, I decided to create another one. A feed that could be used in a platform like Micro.blog. My intent this time was to create a space where I could reclaim my pieces on the web. In part I was inspired by Tom Woodward’s API driven portfolio, as well as Alan Levine’s concept of co-claiming.

I was also interested in exploring the possibility of WordPress beyond the standard post format and the implications that this has with the choice of themes. Associated with this, I wondered if there was a possibility of automating the sharing of content created elsewhere, such as videos and images.

I started the site by creating three key categories: participation, posts and creations. Each offering the potential to be broken down further.

Participation

My first step was to focus on presentations and publications. This involved transferring my various slides, resources and publications from a single page on my main blog to separate posts. The focus on one page worked in the beginning, but started to become busy as more and more items were added, even if I added Page Jumps.

My next step was to capture the various references and contributions on the web. Similar to what Audrey Watters does with her ‘In the News’ posts. These extracts include:

Although I am still thinking about how I could visually present all these posts to tell a clearer story, as Tom Woodward and Ian O’Byrne have done, I think splitting them into individual posts is more functional. It also means that when I present I can link to resources that might be kept on an event page, rather than continually update a particular blog post all the time.

Posts

When I started Read Write Collect, I wondered about creating a feed of all my posts, whether it be on social media, my Wikity site, contributions to other blogs and posts from this blog. I also wanted to somehow automate this process.

I started by dragging in content from sites that I was no longer using. For example, a few years ago, I created an instance of Known for shorter, incomplete thoughts and ideas. It was framed around the question of ‘what if’? I decided to import this content.

I also decided to make a copy of my two newsletters (Read Write Respond and eLearn Updates) posted in third-party sites, such as Tiny Letter and Global2. I was not sure whether to publish these or to keep them private. However, I made them public and maybe will stop using those other spaces when I have worked out a clear workflow.

In regards to other content spread around the web, such as my Diigo bookmarks and Wikity cards, I have yet to work out how I will manage these pieces. I started exploring Zapier and some built-in solutions, but have since fallen back to IFTTT. I am mindful though of depending on third-party solutions.

For the posts on this site, I have yet to find a workflow I am happy with. In part, I am unsure what Post Kind I should use – Article or Bookmark – and how I would structure each post. I guess I could close the comments and provide a summary, this is something Doug Belshaw does when sharing his DML Central articles, but I am not sure how I would do this for all my 400+ posts, especially as writing extracts has only been a new addition to my process.

It feels that the further I have dived into the site, the more my priorities changed. I began to explore other aspects of the #IndieWeb. I had installed the plugin when I set the site up, something I had done with this site and had therefore done out of habit. However, I started to wonder what else I could do. My desire to automate was replaced by an interest in control over my presence. This led me to start replying to posts from my blog. Although it can be argued that this process involves more effort, it has resulted in me being more mindful of the comments that I leave. This is something Chris Aldrich touches upon in his introduction to the IndieWeb.

Many in the IndieWeb community have found that they post more interesting and thoughtful pieces of content when they’re doing it on their own site rather than the “throw away” content they used to post to sites like Twitter. They feel a greater sense of responsibility and ownership in what they’re posting about and this can have a profound effect on the future of the internet and its level of civility.

It also touches on Audrey Watters’ call for a more ethical (and equitable) practice in her rethinking of comments:

It’s perfectly acceptable to say to someone who wants to comment on a blog post, “Respond on your own site. Link to me. But I am under no obligation to host your thoughts in my domain.”

I would like to think that as there is more take-up of the microformats standards that things like this will become more of the norm as further generations take it up.

Creations

The other pieces that I wanted to collect together were my various creations on the web, whether they be images, videos and audio. I have tinkered with posting to Flickr before with another Known instance, but gave up when it seemed to break. I think that this was as much frustration at the workflow as it was lack of perseverance. I therefore wonder about co-claiming by posting to Flickr and then collecting a weekly or even monthly summary on my own site. I know that this is something Tom Woodward does. As with my bookmarks, I am currently tinkering with IFTTT for this, but would like my own solution in the long run.

Like Flickr, I find publishing to YouTube an easier solution in regards to the few videos that I have. One of my interests was exploring the possibility to generate posts for older videos. Although IFTTT will create a post for videos just published, I was after an automated workflow that might go back through a channel and produce a post for each video. I found a plugin that said it would do it, but I have not managed to get it to do anything so am sceptical about purchasing the premium version. I also tested out posting via RSS, but this failed to embed the content.

In addition to images and video, I have been a long contributor to other people’s podcasts, but never really found the time and space to do my own. I was therefore taken by the idea of microcasting. The intent behind microcasting is that recordings are meant to be short recordings with minimal production. I have therefore taken to recording with Voxer and posting the MP3 in a post. I also syndicate this to Huffduffer so that others can listen as a podcast.


So that is my new site so far. In my next iteration, I am interested in investigating ‘Post Kinds to further to document other elements, such as what I am listening to and reading, especially in regards to long reads. This may replace my Awesome Tables, especially if they start charging. I am also interested in capturing more of my creations, such as my Instagram posts and gifs shared at Giphy. I am not sure if that constitutes a ‘commitment‘, but it is at least a start.

So what about you? What is something you are working on at the moment? Do you have any thoughts and suggestions for my new space? As always, comments welcome.


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Zen and the Art of Blog Maintenance

An explanation of why maintaining your own space is so important

This is a reflection on my recent challenges associated with maintaining a blog and an explanation of why I persist in doing it.


I got talking with some of technical designers in my workplace recently. I was inquiring about the plausibility of a few ideas I was thinking about. I did not want to commit myself to something that was doomed from the outset. The question was then asked, “But you’re not a coder, right?” Technically, I guess I am not. I have developed a few solutions, in part based on code appropriated from others, but could I develop something from scratch. I guess not. This for me raises the question, in a world which coding is bandied around as the 21st Century literacy, what does it mean to code and be a coder? Is it about a broad understanding of the mechanics and meaning or is it the ability to make and do? Can these even be separated?

This problem raised its head again this week as I tried to fix a problem occurring with two of my sites. I was not receiving linkbacks from other sites. Although webmentions were coming through, there were mentions within blogs that were not even going through to my spam folder. Of course, this is not going to ‘break the web’, but it means that I am missing some of the conversations from those sending from their site.

I came upon the issue after receiving a few messages from people saying that their messages were being rejected or not flowing through. This was occurring in both directions, with my pings seemingly sending emails, but not properly flowing through to posts and comments. Here then are some of the steps I took to investigate. I share these with the hope that I can learn more about these problems, but also to record the steps for future reflection. They are in no way sequential and have been separated for the sack of representing them in a meaningful manner:


In the end, I decided to turn the Semantic Linkbacks plugin back on and see how it went. To my surprise, things seemed to work. I will continue to tinker and investigate. It is a reminder why I have a Domain of One’s Own. As Martha Burtis points out,

Learning WordPress should not just be about learning WordPress — it should also be about all the tacit lessons that go along with learning how to publish online in an open-source Web application.

I know that at anytime that the Facebooks and Wixs are waiting to greet me with open arms and every day I resist. So what about you? What have been your experiences? As always comments welcome, even more so from your own blog.


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My #IndieWeb Reflections

Dan Gillmor on Indieweb as an alternative

I have been meaning to elaborate on my thoughts on #IndieWeb for a while. Chris Aldrich’s recent post outlining a proposal for a book spurred me to finish jotting down my notes and reflections.


I find #indieweb hard to explain. In part I would describe it as an alternative way of working on the web, a collaborative community and a technical solution. I can’t remember exactly when I first came upon it. I know thought it was associated with the concept of POSSE. It was probably a part of Connected Courses and my move to Reclaim Hosting. Twitter tells me that my initial investigations were associated with Known.

What interested me was the potential to extend and own my presence on the web. Initially, I posted to Flickr from a Known instance and pulled in comments from Twitter and Google+ with the #IndieWeb WordPress Plugin(s).

More recently I have become interested in exploring ‘post kinds’ as I continue to investigate ways that I can better manage my presence on the web. In particular, I like the idea of sending comments from my site, but have yet to either master some of the technical aspects or develop a suitable workflow.

I must admit, I still get lost with some of the mechanics. I wonder sometimes if this is because I am balancing multiple spaces. I would like to better understand how the various platforms and plugins work. For example, what is the difference between Known, Micro.Blogs and WordPress? What does Bridgy do? Are there any limitations to it? For example, can I connect it with more than one space, particularly in regards to Twitter. I also find more solace in reading various reflections, listening to weekly updates and think that the main site has come along way, especially in outlining the different entry points. I think that the addition of a book would be a valuable resource. As always, I am still investigating.

So what about you? Have you had any experiences with the IndieWeb? Do you have any thoughts and comments that you would share with Chris Aldrich?


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What Makes a Comment?


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

There are many out there who claim that blogging as it once was is dead. One of the biggest reasons given is the death of the comment. The question that does not seem to get asked very often is what it actually means to comment and what might it mean to bring the comment back?

The reality is that there is not one clear reason why to comment, instead it is something that is specific to each and every instance. The conundrum though is not necessarily with the why, but rather with how we go about it and what actually constitutes a comment. Like with so much of digital technology, there are so many ways to seemingly achieve the same outcome. Below are some of the problems and platforms as I see it associated with supporting the act of responding:

  • In-App Commenting: When people talk about comments, this is more often than not what they mean, the section at the end of every post that allows the reader to provide their point of view. Depending on the platform, this can either require signing in or simply providing your name and email. Depending on the platform, comment via mobile devices can be frustrating.
  • Post as comment: In a reflection on the inequalities of gender in educational technology, Audrey Watters questions whether we should be obliged to house comments in our own spaces. She instead suggests that maybe comments are better served as posts on our own blogs. An alternative to this is the idea of the post as a remix. Maybe this might be the creation of a new idea or some sort of homage to the original.
  • Syndication: Whether it be a collaborative blog like Inquire Within and the Echo Chamber or different platforms, such as Medium and Linkedin Pulse, the approach of publishing on your own site and syndicating elsewhere can create the problem of which space to carry out the conversation in.
  • Sharing Spaces: As Mike Caulfield recently shared, “to make content more findable, put it everywhere.” This means posting links to Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Slack, Reddit, Diigo etc. Each of these platforms provides the means to comment and keep the conversation going in their own way. The problem with this model is that there is nothing which brings the discussion together.
  • Curation: Whether it be Feedly, Pocket or any other curated application, these places often provide a streamlined experience. Although this makes it easier to read, it can limit the ability to respond. This is resolved by opening the post in the browser, while some bloggers in fact force this. 
  • Short Response: Many writer’s rue the move of comments to short form epitomised by Twitter. Although such constraints can make for their own creative solutions, such as visual quotes and sharing excerpts, they have the tendency to limit the potential of deeper conversation and engagement. Instead, lending themselves to extremes and absurdities. Some platforms, such as WordPress and Known, allow you use a plugin to drag tweets in as comments.
  • Sound and Vision: There is a growing trend of late to allow different means of commenting and communicating. For example, Speak Pipe allows readers to leave a voice message, rather than write a response. While Voxer provides the means to connect with authors either directly or as a part of a wider community. There are also some like George Couros who have explored the potential of video working within the 30 second constraints offered by Twitter. A couple of hurdles with these platforms is that they require you to go through the rigmarole of setting up an account, while it is not always clear how to store and archive such responses.
  • Disqus: A cross-platform application, Disqus is a platform designed to connect different comments in the one space.  As a community, it provides recommendations and channels to help organise comments (and posts) into different themes.
  • Livefyre: Designed for businesses with a focus on marketing and engagement, Livefyre is considered as a one stop platform for digital asset management. It provides real-time social curation, allowing you to drag in interactions from a number of platforms, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Livefyre is the same company behind Storify and was recently acquired by Adobe.
  • Sumo Me: A plugin designed to help users grow their audience, Sumo Me works by adding a pop-up layer on top of the website. Along with the ability to grow subscriber lists and share content, Sumo Me allows users to highlight text as a form of response.
  • Hypothes.is: A free platform, Hypothesis allows users to annotate the web through an add-on or WordPress plugin. Although not directly connected to the site, Hypothesis allows users to collect and collaborate similar to Diigo. It is a site for users, rather than creators, and reminds me of Steve Johnson’s discussion about the connection between open source and ideas.
  • Medium: When it comes commenting, Medium optimises many of the functionalities associated with commenting in one place. Whether it be highlighting text, commenting on a particular section or directly linking to other bloggers.
  • IndieWeb / Bridgy: A community of practice with the intent to own our presence on the web. This is done through the use of various plugins, with a focus on posting on your own site and then syndicating elsewhere. Similar to apps like Livefyre, this allows you to bring in comments for a blog from others spaces.

After unpacking all of the options, it makes me wonder if maybe the comments never left, but rather have become dispersed across various spaces. Maybe the answer is that everyone moves their content and conversations to Medium, but what happens when that space changes and folds under the pressure of investors. Maybe as Martin Weller recently suggested, “Blogging is both like it used to be, and a completely different thing”. Rather than a call to go back to basics, to a time when commenting seemed to be simple, what I think is needed is a broader appreciation of what constitutes a ‘comment’. As with the discussion of digital literacies, maybe we should focus on the act of defining, rather than restrict ourselves with concrete definitions.

So what about you? What do you think? As always, comments welcome.


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