Showing all posts tagged: blogs

Webmentions, great for IndieWeb, and, unfortunately, spammers

16 July 2024

Webmentions allow you to notify the publisher of a website that you’ve mentioned, or linked to, one of their pages, from your website or blog. Webmentions are commonly used in the Indie and Small Web communities, and have existed as a W3C recommendation since 2017.

But Webmentions have also come to the attention of spammers, who have made Webmention spam a thing. It means bloggers, such as Jan-Lukas Else, might receive numerous Webmention notifications, only to find they’ve been spammed.

It doesn’t take long, sadly, for a tool designed with useful intent, to be made to serve some other, far more nefarious, purpose.

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Ye Old Blogroll, a trove of links to blogs, personal websites

26 June 2024

My thanks to Ray for recently adding disassociated to Ye Old Blogroll, a directory of small and independent websites and blogs. Directory websites like Ray’s are invaluable when it comes to promoting the work of Indie and Small Web writers and bloggers, which is often overshadowed by all sorts of things, including some of the search engines.

Blogrolls and links pages were once often a common feature of websites and blogs, as were web directories — similar to Ye Old Blogroll — in the past, before search engines emerged. They were one of the few ways website owners could make their work known to a wider audience.

While looking around Ye Old Blogroll, I spotted this post about Substack, by Ray. Substack, an online publishing platform, was flavour of the month about two years ago. I even opened an account myself. Bloggers and writers were drawn in by the appeal of earning real money for their work, and I believe many did, or still are, doing well.

But, it was not for me. For one thing, it would have meant “starting over” again. That is, building up a following on Substack, when I already had one, or a semblance of one, here. And why would I go diluting my online presence? It would almost be the same as setting up on something like Instagram. Plus, some other entity would have ultimate control over my page there. They could decide to pull the plug at whim. And then there is this point made by Ray:

On a related note, when I browse from someone’s blog over to their Substack it feels like going from a sweet little neighborhood into a staid corporate park. A little piece of joy dies in me when that happens because it’s another reminder of the corporatization of the web.

The platform has also drawn the ire of some, including Jason Kottke, who is critical of the sort of content Substack allows to be published. No, stay in your own place. There’ll be ways to make it pay, if that’s what you need.

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Blogging about blogging versus adding value through your blog

21 June 2024

Less blogging about blogging:

The majority of my posts are either platform explanations/justifications or organizational posts. Stuff like, “I’m moving the Archives here” or “I’ve added a ton of Links there.” Other times it’s simple announcements about me moving my blog someplace new. So, why do I feel the need to talk about this?

This is something I grapple with, though maybe not to the same degree. Are people really interested in my blog posts about my blog? They’re pretty far and few between here, the last meta, blogging about blogging post, was when I added (re-added) a blogroll. I don’t know, maybe they’re a bit more common. What’s meta, and what’s not meta, can be highly subjective.

Yet a concept that — supposedly — has shaped the way I write here, derives from Twitter. I’m talking about Twitter when it was Twitter back in the day, not what it is presently. Anyway, we’d all been on Twitter for a couple of years, when 2009 arrived. By then, Twitter was deemed to be a mature platform for networking and micro-blogging, and now it was time, we, the users, conducted ourselves with a little more… sophistication.

“Add value” was a term frequently bandied about at the top of 2009. Add value meant we ought to ease back on tweeting about what we had for lunch (but not completely), and start contributing to a more useful overall conversation. Maybe there were a few years when value was indeed added through our tweets, or at least those of whom I moved in the same circles with.

But I decided I needed to bring the add value mantra to disassociated. To me, that meant less posts of an introspective nature, and more, er, useful stuff. No more: “I updated to the latest version of WordPress”, or “I backed up my website database last night”. I wanted to publish articles people might find helpful. I wasn’t sure what interest people, who wanted to find out more about how the Oscar nomination process worked, or etiquette at a classical music recital, would have in stuff meta.

Some people might argue these two examples are informational, or magazine style, posts. Not the sort of thing that belongs on a personal website. But the distinction possibly lies in the definition of a personal website. One of my first websites was a personal website, but not the very first. Instead, it was a web fiction series (emphasis on fiction), a collaboration with a friend. At that point, I saw the web as, among other things, a story telling platform.

In other words, anything other than a platform for publishing diary-like posts. Who could possibly be interested in that, I thought. But after seeing others doing it, I eventually followed suit, and started publishing an online journal. By the time the web fiction series came to an end, I had two websites, one personal — which included my online journal — and the other more magazine-like, that I called Channel Static. But I’m not sure how much “value” Channel Static really added to anything.

This was all in 1997, 1998 though. I don’t think it was until 2007, when I re-invented disassociated as a WordPress website, that value really came into the equation. But not at first. There was much meta-stuff going on. WordPress version this, WordPress version that. There was a whole lot of blogging about blogging also. A lot of that may have been me channelling the zeitgeist though.

Blogging was taking off in 2007. There were people making a full time living through their blogs. It was an exciting time to be blogging alive. Despite running a magazine website that was still meant to be a personal website, in so much as it was mine, it was near nigh impossible to ignore what was happening in what we called the blogosphere.

The 2009 catch cry to “add value” was more of a wake-up call to me to get more serious about what I published here. Even if the message had been intended for the twitterati. But the next person’s interpretation of “adding value” is their call to make. If you feel you achieve that through informational, magazine style, publishing on your personal website, well that’s fine. Exactly the same goes for meta, and blogging about blogging, posts.

They’re not called personal websites for nothing: they’re there for you to do whatever you choose.

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Now that we have IndieWeb how are others to find it?

19 June 2024

How do people who don’t know about IndieWeb, but would like to escape the web-scape funk they’re beholden to, find out about IndieWeb, asks Delyo Dobrev. This is the million dollar question.

Everyone and their grandma and their dog is talking about social media’s bad influence. But do they do anything about it, or do they boomerpost comic strips about more and more kids staring at their phone and waiting for likes?

Blogrolls/links-pages, web directories, and web rings, are among ways to promote the work of other IndieWeb adherents. But you need to be within the IndieWeb realm in the first place, to go on the journey these aggregators will take you. They’re great for their members, but, unfortunately, overwhelming for newcomers, as a Hacker News member pointed out:

How do people make use of such an aggregator? Do people checkout blogs individually and subscribe to feeds to individual blogs or interest? The sheer number of the collection dissuades me. I’m wondering, instead, if it’d be useful for the aggregator to offer an aggregated feed itself, but that might be too random a feed and subjects!

Time is also a factor, doing rounds of IndieWeb discovery is a commitment. Getting started needs to be, somehow, easier. Back to Dobrey:

I remember surfing, actually surfing from link to link, from site to blog to web altar. And it took just a search or two to get started.

That’s what I did back in the day. But sans search engines. I was lucky enough to make, early on, the acquaintance of dozens of personal website owners (sometimes referred to as webmasters, as in masters of their web domain), and would read about their latest finds, as often as possible.

But I’d also stay up literally half the night, every night (even after coming in from a night out), and surf to the websites others had written about on their online journals.

That’s not so straightforward today. Back then, twenty-four hour days felt like they were forty-eight hours long. Now they feel more like twelve hour days. But to introduce more people, specifically audiences, to the joys of IndieWeb, there needs to be an easy path for newcomers to trek.

That is the challenge. That is the million dollar question.

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Happy birthday WordPress, twenty-one and going strong

30 May 2024

I’m a bit late to the party, but such is life in the twenty-first century. The other day WordPress (WP), the CMS that powers disassociated turned twenty-one (Facebook link)*.

I’ve been on-board since 2007. You’ll only find a handful of posts from those days though, I rebooted my website in 2021, after taking a slightly longer than expected four-year hiatus. The original WP blog (not to be confused with my original website which debuted in 1997) had over ten-thousand posts, many of them quite short.

When I returned in September 2021, so many of those posts had dead links, I decided the best way to deal with the problem was to start again. I deleted the old database, and started a new one. But I have been, ever so gradually, restoring certain posts from 2017 and before.

All sorts of other CMSs were there, or have emerged since 2007, but I decided to stay with WP. It might too powerful for my pretty simple needs, and I am not in with Gutenberg, but I decided to stay with what I knew. That way I can focus on what’s really important, and that’s writing.

So, happy belated twenty-first birthday WP, and thanks. Here’s to whatever comes next.

* yes, a Facebook post. I couldn’t find a write-up celebrating the illustrious milestone on the WordPress website, or even Automattic, the WP developers. Er, but surely posting on FB defeats the purpose?

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Creative environments, are they a place or a time, or both?

28 May 2024

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: write about creative environments. Let’s have a go.

A creative environment, as far as I can tell, is not necessarily a place. Not one I can put my finger on, at least. Nor is it a particular time. My creative ideas, if that’s what they can be called, arrive spontaneously. Without warning. My muse’s strikes are unpredictable, to quote Amelia.

I’d wanted to take part in Juha-Matti Santala’s creative environments themed blog carnival, since hearing about it at the beginning of the month. The first blog carnival I’ve participated in — since, I don’t know — 2008? Back in the day, blog carnivals were a great way to network, and discover the work of other writers and bloggers. With the return to the small web, personal websites, and blogs, gaining momentum, maybe they will be once more.

I feel like I’m constantly being creative. Be it devising solutions to problems at work, figuring out the best way to optimise the day, or writing here, it all seems a manifestation of creativity. It seemed then like an easy topic to write about. But with days left in May to act, and after weeks of futile brainstorming, this page remained blank.

Until yesterday, when as if by magic, the words took form at one of my hot-desking locations. With impeccable timing. Just as I wanted to pack up for a short break, take a stroll, and buy some lunch. But my thoughts were also on resuming my hot desk post-haste, before the afternoon grew too old, so I could indulge in another coffee.

I can’t then always be wholly sure what triggers my creativity, and subsequently leads me to my creative environment. On this occasion, it might have been the hint another cup of coffee was in my future. Or it could be the prospect of being mobile, and on my feet. I’m not sure about the coffee, but when it comes to walking as an incubator for creativity, the science is pretty definitive.

On some days when I start walking, the ideas almost instantly start flowing. Be that going home, strolling in the park, ambling about when we stay on the NSW Central Coast, or mall-walking at a large shopping centre, on what is a track spanning, by my estimations, two-and-a-half kilometres. But whatever the setting, solutions to problems begin presenting themselves.

Do that this way. Do this that way. I often stop, mid-step, to write something in my phone’s notes apps, or email myself a snippet of a thought I’ve had. But what a lot of us may not realise, is just how much goes into the mix, when it comes to being creative. There’s all sorts of stuff up in the air.

Random, scattered, diverse, subconscious, thoughts and feelings, swirling around, just waiting for the right moment to come along, and coalesce into a solution called creativity. And that eureka moment isn’t only a setting, a place, it’s also a time.

What that place is, I don’t always know. Ditto the time. Whatever, that’s my creative environment.

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An indie guide to the IndieWeb, by Wing Pang

22 May 2024

Sydney based product designer Wing Pang, whom I wrote about last week, has published a comprehensive guide to the IndieWeb.

Coming from a design background, joining the IndieWeb was an incredibly exciting and rewarding, yet maze-like journey. To be honest, almost every step of the way was like a leap! But I’ve learnt so much and got a lot of feedback throughout this process from the passionate and friendly community.

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Blog of the .Day, bringing back the blogosphere one blog at a time

22 May 2024

Blog of the .Day, yes, styled as Blog of the .Day, a collaboration between James of James’ Coffee Blog, and Joe Crawford, will highlight a new blog every day.

Aside from casting the spotlight daily on a blog, another goal of the project is to bring the term blogosphere back into popular usage. For those coming in late, the blogosphere — that great interconnectedness of blogs — preceded the Twitterverse, and now looks to have outlived it as well.

Long live the blogosphere.

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RSS is really simple, why do so many find it complicated?

17 May 2024

Chris, writing at uncountable thoughts:

RSS is a pervasive, but little known, web technology that allows you aggregate all your content into one place for easy reading. There are very few websites without an RSS feed, although many don’t advertise the link (or, even realise they have it).

When you put an RSS feed link into your RSS, it is called “subscribing”. But don’t worry — it’s totally free, and you don’t give your email address.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is really simple. But a lot of people don’t see it that way, and anyone who has ever syndicated their web content, has always struggled to convince their readers of that. Like, probably since RSS arrived in March 1999. Yet RSS almost had its moment, during the so-called golden age of blogging, circa 2003 to 2010.

Writers took to writing blogs, and readers took to reading blogs. Content Management Systems like WordPress churned out RSS feeds automatically. All a blogger had do was prominently post a link to their RSS feed. Really simple. Writing posts explaining what RSS was, and why it was useful, was also common. Erstwhile (by the looks of it) Australian blogger Meg Tsiamis, of (defunct) Top 100 Australian Blogs Index fame, wrote a post in 2007, outlining RSS to her mother, and other of her readers.

Sadly, the more in-depth resource she linked to, is no longer online. In other words though, we’ve been trying for years, decades, to impress upon others the simplicity and function of RSS, but too little, or no, avail. Unfortunately RSS plain simply baffled just about anyone, and everyone, who didn’t write a blog. RSS was too technical, too geeky, many people complained.

But popular perceptions of RSS were only one problem. Accessing RSS easily was another. Some argued Google closing down their popular RSS reader, er, Google Reader (which I never used), in 2013, sounded the death knell of RSS. But the real problem had always been one of uptake, or rather, lack of uptake. Geekiness aside, some people questioned the purpose of RSS in the first place.

I recall, in 2014, trying to explain the utility of RSS to a co-member of a small business coffee meeting group I was then part of. I pulled out my laptop at the cafe we gathered at one morning, and showed him my RSS reader of the time (NewsGator, I think). “Look, see, you only have to visit one website to read one hundred websites,” I said, as I scrolled through my subscription list.

He marvelled as he looked on, recognising a number of websites he visited regularly. “All you need do is get a RSS reader app, like the one we’re looking at now, subscribe to the RSS feeds you like, and you’re set,” I said. Despite my small presentation though, he still looked confused. He didn’t seem to understand why you’d stop visiting a website, to read its content elsewhere.

Oh, the frustration.

Today RSS is even simpler. No apps are needed, one only has to create an account through a RSS aggregator website, Feedly for example (free for a basic account), and start subscribing. You don’t even need to know the URL of a website’s RSS feed. Type in the regular URL, and Feedly will search for available feeds.

Subscribing to an RSS feed is really the same as following someone on Instagram (IG). And it’s just as simple. Choose an IG page you want to follow, and tap the follow button. With RSS though, instead of following, you’re subscribing, although some RSS aggregators call the process following.

Better still, and as is often reported elsewhere, your subscription is anonymous (you could follow my RSS feed, and I’d have no idea unless you told me), and you only see the content you want to. There are no algorithms, or annoying “suggested for you” content. How good is that?

Well, not good enough, perhaps. Until subscribing to a RSS feed literally becomes as easy as following someone on social media, selling RSS as a really simple way of following a website, will, unfortunately, remain a hard sell.

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Can blogrolls build communities online? I think so

9 May 2024

A screen cap of disassociated's links page, circa November 1999.

A screen cap of disassociated’s links page, circa November 1999. Them were dark days…

Daniel Prindii asks, could blogrolls form the basis of community building online? Well, once upon a time, when they were known as links pages, that’s exactly what they did.

But with the development of AI tools, spam, and SEO-optimized articles the experience of the web search is a horrible one, where the chances to discover something new minimal. The 404 Media team has made a good analysis of this change. Everyone goes online to learn new things, and to connect with close friends. When your search or feed is clogged with spam and bots, it defeats the whole purpose.

In a way, the early search engines defeated the purpose of link pages and blogrolls. Later, some of them penalised websites carrying blogrolls, as they believed they were made up of paid links. And that was the beginning of the end of blogrolls. But not in the Indie Web/Small Web corner of the web. Here they are common, and serving their original, and perfectly innocuous, purpose of sharing websites a blogger likes, and thinks their readers will enjoy.

With discovery becoming ever more difficult by way of the search engines, the day of blogrolls has come again. To that end, I’ve set up, or maybe reinstated after a long hiatus, a blogroll here. It’s a start, and something I’ll add to over time.

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