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IndieWeb Summit 2019

8 min read

I had the great pleasure of spending this weekend in Portland, OR for the 2019 IndieWeb Summit. IWS is my favorite event of the year, as it gives me the opportunity to spend time with so many smart, like-minded, principled people who are interested in using technology to make a positive impact on the world. This year’s IWS was a runaway success, selling out for the first time ever, and featuring some truly great sessions, keynotes, and projects.

Day Zero: The Pre-Party

On Friday evening, a large subset of the attendees gathered at Pine Street Market to share in food, drink, and community. It was fun to reconnect with IndieWeb friends like David Shanske, Aaron Parecki, Tantek Γ‡elik, Marty McGuire, Jacky AlcinΓ©, and Malcom Blaney. Much fun was had by all, and the post-party festivities carried on well into the night.

Day One: Keynotes and Sessions

Keynotes

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The next morning, we kicked off the summit with coffee and breakfast, followed by some great keynotes.

First up, Tantek gave a brief state of the IndieWeb presentation, and shared details about the IndieWeb’s Code of Conduct, our use of color-coded lanyards to give people a choice about whether or not they should be included in photos, and our use of pins to enable people to display their preferred pronouns.

Next was fellow Micro.blog community member Kitt Hodsden who gave an inspiring talk on contractions and expansions, which really set the tone for the rest of the summit. Kitt should be very proud of both the content of her talk, and her wonderful, passionate delivery. Well done, Kitt!

Continuing the thoughtful keynote presentations was Jordan Brady, a native of Portland that I met several years ago at a Homebrew Website Club meeting at the DreamHost PDX offices. Jordan shared her story of changing her domain during her job search. Her experience shined a light on the challenges of being a woman in tech.

Marty McGuire followed, with an interactive keynote about his IndieWeb experience from his iPhone. It was very cool to see how far we’ve come in the past few years, with native mobile apps like Indigenous by Eddie Hinkle, and deep integrations thanks to iOS Shortcuts. Kudos to Marty for presenting the entire keynote directly from his iPhone.

Finally, Jacky AlcinΓ© closed the keynotes with an exploration of how to make the IndieWeb available for all. Jacky is a really thoughtful guy, and I enjoyed hearing his perspective.

Lightning Intros

After keynotes, all IWS participants were encouraged to give brief, 2-minute introductions, along with demos of their personal websites. During my introduction, I talked about the importance of preserving and owning your memories, and showed how my website helped me cope with the loss of my sixteen year old dog Winston earlier this year.

Sessions

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After a group photo and lunch at local Portland food carts, we returned to the venue to plan out the rest of the day. IWS uses the BarCamp format for session planning, where attendees lead interactive session proposals, and build the schedule together. We came up with quite an impressive collection of sessions!

There were a lot of great conversations, but I’ll touch on three of my personal favorites:

  1. β€œFollow That Bird” – This session was proposed by David Shanske, and addressed the problem of discovery. On platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it is easy to just click the β€œfollow” or β€œfriend” button, and following / friend lists help users discover other people. On the IndieWeb, we’re still figuring out the mechanics of how to improve this user experience, especially in social readers like Together and Monocle. Lots of great discussion all around, and this session ended up inspiring my project for day two, which I’ll talk about shortly.
  2. Private Posts – I ran this session, and we talked about another problem that is neatly solved by traditional social platforms: sharing content privately. Again, some great discussion about how to solve this problem in the IndieWeb. Thankfully, there’s plenty of prior art out there to build upon. I’m looking forward to working on solving this for Known, which is the CMS I use for this website.
  3. Possible Futures and IndieWeb – An extremely engaging and interactive session facilitated by Ariana Lutterman. Ariana guided the group through the process of exploring the many possible futures for the IndieWeb based upon emerging signals of change through the lens of growth, collapse, discipline, and transformation. We brainstormed on future implications across a number of axes – STEEPV (social, technological, environmental, economic, political, and values). Finally, we used our exploration to write headlines from the future. A really thoughtful and fun exercise. Many thanks to Ariana for guiding us.

At the end of a very long and engaging day, we split out into groups for evening activities. I joined a great group of nine for dinner at Jackrabbit, which featured an impressive and delicious 4-pound steak that we shared. Yum!

Day Two: Creative Hack Day!

IndieWebCamp Logo

On Sunday, we started things off with some tasty vegan breakfast options, and then I headed off to the first ever meeting of the Known Open Collective. It was great to finally connect, at least over video chat, with Marcus Povey, Jeremy Cherfas, and Paul Lindner. We definitely missed having Ben WerdmΓΌller at the summit, but all send our best to him as he deals with this complicated thing we call β€œlife.”

For the rest of day two, I focused on two things – helping other people and personal projects.

Inspired by the β€œFollow that Bird” session from day one, I decided that it would be extremely valuable to focus on the problem of discovery. I chose to update my site to make it easier to subscribe to my website, and to discover who and what I am following. The first, smaller part of the project, was to update my Subscribe page with more detailed instructions on how to subscribe to one or more of the feeds that are available on my website.

The second part of my project was to build a way for people to see what I am following. There is a wealth of information on β€œfollowing” on the IndieWeb wiki, but none of the approaches discussed for documenting subscriptions really sat right with me. I am a fan of the DRY principle, and I don’t like the idea of manually creating β€œfollow posts” when I have a perfectly serviceable source of truth for my subscriptions in my Microsub server. Thus, I embarked upon a project to automatically generate a page on my website that displays an up-to-date list of my subscriptions from Aperture.

Thanks to some enhancements by Aaron Parecki to Aperture, I was able to create a beautiful Following page that gives visitors to my website a way to see exactly what I am following in my social reader. They can use this to discover new content that they may enjoy. Even better, if you parse my Following page with a microformats2 parser, you’ll find that it is an h-feed containing h-entry β€œfollow posts” with a u-follow-of property for each feed that I subscribe to. The only missing piece is that Aperture doesn’t yet provide me with the date and time that my subscription was created. Aaron has indicated that this is something he’d like to add, and once he does, I’ll update my page to include that data.

At the end of the summit, participants demoed their projects and progress before we closed out the summit. My personal favorite demo was from Malcom Blaney and Gregor Love, who demonstrated one of the first implementations of subscribing to private posts using AutoAuth. It was awesome to see private sharing in action, and it gives me confidence that 2020 could be the year that we solve this problem for good.

IndieKaraoke

Once the summit wrapped, a small group of us enjoyed what is becoming a wonderful annual tradition: IndieWeb Karaoke night! This year, we celebrated at Voicebox Northwest thanks to our wonderful host Lillian Karabaic. There was singing. There was laughing. There was a non-stop stream of incredible IndieWeb lyrical jokes:

  • β€œBow down before the Zuckerberg. You’re going to get what you deserve.” – To the tune of Head Like a Hole by Nine Inch Nails.
  • β€œIf you want to destroy the silos (whoa oh-oh), POSSE first, and then walk away!” – To the tune of Undone by Weezer.

We’re a bunch of very lovable nerds. I’d especially like to call out Fluffy for her amazing energy at karaoke. She made sure that fun was had by all.

Conclusions

Thank you so much to all of the organizers of IndieWeb Summit for doing such a great job building an inclusive, fun, and enjoyable event each year. This year’s summit was the best yet, and I have no doubt that next year will be even better.

I love you !Β