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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 Çelik, Marty McGuire, Jacky Alciné, 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 Alciné 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. “Follow 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 “follow” or “friend” 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 Werdmüller at the summit, but all send our best to him as he deals with this complicated thing we call “life.”

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

Inspired by the “Follow 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 “following” 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 “follow 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 “follow 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:

  • “Bow down before the Zuckerberg. You’re going to get what you deserve.” – To the tune of Head Like a Hole by Nine Inch Nails.
  • “If 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

 
 
 
 

The New Yorker features the IndieWeb and Micro.blog

Excited to see that the IndieWeb has been featured in The New Yorker:

...a loose collective of developers and techno-utopians that calls itself the IndieWeb has been creating another alternative. The movement’s affiliates are developing their own social-media platforms, which they say will preserve what’s good about social media while jettisoning what’s bad. They hope to rebuild social media according to principles that are less corporate and more humane.

I’m not a big fan of the term “techno-utopian,” but hey, visibility is good.

The article also includes an entire section on Micro.blog:

In 2017, Manton Reece, an IndieWeb developer based in Austin, Texas, launched a Kickstarter for a service called Micro.blog. On its surface, Micro.blog looks a lot like Twitter or Instagram; you can follow users and see their posts sorted into a time line, and, if you like a post, you can send a reply that everyone can see. When I checked Micro.blog’s public time line recently, the top post was a picture of a blooming dogwood tree, with the caption “Spring is coming!”

Even as it offers a familiar interface, though, everyone posting to Micro.blog does so on his or her own domain hosted on Micro.blog’s server or on their own personal server. Reece’s software acts as an aggregator, facilitating a sense of community and gathering users’ content so that it can be seen on a single screen. Users own what they write and can do whatever they want with it—including post it, simultaneously, to other competing aggregators. IndieWeb developers argue that this system—which they call posse, for “publish on your own site, syndicate elsewhere”—encourages competition and innovation while allowing users to vote with their feet.

A huge congratulations to Manton, Aaron, and Tantek for the publicity for both Micro.blog and the larger IndieWeb movement. Let’s keep working to make the internet a better, safer, more inclusive place.

 

iPad Pro Impressions

9 min read

iPad Pro

This past weekend, I took the plunge and purchased myself an iPad Pro, including an Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard Folio. Amazon had the iPad Pro on sale for 16% off of list price, which is an uncommonly large discount that I couldn’t pass up. I also had saved up quite a bit of Amazon rewards credit, so my out of pocket cost was quite low. I’ve had my eye on an iPad Pro for quite some time, and now that I have one, its time to share my impressions.

Which iPad Pro?

I chose to purchase the smaller 11" iPad Pro in Space Gray with 256GB of storage. Why? Well, the 12.9" iPad Pro was very tempting, but my primary use case for this device is to be a highly portable alternative to my MacBook Pro. What do I plan to use it for? Ideally:

  • Productivity
    • Email
    • Documents
    • Task Management
    • Note-taking, as an alternative to my trusty paper notebooks
  • Development
    • SSH’ing into my various Linux environments
    • Local development, preferably using Python
  • Writing / Blogging
    • Publishing to my website
  • Media
    • Streaming from my Plex server
    • Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc.
  • Reading

Given my constraints and desire to have something more portable than my MacBook Pro, I opted for the smaller size iPad Pro and Apple’s very slim keyboard case, with the Apple Pencil to help me replace my paper notebooks. I chose the 256 GB storage option because the base model only offers 64 GB, which is just not enough for my needs.

The Good: Hardware

So, what’s the good news? Well, there’s a lot to like. First off, the hardware itself is simply stunning. Its light, thin, fast, and beautiful. The screen is bright and crisp, and the bezel-less design is reminiscent of Dieter Rams' greatest hits. The last hardware design that I loved this much was the iPhone 5s.

The accessories are similarly well designed. The Smart Keyboard Folio attaches to the iPad Pro with ease thanks to an array of powerful magnets, and the Smart Connector means that I never have to worry about charging or pairing the keyboard. It just works. The Apple Pencil is similarly impressive, with an ingenious magnetic attachment to the side of the iPad Pro, and wireless charging that is effortless.

The Good: Software

iOS has come a long way in the past few years, adding rudimentary file management in the Files app, early multi-tasking capabilities, and iPad-specific features that enhance the overall experience. That said, there’s a long, long way to go from an OS-level to truly make the iPad Pro a professional tool. I’ll touch on that more later.

Now, there are some truly amazing apps that I have been enjoying to help me with my target use cases. They’re not all perfect, but I am encouraged by the vibrant and growing ecosystem of truly professional apps for iPad. These give me a great deal of hope for the future of the Mac as these apps begin to show up via Marzipan. Below is a list of apps I am using or experimenting with so far:

  • Productivity
    • Email – Apple Mail. I am a heavy email user, and try out email clients often. For now, I am sticking with the built-in option, which is adequate.
    • Documents – Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and Drafts for personal projects. For work, we use GSuite, so I have installed Google’s Drive, Slides, Sheets, and Docs apps.
    • Task-Management – I use Things on my Mac and iPhone, and now I am using it on my iPad Pro.
    • Note-taking – This is an area where I am spending a lot of time experimenting. I have very much enjoyed note-taking in Drafts with my Smart Keyboard Folio attached, but am also trying out note-taking apps that are more Apple Pencil driven, including Notability and Nebo.
  • Development
    • SSHPanic’s Prompt and the emerging iSH, which adds an emulated Linux environment to iOS.
    • Local Development – The aforementioned iSH has been a revelation, enabling me to do local development in a very similar way to how I would on macOS, with vim, Python 3.7, git, virtualenv, and other common terminal-based tools. I’m also experimenting with Pythonista and have my eye on a few other editors to play with (Textastic, Buffer, etc.).
  • Writing / Blogging
    • Blogging – Drafts with a custom Micropub action for publishing to my website.
    • Microblogging – Directly on my website, through Indigenous, or via the Micro.blog app.
  • Media
    • StreamingPlex, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc.
    • Local VideoInfuse, VLC, and Plex. To get video into Infuse and VLC, I tend to use youtube-dl inside of iSH.
  • Reading
    • Books – Apple’s Books app works great for ePub content.
    • News – Apple’s News app is decent, but mostly I use Safari with my favorite news sites, or more likely I use my feed reader.
    • ComicsChunky Reader is pretty solid, though I wish this entire category was more like Plex, with rich metadata indexing and organization on the server, with clients for reading.
    • Web – Safari.
    • Feeds – I have installed Together as a Progressive Web App on my home screen and it works well.

While none of the above apps are perfect, I have been quite impressed with them as a whole.

The Bad: Hardware

While the iPad Pro and its accessories are truly impressive hardware, they’re not free of issues. Because the bezels are so small on the iPad Pro, it can be a little uncomfortable to hold in portrait layout while reading. In the lap, the whole Smart Keyboard Folio and iPad Pro setup is a bit top-heavy, making it slightly unstable. Other than these minor nits, overall I think the hardware is top-notch.

The Bad: Software

While the app ecosystem is amazing, and iOS has made great strides, there are still some fundamental missing pieces that prevent me from viewing iOS as a true alternative to macOS:

  • Keyboard – While the Smart Keyboard Folio is generally great to type on, in spite of its small size and low key travel, it is greatly hampered by software limitations in iOS. There is no ability to re-map keys in iOS, so I am stuck with a system-wide Caps Lock key, and no ESC key. Some apps, such as iSH, allow you to map Caps Lock to ESC, but this should really be handled system-wide. In addition, the Smart Keyboard Folio has a “globe” button in the bottom left corner which is infuriating. Pressing it pops up the Emoji keyboard on screen, and its right next to the control key, which I use heavily.
  • Fonts – iOS comes with a small set of fonts, and there is no standard, built-in way to install additional fonts. I have been able to use an app called AnyFont to install fonts, including my preferred programming font, Dank Mono, but because the system itself doesn’t have support for font management, most apps don’t surface font customization. Kudos to Drafts, though, for allowing users to pick from any font available to the system, including ones installed through AnyFont.
  • File Management – Apple added the Files app to iOS, and its a good start, but has so far to go to truly make it a pro-level file management tool. In addition, there isn’t any ability to plug in external storage to my iPad Pro, in spite of the fact that it has a USB-C port.
  • Multi-Tasking – iOS has a very rudimentary multi-tasking system, which allows you to place multiple apps onto the screen at the same time, in floating panels, and in split views. It works, but is fiddly to use, with delicate gestures required to bring up the dock, drag apps over each other, and position them. In addition, there is no way to have multiple “windows” of an app used in different multi-tasking sessions. I think Apple is definitely innovating here, looking for new ways to approach multi-tasking than traditional window management. In many ways, iOS multi-tasking reminds me of tiling window managers, just… not as good. I’m hoping for good news on this front at WWDC.
  • Web Browsing – Safari is an awesome browser. But, on the iPad, too often websites give you the mobile version of their site, rather than serving up the “full size” website. In addition, there isn’t any sort of download manager, or support for extensions other than content blockers.
  • iSH – I have heaped praise on iSH above, and it really is pretty incredible. Its also an open source project, and is rapidly improving… but its not there yet. Things I’d love to see added to iSH that would greatly improve my experience: custom font selection, better performance, compatibility with additional software, tabbed sessions, and a choice of a different base operating system than Alpine Linux.

Conclusions

Overall, I am thrilled with my iPad Pro, and really excited to see where Apple is headed with iOS for “pro” users. There is so much to like, and massive potential for improvement. While I don’t see the iPad Pro displacing my laptop anytime soon, I think it will become an important part of my workflow.

 

Why I'm supporting the IndieWeb (and you should too) - MarketGoo

Great post from Wences García of MarketGoo on the IndieWeb. I met Wences and the MarketGoo team a few years ago, and was so impressed with their culture, energy, and values. Its fantastic to see them sharing those values with the world in such a positive way.

It’s still too early to reach any conclusions, but I’m feeling better now that I control my own content and that I’ve found a place where to post my content freely and without fear.

But will be the Indieweb movement be the solution to save us all? The struggles I had at the beginning setting up my IndieWeb on a WordPress website have prevented me from thinking that way.

It’s clear that the IndieWeb needs to be more convenient, otherwise non-early adopters will not even get close to this movement.

I think Wences is right that with many building blocks now in place, it is important to start making the IndieWeb more user-friendly. Its no coincidence that Wences' web presence is now on Micro.blog, which is a much more approachable platform.

 
 
 

Listened to Episode 122: Video hosting

Rolling out video upload and hosting for Micro.blog-hosted sites, why it’s priced the way it is, and more improvements to work on.

By Timetable

 

Listened to Episode 120: Shipping tomorrow

Taking a break today to watch the Apple services-related event. Preparing new Micro.blog features to release tomorrow.

By Timetable

 

Sorry for the noise earlier, Micro.blog friends. I have added automated tracking of my video game habits to my site - https://cleverdevil.io/content/play - but forgot to filter it out of my Micro.blog feed.

 

Listened to Episode 51: More questions and answer with @manton

It’s time for another episode of Ask Manton. We collected questions from the Micro.blog community and talked about some of the features and issues on your mind, in particular: Portability and Backups Possibility of Private Accounts Adding photo collection grid and “On This Date” memories to Micro.blog and more Thanks to everyone who submitted questions. We’ll do this again in another couple months. In the meantime, you can ask @help or email help@micro.blog.

By Micro Monday

 

For Micro.blog users using micromemories to create an "On This Day" page, I've added some clarification to the README for users with custom themes – https://github.com/cleverdevil/micromemories#requirements.

 

Listened to Episode 4: I Made a Pikachu Pancake

Your hosts are back, and they recap Jonathan’s vacation to Maui, discuss sharing special places with family, debate hotels vs. resorts vs. condos, follow-up on some tech topics, and finally talk about balanced parenting. Oh, and Eddie’s cat happens. Blog Post: Tracking My Movie, Tv and Podcast Activity Overcast Micro Monday You can find out more about Eddie and Jonathan at their respective websites: Jonathan is cleverdevil.io Eddie is eddiehinkle.com For past episodes or to subscribe to future episodes, visit us at twodads.fm.

By Two Dads Talking

 

@benwerd Two thoughts: 1. Micro dot blog is a great, IndieWeb-friendly platform that is accessible to consumers. Not fully there yet, but a good model. 2. I like the idea of something like serverpilot.io, which separates the underlying infrastructure from the management.

 
 
 
 

Similarly, Micro.blog users may have noticed issues with my microgram project, where photo grid pages wouldn't display some photos. This is caused by an upstream issue with Micro.blog and image thumbnails, and is being worked on!