What is the IndieWeb?

Over the past several years, you’ve probably heard me or other web geeks talk about the IndieWeb, but just hearing about it doesn’t necessarily tell you what it actually is, exactly. The reality is that it’s both sort of complicated but also, at its core, really simple! If you do anything online with other people it’s definitely worth understanding and knowing more about.

At its core, the idea of the IndieWeb is that rather than participating in the public web on sites owned and operated by others, you do it on your own website, managed using whatever mechanisms you are most comfortable with, with some fairly-simple protocols for sites to then communicate with one another.

It’s not really any one specific thing, so much as a set of ethics and standards to follow to give people control over their own experience online. It’s people driving practices, which inform protocols. There is no one specific piece of IndieWeb software that you must run in order to participate; instead it’s a set of loose agreements about how to participate, with some simple, mostly-optional protocols to make it work better.

But I know that’s extremely vague and unhelpful, so here’s my attempt at writing a practical guide for what the IndieWeb is and how you can participate in it!

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Warning signs with social media platforms

In the aftermath of the issues with the major social media platforms, there have been a number of initiatives to reclaim social networking in a way that makes sense for people, with safety and personal control being at the forefront of a lot of peoples' minds.

However, many of these initiatives which have often showed up out of the blue have a bunch of red flags, and somehow people aren’t noticing them when they decide to commit wholeheartedly to a new platform. I think it’s worth sharing some of those warning signs, as someone who’s been around the block a few times.

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Twitter extrication

Today was my last day using Twitter, unless something changes entirely. I have done the following, and suggest others do the same:

  • Went through all of my connected applications to make sure that everything that I was using Twitter to log into now has a username/password login; the only two things I couldn’t fix on my own were Webtoon (which I don’t care about) and Imgur (which I hardly ever use), so hopefully I can get their respective support folks to help me out
  • Disabled my ifttt Twitter autopost stuff, so this blog entry will not show up there
  • Disabled my Mastodon-Twitter Crossposter connection
  • Folded my indieweb.social account into my actual Mastodon account, since there were a bunch of people following me on one but not the other, and the only reason I had the indieweb.social one was for Twitter-crossposting purposes
  • Discovered I had literally hundreds of pending follow requests from mastodon.social, mostly spammers or thrown-away “just checking out Mastodon” posts from a year or two ago, gah
  • Posted a transitional post to my #novembeat thread which moves my remaining posts over there; however I’m not sure if this will actually work, because of how Mastodon threads work, and I might have to just start a new thread or something
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Deactivated my Nextdoor again

My second experiment with trying out Nextdoor has come to an end, after I gave it an even fairer shot than last time.

I won’t go into the details of what happened because I really don’t want to even think about it, but here’s my “suggestions for improving the site” on my deactivation form:

This place sucks and every time I try it again, it turns out to be irredeemable. Any technical fix I can think of is minor compared to the deep-seated social issues which come about from everything about both the site structure and the moderation model, and it doesn’t help that once you become the focus of toxicity there is no way to escape it.

At the very least, hiding notifications about a post should also hide notifications about people replying to your comments on that post or the like.

All I was doing was letting folks know that a racist word is racist, and I’ve had an unending barrage of people spewing hatred and ire at me for it. I muted the worst offenders but there’s just so, so many.

This feeds into my greater disdain for modern social networking, and every time something like this happens (as well as an ongoing situation on Mastodon that is, again, something I don’t want to really get into right now) all I can say is: I miss blogs, and if you want to follow me, the best way is with a feed reader.

Distributed toxicity and the IndieWeb

This tweet has been making the rounds in IndieWeb spaces, and reflects a thing I’ve been thinking about on and off lately for obvious reasons:

I’ve seen several other related sentiments lately; with a certain prominent politician being deplatformed from all of the mainstream social media platforms, and all of the platforms that accept him being in turn shut down or otherwise made ineffective, people have been (quite reasonably!) wondering what happens if he ends up starting up his own IndieWeb site, and causes a resurgence in self-hosted or otherwise privately-run, single-author blogs.

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Social media break

Yesterday I decided to take a break from social media. This was for a number of reasons, but they all boil down to my increasing frustration with how interactions occur in rapid-fire quick-sharing spaces, and this has been growing for quite some time.

The microblog format significantly changes the way people interact. Every post is short and taken out of context (while everyone expects everyone else to have the full context already), which makes it impossible to have a as meaningful conversation especially when a short notion spreads far and wide. I feel that it is a big part of what’s dividing everyone in a never-ending search for clout that devolves into a shouting match.

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Slowcial networking

Over on IndieWeb Chat, Kevin Marks linked to this wonderful essay about social media that is absolutely worth reading, and examines a part of the “personal social networking” thing I’ve been on a kick about lately but didn’t quite have the words for.

For me, a big part of the problem with social media as it stands today is that everything’s about fast, immediate, in-the-moment dissemination of Hot Takes and viral propagation and so on, and that’s a design that so many of the other indie-focused social networks are trying to replicate. I’m not much a fan of microblogging or protocols which exist to make it the norm (which is why I’m still not particularly interested in supporting ActivityPub natively in Publ!) and I like being able to take some time to expand on my thoughts and not have to chunk things up into 280-to-500-character chunks and worry about fixing my spelling and grammar and phrasing right then and there.

I like being able to sit on things for a few days, and add addendums without it being a whole new post, and I like having feedback come slowly and measured. Yes, I get quick replies and a variety of favorites-like reactions via Webmention and other things, and I do appreciate that in this little nichey corner of the web this is a way that people can interact with me, but I’m not really writing for an audience so much as writing for me and my friends, and hoping that the things I write also maybe resonate with folks who happen to read it.

I still use Twitter and Tumblr and Mastodon quite a lot (much more than I’d like, really) but that’s not how I prefer to interact with folks. I don’t even try to read everything that people post there, and I have no idea how anyone can think of timeline-oriented streams-of-updates services as a place where you’re going to be able to. I just occasionally glance at them to see what’s going on and maybe interact with others in the moment, and spend much more time wondering why the hell I even bother trying to communicate in that way beyond “it’s how everyone else communicates today.”

My big concern about my blogging habits here is that I’m mostly talking about the platform itself. Blogging about blogging is so dreary. Hopefully soon the new-toy shininess will wear off and I’ll get back to using this as a means of talking to my friends about other stuff. I certainly have a lot of other stuff coming down the pike, at least. Hopefully some of it turns out well.

I guess it’s mostly just that what I have to write about is what I’m working on, and this is (mostly) what I’m working on. If I were working on other things they’d be getting posted to other parts of my site.

Not-unrelatedly, I really want to get back into making comics.

Stuff, and things

Last night I had another mini-spiral, brought on by making a joke in someone’s chat that didn’t land at all well. Which set off a cascade of bad intrusive thoughts. But I’m over it now.

I did decide from that to cut down on the spaces I’m chatting in. I’m spread too thin and need to focus my attentions on the things that are important to me, rather than the things that simply take up time.

Today the Dove Self-Esteem Project posted another Steven Universe short, this one about social media, and it reminded me that I’m long-overdue for cleaning up my Twitter follows. Given that I have, um, rather a lot, it’ll take me a while to KonMarie my way through them, but I think it’ll be worth it.

This also comes back to a lot of what I’m dissatisfied with in social media and modern communication these days. Everything’s about instantaneous updates and push notifications and micro-posts and conversations and so on. It’s a big reason why I’m not a fan of ActivityPub. It’s also the part of the IndieWeb focus that I’m less thrilled about (granted, IndieWeb is about a lot of things, and it’s not like I have to participate in every part to still make a meaningful impact). I keep saying how someday I’ll get around to writing a blog entry about impedance mismatches between what I like about blogging and the ActivityPub/Webmention/etc. world. This isn’t that entry.

Anyway, this is the… third? I think? day of my nortriptyline reduction. Which is to say I’m still at 30mg. My doctor agrees that we should try something else. Gabapentin will probably be the next thing I try, since it’s something that a lot of my spoonie friends have said works well for them (with caveats). I probably won’t be starting on that until August, though; it’ll take me a few more weeks to taper off nortriptyline, and then I’ll be doing Song Fight! in Madison (and hopefully not being in complete agony between the travel and the playing guitar all weekend). Meanwhile I think the magnesium might be helping as well.

Tonight I did practice a bunch of my Song Fight! material and actually managed to play for a decent amount of time without suddenly finding myself in agony. Which was a nice surprise. So I’m feeling a lot more confident in being able to play a full set in a month. And meanwhile I’m still doodling around with music for games and stuff. So maybe this is a good sign of things to come.

I guess I’m feeling cautiously optimistic for now. Which is better than how I felt two days ago, I tell you what.