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Featured Technology Web Development WordPress

The Open Web

The most powerful aspect of the Internet is the open web. From the very beginning, there has been a conflict with on one side walled gardens and closed networks with open standards and interoperability on the other.

My first experience with an online world was dial-up into AOL and exploring their internal experiences. Only rarely did I click the button to go into the unknown and wild internet. AOL controlled everything within their experiences.

For awhile, we had a golden age of blogging. People would comment on each other’s blogs. If you wanted to write a novel in response to someone, you did–on your site. When you did, a trackback or, later on, a pingback would automatically alert the original post and a little ad-hoc social network between two sites was created.

Feed readers provided a place for people to aggregate their blogging experience. From there, easy publishing and content aggregation fell in love and gave birth to social networks. This path wasn’t intended or necessarily in mind when Facebook or Twitter started, but nevertheless.

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In all of this, having your home belong to you is important. A business whose online presence is their social media page is placing all of their eggs in one basket hoping that it isn’t in the platform’s business interests to change the system to your detriment. Even on site-builder platforms, which do give you your own website, do not give you any means to take that content with you whenever their platform or your needs change.

Having a home that you control is important, but now you have to maintain your main online presence and your Facebook page and your Instagram account and your Twitter feed and maybe blog on Medium too and so on and so on. The open web is being lost.

I want to see the WordPress ecosystem do more toward building up the new open web. Whether it is directly in Core or experimented with via Jetpack, there is a large user base who would benefit by modern and advanced open web technologies. There is a solid group of folks who believe in an open and independent web who have helped create standards and systems to interoperate, but it’s hard to gain adoption without the baking of something with the heft of Facebook or Twitter.

micro.blog is what turned me on to the modern standards. Micro.blog aims to be, more or less, an open Twitter. You can pay them to run your microblog or it’ll pull in your WordPress site (a special site just for your microblog or, in my case, just a category). Reading more about the tech behind it, such as webmentions–which I had heard of before but never took the time to read up on it–gave me a new excitement for the future of the web that I haven’t had in awhile.

What can we do to help continue this excitement? WordPress has considerable pull. When it supports something, it gets noticed. If we can figure out how many make webmentions work well, would Facebook or Twitter begin to support them in some way?

To this end, I would like to dedicate some of my free time toward exploring this more. Specifically:

  1. Update the PuSHPress plugin. It is currently on WP.com and available for self-hosted sites using an older version of the now-called WebSub W3C candidate recommendation. Automattic already has that much and it gives me a good place to start.
  2. Find small places in Jetpack that we can work toward supporting these efforts in a frictionless way. One example is storing Publicize URLs locally so plugins like Syndicated Links can use that information. In this case, with a Facebook or Twitter link stored in Syndicated Links, a service like brid.gy can better get webmentions sent to your site. It isn’t required, since they’ll likely have links back to your site already, but again, small things to close the gap.
  3. Determine what could webmentions support in WordPress naively look like. What makes sense to be added to Core and how to make it expandable in a way that doesn’t tie our hands down the road. (Post formats, anyone? Pretty soon after they launched, the issue of not enough structure on how they worked ended up resulting in a pretty random experience. 3.6 tried to fix it, but, in many respects, it was too late.)
  4. More broadly, think through how else we can positively include ripe standards. Like a recent Jetpack fix to make our recipe shortcode compatible with Schema.org.

The hard part is keeping the end user in mind. I’ve recently setup a few pieces of indieweb concepts on my site, but it isn’t something that I would expect my wife or a random end user to do. It isn’t obvious why one would do this, it is a bit clunky, the workflows aren’t straight-forward yet. I think they can get there.

The dream isn’t to return to the past before social media, but help make social media part of the web in an organic way. For this post, you can like it or comment it on via this site, WordPress.com, Twitter, or Facebook, but all of the comments will appear here using Webmentions. The closed gardens will still exist, but it’ll make it easier for people to reach out between them.

I know I’m very late to the party after a tiny bit of research I’ve done so far. I’ve seen the same names pop up all over the place. These folks have worked very hard to get where it is now and I’m sure they know of dozens of roadblocks I couldn’t imagine today. But, I hope that, even if I’m late, there’s still room at the table.

How about you? What would you like to see move forward in the evolving open web?

Categories
Microblog WordPress

Matt and Om at WCEU 2017

Until the polished version is out, you can watch today’s WCEU Q&A with Om Malik (@om) and Matt (@photomatt) via the livestream video. I’m excited to see what we can do to improve the open web.

https://youtu.be/e88INrSX5yk?t=1h7m7s

Categories
Microblog WordPress

Tonight, I reset my MySQL root password and pulled a subsite out of my multisite into a new single install while maintaining all options, media, etc. I expect to be recruited by the NSA any minute now.
Categories
WordPress

Happy Anniversary to Me!

I would have never guessed nine years ago that trying out this WordPress thing would end up like this. From toying a bit when all of the Movable Type help I sought online suggested WordPress to having 70 core commits so far and providing the income for my family for years.

My only regret was waiting between discovering WordPress and diving into the code.

Categories
Reflections Technology WordPress

Writer’s Block

39 and 8.

Tonight, I sat down at the computer ready to publish a post that I started a week ago. “Hmm”, I thought to myself, “this topic isn’t as topical as it was. I’ve read this point since I thought it was an original idea.” Move to trash.

I started going draft-by-draft seeing if there  was something started that I could tweak and publish. First, I realized I had 39 drafts in limbo between the private and public realm. Some were Press This posts to news articles long outdated. Some were very rough notes on an idea. Some were pretty fleshed out posts whose time as passed. Lastly, there were a couple that might be good to finish.

The oldest draft was eight years old. Eight!

My voice has mellowed over the years. I’ve had a personal website for 20 years, a blog for the last 14 years. If you look back over the years, this site was a journal—sharing that I registered for classes on a particular day or mentioning my opinions on hot button political issues of the day ( 😱 I know!). Over time, this site has become more of my “press office”, announcing every major career move, major family event, new plugin or WordPress feature. My post when we found our we were having twins ushered in the most views in a single day ever by a factor of three and just a tad more than my post about the third time I registered for classes in Fall 2004 😉.1

I’ve pondered to myself what is the point of this site? A public soapbox of personal rantings without any clear theme, except stuff I that find notable? The headquarters of my personal platform connecting an audience to my thoughts and opinions on a definite subject (that eventually will convert them to buy my book, join a membership to access my amazing self-help guides, or whatever else)? A static information hub for those needing help install Genesis eNews Extended or fiddle with Jetpack or other technobabble to help prove my position as a thought leader in the WordPress space?2

As Automattic, or more properly, Knock Knock WHOIS There, LLC, moves forward with launching .blog with the founders—like John Maeda’s design.blog or Matt moving his photoblog to matt.blog—I’ve paused to go deeper into thought to re-examine the 2016 definition of a personal blog.

Old GIF showing a 3D castle overlaid with "My Homepage My Kingdom"
This was from my late 1990s-era site.

I don’t have an answer yet that I’m satisfied with, but when I do, I’ll be sure to post it here.

 


  1. Back then, I liked the style of all lower caps for titles and didn’t know how to programmatically make that happen. Can you imagine my wonder when I figured out CSS! 
  2. I’m not saying I actually am a thought leader in the WordPress space. I just try to make the web a better place by a little bit every day. If anyone else pays attention, cool. 
Categories
Funny WordPress

Knock Knock WHOIS There?

You can still have fun while being corporate and while doing legal processes. One thing that brings me joy at work is to hear of the names we come up for entities.

There’s Automattic, of course, named after Matt. We have a few subsidiaries in other countries to help streamline employment matters for Automatticians in those countries. Aut O’Mattic in Ireland, Automattoque in Canada, Ministry of Automattic in the UK, Ausomattic in Australia, and so on.

There are a couple more I really enjoy: Knock Knock Whois There, LLC and Knock Knock Whois Not There, LLC.

Knock Knock Whois There is the .blog registry, the company that “owns” the rights to .blog. KKWT will coordinate with domain registrars who will actually sell the domain names to regular folks like you and me.

The second, Knock Knock Whois Not There, LLC is our private registration provider, a company that will proxy for you when registering for a domain name so you can keep your personal information private.

For the less-techy, “whois” is an old computing term for looking up, literally, who is the person behind the user name or domains name.

Our team names are, of course, pretty random and full of backstories, but those are internal names How many people know or care that I was on the “Aurora” team? Or that our sister team that we coordinate with is “Zen”. Or that an interteam squad between the two exists called “Dash” representing the dash from A-Z? Oh, you care? You’re probably the only one. 😝 I’m now the lead of the Earth team, which is one of four “elemental” teams that work together (Earth, Air, Fire, Water).

I really appreciate that we can have fun with external, official legal names. So, often, these things are the realm of groups of people trying to either sound so bland that no one will notice, or full of random buzz words, or something else boring.