December 27, 2016
December 13, 2016
December 11, 2016
November 22, 2016
November 12, 2016
November 5, 2016
October 23, 2016
#Owlcat exploring the hole in the porch I fell through
October 11, 2016
June 9, 2016
IndieWeb Summit 2016
Developers, designers, and writers gather in Portland for the sixth annual flagship IndieWebCamp
I spent this past weekend at the 6th annual IndieWebCamp in Portland, newly christened the “IndieWeb Summit” (to differentiate from other camps throughout the year in the US and Europe). IndieWebCamp is a community of developers, designers, and bloggers working to help people publish on their own websites and just generally have more control over their data. A great thing about the community is everyone tries to (and is encouraged to) be pragmatic, positive, kind, and open-minded; there is very explicitly no one right way to do things. This is not the “all venture-funded corporate services are surveillance spyware selling your data to the highest bidder” crowd.
We were incredibly fortunate to have an amazing photographer documenting all three days. Having a bunch of beautiful photos to pull from makes writing about it is so much fun. Also: it was really hot. So hot I considered ignoring this advice. Climate change is being unkind to the Pacific Northwest.
On Friday we met with some other organizers for a half day of brainstorming about how to build the community and improve events in the future. This was a new thing, and was honestly maybe my favorite part of the weekend. We spent some time talking about how to be more welcoming to a larger group of people, which took on two primary aspects: how we can improve our embarrassing lack of diversity (demographic, geographic, and areas of expertise), and how we can redesign the website and chat rooms to be more inviting to people who are understandably turned off by IRC or a wall of text on a wiki.
The event itself is modeled on a BarCamp, with one day of small group discussions, proposed and organized in the morning, and then a hack day where everyone tries to implement, write, or design some small thing for their website, with demos at the end. There were sessions on webhosting, accessibility, static sites, syndicating to 3rd party services, WordPress, Camlistore, microformats/structured data, building for the long web, and lots of others. Discussions run about 45 minutes and always go too quickly.
One of the attendees was a man named William Mason, who is totally blind, and I think he probably gave us thousands of dollars worth of free accessibility consulting (it turns out our tooling — Slack, IRC, and Mediawiki — are all particularly bad for vision-impaired users). Knowing that we were mostly working on projects for ourselves or a small handful of people, in our spare time, he encouraged us to give some thought to how making our software more accessible for vision impaired users might help us make better software in general. I learned that screenreader software and movable braille displays are exorbitantly expensive (being a captive market and all), but Apple builds screenreading into their products by default, so they are overwhelmingly popular in the blind community. Also he and his partner brought everyone cupcakes 😍 🍰
Another personal highlight, bonafide tech hero Scott Hanselman came by around lunch time on the first day, and his kids demoed their hand-coded website My Hamster Blog (he and his brother will be thrilled if you visit and increment the site counter).
The demos were really impressive; they ran the gamut from debugging installations, writing blog posts, conducting surveys, to putting together the building blocks of an indieweb search engine. Ben posted photos of the demos on his website, including a particularly unflattering one of me.
For my hack I added a super basic service worker to my feed reader. By giving it a little bit of caching and offline support and a simple manifest.json file, Chrome rewards you by loading the page more like a real first-class app. I was pretty pleased with the result of a couple hours’ work, and I’m really enthusiastic about this Progressive Web Apps thing (especially for hobby projects like this where there’s no way you could write and maintain Android and iPhone apps) — which is apparently wholly separate and kind of the opposite of Instant Apps.
One more takeaway: lots of us left feeling encouraged and excited to write more long form stories/journals/articles, even if it’s not great prose.
Sometimes I leave these events overwhelmed by how much (software and social) work there is still to do; but this time I definitely left Portland energized and excited. And full of frozen yogurt.
June 5, 2016
IndieWeb Summit 2016 discussion day
Following Shane’s call-to-arms (to write more than 140 characters at a time) and gRegor’s lead and to spite Sandro who doesn’t want to read it, I wanted to write a little bit about day 1 of the IndieWeb Summit while it’s all still fresh.
Observation: I’m an odd mixture of excited/energized and sleepy. Keep yawning through conversations I’m super interested in hearing. I’m incredibly happy to be part of this community. And I’m proud that I get to act as any kind of “leader” within it, even though that is so not my normal mode.
Sessions were excellent. First thing we talked about web hosting and how we can make it accessible to a wider audience. Shared hosting sucks and really limits the type of software you can run; VPS requires major intense UNIX knowledge and time and effort; PaaS’s are great but still very technical and kind of expensive for people just screwing around with a personal site. I really latched on to the idea of sort of a co-op model where friends share space, and have one or a few dedicated sysadmins… sort of like tilde.club or that server your friend ran in college, with someone who’s excited to help their friends (a small group of people who know and trust each other) setup/admin/run their sites. The admin would provision and install software manually until some parts become awful, and then automate those pain points (and hopefully end up with something (re)useful). This feels like an “in”, where typically the hosting issue just feels totally impenetrable to me.
(This might be a terrible idea that will create horrible security and/or ruin friendships)
Eric led a session on Camlistore. Together with a podcast about IPFS I listened to recently, I guess I’m starting to get it, sort of? Content addressable static resources part makes a ton of sense, but I haven’t connected the dots on the mutable layer on top of that (in either Camlistore or IPFs). I’d like to learn more about that because naively I’d expect that to be the weak link in terms of longevity — You have a terrabyte of SHA1’ed data that you can check and verify, but if the (mutable) index gets corrupted, how do you find anything?
Closing out the afternoon, I found a comfy couch and listened in on a session on longevity lead by Emma.