I facilitated two unconferences this week. On Monday with our company The Green Land we hosted a 90 minute unconference on (the future of) open government. It was a sweltering day, without much wind. Held on the rooftop of our office building, we had precisely the amount of shade needed to keep all participants out of the sun. With some 20 people from around our network we compared notes on open government, civic tech, and potential collective action. Having built the program with the group I participated in conversations on public versus market roles, what ‘sticks‘ we have in our toolbox when working towards more open government, and the Dutch Common Ground program.

A group in discussion
Groups in conversation

The program
The program

We ended with a fun ‘open government pubquiz’ led by my colleagues Frank and Niene.

(At CaL earlier this month in Canada, someone asked me if I did unconference facilitation as work. I said no, but then realised I had two events lined up this week putting the lie to that ‘no’. This week E suggested we might start offering training on how to host and facilitate an unconference.)

Björn Wijers demoing, with Dylan, Neil and Julia in the photo looking on

Most of yesterday’s participants returned today to get under the hood of their websites and build something. I didn’t attend in person, but participated remotely in the opening session this morning, and the demo’s this afternoon. The demo session has just concluded and some cool things were created, or at least started. Here are a few:

Frank Meeuwsen worked on an OPML importer for Aperture, a microsub server. This way it is possible to import the feeds from your existing RSS reader into your microsub server. Very useful to aid migrating to a new way of reading online content.

Jeremy Cherfas worked on displaying his gps tracks on his site, using Compass

Rosemary Orchard, extending on that, created the option of sharing her geo location on her site for a specified number of minutes.

Neil Mather installed a separate WordPress install to experiment with ActivityPub, and succeeded in sending messages from WordPress to Mastodon, and receive back replies.

Björn Wijers wrote a tool that grabs book descriptions from GoodReads for him to post to his blog when he finishes a book.

Martijn van der Ven picked up on Djoerd Hiemstra’s session yesterday on federated search, and created a search tool that searches within the weblogs of IndieWeb community members.

That concludes the first IndieWebCamp in Utrecht, with a shout-out to all who contributed.

It’s a wrap! The first #indiewebcamp in Utrecht was a lot of fun. Thank you to all participants, @frankmeeuwsen for doing the heavy lifting (I had to bail), and Johan Adriaans for providing the shoppagina.nl venue this weekend! #indieweb See you at #indiewebcamp Amsterdam in September?

This is a quick exploration of my current and preferred feed reading patterns. As part of my activities, for Day 2, the hack day, of IndieWebCamp Utrecht.

I currently use a stand alone RSS reader, which only consumes RSS feeds. I also experiment with TinyTinyRSS which is a self-hosted feed-grabber and reader. I am attracted to TinyTiny RSS beacue 1) it has a database I can access, 2) it can create RSS from any selection I make, and it publishes a ‘live’ OPML file of feeds I track, which I use as blogroll in the side bar.

What I miss is being able to follow ‘any’ feed, for instance JSON feeds which would allow tracking anything that has an API. Tracking #topics on Twitter, or people’s tweets. Or adding newsletters, so I can keep them out of my mail client, and add them to my reader. And there are things that I think don’t have feeds, but I might be able to create them. E.g. URLs mentioned in Slack channels, or conversation notes I take (currently in Evernote).

Using IndieWeb building blocks: the attraction of IndieWeb here is that it makes a distinction between collecting / grabbing feeds and reading them. A Microsub server grabs and stores feeds. A Microsub client then is the actual reader.
Combined with Micropub, the ability to post to your own site from a different client, allows directly sharing or responding from a reader. In the background Webmention then works its magic of pulling all that together so that the full interaction can be shown on my blog.

The sharing buttons in a (microsub client) reader like Monocle are ‘liking’, ‘repost’ and ‘reply’. This list is too short to my taste. Bookmarking, ‘repost with short remarks’ and ‘turn into a draft for long form’ are obvious additions. But there’s another range of things to add about sharing into channels that aren’t my website or not a website at all, and channels that aren’t fully public.

To get things under my own control, first I want to run my own microsub server, so I have the collected feeds somewhere I can access. And so I can start experimenting with collecting types of feeds that aren’t RSS.

#indiewebcamp Utrecht off to a good start with 9 ppl on site, and me remote. Day 2 is about building things for the #indieweb, with live streamed demo’s at 15:30. Topics range from opml importers, reader syncing, federated search, visualisations for discovery, and more.

I will try to clarify my own routines on reading feeds: what is my current process, what demands does it make of my tools? How well do building blocks like Microsub and -pub map on to that?

I may also take a look at the code of the Yarns WordPress plugins, how it stores feeds. I am interested in tagging feeds (not articles). Most of my feeds are people (Frank’s blog, Peter’s blog etc), and with tags I can make subsets across feeds like “show me what indieweb folks are up to today” or “I’m visiting Vienna, let’s catch up with the Viennese in my reader before contacting them for a meet-up”.

But first, coffee!

It was a beautiful morning, cycling along the canal in Utrecht, for the first IndieWebCamp. In the offices of shoppagina.nl about a dozen people found each other for a day of discussions, demo’s and other sessions on matters of independent web activities. As organisers Frank and I aimed to not just discuss the IndieWeb as such, but also how to tap into the more general growing awareness of what the silos mean for online discourse. To seek connection with other initiatives and movements of similar minded people.

P1050053Frank’s opening keynote

After Frank kicking off, and introducing the key concepts of IndieWeb, we did an introduction round of everyone there. Some familiar faces, from last year’s IndieWebCamp in Nürnberg, and from last night’s early bird dinner, but also new ones. Here’s a list with their (personal) websites.

Sebastiaan http://seblog.nl
Rosemary http://rosemaryorchard.com/
Jeremy https://jeremycherfas.net
Neil http://doubleloop.net/
Martijn https://vanderven.se/martijn/
Ewout http://www.onedaycompany.nl/
Björn https://burobjorn.nl
Harold http://www.storyconnect.nl/
Dylan http://dylanharris.org
Frank http://diggingthedigital.com
Djoerd https://djoerdhiemstra.com/
Ton https://www.zylstra.org/blog
Johan https://driaans.nl
Julia http://attentionfair.com

After intro’s we collectively created the schedule, the part of the program I facilitated.

20190518_115552The program, transcribed here with links to notes and videos

Halfway through the first session I attended, on the IndieWeb buidling blocks, an urgent family matter meant I had to leave, just as Frank and I were starting to prepare lunch.

Later in the afternoon I remotely followed the etherpad notes and the live stream of a few sessions. Things that stood out for me:

Federated Search
Djoerd Hiemstra talked us through federated search. Search currently isn’t on the radar of indieweb efforts, but if indieweb is about taking back control, search cannot be a blind spot. Search being your gateway to the web, means there’s a huge potential for manipulation. Federated search is a way of trying to work around that. Interestingly the tool Djoerd and his team at Twente University developed doesn’t try to build a new but different database to get to a different search tool. This I take as a good sign, the novel shouldn’t mimic what it is trying to replace or defeat.

Discovery
This was an interesting discussion about how to discover new people, new sources, that are worthwile to follow. And how those tactics translate to indieweb tools. Frank rightly suggested a distinction between discovery, how to find others, and discoverability, how to be findable yourself. For me this session comes close to the topic I had suggested for the schedule, people centered navigation and personal information strategies. As I had to leave that session didn’t happen. I will need to go through the notes once more, to see what I can take from this.

Readers
Sebastiaan took us all through the interplay of microsub servers (that fetch feeds), readers (which are normally connected to the feed fetcher, but not in the IndieWeb), and how webmention and micropub enable directly responding and sharing from your reader interface. This is the core bit I need to match more closely with my own information strategies. One element is that IndieWeb discussions assume sharing is always about online sharing. But I never only think of it that way. Processing information means putting it in a variety of channels, some might be online, but others might be e-mails to clients or peers. It may mean bookmarked on my blog, or added to a curated bookmark collection, or stored with a note in my notes collection.

Day 2: building stuff
The second day, tomorrow, is about taking little steps to build things. I will again follow the proceedings remotely as far a possible. But the notes of the sessions about reading, and discovery are good angles for me to start. I’d like to try to scope out my specs for reading, processing and writing/sharing in more detail. And hopefully do a small thing to run a reader locally to tinker.