I woke this morning to see the weekly discussion of “What is #IndieWeb and what is not” flared up again last night. Eventually someone points to the principles page. Yet to the audience I serve these set of core ideals can chase folks away for being too technical. So I wanted to remix them to see if I get develop the same principles for a non-technical crowd.

I started by forking the original list and trying to make the language more inclusive. I did add one new principle about actively building for diversity as like all things tech #IndieWeb is too white and male.

This is just a starting point and this draft is not official #IndieWeb stuff. Just me having fun trying to help the community.

Current #IndieWeb Principles

  1. Own your data.
  2. ???? Use visible data for humans first, machines second. See also DRY.
  3. ???? Make tools for yourself first, not for all of your friends or ”everyone“. If you design tools for some hypothetical user, they may not actually exist; if you make tools for yourself, you actually do exist. It’s extremely hard to fight Metcalfe’s law: you won’t be able to convince all your friends to join the independent web. By making something that satisfies your needs, and is backwards compatible for others, e.g. by practicing POSSE, you benefit immediately, without having to convince anyone else. If and when others join, you all benefit. This principle is also known as scratch your own itch (See also: The Cathedral & the Bazaar lesson #1).
  4. ???? Use what you make! AKA eat your own dogfood. Whatever you build you should actively use. If you aren’t depending on it, why should anybody else? We call that selfdogfooding. Personal use helps focus your efforts on building the indieweb around your needs and consistently solving immediate real world problems. selfdogfooding is also a form of “proof of work” to help focus on productive interactions.
  5. ???? Document your stuff. You’ve built a place to speak your mind, use it to document your processes, ideas, designs and code. At least document it for your future self.
  6. ???? Open source your stuff! You don’t have to, of course, but if you like the existence of the indie web, making your code open source means other people can get on the indie web quicker and easier.
  7. ???? UX and design is more important than protocols, formats, data models, schema etc. We focus on UX first, and then as we figure that out we build/develop/subset the absolutely simplest, easiest, and most minimal protocols & formats sufficient to support that UX, and nothing more. AKA UX before plumbing.
  8. ???? Build platform agnostic platforms. The more your code is modular and composed of pieces you can swap out, the less dependent you are on a particular device, UI, templating language, API, backend language, storage model, database, platform. Modularity increases the chance that at least some of it can and will be re-used, improved, which you can then reincorporate. AKA building-blocks. AKA “small pieces loosely joined”.
  9. ???? Longevity. Build for the long web. If human society is able to preserve ancient papyrus, Victorian photographs and dinosaur bones, we should be able to build web technology that doesn’t require us to destroy everything we’ve done every few years in the name of progress.
  10. Plurality. With IndieWebCamp we’ve specifically chosen to encourage and embrace a diversity of approaches & implementations. This background makes the IndieWeb stronger and more resilient than any one (often monoculture) approach.
  11. ???? Have fun. Remember that GeoCities page you built back in the mid-90s? The one with the Java applets, garish green background and seventeen animated GIFs? It may have been ugly, badly coded and sucky, but it was fun, damnit. Keep the web weird and interesting.

Drafted Principles for the Rest Of us

        1. Own your data. Having a domain and website is the first step. Why should you give big social media companies rights to everything you make?
        2. ???? Learn a bit of HTML. Start off with a website “out of the box.” Everyone else did. but a major goal of the IndieWeb is to make sure people and not just machines can understand how your website works. The best way to do this is learn HTML over time
        3. ???? Use IndieWeb Tools A lot of good people make tools that allow to POSSE, Publish on your own site and syndicate elsewhere, It’s extremely hard to  convince all your friends to join the independent web. By using our tools to making something that satisfies your needs you benefit immediately, without having to convince anyone else. If and when others join, you all benefit. This principle is also known as scratch your own itch (See also: The Cathedral & the Bazaar lesson #1).
        4. ???? Try first, ask second! AKA eat your own dogfood. Whatever you build you should actively try and use.  We call that selfdogfooding. Personal use helps focus your efforts on building the indieweb around your needs and consistently solving immediate real world problems. This stuff is hard and the community is here to help but assistance is easier to provide when you first try to help yourself.
        5. ???? Learn Out Loud. Document your stuff. You’ve built a place to speak your mind, use it to document your processes, ideas, designs and code. As you start your IndieWeb journey. At least document it for your future self.
        6. ???? Open source your stuff! You don’t have to, of course, but if you like the existence of the indie web, making your content open source means other people can benefit. Depending on how you licesne the work they can remix and reuse it. This makes the IndieWeb quicker and easier.
        7. ????Content is more important than design. Do not worry about building the perfect site. Just get your content out there. That is step one. Then think about the user experience and the design. Storyboard your website or draw protocols. Make sure you meet accessibility standards.
        8. ???? Create building blocks of your idenitity. As you build your site you will want to make sure you can move parts to other services. The more your website is composed of pieces you can swap out the easier it will be to switch websites hosts in the future.
        9. ???? Longevity. Build for the long web. If human society is able to preserve ancient papyrus, Victorian photographs and dinosaur bones, we should be able to build web technology that doesn’t require us to destroy everything we’ve done every few years in the name of progress. If you own your content you don’t lose it when social media shuts down.
        10. Plurality. With IndieWebCamp we’ve specifically chosen to encourage and embrace a diversity of approaches & implementations. This background makes the IndieWeb stronger and more resilient than any one (often monoculture) approach.
        11. Plan for Diversity Actively encourage people from under represented groups to the #IndieWeb. Learn to listen to other communities. Find out how they #IndieWeb can help and then invite others on the journey. Be careful in your language as we build communities. Words like “ninja” and “rockstar” may not resonate. 48 hackathons may not be open to all. If you plan #IndieWeb events think about childcare and low bandwidth communities.
        12. ???? Have fun. Before the rise of social media everyone’s websites were different. For example in the mid 90’s Remember that GeoCities pages may have, garish green background and seventeen animated GIFs? It may have been ugly, badly coded and sucky, but it was fun, damnit. No we all look the same. Keep the web weird and interesting.


      1. Featured Image credit: “community” flickr photo by LilySusie shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Concluding my All-In #IndieWeb @WordPress 14 Day challenge

Over the last few months I have engaged in 14 day challenges to learn something new or hack on stuff I already do. This past two weeks I decided to go all in on WordPress IndieWeb. I found the experience full of joyful frustrations, new understandings, and a community of wonderful people trying to build a better web.

Even though just having your own space or domain is all you really need to  make a site part of the IndieWeb there are tools you can use to connect to a larger community.

This revolves around a type of markup called microformats2. This is a special bit of code added to the HTML on websites. This  allows sites to talk to each other and share information about an author using tools called APIs.

I wanted to see if I could just use WordPress.

My Previous Set-Up

I ran my blog on WordPress for long-form writing. Most of my IndieWeb interaction used my Known blog

In fact I spin up Known instances like most people add clothes to a wardrobe. Each MOOC or pop up learnign expericne I do requires a new set of clothes.

Yet I found my self intrigued at David Shanske and Chris Aldrich’s set up where all life gets documented from one canonical domain.

So two weeks ago I set out to do the same.

What Did I Accomplish?

I began by first trying out my current theme Hueman. It has an on and off again working relationship with IndieWeb. After getting some help I realized I needed to try a new theme for the full experience.

I tried SemPress, ZenPress and then settled on David Shanske’s 2016 fork. These themes all have the correct micoformats but the 2106 fork had the post kinds I liked.

IndieWeb, using  microformats 2, has a taxonomy of different types of user generated content called post-kinds. These can range from RSVPs, notes, articles, to the latest jam you checked out.

I then added the post-kind menus by copy them from Chris’s page. You can see the list of all my different posts on my homepage.

I also continued my UX research with users completing two more interviews. The WordPress cognitive labs project will continue even though my 14 day challenge is over and regardless  of where my workflow ends up.

Finally I took Alan Levine’s Dimension theme, forked it, and then added microformats. I have to tweak how some of the code works. This was my first time editing a WordPress theme beyond a few header changes. I want to thank Alan for all his help. I will continue to make sure a pretty web based business cards has the semantic markup to be “just as pretty on the inside.”

What I Didn’t Finish?

I never got micropub working. That’s a bummer. Micropub is a special API, one of those tools that allow two websites or sevres to talk, that allows you to publish to your website using different apps  I got a tease how awesome writing and hanging out became with a micropub client. No matter how hard so many people tried we just could not figure out a solution. I want to thank Tim Owens, David Shanske, Michael Bishop, Aaron Pernacki, and Mathais Pfefferle for many tireless nights trying to get me going.

I am a WordPress user so I am used to this. One plug-in breaks another and you don’t know why something stops working until you play a round of plug-in whack-a-mole.

Bummed but I was never broken. WordPress builds resilience. You know at any given time something some where will break something else over there.

I never finished the edits to the Press This plugin to make it compatible with Post-Kinds. This was a just never got around to it and was supposed to account for the lack of micropub.

What Did I Learn?

A major goal of this porject was to see if I could roll out IndieWeb WordPress for my students. I can’t, and that is okay. Most of my students are starting their first website. Just getting them online is enough,

I also learned so much about how we can do outreach and what kind of support the IndieWeb WordPress community needs.

What Do I Believe?

First the folks behind the IndieWeb Community are amazing. The entire house of cards is built by 3-4 people. They all  rock.

I also believe a larger focus should be put  on bringing more themes in microformat2 compliance rather than trying to maintain new themes.

I believe we need to move away from trying to propo up a plug-in palace and raise forking armies to invade existing WordPress spaces. Sure some plug-ins have to be there to run off site like Webmentions, micropub and others. I just wonder if we would be better off trying to get semantic linkbacks and microformats into existing themes.

The IndieWeb community needs to think about a release cycle for all plugins. Again this entire project is supported by a few people. They give up almost every weekend. In many cases each plugin is maintained by one person.

This can cause issues. One plugin may introduce a conflict in another plugin. We need extensive plugin beta testing before releasing in the wild.

A lack of an “unofficial” release cycle also makes documentation difficult. You don’t know if you should use the file in GitHub or the native “More Details” page included in As a nontechnical contributor I want to help with documentation but its hard when change is the only constant.

What Will My Future Entail?

I do not know. My old workflow was better. Mainly because the flow worked. It didn’t on WordPress. Trying to keep up with Twitter chats while syndicating each tweet from the WordPress editor was impossible. When I was doing this with Known the process worked. I knew how each post-kind would display and a change to the Bridgy plug-in or my theme would have zero effect. I do love predictability.

Yet I know my IndieWeb community (remember its a domain and community not a set of tolls and compliance) all live on WordPress. Hard to be the teacher when you don’t model tool use.

I also loved the idea of housing everything I do in one space. Yet I also thought about my different audiences and collapsing contexts.

Up next is my 14 day Drupal IndieWeb experiment. You can see me launch it tomorrow night the Virtual Homebrew Website Club.

featured image credit: <a title=”Indie” href=”″>Indie</a> flickr photo by <a href=”″>carnagenyc</a> shared under a <a href=””>Creative Commons (BY-NC) license</a>

Thinking about sessions for the #IndieWeb Summit

As I am wrapping up my two week experiment with going all-in on #IndieWeb WordPress I have had the pleasure of learning from so many great people. I recently discussed session ideas with David Shanske and Matthias Pfefferle about different ideas as we brainstormed sessions.

My ultimate goal is to provide the documentation support to David and Mathias and other people who work on the technical side. I want to provide as David suggested, “a functional solution.” Here were some ideas I had:

A WordPress Theme Developers Guide to to the #IndieWeb

As I finish my two week WordPress experiment I am using Alan Levine’s new theme publishing posts under a variety of conditions and then checking out how microformats2 get rendered based on post kind. Be cool with folks to work on best practices to creating IndieWeb child themes. Each we can focus on our favs or the most popular. I chose Dimensions because I think the whole #rhizo #ds106 and Virtually Connecting crowd would dig how #IndieWeb stuff works. Many of them will use what Alan build because when the cogdog barks you howl back.

I also want to try to do the same with Hueman. I like that theme and I think it will just be a matter of removing bad microformat classes. This could have great benefits for the WordPress #IndieWeb community. Creating some rules for folks would rock.

You Rock - You Rule

You Rock – You Rule flickr photo by Skyflash shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Post-Type Discovery Pages

Text structure matters as much on the front end as it does in the back end. During my experimenting folks shared the Post Discovery Pages on the wiki. Anyone trying to learn how to update their blog with microformats2 would love this resource. We can make it better. The pages describing each post kind lack parallelism. Compare the page on note, article, and bookmark. Some post kind discovery pages like article stubs while others could pass Kerouac novels. Any easy but important update to the wiki would involve designing a template and make each post-kind that links from the post-discover page to match each other. We need to make the layout of wiki articles as predictable as basic math.

school math GIF

What I build

In #IndieWeb spirit you showcase something you have hacked together. For me I am working on three pieces academics and teachers could use. A static page for a professional organization, a syllabus, and a course website. Each resource will use CSS Grid and microforamts2. I am trying to keep the HTML as plain as possible to encourage sharing and remixing. Some day not in the distant future I hope to use these as th backbone for a decentralized LMS and professional network.
origins hacking GIF

Can we have an #IndieWeb webmentions credentialing system? #OpenBadges

Many have come to know me as an inquisitive skeptic when is comes to badging. Yes I believe we need to remediate assessment. Yet I know the introduction of measure changes learning, and always felt we used a huge system for what boils down to a dichotomous measure. You either earn a badge or you don’t. It is a checkbox with a bit of metadata.

Over the past few weeks I have discussed this in the #IndieWeb channels with Aaron Parecki and Tantek Çelik if we could use webmentions as a credentialing tool. When you think about it an #openbadges boils down to two permalinks: the task, with criteria and evidence; and the learner artifact with evidence of learning.

In this example the teacher would put a target url to a task that has mark up for criteria and evidence such as

They then enter in the url to the student work.

You add a badge image and indicate if it is awarded. The webmention would be sent to the students post and to the class website. The hcard of the teacher and the organization would act as endorsement.

other option for credential

In this example, a bit easier technically as only website gets parsed. The teacher adds in the url to the learner evidence and puts the criteria and evidence for the credential in the body of the post.

Then some kind of ledger or validator like my Bridgy page (above) or (below) would create a permanent record outside of both both the class website and the source of learner evidence.

What do people think? Can we do it? Should a badge just be two permalinks and not a gigantic protocol with quasi-open stewardship of the standards?

Hey #literacies #lra18 #engchat #nctechat Recruiting Experts for @scsu Pop Up Podcasts in June

I love using expert panels in my online classes. So much more rewarding than a narrated slidedeck.

So this year I am changing it up.

I will do a Pecha Flickr for every topic to start the week.

Then I hope to offer a 15-20 minute panel of experts. If you like doing popup podcasts here are the topics and dates:

  • Week of 5/24 Emergent Literacy, Phonemic Awareness, Concepts About Print
  • Week of 5/31 Phonics
  • Week of 6/7 Running Records
  • Week of 6/14 Writing and Vocabulary Instruction
  • Week of 6/21 Comprehension  and Dialogical Reading

If you want to join the show, either ping me on Twitter, drop an email, or better yet write about on your blog and drop a link below my comment box to create a webmention.

Opening Up Digital Teaching and Learning II

Last night’s #edtechchat revolved around the kind of learning that must go into #edtech before students even sit with a machine. It boils down to Make. Hack. Play. Learn, regardless of the medium or mode. Yet  I also know we need a critical focus on building ethical tech and modeling these values for our students.


Together… flickr photo by Photo Cup 2014 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

I believe we need to focus on attitudes and not just the  computational thinking that empowers the use of technology.

I believe as public school teachers and public university professors we have a responsibility to work in the open and share our efforts back to the Commons.

I believe a pad and a pencil is the most useful piece of #edtech equipment we can give to any child.

Identity not Content

So much of the talk revolved around content creation. I am not usually worried about most of the crap that kids make at school. My focus is on the crap that happens that makes the child. Too often this pile of stink is being algorithmically served up to children. See the first generation of the web built the tools we use as they were doing their identity work as young children and adults. Today this identity work is being sold back to our children hidden behind social feeds.

Their brains (yours too) are under attack from daily notifications scientifically designed and  tested to act like drugs.

As educators we have a responsibility to seize back the web for our our children.

For me that starts with privacy by empowering folks to own their data and their identity by having their own domain.


Identity flickr photo by Michelle Hyacinth shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Digital Teaching and Learning II

During the #edtechchat I shared a course shell I made that day using CSS Grid (tt was my first time trying CSS Grid instead of a Bootstrap website so I may have made a few errors).

After words folks were asking about my recent #indieweb efforts and I threw out an idea of teaching a free mini-course this summer. By the time I woke up I had ten requests for the class.

So I needed to switch it up. Instead I decided to open up my Digital Teaching and Learning II class that I will be offering this summer from July 13-August 18th. Most of my classes are taught openly (students always have the option of publishing privately) and through RSS so why not step it up for a high level graduate class?

(Below are notes that are subject to change often)

Goals of class

  • Be fun and worry free.
  • Create a GitHub Account and build the world’s simplest website by learning to fork, or remix, a repo.
  • Create a website of your own with both long format blog posts and short posts such as replies, bookmarks, and status updates.
  • Post critical reflections on current trends in #edtech
  • Build an online course of an existing unit or class you teach using HTML and CSS Grid (you don’t need to know anything. What can’t be learned can be copy/pasted and if you copy and paste enough you edventually learn).
  • Utilize web standards like microformats and protocols to create a network of scholars free of silos.
  • Design a learning pathway to meet your needs.


How will this work?

Everyone will choose a hosting package and start up a website with a blog. If you already have a website and blog, that is awesome. 60% of the classwork is done. If your website is on a platform like, medium, blogger, weebly, or edublgoger we will work with you to migrate it to your own space. If you are already running from your domain even better. 75% of the classwork is already complete. Then we will help you add #indieweb technologies.

GitHub, Is that scary?

Not really. I was afraid at first but remixing on GitHub is a lot like copying a Google Doc. Especially when you will be using really small HTML files like we will. In fact we will do most of the learning in Glitch which will allow us all to contribute and remix each other’s work. Luckily Glitch and GitHub do a great job of talking.

My school just uses G Suite so can I still take this class?

Sure, and if you want to hone your Google Classroom, GDoc, or any other skills you can build a personal pathway towards that in You will just share your learning and any materials you make on your website. Open is an attitude and we can still plant the seeds in our children using any tool.

I don’t know any HTML can I still participate?

Yes, you do not need any specialized knowledge. Students enrolled in this class never dealt with anything beyond the WYSIWYG editor in Digtial Teaching and Learnign I. Nobody will be light years ahead.

We will always start with templates. Learning HTML is like learning a sonnett. Once you know the pattern it’s easy to follow. You will be able to build your website without really having to change any of the html tags.

If you are a website guru I welcome you as well as I am learnign as I go. Developers and engineers can really benefit from hanging from regular folks to see how instruction is different from documentation.

Can I take the class for credit?

Yes this is a graduate level course. It is your responsibility to check with your current insitution to make sure the credits would transfer. Students participating in the course for credit will have extra responsibilities around documenting their learnign and developing a personal learning pathway.

When can I learn more?

I will be designing the course materials throughout May and early June. You will be able to see a finished product sometime after that. However I will be documenting each step of the way so if you follow me across the web it will be hard not to learn more.


Big Impact with Big Data: Towards a New Research Design

This is part one of a two part series on my opening keynote of the Big Data Smart Technology Forum held at Tianjin University of Technology on October 13.

I come to you today with a challenge. We have a problem in educational research and I hope we do not recreate inequities of the past in our era of Big Data.

For example, An examination of results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a common Big Data source, provides a bleak picture of educational progress in the United States.

First in the United States centuries of systemic racism have left massive scars on our great nation. As you can see your chances of born into poverty often have more to do with ethnicity and race than any other factor.

These disparities translate into the classroom. As you can see White and Asian students consistently outscore their peers on the NAEP Assessment. In each f the three years highlighted significant differences remain.

The United States Federal Government throws a lot of money at this problem. Last year the Department of Education spent over 15 billion dollars.

The Institute of Educational Sciences, alone invested over 600 million dollars in research.

Yet if you look at trends in NAEP scores they remain virtually flat. We see some gains in early reading scores but these fizzle in the upper grades and poverty and race still play a major role explaining variance in scores.

I ask you, “Why?” Many of you here today seek degrees in management statistics but you do not need a PhD to understand that 15 billion dollars and no change in progress is a bad Return on Investment.

We need a new paradigm for educational research and Big Data analytics overall. For too long our higher educational systems reinforces inequities and concentrates wealth amongst the elite rather than the people. We chase citations rather than helping communities.

I ask each of you in your respective fields to think back to how many studies over the last forty years have been truly influential. Research that has changed lives? I know for many of you you can probably count these studies on one hand. Again a bad ROI. So where does all this money go?

It doesn’t make it into the communities or our classrooms. Instead we create a false scarcity of intellectual capital. University professors, usually themselves from privileged backgrounds, apply for grants, train new PhD students, do research, and publish in journals that few folks will ever read. Our elitist economy runs on a currency of citation counts. The kicker… the public must pay exorbitant fees to publishers in order to read the research that their tax dollars already paid for. It is a double taxation cloistering money in the hands of the few while the many suffer.

I challenge you today to move our focus out of citations and into the community. In order to have a big impact with Big Data we need a new research paradigm. I turn to the field of community engaged scholarship which grew out of the nursing fields.

This methodological approach suggests we merge our research, teaching, and service into a common direction of helping the communities in which we live. Our research should focus on people not participants. They must be involved in the work and not simply a sample size. Significance should have as much to do with community impact as it does with p-values.


Yet in this era of Big Data I take community engaged scholarship a step further. Today I call us to an emerging field of digitally engaged scholarship. I define this as an interdisciplinary approach of designed based research using distributed talent and networked technologies to open source our knowledge creation for the greater good of both local and global communities.

Interdisciplinary Research

First digitally engaged scholarship must take an interdisciplinary approach. The problems the world faces are too big for one person, or even one nation to solve alone. Pollution, climate change, education. We must all work together.

We also need specialists when it comes to big data. If you try to master all of the fields necessary in Big Data you will be a master of none. In this room we have folks from public health, management, statistics, and public health. Let’s work together.

We will need front end and back end engineers to help scrape, collect, and and analyze data. We need management statistics teams well versed in Python, R, Hadoop and libraries that someone in this room may soon development.

You can’t do it alone.

Formative Design Based Research

We can trace our empirical designs and scientific inquiry back to Kantian humanity. Our commitment to objectivity has guided science for centuries. I say its time to embrace our subjectivity. Have clear goals rather than just questions. Louis Pasteur wasn’t just searching for answers when he developed methods to ensure food safety. He had a problem to fix. Do the same.

Digitally engaged scholarship requires the use of Design Based Research techniques. These methodologies draw on many names but I use the work of Reinking and Bradley in their understanding of Formative Design.

Overall the goal of research should not be fidelity of models but forkability to local contexts. We need interventions centered in the community that utilize inclusive methodologies that allow for iteration.


Distributed Knowledge

I also challenge you to rethink our definition of memory and cognition. In our Western traditions we have placed great emphasis on the self. Yet what if knowledge does not reside inside my brain. What if my memories are situated in the interstices between us, our environment, and our communities?

As the web explodes in size our external knowledge storage tools grow in vast size and complexities. Each of you in your pocket has more computing technology than humankind first took to the moon. As China prepares for the next moon landing I challenge us to rely on the networks that distribute knowledge across the globe.

Networked Technologies

It took the book 800 years to spread across the globe. Moveable print emerged in both China and Europe. Still in almost a millennia literacy reached only a fraction of the world’s population. In contrast the web has spread to a billion people in just under thirty years. A billion people, and in the next decade another billion will come online. No technology for reading and writing as spread with such speed.

We must take advantage of this opportunity while also protecting the way we read, write, and participate from emerging threats. Large multinational corporation suck up our data and sell it to the highest bidder. If we are not careful a new digital colonialism will emerge that will repeat the errors of our past. We must fight for a future in the world of Big Data where we empower people through privacy. You should control your data rather than handing it over to the Google’s and Facebooks of the world.

Improving our Communities

Let’s use Big Data to Build a better tomorrow not just focus on the bottom line. Like community engaged scholarship digitally engaged scholars serve the greater good. Let us use Big Data to not simply understand the past but to light a beacon on where we should head next.

Now let’s look at a few examples of where Big Data can be applied in educational settings and then you folks, as experts in your respective fields can help me help the world. Second half of the talk is here.