Searching for my #IndieWeb WordPress Exit Plan

exit sign at disco
I spend time with each of my children tracing the exit routes in our house. We draw diagrams and review the procedures. They each need to know how to handle an emergency such as a house fire.

Everyone needs an exit plan. Including me.

No not running from a burning building but from my website. The smoke I smell rises from the ashes of my WordPress install.

A bit of history

I have blogged since 2003. Wow fifteen years, but still pretty late to the game. By 2003 the apex of blogging had past and soon social media silos would start sucking the life out of the web. From 2003-2007 I blogged on a class website, posts lost for ever.

In 2007 I switched over to blogger. Once I left the classroom I lost all my content and I wanted to make sure I would own what I wrote. I began to use blogs in all of my middle schools and higher education classes. I started to research and present at major conferences about blogging with students. I hung on blogger until 2013 when I moved to WordPress. I have lived there since.

In 2014 I heard Erin Jo, Kevin Marks, and Ben Werdmuller talking about IndieWeb and Known. I had tried some of the early IndieWeb stuff on WordPress but it wasn’t ready. So I set up a Known instance to handle my social stream. I then proceeded to spin up a ton of Known instances for open classes such as Connected Learning MOOC or Rhizo15

I loved Known and none of the IndieWeb stuff really worked on WordPress yet, at least not with my theme, and how my content looks is just as important to how well it connects with others. So I settled keeping WordPress for longform writing and doing all my social stream on Known.

I still did a majority of my interactions on social medi. I hadn’t quit facebook yet and I was a prolific Tweeter. Then on April 17, 2018 when I was hosting a conference on digital literacies and equity I decided if I would interact with social media it would be from my own domain. Since that date any content on social media has originated from my own domain and syndicated to silos.

The summer of 2018 I began a series of 14 day #IndieWeb challenges. In my first challenge I took two weeks to dive deep into microformats, the markup that powers the IndieWeb. I then spent 14 days trying to learn enough CSS Grid that I would never have to touch bootstrap again. My next 14 day challenge would be to try and go all in on IndieWeb WordPress.

Three months later I am ready to throw in the towel.


Credit Reuters

Why I Want to Leave WordPress

My 14 day challenge became a three month sojourn as I felt obligated to use WordPress. I onboard peiple tot ehweb first through wordpress.com and then wordpress.org. Feels wrong as a teacher to make students do something you are not doing. Even at the loss of pedagogy I need to move on.

No Webmentions

IndieWeb WordPress simply doesn’t work, at least not for me. I have never sent a webmention from my website unless I do it manually. This requires me to post the url of a blog entry to someone’s webmention endpoint. The only webmentiosn I can send are those that run through Bridgy and Twitter or micro.blog. Any native webmention from my site fails. I have never once past a test on webmentions.rocks.

The IndieWeb community suspects there is something wrong with my shared host. My shared hosting company says something must be wrong with the plugins. Nobody can help me, many have tried. IndieWeb WordPress just doesn’t work, at least not for me.

Timeouts on Bridgy

Bridgy is an amazing tool. I can post to Twitter and GitHub and get replies back as comments on my website. The problem, you guess it, doesn’t always work for me. It takes forever and a day for me to post soemthing once I hit Publish. Like 10-15 seconds long. This causes timeout errors on Bridgy and I may have to update a post 4-5 times before it successfully publishes to Twitter with Bridgy.Bridgy screenshot
In the above images you can see how many times posting failed using Bridgy. Now this has nothign to do with the service and everythign to do with my blog, but still IndieWeb WordPress just doesn’t work, at least not for me.

Limited Theme Support

When I went all in on IndieWeb WordPress I had to abandon my theme. Only three themes in the entire WordPress universe play nicely with IndieWeb toys. None of these have the modern visual full width layout I want in a WordPress theme. Each has it’s own quirks and broken parts.

None of the three themes (there are four but Independent Publisher is woefully out of date and no longer under active development) look the way I want. I had to add a pagebuilder, which gets you dirty looks from WordPress users, to make my site appealing to me.

It gets better all the time. David Shanske and Mathais Pfefferle are heroes who work tirelessly yet the “scrtch your own” itch model of development doesn’t work for theme development. No one can code well alone. We have made progress with community repos and code reviews for plugins but the model of one person per theme can not be sustainable.

Natural Learning Curve

It might be time to leav WordPress because I am ready to move on. A natural progression in the life of a blogger. I rarely write outside of a text editor, and would often rather just manually add

I just followed <a class="u-follow-of" href=“$url”>$Title</a> by <a class="h-card" href=“$url1">$name</a>

rather than try and hack around in some plugin so it can inject one line of html.

WordPress Too Klunky

So much breaks in WordPress. Each WordPress update and you have to fear what theme or plugin broke. Each plugin update may reek havoc on thirteen other plugins. Then you try to diagnose the problem every forum or customer service rep tells you the same thing, “Disable every single WordPress plugin and then turn them on one by one. When you find the plugin causing the conflict delte that plugin.”

A constant Sophie’s choice of services you want is no way to live.

choice to surf or go to town
Choices, choices flickr photo by aloharakesh shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

What I Want

I want control. I want a blank page of HTML and I a style sheet I can control. I like full width websites rather than a 660px container. I want to send webmentions. I did get addicted to the flexibility of post types David Shanske built into the post king plugin. I want all the post types, even the experimental ones.

My Options

It maybe some time before I start th move from WordPress. This is about developing the exit plan. Not jumping from the plane while I try to put on the chute.

I am considering three choices:

  • Building a static homepage and throwing Known on a subdomain like https://jgregorymcverry.com/blog. I know how to use Known and everything IndieWeb just works. I also dig Marcus an Ben. They are good folks and I want to support.
  • Trying Perch. I just cam across this service reading what folks were doing at IndieWebCamp Oxford. You get a CMS with no front-end theme. That is kind of what I like. I just worry if I have time during semester for such a manual approach.
  • Ruby on Rails. We built ReVIEW Talent Feedback System so using FrancsiCMS and Rails also makes sense. Heck I could even think about spinning up users blogs as a form of portfolios so I can kind of double dip by trying Rails solutions

I am open to suggestions from friends and those in the #OpenPedagogy and #IndieWeb community. I love WordPress, it helped me grow immensley. I just think the two of us finally need to say goodbye.

Featured Image: Emergency Exit at the Disco flickr photo by .v1ctor Casale. shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

3 responses on “Searching for my #IndieWeb WordPress Exit Plan”

  1. Replied to Searching for my #IndieWeb WordPress Exit Plan by Greg McVerry Greg McVerry (jgregorymcverry.com) It maybe some time before I start th move from WordPress. This is about developing the exit plan. Not jumping from the plane while I try to put on the chute.
    Hi Greg,
    I’ve had my own struggles with getting IndieWeb working here too. I’ve a fair bit I still need to sort out.
    I wish I had a bit more time to play/work with this stuff, I don’t think I’d fix any problems but I might get things here working more to my liking.
    I do think that WordPress is the best chance of getting the IndieWeb working for the rest of us. The other approaches seem to technically daunting for me.
    On getting webmentions to work I found the WP Crontrol plugin useful. It lets you see the webmentions queueing up and you can run them manually. That might be worth a punt.
    Anyway, good luck and I’ll be very interested to see what you come up with.

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