Can the #IndieWeb Improve Better Readers and Writers Online?

I have long believed the best way to improve student reading and writing performance in online environments is to provide students with their own domain on the web. In fact in the ten years I have studied children reading and writing online I believe our skills around reading and complex problems solving have declined as we retreated into walled gardens.

Why? The rise of the silos

The earliest research in critical evaluation came not from educators but from marketers looking to improve how a potential audience would view their sites as credible. This development cycle lead to better presentation and ease of use of web based tools. This phenomenon exists in our devices and our networks. Markets will always respond this way.

Soon the users are left with few decisions  to make. Three decades later students now get fed an algorithmic news feed in an environment that behaves in ways they do no not control. Their friendships and social hierarchies get influenced by the feed. Children, and more often their parents, readily share treasure troves of personal data.

Fake news. How did we get here?

When alumni of the New Literacies Research Lab get together to talk “fake news” we shake our heads. We know how we got here.

You ignored us. Our schools were either not nimble enough or failed to heed the warning. We rang the storm bells as loud as we could.

For almost two decades now we warned of the imminent need to teach critical evaluation skills. Study after study demonstrated a generation of students could not or would not examine multiple sources beyond very surface level cues.

Worse we found with online reading comprehension we might actually amplify historically rooted and persistent achievement gaps. Children living in poverty have fewer opportunities and less quality instruction. We have found a statistically significant difference exist Even after controlling for prior reading ability students of color and low SES students, using free and reduced lunch as control variable, score below the mean of their richer peers. While the differences existed in critical evaluation you can also conclude that no student in our studies (5-7 year old data now) really paid sourcing any mind.

Others have found similar results.

We knew that the literacy spaces our students live in became increasingly networked and reading must socially complex texts unfolding in real time present great challenges to students. In fact we built a simulated internet inside a social network because we knew networks would drive knowledge. In fact our chat bots, before chat bots were a thing, tried to coach and influence students from a messenger like interface. Primarily that is how we delivered assessment items.

We knew we knew almost nothing about synthesis across these spaces except a few efficacy tests of graphic organizers and think aloud protocols. Yet we knew multiple source reading and argumentative writing were key and tried to embed learning events into role play. Important work continues in this area. We will explore a variety of tools that both assess and train students to integrate information.

More importantly interest driven inquiry or reading across perspective fueled places changes the reader and the text. We have long called for the use of tools to aid readers (Coiro and Killi doing awesome work here). In fact we have developed theoretical learning environments that combine encountering bias read alouds with social networks environment. In fact Ian and I had put in an NSF grant to build this space. This grant will build on these efforts.

While we examined the sociocognitive acts of reading others investigated new literacies from a more sociocultural perspectives and documented how students lived their literary and adolescent lives online. Originally the web was built by people as they did their identity work. Children today are no different except they do this work in social spaces designed to manipulate their interest. The algorithmic feed controls their social interactions. In today social media landscape the identity work of our students is often for sale to the highest bidder. Agency is central to reading and encouraging people to own their data in spaces they control is essential to the future of the web.

Fake News? Where Do We Go

We also believe the path to becoming a better reader relies on becoming a writer. Children excel in production based literacy environments. The critical evaluation of online sources is no different. Any classroom exercise around sourcing must involve readers reflecting on their process and interacting in social spaces for reading. Webelieve the best way to do have students understand how the web shapes meaning is to use the web to make meaning. Part of any intervention should embrace students publishing on their own domain with parents and students in control of their privacy.

We also believe that technology tools can assist in both the measurement and development of writing skills.

We also believe teachers should be central in educational research. Part of any intervention must encourage educators to build, share and remix resources while reflecting on their learning in the open. We can not tackle critical evaluation alone. Furthermore we must recognize that our teaching corps requires a basic understanding of how you read and write on the web and the lack of skills in our teachers is a national crisis. Students will never be ready for computer science classes in middle school and high school if they are taught by educators who can’t add a link in an email let alone build a web page. By encouraging teachers to network through the use of OER sharing we can address the lack of skills.

Literacy and technology is just a much disciplinary literacies than it is a digital literacies or new literacies. There is no tech industry anymore. Each field as specific ways of being and language used in online spaces. In every industry this has meld with some level of computer science. At the heart of each of these grammar and syntaxes is HTML.


Does participation in a simulated reading environment while encountering bias think-alouds lead to increased critical evaluation skills and improved argumentative writing?

What affect does writing from their own domain have on self-efficacy measures of a writer?

What affect does writing have on student opinions about the influence of media and social media on their health and identity?

Can a learning platform that assesses writing growth, coaches students, and empowers teachers to create a reflective network of student websites that driven by feedback?

My Idea. Yours Welcome Here!

I want to apply to this grant with a concentration on reading and writing. We would create a series of biased read alouds either simply using embedded videos that trigger on point or click or possibly remixamble WebVR built on Aframe where students could have greater interaction with avatars.

At the same time every student in the study will be given a domain. They will use this as their writing space. There will be specific tags for different types of writing.

Using other technologies called microsub and micropub APIs, a teacher control dashboard will be created that allows the educators to write comments to students, see comments they leave each other, give private feedback, add sources for students to read, watch conversations across chat.

At the same time meta data parsers and machine learning will be collecting and tracking growth of specific writing traits. Chatbots will be available to the teacher and the student to improve their writing.

This would be a multi-year grant.

Basic timeline:
Year One- Curriculum and Tool Development
Year Two- Formative Design Research
Year Three- Efficacy Study using Switch Replication Design
Year Four-Analysis and Tool Refinement

Get Involved

Reach out if you would like to get involved with the grant. The Letter of Intent is due 6/22 and the Application would need to be wrapped up by end of July to get all the appropriate approvals.

We have locked away our content behind LMS silos for too long. This has lead to academics and taxpayers being exploited. Instead of us all recreating the wheel at each university academics should ban together and start remixing and publishing our courses in the open.

I believe the easiest way to accomplish this is with a basic static website that focus on plain old simple html (POSH..note real acronym contains semantic but I simplified for audience). I will be using these templates in my instructional design class: and

Yet I have begun working with on building a citation generator because doing citations in correct APA and microformats is a huge PITA.

That got me thinking could we build an entire static site generator that would spit out the HTML folks could then host on their own domain. So I took out the ruler and graph paper.

The goal would be a connected repo where I can make updates that would publish to both the syllabus and the course.

J Gregory McVerry, Sketc cc-by-sa

On the first screen a new user would add biographical data. This would turn into the h-card that could be embedded through the project.

On screen two all of the courses created by the user would be listed and their would be an add new course button.

After selecting new course the user would be taken to screen three. They can add the top level info for an h-entry on the homepage. They can also add objectives and readings that could be embedded throughout the static site. For citations I would plan to fork the citation builder from @ncsu. Given our struggles to build one.

From there you can go to the page selector screen and choose to add pages. Choices include syllabus, home page,  module page, and a markdown notesd page.

jgmac1106 sketch, two, CC-BY-SA

Then on each page type you will have a section selector. This will change based on page type. For the syllabus you have course description (prepopulated), biographical data (pre populated), objectives (pre populated), tasks, readings (pre populated), and a blank text areas. All modals for adding sections are included in last page.

jgmac1106. Sketch3, CC BY-SA

On the homepage you sections would be a pre-popluated heading. Then you can choose from featured image (build by forking @cogdog’s CC Flickr Atribution tools), featured video, Description, task, and assessment.

jgmac1106. Sketch4. CC BY-SA

On the module page you add featured image, featured video, description, task, and assessment.

jgmac1106, sketch4, CC-BY-SA

Some of the section elements will require an additional modal to collect the data. And thatis about it. I could imagine this being all the UI I would need to a static site IndieWeb course generator. Of course anyone can sketch this out with graph paper. The real skill will come from the plumbers who lay the pipes to make it all work.

Continuing to build #IndieWeb Citation machine: h-cite markup for APA

In this post I describe the efforts of Martin and I to develop a system to create APA citation with the proper microformat2 markup.

Martin built an amazing first prototype: I am now trying to write the formatting for the major APA types.

If you are in digital humanities I could use the same help with MLA

APA Formats


<p class="h-cite"><span class="p-author h-card">Gee, James, Paul </span> <time class="dt-published">(2018)</time>. <span class="p-publication" style="em">Anti-education era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning. </span>.<span class="p-locality">New York</span>: <span class="p-publisher>Macmillan</span></p>

Chapter in Book

<p class="h-cite"><span class="p-author h-card">Family Name, Given Name</span><time class="dt-published">(2018)</time>.<span class="p-name">Chapter title</a>. In <span class="h-card">Editor Given Name first initial, Family Name</span> (eds.)  <span class="p-name" style="em">Title of Book</span>(pages of chapter).<span class="p-locality">New York</span>: <span class="p-publisher>Macmillan</span></p>

I will keep adding to these I we move along. If you want to contribute please hop in and add citation styles as an issue in the GitHub repo.

Notes from Virtual Homebrew Website Club: Blogging 101 edition

Well Cathy and I did not have any students looking for Blogging 101 help so we spent the hour in an #IndieWeb support group.

Cathie Leblanc:

#indieweb @cathielebland: I am focusing on content right now. When I go on contract I will be general education coordinator. The exciting thing about #indieweb is my phD is in CS but I have moved away from the technical This is getting back to technology

I am running into lots of issues. Starting on a project like this I am not sure the wiki format is best way to present information. I am still struggiling to get my head around it.

Greg McVerry:

@gwg and @chrisaldrich doing a great #indieweb podcast to help

Cathie LeBlanc:

I can’t get #indieweb to look aestheically like I want so I have started a different WordPress installations for notes, and different articles, and photos.

Greg McVerry:

go to listen @gwg last podcast and he explains why he used taxonomies and not custom type.

I demonstrate how I use the exclude categories plug in to only publish articles and then have the different archive pages for each.

Cathie LeBlanc:

Showing why she uses a different WordPress theme for each of post kinds to get the aesthetic look she wants

Greg McVerry:

Working with @cathieleblanc to go through each of her individual WordPress instances to check all microformats. A lot of plug-ins don’t work on many of her themes

Cathie LeBlanc:

That visual aspect of making your website is going to be important. I love the sematincs but we need to worry about how things look

Greg McVerry:

I want my notes page to look like @cathieleblanc‘s

If I am going to do this with my students I can’t send them to the wiki for help. I need to make them a guide.

Cathie LeBlanc:

The pencast @chrisaldrich did was super helpful. It juts needs to be shorter students won’t sit through the whole thing.

Greg McVerry:

If I do it with my students and I say pick one of these three themes. That just feels “unindie”

Cathie LeBlanc:

Even what you just said to me, that I have enough of an h-entry on my post but some thigns are missing that was super helpful. Do the kids need indpenendence or do we force them to be semantically correct

Greg McVerry:

We may do a virtual IndiewWebCamp with #highered folks doing #DOO who want to focus on #indieweb but the big choice is do we force them into a theme.

Cathie LeBlanc:

Well force isn’t forced if it is knowledged based decision. Explain to kids why those three themes work

We need to make the tools easier to understand and easier move. This movement to decentralized software good..if you can do plug and play…we just aren’t there yet. It’s really hard for a human to understand how all the pieces fit together

Greg McVerry:

@cathieleblanc and I will make it our mission to try and and get the archive of photo post kinds to display in a grid format. Feel free to help..We will need it.

I explain to @cathieleblanc how indigineous app for Android and we talk about the future of microsub reader.

Here’s My Forking Flower #tdc2336 Flower Maker

Last night I was discussing this with Aaron Parecki:
generations diagram
I drew up this image.

indieweb network illustrations
I awoke to find this:
So I forked my photo to a flower:
indieweb flower

featured image a remix of "Flower" flickr photo by DJ-Dwayne [Returning in 2015/16] shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license and "Who Mentions Who in my Twitter network" flickr photo by Matt Biddulph shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license


Finally Conceptualizing Microformats

When I first started to hack around with microformats and learning Tantek tried to slow me down. He tried to get me to focus on POSH first.

Yes eleven years later Tantek had the same message of Plain Old Semantic HTML. I didn’t listen. I mean I heard but I didn’t understand. Now I get the point.

Community over Documentation

I had brought something I was working on to the microformats channel of indieweb. Martijn van der Ven and Tantek helped me understand exactly how microformats worked.

After weeks of reading wiki pages I got a handle on it after a five minute conversation (that is if you discount the tinkering and the lurking which prepared me for being open to conversation) and I hope as a community I can help improve documentation or help build step by step guides for the less technical.

What are microformats

Microformats are a bit of code you add to html that allow other stuff on the web to recognize people, events, and posts. You add microformats like you do CSS. Most microformats boil down to  h-card, which are semantic business card and an h-entry, which if you think about a newspaper is the headline, author byline, and the mast (top) of the paper. This is the information which follows around the stuff you put online. There are other types of micrformats but the h-card  is best place to start.


You need to think of an h-card like a box and there are special tools called parsers that can open up the box and pick out stuff about you. This can be an email, a photo, a phone number, even a location.

div class="h-card">
  <img class="u-photo" alt="photo of Mitchell"
  <a class="p-name u-url"
    >Mitchell Baker</a>
 (<a class="u-url" 
  <span class="p-org">Mozilla Foundation</span>
  <p class="p-note">
    Mitchell is responsible for setting the direction and scope of the Mozilla Foundation and its activities.
  <span class="p-category">Strategy</span>
  <span class="p-category">Leadership</span>

All of the properties, the stuff in quotes after the word class, you see assigned to the html tags are called properties. These properties are all carried in your h-card box.

When a parser opens up your h-card box it will ignore anything without the microformats properties.

Can I style my H-card

If HTML is the words on a page the CSS, or cascading style sheet is the pretty on the page. You can bedazzle your h-card.  Decorate your identity box anyway you want just don’t add any style to the microformat properties.

That’s about it. Once you master this you can move on to h-entry . This one I really messed up so I will save if for later.

In the mean time I need to just go back and focus on making sure my html is plain and on point.

Can we #IndieWeb Google Scholar? #HigherEd

So during my (ongoing) microformats crash course I have styled many citations. Writing an APA citation in html with proper markup takes time. A lot of time when you write a lot of citations.

While I would consider a canonical link back to to a piece listed or displayed on an author’s website as legit the academic machine does not (Do miss the retrieve date. I used to always use holidays to make me look like the biggest thinkerer out there).

So we need a solution.

I commented that I see all the talk about parsers but I want a reverse one to build citations. The more I learn about microformats the easier I can conceptualize how building blocks can be used by everyone with a bit of javascript. No way I could get folks to start sharing and remixing plain html courses and syllabi given the time it takes to write an h-cite. I would need to get a graduate assistant.I don’t have any (want the job…will talk).

Martijn said if I could map out how a tool could work he could probably build something.

Here is my idea. You go to Google Scholar. You search for a citation and then you click on the ” icon to copy the citation.

Then once you click on that icon you can click on the BibTex citation below:

That will leave you with this:

  title={Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources},
  author={Hegarty, Bronwyn},
  journal={Educational Technology},

And that is all you need. I imagine a little bit of javascript with a pull down menu for APA, MLA, or Chicago (throw in Harvard and Vancouver if you want).

Be nice if this tool also kept a record of how many times something is cited even possibly where it lands using webmentions.

So If I select APA it would spit out:

<p class="h-cite"><span class="p-author h-card">Hegarty, Brownyn </span> <time class="dt-published">(2015)</time>. <span class="p-name">Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources}</span>. <span class="p-publication"> <em>Educational Technology, 4</em>3-13 </span></p>

If i select MLA I would get

<p class="h-cite"><span class="p-author h-card">Hegarty, Brownyn. </span><span class="p-name">"Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources"</span>. <span class="p-publication"> <em>Educational Technology, 4</em><time class="dt-published">(2015):</time> 3-13 </span>. </p>

MLA messes it up a bit because the year falls into the p-publication. Not sure if that breaks anythign but it kind of gels with the philosophy. APA puts emphasis on dates because currency matters in science. MLA puts emphasis on names because authors matter. I am almost tempted to remove the time class in MLA but would want to consult with digital humanities folks.

If I select Chicago I would Get

<p class="h-cite"><span class="p-author h-card">Hegarty, Brownyn. </span><span class="p-name">"Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources"</span>. <span class="p-publication"> <em>Educational Technology 4</em><time class="dt-published">(2015):</time> 3-13 </span>. </p>

Can’t see the difference? It’s there. A comma. Yes one comma. Citations stink. Like I said a canonical link as citation is my dream but we are way off from a digital utopia. Until then I want to help us make using microformats and webmentions as easy as possible for open scholars.

My Notes from our Virtual Homebrew Website Club

I lost noterlive halfway through but here is our discussion. It is summary and paraphrasing not direct quotes:

Chris Aldrich:

Chris shared a blog from a read post that he set up with a newspaper in Colorado

David Shanske:

Is hsowing how to change the settings in the


does a 1-2 posts a week as his new “tick-tock” About a few weeks ago he built up a site to as his book.

I am trying to have a little breadcrumb site in a meaningful and intentional way. and keep my long form writing on another site.

I need to really understand this so I can explain it to people who won’t go and try to figure it out.

now I am trying a set up a process, that isn’t working, about trying to bookmark and summarize and little by little I will fold in more things on my breadcrumbs site.

I am looking for one good tool to build on my site to be my breadcrumb trail

Taylor Jadin:

We are going with a #DOO project. For years teachers have been using wordpress sites, and giving students the rights as authors.

Tim Clarke:

Jim discusses his #DOO project at a university in Allentown, PA.

Gregor Love:

Gregor has been developing a secret project that is a micropub read/write reader.

Chris Aldrich:

Shares which gets his first read posts. It is so cool to see #IndieWeb posts on blogs

Twitter used to have a nice open API and there were 1,000s of apps. Micropub is an open API that allows you to post anywhere and create a nice API for specific posts

I uses and PESOS back to my site and then the other time I am using Press Forward. It is an rss feed reader built in my website. I use that a good bit to read stuff in my WordPress install.


I would like to pull people up for 20 minutes and just have people go through their site and say this how I work. So you could take half that story like just your mobile workflow. then another on yoru desktop workflo

Greg McVerry:

I think @wiobyrne found his #IndieWeb podcast show topic. 10 minute tours

Chris Aldrich:

Shares how the #DOO project was very connected in the early days of #indieweb but so much is working better now we need to rehook them in.

Greg McVerry:

I share that i think for the #indieweb and #doo to work you would need to start with a turn key template. @chrisaldrich shares the myspace analogy. You tinkered and played.


You used to start with a template and they would hate it, but if you start with nothing they hate it.

Taylor Jadin:

shares stories of giving students a canned template or a blank page

Tim Clarke:

shares how his university went real slow and rolled-out a few domains at a time


We spend a lot of money on e-portfolio systems that is lousy. We are locking it down.

Gregor Love:

Wants to slap our wrist for letting the conversation get to badges….Yet I am stoked I he shared:

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>