My IndieWeb experience so far

My side project for the past month or so has been to try to extract myself from centralized networks by digging into the IndieWeb movement. I have a lot more to do and learn, but I’m at a point where I wanted to take a step back and reflect on the process a little bit.

First, I want to talk about my current setup. There are so many different ways to go and decisions to make that I find it helpful when others have shared the direction they’ve taken. So here’s how it currently works:

  • This is a static Jekyll site. It uses the Marfa theme, that I’ve adapted and changed in a few ways, and it’s hosted on GitHub Pages.
  • I added a Micropub endpoint to the site, so that I can use a variety of open source tools to post to the site from anywhere. My current favorite is Quill.
  • The content feeds into the community via a JSON RSS feed. From there, I can have conversations with others about my posts, as well as the content they post.
  • tweets my posts natively to a Twitter account. This is important, because it means that if the text is <280 characters, it posts the full text — no link back to the my own site. It only links back in certain circumstances. This is, incidentally, the only part of this whole setup that costs me anything ($2/month).
  • I made category pages on the site for my photo stream and music recommendations. I used a modified version of Ryan Palo’s Jekyll Tags, The Easy Way to get that working.
  • I mostly post using the excellent Atom text editor. It has native Github integration to push new posts live, and the Markdown Writer plugin makes it really easy and fast to add new posts.

I think it’s worth pointing out a fairly significant issue I came across with images. The Micropub endpoint I use doesn’t have support for the media endpoint yet. This is a bit of a pain because it means I can’t post photos through Quill or the iOS app by simply uploading the photo. Instead, I use a Siri shortcut on my phone to upload photos to my Amazon S3 bucket.

The shortcut does the following when I run it on a photo:

  • Resizes the image to 1200px wide.
  • Compresses the image using TinyPNG.
  • Asks me for a file name.
  • Opens Dropshare so I can upload the image to S3.
  • Opens Drafts where I paste the pre-formatted link and type a caption.
  • From there I copy the text and post it.

That is obviously, well, really inefficient. You can see a video of the whole process here (obviously the TinyPNG API is a little slow). So, yeah, support for the media endpoint would be amazing.

So with all that said, here are a couple of observations. As I mentioned on Twitter, the process humans have to go through to “own our content” is currently in the chasm, and I don’t think it will cross over into mass adoption until we make it way easier.

But that’s not a criticism. I had a lot of fun discovering how all of this works, and I like this setup a lot. I am grateful to the IndieWeb community, and encouraged that such a thing is even possible. I just want more people to see the value of “Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere”, and yet I realize it’s still way out of reach to most people.

I, however, am sold. So if there’s anything I can do to help spread the word, I’d love to hear it.

Onward to the open web…

Rian van der Merwe Business & product leader, curious learner, and music fanatic