Rian van der Merwe

Product manager • Designer • Speaker

David Heinemeier Hansson in Move over, Facebook and Twitter: it’s time to bring back the blog:

And we’re starting to realize that the price of centralization is that you’re giving up control to these large companies to basically do whatever they want [with your content]. I want to get back to a place where I have control, and blogs and mailing lists are two of the most eminent places to maintain that control—and have unfiltered access to the people who want to hear from you.

[Meta-post] 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 Micro.blog community via a JSON RSS feed. From there, I can have conversations with others about my posts, as well as the content they post.
  • Micro.blog 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 Micro.blog 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…

There’s lots to reflect on in Jazz Monroe’s essay On Mobile Phones At Gigs & The Tyranny Of The Dopamine Economy:

When we submit to a profound experience of art, it’s a rare reprieve from the everyday torrent of triviality and distraction, low-level boosts that get us through the day.


Here are some facts about phones. Small concerts are not designed to outperform a £600 device containing the entire internet. That makes the radioactive slab of social energy in your pocket a cultural hazard. When you shoot a casual glance at its screen - perhaps unconsciously, out of undiagnosed boredom - the megawatt glare that screams into the gently lit room is not discreet. Not everybody else was bored at that moment.

Not everyone else was bored at that moment. That is such an important point. If we stare at a concert through the lens of the phone, we’re not just limiting our own experience, we’re also affecting those around us. New life goal: don’t take my phone out of my pocket at all the next time I go to a concert.

This video of Mumford & Sons’ performance of Delta makes me so happy. Great song, and such a joyful concert experience.

🎵 I know this is going to be a controversial opinion. But I’ve given it much thought, and decided unilaterally that Less by Nils Frahm is the most beautiful song in the world.

I really like these visualizations of relationships over time:

Claire Cain Miller’s The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting feels like required reading for all parents:

Psychologists and others have raised alarms about children’s high levels of stress and dependence on their parents, and the need to develop independence, self-reliance and grit. Research has shown that children with hyper-involved parents have more anxiety and less satisfaction with life, and that when children play unsupervised, they build social skills, emotional maturity and executive function.

🎵 I’m really excited about this one. Red Earth & Pouring Rain is one of my favorite albums, so it was awesome to wake up to an email that Bear’s Den is coming out with a new album in April, called So that you might hear me. They also released a couple of new tracks from the album that you can listen to here.

Tonight’s dinner-making music.

🎺 John Coltrane, Stardust

Well this is weird:

But while Spotify denies that accounts have been hacked, the music streaming site has not explained in detail how the playlists of some users indicate they’ve “listened to” musicians that nobody’s ever heard of.