Nostalgia

I read that 2018 was the final year of Open Source Bridge. Reading that I felt sadness, as well as gratitude the organizers were able to choose that. I spoke at the inaugural Open Source Bridge, and my memory of that is that it was such a refreshing vibe compared to the other conferences I was attending at the time (OSCON, Semantic World). There was space for self care (yoga), for weird ideas, and for community in a way I didn’t experience at other conferences. I started to write this as a status update, and realized that these feelings about Open Source Bridge are part of a larger wave of nostalgia for the late aughts I’ve been feeling lately.

The first Open Source Bridge took place in 2009. I had been living in San Francisco for two years and was working at Creative Commons. My role at CC had morphed from “figure out what we could build to engage people with the commons” to “figure out our technical strategy and how we fit with the You Tubes of the world”. I was a lot better at the former; at the very least I enjoyed it more. But there was still something there that I felt energized being part of. There was a community that I appreciated and valued. I’ve reflected in the past that identi.ca formed the core of this online community for me. It also lived on blogs and in the #cc IRC channels.

So I guess it’s appropriate that some of this nostalgia is undoubtedly triggered by all the awesome Indie* work being done. Just this week I learned about Indie Book Club and Indie Web Ring. And while both are simple, that’s sort of the point: I’m happy they both exist, because [I hypothesize] they help me connect with a larger community while being my whole self online. Being my whole self means that I “show up” in a solid, singular way: you come to my blog and get printmaking, scifi quotes, Python advice, sewing; you get me.

My talk at the inaugural Open Source Bridge was entitled “A Database Called the Web”. It was the second and last time I presented that talk, which was a shame because I don’t think I ever really got the kinks worked out. Creative Commons was founded with this technical layer under girding the licenses, and “A Database Called the Web” was my attempt to articulate that decentralized, federated vision in a way that didn’t start with RDF, XHTML, etc. And that’s why in addition to feeling some nostalgia I also feel some hope: it seems like with ~ 10 years of time (and a lot of heartache) people have moved on to building decentralized things that they want to see exist in the world. And that makes me happy.

A Return to Status Blogging

Facebook does that thing where it reminds you of what you posted on a given day. Sometimes I get to be reminded of a period from roughly 2007-2010, what I think of as the golden age of status blogging. I was a heavy identi.ca user, cross-posting to Twitter and Facebook — after all, I’m one person, not several — and engaging in conversations, community, and snark.

I backed the Micro.blog Kickstarter largely out of nostalgia for that period. Yes, I often overshared, and can’t believe some of the crap I posted, but it felt like I was part of a community in a way Twitter never has. Since Manton started rolling out invitations to the hosted service, I’ve been slowly exploring it, uncertain if I’d really re-commit to status blogging. What I’m discovering, though, is that this isn’t just about nostalgia. Instead it’s prompted me to think about what I’m sharing out to the world, where it lives, and how much say I have in where it goes.

The Micro.Blog interface is pretty stripped down, but at the core you have the features you’d expect: post, profile, timeline, discover. What makes it different is that it’s also a communication hub: you can configure it to cross-post to Twitter or Facebook from within the profile. Shortly after I started experimenting with it, I also set up IFTTT to pull my posts via RSS and publish them to my personal blog. I’m not sure this is something I want, but it’s an experiment.

My Status Blog Setup

More interesting than the cross posting to Twitter, though, are the features that make Micro.blog more of a hub than a publisher. Instead of syndicating from Micro.blog to my personal blog, I can configure Micro.blog to consume an RSS feed, making it a network hub. This brings my status posts from my personal site to the budding Micro.blog community and from there to Twitter. The IndieWeb community has branded this POSSE: Publish on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere.

Exploring the work the IndieWeb community is doing reminds me of my time at Creative Commons, when we were trying to leverage the distributed nature of the web as a feature of our work.

I loved my time on Identi.ca, and there’s probably more self-reflection to be done about why I stopped posting. (I logged in as I wrote this and see some of my former colleagues are still active, although it still feels like a ghost town to me.) And I’m enjoying exploring Micro.blog, thinking about the tradeoffs between different approaches, and basically taking things much less seriously than I used to.