IndieWeb, Revisited

Dec 28, 2020

A couple of years ago I started building an IndieWeb website. Then I got painfully busy at work, stopped improving it, and basically ran out of free time to even post to it.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I've got a new job that's somewhat more manageable, and during the holiday break I'm trying to get this thing going again. I've made a couple of changes:

  • For the static site generator itself, I replaced Gatsby with Eleventy and am happier with it; it's basically just a pile of simple templates.
  • I got webmentions working, and can now pull down people's Twitter replies to my tweets and posts, and archive them on my site as "comments." My implementation is sort of crude still, but I'm really excited about it.

So that means that for this "simple" blog to operate, all the following systems have to be working and correctly integrated:

  1. An iOS Shortcuts script, for posting text in tweet form from mobile.
  2. Eleventy, for generating the static site from Markdown and templates.
  3. Various microformats in the templates of the site, which structure the data so it can be used properly by some of the connecting systems.
  4. A GitHub repo, to receive blog and tweet data and hold all the code.
  5. A Netlify app, to monitor the repo, execute the build, publish, and host the pages.
  6. Two IFTTT applets, to monitor the blog and tweet feeds for changes, and post to Bridgy.
  7., for publishing links to the tweets and blog posts to Twitter, and monitoring for webmentions.
  8., for receiving the webmentions.
  9. A nodejs script for pulling down those webmentions and writing them out to a cache in my build.
  10. I'm probably forgetting one or two other things. 😬

This is all still really hard for even an engineer to get working, because it involves integrating so many systems. The feedback loop is super slow, and it's really hard to debug, because not all of those systems give you clear information about what might be going wrong.

There are a couple of things that are strange about the experience, too. When I post a tweet via this system, it currently has to include a link back to the tweet on my site, to ensure that replies link up correctly. That looks a little gross on Twitter. It also takes 10-60 minutes after I've posted something for all of these systems to fire, because some of them poll periodically rather than being triggered by events, and since they're free systems, they may not poll that often.

Overall, I don't think any of this will really go anyplace for regular folks until there are more well-known solid hosted options like that can provide an integrated solution and remove all the hassle for people. And that's going to be a challenge when those hosting providers are competing with existing social networks that are 100% free, and really tightly integrated, and easy, and huge.

Nonetheless, I'm still enjoying it, and I'm making gradual progress. Maybe that's the brain worms talking, but it's amazing how much stuff the community has provided us for free, and how well it works once you can get through all the hoops.

I'm curious to see how this landscape looks in a couple more years.

Webmentions (2)


If you liked this, you're welcome to read more of my blatherings.