Linking Indirectly, No Content Shared (LINCS)

On POSSE by Manuel Moreale (Manuel Moreale)

The point of putting content out there is to connect, to interact with others, to exchange ideas, and to grow.

POSSE is just link sharing.

On POSSE by Manuel Moreale (Manuel Moreale)

The point of putting content out there is to connect, to interact with others, to exchange ideas, and to grow.

I think there may be a trend in some spaces on the web to make moral judgments about how the web is used. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just reading into it. A recent blog entry by Manuel Moreale about how chooses to allow readers to interact with his "content"1 got me thinking about how I chose to engage via the OpenWeb.

My content lives here, on my site. Everything in here is under my control and it’s then distributed through three distribution channels.

The first—and most obvious—is the web itself. My content is distributed to you via the Internet. You can ask your browser to get this page you’re reading right now and get access to my content.

The second is RSS. You can tell your RSS reader to fetch the content available on my website and you can then consume my content inside your app of choice.

The final one is email. I send my posts via email because some people prefer to stay up to date that way and who am I to prevent that from happening?

While I am sure that some readers have added my blog’s RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed to their reader applications or RSS aggregators, the vast majority of the visitors to my website are people who found me via random Google searches. My SEO-foo must be quite good. 🙂

It used to be that automated Twitter and Facebook link-sharing sent me the most traffic. But after Facebook shut down API access to the personal timeline (April 30, 2015) and Twitter did the same via its pricing model, I was prevented from auto-sharing links to those platforms. Manually sharing links has become a chore.

During the pandemic (maybe even before that), I rarely shared links or interacted on those platforms. In 2019 I created a Mastodon account and started auto-sharing there via the ActivityPub and interact more on that social platform than any other. Maybe over time, Mastodon link referrals will replace Twitter link referrals.

After random Google referrals, the next largest segment of web visitors comes in via WordPress Reader. WordPress Reader is an RSS aggregator for WordPress.com but one can add any RSS feed to it. With the JetPack app, I can read the latest posts from blogs I follow, interact via the comments (if enabled), and discover new blogs or topics to follow. You don’t need to blog on WordPress.com to use it but you do need a free WordPress.com account. In many ways, Reader is a social RSS reader. If it supported webmention it would be (even more) awesome!!

For me, email is tied to work. Corporate America generates a lot of it. After a day of sending and responding to emails, I have no patience for personal emails. My personal email spam filter can barely keep up with the amount of spam sent to my account. I don’t want to invite people to send me emails to discuss my blog posts. Nope. Not happening. Plus, none of those emails will have any historical connection to the original blog post.

I share links to other people’s web posts on social platforms. This brings attention to the topic of their post and fosters discussion. Perhaps an alternative acronym to POSSE (Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere) that highlights the fact that only a link is shared could be LINCS - "Linking Indirectly, No Content Shared".

Given that we agree that "The point of putting content out there is to connect, to interact with others, to exchange ideas, and to grow.", what’s wrong with sharing links to my blog post and enabling my website to allow the interaction to occur via the comments or on the social platform where the link is shared and leveraging technology, aka webmention, to bring those comments back to my website?


  1. I am trying to avoid using the word content but it seems unavoidable. I am not a marketing, media, entertainment, or social media worker. I am just me. ?

Goodbye Micro.blog

Micro.blog is a promising concept, but there is much room for improvement. I am tired of waiting.

micro.blog (µblog), has positioned itself as a platform aligning with the IndieWeb community. While its intentions are commendable, there are opportunities for improvement to enhance the overall user experience.

The platform has garnered recognition within the IndieWeb community and was featured prominently on the IndieWeb wiki, accompanied by informative content. Manton Reece, the creator of µblog, frequently emphasises its alignment with IndieWeb principles, portraying it as an Indie-friendly platform. Outbound webmentions are fully supported but only accepts incoming webmentions from sites which have registered on the service using their sending base URL.

However, there appears to be a discrepancy between the platform's perceived integration with IndieWeb architecture and its actual implementation. For instance, I've encountered challenges when trying to engage with µblog comments from my IndieWeb WordPress site, where my webmentions are sent and acknowledged but don't reflect on the timeline.

Micro.blog is not just an alternative silo. It’s worse than your average silo. It’s worse than Twitter. From the point of view of IndieWeb, it’s even worse than Facebook. Evgeny Kuznetsov

Certainly, µblog has many attributes of a traditional social media platform, which might lead to some confusion regarding its role in the IndieWeb ecosystem. While it makes strides towards IndieWeb principles, there's room for dialogue about how closely it adheres to the core tenets and how it can continue to evolve. This dialogue presents an opportunity for the platform to evolve and foster a more seamless experience for users.

Designed with Considerable Friction

µblog's approach often introduces significant friction. For users aiming to host a comprehensive photo blog, navigating µblog's interface can prove challenging. Unlike WordPress, where adding media is straightforward with the "Add Media" button, µblog requires managing two browser tabs simultaneously—one for editing and another for uploading. The upload page lacks search functionality, necessitating manual copying and pasting of HTML (or markdown) from the uploads page into the editor.

Additionally, µblog's themes do not support header images, resulting in limited visual customization. Upon post publication, only a title, link, and thumbnail image, often minuscule in size, are displayed publicly on the timeline.

The Micro.blog userbase seems actually pretty good at putting the effort into leaving real comments, but on some other sites (or if I had a blog that wasn’t integrated into a social media platform like this), this lack can result in people making post after post that gets no apparent response, and feeling like they’re shouting into the void. Jayeless.net

µblog users can see and managed whom they follow but are not privy to who follows them. This creates the possibility that a user might be following a number of people but no one is reading that users posts.

Challenges with Customer Support

Customer support, unfortunately, can be slow, especially for a paid service like µblog. Despite having an active subscription expiring on April 4, 2024, I've faced ongoing difficulties with posting to the timeline. Despite reaching out multiple times to support for assistance, I'm still awaiting a permanent resolution.

micro.blog annual invoice
micro.blog does not recognise that I have a subscription.

µblog's Social and Community Dynamics and Platform Limitations

The diversity of participants and resulting conversations are somewhat limited and are likely to remain so. This might suit some people just fine, but I appreciate people of different races, creeds, colors, economic backgrounds, and even those with differing political opinions. The kind of people you might find on a more mainstream social media service or the right Mastodon instance.PhoneBoy

µblog's simplicity is commendable, offering a clutter-free experience devoid of ads. However, this streamlined approach also translates into limitations, such as the absence of features like direct messaging, group chats, and advanced search functionalities.

Discoverability remains a challenge due to µblog's design choices aimed at curbing abuse and harassment. The lack of hashtag support and topic searches hinders users' ability to find content and connect based on shared interests.

The platform's emphasis on content ownership within the IndieWeb community is evident, yet it struggles with balancing freedom of expression with community safety. The cautious approach to user directories and content curation has implications for visibility and collaboration.

I always think appreciation, likes, reactions, and follower count should be made available privately to the content owner. Making them public should be an opt-in decision, if at all possible.Havn

Despite these challenges, µblog's community continues to offer valuable insights and suggestions for improvement, reflecting a shared desire for a more inclusive and feature-rich platform experience.

There seems to be a lot of community push back when anyone advocates for incorporating standard social media features in a manner that benefits all.

While some users may opt to disable "Likes" on their timeline, others, like myself, find value in having this feature available.numericcitizen

Evaluating µblog

Reflecting on my journey with µblog, I appreciate its vision but find the execution somewhat constrained by an emphasis on preventing harassment, which at times hampers community growth and user interaction. Throughout this discussion, the concept of "community" has emerged repeatedly, highlighting the significance of shared connections and interactions that contribute to a sense of belonging—an aspect that µblog could enhance.

The diversity of participants and resulting conversations are somewhat limited and are likely to remain so. This might suit some people just fine, but I appreciate people of different races, creeds, colors, economic backgrounds, and even those with differing political opinions. The kind of people you might find on a more mainstream social media service or the right Mastodon instance.PhoneBoy

In conclusion, there are several factors leading me to withhold a full recommendation for the current iteration of micro.blog. While acknowledging the challenges, it's worth noting that platform governance, akin to Twitter, rests with the owner. Despite this, I maintain a positive view of Manton's character, even if we haven't met in person. However, the platform's responsiveness to change requests could benefit from improvement.

Wishing for a future where µblog strikes a better balance between fostering a safe environment and encouraging vibrant community engagement, I bid farewell.

Removing IndieWeb Plugins (Again)

While IndieWeb tools aim to improve data portability, the varying standards and protocols can sometimes result in interoperability issues, making seamless data exchange between different systems challenging.

Despite the promise of increased interactivity and web integration, the IndieWeb plugins have limited adoption, compatibility issues with WordPress themes, and social platform sharing. After removing all the IndieWeb plugins in 2020, over the last few years I found myself reinstating several and exploring new ones to enhance my WordPress website's IndieWeb capabilities. I re-installed almost all the IndieWeb plugins: IndieAuth, Webmention, Post Kinds, and Syndication Links. Although, it’s not a great-looking theme because I want full compatibility with the IndieWeb plugins I am using a Microformats 2-compliant child theme for Twenty Sixteen.

I hope my statements don't suggest a dislike for the IndieWeb community's efforts. I’ll borrow words from Daniel Goldsmith who wrote:

To begin, and before I get into anything else, I need to state this loudly and clearly: I like the Indieweb movement. I like the aspirational statements which underpin the movement. I like the people involved, I've interacted with more than a few of them and have found them to be, almost without exception, among the most earnest, polite and encouraging people I've ever met online.

I removed all the plugins except Webmention and Syndication Links. There are several reasons.

IndieAuth works by allowing me to use my website URL as the identity for authentication and authorization on websites that support it. Here's a simplified overview of how it operates:

  1. User Identification: When I want to log in to a website, I enter my website URL, `https://islandinthenet.com/`.
  2. Discovery of Authorization Endpoint: The website connects to my WordPress websites and looks for an authorization endpoint. This endpoint is configured in the HTML or HTTP headers of my WordPress website.
  3. Authentication Request: The website redirects me to their discovered authorisation endpoint with a request to authenticate.
  4. User Authorization: At the authorization endpoint, I prove ownership of my URL, usually by logging in to the service that hosts the endpoint.
  5. Redirection and Token Verification: After successful authentication, the authorization endpoint redirects me back to the original website with an authentication token.
  6. Confirmation: The original website verifies the token with the authorization endpoint to confirm my identity and then grants access.

But I rarely come across websites that use IndieAuth. The only website that I know supports IndieAuth is the IndieWeb Wiki.

Post Kinds is a concept within the IndieWeb community that categorises various types of content a person might want to publish on their website. These types, or "kinds," include articles, notes (similar to toots), photos, videos, replies, likes, reposts, and more. The Post Kinds WordPress Plugin adds support to the Classic Editor to implement this concept by enabling me to classify my website content into these different kinds.

But except for "replies" the Post Kinds plug-in isn’t useful to me and I rarely. Even when I’ve used the reply post kind feature I found that very few websites supported Webmention which is required to make use of many of the post kinds.

I don’t do microblogging on my website so I’ve never had use for the Simple Location plug-in.

Screenshot of JetPack Social

Webmention and Syndication Links offer the most potential for engagement. Webmention is a simple, standardized protocol for my website to notify another when it links to it. For example, some post something on their website. I write a response on my website and include a link to their post. My website sends a Webmention to their site, informing their website of the link. Their site verifies the Webmention by checking my post to confirm it indeed links to their post. Once verified, their site can display my response as a comment, like, share, etc., depending on the context.

Syndication Links are a way to indicate that a piece of content published on my site is also available via a link on another site. For example, if I write a blog post on my website and also share it on Twitter, I can use a syndication link on my blog post to point to Twitter.

Webmention and Syndication Links work together to create a more interconnected and rich web of content. Let’s say someone publishes a post on their website and shares it on Twitter, adding a syndication link on their original post pointing to the tweet. I see the tweet, write a response on my website, and my website sends a webmention to the original post. The originating website receives the webmention, verifies it, and then shows my response as a comment. The syndication link to the tweet is also displayed.

I think it’s very cool. Yet, its effectiveness is limited. Most social platforms I use, barring micro.blog, don't support "rel=me" linking and most blogs do not support webmention.

My posts are syndicated (POSSE) across various social platforms and managed through Automattic's JetPack Social and ActivityPub plugins. Comments on these platforms, however, only merge back into my blog with additional tools like Brid.gy, which only partially solves the problem.

The engagement on my blog primarily comes through native comments, WordPress Reader, micro.blog, and the photog.social Mastodon instance. Interaction from platforms like BlueSky is minimal, with limitations in displaying 'likes' and backfeeding comments.

Preparing a blog post to handle comments "backfed" by "Brid.gy" from platforms like BlueSky and photog.social requires manual effort, such as adding specific syndication links post-publication. Interactions via micro.blog requires manual HTML formatting to include microformat2 classes.

Screenshot of Backfeed Comments

Reflecting on insights from the Incoming criticism section on the IndieWeb challenges page, I can see that I am not alone in how I feel about this.

As Kev Quirk notes in "Will the IndieWeb Ever Become Mainstream?":

Unless something drastic changes with the fundamental makeup of the IndieWeb, I don't think it will ever gain anything close to mass adoption. Maybe if WordPress picked it up and rolled into the system by default, then it would have a chance; but short of that, I don't see it happening.

I felt excitement when Kev speculated about the potential impact of Automattic integrating IndieWeb features into WordPress.

I am wondering if continued use of the Syndication Links plugin is worthwhile. The Syndication Links plugin is supposed to automatically add syndication links on each blog post, so I don't need to do it manually. However, the Syndication Links plugin is not integrated with any JetPacks social sharing services - Instagram, Facebook, NextDoor, Mastodon, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. So when JetPack shares my content to Instagram, Facebook, NextDoor, Mastodon, Tumblr, or LinkedIn, the Syndication Links plugin is unaware and does not set a u-syndication link. I had been visiting each social platform, copying the shared link, opening the original blog post for editing, and manually setting the link. It's tedious.

Given that Brid.gy was forced to abandon Instagram, X, and Facebook, and does not support NextDoor, Tumblr, and LinkedIn, the Syndication Links plugin is not useful for helping Brid.gy "backfeed" comments and reactions from those platforms. The time and effort involved in backfeeding comments from social platforms have led me to question the practicality of continuing the use of most of the IndieWeb plugins.

While IndieWeb tools aim to improve data portability, the varying standards and protocols often result in interoperability issues, making seamless data exchange between different systems challenging. As of today, I've turned off all IndieWeb plugins except Webmention and Syndication Links.