Thursday, January 29, 2015

Toasting Marshmallows Around the IndieWebCamp Fire

Have you heard of IndieWebCamp.com yet? I hadn't heard about it until a couple weeks ago, but as soon as I started digging into what it is I really liked what is going on there. Basically, what you're looking at is the beginnings of a federated social web. It's the idea that blog posts and comments shouldn't belong to a single central company but that they should be built into the web's infrastructure. The best part is that it's already working. Let me take a moment to slow things down a bit and explain it as I understand it from the ground up.

Facebook owns your account; I mean, it's your account but it belongs to them. If one day Facebook decided that they wanted to pack up their website and make a restaurant chain that serves cheeseburgers instead of crappy BuzzFeed listicles they could do that and you wouldn't have a Facebook anymore or a way to send messages to your friends. You might say, "So what? I'll start using Twitter, Google+, or whatever then!" Sure, you can do that but there is nothing (except revenue and business reasons) that ensures they're going to stick around either. What you would have to do is make your own social network and then get all your friends to join it. That's a lot of work! What if there was a way that you could make your own website that you own and use it as your online social account that interacts with your friends' websites in a way very similar to Facebook, Google+, or Twitter. There is and it's called the IndieWeb!

If you've already got a personal site it is extremely easy to get started. I set up my site with the most basic features in about 10 minutes; it would have been quicker if I didn't want to take a Photoshop break in the middle of it all to make a new picture for my new social profile. I don't want to go into super long detail here but I definitely recommend checking out their site, they've got a really helpful and easy getting started guide.

There are two really simple basic things that you can do to get started and they are your rel=me links and your h-card. Basically for every URL on your site that links to another page that is also you simply put a rel="me" on your a tags like this.

<a href="http://philcorbett.net" rel="me">My Website</a>

This tells any other sites using IndieWeb markup that these links are also owned by the same person that owns this current page. The next step is to create your h-card. This is a small amount of markup that will tell other IndieWeb sites various bits about you; essentially, these make up your profile information. The markup is pretty easy but I'll link to the h-card microformat page for it because there are a lot of options.

I'm not an expert at this at all but I really like the idea and wanted to write this up to help get the word out. If you're interested in seeing exactly how I updated my site for it check it out at http://philcorbett.net or view the code on GitHub at https://github.com/PureMunky/philcorbett.net.
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