More than one way to wrangle a POSSE

Within the last few weeks, Tim Owens (who was I think first among my network to manage it) David Wiley and Jim Groom have all written about using Known as a POSSE (Publish Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere) hub.  I asked Tim as soon as I read his enthusiastic post whether a trusty WordPress install could be coaxed into doing the same thing with enough plugins.  I can now report that the answer is at least mostly yes.

To start, I installed the webmention and indieweb plugins,  This didn’t in and of itself do much, since I wasn’t using a theme that supports microformats.  However, before I got around to trying to install a microformat plugin I saw Ryan Barrett‘s comment on Mike Caulfield’s post about IndieWebCamp Portland, encourarging Mike to try, a service which moves webmentions to and from silos like Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. At first, I was skeptical.  Isn’t the point of IndieWeb to free yourself from third party services?  But there is a GitHub repository, so I figure If something were to happen to the site proper, I could at least try to self host,

I decided to start with just Twitter integration.  I’m a light Facebook user and tend to keep it segregated from the rest of my online identity.  I use G+ even less, On the one hand, I might use it more if I could integrate it,  On the other hand, the point of G+ was being able to easily target messages to different audiences,

Signing up was straightforward, with the usual two step of authorizing a Twitter app, and mentions began to flow in quickly.  Publishing out to Twitter wasn’t quite as easy. It involved putting a hidden link in the body of any post you want to publish.  It works, but it’s a hassle. I had considered using a plugin called Social, but this apparently overrides your blog comment settings and allows anonymous commenting.  I wasn’t quite ready for that.

After manually editing several posts to send them to Twitter, I discovered a second problem. My blog, which I think of as being at least hopefully for slightly longer form things, now had a front page full of tweets.. How could I make them less prominent?

The answer was two more plugins, both suggested by Ryan, who was very patient and helpful.These were Ultimate Category Excluder and IndieWeb Press This.  The former is a straightforward install from the plugin menu.  The latter is a manual install.  Tim helped me realize that I needed to download the ZIP archive from GitHub rather than the individual files.  There are also JavaScript bookmarklets that need to be manually edited.  D’Arcy Norman also mentioned his Ephemerator plugin, although I couldn’t get my WP install to recognize it,

There are just a few things I’m still working to improve:

  • I don’t know how well the JavaScript bookmarklets will work on my mobile device
  • You can’t reply to a tweet when you are in timeline view.  I had to click on the author’s profile link, find the tweet in their page, and then click Details to get the tweet on a webpage by itself before the Reply bookmarklet would work.
  • I’m still stuck manually inserting the HTML when I want to publish something that doesn’t refer back to some other page or post,or refers to many, as this post does.

I’d be interested in putting together a feature comparison of Known with this setup if anyone with a Known instance would like to collaborate.



More Federated Wikis

Mike Caulfield is now explaining wiki federation and its benefits by means of a movie recommendation example.  In the (surprise) federated wiki he set up to document this, Mike writes:

“Wiki is largely an architecture of collaboration. These things fall on a scale, of course, but if you go and ask people on Wikipedia what their goal is, it’s largely aligned. People are working towards a common vision, and to do that they extensively modify their behavior, and that’s lovely.


You know the common vision is important, because when people step outside that common vision they get hammered on the talk pages. That’s the price you pay for a common vision — a bureaucracy to enforce it. And for Wikipedia, that trade seems worth it.


Federation, on the other hand, is an architecture of cooperation. And again, these things are not binary. They exist on a continuum. But the idea of federation is to do what you would do anyway, but do it in a way that allows it to feed into the common good (and allows you to pull from the common good). ” 1

I think education/learning also fits the dichotomy Mike has laid out here.  Education and its economies of scale require the alignment of goal and vision.  everyone in a particular class has the same curriculum  We do the same assessments and activities at the same time, and boy do we have an bureaucracy to enforce it (writes a member of said bureaucracy).

Compare this to someone who is studying something and taking some notes. Whether or not they are in a class, there are many other people doing the same thing.  How could my Cornish grammar notes or  someone else’s notes on R syntax feed into a learning common good?  What would it look like?  What would it do for us?

Even within the constraints of formal education, imagine if my class had a fed wiki farm.  Every student has her own instance.  If I find a gap in my notes, I search the federation for someone else who has filled it.  If I, on the other hand, see something that doesn’t make sense to me, I just don’t fork it.  If the students actually managed to control their own instances/run their own SFW servers, they could keep those notes permanently rather than losing them at the end of the term.


Federated Wikis – A Use Case

Mike Caulfield has been writing up a storm on federated wikis,  a tool where users maintain their own site , then copy/fork individual pages they want to keep or edit from other sites in their federation. Today Mike, Tony Hirst, and Boll Fitzgerald had an energetic discussion about when to fork and when not to fork in a federated wiki (particularly in Ward Cunningham’s Smallest Federated Wiki , henceforth referred to as SFW, the federated wiki sandbox of the moment)

I think there’s a semantic issue here.  In a software context, you fork because you want to take the project a different direction, as opposed to submitting patches to the existing codebase.  In a SFW context, a given wiki belongs to a particular individual, and only that individual can edit pages within that wiki.  Clicking the fork button does two things

  1. Makes a copy of the page with the same name that you can edit as part of your wiki instance
  2. Starts tracking changes on the original

Even if you don’t intend to make changes, you may fork a page in order to have a local copy. As Mike points out, this is in and of itself a good thing.

Some of this concern about forking and changes stems from conceptualizing SFW as a publishing platform. Maybe this isn’t the right concept.  Instead, I imagine a sort of public notebook that it’s very easy to copy from.  Since it’s mine, I can keep any page in the state I want it, but anyone else can grab what they want while maintining at least some sourcing/changelog.  In the discussion this morning, Mike mentioned that versioning a single document pushes a group of authors towards consensus, presumably since the system requires that one ends up with one document.  Federated wikis show what can happen when that constraint is removed and people can create together individually.  We’ve never really had that kind of tool. before. what might you do with it?

Mike’s demo SFW project, The Hidden History of Online Learning has been a fascinating introduction to the platform.  The federation allows users to create and organize in whatever way makes the most sense to them and fork from others only what interests them.  What if you took it another step.

Your wiki is your central learning repository.  It allows access controls so you have public (your portfolio), restricted access (group collaboration) and private (your thesis first draft) pages,  Into these pages you can drag all sorts of content .  For that matter, you might be able to set permissions on each JSON object for very granular access control.  You might then export content to a publication platform like a blog when it’s in a final form.