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Dear IndieWeb, it may be time to start considering the user, not just the technical spec.

I’ve been working on a series of walkthrough posts that outline how to IndieWebify a Wordpress site. I presumed the initial setup would be fairly straightforward because a) I have a vague idea of what I’m doing, and b) a suite of plugins already exists. Boy-howdy, was I wrong.


I’ve been through speed-dating hell — I’ve met a heap of difficult to parse, technical error messages. I’ve been able to figure out the issue in most cases, but totally understand why the IndieWeb isn’t ready for primetime.

The IndieWeb isn’t ready for primetime, at least in part, because of these terrible, bordering on user-hostile, error messages.

I by no means mean this as a criticism. These error messages are helpful if you have a clear understanding of the spec, and how it is implemented. If, however, you aren’t a technical-user (which is to say a programmer who has read the spec. document) the error messages aren’t all that helpful.

From my experience, error messages of the sort found across the IndieWeb are symptomatic of early-stage, in development platforms, e.g. those platforms that are still being debugged.

I think that if the IndieWeb is aiming for wide adoption it is time to start designing for the user, not the spec.

What do I mean by this?

For one, folks building IndieWeb tech can’t assume that their users care about the technical implementation of their project. The vast majority of users aren’t going to read the spec., nor care to ever do so. The vast majority of users will care, first and foremost, about themselves and their content. They will, most likely, already know enough to care about owning their content. This means their content is important to them. This also probably means that they’re itching to create content. To write.

This should be our (the IndieWeb’s) holy mission — empowering all sorts of folks to post content that they get to control.

The future!

The IndieWeb wiki has a groovy page all about generations. There, you’ll find this graphic.

That page opens:

Generations in the context of the IndieWeb refer to clusters of potential IndieWeb adopters in a series of waves that are expected to naturally adopt the IndieWeb for themselves and then help inform the next generation. Each generation is expected to lower barriers for adoption successively for the next generation.

I think the IndieWeb is at an exciting inflection point. A bunch of things are happening right now, among all the happenings are a few key events: the public at large is growing frustrated with traditional social media, the birth and (hopeful!) growth of micro.blog, and an uptick in the micropub client ecosystem.

I don’t know if everyone will agree with this — but I think micro.blog exists across both generation 3 and 4.

The hiccup, at least as I see it, is that the majority of existing IndieWeb tech is squarely rooted in generation 1…and sometimes, barely, generation 2.

SO, whereas [e]ach generation is expected to lower barriers for adoption successively for the next generation” I wonder if it is maybe time to update some of the tooling from generation 1 and 2 to be more compatible with generations 3 and 4?

Anyone with me? Am I totes off base? Thank you kindly,