I’ve been following the IndieWeb actively for close to two months. The time has flown. I have felt that way about every day this year. My relationship with the IndieWeb really puts time into perspective for me. I digress. In this time, I have tried out a lot of different IndieWeb setups. People have commented on the speed at which I build new features on my site. I’ve had a lot of fun building new extensions and trying out new ideas.
What I have come to learn is that the IndieWeb is not about building a list of features. Having an indie website is about having a home on the internet that is my own. My home should suit my needs. My itches are my own.
Building for the Future
I just read about an antipattern on the IndieWeb wiki called “at some point.” I’ve been guilty of this antipattern for a long time. As an engineer, I like solving difficult problems. I like to build scalable systems because writing code for the long-term is interesting. It’s a challenge. I am learning that it is not always best for me to think about what’s going to come next. I need to think about what I need right now.
I attended a microformats issue resolution session a few weeks ago. It was a bit technical for me. I keep thinking about a question that someone asked at the meeting: who is going to consume this data? In my passion for the IndieWeb, I’ve built projects that present data that nobody is really going to consume. I did not consume my own quantified self data. Aside from the odd person saying that quantified self data is cool, what use are people going to get out of me sharing that information on my website?
I am now thinking about new features in terms of the overhead they add to this site. Simplicity is not about having as few features as possible. I want to have as few features as I need to do what I want to do on this site. For me, at the moment, what matters most is sharing my writing and tinkering with the odd experiment. My weather station was a great example. It was a great project but I did not have a burning need for a weather station. I shut down the project because I was maintaining something that did not matter to me.
There are a few people on the IndieWeb who go all the way. Webmentions are configured on every page on their site. They post RSVPs and their resume and bookmarks and likes and replies. A lot of people mark up all their pages with microformats. I’ve tried that approach and I gave up. I was designing features for my site that I didn’t need. If you are new to the IndieWeb, let me be clear: you don’t need to build every feature you see on the wiki.
I have widely embraced webmentions on my site. I don’t share webmentions on each individual post because it would take too long to render that information on my static site. I read my webmentions every few days and so I am usually up-to-date on who is sharing my content.
I like webmentions because they connect me with my audience in a way where I have control. I don’t get notifications every time a webmention is sent to me (although I could probably set up an IFTTT script for that, now I think about it). I check my webmentions when I have time and I read them on the same cadence. I don’t feel pressured.
When I receive a webmention, I feel quite good about my work. I feel like someone is getting value out of what I have read. Replies are even more exciting because they are like getting an email from a friend. I love receiving emails from friends. Because I receive webmentions, I am doing my best to send them when I can. I don’t send webmentions often but I am going to try and send a few more.
Owning My Site
Data ownership is a big reason why I care about the IndieWeb. I have found out that I do not care about owning all of my data. GitHub can have the remote version of my codebases for now. I’m fine with that. If I do not choose my battles wisely, I’ll never be able to keep up with all the infrastructure I would need. I tried to deploy an instance of Gitea but I got bored during deployment. I don’t need my own Git server at the moment.
This site is my own. I may rent the server on which it is hosted from DigitalOcean but I wrote this site myself. This site is written in HTML, CSS, and Jekyll. It’s gone through a lot of improvements and alterations. The one fact that has stayed true is that I am building this site on my own. This feels good because I can customize every feature. It was easy to build my micropub server because I owned my site. I built the server to my own specifications. I can easily implement microformats on my site because I have control over the HTML.
Surfing the IndieWeb
Seeing so many people on the IndieWeb take pride in their websites has made me curious about how I can make my site the best it can be. I now know that I don’t want every IndieWeb feature on my site. I’m happy with what I have at the moment. A real community of people has formed around discussing what you can do on your website, and why you should or should not do something. This is a community where I feel right at home.
I often surf the IndieWeb webring when I am bored. This webring is always a source of inspiration. I actively contribute to the wiki. The wiki is great because whenever I feel down I can just go to the wiki and write about technology. There are no editorial barriers or content strategy considerations. I can just write about what I’m interested in at the pace I want to write. I’ve written about Raspberry Pis, home servers, static websites, and so much more.
I don’t embrace every technical concept because there is just too much to learn. Micropub was a step too far. I felt it when I was developing my server. When I was done, I knew I had gone too far. Sharing my favorite songs on my site was too much. Collecting this data increased the build time for this website. It was another script for me to worry about. I’m trying to fight the urge to “build for the future” and just focus on the itches I have now. For now, I don’t really have any itches. I’ll try leave my site alone until I find one.