The Web is about enabling collaboration between people. I can write a blog post about coffee, publish it, and share it with coffee roasters around Scotland. That post can be referenced for years by people I will never meet who share my passion for coffee. People can respond to that post: like it, share it with others, leave comments. The Web is social.
Over the last two and a half years, I have been actively participating in the IndieWeb community, a group of people passionate about personal websites. We have community members from around the world, with a broad range of interests. While many community members are technical, everyone who is interested in having a personal website is welcome. We can help you get set up with WordPress and many other tools. We can help you build your own home on the web.
One thing I wish someone had told me is that I can help shape the social web. So I am telling this to you now: if you are interested in advancing the social web, there are ways to help.
The biggest way you can participate in the social web is to start a personal website! Write about what interests you. On this blog, I have interviewed coffee professionals around the UK, written about moments that have brought me joy, and shared my thoughts on the web. The only limit is your creativity. And indeed you can design your site as you want, too! Make it yours.
Personal websites are by no means islands. With tools like social readers (of which RSS readers are a part), you can follow your favourite websites. On the average day, I see commentary on news stories from a writer whose work I appreciate, posts about coffee, random Tweet-length musings from other people, and more. I can even like and comment on posts! You can share your posts with other people on social media, too! Join the IndieWeb and tell us you made a website!
In addition, there is work to be done in defining how the social web works at a fundamental level. While work has been done for many years on this topic, there are many challenges to address. These challenges require help from across disciplines. ActivityPub and ActivityStreams, the technologies that power Mastodon and other distribued social networks, are well defined but are by no means finished. And the actual standardization is only part of the work. The list of areas to explore, ranging from defining web-native ways to send social interactions to documenting content moderation mechanisms to building test suites for existing specifications.
If you are interested in helping advance the social web, I have two recommendations of places to explore:
- The IndieWeb community. As I mentioned earlier, the community does have a technical leaning, but all interested in personal websites or the web are welcome! I love hanging out here. I have learned about everything from American diners to data formats in the community to data privacy. Discussions on all things web are welcome: what to write about, feedback on your posts, how to present content, data privacy, to name a few topics.
- The W3C Social Web Incubator Community Group. In this group, work is actively being done to advance existing social web standards, and to facilitate discussions about the social web. Anyone can join, for free. We would love to hear your input on the big issues that matter to you about the social web. No standards experience is required, although for technologists joining the group we recommend you read and/or implement the specifications that you want to discuss.
The social web needs expertise across fields to advance. We are building technology for people, and that requires perspectives from across subject areas: user experience, technical, legal, social. Should you be interested in helping out, you are more than welcome! I am available at readers [at] jamesg [dot] blog if you have any questions.
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