Booting up a fresh blogosphere
Tuesday, January 26, 2016 by Dave Winer

My recent piece, Anywhere But Medium, has gotten a fair amount of play. Nothing on TechMeme, but I didn't expect them to cover it, they generally promote VC-backed tech companies, and the message in the ABM piece was very much counter to the current thinking in VC. I hope eventually that will change, and their investments will accept the open web, and their companies will create products that feed back into the web, products that can be built on to create new products without forcing every new venture to start over from scratch. I think it'll be a much more powerful and healthy ecosystem then. This ecosystem is eventually going to run out of room to grow. I suspect that's going to happen pretty soon.

Anyway, there is probably enough agreement "out there" to create a critical mass for a newly invigorated blogosphere to boot up along the lines of the one that started this whole thing in the late 90s to early 2000s. What we need is a little new technology, and support from one or two vendors.

It's interesting to see Mike Caulfield try to get under the covers of WordPress to be able to directly edit the code behind the rendering. My good friend Daniel Bachhuber says there are reasons it's not possible. There are privacy concerns, people use short codes in WordPress and might not want them revealed publicly. I'll have to learn more about this.

But there is another approach, to have WordPress accept as input, the URL of a JSON file containing the source code for a post, and then do its rendering exactly as if that post had been written using WordPress's editor. That would give us exactly what we need to have the best of all worlds. Widespread syndication and control over our own writing and archive. All at a very low cost in terms of storage and CPU. 

I wrote about this in an earlier piece.

Here's an example of the JSON for this post. I'm already storing it publicly with my in-development blogging tool, Since it hasn't yet been deployed outside my own server there's still time to change the format, with relatively little breakage.

Just want to put this idea out there for people who are thinking about this stuff. APIs are not necessary. Just a new syndication format. We could even use an existing format, but since we're mostly working in JavaScript these days, I think JSON is also a fine way to go. ;-)

  • Interesting as always, thanks! I’m currently playing with the vocabulary – I don’t like all of it, but it covers a lot of ground and seems to be widely used already. Have you looked at Compared to your JSON format, it would be “creator” not “name”, maybe “articleBody” instead of “text” (though they have “text” as well, a bit ambiguous), “datePublished” / “dateModified” instead of “when” / “whenLastUpdate” etc. What’s also interesting is JSON-LD which, with only minimal additional information, makes JSON conform to Linked Data principles.

    • Why? 

  • (also published on my blog)

    I was thinking about this a lot especially from the point of view of owning my own data. The first version of how to do it was “the canonical version is on my harddrive in some reasonable format, WordPress is just for presentation to be discarded anytime” (even more important because WP pulverizes anything resembling HTML into his own disgusting mush). For that I started to use (and extended) and used WP on my own server.

    Then inevitable happened: my server died, so I have to rebuild my site. My colleagues from work shared rented VPS so I joined them and pointed my domain to it. However, when I started to work on installing WP, I was caught again by my suspicions about WP. Do I really want to fight with pulverized HTML, zillion upgrades, comment spam, etc., when all I want from the server is to render my posts to HTML? So, I started to look for static web generators. After a brief affair with Hexo  (Server-side JavaScript looks like such a good idea, but it still so immature and unuseable!) I ended up with pelican.

    The only problem is of course the only dynamic part of my blog, which are comments. For now I have Disqus on my site as everybody else, but I am very unhappy with it. Sometimes, when I have time I will try to make Isso working for me, but I have failed so far.

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