Online community predates the web

“While working at CERN, Berners-Lee had put together all of the elements of the World Wide Web, and it was even starting to get some use internally. But he had yet to announce the project publicly. The message above was his first time doing so. The venue he chose was the most familiar to him. In a Usenet post, unceremoniously tucked away inside another thread.”

The Importance of Being on Usenet (The History of the Web)

Online community predates the web: BBSes, Usenet, email mailing lists, IRC.

What’s nice about these early platforms — and even the software that followed on the web, like internet forums (message boards) — was that they were decentralized. They were protocols or software that anyone could use to create a new place of their own.

But that’s not where we are today. We’re firmly in Web 2.0, relying on centralized service providers like Facebook, Twitter, Slack, et al.

There’s obvious upside to using these services. They handle the maintenance, the development, the support. But they also have total control. They decide how the service runs and how they’ll use your data.

Thankfully, though, there are alternatives.

Mastodon, Friendica, and Diaspora are all decentralized alternatives to Twitter and Facebook. Mattermost and Rocket.Chat are decentralized, open alternatives to Slack. PeerTube is an open alternative to YouTube. And forum software like Discourse, Flarum, and Vanilla are all open alternatives to Facebook Groups.

You can emulate some of this on WordPress, too. BuddyPress adds social media capabilities to WordPress. bbPress adds a forum. Not to mention plugins like Memberful and MemberPress that can add a paid membership component.

TL;DR = Online community predates the web. It was built on open protocols and platforms of the early internet. That spirit lived on in Web 1.0. We lost some of that with Web 2.0 and centralized service providers, but we’re not beyond redemption.

Chaos is a feature of the online world

This chaos — this cubism, this unleashing of our multiple selves — is a feature, not a bug, of the online world. It’s arguably its defining characteristic for those who grew up there. You could attribute all the jump cuts, all the endlessly iterating memes, to a destroyed attention span. But it’s also evidence of something deeper, a mind-set people are just trying to name.”

“Arguably it is the dominant postapocalyptic vision of our digital times, the internet’s McLuhan moment, brought to us by teenagers who, as such, spend their days feeling like 10 different people at once and believe they can, and should, express them all. We all contain multitudes. The kids seem to know that’s all right.”

What Do Teens Learn Online Today? (NY Times Magazine)

When I look at the fluidity of the next generation and how they behave online, I feel a pang of nostalgia for the years I spent lurking on message boards during the early 00’s.

It’s a different landscape now. The linear discussion threads I grew up with have given way to ephemeral video with superimposed text and memes and emojis (memojis? ?)

But having a multitude of aliases and different personas to morph in and out of? Heh. That’s old news. It’s been part of the online experience since Usenet. We’re just witnessing Gen Z manifest it in a new way.

The value of local biz websites for SEO

“Far from it being the case that websites have become obsolete, they are the firmest bedrock for maintaining free local SERP visibility amidst an increasing scarcity of opportunities.”

Why Local Businesses Will Need Websites More than Ever in 2019 (Moz)

Small businesses need websites. The website is a single “source of truth” that they control. Everything else they do online — Facebook, Instagram, Google My Business — should point back to it.

I’m biased of course — I work at GoDaddy, we sell a website builder, and we sell WordPress hosting — but I was an advocate of getting local businesses online long before I joined GoDaddy. It’s why got into web development as a career.

Let’s make simplicity the default

Eminently usable designs and architectures result when simplicity is the default. It’s why unadorned HTML works. It beautifully solves the problem of presenting documents to the screen that we don’t even consider all the careful thought that went into the user agent stylesheets that provide its utterly boring presentation. We can take a lesson from this, especially during a time when more websites are consumed as web apps, and make them more resilient by adhering to semantics and native web technologies. As it stands, we’re serving heaps of burgers on silver platters of JavaScript with a generous helping of layout framework sauce not everyone can choke down.”

Make it Boring (Jeremy Wagner)

My dev chops are getting rusty. It’s time for a refresher.

Rather than dropping headfirst into new frameworks or build tools — as I’ve tried before, many times, with limited success — I’m rethinking my approach:

Start with the basics. Clean markup. Plain ol’ HTML. Figure out the semantic structure, then add from there. Bolt on new pieces as needed, only if needed.

Gutenberg is more complex because it does more

“I won’t argue that Gutenberg isn’t more complex than the classic editor when viewed at the macro level. It is! But that’s because it can do so much more. It’s the first step in setting up for the long term goal of the project, which will simplify overall site creation and management.”

The Gutenberg Complexity Fallacy (William Earnhardt)

This post is a year old — almost to the day! It feels particularly timely given the State of the Word presentation at WordCamp US this past week.

Matt Mullenweg ran his presentation from a Gutenberg-powered WordPress plugin. He demoed clever Gutenberg implementations for newsrooms and an inline block directory to help with block discovery.

TL;DR = Blocks are the future of WordPress, and I’m all for it.

My blog uses the new block editor. Every new site I create uses the block editor or, if I’m feeling particularly frisky, the Gutenberg plugin.

Fun fact: they’re different! The editor is in core, the Gutenberg plugin is the latest-and-greatest. Features are tested in the plugin before they get added to core.

I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for blocks. The WordPress plugin repo is quickly filling up with new block collections. We’ve gone all-in on blocks at GoDaddy, too.

Rich Tabor (creator of CoBlocks) joined the team earlier this year, and we’re releasing a new WordPress theme crafted specifically for the block editor.

…now we just need more blocks to build with!

Facebook isn’t a community

There’s no such thing as a 2.2BN+ “community” — as the company prefers to refer to its globe-spanning user-base. So quite how the massive diversity of Facebook users can be meaningfully represented by the views of a last resort case review body with as few as 11 members has not yet been made clear.”

Meet Facebook’s latest fake (TechCrunch)

Facebook talks about community but they outsource moderation. In turn, there’s no room for nuance or subjectivity in their content policies, but that’s exactly how a community governs itself.

Facebook — sorry, FACEBOOK — isn’t a community. It’s a database marketing platform. It’s a behemoth repository of personal information with a handful of apps running on top of it to gather more information for the database.

Are FB’s apps useful? Absolutely. But the app users aren’t customers and they sure aren’t a community. FACEBOOK’s advertisers are their customers and, arguably, more of a “community” than the users.

Legible markup and an open web

“Illegibility comes from complexity without clarity. I believe that the legibility of the source is one of the most important properties of the web. It’s the main thing that keeps the door open to independent, unmediated contributions to the network. If you can write markup, you don’t need Medium or Twitter or Instagram (though they’re nice to have). And the best way to help someone write markup is to make sure they can read markup.”

Everything Easy is Hard Again (Frank Chimero)

With the growing popularity of jamstack it feels like we’re returning to legible markup. Old web applets and iFrame widgets make way for pure Javascript APIs.

VW’s new electric boogaloo

” At major global car exhibitions, Volkswagen AG typically presents itself as a big, happy family, where each brand—budget-oriented Seat and Skoda, VW proper, luxury Audi, road rockets Porsche, Lamborghini, and Bugatti—gets equal time to flaunt its latest innovations. But in Frankfurt this September, the choreography was different, with the company devoting the entire preshow press conference to a single diminutive model: an all-electric hatchback called the ID.3. “

VW’s $50 Billion Moonshot Bet on an Electric Hatchback (Businessweek)

We switched from a 2013 Honda Civic LX to a 2019 Volkswagen Golf back in August.

We fell in love with the car while on our honeymoon in Tuscany and, I gotta say, I adore driving it.

I was also eyeing the e-Golf, but with Ontario’s PC government pulling the plug on electric car incentives, I couldn’t stomach the price. Or the thought of running out of power during a long-haul drive.

Nonetheless, I’m glad to see VW go all-in on electric vehicles. It’s the future. I agree. It’s just a question of when and how they roll out.