Using our new KML output template, @erinjo is mapping her check-ins to her Known site. More soon! #indieweb

Known Office Hours ~ November 20, 2014

1 min read

Pro, plants, plugins, and more!

Thanks everyone for joining our very first office hours!

Ben and I had a lot of fun, and we hope to keep doing office hours every few weeks. This gives us a chance to share updates on things that we’ve been working on and to answer any questions from people in the community.

We’re posting this video here for everyone who wasn’t able to join us live. Do you have questions or want more clarification around things mentioned during office hours? Ask them here!


Links and things we mentioned

Pre-sale of Known Pro – withknown.com/pro

Instructions on exporting data from various sites - freemydata.co

The Known developer documentation - docs.withknown.com

A community plugin for syndicating to Wordpress - https://github.com/timmmmyboy/WordPress

More on Bridgy - http://stream.withknown.com/2014/getting-started-with-bridgy-1

More on webmentions - http://stream.withknown.com/2014/webmention-an-introduction-for-developers

Contact Known with questions – withknown.com/contact

We're the Known team and this is how we work

2 min read

We made you a little office movie!

We've been working out of the garage office of Matter Ventures since we started Known in May. It's been a lot of fun for us, and we love when visitors stop by. But we realized that many of you don't know where we work, how we work, or what we're currently working on. So we wanted to show you!

We made a little movie last Friday to give you an inside peek into our office and what the Known team is up to. We're currently working really hard to finish up the last bits of Known Pro. We're really excited about making that available in December. We're also working on a set of features that will make it easy to find and follow other Known sites. It will also make commenting and conversation between sites easier.

The Known Office Space

A few fun facts:

  • We're currently one of seven companies co-working at Matter right now.
  • There are more whiteboards than people here. Seriously, we have a lot of whiteboards.
  • Companies in the space follow design thinking principles (made popular at the Stanford d.school) so we have a lot of post-it notes. We also have a lot of permanent markers and whiteboard markers. Don't mix them up!
  • We eat a lot of string cheese here.

Let us know if you like the video.  We'd love to make some more in the future!

16 Online Tools to Make Your Writing Better

8 min read


We're halfway through November, which means many writers are currently deep into the NaNoWriMo process. Others are focusing on 30-day blogging streaks to build the habit of regular writing. I'm always on the lookout for tools that will better my writing and help me get more words out of my head. It can be challenging to open up a blank text document and stare at a blank screen while thoughts race through my head.

Known is a great platform for sharing articles, blog posts, or daily stories. However, getting through the writing can be hard. If you're currently focusing on your written word, here is a list of browser-based tools to help you compose. I've tried to include only tools that are accessible via the web and include a free version. In some cases, pro or premium features are also available.


Tools for Getting the Words Down

Writer App
The retro Writer interface

Writing on a computer can be hard. There are so many websites, notifications, and other distractions to pull our attention away. If you've ever struggled to corral your focus and get the words out of your head and onto the screen, then a distraction-free writing environment might be your savior.

CalmlyWriter

CalmlyWriter supports distraction-free writing by giving you a minimal blank space to type in the browser. You can format your content with markdown if you'd like, and you can insert images into the text if you're working on a blog post or an article. CalmlyWriter allows you to choose between two type faces, a serif and sans-serif option. If you like the online experience, there's also a premium desktop app that you can purchase for extra features.

Use CalmlyWriter if you need a blank space online to get your thoughts down.

Writer

Maybe you're old school. If you've been craving a retro typing experience, Writer might be fun to play with. The default web interface gives you a monochrome monitor typing experience. However, if green isn't your thing you can customize settings like the font, the type color, the background color, and the typing click sounds.

Use Writer if you want to customize your writing space.

Quabel

Quabel is a complete online writing space for individuals who want to create an account and save their work online. Quabel lets you write and save multiple documents in one online space. It also has a distraction-free writing interface and lets you do formatting with markdown. You can switch to night mode if you prefer typing in white on a black background. Quabel's writing goals let you set milestones around reading time, word length, character count, and more.

Use Quabel if you want an account for writing and saving your work.

Write.app

Write.app is another option if you want to create an account online for writing. The app gives you a free private notebook for your writing. You can type and save your work in a free, private, and secure account. Two-factor authentication is a premium option.

Use Write.app if you're interested in a private space online for writing notes and organizing them into notebooks.

Ilys

If you struggle with getting through the writing process, Ilys might be an interesting app to try. The site lets you set a word goal, and then you type directly into a box, one character at a time. For people like me who regularly make spelling errors and typos, this experience can feel aggravating. But that's the point. It's hard to break the editorial mindset, and it's common to go back and make corrections and changes as you're writing. With Ilys, you can't see your whole work or make any changes until you've hit your goal.

Use Ilys if you need help killing your internal editor.

Chrome Browser Apps

If you're a fan of Chrome and want a quick minimal space for typing, take a look at Write Space and Writebox. Both are extensions to the Chrome browser that will give you a bare bones space for typing if you just want to pull open a tab and get some words down.

Use Write Space or Writebox if you want a simple extension in Chrome.


Tools for Editing Your Words

Hemmingway App
Hemmingway App grades your writing

Once you've got some words down, how do you make your writing better? These tools will give you insights into your writing and help you edit and refine text before publishing.

Wordcounter

Wordcounter rates the frequency of words used in a body of text. It's great if you're trying to avoid repetition and redundancy in your written work.

Use Wordcounter if you need help spotting words that you overuse.

Cliché Finder

Don't get boxed in with clichés! If clichés are the bane of your existence, take Cliché Finder for a spin. This tool highlights clichés in a body of text and helps you replace phrases that are overused in society.

Use Cliché Finder to remove clichés from your writing.

Hemingway App

Hemingway App is a great tool for assigning a readability score to your writing. Paste in your text, and the site will highlight phrases or sentences that are hard to read. It also highlights adverbs, phrases in the passive voice, and words that can be more simple.  (This post has a readability score of Grade 8).

Use Hemingway App if you want to increase the readability of your writing and get more insight into your style.

Grammark

If you like numbers and details, Grammark might provide interesting insights into your writing style. Grammark lists out potential writing problems and calculates a grammar score based on your writing. You can customize how your ideal writing score is calculated by adjusting sliders to set the numbers for things like maximum number of sentences with transitions or total spelling errors accepted. Grammar gives you an overview with a score, and then it breaks down more details around passive voice, wordiness, transitions, sentences, grammar, and nominalizations.

Use Grammark if you want more analytical insight into your writing.


Tools for Finding Different Words

Write Rhymes
Write Rhymes will help you find words with the perfect sound

So by this point, you've gotten something typed up, and you've spent some time removing words and editing your composition. But what if you need help finding the perfect words to get your point across?

Power Thesaurus

The Power Thesaurus is an easy-to-use thesaurus website that will help you track down a variety of synonyms and antonyms. Unlike other sites, the results are voted on by users, and you can extend your search with similar words, sounds, and terms that are frequently searched for with your initial input word.

Use Power Thesaurus when you're looking for just the right word.

Visual Thesaurus

This is one of my favorite sites for exploring words and associations, but it's only free for a few searches. The Visual Thesaurus will give you a better view into related words and connections. The words are displayed in a mind map, with nodes for nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs highlighted in different colors. If you're a visual person, it's easy to get lost in the network of similar terms. If this visual interface appeals to you and you want something similar that's always free, check out the dictionary site Visuwords. It's a bit more clunky, but it includes a similar visual representation of words and their related terms.

Use Visual Thesaurus for a mind map of related terms and words.

Write Rhymes

Oh how hard it is to rhyme,
When you're frantically searching for words all the time.

The Write Rhymes tool will help you find rhyming words in English. Type your word and get back a list of rhyming recommendations. Suggestions are broken down by number of syllables.

Use Write Rhymes if you need help rhyming in your next song or poem.


Bonus Tools for Industry Writers

oTranscribe
oTranscribe makes it easy to transcribe from an audio or video file

Plobot

Are your working on a screenplay? Plobot is a web-based tool that will let you do the writing straight from your browser, and it handles the formatting.

oTranscribe

Transcribing audio? It can be a pain to switch back and forth between your audio file and your text document. With oTranscribe, you can upload an audio or video file directly into the browser space and type your transcript right below it. If you're using the audio content type in Known, this could be a great tool to generate a transcript of the recording to include with your audio post.


There you have it. What other tools help you with the online writing process? I'd love to know your favorites!


#writing #tools #productivity

Facebook is cutting brand reach, again. We believe there's a better way.

2 min read

As reported by the New York Times, Facebook is reducing the reach of brand pages on their social network:

On Friday, the company told marketers that if they really wanted to reach their customers on Facebook, they needed to buy an ad.

The social network announced that starting in January, it would reduce the number of posts made by brand pages, such as pitches to install a new mobile app or tune into a TV show, that appear in the news feeds of its 1.35 billion global users.

In other words, the reach of posts made on Facebook Pages is going to continue to drop over time, so that Facebook can increase ad revenue. Their approach is algorithmic: Facebook's developers are writing software that will determine what is "great content", and hide the rest. The criteria for making this decision is unlikely to be public.

We believe that readers should have control over the content that reaches them, and that publishers should not be subject to this kind of opaque black box.

We know we're not alone: we've spoken to publishers, journalists, educators and technologists who all struggle to understand which content gets seen, and which is buried by content filtering algorithms.

We're building a new kind of easy to use, peer to peer network where publishers and audiences can have direct access to each other, without interference from third-party algorithms. Our mission is to empower everyone to share and communicate from a space on the Internet fully under their control.

Our first step on this road is Known Pro: a way to publish to your own domain while easily syndicating your content to Twitter, Facebook Pages, Google+, LinkedIn and more. You can keep a copy of all your interactions from those social networks, and analyze them in one place. You can always search and download your content. And if you want to use your own server instead of ours, that's totally okay, too.

The web is the most powerful platform for conversation the world has ever known. It's time we set those conversations free.

Getting started with Bridgy

8 min read

We love Known because it’s a great platform for publishing blog posts, writing updates, and sharing the regular stream of tiny stories, moments, and images that fill our day. It’s easy to record and publish your thoughts and stories on your website, but Known also makes it easy share those stories and updates with friends on other social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

However, if someone leaves a comment on your post on Facebook or replies to your update on Twitter, shouldn’t that discussion be part of the original post that lives on your Known site? Yes! We think that if your content originates on your own website, the discussion around that content should also live on your own website.

That’s why we’re super excited that with Known and a tool called Bridgy, the interactions from Facebook and Twitter can come back and live with the original content on your own website.

Known supports webmentions

One of the awesome features of Known is that it has support for webmentions built in. You don’t need to do anything to turn this on. It’s part of the code in the platform. What is a webmention? A webmention is a protocol that notifies a web author when you link to a URL. It’s a way for your website to receive a notification whenever another web page links to a page on your site. If you’ve run other blogs before, webmentions work a bit like a more modern version of pingbacks or trackbacks.

If you want to learn more about the technical details behind webmentions, Ben just wrote a great post explaining how they work.

Because Known supports webmentions, we can use Bridgy to bring interactions from social networks like Facebook and Twitter and display them with the original post on our Known sites.

What is Bridgy?

Bridgy is an open source tool that pulls comments, replies, likes, favorites, and reshares from social networks and displays them on the original post on the author’s website. So imagine this scenario. I just wrote a new post about how great olive and mushroom pizza is and how I can’t wait to have a slice this weekend. When I published this post on my own website, I also syndicated it to Facebook and Twitter. Then on Twitter, someone stars my post, and someone else responds. Yeah, they want to eat pizza too! On Facebook, a handful of my friends like the post and a few suggest making pizza plans for the weekend.

But the post about pizza originated on my personal site, so shouldn’t these comments and interactions be captured on my personal site as well? Yup! I’ve already authenticated with Bridgy, so the service rounds up these interactions and sends them to the pizza post on my site where they’re displayed just like comments. Neat huh? If a service like Twitter or Facebook ever goes away, I still have a record of the conversation on my own site.

Getting Bridgy working

To use Bridgy with your Known site, visit the Bridgy website to authenticate. Right now, you can use Bridgy for things you share from your Known site to Twitter and to Facebook, so you’ll need to authenticate on Bridgy with both your Twitter and Facebook accounts if you want to capture responses from both social networks.

Bridgy and Twitter

Select the button for Twitter, and authenticate. You’ll need to authorize the app so that Bridgy knows who you are on Twitter.

Add website to profile

If you get the above message, you need to add the URL of your Known site to your Twitter profile.

If you already have the URL for your Known website listed in your Twitter profile, you should be good to go. If not, you’ll get a little message asking you to add your website to your profile. Once you’ve done that, you can authenticate again. Then you should be good to go. That’s it!
Authenticated with Twitter and Bridgy

Once Bridgy is ready to go with Twitter, it should look like this.

Bridgy and Facebook

The process is similar for Facebook. Select the button for Facebook, and authenticate. Just like Twitter, Bridgy needs to know who you are on Facebook. Again, you’ll need to have the URL for your Known website listed on your Facebook profile. If it’s already there, great!

Add website to profile

If you get the above message, you need to add the URL of your Known site to your Facebook profile.

Once you authenticate with Bridgy, you should be set up. If you don’t have your Known website listed, you’ll get a message on Bridgy asking you to add it. Then you can authenticate again, and you’ll be ready to go.

Authenticated with Facebook and Bridgy

Once Bridgy is ready to go with Facebook, it should look like this.

Why does Bridgy need a website URL?

You may wonder why you need to have your website listed on your Twitter and Facebook profiles in order for Bridgy to work. To send interactions from posts on the social network back to your website, Bridgy needs to know which website is yours. For Twitter, it looks at what you posted to Twitter and it looks at what you posted on your personal website (because it sees the URL in your profile). Then it sends the interactions from a Twitter post back to the original post on your personal site. It works the same with Facebook.

Once you’ve authenticated to Twitter and Facebook through Bridgy, interactions from any new posts on either network will get sent back to the original post on your personal site.

That’s it! With just a few easy steps you can start bringing the conversations from Facebook and Twitter back to your own site. Hopefully you won’t run into any problems getting set up with Bridgy, but just in case, check below for a few extra questions and answers.

Questions and Troubleshooting

What social networks does this work with?

Right now, if you have a website on Known, you can use Bridgy to collect social interactions from Facebook and Twitter.

What interactions will show up?

If you’re sending content to Twitter, then retweets, replies, and favorites from your Tweets will come back to the original post on your site. If you’re using Facebook, then likes and comments from your Facebook posts will come back to the original content on your site. When we say “social interactions,” we’re talking about these things, interactions between people on social networks.

Why aren’t all of the interactions coming back in real time?

Bridgy checks your posts periodically for new interactions. The more you syndicate to content to the Facebook and Twitter, the more often it will check for updates.

Why aren’t all of the interactions showing up on my site?

Sometimes you might see that someone starred or replied to something on Twitter or commented on something on Facebook, but the interaction isn’t showing up on your site. In that case, it may be a question of privacy. If that person had a private Twitter profile, none of those interactions will show up on the (public) post on your personal website. Similarly, if the person on Facebook has privacy controls in place so that their comments and interactions are not public outside of Facebook, they won’t show up on your site.

Do I really have to add my website URL to my profiles on Facebook and Twitter?

Adding URL to Facebook

Yes, at this time Bridgy needs to know what your website is in order to work, and it does that by checking your profile. Some of you might have more than one website (like I do). On Facebook, just list the other sites below. On Twitter, I stuck another website in my bio.

Adding URL to Twitter

Is Bridgy storing my data?

Bridgy stores as little of your personally identifiable information (PII) as possible, and it never has access to the passwords for your social network accounts.

How can I learn more about Bridgy?

Check out their site! There’s more useful information about the tool on their About / FAQ page.

Uh no, Bridgy stopped working with Facebook!

Don’t worry, there’s an easy fix. Bridgy is an app that works with Facebook, and Facebook only lets apps interact with your Facebook account for 2 months without any kind of user interaction. Because Bridgy runs in the background, there isn’t much of a reason to interact with Bridgy, so you need to renew access between Bridgy and Facebook every 2 months. Bridgy will send you a Facebook notification when it’s time to renew; just click it and you should be fine.

What if I have more than one website that I want to use with Bridgy, but only one Facebook or Twitter account?

So many websites! That’s amazing! Unfortunately, at this time Bridgy can only associate one website with one Twitter account and one Facebook account. If you’re sending content to Facebook and Twitter from more than one site, you’ll have to choose which site you want to use Bridgy with.

Webmention: an introduction for developers

5 min read

Webmention is a simple protocol that allows one website to notify another that it has "mentioned" it - in other words, referenced it in a link. Together with HTML5 microformats, it is one of the building blocks of the indie web. It is also one of the technologies that makes decentralized discussion, event RSVPs and commenting work in Known.

It is not the first protocol to attempt to handle these notifications: previously, trackbacks and pingbacks performed a similar task. Webmention supersedes these technologies by using encoded form content in an HTTP POST request, rather than comparatively more complex XML-RPC calls.

Fundamentals

One site "mentions" another by finding its webmention endpoint, and sending a very simple HTTP POST request that contains the URL of the source website, as well as the target: in other words, the website being linked to.

Let's break that down:

Webmention endpoint discovery

Websites can list their webmention endpoints in a number of ways:

  1. An HTTP Link: header, which looks something like: Link: http://alice.host/webmention-endpoint>; rel="webmention"
  2. A link tag in the header of the page HTML:
  3. An anchor tag in the body of the page HTML:

Note that in each case, a tag has a "rel" relation attribute with the value "webmention". This tells an HTML parser that the link in the tag is a webmention endpoint.

If you're sending webmentions, you need to look for all of these places. Some webmention clients also check for a "rel" value of http://webmention.org/, which was used in an older version of the protocol specification.

Sending the webmention

A webmention is just a form-encoded HTTP POST request. In other words, it's exactly the same kind of request as is sent when you submit most forms on the web.

In fact, you could easily add a form to your website that sends a webmention to your own webmention endpoint. All you'd need is a URL input called source and a URL input called target.

A sample request looks like:

POST /webmention-endpoint HTTP/1.1
Host: alice.host
Content-Type: application/x-www-url-form-encoded

source=http://bob.host/post-by-bob&target=http://alice.host/post-by-alice

Validating a webmention

The receiver of a webmention should check the source URL to make sure that it exists, and make sure that it genuinely links to the target URL.

Further parsing and verification may take place, which we'll discuss below. Once the webmention has been validated, a 202 response is returned in response to the original request:

HTTP/1.1 202 Accepted

http://alice.host/link/to/page/on/target/containing/webmention/

If the webmention couldn't be validated because the source was incorrect or the webmention was malformed, the endpoint should return an HTTP 400 error. If the webmention couldn't be validated because of something that happened on the target site, the endpoint should return an HTTP 500 error.

Ideally, webmentions should be processed asynchronously, to prevent certain kinds of abuse. However, this makes it harder to return the URL of a webmention to the source site.

What can I use this for?

The indie web community has used webmentions as the backbone for decentralized social interactions.

The fundamentals of each kind of interaction is the same. In addition to the webmention protocol standards listed above, each post should be marked up using microformats. These provide further semantic context to the content on a web page by establishing conventions around the way HTML classes are used on page elements. This microformatted markup allows content to be marked up as social actions like comments, replies, RSVPs, likes or reshares. A page can then send a webmention to tell the target about the social action.

Because any page on the web can reply to, RSVP to, like or reshare any other page on the web, the combination of webmention and microformats establishes the backbone to a very simple social web of activities.

Base social interaction standards

Content should be marked up with the h-entry microformat, which identifies it as a post. Ideally it should also be marked up with nested content identifying the author using the h-card microformat.

Using a microformat parser like php-mf2, this markup can be transformed into structured data that a webmention endpoint can use to process interactions.

Many platforms, including Known, store the user photos, names and profiles that are parsed from each post's accompanying h-card, in order to display content in a manner that closely resembles centralized social networks.

Here are some specializations of webmention-enabled social interactions:

Comments

Links to the target page (the page being replied to) should be marked up with a "rel" value of in-reply-to, as well as a microformat class of u-in-reply-to. For example:

<a href="http://target/page/" rel="in-reply-to" class="u-in-reply-to">link text</a>

RSVPs

An RSVP is a comment in reply to a post about an event, that includes a data tag with the class p-rsvp, where the value is whether you're attending the event (typically "yes", "no" or "maybe"). For example:

<data class="p-rsvp" value="yes">

Likes

A like is similar to a comment, except that the link contains a class of "u-like-of", and no "rel" value.

Reposts

A repost (or reshare; Twitter calls these a retweet) is the same as a like, but the class on the link is swapped out for "u-repost-of".

Who uses webmentions?

Thousands of Known sites are webmention-compatible, and a growing number of projects use webmention (notably brid.gy, which converts your social interactions on closed networks like Twitter and Facebook into webmentions). It's an easy protocol to build against, and a crucial building block towards building a diverse, decentralized social web.

Running personal, connected courses with Known #edtech #edtechchat

3 min read

This fall, the University of Mary Washington in Virginia has been running the first online courses to use Known. As Jim Groom recounts:

Since August we’ve been working together to use Known as the syndication hub for the Wire106 course I’m teaching at UMW. It puts students in control of authoring in their own space, allowing them to push their work to a variety of social media networks like Twitter, SoundCloud, Facebook, and Flickr. Additionally, they can also push to a course hub, dramatically changing how simple it is to aggregate student work for a given course.

Known gives students a personal space where they publish their coursework, notes and ideas. They can then syndicate this content, if they want, to on-campus course software and their social networks.

We work with institutions to integrate with Learning Management Systems like Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard and Desire2Learn, but we've been surprised by how many educators want to bypass this step entirely and run their own course hubs. Known can provide a communal space for each class, that sits as a connective piece between each personal student site. More and more institutions are coming to us to ask about establishing these communal social spaces for their classes.

However you set Known up, students' personal Known sites are the key. As Jim notes:

One of the things that appealed to me immediately about Known is the simple, Tumblresque interface. Various content types, lightweight admin bar, frontend publishing, and a minimalist aesthetic. It’s everything I have learned to love about Tumblr, with the bonus of being open source and designed to capture a distributed network.

Learning Management Systems are designed around course administration, rather than learning. Institutions have been discovering that providing a space that encourages both self-reflection and social activity as a core aspect of its design is a better fit for their pedagogy.

Known is an open source platform, and every single feature has an API interface. That means it's easy to tailor for the needs of educators and institutions. (It's also worth saying that you always have control over your data and privacy.) We provide full support, and you have the choice of running Known on your own infrastructure or ours. That way we can match your institutional policy, technical needs, and available resources.

We're delighted that so many educators are following Jim's example. If you have any questions about running Known for courses, or at an institution, get in touch - we'll be glad to discuss the possibilities with you.