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Known Announces DreamHost as Exclusive Web Hosting Sponsor

3 min read

SAN FRANCISCO, September 29, 2015 – Known, an open source publishing platform used to empower both individuals and groups to own their social activity online, today announced that it had entered into an exclusive web hosting sponsorship agreement with DreamHost, the Los Angeles based web host and domain registrar. This exclusive sponsorship will help fund further development on Known, and allow Known users to easily find high-quality hosting for their sites at a special price.

“DreamHost is one of the most trusted web hosts in the world, as well as a prominent supporter of open source software, and we’re excited to work with them,” said Known CEO Ben Werdmuller.  “Web hosts like DreamHost empower anyone to own a space on the Internet, and this collaboration makes it easier than ever. DreamHost services are fully compatible with Known, and we recommend them for supporting Known sites.” 

DreamHost will be visible across Known’s websites, and in the administration panel of the software itself. Known has also committed to make installation of its software as simple as possible across DreamHost services.

DreamHost has long been a supporter of open source platforms, and is a major supporter of Open Stack solutions. As well as affordable web hosting, the company provides virtual and dedicated web servers, standards-based block storage, and domain registration.

Known was a graduate of Matter Ventures, a values-based accelerator in downtown San Francisco backed by the Knight Foundation, PRX and KQED. It released its first beta version in September 2014, and powers tens of thousands of social community sites. Its group sites are used by universities and organizations around the world.

For organizations in sectors other than web hosting, the benefits of sponsoring Known include:

  1. Value from association with the project and its mission of allowing everyone to own their social activity online
  2. Recognition of sponsorship on Known web presences and in the administration panel of the Known software

About DreamHost

DreamHost is a global Web hosting and cloud services company with over 370,000 entrepreneur and developer customers, and 1.3 million blogs, websites, and apps hosted. The Company develops and uses Open Source software throughout its infrastructure, and is a leading proponent of OpenStack and Ceph. DreamHost offers a wide spectrum of Web services including Shared Hosting, Virtual Private Servers (VPS), Dedicated Server Hosting, Domain Name Registration, the public cloud storage service, DreamObjects, and the public cloud computing service, DreamCompute. Please visit for more information.

About Known

Known is a provider of open source social software solutions for groups and individuals. Its flagship product allows anyone to run a group website where participants can publish and discuss using a variety of media. Known also provides consultancy services to media companies, universities and corporations, helping them own their social activity online. Please visit for more information.

Self-hosted Known 0.8.4 has left the building!

1 min read

We just released Known 0.8.4, which you can download from our website. Here are some of the fixes and changes:

  • See who you've invited to Known, and resend or rescind invitations
  • Hashtag linking improvements
  • List your Bitcoin, Spotify and SIP addresses in your profile
  • Upload SVG pictures
  • Numerous interface improvements

Known 0.8.4 also contains many more fixes and improvements. You can download the Known 0.8.4 package from our open source page.

If you prefer, you can get a free Known site on our fully-managed service.

Create an enterprise social discussion space in 3 minutes

3 min read

Over 90% of organizations have some kind of social network running internally. As the co-founder of Elgg, one of the first internal social networking solutions, I find this gratifying: 12 years ago, few people saw the potential for social technology beyond personal blogging and sharing.

Unfortunately, too many organizations choose to purchase an enterprise social solution with a Field of Dreams mentality: "if you build it, they will come". On the contrary, as Harvard Business Review noted recently:

The reality is that the landscape is littered with failed technology deployments. Altimeter’s research shows that less than half of the enterprise collaboration tools installed have many employees using them regularly.

When we work with higher education, we're keen to point out that technology should support teaching, and not the other way around (a curriculum shouldn't be moulded around the capabilities of your technology). The same is true in organizations: the way your enterprise functions should be in tune with your business goals, rather than the software you happen to be using.

Forcing people to use an internal social platform is counter-intuitive. Instead, it makes sense to provide a platform that supports you when you need it, in a flexible way. That means it's got to be simple, support ad-hoc use, but allow you to keep your activity around in case you need to refer to it later. Many organizations also require the ability to audit activity.

If you just need to create a one-off simple space to bring up to 200 people in to discuss a project either privately or publicly, you can use Known Pro. $10 for up to 200 users with unlimited storage and bandwidth is hard to beat. Signing up and inviting your users in takes less than three minutes. (I know: I've timed it countless times.)

If you're the kind of firm that needs to run social spaces on your own infrastructure, for compliance or legislative reasons, Known can provide this too. We can also run Known on a fully-managed private cloud for you.

We can also create a system for your organization that allows you to create unlimited social discussion spaces, all linked to your existing accounts via Single Sign On (in education, we use LTI; in enterprise, LDAP and Shibboleth are available). You can easily keep track of all the project spaces that have been created, and you can control access individually - which means you can invite people from outside your organization to help with a project, on a project-by-project basis.

It's completely customizable, flexible, easy-to-use, and mobile-first. We're proud to give you full control over your data and discussions.

To learn more about how Known can help your enterprise, get in touch.

Three features to make #edtech classroom life easier

2 min read

One of the best parts of my job is speaking to educators and learning about how they teach. Teachers are amazing: creative and inspiring, often in the face of limited resources.

A trend we've seen is that teachers are frustrated by the social publishing and discussion features provided by their Learning Management System. While an LMS can help with grades and assignments, often it's important for a class to share their reflections, discuss ideas with each other, and post links, bookmarks and other resources relevant to their class from the outside world.

Known has always let you publish and discuss in a group using a variety of media: blog posts, bookmarks, status updates, audio, photos and more. It's always been mobile-first, had a choice of visual themes, and included full search and hashtag support. Recently, we also added per-post access permissions, so you can choose how widely you share your thoughts. (Not everyone is comfortable publishing to the whole group right away.)

Now, we've added a few new features to our turnkey campus product that we think make Known even better for class use.

Seamless single sign on integration with your LMS via LTI. If you're unfamiliar with LTI, it allows you to create a very simple single sign on link from your LMS. Students just click a link from their class in the learning management system and they're immediately logged into their class Known site.

A searchable student directory. See who else is in your class, search for them by name or profile information, and click through to see what they've posted.

File uploads. This is probably our most-requested feature: the ability to post any file, as well as your thoughts about them. If you need to share a PDF or a Powerpoint presentation with your class, now you can.

These features are only available as part of Known's campus plan, which also comes with unlimited storage and bandwidth. We think it's a great solution for institutions and educators who want to add better social discussion and publishing to their classes.

To learn more, check out Known for Education, or get in touch to have a conversation with us about how we can support you.

Self-hosted Known 0.8.3 has left the building!

1 min read

We just released Known 0.8.3, which you can download from our website. Here are some of the fixes and changes:

  • Block users by email address
  • Fixes a bug with per-item access permissions in location check-ins
  • Improved Convoy display for syndicated content
  • Most content types now have a rich text editor
  • Improved interactions
  • Improved audio player display
  • Improved RSS feed display
  • Fixed an issue with saving configuration
  • Experimental Postgres support
  • Such dogeon support so removed wow

You can download the Known 0.8.3 package from our open source page.

If you prefer, you can get a free Known site on our fully-managed service.

How to do more with RSS feeds

5 min read

do more with rss feeds

When you think of RSS feeds, you likely imagine feed readers and news aggregators. Feed readers are a great way to subscribe to and view content from many sources, but there are other ways to use RSS feeds to your advantage. Below I’ve outlined three interesting ways to use feeds without a feed reader: through updates in Slack, by using IFTTT to send updates to your calendar, and by getting a daily email digest. Read on to learn how to set these up for yourself.

Send RSS feeds to Slack

RSS feeds in Slack

Slack is a popular group communication app. It features integrations with a number of services like Github, Google Drive, and Twitter, which makes it a nice way to keep everyone from your company or group up-to-date with changes.

If you use Slack, did you know that you can subscribe to RSS feeds through the service? Keep tabs on a company blog or streams from different group members.

To add an RSS feed to your group’s Slack visit From there, you can add a feed URL and choose which Slack channel the updates should go to. I created a new channel called for mine. Updates are fetched periodically.

Send RSS feeds to Google Calendar

Send RSS feeds to Google Calendar with IFTTT

While you might think that RSS feeds are really only about reading the latest blog posts, I’ve found them very valuable as a tool for logging updates to my calendar.

First with Foursquare - and now with check-ins from Known - for several years I’ve used feeds to record the locations of places I’ve traveled to, restaurants I liked, and events I’ve attended. They’re synced up with my Google Calendar so that I always have a calendar-based record of my locations. I’ve found this to be very useful to find dates for different trips I’ve taken in the past.

I’ve also done something similar with tweets and status updates for many years. Twitter has always made it hard to search your own tweets. By sending tweets and updates to my calendar, I was able to keep a daily diary-type view of updates that I shared.

If you save updates or locations (or anything else) in Known, it’s easy to do something similar with IFTTT and Google Calendar.

First, you’ll want to create an account with IFTTT if you don’t already have one. IFTTT is useful service that lets you tie different platforms together through recipes. Once you’re signed up, you’ll need to create a new recipe. The recipes tie services together through the statement, “if this then that,” where “this” and “that” are triggers and actions.

For your “this” trigger, search and select “feed.” Choose the “new feed item” and input your RSS feed URL. If you’re using Known and want to save locations, your RSS feed URL will follow this format:

If you’re using Known and want to save status updates, you’ll have a feed URL like this:

If you want to save other types of content from Known (or maybe all content that you publish with Known) they’ll follow similar formats. Just add ?_t=rss to your URL.

Once you’ve created your trigger, you need to choose an action. This is where you’ll send updates to Google Calendar. Select “that” and then search for and choose Google Calendar. If you haven’t already authorized Google Calendar with your IFTTT account, you may need to do this as an intermediate step. Next select “quick add event.” You’ll have the opportunity to modify the action text that gets saved to your calendar. You can update this or leave it as is.

Once you create your action, you’ll be asked to give the new recipe a name. Save it, and you’re done. You should start to see updates from your RSS feed appearing on your Google Calendar now.

Create an email digest from RSS feeds

RSS feed email digest with Blogtrottr

Feed readers are great, but many of us are still glued to our email for frequent updates and notifications. Feed service Bloggtrottr turns RSS feeds into daily email digests to read in your inbox. If you’ve got a handful of sites that regularly post content, this could be a great way to catch up with the latest from the comfort of your email client.

To use Blogtrottr, you’ll need to give the service an RSS feed, your email address, and then choose an email frequency. There are options for daily, every few hours, and realtime. The realtime updates work with sites that support PuSH (which Known does). Basic accounts are free and include ads in the emails, but you can update to a paid plan for more features and customizations.

If you liked this article, you may like my previous post "How to get RSS feeds for your favorite services".

Podcasts are the future of radio - and a huge part of the future of storytelling on the web.

3 min read

Late last night, I drove home listening to the latest episode of Love + Radio, an eery, sad tale of ghosts and lost love. I was drawn in by the combination of the audio production, the evocative writing, and the gnarls of the story itself. I shivered as I drove; it gripped me from beginning to end. And then, when it was over, Overcast moved onto the next episode on my playlist: an audio diary from 1984 (the year, not the book).

We're fascinated by podcasts. Podcasts are amazing.

A reader spends, on average, a little over two minutes reading an article on the web. In contrast, podcast listeners spend an average of 22 minutes on an episode before they turn off. Statistically, podcasts are the most engaging type of content on the web. Oral storytelling was the first kind of narrative in the history of human civilization, and it still has the power to keep us hooked.

Last year, many of us were gripped by Serial, a twelve-part investigation into the tragic murder of a teenager in 1999. It would be tempting to suggest, in the wake of this, that podcasting is having a "Serial moment": a surge of popularity. In fact, podcasts have been steadily growing in popularity for at least seven years. What's changed is that the revenue from advertising - and therefore the ability for people to make money from this kind of storytelling - has tripled over the last couple of years (raising some questions about editorial vs advertising in the process).

Unlike many media, podcasting is still fiercely independent. Just like the web, podcasting is based on open standards. This means that with a little technical knowhow, anyone can publish a podcast (including on their Known site). The differentiating factors are the ability to tell a great story, using all the audio tools at your disposal. The best podcasts are sonic experiences, or engaging conversations with people you wouldn't have heard anywhere else. Netcasts like This Week in Tech, which recently celebrated its first decade, regularly draw massive audiences from all over the world.

Radio is going away, slowly. Its last bastion is the car, where 44% of radio listening happens. However, this year, 50% of cars sold will be connected to the Internet. With radio use declining but podcast listening increasing year-on-year, we expect this to be the main way people listen to audio content.

In a world where everyone is listening to narrative stories online using the same, global, interconnected network, we can create new kinds of experiences, informed by what we know already about storytelling. In the history of human civilization, storytelling was always social, whether huddled by a fire or as a collective experience in a theater; one-way broadcasting was only ever a brief fluke in time, driven by the technical limitations of radio. Correspondingly, the future of storytelling, and of podcasting, will be social.

The opportunity is to empower both podcasters and listeners by joining audiences together, helping people find new content, and letting new voices be discovered, all while embracing the open nature of the web.

We're excited about the future of storytelling. We're excited to share our experiments with you. And we're excited to keep hearing new, amazing stories from storytellers everywhere.

Read more: new data about podcast listeners, and 6 things we learned about podcast listeners.

How to get RSS feeds for your favorite services

5 min read

RSS feeds are a great way to pipe information from one application to another without relying on a lot of complicated programming and APIs. You can use feeds to send content to feed readers or news aggregators. You can also get updates from a site without constantly visiting it. However, it’s not always easy to figure out the feed for content from a site.

To get you started, here’s how to get RSS feeds from some of your favorite services.

Known RSS

RSS feeds for Known

Let’s begin with an obvious one. You can get an RSS feed for lots of things in Known. Just about everything you publish will have an associated feed.

The feed URL for all public things published from your site looks like this:

Or you can use this one:

Feeds for specific types of content follow these patterns:

If you want a feed for a specific hashtag that you use, try this pattern:

And if you’re looking for a feed for content published by a specific user on your site, use this URL pattern:

So basically, you can add the extension ?_t=rss to almost any URL from Known, and it will generate a feed.

Instagram RSS

RSS feeds for Instagram

Instagram doesn’t provide an RSS feed of your images, but you can generate a feed by relying on some other services that use the Instagram API.

To get an RSS feed of your photos (or photos from someone else’s account) add the username to this URL:

So mine is

Pinterest RSS

RSS feeds for Pinterest

Pinterest does provide RSS feeds for your pins, but you might not have known about it!

To get a feed of your pins add your username to this URL:

Mine is

To get a feed from a pinboard, add .rss to the end of the board URL like this:

The feed for one of my boards is at

Pinboard RSS

RSS feeds for Pinboard

There are a variety of feed options if you use Pinboard to save bookmarks.

To get an RSS feed of everything that you’ve saved add your username to this URL:

To get an RSS feed of everything that you’ve saved with a specific tag, add your username and tag to this URL:

If you want to view more options for feeds from Pinboard, check out the “Feeds and Syndication” section of their how-to page.

Pocket RSS

RSS feeds for Pocket

Pocket is a great service if you want to save up longer articles to read on the weekend or during your workday commute.

If you want to be extra circuitous, you can even send posts that you star in a feed reader to Pocket, and then generate a feed of those articles in Pocket, which you could subscribe to in a feed reader. I’m not sure if anyone does that though.

To get the RSS feed of everything you save to your list in Pocket add your username to the following URL:

To get more options, such as an RSS feed for your archives in Pocket, visit their RSS support page.

Instapaper RSS

RSS feeds for Instapaper

Instapaper is another great site that a lot of people use to save articles to read later. Like Pocket, you can get an RSS feed of the articles that you save to your account. However, it’s not as obvious.

If you’re using a feed reader that does a good job of detecting feeds, you might be able to log into Instapaper and drop the Instapaper URL into the feed reader to detect it.

If not, here’s what to do. Log into Instapaper. You should be on In your web browser, view source for that page. Then do a search for “rss.”

You’re looking for a line that’s like:

Your URL will have different numbers and letters.

Take that URL path and add it to to get your RSS feed. So in the example above, you’d have:

That's it for now! What other services do you like that have useful RSS feeds?

Introducing Known 0.8, named for Giotto Di Bondone

4 min read

Giotto - The Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple.jpg
"Giotto - The Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple" by Giotto - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

We’re happy to announce the release of Known 0.8, the latest version of our open source platform.

At the end of 2006, I had the opportunity to go back to Italy for the holidays and do some of the more touristy things the country has to offer. The trip was perfectly timed, as I’d just finished up a course in Italian Renaissance art history, and I was primed to see a lot of the art and architecture I’d missed on previous trips.

Today we’re releasing the latest version of Known - 0.8 Giotto – named after Florentine artist Giotto di Bondone. Giotto was a painter and an architect, and though he worked in the late Middle Ages in Italy, he is considered an influential pre-Renaissance figure. Unlike his peers at the time, Giotto moved beyond characteristics of the Byzantine style and painted figures and settings that appeared more realistic and lifelike. His work often used forced perspective to bring viewers in to the scene. These stylistic changes set the stage for the coming Renaissance.

I chose Giotto for this Known release because the new package includes an upgrade from an older version of Bootstrap to Bootstrap 3. Bootstrap is the front-end framework that we use for responsive interfaces, but previously Known was using an older version that was no longer supported. This update doesn’t bring about many visual changes, but behind the scenes it will be easier for us moving forward to create new themes, templates, and plugins.

If you get a chance to visit Italy, I recommend a stop in Padua to view the Giotto murals in Scrovegni Chapel. These are considered by many to be Giotto’s masterpiece. The 37 scenes circle the inside of the chapel and show stories from the life of the virgin Mary and the life of Christ, as well as depict scenes from the Old Testament. The frescos are done in immense detail and with rich colors. Completed in 1305, the art here is considered one of the great masterpieces of the Western world. Padua is a short train ride from Venice, and I recommend reserving your tickets for the chapel online ahead of time.

Giotto - Scrovegni - -06- - Meeting at the Golden Gate.jpg
"Giotto - Scrovegni - -06- - Meeting at the Golden Gate" by Giotto - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

A lot of things have changed in version 0.8 of Known. Here are a few:

  • Per-post access permissions: Want to keep just one post private or share it with members of your site? Now you can.
  • Accessibility improvements: Known now has much better accessibility for screen readers and mobility-impaired users.
  • Better bookmarks: The bookmark tool handles page titles more intelligently.
  • Internationalized hashtags: Support for non-Latin characters in hashtags is important.
  • A better bookmarklet: For example, you can reply to multiple Twitter accounts more easily.
  • Subdirectory installations: You can now install Known in a subdirectory as well as at the root of your domain.

Server administrators, web hosts, and developers may be interested in the following changes:   

  • A new interface framework: Known now has an upgraded interface framework using Bootstrap 3 and the latest version of Font Awesome.
  • Better checking for rewrite rules: The installer now does more checking to make sure you have the right server configuration.
  • Diagnostics: Known now contains a handy diagnostics tool to give you more information if something is wrong with your installation.
  • A better test framework: Developers have access to more tests, and writing new tests should be much easier than ever before.

As always, there are a ton of additional fixes, small changes and improvements. We're proud of this release.

You can download Known from our open source page or from GitHub. Of course, you can also get a free, hosted Known site at

6 Things We Learned from Podcast Listeners

6 min read

Listening to podcasts

At Known, we’re always interested in learning more about how people publish, consume, and produce media. To expand our knowledge of the podcasting space, this spring we did some research on audio consumption. Yesterday I wrote about some of the results we got from a survey of podcast and audiobook listeners.

Today I want to share a few of the interesting things we learned after interviewing podcast fans. Following our initial survey, in March we interviewed five people who were heavy podcast listeners — people who listened to shows at least four times a week.

We wanted to round out our survey with real conversations. This gave us a chance to ask listeners what they liked, what they didn’t like, how they listened to podcasts, and what their favorite shows were. After our initial interviews in March, we spoke to four more listeners in May. Here are some of our takeaways.

1 — They listen across multiple devices

It’s 2015, and audio stretches from the web and mobile apps, to cars, connected homes, and smart watches. Everyone we spoke with listens to podcasts across multiple devices. It was common to hear people describe listening to a show on their phone with their headphones in while they do work around the house. Then they might kick up the volume on their desktop speakers and enjoy a lean-back experience in their living room or bedroom.

2 — They listen primarily at home

If your picture of a podcast listener is only someone who’s on the train or driving to work, you might be surprised to learn that the people we spoke with primarily listened at home. Podcasts provide the soundtrack to their chores and routine tasks, as well as their audio entertainment while relaxing on weekends and evenings.

While some of the people we talked to also listen to podcasts at the gym, on a run, and driving around doing errands, everyone said that they listened to shows at home. Several of our interviewees also mentioned that they couldn’t listen to content at work; it either wasn’t allowed or wasn’t productive for their jobs.

3 — Good podcast discovery is missing

New show discovery doesn’t necessarily happen through iTunes. In fact, many listeners prefer to avoid Apple’s platform altogether. Some of the people we spoke with mentioned YouTube as a better way to discover new shows based on things that interested them. Both related episode recommendations and YouTube’s search feature made the video network stand out as a better way to find relevant, interesting content.

Other interviewees mentioned topic or keyword search, better categories, and personalized recommendations as areas that were missing for them during podcast discovery.

One woman echoed others when she said she discovers new shows when she hears them mentioned on another podcast or when a friend makes a recommendation — in person or through social media. In her opinion, checking iTunes for interesting content is a last resort.

4 — Sharing episodes is a burden

Many of the listeners we talked to were enthusiastic about sharing content with family, friends, and colleagues when the content seemed relevant. However, the process of sharing isn’t always easy. Word-of-mouth is an easy first choice, but for those who wanted to pass along an actual episode, copying and pasting an episode’s URL into an email was the method of choice.

This process works okay if you’re listening on a computer and the episode has a shareable link. However, if you’re listening in an app, in software like iTunes, or otherwise listening in a player that doesn’t generate an easily shareable episode permalink, things get harder. One interviewee described the process of sharing as a big commitment.

5 — Signals on the content and quality are important

Several interviewees found it challenging to assess the quality and content of new shows. With over 300,000 shows floating around in the ecosystem, many don’t live up to the expectations of listeners expecting professional, produced content.

Audio consumers look for clues around what the show is about and how good it is before committing. One woman said, “For me it’s really important that the title of the podcast is a good description. So, for example there is the Savage Lovecast. I don’t even bother listening to that one because they just number them. They’re like Savage Lovecast . I’m not going to listen to that because I don’t know what it’s about.”

Several people said that they’d go so far as to listen to the first bit of a new show, but if it didn’t sound professional or included “fluff” or small talk, they’d move on. “I want it to be concise, and I want it to be informative and important information.”

6 — The technology is a turn-off

The technology around podcasts and feeds might be keeping some people from becoming more invested in them. In a world where music and video can be accessed with the click of a button, concepts like feeds, RSS, and subscriptions can seem daunting.

On the subject of podcast subscriptions, one person said, “A lot of podcasts say ‘subscribe here, subscribe to this feed’ and I rarely do because it’s just a little complicated…Sometimes I see ‘RSS feed’, and I think, ‘What does that mean?’” He said he felt like RSS feeds were a technology that he’d never been taught, and he wished there was an easy one-click subscribe button to press while listening to a show. Until then, he’d rather not subscribe to shows and prefers to download episodes manually.

Another woman voiced frustration around the process of syncing content between devices. While she typically listens to shows on both her computer and phone, shows don’t always stay up-to-date and in sync. Recently, she’s started listening more often on just her phone because she doesn’t like the burden of managing subscriptions on multiple devices.

If you like podcasts as much as we do, you may be interested in our last post on data from podcast and audiobook listeners. Stay tuned for our next article on podcast creators and what we learned from interviewing the people who make the shows.

After hearing podcast listeners talk about how hard it was to find and share episodes that were relevant to their interests, we put some of our favorites together into playlists. Check them out over at Wavelist.