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Working to bridge the #indieweb knowledge gap

5 min read

More than any stated principle of the indie web, I hold onto this core idea: Have your own website and really OWN it. Make it your content, make it your style, make it the greatest representation of you online. For some of us, that might mean that our websites are the singular hubs of all the content that we publish online, but if you’re not a content creator, it could mean something else for you. Your website is your own space to express yourself however you’d like.

The indie web is a movement; it’s not based on any one single platform. It’s based on a set of technologies that support interoperability between platforms. Known is one of those platforms, and we hope it becomes an easy and accessible option for people who wish to participate in the indie web.

For me personally, I rarely use Facebook anymore but I do use Twitter regularly. I’ve experimented in past years with pulling my stream of tweets in as a timeline on my personal website. For almost a year now, I’ve been doing something of the opposite – publishing my timeline of tweets and status updates directly on my own site (erinjo.is) and then syndicating that to Twitter, Facebook, App.net, etc. This is listed as Level 2 “Publishing on the IndieWeb” on IndieWebify.me.

My personal stream runs on Known, and it supports all of the stages outlined on IndieWebify.Me. This is what enables me to publish on my site, syndicate my content to various social networks, reply to tweets, and pull social interactions back to my site. However, the steps to achieve all of this are beyond what I could have set up on my own.

One of the reasons Ben and I wanted to turn Known into a company and a full-time endeavor was to bring these indie web technologies to a wider net of content creators and publishers. As Lynne Baer rightly points out there is a big knowledge and skills gap between merely having a personal website and having a personal website that’s set up with the various technologies needed to make things like web mentions and federated conversations happen.

Together, Ben and I are trying to build a platform that lets anyone easily create a site, choose a theme or customize a style, and share their stories with audiences on any platform. We’re not just focused on authors or bloggers. We are a publishing platform, but in addition to shorter status updates and longer posts or essays, we’re working to create a great experience for photographers sharing images, podcasters sharing audio, and filmmakers sharing videos. If you have a story to tell, we want to support you.

We’re working to build a platform that supports the open web and is intuitive and easy to use. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer. Some features are currently concept-only, and the platform is in active development. Ben set up a really great foundation, and I’m looking forward to iterating on the existing interfaces and user flows over the summer. As we collaborate on new developments during the next few months, we have the luxury of carrying out small user tests and working with some early alpha users to make sure we get things right.

For Known, some of these indie web foundations are what make the platform unique. However, the indie web – as a concept and a movement – is not widely known or understood. It’s gaining recognition, but it’s still a niche concept. As a company, we have to figure out a way to explain the indie web and its backing concepts to the masses. We have to address questions about ownership and identity online. We have to address feedback such as, “Is the indie web just a gathering of geeks doing geeky web stuff together, or is it actually turning into something greater?”

If you’re just learning about the indie web, you may find that there’s a lot of technology and terminology that’s new or hard to understand. There’s more that I want to do – and more that I can do – to provide clarity and understanding around some of the language and concepts that are part of the indie web ecosystem.

And in terms of Known? We still have a lot to do, but over the course of the summer here are some of the things we’re working toward:

  • an easy installer that works with a variety of hosts
  • human-friendly documentation
  • intuitive posting interfaces
  • a platform that isn’t just English-centric (we have plans for translation once the platform development has progressed a bit)

Known is an open source tool, so your contributions are always welcome. But we’d also love your feedback and questions. We’re building this with people in mind, so please reach out if you have something to share.