The Barrier

Chris Aldrich recently wrote a post on the mission of the IndieWeb where he said this:

Social media WYSIWYG platforms like SnapChat, Twitter, Facebook/Instagram, et al. have become a problem as they’re not allowing us the control, flexibility, and privacy we would all like to have while they pursue their own agendas.

In these terms, the general mission of the IndieWeb movement is to be the proverbial simple text editor meant to give everyone increasingly easier, direct control over their own identity and communication on the open internet.

Comparing the IndieWeb to "the proverbial simple text editor" is an interesting way to describe the idea, given that there are a plethora of text editors for people to choose from, and a multitude of self-hosted publishing platforms as well. Both of these products, however, tend to target the same market: digitally proficient individuals who have experienced way too much friction with the full-featured, commercially-backed options that are generally accepted by the masses.

Over the coming year, I hope to bridge the gap between "WYSIWYG platforms" and the text-editor self-hosted solutions with 10C v5, which will most likely be renamed "Streams" given it's focus on presenting flows of information. Just like 10Cv4, there will be a hosted version that I will offer the world to anyone interested in using it. Unlike 10Cv4, the new version will be available for people to host themselves. As of this writing, I've managed to get the installation and configuration down to a single line on an Ubuntu Server shell through the use of snap packages1, but this may still be too complicated for most.

Despite passively learning about the myriad of technologies and methodologies employed by the IndieWeb, I still feel there is far too much friction for the average person to actively participate. If we can offer the tools to allow people to more easily enjoy what they get from WYSIWYG platforms while also enjoying digital sovereignty, we may begin to see the larger organisations held to a higher standard.

That said, there is still a lot of work to be done.

  1. by going with a Snap, people do not need to install or configure Apache, MySQL, or any of the additional packages that make the software work. It's all done in advance and, because it's a snap, updates are instantly rolled out without the need for people to manage the software themselves. Yes, updates can be disabled.

What (Real) Problem Am I Trying to Solve?

Over the last year or so, I've invested a good amount of time into learning about blockchain, JSON, encryption, and a myriad of other tools that could be used in the next big version of 10C. After a great deal of research, I've come to the conclusion that blockchain is not what I'm looking for as a means of message validation and will instead fall back on other methods that employ technologies that are much easier to explain and verify. In addition to this, I've been looking at a number of other projects that are quite active across the web such as IndieWeb and JSON Feed1 to make the next version of the platform something people might actually want to use themselves. Yet, despite the effort going into the research and pre-development, a lingering question remains: what real problem am I trying to solve here?

There are already a number of open-source blogging tools that are admittedly much better in terms of UI and web standards than 10C. Why am I not simply using one of these as part of the larger goal? The same is said for social networking, photo sharing, notes, todos, and just about everything else I've been slowly building into the 10Centuries platform. What could possibly make anything I make better than setting up a NextCloud instance with a bunch of plugins to fill in the gaps?

It's a problem I struggle with because, while I am very much interested in helping people keep the words and images they want to share with the world online for a millennia, do I need to do it with a software platform that I build rather than one assembled from various open projects around the web? What could possibly make 10C better than WordPress with a myriad of plugins? Despite what people might want from the 10C platform, it is a silo. Even in v5, which involves a globally distributed system of servers operated by anybody who might want to participate, the system is a silo. A silo that anybody could operate, but a silo nonetheless.

Is this what people actually want? Would I be better off investing my time contributing to open projects that already have large, vibrant communities and encouraging adoption of ideas rather than of software?

One of the reasons these thoughts have been rolling around in my head is because I'm downright exhausted, and any amount of free time I might have enjoyed in the past is all but gone as a result of expectations elsewhere. This tiny blog post right here required 8 separate attempts across three devices and 30 hours to complete. This right here. Which is the length of something I used to bang out on an iPod Touch with Evernote while on the train to work. Despite all of my best efforts I just feel as though I'm letting people down as a result of diverted attention, and I really dislike letting people down.

So what is the real problem I am trying to solve with future versions of the 10C platform? Automatic distribution of encrypted content across servers to act as a backup for friends/family when systems go down? Self-hosted community creation on minimal hardware? An API-driven system that is open enough for people to easily create their own tools that interact with the system? Yes on all counts. But does it need to be something that I've written top to bottom? Is absolute control over the software stack really that important to me? Is it important to others? This is the question I need to answer ….

  1. this one will make its appearance in the existing version of 10C quite soon