I was working on my POSSE plan when Vanessa called and asked if I wanted to meet for a coffee. Of course, I said yes. In the car ride over, I was thinking about how I made my first website over twenty years ago. HTML table layouts were still cool and it wasn't clear if CSS was going to be widely adopted. I decided to learn CSS anyway. More than twenty years later, the workflows, the automated toolchains, and the development methods have become increasingly powerful, but also a lot more complex. Today, you simply npm your webpack via grunt with vue babel or bower to react asdfjkl;lkdhgxdlciuhw. Everything is different now, except that I'm still at my desk learning CSS.

"Get your HTTPS on" because Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as "not secure" starting in July 2018. Chrome currently displays a neutral icon for sites that aren't using HTTPS, but starting with Chrome 68, the browser will warn users in the address bar.

Fortunately, HTTPS has become easier to implement through services like Let's Encrypt, who provide free certificates and aim to eliminate to complexity of setting up and maintaining HTTPS encryption.

My website plan

In an effort to reclaim my blog as my thought space and take back control over my data, I want to share how I plan to evolve my website. Given the incredible feedback on my previous blog posts, I want to continue the conversation and ask for feedback.

First, I need to find a way to combine longer blog posts and status updates on one site:

  1. Update my site navigation menu to include sections for "Blog" and "Notes". The "Notes" section would resemble a Twitter or Facebook livestream that catalogs short status updates, replies, interesting links, photos and more. Instead of posting these on third-party social media sites, I want to post them on my site first (POSSE). The "Blog" section would continue to feature longer, more in-depth blog posts. The front page of my website will combine both blog posts and notes in one stream.
  2. Add support for Webmention, a web standard for tracking comments, likes, reposts and other rich interactions across the web. This way, when users retweet a post on Twitter or cite a blog post, mentions are tracked on my own website.
  3. Automatically syndicate to 3rd party services, such as syndicating photo posts to Facebook and Instagram or syndicating quick Drupal updates to Twitter. To start, I can do this manually, but it would be nice to automate this process over time.
  4. Streamline the ability to post updates from my phone. Sharing photos or updates in real-time only becomes a habit if you can publish something in 30 seconds or less. It's why I use Facebook and Twitter often. I'd like to explore building a simple iOS application to remove any friction from posting updates on the go.
  5. Streamline the ability to share other people's content. I'd like to create a browser extension to share interesting links along with some commentary. I'm a small investor in Buffer, a social media management platform, and I use their tool often. Buffer makes it incredibly easy to share interesting articles on social media, without having to actually open any social media sites. I'd like to be able to share articles on my blog that way.

Second, as I begin to introduce a larger variety of content to my site, I'd like to find a way for readers to filter content:

  1. Expand the site navigation so readers can filter by topic. If you want to read about Drupal, click "Drupal". If you just want to see some of my photos, click "Photos".
  2. Allow people to subscribe by interests. Drupal 8 make it easy to offer an RSS feed by topic. However, it doesn't look nearly as easy to allow email subscribers to receive updates by interest. Mailchimp's RSS-to-email feature, my current mailing list solution, doesn't seem to support this and neither do the obvious alternatives.

Implementing this plan is going to take me some time, especially because it's hard to prioritize this over other things. Some of the steps I've outlined are easy to implement thanks to the fact that I use Drupal. For example, creating new content types for the "Notes" section, adding new RSS feeds and integrating "Blogs" and "Notes" into one stream on my homepage are all easy – I should be able to get those done my next free evening. Other steps, like building an iPhone application, building a browser extension, or figuring out how to filter email subscriptions by topics are going to take more time. Setting up my POSSE system is a nice personal challenge for 2018. I'll keep you posted on my progress – much of that might happen via short status updates, rather than on the main blog. ;)

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My blog as my thought space

Last week, I shared my frustration with using social media websites like Facebook or Twitter as my primary platform for sharing photos and status updates. As an advocate of the open web, this has bothered me for some time so I made a commitment to prioritize publishing photos, updates and more to my own site.

I'm excited to share my plan for how I'd like to accomplish this, but before I do, I'd like to share two additional challenges I face on my blog. These struggles factor into some of the changes I'm considering implementing, so I feel compelled to share them with you.

First, I've struggled to cover a wide variety of topics lately. I've been primarily writing about Drupal, Acquia and the Open Web. However, I'm also interested in sharing insights on startups, investing, travel, photography and life outside of work. I often feel inspired to write about these topics, but over the years I've grown reluctant to expand outside of professional interests. My blog is primarily read by technology professionals — from Drupal users and developers, to industry analysts and technology leaders — and in my mind, they do not read my blog to learn about a wider range of topics. I'm conflicted because I would like my l blog to reflect both my personal and professional interests.

Secondly, I've been hesitant to share short updates, such as a two sentence announcement about a new Drupal feature or an Acquia milestone. I used to publish these kinds of short updates quite frequently. It's not that I don't want to share them anymore, it's that I struggle to post them. Every time I publish a new post, it goes out to more than 5,000 people that subscribe to my blog by email. I've been reluctant to share short status updates because I don't want to flood people's inbox.

Throughout the years, I worked around these two struggles by relying on social media; while I used my blog for in-depth blog posts specific to my professional life, I used social media for short updates, sharing photos and starting conversation about wider variety of topics.

But I never loved this division.

I've always written for myself, first. Writing pushes me to think, and it is the process I rely on to flesh out ideas. This blog is my space to think out loud, and to start conversations with people considering the same problems, opportunities or ideas. In the early days of my blog, I never considered restricting my blog to certain topics or making it fit specific editorial standards.

Om Malik published a blog last week that echoes my frustration. For Malik, blogs are thought spaces: a place for writers to share original opinions that reflect "how they view the world and how they are thinking". As my blog has grown, it has evolved, and along the way it has become less of a public thought space.

My commitment to implementing a POSSE approach on my site has brought these struggles to the forefront. I'm glad it did because it requires me to rethink my approach and to return to my blogging roots. After some consideration, here is what I want to do:

  1. Take back control of more of my data; I want to share more of my photos and social media data on my own site.
  2. Find a way to combine longer in-depth blog posts and shorter status updates.
  3. Enable readers and subscribers to filter content based on their own interests so that I can cover a larger variety of topics.

In my next blog post, I plan to outline more details of how I'd like to approach this. Stay tuned!

Yesterday I shared that I uninstalled the Facebook application from my phone. My friend Simon Surtees was quick to text me: "I for one am pleased you have left Facebook. Less Cayman Island pictures!". Not too fast Simon. I never said that I left Facebook or that I'd stop posting on Facebook. Plus, I'll have more Cayman Islands pictures to share soon. :)

As a majority of my friends and family communicate on Facebook and Twitter, I still want to share updates on social media. However, I believe I can do it in a more thoughtful manner that allows me to take back control over my own data. There are a couple of ways I could go about that:

  • I could share my status updates and photos on a service like Facebook or Twitter and then automatically download and publish them to my website.
  • I could publish my status updates and photos on my website first, and then programmatically share them on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

The IndieWeb movement has provided two clever names for these models:

  1. PESOS or Publish Elsewhere, Syndicate (to your) Own Site is a model where publishing begins on third party services, such as Facebook, and then copies can be syndicated to your own site.
  2. POSSE or Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere is a publishing model that begins with posting content on your own site first, then syndicating out copies to third party services.


Pesos vs posse

Here is the potential impact of each approach:

PESOS POSSE
Dependence A 3rd party is a required intermediary within the PESOS approach. When the 3rd party platform is down or disappears completely, publishers lose their ability to post new content or retrieve old content. No dependence, as the 3rd party service is an optional endpoint, not a required intermediary.
Canonical Non-canonical: the data on the 3rd party is the original and copies on your domain may have to cite 3rd party URLs. Canonical: you have full control over URLs and host the original data. The 3rd party could cite the original URL.
Quality Pulling data from 3rd parties services could reduce its quality. For example, images could be degraded or downsized. Full control over the quality of assets on your own site.
Ease of use, implementation and maintenance 3rd party platforms make it really easy for users to publish content and you can still benefit from that. For example, you can easily upload images from your phone. The complexity inherent to the PESOS approach includes developing an infrastructure to curate archival copies to your own domain. The POSSE strategy can be significantly more work for the site owner, especially if you want comparable ease of use to 3rd party platforms. A higher level of technical expertise and time investment is likely required.

The goal of this analysis was to understand the pros and cons of how I can own my own content on https://dri.es. While PESOS would be much easier to implement, I decided to go with POSSE. My next step is to figure out my "POSSE plan"; how to quickly and easily share status updates on my Drupal site, how to syndicate them to 3rd party services, how to re-organize my mailing list and my RSS feed, and more. If you have any experience with implementing POSSE, feel free to share your takeaways in the comments.