Avoiding anti-patterns

At its heart the IndieWeb is a bunch of people taking back ownership and control of their web content from companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Medium and Google. Some of these folks are programmers who are making the task a bit easier for the rest of us, to the point that it is now easier to adopt this approach than it was a few years ago.

I am not a coder, so my focus is on keeping control of my web content and making it accessible. Part of this task involves avoiding practises which work against the principles of owning my own data, making information visible to people in priority to machines, ensuring a good user experience, documenting what I am doing, and building a site which will last for the long term. The term used to describe the things which impede the IndieWeb is ‘anti-patterns‘.

Antipatterns

Antipatterns are antithetical to a diverse and growing indieweb, often times the opposite, or at best a distraction from indieweb principles and building-blocks, yet persistently repeated despite their tendency to waste time and cause failures. (IndieWeb Wiki – Antipatterns)

Databases

For any content you care about it, don’t put the primary copy in a database. Databases are all a pain to maintain, and more fragile than the file system.  (IndieWeb Wiki – Antipatterns)

As a generalisation I would agree with this, but databases exist because they make accessing information much easier than digging through a folder full of files. One of my longer term goals is to transition my site to being a static site using a platform such as Jekyll but the learning curve is fairly steep for that and my current goal is to establish a good writing habit so WordPress suits me as I know it well. What I am doing is exporting my WordPress content as Markdown files so they can easily be integrated into other systems if necessary, and these are still readable outside of the database.

Invisible metadata

Invisible metadata is the general antipattern of storing information that is user-relevant in places users won’t see (i.e. users aren’t expected to “View Source” on every page).   (IndieWeb Wiki – Antipatterns)

This is what started me thinking about these anti-patterns, I want to include rel=me tags for links to my Facebook, Twitter and micro.blog accounts as a way to verify that I’m the same person writing on all of them. What I was going to do is include these in the <head> section of each page but that violates the principle of making metadata visible to humans so I’m having to reconsider my approach to this. Overall I agree with making information visible to people, this also seems to be something Google takes into account with it’s search engine assessments of what a web page is about. For years the SEO world has been stuffing keywords into meta tags in attempts to game the search rankings when what really matters is the content that users can see and interact with.

Silos

A silo, or web content hosting silo, in the context of the IndieWeb, is a centralized web site typically owned by a for-profit corporation that stakes some claim to content contributed to it and restricts access in some way. (IndieWeb Wiki – Silo)

I am actively avoiding the use of silos such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I do currently have some stuff located primarily in these sites but am in the process of manual transferring it to this blog. Most of what is in Twitter I don’t care about, I’m working on transferring my Facebook status updates now (this will take a while), and have recently decided to host my CV/resume on my own site in preference to LinkedIn due to the use of devious techniques by LinkedIn to gain access to email address books and generally be creepy. There are some things such as ‘likes’, retweets and reposts that I don’t value enough to clutter my own site with.

3 thoughts on “Avoiding anti-patterns

  1. The only thing that keeps me from jumping from LinkedIn is the network I have there, which might come in handy if I start freelancing again. You might remember, I wrote this a while back: chrisltarchive.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/linkedin

    I still don’t feel entirely comfortable with it, though. And it seems to have decended into a lot of nauseating back slapping of recent years. So I may yet pull the plug. We’ll see.

    Do you know of any alternative ways of building a professional network (apart from painfully collecting emails one by one)?

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  2. Hi Chris,
    Yep, the dark patterns you linked to in that post are exactly what has me a bit concerned about LinkedIn. However, as you say, in the real world these thins are grey and become a trade-off of cautions and gains from using the network versus the data mining that the company does.

    My current intention is to leave my profile as is on LinkedIn but also keep a similar and more living version on my own site. It feels easier to update my blog than fiddling around on LinkedIn.

    The ‘professional network’ aspect is an interesting issue. It took me several years to get the list of connections I have now and that contains some value. Yet I’m not entirely sure that I could really count on a lot of those contacts to help me professionally. Ironically, painfully building a similar network via email could actually be a more useful approach. Especially because I know a lot of people professionally who are very successful and are not on LinkedIn.

    I have yet to gain any tangible benefit from LinkedIn, despite all its claims I’ve not recouped any value for all the time I’ve put into my profile.

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  3. Those last two paragraphs contain some really good points. I guess if we decided to leave LinkedIn altogether, we could message the contacts who are most valuable to us, and explain what we’re doing and say, hey, do you mind if I keep your email address. Or invite them to subscribe to a new list before we go.

    It’s also possible to just export your list of contacts too. They’ve actively agreed to be connected with you.

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