Changing my mind on Webmentions

A few weeks ago I took steps to implement Webmentions on this site, which I described in detail in this post. I’ve changed my mind and decided to remove Webmentions, along with readers ability to directly comment on posts. There are a few reasons why.

Spam. To enable Webmentions I also had to enable the default WordPress comment forms. This lead to an attack by comment spam-bots that left a couple hundred spam comments a day.  There’s only so may (hundred) times you can read this comment before giving in:

Don’t wear seat belts lest you drown in your own urine?

Random comment spam-bot

Thanks!? It never occurred to me that this may be a legitimate concern. To combat the spam comments I had to install anti-spam WordPress plugins. This, however, leads me to my next concern with implementing Webmentions in WordPress.

Plugin bloat. To implement the Webmention standard in WordPress eight different plugins had to be installed on the one available standard compatible WordPress theme. These plugins are in addition to those needed to combat spam comments, and those needed to cross post your content to different content silos (for example Facebook and Twitter).

I have no need to syndicate content. The Webmention standard lives according to the principles of “POSSE” (post on your own site, syndicate elsewhere). This allows you to automatically cross post content, and then aggregate all of the “likes” on the different sites and display the total on your home website.  However, all my content lives on this site, and I don’t have other social networking accounts to syndicate content to and aggregate “likes” from.

No desire to collect “likes”. I write content for myself, and share content that I think should have more visibility. I don’t want to feel pressure to change the way I do things in order to get more clicks, mentions and likes for the sole purpose of aggregating metrics.

Overall, the administration that was needed to implement the Webmention standard didn’t come with any benefits.  

… They asked him what was the object of all this study applied to an art that would reach but a few. He replied: ‘I am content with a few, content with one, content with none at all’.

Seneca, Letters on Ethics, 7.11.

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The IndieWeb and Webmentions

I’ve been reading about the IndieWeb, and particularly about the Webmention internet standard lately. The whole concept of controlling your own content on the internet, “POSSE” (post on your own site, syndicate elsewhere), and making cross site commenting and mentions possible, immediately clicked with me.

A brief explanation of Webmentions:

Webmentions allow notifications between web addresses. If both sites are set up to send and receive them, the system works like this:

1. Alice has a website where she writes an article about her rocket engine hobby.

2. Bob has his own website where he writes a reply to Alice’s article. Within his reply, Bob includes the permalink URL of Alice’s article.

3. When Bob publishes his reply, his publishing software automatically notifies Alice’s server that her post has been linked to by the URL of Bob’s reply.

4. Alice’s publishing software verifies that Bob’s post actually contains a link to her post and then (optionally) includes information about Bob’s post on her site; for example, displaying it as a comment.

A Webmention is simply an @mention that works from one website to another!

If she chooses, Alice can include the full text of Bob’s reply—along with his name, photo, and his article’s URL (presuming he’s made these available)—as a comment on her original post. Any new readers of Alice’s article can then see Bob’s reply underneath it. Each can carry on a full conversation from their own websites and in both cases display (if they wish) the full context and content.

Chris Aldrich – Webmentions: Enabling Better Communication on the Internet

For the last few days I’ve been trying to implement different elements, like h-cards and webmentions, to make this website IndieWeb compliant. I’ve had to make serious changes to the sites theme, so it isn’t going to look quite the same after I’m done.

This site uses a self-hosted WordPress site, so I’ve been using this guide on the IndieWebCamp wiki with some limited success. The validating tools found here still throw out some errors, such as “A h-card was found on your site, but it’s not marked up as the representative h-card“, and I haven’t figured out how to add a profile photo. I’ll have to figure out how to fix or properly implement all this using the appropriate plug-ins.

Besides the proper implementation, there are some minor issues I’ve discovered with some of the plug-ins not interacting quite as expected. For example, WordPress’s new Guggenheim editor doesn’t allow you to set your IndieWeb post kind so you need to revert to the classic editor to set this, and the webmention form didn’t play nice with the comment system I had implemented (they overdrew each other).

Overall though, its been an interesting journey.

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