I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we build communities and manage content. Now that I’m helping to run a Mastodon community, I’ve realized something about the current paradigm that doesn’t sit well with me.
In another article, I talked about how we used to share things that we love on the internet. The focus in most communities these days, however, is not about sharing, but rather keeping out negative influences and bad actors - about moderation. I think this is the wrong end of the stick.
Rather, instead, we should be focusing energy on curation. We should be maintaining lists of things, ideas, and people to share with each other - rather than spending so much time maintaining ever-shifting lists of hostile attackers.
(That being said, there will always be a need for moderation, and any curation must come with discarding unsuitable content. I’m not so naive from privilege to overlook this critical aspect. But back to my core point…)
One way that we can better share things and build community is by bringing back the old concept of the Webring.
For the last few years I’ve been a very tiny webring with a few friends. You may have seen the link at the bottom of this website and thought it was a joke, but this is a fully-functional webring!
In the last few weeks I’ve modernized this webring further, adding support for RSS feeds (and OPML subscriptions), FOAF files, and other old-but-still-relevant technology standards.
This means that instead of having to click around to a dozen different websites in a ring, you can use your favorite feed reader to subscribe to an entire webring with one click! And moreover, most modern feed readers support the ability to use a remote OPML file - meaning that as folks join and leave the webring, your subscription will be updated to match with no additional work needed!
That’s great for those of us that long-blog a lot, but this also has potential applications for folks who microblog - Twitter and Mastodon are microblogging platforms at their core. (More work is needed to make replies and cross-posting viable of course.)
Since more folks are getting back into blogging, I want to support this more directly. As such, I’ve created an open source Webring Starter Kit that anyone can take and use to host their own webring for free. It’s powered by Jekyll and can be run on GitHub Pages, and requires very little technical knowledge to get up and running.
If you’ve got a couple of friends and want to start blogging together about some weird topic, this is a great way to bring those ideas together and make it easier for new folks to find your content!
I hope folks with take this and run with it, and come up with new ways of curating content that I haven’t even considered yet. Let’s share things y’all, and make the web weird!
Also if you want to join the Public Interest Tech Webring, please get in touch!