The future of this platform
I've been dreaming a lot recently about how I could create a small, intentional community of people who:
- Are interested in personal sites / blogs
- Would like to build a supportive online community
- Would spend less time on mainstream social networks if it were easier to break free from them
Beyond my personal site, the other webdev projects I work on are for my friends. Over the years people I'm close to have approached me for help building personal sites, and it's something I've become more comfortable doing. Often these are relatively tech-savvy friends who just don't want to admin their own server. I help them set up ssh-key authentication, a git repository that pushes straight out onto their site, and away they go.
This community would draw inspiration from the tildeverse, in particular tilde.town. These are *nix servers with each user having an account on the server. Users can login to the server using ssh to edit personal sites, talk to other users using wall, etc.
Another place I've been drawing inspiration from a lot recently is the IndieWeb. People who are "in" the IndieWeb post content to their sites in ways that make those sites interoperable with IndieWeb sites. Using compatible standards, independent bloggers / content creators can cite, reply to, and follow each other without using a centralized system.
You can probably see where I'm going with this: I want to build and run a server that does all of these things. Users would sign up for an account, and receive the following things:
- A user account: email@example.com
- A personal site at example.com/~username
- A PostgreSQL user with full rights on its own db
The server would come pre-loaded with the following IndieWeb services:
- h-card generation
- h-entry / RSS / atom feed generation
- IndieAuth (and perhaps OAuth 2.0?)
- Webmention sending and receiving
- full ActivityPub integration
- Micropub and Microsub servers
- templates your own /~username site that integrate the above technologies
Interactively update your IndieWeb profile using a script
This would allow you to include a feed of any type/length/format on any page of your site, but also allow other people to follow your site however they like.
This would be the method by which you'd log in to your site on a Micropub client for example, and would potentially allow you to log in to third-party services as well
This would allow other people on the internet to reply to your posts, for example. This would also allow you to "@" people so that they know you mentioned them in a post.
This would allow you to follow Mastodon users for example, and seamlessly interface with their social network. There are many other growing communities in the "fediverse" that you'd essentially be a part of
This would allow for you to use any Micropub client to post to your site, and any Microsub client to follow other people
Of course you could always build your own, but my goal is to make it easy to make a clean, functional, and personal site that does all of the above.
I expect I'd have a lot of users who would want some type of support. Here are some examples of things they might want:
- They have never used a terminal before, and want a completely hands-free blogging app they can just log in to
- They want to run more complex server-side scripts, or otherwise resource-intensive computing on the server
- They want email hosting, or their own minecraft server, or maybe a funkwhale instance
- They want to talk to someone on the phone about how to set something up or even debug a program
- They (or their loved ones) want to stop updating their site, archiving (publicly or privately) a static version of the site
I really want to meet all of these needs, and would do so by building a community that could all benefit from improvements to the same server. I'd work hard to make it a welcoming space, and make it easy for you to export your data and leave. But if you want something entirely custom I could build it for you!
I'm obsessed with this idea because I think it tows the line between an exciting/experimental community based on fun/trust/love, and a deliberate contribution to a more thoughtful, person-centered internet. I know this isn't the kind of service the average grandma would sign up for, but I do think there are people who would be interested, for example:
- academics / professionals who want hip personal sites
- "internet people" seeking a safe space to express themselves hypertextually (think geo/neocities)
- people who are unhappy with mainstream social media platforms for one reason or another
- people with relatively slow internet connections who still want to blog or socialize online
- people who want to easily integrate webmentioned/federated comments into their site
- developers who want a "hosting provider" who is more like a cool uncle
There are so many other aspects to this project I have yet to hammer out. After this idea has percolated a bit longer I'll draw up a roadmap for its development. For example, I'd want a code of conduct for the community, and a way for others to join me as a maintainer (potentially getting paid). I find it exciting that this project should scale smoothly, and with more interest will come more outside support. If you would like to join me on this adventure, email me.