All You Need is Publish – Considering the Indie in Indie Web
[Originally appeared in The Message on Sep 2, 2014.]
Publish everything everywhere. Anything anywhere. Publish twice, thrice, just don’t break the contract if you got paid.
Copy the bits, it’s what they want. Data wanna be free. Call the Archive Team. Call the Internet Archive. Call the Library of Congress. Ask them for your tweets, Christmas 2009. 140-character drunken grandpa? Yes, please.
This is not the indie web, this is the web. The web itself has and always will be indie at its core. There are no edges here. The web excels at boundless. Everything sparkles intertwingular. Things connect and disconnect and multiply at will, as long as we’re willing. And willing we are.
To do indie. To be indie. To publish indie. To IndieWeb Camp. The indie web. What is indie? By “indie” we mean independent. Under our control or some pretense of our control. Accessible by all robots and humans alike, no accounts necessary, no paywalls — porous or opaque — in sight. Sorry Google, leave your real name in your passport. This library here’s open and open for good and and we don’t care who you are.
When we talk “indie” we implicit two genres of indie. Craft Indie and Mass Indie. Both important. One not better than the other.
Mass Indie is the zine publishing of web publishing. The everyperson indie. Godaddy a domain, snag a Tumblr, fiddle a DNS and Go Go Go. Don’t have eight bucks? Skip the domain and jump straight to Go Go Go. It’s right there and it’s faster than a Xerox at Kinkos. Don’t like Tumblr? Ghost it up. Livejournal’s still a thing. Wattpad welcomes all. Geo-plaster at hi.co. Kindle Single it and give it away. Toss it on Scribd. Pastebin the notion. Splatter your post across twenty tweets. Heck, Google Doc it. The Web Is Here For You To Use. Post to multiple platforms. Pledge allegiance to no one. You don’t owe ’em nuttin’. Everybody Minecraft — stake your claim. Then restake it again tomorrow. The land’s wide open and there’s always more IPv6 to go around.
Craft Indie is calculated indie. Laborious indie. Tie-your-brain-in-a-knot indie. No easier than it’s ever been. I’m talking about breathing your bits — really possessing, sculpting, caressing, caring for, caring after your bits. Knowing. Takes buckets of effort. And buckets be heavy.
Craft Indie takes you back to the early ’90s hex editing Renegade BBS software. Takes you back to the mid ’90s with a shell account and PPP emulator — pry open Mosaic, cue exploding head. Craft Indie can never be Mass Indie because the required toolkit is too yawning, esoteric, painful for all but those willing to obsess.
Craft Indie is lose your afternoon to RSS 2.0 vs Atom specifications indie. Craft Indie is .htaccessing the perfect URL indie. Craft Indie is cool your eyes don’t change indie. Craft Indie is pixel tweaking line-heights, margins, padding … of the copyright in the footer indie. Craft Indie is #efefe7 not #efefef indie. Craft Indie is fatiguing indie, you-gotta-love-it indie, you-gotta-get-off-on-this-mania indie.
Both indies are united by and predicated on openness. Universal accessibility. This is why to impinge on Net Neutrality is to impinge on the very quintessence of what makes the web the web. Lopsided hierarchy woven into the fabric of the web upends the beautiful latent power of online publishing. The dudette should not abide.
Furthermore, the contours of our words published online shimmer. They exist at well defined URLs, yes, but those URLs can be tenuous, disappearing or rendered useless by server failure, a reconfiguration, a missed payment to a domain registrar. And yet those same words are more easily copied and distributed at scale than ever before. Thanks to vast search engines, their precise address is less important than knowing a snippet of the content. Three or four words. That’s all you need. They’re probably somewhere, indexed and waiting.
The ideas of the indie web sits somewhere within these fuzzy contours. With the vast array of online publishing tools comes multiplicity. Multiplicity is our friend.
I recently spent six weeks of nights and weekends spilling into weekdays and longer nights, lost hours in airports and aboard planes, cafes and subways, rebuilding my online home, craigmod.com. Creating a journal of satellite’d content. Take a peek, if you like. My online archive.
I tried counting the copies of this archive, tried to remember where all the words lived. There are the unnetworked Time Machines — a smattering of encrypted USB hard drives around the world. There are Backblaze backups floating up above. Git repos lost on creaky old servers, another repo on GitHub, another on my local machine. There are archive.org copies, quietly gleaned as the machines slept. There are the points of original publication — here (on Medium) and elsewhere, online and off. Google must have caches, as does Bing. DuckDuckSomething. RSS scrapers, visualizers, We Feel Fine data mappers. Robots slurping, insatiable, compelled by gold panning algorithms, their owners hoping to turn our muck of thought into cash or at least a show at the MoMA.
But if you have a home, why publish elsewhere? Why not put everything on that home to begin with?
Simple: To work with new people, to connect to new audiences. To broaden the scale and breadth of your voice. To stand upon the soapboxes that publications offer. To collect dissenting opinions. To see what couldn’t be seen without the help of an editor or gang of skeptics willing to look over your shoulder, pointing you in directions you considered but were too meek to explore. Mainly, to write better and with greater empathy.
And so, why create and maintain an independent home? Why own a domain, setup servers, configure software, hunt down and test typeface after typeface? Why worry about spam or hacks or hackers? Why trade sleep for CSS precision? Why make and remake an SVG file to get the padding just so?
Simple: To revisit. To collate. To gain informed perspective by placing the words once separated by both time and vast digital expanses next to one another. To give those same thoughts the shape you saw for them when you wrote them. The shape they may have never achieved out in the wild. To reedit the edits from editors you didn’t agree with. To — if not own the bits — feel like you own the bits. To make sure the margins are absolutely, goddamned, perfectly measured.
To do indie. To be indie. To publish indie. The indie web? To talk about the indie web — Mass or Craft — is to talk about the web itself. Vast and open and universally accessible.
People ask: What software should I use to publish? Where should I publish? Should I build a platform to publish? How should I do it?
And I say: Whether you own your URL or not, your own app or not, whether you Tumblr or Wattpad, just publish. Export often? Yes. Backup feverishly? Of course. But publish everything everywhere. Anything anywhere. Publish twice, thrice, just don’t break the contract if ya got paid.
[Originally appeared in The Message on Sep 2, 2014.]