The IndieWeb

Lincoln has published his first newsletter called “Working on It,” and the first topic is near and dear to me: the importance of the IndieWeb.

There’s so much to agree with and so many parts of his piece that I see reflected in myself that it’s hard to know what else I want to say here. Like Lincoln, I’ve had my own presence on the web for a while now–I bought this domain around 2008, and has been an important space for me in learning how to build, how to write, how to program, how to break things and fix them. There’s no doubt in my mind that without a place of my own on the Internet I wouldn’t be much of a historian now. There’s no way I would’ve ended up hired ABD at Stanford University, no way I would’ve had the privilege of collaborating on cutting edge and innovative digital history projects, no way I would’ve avoided the horrors of the academic job market.

I’ve watched as friends and people I deeply respect have left the large social platforms—Lincoln, Dan, Alan, and others—that has me rethinking my own relationship with these spaces. I do think there’s an important role for historians on Twitter, and I believe that Kevin, Heather, Kevin, Joanne, David, Nicole, and so many others are doing a great service to combatting disinformation and sharing their deep knowledge of history. I think I offer that kind of public service as well, but have found that outlet elsewhere—the Washington Post, The Conversation, or this blog, where the information has more permanance than the fleeting attention of Twitter’s timeline. I simply don’t have the time to follow the next Twitter outrage and engage with that in any meaningful way. I’m glad others do, but that isn’t for me.

And like Lincoln, I have a strong bias towards building things. I fell in love with this medium as a place for making, writing, research, scholarship. I find the process of building things for the scholarly web exhilarating and meaningful. And this, from Lincoln, really resonated with me:

For a long time, I felt stuck—mired, really. But over the past couple months, I’ve gone back to tinkering with the basic building blocks of the web and figuring out what to do with the blank canvas of an open <html> tag.

For almost the same reason as Lincoln writes, I find myself spending more time with Observable notebooks (as way to learn the new parts of JavaScript I haven’t spent much time with in a couple years), investing less time (or leaving entirely) the big social networks, learning new languages (like Go, now that this website runs on Hugo) and reinvesting time into old ones (like JavaScript and R). That’s a far better use of my time than scrolling through Twitter.

And while I’ve long been an advocate/activist for the open web, my work with the Mozilla Foundation has further cemented those ideas. The Internet needs help; it’s not a healthy place right now. I’m not convinced the indies can topple the corporate web, but it is the space I’d rather spend my time building for and fighting for. I’m not leaving Twitter, at least not yet. But I am spending less time there, aided by Apple’s App Limits. You’ll find me more frequently at, Observable, and writing here.

Anyway, I’ll echo Lincoln: I love you, IndieWeb. I’ll be spending a lot more time with you.