#btconf Düsseldorf, Germany 13 - 15 May 2019

Tantek Çelik

Tantek Çelik has been active in open web standards innovation, development, and advocacy for over 20 years. He is currently Web Standards Lead at Mozilla, community leader of indieweb.org & microformats.org, and participates in the World Wide Consortium (W3C) Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Working Group. He is the author of HTML5 Now: A Step-By-Step Tutorial for Getting Started Today (New Riders: 2010). He co-edited the W3C Recommendations CSS 2.1, CSS3 Color, & CSS3 UI, co-founded GMPG, BarCamp, IndieWeb.org, and was Chief Technologist at Technorati. Tantek lives in San Francisco, and has bachelor's and master's degrees in Computer Science from Stanford University, as well as a strong background in human interface and user-centered design from his many years at Apple Computer. He shares his thoughts at tantek.com.

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Take Back Your Web

We used to control our online identities, content, and experience. We now share Twitter names instead of domains; even web developers tweet and post on Medium instead of their own sites. We scroll social media and feel empty instead of reading news & blogs to feel informed and connected. Algorithmic feeds amplify rage & conspiracies, enabling tribal ad-targeting to polarise and spread misinformation, threatening democracy itself.

What happened? And what are we doing to fix it?
That's a big question that will require all of us, our communities, our employers, to shift. I don't want to wait, and you probably don't either.

What can you do for yourself, today?

Own your domain. Own your content. Own your social connections. Own your reading experience. IndieWeb services, tools, and standards enable you to take back your web.


Tantek: Hi, my name is Tantek Çelik and I’m hear to tell you about the two hardest problems in computer science: projector hardware, and naming things and one-off errors. I remember in 1999, but let’s fast forward to the present, 2000 - 2019, 20 years later. Some things have not turned out like we expected them to back in 1999. The world's largest social network is actively enabling AstroTurfing at election campaigns, if not outright manipulation. This is just happening recently. Instead of turning the internet into this repository of information and knowledge free for everyone to share, the accelerating spread of misinformation, and, worse than that, misinformation that then encourages harassment. It gets worse. Algorithms designed to make you remember a memory with all kinds of assumptions of privilege built into them are being used to autogenerate hateful content, set berating some of the worst things, worst aspects of human society. As Charlie pointed out, the bar has been set pretty low. Don't enable genocide. If those global harms seem a little abstract and distant, I want to bring this to a level closer which is there's active harm occurring with the censorship and repression of underprivileged populations. They're being put in Facebook jail. As if being racist wasn't enough, or encouraging it, it actively had been profiting off off racism as well. Now, as the Guardian points out, this article is one-year-old. I hope they've actually cracked down on this, but the question I would ask is: have at the turned around and taken that money made from selling advertising to racists and donated it back to Anti-Defamation League? I don't know. Has anyone? This is not new information. They've admitted to deliberately engineering to exploit human vulnerabilities, to understanding the human psychology, understanding how our brain works. A study by Harvard looked into the different methods by which Facebook interacted with the dopamine response and found there are three different dopamine pathways that Facebook has actually taken advantage of, reinforcing their mechanisms of addiction. They're building software that is smarter than our ability to out-think it, or out-feel it. A few years ago, they introduced the algorithm, a method of showing you information that was supposed to be more relevant. It turned out it was more relevant to get you to engage, which I feel is a euphemism for "stay addicted", and one of the side effects of this is increased polarisation, amplified rage, and spread conspiracy theories. If outright polarisation and increasing rage wasn't enough, they decided to do emotional experiments, without anyone's consent, or without disclosure,. Altering what people saw in their feeds so if what you saw made you happier or sad - they found that it did. To bring this down to a personal level, as if those harms weren't enough, active use has been found to be personally harmful to individuals. It doesn't make you happy. It makes you more sad - miserable. I like this picture in particular. It looked like it could be a Stock photo shot, but I'm sure you've seen scenes similar to this, people glued to their phones psychology away at social media and perhaps feeling more disconnected than ever before. None of these people are alone. They're obviously sitting with people, perhaps even with friends, but they're not engaging in real life. They're engaging with their rectangles. I could go on and on, but I will stop and just refer you to Wikipedia. I looked and Facebook is the only social network that has a dedicated Wikipedia page just for criticism. And even the Wikipedia editors have decided this is too long of an article. Please consider putting it into sub articles and see if this works. I will try this fancy new technology called transclusion. It keeps going and going and going. Yes. As Charlie so properly put it, but fuck Facebook! But how about something more actionable? [Applause]. Yep, it feels good to express that rage. No, wait a minute, that's what they're doing to us. They're making us angry, they're making us engaged in our limbic system and not thinking about it, so I will take it up one notch and tell you and recommend you stop scrolling Facebook. Everyone say with me: stop scrolling Facebook. One more time. Stop scrolling Facebook. This is an excellent start. If you're able to do that, then maybe you could take the next step. How many times do we pick up our devices reflexively? Stop checking Facebook. Each and every one of us, if you're here, you at least have some level of privilege. You have the ability to stop engaging in something. In fact, you have the ability to just pause. How is it that Doro just put it? Check my notes ... . [Laughter]. Yes, I deserve the right to be inefficient. Going further, I deserve the right to do nothing - nothing at all. Nothing can be uncomfortable. But it is also amazing how productive nothing can be. You might already feel yourself breathing differently from not seeing anything on the screen. Maybe you should go for a walk. This weekend, at IndieWeb Camp Düsseldorf, one of the participants remarked, I want to do this simple, I don't want to maintain my server because I want to go for a like in the woods. I really like that prioritisation. So I will put this up here. Yes, it's a screen we are looking at. But think of it as a reminder. You can stop what you're doing, stop your engagement with the screen and go for a like in the woods. Maybe you will have some thoughts. Maybe have a nap in the woods. IBA got to try this new technique - napworking! Maybe you will find some flowers. Maybe you will stop to smell the flowers? Maybe you will be inspired to take a picture of the flowers. Great. Save them to look at later. Maybe you will write down your thoughts, a poem, a song. Maybe after that, you will feel motivated to share it with a friend. Maybe a few friends. Maybe - well, stop right there. Before we go any further, I want to go back to 1999. Once again, David Bowie in 1999 was the first artist, and he launched a complete musical album on his own website davidbowie.com two weeks before it was available in stores. It's 20 years ago. Davide Bowie was IndieWeb before we even had a name for it. Let's fast-forward back to 2019. Here, Beyond Tellerrand, Düsseldorf, 2019: I have good news for you in the present day. Here are all the speakers you've seen. Every single one of these speakers has their own domain. Every single one of these speakers - every single one. All of them, or perhaps almost all of them, have their own website, and actively use it to share content. This isn't something limited or exclusive to speakers. Everyone that was a speaker at one point wasn't a speaker. Everyone can have their own website. I'm going to show you a few of these. They're so inspiring and different that it just makes you want to sit down and start coding something up. This really is the underlying message here. When you have your own website, you get to choose. You can choose if you just want a one-pager, something really simple, perhaps some contact information, perhaps just linked to other profiles elsewhere, I think there was an entire start-up created just to do that. You can create a portfolio page. You can reference your work elsewhere. You can create a bunch of static images. You can make it HTML and CSS. This is the bottom line. You get to choose. But you have to start with choosing your identity online. You do have to start with picking a domain name. And talking with the few people this weekend and here at the conference, I suggest asking around. The people sitting next to you, one of them probably has their own domain name if you don't already. Ask them: where do they host it? Where do they register the domain? Find out. Something that's less than the cost of a phone - much less - or internet service. What can you to with a domain? A lot. You can get started once you have a domain for free? How many people here use GitHub in some regard? That is like 80 per cent if not more than that. Did you know you can host a free website on GitHub? The IndieWeb community has created a one-page template and it is semantic HTML and CSS. No JavaScript. You don't need JavaScript to be on the web - you can, like progressive enhancement - just a start, clone it, follow the instructions from GitHub and get going. I have a feeling that documentation could probably be improved. I feel I know someone who could help with that. When you've got the time, each could be taken the time to do it, is to only your content. Many of our speakers are doing that as well. You can see, they do look different. I really liked Mike Hill's presentation. It was incredibly inspiring. The stories we tell do matter. The stories we tell about the world around us, the stories we tell about what we can do. I haven't seen a single site that looked the same like any other than one of these sites. The diversity of all these sites just blows my mind, and none of them seem to be using that kind of three-column cliché bootstrap-y thing. You don't have to do that. You can choose. All of that was true in 1999. What is different today in 2019 are two things, and the first of those is that you can choose your connections between the website and other websites and interactions between them. That's new, that's something that the IndieWeb community has figured out, helped people deploy, helped the tools to do, so I'm going to show you a few examples of that as well. Of all the home pages, Charlie's is the only one that shows likes. Have you ever seen that before? I think it's kind of amazing. So you can like her page. Which makes you wonder: why do you need a Facebook page that can get likes when you can make your own website that can get likes? So how does this work? Well, I will show you one more example: the blog of this very conference. Here's a blog post. It's got repos and likes. These are enabled through a couple of minimal building blocks called Web Mention and Micro Formats 2. These are web standards. Web Mention has been standardised at the W3C over two years ago and steadily growing. It's got an open test suite. It's got over a dozen interoperable implementations this that are able to contact each other. Do you remember Pingback anyone here? A few folks. Web Mention is basically the evolution of Pingback. What we did with Web Mention was drop the XML because you didn't need it to make it work. Instead, we used simple form-based interaction. You can actually build an HTML form that will send a web mention without any coding, any back-end coding at all. In addition, Web Mention has been taken through the security review and tightened up. There are extensions to help fight spam and abuse, which is always a problem with Pingback. We added update and delete protocols, so when you send a web mention from one site to another to create an interaction like a like, you can update it or send a deletion request as well. A complete crud protocol. Microformats 2 is the evolution of semantic HTML. Designed after the natural behaviour and patterns that web designers came up with, Microformats 2 codifies and makes that syntax explicit in a parsing specification which is now implemented in almost a dozen different languages. Again, with a test suite so that you know, the implementations are interoperable. In addition, it's a set of common vocabularies. The eight entry was built on ... which itself is built on RSS. So all these pieces have been evolving over time. We've been simplifying them, making them more accessible, more easy to create, reducing the number of technologies you need to learn. What is micro formats? Simple bits of HTML. That's literally - if you know HTML, if you know how to use class names, you know how to use Micro formats. This abides by one of the basic architectural principles of the web, which is small pieces loosely joined. There are other features that you can do on the IndieWeb - and I will talk about a few of those - that involve other building blocks. The key here is with each step you can enable more functionality, and each step by itself is something that is simple and accessible, something that you can complete in an afternoon, or a weekend. I didn't tell Marc I was going to do this, and I know how much he hates attention. This is Marc's website, and he supports web mentions as well. There's his likes. There's one from Carolyn. And one more post from Marc. Marc almost always posts positive things. I really nightmare that about him. But I can relate to this as well, that I missed something on Medium. How many remember when Medium's design was so beautiful that it made you think, "I don't want to maintain my own blog, I want to blog there. It looks great." Remember when that was true? How many people just abandoned their blogs and said I will switch to Medium because they've done a great job, the presentation is awesome, the styling is awesome, the UI is awesome, and then this happened - and more. And now why would you want to write and publish someplace that gives your readers such a horrible user experience? A bit of a UX bait-and-switch. But that's not why I came to this post. I came to this post because it was obviously really popular, and Marc has chosen how he wanted to display the responses, including comments. He was thinking, it's a blog. Blogs have comments. If you volume down to the bottom, lots of comments, apparently. There is no comment form. All of these comments are coming in via Web Mention and being read using micro formats. So this is the beauty of the IndieWeb, is that we don't need to have things called web mentions, we have comments already. It just seamlessly works the way that you want a UX to work. So how do you get started with that? You saw the GitHub template page. How do you get started with owning your content?? In 2019, there are three distinct paths to take depending how much time you want to spend versus how convenient you want it to be. Microdot launched and is an excellent service for these indie protocols and standards. You sign up there, and they add beautiful instructions how to add your domain name and be hosted there. You could be using microdot blog and all your content belongs to you. The next step is using CMS. I'm sure there are people who use WordPress, Drupal, either support these built-in or they have plugins actively maintained. And lastly, because the IndieWeb is a bit of a hacker, tinker, creator community, there are a number of us that are making our own CMSs. Why? Because maybe it's something we want to customise. Again, you can choose your level of involvement, your level of convenience, level of flexibility. And this is the second of the two new things from the IndieWeb. Which is the experience side. What did we say earlier? Stop scrolling Facebook. That experience of psychology Facebook of constantly looking at social media is what it bringing us down. And so it is one thing to only your domain, to publish all this content on your domain that you're now in control of. That feels great, that sense of ownership, that sense of I don't have to worry if my site is going to get taken down, or if my Twitter's going to get locked. I had some recent experience with that. I can still post on my own site. How did Jeremy put it? I can see what you posted that pissed them off - a bunch of running pictures. Maybe it was the alt text. But this is the key piece, is to be able to be in control of your experience as well as what you express on the web. Poreki wrote a blog post about the evolution of readers. So even though Google killed our reader, RSS readers sprung up in its place and had an uptaken. There's a further step has been taken in the evolution of readers, which he's calling IndieWeb readers, and he has successfully taken his up so he doesn't have to visit Twitter or Facebook any more. He still uses the Instagram app just to post, but he doesn't have to visit there. He still has accounts there. How does he do that? He uses a set-up with any one of a number of interopable social readers. You might think what is different about these? What is different about these readers and RSS readers is that they allow interaction right there inline with the content you're reading. You're in control of who you follow, so you're in control of who shows up on your feed, instead of random suggestions. And the items show up in time order. A brilliant concept! But it's this interactive piece that really makes the difference. Right there in the reader, you can reply, you can repost, you can like, book mark, and that works with a handful of other IndieWeb building blocks - micro sub, indie auth. All of these readers interoperate. That means you can be reading one to read your content. Switch to another - let's say you like one reader on desktop and one on mobile - and they're in sync with the items you've seen before, and that is using this protocol called microsub to synchronise your reading lists, so synchronise what you're following and what you've read with your own server. Just like websites, the diversity of the UXs of these readers is amazing which together have different views, for example. One of the users is a map view so you can see where your friend checked in. For those of us that still use Swarm. It's got a photos view that has a beautiful gallery mode. Again, this is coming from people's own websites. So not only can you choose how you want to publish, you get to choose how you want to read, and that perhaps is the most powerful site of all, because now you've taken control of what was previously triggering you and reinforcing the addictive behaviour, and, instead, you've chosen exactly what you want to see and when you want to see it. How do you get started with a reader? That blank GitHub site has the minimal pieces you need. You set that up on a static GitHub domain with your own domain name, and you can sign into the social readers and start using them right away. You don't even need to publish content if you want to change how you read content. Most recently, like two days ago, Matthias Art, who a is a brilliant UX designer wrote this web post. He goes into so many good reasons why you should be on the independent web. I'm not going to scroll the whole thing here, but there is one piece in particular that I want to point to. It's this quoted tweet from Sarah ... . But a lot of people ask me why do I need an independent website? Why do - do I deserve my own website? Of course you deserve your own website. If you code, tinker, or design. Sarah's appeal is the best. Her favourite part is she gets to use it to experiment with the latest and greatest features, and she talks about using it professionally for what she did to learn. Her CSS grid implementation, service workers, CSS variables. I just recently started using this myself, like ten days ago. They're awesome. I added theming to my site. All those. On her own site. And there's more. I'm not going to scroll the whole thing. I highly recommend you read his blog post. It's excellent. Where does this bring us? This is his call to action to join the independent web. And that's what I want to tell you to do as well. Here are two easy-to-remember entry points for you. If you're online and you want to get started, indieweb.org. I met Marc because of IndieWeb Camp. And I would suggest checking out one of the IndieWeb event that happens, in particular, IndieWeb Camp. We just held two of of them, one in Düsseldorf and one in Berlin. How many here have been to an IndieWeb Camp. Okay, look around you, and look at the people holding their hands up. Maybe say hi, and introduce yourself. Ask them what did you experience? What was it like? Is it something you would go to again? I bet each will have a good story to tell you. Here are the upcoming IndieWeb Camps in case any of these cities are near you. Utrecht coming up this weekend. Portland, Oregon end of June, Oxford's doing one end of September, and Brighton in October. And these events are run like bar camps which means they're either free to attend, or there's a minimal fee just for registration or donation purposes. No-one is ever turned away for lack of funds. These aren't professional conferences. These are user-generated unconferences, the participants make the conference happen and get the most out of it by doing so. So I want to emphasise and remind you the four things that we talked about: choose your identity, own your own domain name, choose your expression and only your content. Start posting on your own site, either rather, instead of, or before you post on social media silos. Choose your connections. Decide what you want to show from other things on year site, if you want to show comments, repos, you can choose, which kind of things you show, which kind of interactions. You can choose who they come from. You have all no control. Lastly, choose your experience. Take active control of what you read and consume on the internet. What you read and consume helps shape your own personal story of what the internet's about and what the web is about. Take those four steps. You can take back your web. Thank you.

[Cheering and applause].