Academia Web

The web is back

WordPress + ActivityPub + Friends is the web we need decades in the making

A decade ago, or more, there was talk all over the higher ed blogs about how best to use WordPress (+others) for blogging with students. Federation, syndication, wikis, badges, domains, and more were the talk of the web. Remember that?

Here are few posts from that era:

The fediverse – a series of websites running common protocols that allow content to flow across different sites and domains – promises to bring some of that back as social media continues to fester and decline.

Federation looks complex but if you understand email, you can get the gist of this. It’s just about allowing content to move freely from one site or server to another. This seems anathema in the days when Disney continues to copyright strike public domain material, when Twitter actively prices small devs out of API use; when the walled gardens abound.

Yet even Meta promises (threatens?) their newish site Threads will be federated.

Which brings me to WordPress. Good old open-source but mostly run by for profit Automattic WordPress. WordPress has a couple of new plugins, ActivityPub and Friends, which facilitate social integrations and cross-platform publishing for any site with ActivityPub or RSS.

I installed both of these on two of my sites: this one, and my podcast-as-research-project, Fossils and Fiction. And then, I followed myself from my Mastodon profile at Humanities Commons Social. Here’s what you see inside a Mastodon server:

And the feed from inside friends, after subscribing to my own profiles, looks like:

If used in higher ed with a series of student sites, these tools can also make sharing centralised class blog sites very simple. Just hit that reblog button and you’re done! The students won’t even need to install the plugins as it will work from RSS alone.

It’s time to federate, folks, and reclaim the web.

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