Blogging Known Style

5 min read

Edited: 10/03/2014 to add a another gotcha.

I've long been interested in the IndieWeb. The concepts at least before I knew the name for it. It's pretty awesome that it's now a movement of hackers that are building the plumbing to make everything work.

The basic concept (or principle) is that all of your content (blog posts, Facebook updates, Tweets, pics to Instagram or Flickr) belongs to you, so why should you have to jump through hoops to export it and get it back when you want to move to another service? Or simply make a local backup of your mobile posted photos? 

Companies go out of business, get bought and change policies, so what if you had one place to originate all of your content then publish it out to those great social services? And hey, why not pull comments from those services back to your original post?

Yeah, that's pretty rad. The only problem is that this is pretty new stuff, so none of it is very easy to use right now. But it's getting better every day.

One of the products that has come out is the Known publishing platform. It is often referred to as "blogging software", but it's really more than that. I'm still wrapping my brain around everything, so I'll leave the deeper points for your own research or a later blog post.

It's easy to get started with Known though, as they're hosting free sites on their servers. It's similar to the WordPress model: you can create a blog on their servers, or you can download the software and host it on your own.

Trying Known out is just a couple clicks and you're ready to go. There are a few more steps to get your content published to the social media sites (and even more to consolidate comments and Faves/+1's - some notes on that presently) but it's easier than the tech speak about APIs, microformats, POSSE, and webmentions on the website would have you believe.

I'll do a longer review about hosting my own Known site (on which this is being posted) and hope to have the time soon to contribute to their documentation, but here's a couple gotcha's that I didn't see in the documentation as I set everything up:

  • After initial setup, head into Site Configuration and make sure that important Site Features are enabled
  • Important ones are the social networks you want to publish content to, as well as Public Comments and IndiePub if you want to consolidate comments and Likes back to your posts.
  • Go through the settings and connect all of your social networks. I found it easier to log into the services first, then follow the directions in the Known Settings to create the apps and fill in the secret keys and stuff
  • Soundcloud and Flickr didn't want to connect at first. I realized that anywhere they wanted a URL to my site, I needed to paste the full connector URL, not just my main page. Another documentation shortcoming.
  • The final step to get comments to come back to your blog (that I didn't see documented anywhere) is that you have to go to Bridgy and either click the icons to give permissions to your social networks, or download the software and set it all up, then create apps and give permissions.
  • Yeah, using Bridgy on their site is kinda weird since you don't actually sign up or create an account or anything.. You just authorize your social networks to use it. Weird.
  • While I didn't see this documented anywhere, somebody from the Known team sent an @reply to my first comment test. I hadn't even tagged them or said there was a problem - pretty cool.
  • On Facebook you have to make sure that your app has an email address specified in the Settings section on your Developer page (you can see your app from the Apps drop down).
  • With email set, you must click on the Status & Review section and toggle your app available to the public. If you don't do this, then only you will see updates, even if they look like they're Public.
And a short list of the things that I find lacking so far (as of 10/3/2014):
  • No drafts. When you start writing something, be prepared to publish or risk losing it. If you're using the Chrome browser, you might be interested in the Lazarus extension. It recovers anything you've typed into a webpage if the browser crashes, or page refreshes on you and comes back blank.
  • No previewing your posts. Just cross your fingers and hit Publish. The editor is pretty good though and so far posts are looking like I want them to.
  • Minimal site customization. These are still early days. There are APIs and documentation to create plugins and themes, so I'm sure this will change quickly. But as it is now, if you're used to WordPress you may be disappointed not to have sidebars, and logos, and all of the other personalization stuff.
  • There aren't many social sites you can publish to. No Google Plus (though this is actually Google's fault since they've never created a write API), no LinkedIn, no Vine, no Blogger or Blogspot, or Ello, or... you get the point. See the last point on early days, I'm sure they'll come.
  • No categories, tags, etc.
  • Since the product name is "Known" it's pretty much impossible to do any kind of web searches for help. Try to Google "Help with Known" or "Twitter replies not returning to Known". Yeah. Now I appreciate Silicon Valley dropping vowels.