The archive contains older posts which may no longer reflect my current views.

The Social Web

Something I've written about a lot over the years is the social web. The context and scope of what that entails has changed sometimes but when I think of it now I know exactly what I'm referring to. Still, after my recent comment, I wanted to really get my thoughts together.

When we hear the word social we invariably follow it with media or network - the pervasiveness of Twitter and Facebook et al. has co-opted the word in 21st century parlance. Such is their power.

What is social?

Social /’sōSHəl/ adjective

  1. of or relating to society or its organization.
  2. needing companionship and therefore best suited to living in communities.

Four and a half years ago I came up with:

"Social is a series of shared experiences."

Shared experiences can happen anywhere - online, offline, a social network, the comments on an article, a forum, a football stadium, discussing last night's TV on your lunch break.

The point is that social is so much bigger than social networks, even if Facebook does have over two billion active users.

It's not quantity that's important, it's not reach nor influence. No, it's the quality of the connection itself that's key. It's the relationship that is built between individuals rather than the metrics games of followers, likes and retweets.

Numbers mean nothing if they are empty.

The social web encompasses so much more than a timeline, it is any means to interact and engage with someone else via the internet. Any way that we can mention someone, get a message across, talk to them and discuss - this is the social web.

Email, blogs, forums, anywhere that allows comments or replies, anyone who responds to something and links back to the original piece, it is those connections that matter.

Cal Newport described the difference between the social internet and social media as follows:

"The social internet describes the general ways in which the global communication network and open protocols known as “the internet” enable good things like connecting people, spreading information, and supporting expression and activism. "Social media, by contrast, describes the attempt to privatize these capabilities by large companies within the newly emerged algorithmic attention economy, a particularly virulent strain of the attention sector that leverages personal data and sophisticated algorithms to ruthlessly siphon users’ cognitive capital."

I've always used web rather than internet but it's the same thing.

Yes, social media is a part of the social web - it used to supplement it perfectly - but it has become increasingly closed, increasingly profit driven, for the benefit of the networks rather than those who use them.

And we went along with it.

The social web shrank because people and businesses abandoned their own properties, closed comments, posted on the social networks to once again reach those that no longer visited. How many times have we heard "go where your audience is" as an online strategy.

For an offline equivalent consider how many rural communities are dying as successive generations abandon them and flee to the cities in search of work and a "better" life. Then the transport links to those communities suffer as is it not economically viable to run regular services, further isolating those that remain.

The same thing happened to the social web. The networks grew in size and scope meaning you almost never had to leave. Everything you ever needed was a few clicks away, held within the walls of these great cities. Personal websites sat idle like the empty second homes of those who holiday in the country a couple of times a year.

Convenience is a powerful motivator even if there is a cost.

Recently, however, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the networks and some seek a return to the social web, to their own sites and ways to connect them with those of others. They look to move back to those rural communities and re-establish those links but in better, more efficient ways than before.

Cal talks of "social protocols" whereby people can "create and own a digital identity" and for those "digital identities to agree to establish a descriptive social link" such that we know who we are dealing with and can trust those interactions. The Indieweb sees the domain as this identity.

He is right - "there are few serious technical obstacles to implementing these protocols" but there are major cultural obstacles and the unwillingness of the networks to cede even the slightest control of the data housed within their walls.

Whatever form these new social protocols ultimately take, their use must at least match the convenience of the networks or the social web could be lost forever.

2 comments: click to read or leave your own Comments

# A phone call with my speech therapist earlier resulted in her discharging me because of the progress I’ve been making. I’m going to continue doing the exercises until things are back to normal (or as close as I can get) but it’s good news.

12 comments: click to read or leave your own Comments

# I'm currently looking at the issue of enabling WordPress comments when posting from the micro.blog app (via XML-RPC) and only under those conditions, i.e. not when updating via wp-admin.

# I need to find a way to reliably trigger code only when a new post is received via XML_RPC. Using if ( defined( 'XMLRPC_REQUEST') && XMLRPC_REQUEST ) seems like it should work... Famous last words.

# Next attempt: check if the wp.newPost method is called during an xmlrpc_call.

– I think that's got it!

# @Smokey rightly pointed out that my "solution" to force enable comments on posts made via XML_RPC from the micro.blog apps was too draconian. Essentially it enabled comments on anything, regardless of how it was posted or updated, and was a quick and dirty workaround.

It "worked" but not in the way it should.

I, therefore, wanted to find a way to only force enable comments on new posts made specifically by this method and not post updates. I think the following code works:

add_action ('xmlrpc_call', 'check_new_post' );

function check_new_post( $method ) {
    if( 'wp.newPost' === $method ) {
        add_filter( 'wp_insert_post_data', 'open_comments', 100, 1 );

function open_comments ($postarr) {
    $postarr[comment_status] = 'open';
    return $postarr;

This checks if the wp.newPost method is called when an xml_rpc call is made - if so it adds the filter to open the comments.

I've updated the plugin here if you want to try it and would appreciate any feedback. It's still experimental but seems to work for me.

13 comments: click to read or leave your own Comments