"Indie" as in "individuality"
Against disruptive tendencies on the IndieWeb
It's that time of the year again. I'm spending my annual family holiday in Japan — and getting inspired by so many things. For example the fact, that the Japanese culture is mostly based on caring for others. I really enjoy that special sense for all the tiny little details here. Sadly, this does not fully apply to the IndieWeb community as well at present.
To get this straight first: Neither do I claim to be an IndieWeb specialist whatsoever, nor do I consider myself an overly active contributor. I do, however, strongly sympathize with the idea of an independent web and I leverage some of the techniques promoted by the folks running indiewebcamp.com for various purposes and quite some time now. In fact, my personal expertise doesn't play any role in my experiences with the IndieWeb community — or does it?
Let's think aloud for a moment: If I'd want a movement to gain traction, I'd welcome (almost) every single approach striving for the common or similar goals, no matter how small or ridiculous they might seem at first. I would try to be tolerant towards formal errors and not block the entrance by handing out a set of rules and definitions instead of just saying "Welcome!". I'd not waste time explaining how I'd prefer to be addressed, instead I would ask "How can I help?". I would bend towards my neighbours.
I'm easily distractible, alas, so I really respect those who take measures for keeping focused. Nevertheless, I think it's vital to have a friendly and warm-hearted strategy for welcoming people with fresh ideas — who might be new to the subject or not willing to enter the "inner circle" but rather stay bystanders instead. Sadly, this very strategy is what I'm occasionally missing when witnessing the IndieWeb community recently.
Without intending to be offensive, let me give you two examples: When my friends Bastian and Marc started off organizing their Decentralize Camp, they didn't want to reinvent the wheel and considered aligning with the IndieWebCamps that had taken place in the US and UK before. They got in touch with some of the organizers in order to exchange experiences, but soon they ended up in a discussion about wordings and what IndieWeb events should be like (or rather, should not be like). To neither draw annoyance nor sacrifice some of their ideas for the event, the only feasible option seemed to move away from the IndieWebCamp as a paradigm and evolve their own format. Also, they got criticized by a community member for using Twitter as their main communication channel, which supposedly was not "indie" enough to be credible in the given context (Remember: They did neither have a name, nor a website, nor a real vision at that stage ...).
On another occasion, when Marc and I had a first concept draft for our next border:none event (which will also deal with decentralization in a broad sense), we reached out to some of the IndieWeb protagonists, asking for their opinion and feedback. The echoes were pretty mixed. While some simply responded by showing their interest (or lack of — both of which I'm perfectly fine with), others didn't really respond but started arguing that we should "open-source" our plans and discuss them publicly. Leaving aside for the moment whether crowd-planning a conference would ever work out, we were — again — taught a lesson on how to do our job without being respected in the way we go about our business. I can't help seeing a pattern here.
Well, despite the fact that I do recognize (and agree with) what Tantek is aiming for here, maybe someone could help me understand how stereotypical Dos and Dont's can ever back up for what Ben nailed so perfectly yesterday:
@jkphl ... After all, the word "indie" means "independent". Implies diversity and autonomy. Sorry again.— Ben Werdmüller (@benwerd) 23. April 2014
For my personal understanding, "indie" most importantly implies "individuality" — at least this is what I want the web to be about. I don't see any point in erecting unnecessary entry barriers. Participation in the independent web should be accessible through a mindset rather than a specific technical setup. From my own experience, gearing up your website with, for example, webmentions or POSSE (I didn't succeed in the latter one myself yet) may require considerable effort that not everyone is able to expend. So why make these things a requirement for being "indie"? For the sake of what?
Oh, and whilst we are at it: I really don't see much difference between using the generic prefix "indie" for labelling a phone (or company) and tieing it to a set of techniques and events. Sure, one could always add to the latter, but that would imply appropriate accessibility and acceptance. At present, indiewebcamp.com gives me the impression of being the formal home of The IndieWeb, backed by common language and writings that — possibly unintentionally — promote this very concurrence (however readable they may be in fact, by the way). Instead, I would so much love the term IndieWeb — and the community behind it — to be coined much more in it's most intrinsic sense: Open and federated, unbiased, free of personal and technical barriers, without infighting and accessible to any kind of individual approach.