RSVP to IndieWebCamp East 2020

November 5, 2020

I'm super glad that a chance conversation in a discord group helped me find IndieWebCamp East 2020. I don't yet know anyone in the IndieWeb community but what I've seen so far has been great.

For anyone arriving at this post, I am spending some time working on building alternative social media tools. Since there are many people and groups in the IndieWeb community who are doing the same thing (or have already done it), one way to describe where I think I fit is to talk about what I'm doing and how I see myself in relation to other projects I've looked at.

I'm an introvert, and I find social interaction challenging. Sometimes I get nervous about talking to people; other times, I realize too late that I've said something that hurt someone and I wish I hadn't said anything. But when I started working in ceramics last year, I found strategies that made me more confident. I loved having a shared subject to talk to people about. And I find it pretty easy to express interest in what someone else is working on by asking questions or pointing out something I like about it. While working at a local clay studio, I noticed that almost everyone shared their work on their instagram accounts. I had noped out of social media years ago for philosophical reasons, but now there was a community that I really liked to hang out with, and instagram is where that community lives. So I joined instagram (I still have an account) and for a while that was great. I found other potters whose work I loved and lots of people said nice things about my work. I'm friends with people now who I wouldn't be friends with if it wasn't for instagram.

But over the past year, it has become very apparent that the society I live in is in pretty big trouble. As a software writer by trade, I want to be proud of the tools and systems that are available for people to communicate with each other to fix problems and mediate disagreements. But instead I'm very unhappy with the assumptions and abstractions on which the major corporate social networks are built. I decided to spend some time focusing on those ideas. My goals are: to articulate what I think social media is, does, and can be; to articulate the way that social media systems embody certain principles held by their creators; and to illustrate the principles that I think ought to be embodied in a beneficial social media system by building one as best I could. I started working on it, and this blog is where I've been keeping notes.

When I was pointed toward the IndieWeb, it was both a shock and a relief. The ActivityPub and related standards, by themselves, look to be very nicely thought-out and useful frameworks in spaces where I thought I would need to invent my own. I spent an evening appreciating the elegance of the scuttlebutt protocol and the focus and clarity with which it articulates its design principles. I The fact that I can see in those resources evidence of the same priorities I believe to be important makes me want to use them and help them move forward however I can.

On the other hand, when I started out on this path, there was a kind of introverted comfort in the feeling that I was working on my own. It's much harder for me to balance my own feelings and priorities while also identifying as part of a group. There's an insecure part of me that experiences it as zero-sum--either "the group" "wins" or "I" "win"--even though that isn't what I believe when I think it through. That insecure part of me is afraid that some decision I've made--using JavaScript, using AWS, my coding style, my writing style--will prove so unpopular that there won't be a place for me in that community. Or the opposite--that I could say something to make someone else feel unwelcome based on their differing view, identity, experience, or choice.

I'm very excited to have the chance to meet and talk to so many people whose work I admire. I hope I don't screw it up.