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Greg McVerry

Finding a Refuge for #ds106 and #clmooc

6 min read

Educators loved Google+ networks. Early on the network created a close simulation to what an open web of writers could look like.Heck before Google Apps for Education was a thing we created a Google+ group "Using Google as a Free LMS."

Then as teachers, all being on boarded to Google's domination in the k12 market, turned to Blogger and Google+, and fell in love.

Everything worked, with one identity. You had a blog and when you published a post it syndicated to Google+ and when people commented on Google+ the comment was backfed to as a reply to your blog post. Coolest thing I ever saw (until webmentions). Then when people tried out WordPress a comment plugin did the same.

Our blogs became part of network. Not just link syndication with link bait titles but integration into the community.

Then you had the one button push for documents, the photographers, the voice chat, the video chat, Hangouts on Air. Everything that teachers wanted for online learning finally existed.

Until it didn't.

The unrolling started in 2015 but yesterday Google+ died....

Except for some educators. The networks on Google+  for teachers were (are?) massive. Google decided anyone with a GAFE account could stay, except many of us joined distributed communities from our private emails.

Places like and . The Google+ groups are dead but They will live on. is for life and transverses physical spaces all the time.

But where to go?

Fantasy of the Frictionless Fiend

Owning your house takes work, but you know your landlord won't kick you out. Websites ain't much different. It does take work, and like hoiuse ownership is fraught with systemic racism and bias that we must overcome.

Yet you will hear people on social media wailing how the masses will never build for themselves.People who spend too much time talking and not building.

Show me a time when that is true in history.

Honestly I read comments like these and I feel sad for folks who have that little faith in humanity. Has to stink walking around the world and thinking majority of people you see aren't willing to do the work to make the world better.

I won't accept that.

Not on the street and not on the web. A thirst for knowledge makes us humans and just becuase corporations control the taps doesn't mean we can't dig our own wells.

So yes shoveling takes work, but it beats being knee deep in the shit of social media.

An alternative to Google+ one button push and everything works isn't quite possible and I am okay with this fact.

Define success not by creating the plumbing for the world but sitting down with a friend after a days work and dipping your cup into a cool stream you two redirected together.

Easiest Approaches

Use a Splot. Alan's WordPress themes could work for a wonderful community creation tools. Nobody would have to do much but visit this site.

Install a multiuser Known instance (or any open source network). This would require people to create a username and someone would be storing the data.

Create an RSS Planet. These are easy but they are read only.

Use a social reader like https://unicyclic.com/. This allows us to create a shared reader where can add feeds and reply to post. It would work best with blogs (see below) but handles RSS fine.

Moderate Approaches

Get a shared Mastodon host. Some work to set up and I would rather have things drive from our blogs.

Encourage people to use tools. We don't need to "build" anything. It already exists. If people have websites with microformats, the metadata of the modern social web, everything would just work.

I mean just like Google+ work...well not video streaming for obvious reasons (though getting close with jitsi). Private posting isn't 100% solved yet but the stuff, the way it works is awesome

This would take a lot of work though for WordPress users. There are currently only a handful of themes that work with all the IndieWeb plugins and only one theme in the WordPress.org repository. You use a 2016 variant...so you could install iwc16 (avaiilable on GitHub).

Networked Approaches

We could go a step further and create a network of sites. Honestly the way works once you have a blog properly set up 95% of the stuff works but we can add more.

  • I am working with the https://goifoundation.org on creating an network. We could do a simlar approach. They all get a blog (everyone in clmooc already has one...or we can help).
  • We create a wiki as a shared knowledge base, long term place to file away makes and lesson plans.
  • We add a chatroom using Riot.im which is a matrix client and can connect to other chat rooms.

This realy is not that difficult to spin up. The hard part is making sure your website is optomized for the modern social web.

Micro.blog is turnkey everything just works for $5.00 a month. We have created tutorials for Blogger and WordPress.com. There are tutorials for installing WordPress and Known on Reclaim Hosting. Check out the getting started page to learn more.

Remember the Vision Jim Stole from Gardner

I follow the "Law of Groom." If Gardner Campbell had an idea good enough for Jim Groom to steal and bake into the DNA of and   reason stands that I should do the same.

While I also love it because it sounds so cheesily  dated the idea of a "personal cyberinfastructure" was always the point.

We never thought we had to build tools so our "lazy, stupid, uninterested, or too busy" level four students could use them with a press of the button. No.

The lesson was always the work is worth it.

So let's learn our lesson on the death of Google+ and not head to another silo.

Honestly even if we do nothing now if we keep blogging and just using RSS we will be fine but if we want to grab the shovels we could easily divert away from social media and carve out a cool stream.

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