Indie Microblogging by Manton Reece

Part 6: Community

“ is a small, friendly community and platform that understands the need for people to own their data but still freely express themselves on the web. A beacon of light in the darkness.” — Adam Procter

Communities form when people get together around a shared interest. That could be comments on a niche blog. That could be tweets and replies around a topic on Twitter. There has to be a way for people to not just consume content, but participate.

In an interview between Om Malik and Matt Mullenweg on the True Ventures podcast, Foundation, Matt recollected how a community had formed around a discussion forum that he had set up on someone else’s web site. Om Malik talked about how comments on blogs were just as important as the writing on the actual blog:

It’s about the community and not the actual content. Because the conversations that happen in the comments were the key to making blogs what they were. And I think this forum is another testament that as human beings we do want to congregate to a communal place whether it’s offline or online.

A community doesn’t need to be on the largest platform, where “everyone” is. It just needs to have enough people who share an interest. This is why is still successful even though it is small. It’s why Om talked about blog comments even though most blogs had very few readers. It’s still enough to form a community and make people feel like they belong to something.

But for most bloggers, it didn’t last. As Twitter and Facebook became more popular, blog comments were also being overrun with spam. Bloggers were finding that fewer people left comments on their posts, and when they did it was becoming a chore to manage.

Many bloggers closed their comments and pointed people to reply on Twitter instead. Eventually they abandoned their own web sites and just moved to Twitter or Facebook.

As we reverse that trend and bring back indie blogs, we should also think about the role of communities around those blogs, so that bloggers don’t feel isolated and move back to a larger platform. Not all blogs need comments. But most blogs would benefit from being part of a platform that allows cross-site replies, connecting blogs together that share a common interest.

The web was always meant to be a read-write medium. Not just browsing, but posting too. When Tim Berners-Lee developed the first web browser on his NeXT workstation, he also developed a way to edit web pages. Tim would write in his book Weaving the Web:

My vision was a system in which sharing what you knew or thought should be as easy as learning what someone else knew.

Most people are not creating whole web pages, but instead fragments of what could be a page: a microblog post or a reply to someone else’s posts. Together, all these posts and replies form communities. We should own this content, connecting our own blogs with replies on other blogs, and copying it only to platforms that are designed to encourage healthy conversations.

Next: Replies →