Thinking about bookmarks and likes on the IndieWeb
At Virtual HWC last week, Sven Knebel pointed me to the new Firefox beta. I use it now, and one of the things I noticed is that ships with integration with Pocket, a bookmarking service to save articles you want to read later. It’s owned by Mozilla now, so they accentuate their service by adding a button prominently in your address bar.
Despite the pushiness, I tested it out a bit. I like that I can save articles with one click, so I can read them later, possibly on a different device. It made me think about the way I post bookmarks on my own site.
My bookmarks and likes look too similar
The way I have implemented bookmarks at this moment, is very, very similar to the way I implemented likes. It is a Microformats property (
u-like-of), displayed as an icon (a grey bookmark vs a red heart), with a Dutch text (‘Seb heeft [dit] gebookmarkt.’ vs ‘Seb vindt [dit] leuk.’).
By making bookmarks and likes this similar, one would almost think that there is a clearly defined difference in the words ‘bookmark’ and ‘like’, that keep them apart, since there is no other distinction. I don’t think there is such a definition.
Bookmarks are mostly used as a ‘want to read’-list, or a way of keeping track of things that have been read, but might be of interest on a later moment (‘want to read again’). Likes are more a reply of some sorts, directed at the author of the post, expressing appreciation.
The problem comes when I take readers of my blog into account. The things I like, might be read as a recommendation, but the things I bookmark, might also read as a recommendation. Once I start looking from that perspective, likes and bookmarks fulfill the same role again.
When likes and bookmarks are not recommendations
Sometimes I like things on social media, not because of the contents of the post, but because of the social context around the post. I do not really like the bad picture of the malformed pizza of a friend, I like the fact that I recognize that pizza as the outcome of the enthusiastic plans about making a pizza that my friend told me about earlier that day. I sometimes don’t like the specific check-in a person posted, I just like the person. Some tweets are also quite ambigu: do I like the tweet because of the tweet, or because of the linked article I might or might not have read?
Those likes are not recommendations for readers, they are purely appreciation, or even just social acknowledgement. Within a certain social context they can be of value to other people, but to random strangers, they are not. Currently, I solve this problem by not posting those kinds of likes to my site at all (leaving them on Facebook or whatever silo), but that’s of course not ideal in the IndieWeb scheme of things.
With bookmarks, a similar thing can happen: not all bookmarks are recommendations. The easiest example is an article that I think looks interesting, so I bookmark it to read it later, but I haven’t read it yet. I do not recommend that article, but a reader might think that.
In both cases: sometimes I do want to recommend an article in a single post.
What I don’t want to propose
Let me make a little pause here and say something about likes, favorites, recommendations and what more. We can solve the above things by just adding more webactions to the field. “Let’s also support, next to bookmarks and likes, favorites and recommendations.” But I don’t think that’s the solution, because adding those options means just more post types to keep track of, for both publishing sites and consuming indie-readers.
Keeping things a little bit abstract and minimal helps us focus on the problem at hand. (Which is at this moment, I think, building an functioning indie-reader in the first place.)
What I would add to my bookmarks
Seeing what Pocket does with bookmarks, I think I want to expand what I post as a bookmark. To be fair: a lot of other people on the IndieWeb have more detailed bookmarks too. Other properties of a bookmark include: tags, a little summary of the bookmarked post, the reason why the post was bookmarked and sometimes even a screenshot of the bookmarked page.
I’m not sure how much I want to add to them, but since they are very skinny now, I certainly would like to add some tags. Tags, and possible a reason, make it easier to find a bookmarked article back after a while.
That brings me to what I think a bookmark would be for me: showing an interest in the linked article, without adding too much judgement. I see bookmarks as a personal archive of things I want to read or have read. If technical skills allow it, I would also save a copy of the post for personal use, hidden in the bookmark-post itself.
What I would change to likes
To likes I wouldn’t change much. For likes, I want to make a personal copy of the original too, because I do care about that content, but from the outside, it’s just a link.
But the value of the like would than be more of a vote: this is a piece of content I care about. I think indie-readers should also consume those likes, but just don’t display them the way they display a photo or a note. If there is a post by an author that I don’t follow, but that is liked by, say, three people I do follow, then I want to see that post, accompanied by the names of the three people who liked it.
The threshold for the external posts to show up may vary from person to person, both personal preferences of the reader as well as the status of the poster of the like. But the point is that it’s a indie-reader-problem.
In this way, a like is in fact a recommendation, from the readers perspective, but just appreciation from the poster.
But back to these social likes
Then there are still those likes that depend on some social context, that aren’t solved by the above approaches.
I think that the root of the problem lies in those exact words: social context. If I like a certain badly photographed pizza, I should not post that to my main feed, but set the visibility of that like to ‘friends only’. Chances are that the badly photographed pizza was already published as a private post, only visible to a certain audience, so I can copy that.
The problem here lies more in an easy way of publishing private posts, and an easy way to change the audience of those posts. And of course a way for sites to securely share those posts with the right indie-readers, there is a long way to go still.
And what about the bookmarks you haven’t read?
Sharing unread bookmarks is also, I think, question of adding the right audience to the post. Such bookmarks can be posted with an ‘only me’ visibility. You can then subscribe your indie-reader to your own (private and public) bookmarks-feed. This is, without the private part, what I actually did for a while when I was using an indie-reader. Apart from the bugs in my self-build reader, it worked very well.
And really recommending something? Well, if I really want to recommend something to people who follow me, I can always just post a note, linking the article, and explain why they should read it. That also improves the chance of actually clicking through, no need for extra formatting.
In the end I don’t think we need better boundaries between a bookmark and a like, in the form of extra ‘recommend’ or ‘favorite’ webactions. A bookmark adds something to an archive for yourself, and a like is giving appreciation to the creator of the post. Recommendations can be either explicit by posting a note, or implicit by publicly liking or bookmarking. But, the way this is implied should be the responsibility of your indie-reader, where you can mix to your own taste. Publishers could filter things that they don’t want everybody to pick up as recommendations by using ‘only friends’, ‘only who I follow’ or ‘only me’ posts.
In the end of the day, this is a lot of thinking and talking. I should get back to creating a indie-reader. As should you, because that’s where the one of the undefined parts of the IndieWeb lies now.