Micro Monday Transcript: Episode 78 with Amanda Rush

Listen to Micro Monday, Episode 78

Jean: Hey, it’s Micro Monday again, the weekly microcast where we get to know members of the Micro.blog community. I’m Jean MacDonald, the community manager here at Micro.blog. And on this show, I am very pleased to welcome Amanda Rush, who is @arush on Micro.blog. Hi, Amanda. How are you doing?

Amanda: Hi. I’m doing fine, how ‘bout yourself?

Jean: I’m doing pretty good. I’m very glad that we have the chance to chat. And I appreciate you taking the time to come onto the podcast. And before we get into all the talk about microblogging and the Internet etc. or whatever else, why don’t you tell the listeners a bit about yourself?

Amanda: So I have been doing web development for, I guess, twenty years now, since 2019. So that’s my day job and I’m an accessibility practitioner at this point, which basically means that when I build websites, I specialize in making them accessible. So my work is helping other people, and that could be anybody from website owners to plug-in authors for WordPress, theme authors, et cetera, to make their stuff accessible for everyone. Not just for people with disabilities, because accessibility is actually beneficial to everybody else as well. So that’s my day job.

As a sort of result of my day job, I guess my hobby and my day job are pretty similar because I do a lot of tweaking and messing around on the internet when I’m not working as well. And I’ve done that for a long time. I’m a contributor to WordPress, the project, and I’m part of the accessibility team, which is where I do pretty much all of my contributions at this point. And so that’s kind of my professional work. And then personally, I like to read a lot of books. I’ve always got at least one book going, usually more than that, I think I have two going right now, actually, so books and cooking are the things that I kind of do personally. So I’m kind of starting to starting to blog more about that kind of stuff. So I think that covers it.

Jean: I’ve been reading your posts on Micro.blog for a long time and I was looking at your personal site today and I wanted to share with the listeners something that just grabbed me about your approach to what you’re doing, which is your your home pages is quite clean and simple, but it has a lot of categories that, you know, that the various things that you do and that you capture online. I like, you know, that you have it so well organized. But it looks like a full picture of your activities. And on your site, you say you’re doing this for a number of reasons.

You say, first, “I want to own my all my content and have control over it. And to that end, I am constantly updating the site so that it contains as much of my data as possible from any silo that I may have an account on.” And you say “I decided to start doing this when I finally got tired of all the curated timeline nonsense and the social media design element that encourages us to be horrible to each other online for clicks.” And I thought that was just a great succinct description of what drives people away from the traditional social media silos lately and to more open and independent options.

You clearly embrace the indieweb. And I’m curious when you made that that epiphany and how did how did the indie web captivate you? What drew you to it?

Amanda: So for me, it started with Webmentions, actually. I think Micro.blog has some some webmention support.

Jean: Yeah.

Amanda: But the idea is that different domains can talk to each other without necessarily someone having to come to your site and leave a comment or use your particular software. The idea is that it’s supposed to be platform agnostic. So if you don’t want to use WordPress, fine. Don’t use WordPress. Use Jekyll or use Hugo or whatever you want to use, and reply to and interact with content that is in an environment that you are familiar with, so you’re not trying to learn somebody else’s platform then.

On top of that, on top of that sort of technical detail, I just thought it was really, really neat. Right now, for the most part, if you want to like or if you want to interact with a piece of content on Facebook, for example, you have to go to Facebook. If you want interact with a piece of content on Twitter, you have to go to Twitter or use third-party clients or whatever. And those two sort of interaction streams do not ever meet. So you end up, I think, compartmentalizing your identity. One for Twitter, one for Facebook, and Twitter tends to be a lot more snarky. I enjoy the occasional bit of snark and I do have still maintain my Twitter accounts, but in Facebook, that doesn’t really work on Facebook. If you snark a lot on Facebook, and you could have just posted something just “OK, I’m snarking at it, but I’m not necessarily making a serious comment,” your comment section is going to be chock full of all kinds of stuff. You have to be careful on Facebook about what you post and what you say. And that’s not even getting into how the platforms control. It’s not the platforms that are, I think, the biggest problem. It’s the people or… I shouldn’t say the people. I should say that how people are encouraged to to interact and what kind of interactions are rewarded. Because I don’t think anybody is is immune from that

If you spend a bunch of time on social media and you know what kind of material, what kind of interactions, et cetera, are going to be rewarded. That’s what you’re going to do because everybody likes being rewarded. So I’m not making a judgment call necessarily and saying people are horrible. I’m saying it’s very easy for people to go to to just sort of slip into that mode.

And for me, webmention was like, “Hey, I can I can maybe have these reactions and I can have people interacting with my stuff without trying to compartmentalize everything into a short, pithy, snarky stuff for Twitter.” Being careful about what you post on Facebook, etc. And so that’s kind of where it all started. And then I went to microformats and post kinds. We can do web mentions, we can have these domains talk to each other. What if you could Like something, what if you could say that you listened to a podcast episode or something like that? What if you could? What if you could reply? And those are all sort of dependent on webmentions to work properly. Along with microformats too, etc.. Webmentions was the gateway drug and then I just sort of rabbithole from there.

Jean: That’s really interesting. One of the things about the indieweb, it’s constantly evolving mostly through the work of great independent developers and people who want to contribute tools and ideas. But helping people who aren’t in the position to actually build stuff but want to use the use of these tools or, you know, have web mentions, have post kinds, if people ask you about the indieweb who aren’t going to be the kind of geeky person who gets it right away and says, “Oh, yeah, I can build that or whatever,” but if somebody wants to observe indieweb principles but needs some or most of it to sort of be built for them. Do you have recommendations you make to people to help them find their own way?

Amanda: Yeah. Actually, my recommendation is Micro.blog. (Jean laughs.) That gets into why I love it so much because. It provides the social aspect, which I like. The one thing we like about social media. But then it’s a really awesome way for if you’re like, “I don’t want to spend time messing around with a web server, messing around with software. I just want it to work.” I have been sort of promoting Micro.blog, especially on Facebook. Like I’m trying to get people to leave Facebook and come to Micro.blog. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get them to leave Facebook, but at least, come to Micro.blog. Because a lot of people, especially with Facebook, will say, “oh, my God, I’m so tired of all this sniping and all the crap and all the negativity in this.”

And at the other end, I’m like, “Micro.blog is a lot more chill. Just trust me, like everybody’s nice to each other. You know, we can have actual discussions. We can have nuanced discussions,” which is also related to this. There’s been some pretty nuanced conversations that have gone on and Facebook just does not work for that. Like, if you try to have a nuanced conversation on Facebook, you could just hang it up. And, you know, Twitter is basically the place where nuance goes to die. So you are not going to do it there either.

And so literally I’ve been promoting Micro.blog because I’m like, “If you’re not technical and you don’t want to build all this by yourself, this is really a great place to start.”

And I promote Micro.blog over, say, Mastodon, because Mastodon as a nice sort of middle of the road thing. But, you have a situation where it’s still somewhat technical, does kind of require you to start understanding. “What does federation mean? I don’t care about any of this stuff. All I want to do is post my stuff, have other people see it, maybe comment on it or reply to it, etc.” And I think Micro.blog does a better job of that than Mastodon does. So that’s why I recommend it.

Jean: Yeah. You know, one thing about Mastodon is that it’s more of a Twitter replacement in the sense that it is a timeline and really nothing else where Micro.blog is a platform for blogging that has a timeline. And so some people, all they want to do is just to continue with their 280-character commenting on the world versus maybe writing their own stuff for other people to read. And I think that’s where Micro.blog comes in. And, you know, it’s not for everybody, but it’s definitely, because it has so many different ways you can use it, it’s for a lot of people who are looking for an alternative to what you’re describing. It is interesting how I certainly was still on Facebook when I started with Micro.blog, but I’m not on it anymore. I watch every month some group of people says, like, “You know what? I’m going to quit Facebook, I’m going to close my account.” I said I was going to quit Twitter, but I didn’t do that for various reasons. But it’s like people have to make their own decision, there’s only so much you can tell them, and then you kind of have to let them figure out the rest. And as long as you’ve you’ve kind of at least given them a place to to go and check out and see if they like it, that’s that’s the best you can do. I don’t expect everybody–actually I would certainly hope not everybody from Facebook comes over to Micro.blog

Amanda: Yeah. Maybe we don’t need everybody from Facebook. Good idea.

Jean: That would be scary. Every once in a while, you know, there’ll be an article about the indie web or alternatives to or something that Facebook did or Twitter did. Whatever. That causes a lot of people to come over and check out Micro.blog. And we do have these relatively predictable waves of people coming in and saying like, “Well, where’s the Like, button?”

Amanda: And that sort of thing I like about Micro.blog is it’s really explicit about the things that OK, you cannot have a boost button or retweet (Mastodon calls them “boosts, Twitter calls them “retweets.) and there’s pretty explicit reasons for not doing that. That’s kind of where a lot of the crap starts spreading and that spreads faster than somebody can correct something later. The original that spread and then a correction gets posted because you can’t edit and the correction never gets spread. And I’d like that it doesn’t have quote-posting either. Because on Twitter specifically, that’s a really great way, if you don’t like something someone has said or whatever or you want to pile on to somebody, you just quote-tweet it and boom–it’s another copy of the status. And you can even do that even if someone has blocked you. So if you’ve blocked someone, they can still quote your tweets if they can see it and they can just grab the URL and boom, they’ve still sort of interacted with you. I’m just glad that Micro.blog does not have that. If you want to quote something from somebody, then you have to work at it.

Jean: Yeah.

Amanda: Admittedly when I first signed up a couple of years ago, I was like, “oh, maybe this feature would be nice.” Then it was like, “You know what? I like not having it because it makes everything just a lot more low key.”

Jean: It’s nice to appreciate what we don’t have. I also felt the same. You know, I was more engaged on Twitter with my work friends, like my software developer friends. And I kind of missed having them on Micro.blog, like I wished everybody would come over. But now I realize, like, it’s one of those things where you just start something new and see what happens and then you will have a different group of people you interact with.

And maybe that will be a good thing. You won’t be talking about Apple all day long, every day. You might get some interesting perspectives. That’s what I really like about Micro.blog, as well as, just a pretty good variety of people with different interests and from different parts of the world. I mean, we we still have a long way to go to be considered diverse. We are doing our best to encourage. But it’s I think it’s a slow growth process.

Amanda: Yeah, well, I think it’s going to be slow. I still have my work Twitter. And I log in there to see kind of what’s going on and to kind of keep up. It’s all taken over, you schedule your posts in Buffer or whatever, and everything is scheduled posts marketing this and that. That’s not really telling me anything other than the occasional what’s maybe possibly going on. I can find that out on a Web site or whatever. I don’t need to necessarily do that on Twitter. And so at this point, the only reason I still have it is because I’m expected to have it for my work. And Facebook is the same way, I’m expected to have it. So that’s why I haven’t left. But other than that, I enjoy Micro.blog a whole lot more than I do Twitter or any of the other ones, just because it’s a better sort of different, smarter, more compassionate, etc. people. I really like that about it. It’s encouraged.

Jean: Thanks. I’m glad. I’m so glad that you enjoy it. And I’m also really glad that you are there because you are part of what makes Micro.blog all those things. So, Amanda, before we wrap this up, is there anything you want to add?

Amanda: No, I think honestly, I think that really covers it because if I start talking about other stuff, it’s going to we’re gonna go on for hours. I just sort of cut it off there.

Jean: OK. I’m glad I set myself a time limit for this podcast, because talking to a new person every week or every other week at this rate, I love hearing from people and their stories, and I would have one of those two or three hour podcasts if left to my own devices.

But the idea was for it to be short and people could get a short introduction to another member of the community. And this week it was you. So thanks a lot for for coming on and spending the time with me.

Amanda: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Jean: And listeners, if you want to follow Amanda on Micro.blog, there is a link in the show notes or you can go to micro.blog/arush. Talk to you next week.

Listen to Micro Monday, Episode 78

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