, the Indieweb, and joy

Why I love so much I’ll probably stop using it soon.

A post for #WeblogPoMo2024.

This series of blogposts about why my happy little Tumblr site of happy links to content elsewhere has taught me three things:

  • Blogging really helps me to clarify my thoughts (but that I should probably be more succinct);
  • I stopped updating bensinterests because my experience of the world stopped being joyful;
  • I hadn’t realised that part of that dearth of joy was due to my use of and reliance on having an online presence hosted on Someone Else’s Platform.

My early-00s use of Tumblr wasn’t done in a way that Tumblr wanted me to use the service. After that I migrated to Big Proper Website Companies like Wordpress and Squarespace which made my presence more formal and business-like. There was some constraint in how I could create and write using those systems which I could overlook were it not for the fact that I was constantly driven towards a payment page, towards lock-in.

I cannot over-emphasise how my discovery of in early 2023 revitalised my love of the web. Adam runs the service with curiosity and experimentation, wanting to give a space for people to easily do fun things like have a simple profile page or update a quick, short status whenever they want, or to have a paste bin, or any number of cool and simple things.

It’s all presented in an open way with options to embed or call data with APIs and, crucially for me, it’s just all fun.

The site is colourful! The service has a pink heart-shaped mascot called Prami! Every opportunity is made to use the .lol top-level domain! Many pages have a message in the footer saying ‘We hope you’re having a great day’!

At the same time it’s a deeply considered service with strong opinions, principles, and ethics. Just this week they published an article about their people principles stating clearly and simply how they support everyone.

It doesn’t come across as corporate CSR baloney. It’s true. Adam cares. He wants the web to be open and fair to everyone.

I love the service so much and can’t recommend it enough.

It’s therefore weird to state that I might stop using it soon.

Part of the package includes access to the Mastodon instance. The community there is brilliant, full of the sorts of enthusiastic, kind, and opinionated techies that used to make up most of Twitter circa 2009. They’re happy to chat and I feel comfortable talking to them and asking them questions.

A lot of them talk about the Indieweb in some form or another.For the uninitiated:

The IndieWeb aims to shift control of online identity and content back to individuals through personal websites, while still enabling connections and interactions across the decentralized web.

People like Cory Dransfeldt and Sara and Robb Knight have amazing websites that are more than just a profile page, more than just a blog, more than just a gallery. They’re customised to be precisely what they want. They look like nothing else online. They are full of engaging content. They are well designed.

And they’re fun.

Finding the Indieweb community is an evolution on from me finding I find the makeshift approach I have right now really lacking compared to both what they’re doing and compared to what I want to do.

The blogging feature is a little complex so I opted to use as my blogging tool of choice, thinking it’d have the flexibility to do what I want to do. A favourite band released an amazing new single a few months ago which I wanted to post on my blog in a short post where the video would appear on the blog homepage with a ‘yay new music from Hinds!’ type of message… and I couldn’t get it to work. For whatever reason doesn’t allow a YouTube embed (or an image or anything that might’ve been described as ‘rich media’ twenty years ago) in the index, or at least not in a discoverable way.

I find myself limited by how I’m using and, surprise surprise, much like my use of Tumblr back in the day I’m not really using the service in the way it was designed for.

Cory and Sara and Robb wouldn’t have these problems. They’d just make it work in the way they want it to work.1

My hobby nowadays is looking at the source code of those websites and figuring out How They Did It. They’re usually using systems like 11ty or Hugo or Astro, things that require a bit more knowledge of the command line than I have with my rudimentary bit of bash script and Python.

To be honest it seems a million miles from what I want. Coding is often a frustration rather than a joy. I certainly want to have a website that might inspire joy in others but this is a hobby and I want something that is joyful for me to create in the first place, damn it!

The indieweb seems like a joyful place. I’m more comfortable presenting Ben Daubney as I am to the connected world at large. I know the next step for me is to learn one of those systems, to go through the pain of figuring out how to host a site and make sure it looks good regardless of device. I know I want a site that lets me have a blog but also have a separate stream of fun links I’ve found elsewhere, the linklog that was so much fun to create back in the Tumblr days.

I cling to the fact that Adam’s mentioned upcoming changes to the content management side of, thinking that it’ll do everything I want it to do. It won’t, though. It’ll be precisely the fun, engaging experience that Adam wants it to be, not necessarily quite what I want it to be. There’ll be a lot of overlap, sure, but there’ll be differences.

I’m not yet comfortable with my online presence. Perhaps I never will be! I’m edging ever closer to taking the next big step, even if it means migrating away from something I dearly love.

(Oh, and if you’ve made it this far without previously knowing and not clicking through to explore it yourself, you really should.)

  1. Probably spending a while figuring it out, breaking things for a bit, then documenting how they did it in a blogpost. ↩︎