I discovered the IndieWeb about six weeks ago and wrote then about why I think it’s an important movement and community. Since that time, I’ve made a concerted effort to update my web site so that it looks like I want it to look. Although I’m not yet done, I’ve made good progress. I recently read Chris Aldrich‘s excellent post An Introduction to the IndieWeb. Near the end of the post, Chris writes:
Everyone’s desires and needs will be different. Work on what you find most interesting and useful first (the IndieWeb calls these itches). Make a list of what you use most often on your old social media silos or wish they had and work on that first.
In a conversation with Greg McVerry last night, I came to realize what I’ve been focusing on and why. To understand my focus, I first need to explain a little bit about how I set my site up.
I have a Domain of One’s Own site through my university. This means that I can install applications on my web site very easily through a tool called Installatron. Because I was very familiar with WordPress, I first decided to install my own instance of WordPress for my blog. One of the first choices to make when you set up a WordPress site is the theme you want to use. The theme specifies how the site will look. I chose a minimalistic theme called Rebalance. I liked the grid layout of the theme as well as the fact that it would show an excerpt of a post on the main page. I also liked the fact that the main page would show an image associated with my post if I wanted but that I could also post without an image. Here’s the main page of my blog which can also be seen below:
I then wanted a place to post my photographs. I wanted the photos to be all together but separate from my blog posts. I envisioned a main page with small images and when a viewer clicked on an image, it opens in a larger format. I tried a number of different options (a separate page, a portfolio, a project) and realized that I didn’t like the way the Rebalance theme handles images. But WordPress doesn’t allow multiple themes on a single WordPress site. So I decided to install another instance of WordPress and link it to my blog WordPress instance. I settled on the Pictorico theme for my photography WordPress instance which you can see below (and here). This theme is also minimalistic and is in a grid format. When I post an image, I add it to the text of the post and I don’t add a featured image. Instead, the Pictorico theme uses the first image in a post as the featured image if one is not added. This means the image only shows up once on an individual post.
Then I learned about the IndieWeb. So I installed yet another instance of WordPress so that I could use one of the three themes that fully supports the IndieWeb plugins. I chose Sempress because it is minimalistic in ways that remind me of the Rebalance and Pictorico themes. I put a link to my blog WordPress instance and to my photography WordPress instance on the menu for my main web site which can be seen below (and here):
As I learned more about the IndieWeb, I started to think about my work flow on corporate web sites. One of the things I do a lot on Twitter, for example, is retweet stories that I find interesting in order to come back to them later. I thought about how I might do something like this on my own web site instead of on Twitter. (I’ll write about the work flow for this process in my next post.) I had a vision of what I would want such a page to look like and, perhaps not surprisingly, I wanted something that had an appearance that was different than any of the pages that I had created up to that point. So I installed a fourth instance of WordPress and used the Carton theme. This theme is also minimalist and uses a grid layout but it looks great without images which is what I imagined my notes page would look like. You can see it below (and here):
As I was telling Greg about the four instances of WordPress that I have installed on my web site and why I wanted to use each one, I realized that I use various corporate social media sites for different purposes and the way they look and feel matters to their use. And so as I try to replace the use of the corporate sites with my own site, I want the various pages to look and feel different from each other in ways that are suited to my use of them. It’s a lot of work to set up and maintain four instances of WordPress but it’s worth it to me to get the look and feel that I want. And this realization made me wonder if we could develop a plugin or a theme that allowed one installation of WordPress to have a different look and feel on each page. We already can filter posts by type so that we can have a separate page for each post type. Could we allow those pages to look different from each other based on the type of post that was on each page? I have created a couple of simple themes using a Udemy class that I took in January but I would need a lot more knowledge and experience to begin to develop this idea. I wonder what other people think about it.
I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in astrophotography, game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.