Problem with IndieWeb might me that it a Tech Community

In the Homebrew club meeting yesterday, there was a conversation about introducing the IndieWeb to the new people.

The conversation started with the story. One of the attendees was explaining the IndieWeb to their co-worker. They showed them the IndieWeb Main Page. And they reacted with the question, if all IndieWeb sites need to be like a wiki.

The conversation then went to redesign of the main website, or more likely how much hubris one encounters with wanting to change the main website. Then conversation ended with the IndieWeb principles and how fun should be higher and how incomprehensible they can be to non-technical people.

Then conversation then went to the different direction (a lot of time this meeting was spent on food and coffee), but the example stuck with me and would not leave my brain space. So I decided to try and think through writing about the reason for this.

The first though connected to this is, that my conversations about IndieWeb start very different. Most of the time, I don't even mention IndieWeb. I have started referring to the Homebrew club meetings and IndieWeb camps as meetups about personal websites and conference about personal websites.

I just find that this is more understandable to most people. And there is a high enough overlap between them, that I am comfortable just using them interchangeable to people, I expect did not hear about the IndieWeb yet.

This also leads to a very different conversations. We don't talk about wikis, or microformats or TicketAuth or any other protocols connected to IndieWeb. Webmentions come up, but surprisingly infrequently.

Instead, when I talk to people about this, the conversation is about the lack of time, or their insecurities about sharing themsleves on the internet or what weird corners of the internet do they know and so on.

So when I am thinking about this, the main problem might be, that wer simply have too many technical people in the community, and therefore have problems relating to the non-technical people, that would be interested in some of these ideas as well.

Because, lets admit it, we tech people are really, really weird. And I say this as somebody that works as the software engineer.

I think there is a implicit expectation in the tech communities, that people will enjoy jumping through the loops. These communities are full of people that enjoy technical challenges. It is almost their kink to try and solve and many of these puzzles as possible. Almost like this is a goal.

But for most people, this is just a means for them to reach their own goals, which have absolutely nothing to do with tech. They don't want to spend way too much time on the tech problem - especially since solving these seems like magic to them.

I had the perfect conversation with my teammates to illustrate this. We went for a lunch together, and since we are looking for a new teammate, the conversation turned to the technical interview. The more I was listening to them, the more I realized, that I would not pass the technical interview for the team, that I am currently a productive part of.

My team lead noticed my face, and I said this. The reply of one of my teammate was, that I could just practice the exercises for half a year, and I would pass the interview.

I was aware that on the internet, there was this recommendation floating around. But I was so surprised by it, that I only managed a reply, that I don't want to do this.

Who came up with this bullshit anyway? Since when is this the default option? In what world would be spending half a year on something that I will never use again be an optimal solution? How do you even come up with the stupid system like this?

But then I was thinking back on my experience with the tech communities, and I think I came up with the answer. They are so full of people, that solving problem is fun, that they consider this fun as well. So they don't even think about, that it might not be fun to other people.

I think I could see this also in the offline tech communities in Ljubljana. Python meetup is more non-tech friendly compared to any other (backend, javascript,...). And there are two reasons for this: 1) there is perfectly alright to not talk about Python, but projects that just happened to use Python and 2) there are talks by beginners present there as well.

Though even this one I would not invite anybody, that it not at least interested in tech.

And I think this is the same problem that I see (to a bit lesser extent) in the IndieWeb. Since there are so many people that are comfortable with the technical problems related to their websites and find it fun, they can forget that to non-technical people, this can be a hill they can not pass or magic. We can not expect them to learn it.

And going back full circle, I remember I have some misconceptions about the IndieWeb on the beginning. I though it needed to have microformats and webmentions and so on to be IndieWeb. I was only through interactions, that I realized that this is not true. And this is one point that a main side failed even for somebody, that can not be really classified as non-technical.

So I think the way would be, to have an introduction to the IndieWeb, were there was no protocols mentioned. Not even an h-card. When we would be having some fun examples, of what people are doing inside the IndieWeb right now and what these people want to use the internet for.

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