IndieWeb Summit 2016

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7 minute read

Last weekend, I travelled to Portland, Oregon to attend the 2016 IndieWeb Summit. It was the first time the gathering has been called the “IndieWeb Summit”, but it’s actually the 5th year that the core of the community has gotten together in Portland.

I’ve been curious about the IndieWeb community and the software they have been creating for some time now, but I never really had the time to take a deep dive and figure out what it was really all about.

Fortunately for me, Portland is a pretty easy trip from Vancouver, Canada, so I booked a train ticket and a hotel and committed myself to learning what this IndieWeb thing actually is!

Travel Day and Pre-Summit Meetup

When I was packing my bags, I decided to check the weather forecast to see if I needed to pack rain gear or not…

So I packed some shorts. That turned out to be a good thing. It was hot!

This was my second time taking the Amtrak Cascades train from Vancouver to Portland. It’s pretty awesome, since I can just relax and work on my laptop or read a book – much better than trying to drive through Seattle traffic. There’s wifi on the train once it crosses into the USA, but it’s pretty spotty and unreliable - barely useable for anything beyond email.

There’s only one train a day leaving Vancouver, and it leaves at 6:30am. You have to clear US immigration in Vancouver before boarding the train, so that means you want to be at the station at 5:30am. My wife is so awesome – she couldn’t come because of her work schedule, but she insisted on getting up super early to drop me off at the station.

Amtrak leaving Vancouver

Amtrak train leaving from the station in Vancouver

Compared to driving down I-5, the train takes a much more scenic route, following along the coastline of Puget Sound. It’s worth taking the train just for the scenery.

Four Bald Eagles

Bald eagles near White Rock (click for full-size)

The train conductor announced that we would be passing an area where there were a lot of bald eagles just before the train reached White Rock. I managed to snap a shot with 4 bald eagles in one frame with my iPhone! I wish I had a better camera.

The train takes about 4 hours to reach Seattle, and then another 4 hours to Portland. There are electrical outlets, so all my devices were charged up when I finally arrived in Portland at 3:05pm.

Portland Union Station Selfie

I checked into the downtown Marriott hotel (got a good deal using Priceline), and did some no-sales-tax shopping before finding my way to the pre-summit meetup.

Pine Street Market

Meeting everybody for the first time at Pine Street Market)

I’d never met anybody before, but I quickly found the group and had some pizza and a couple of beers. Everybody was really friendly and over the next 2 days I’d get to know everyone quite well. That’s one of the nice things about such a small conference (under 50 people).

Sadly, when I got back to the hotel, I learned that Muhammad Ali had passed away, so I spent a few hours watching old videos of the champ.

Day 1 - Keynotes & Discussions

The next day, I walked a few blocks to the location for the conference (stopping for awesome coffee on the way). The venue was Vadio’s offices, which are located in an old heritage building downtown. What an amazing space!

Heritage building containing Vadio office

Vadio’s offices are located in the historic Studio Building in Portland

The first day started with an intro from Aaron Parecki, who’s based in Portland and organized the event.

The keynote address was given Tantek Çelik - a really amazing guy who I’ve followed for years, but never met.

Tantek Çelik keynote

Check out the IndieWebCat website! Aaron build a full IndieWeb “quantified-self” website for his cat! Too funny. I should do one for my dog.

After the keynote, everybody who wanted to was encouraged to come up to the front to introduce a project that they were working on. Naturally, I made a mini-presentation about lambda-comments.

IndieWeb Organizers Pano

Panoramic image of some of the main IndieWeb organizers. Shane Becker, Aaron Parecki, Ben Werdmüller, Tantek Çelik, and Kyle Mahan. (click for full-size)

The amazing Kevin Marks watched all the presentations remotely via the livestream and made a great summary of the first day:

One of the best things about Portland is food carts! So for lunch, everybody hit the streets to get some street food.

Lunch outside Polish food from the food carts

After lunch, sessions were organized “unconference-style”.

Organizing sessions

Session Grid

The session grid (click for full-size)

I decided to go to the following sessions: indie hosting, camlistore, offline-first and long web.

Session Pano

Panoramic image of one of the sessions (click for full-size)

All the sessions were great. The final session, on “long web”, was the most wide-open and thought provoking.

After all the official events were wrapped up, several of us met for Italian food near my hotel, and then we went to Bailey’s Taproom for some excellent craft beer. I love Portland!

Don’t miss the Day 1 Photos from Juliane Schütz on Flickr!

Day 2 - Create, Hack, Demo!

The second day was the hack day. At the start of the day, everybody got to present what they were planning to work on.

Instead of working on my website, I decided to conduct a ‘survey’, where I would collect interviews from the attendees asking them what pointers they would give to somebody who wanted to set up their first IndieWeb website.

Lunch was catered, with build-your-own tacos. Yum.

I was able to interview about 2/3rds of the attendees – it was a great way to get to know them better. I could even remember some names and faces by the end of the day (which is hard for me).

I kept my notes for the “Onboarding Survey” on the IndieWeb Etherpad. I felt I learned an awful lot from everybody there. There was a lot of diversity of opinion on how to get started with IndieWeb, but I think all of the ‘pointers’ were quite sensible. I’d love to be able to take some of the ‘data’ from the survey and do something more with it someday.

For newcomers, Shane Becker wrote some awesome introductory material here: Regarding the Indie Web

The day wrapped up with everybody making their presentations. All the projects were amazing!

Day 2 Pano

Panoramic image of the IndieWeb summit on Day 2 (click for full-size)

Once again, Kevin Marks transcribed the live stream:

The day ended with a group photo session, and I loved how it turned out!

Isn’t that awesome? She took lots more photos: Day 2 Photos from Juliane Schütz on Flickr!

Afterwards, a lot of the attendees went for frozen yogurt, and then beers again. I didn’t have enough stamina to last until karaoke, but I heard it was fun!

It was such a great event, the community is real and it’s the best, and I’m now really excited about IndieWeb. I’m slowly going to try to add things like Webmention support to this site, and I’m hoping I can add some IndieWeb smarts to lambda-comments too.

Some other blog posts from the event:

Did I miss any?

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