I’ve been renovating my bathroom over the last month, and last weekend I finished replacing the shower valve. This is fairly minor work for anyone with some experience, but given I have none it was full blown plumbing for me. I was considering getting someone to do it because I have no experience soldering, and the prospect of sweating pipes stresses me out. That said, a few people suggested using push-fit plumbing connectors called Shark Bites. They require no soldering at all, just get the right pieces and you can connect your pipes like an [[Erector Set]]. I was fairly skeptical, so I spent a little time on a few plumbing forums and found a number of professionals and DIY folks alike swear by Shark Bites for certain jobs.
They depend on air pressure to latch onto PVC or copper pipes, and as I foundout, they have quite a grip. I decided to try them out. I cut out my old shower valve and replaced it with a new one, using the seven or eight Shark Bites I bought to connect the valve to the hot and cold water pipes as well as the shower and tub spouts. With an investment of $70 in materials and a couple of hours time I successfully replaced the plumbing in my shower. What’s more, it doesn’t leak. Crazy.
So, while I was doing this I kept on thinking about RSS pull syndication versus API push syndication. Despite my best attempts to escape my day job through house projects, I can never truly resist a bad metaphor. The overhead of sweating pipes, which required disassembling the shower valve in addition to soldering, would have taken me at least twice as long to finish. What’s more, I probably wouldn’t have been successful in the end. I would have been turned off and decided to either abandon bathing all together, or pay someone else to do it. For many faculty, this is what happens when it comes to setting up pull syndication using FeedWordPress for course blogs (but most don’t give up bathing!). It’s not impossible, but it takes work and you have to know how to solder pipe, even if you understand how the basic plumbing of syndication works.
But with API-based push syndication in applications like Known—much like the push-fit Shark Bite connectors—the process is far more streamlined. I can actually expect both faculty and students alike to manage their own syndication plumbing and install the various connections with the push of a button. What’s more, the conceptual reasons for these connections is not necessarily lost on them, they just aren’t being asked to do the soldering.
It can be a fine balance between “build your own” and in-a-box solutions. But when it comes to syndication and making the plumbing easier for faculty and students to seamlessly manage, control, and aggregate their work—we can do a lot more to make that experience better. This is one of the things that really excites me about Indie Web applications like Known.
Another thing that I appreciated while demonstrating Known this morning at the Davidson Domains workshop is how much simpler it is than WordPress, which comes as a relief when trying to get a group of people to explore a new technology. It took me about 5 minutes to explain Known this morning, whereas the discussion of WordPress went on for more than an hour and we didn’t get much beyond creating posts and adding media. This kind of simplicity is part of the magic of an interface like Tumblr’s that Known is based around, and sometimes less is a lot more when it comes to doing your own plumbing on the web.