On the Indie Web Camp Sign In UX Barrier

Indie Web Camp and by extension Indieauth and the wiki act as diagnostic tools which, by not compromising on their principles, expose UX flaws further up in the chain, and make fixing them a practical necessity rather than an idealistic desire.

In order to attend Indie Web Camp, you need to either sign in to the wiki and add yourself to the guest list (if you already own your identity on the web) or find someone else who does and ask if they can add you as their apprentice.

The wiki sign in process has been called “a bitch”, “a UX nightmare” and “hoops”. The third is fairly accurate, the first two appear correct but are actually false.

Indieauth has existed since at least April 2012, and in the interim year-and-a-bit has been extensively used, tested and iterated upon. Many kinks have been worked out, the UI has improved drastically, the number of ways to verify your identification has grown and the set-up process has been well documented. A significant amount of thought has gone into its creation (massive props to Aaron Parecki). The process of logging in is neither a “UX nightmare” nor a “bitch”.

What may be a nightmare, however, is the process of owning your identity in the first place, or expressing it adequately for machines to understand it. The bare minimum required to log in to the wiki is

  • one or more of: an email address, a phone number capable of receiving SMS messages, or an account at one of the providers listed here
  • a domain name which resolves to an HTML page containing the following markup: <a rel="me" href="">Me</a> where the value of href is either the URL of your profile on the aforementioned provider, a mailto:me@domain.com or tel:01234567 URL
  • for the account (if chosen) to link back to your domain — usually there’s a “website” field when editing your profile

If steps in the process of setting that have problems which cause bad experiences, that is no fault of indieauth. Rather, indieauth is acting as a diagnostic tool, exposing important problems further up in the chain. By sticking to its principles, indieauth makes solving these root problems at their source a practical necessity rather than an idealistic desire.

It is these problems which Indie Web Camp is trying to fix. Whilst complaining that a diagnostic tool is telling you something you don’t want to hear won’t change anything, working together to fix the problems will.