Webmentions: Joining the IndieWeb

Finally! I’m very excited to have webmentions up and running (I hope). I’ve been planning to support webmentions on here since before I launched this site and I think I have it working. It’s a little bit hard to test before you launch the thing, so I guess we’ll see.

What’s a Webmention?

Basically a webmention is just a way for you to respond or react to something on someone else’s site. On Mastodon (or Twitter) you might reply to the toot (tweet), or boost (retweet) it. On a WordPress blog you might leave a comment. A webmention is a kind of generic way of doing all of those things across platforms.

I like to think of webmentions as the modern equivalent of how mathematicians and scientists used to publish essays in response to one another’s work. I write up my thoughts about privacy. You read it and have your own take, which you then write up on your own site. Then you send me a webmention which does two things: first, it lets me know that you’ve written up a response; second, it enables me to put a link on my site to your response so that readers find your response as well.

This also works for toots or whatever. All that is required is that you link to the post on my site in your writing. Then, you send me the URL to the thing you wrote that contains the link to the thing I wrote and we’ve got a webmention!

Ok, fine, but how do I send you the link?

I’m so glad you asked. There’s a small form at the bottom of each of these posts where you can enter the URL for the thing you wrote that links to the thing I wrote. Click “Send” and we’re off to the races.

It’ll take a day or so for the webmention to show up on here, because this site is statically generated and only updates once a day (unless I publish something new).

Why are you so excited about this?

I like the idea of liberating our thoughts from the various — sometimes impoverished — silos in which they currently exist on the web. I like the idea that I can write up my thoughts however I want; I can art-direct individual posts or build fun interactions with CSS and JavaScript. And you can do the same! And we can still be engaging in conversation.

And hopefully, because our conversation is not subject to character limits, or run through the meat grinder of a recommendation algorithm, our conversation can be more thoughtful.

As I said, I like to imagine that we are modern day philosophers publishing essays in response to each other’s work. It’s a romantic notion that I find appealing.

Technical Gotchas

I’m not going to go into the details of how I set up webmentions in Eleventy, since there are already several very good posts on the subject. Just scroll on down to the References section.

I did, however, run into one issue following the instructions in both Sia’s and Max’s tutorials, which I thought was worth pointing out.


In addition to signing into webmention.io with my domain, I had to make sure I was set up for IndieAuth.

In a nutshell, the way this works is you have a link (either an <a> or <link> tag) on your site with rel="me" pointing to another account you control like your GitHub or Twitter profile. Then, in that profile, you need a link back to your home page that also has rel="me". This proves to IndieAuth that you control both pages.

It took me a long time to figure this out because it wasn’t included in any of the tutorials I looked at. My guess is that the authors had set up these backlinks from their public profiles before they set up webmentions, so they never noticed. Since I’m being snobby about which services I advertise (I’m pleased with neither GitHub nor Twitter), I didn’t have links to those profiles from this website.