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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Ron Chester on Webmentions

Ron Chester:

I have only one reservation about the development of this IndieWeb stuff. While it is in progress, most of these websites have disabled regular comments, if they ever had them. Often there is also no contact information given, or it takes a lot of hunting on their websites to find it. So if one doesn’t have webmentions working on one’s own website, there is no obvious way of communicating with these folks about things they post. I have found that if they’re also on the Microblog website, one can post a message there, addressed to them. But that seems pretty round about, when an old school place to post a comment on their original post would be very easy to leave.

Please go to his site and read his entire post.

I read Ron’s post before making my decision to turn comments back on. Also, my email address is available on every page of my site. So if anyone would like to comment on anything on my site they should be able to do so both publicly and privately with ease.

Side note: One of the reasons we all turned off comments, aside from the benefits of disabling comments like more traffic to your site (I wrote this post 10 years ago!), is that people claimed that moderating comments is too much work. I no longer think that is an issue. Even if my blog became a popular place to comment I think I’d be able to keep up with it with the tools we have available now.

Webmention on Micro.blog

Manton Reece:

We’ve been improving Micro.blog’s support for Webmention. When you reply to a post on Micro.blog, from the web or iOS app, it will ping the site you’re replying to, giving that site a chance to include the comment.

Kudos to Manton as Webmentions seems to work beautifully is Micro.blog. The improvements show and the value is starting to show too. So I guess I just need to stop complaining. I’ve been harping on webmention for a little while. I feel terribly about it. Because I want it to work so badly and I’ve just been frustrated that is seems so inconsistent! So I plan to shut up now and sit down and get it working properly. I’ll likely do that within the next few weeks.

To see Micro.blog’s webmentions in action you can see a few on my posts there and here on my blog. I’m looking forward to their presentation being much more valuable on my blog. My email inbox is open for suggestions.

 

Supporting WebMentions

Jeremy Cherfas, in response to a recent post of mine:

Not exactly sure what Colin Devroe means when he says he’s “just going to publish her on my blog”. I guess that means he’s not interested in people, like me, publishing our comments on our blogs. Of course there’s no compulsion to POSSE to be part of the #indieweb, and if you don’t want to, you shouldn’t. But I hope he’ll still accept webmentions.

On the contrary, I’d much prefer people publish on their blogs in response to my posts rather than on social media. Which is why I do not plan to continue to POSSE. If people find my posts or subscribe to my blog great. If they don’t, that’s ok with me too.

Chris Aldrich strikes it right:

I’ll agree with Jeremy that you don’t need to syndicate content or even backfeed to be a part of the Indieweb. Particularly when you’re already doing the primary tenets: own your domain, own your data, publish on your own site. (Ideally this is what everyone should be doing in conjunction with webmentions and then all the social networks would be superfluous.

Exactly. If I publish here and people link to it in response, I don’t need any social networks.

So, I’m going to support webmention. Not just accepting them and sending them (as I do now), but displaying them also. I need to find a little time to do that since web mentions generally look terrible by default but when I do I’ll report back.

Thanks to Jeremy and Chris for chiming in.

Each time I read one of Jeremy’s posts on how he handles POSSE, Webmention, or other neat Indiewebby things – I get the urge to write some code for my site. But then I get into it a little and get overwhelmed. Too much work to support all these social networks. I do, however, want to improve how my webmentions look on other people’s sites. I need to fix that.

I still need to find time to improve my site’s webmentions. They are terrible.

You can now follow any blog on Micro.blog

Neat feature from Micro.blog. Here is Manton Reece, from his personal blog, on the new feature:

You can now follow blogs in the Micro.blog timeline, even if the blogger hasn’t yet registered on Micro.blog.

Manton describes this feature as another type of “username”. I understand why he’s framing it that way but I’m unsure if it is the best way to describe it. A blog’s content being syndicated through Micro.blog, unwitting of the owner, isn’t a username. In fact, any interaction with those posts by the Micro.blog community may very well go wholly unnoticed by the owner of the site unless their site supports Webmentions. So these are hardly Micro.blog users.

Be that as it is, I am struggling myself with a better way to fully describe the different ways in which someone can use Micro.blog.

At current, here they are:

  • you can host your blog on Micro.blog at your own domain name
  • you can sign up to Micro.blog and post there using their domain name
  • you can sign up and syndicate your blog to an account (like I do)
  • with any account:
    • you can follow Micro.blog accounts
    • you can follow any Mastodon account on any instance
    • and now you can follow any blog irrespective of whether or not the site knows it or not (like an RSS reader)

A powerful service!

This brings back memories of two services that had some interesting tip-toeing to do as a result of syndicating the content of another persons without their permission.

One, I had a lot to do with, which was 9rules. We crawled the content of all of the blogs within the community and kept a copy of a lot of their content. This allowed a few things. We had categories on the 9rules web site that made it easy for people to find blogs that interested them such as Tech, Culture, Food, etc. It also made search possible – so in a way, we had our own blog search engine. It was one of the first services of its kind on the web.

However, 9rules’ main income came from ads. Our homepage featured a few primary ad spots and some of our subsequent pages did as well. A few of the members wondered if we were profiting off of their content. A valid concern, one we didn’t intend, and I remember it being a topic of debate.

Another service I had nothing to do with, Get Satisfaction. This service created forums for people to ask questions and get answers and rate their favorite products and services. One reason it caused a kerfuffle was because the companies had no idea these conversations were happening and it made them look bad when a big issue with one of their products went unanswered. Many asked to be removed from it.

I don’t think Micro.blog will end up with ads but never say never. Also, I trust Manton and his team to be mindful of how they use this content and how they notify site owners of anything that is happening with that content on their platform. So far they’ve proven themselves to be careful, purposeful and altruistic.

If you want to follow me or my blog on Micro.blog you now have lots of ways to do that. My account, my blog, and my Mastodon account. Cool.

Indie web question: Any recommendations for a better WordPress plugin for sending webmentions? I’m using the Webmention plugin but it doesn’t seem to send a comprehensive webmention. See this. Or, am I doing something incorrectly?

An interview with Manton Reece of Micro.blog

I have fond memories of the very early days of WordPress (when it had just been forked from b2/cafelog), of Twitter, of Brightkite, of App.net, of Mastodon… just to name a few. The early days of any platform or so important to what they will become. They are the most fun to watch.

The early days of any platform can be frustrating too. Services sometimes go down, features aren’t released as quickly as you’d like, and small bugs can hamper your workflow.

I liken it to watching art be created. It can be a bit messy, it can sometimes confuse you, but when you see the final product you have the privilege of knowing how the platform got to that final state.

Yesterday I volleyed back and forth via email with Manton Reece, the founder and creator of Micro.blog. Micro.blog is in that same relatively early stage where new features are released with regularity, where the community is growing steadily, and where the users have the strongest voice.

He kindly answered a few questions. But here are a few highlights that I plucked from his answers:

  • Micro.blog is both an aggregator of blog posts and a blog/site hosting platform
  • Features on Micro.blog are rolled out slowly on purpose, to be sure they won’t disrupt the principles behind the service. And they often come from what users are already doing on the platform.
  • Native support for audio and podcasts are already part of the plan
  • Many users that use the hosting feature use their Micro.blog-powered site as their primary web site
  • Community support members for curation, help, etc. will be the primary area the team will grow, outweighing engineering

Here is the interview and his responses in their entirety.

First, thank you for making Micro.blog. For me personally it is surfacing some excellent independent microbloggers that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. Now that Micro.blog is open to the public, is there anything that you see happening on the platform, either now or during the beta period, that has surprised or delighted you?

Thanks for being part of the Micro.blog community! I’ve loved how people not only embrace the platform, but in many cases get back to writing at an old blog that they had accidentally neglected, or get inspired to start up a new microblog at their own domain name. So many beautiful photos have been posted, which we like to highlight in the Discover section, and the tone of conversations has remained thoughtful and respectful even as the platform has grown.

I’m also happy to see that many Micro.blog users have warmed up to some of the early decisions we made to not copy every feature from other popular social networks. For example, not showing follower counts or worrying about how many likes a post has received.

People seem to really enjoy the new emoji-based topics we introduced recently, to collect posts about books or music or sports. Little experiments like these are a reaction to what the community is already doing. The best thing we can do is build features that support what people are posting about — to encourage the kind of posts that make Micro.blog a nice place to be — and then see which of those features resonates.

Have you been surprised at all by the number of photos that people are posting? Or, did you always think that Micro.blog would be a great place for people to share photos? And, do you think you’ll see audio or video shared more on Micro.blog in the future?

I’ve always thought photo-blogging would be a perfect fit for Micro.blog, and we’ve tried to build good support for it in the iOS app, such as having built-in photo filters. Many people are frustrated with Twitter and Instagram and want to post photos to their own web site again. But I was still happily surprised to see so many photos. There was also some help from the community, such as Doug Lane running a 7-day photo challenge.

Our plan was to start with photos, with good photo hosting, and then expand to natively support audio and podcasts. After that, video. I think video can quickly become kind of overwhelming and busy when shown in a timeline — especially with auto-playing video, which we don’t want to do. So I’m comfortable expanding this support fairly slowly to make sure we get it right.

I see Micro.blog as two parts: 1. A community of syndicated microblog posts that are populated by people’s independent web sites using RSS or JSON feeds. And, 2. A blogging platform that allows you to create a simple blog (with an emphasis on microblogging). Is this the right way to look at Micro.blog now and into the future? And if so, why tackle both problems rather than simply #1?

That’s the right way to think about it. What I found while developing Micro.blog is that just building a more open social network-like platform wasn’t enough. If we wanted to encourage people to blog more, we needed to make blogging itself much easier. The best way to do that is to also offer to host someone’s blog for them directly on Micro.blog.

Blogs hosted on Micro.blog started with an emphasis on microblogging, but they have improved significantly since we initially launched, and now offer many features competitive with other dedicated blog hosts. There are Micro.blog users who have their full web site hosted by Micro.blog because it’s just more convenient.

This second part of Micro.blog is also very important to grow the service as a business. I want to run Micro.blog for decades to come. The only way to do that — to pay for all the servers and other supporting services — is for Micro.blog to be profitable. Since we never want to show ads, offering paid plans such as blog hosting is a great way to go.

Would you be willing to share any interesting stats? Some that I’d personally be interested in tracking would be the most number of posts in an hour, the greatest number of signups in a day, stats like that.

And as a follow-up: As the platform (meaning the software, hardware, underlying services, backup routines, databases, etc.) become more complex surely you’ll need to expand from being the two-person team Micro.blog is currently. What position do you think the next full or part-time team member of Micro.blog will fill?

I don’t currently have many stats to share. We have been so busy improving the platform that we haven’t built anything to track things like spikes in the number of posts. There is a 500-user limit on new registrations per day. When we opened it up to the public, the limit was just 100 which was reached pretty quickly as people would share a link to their friends.

There are so many areas that we could use a larger team for, like system administration and planning how to scale the platform. As you noted, the first person to join Micro.blog was Jean MacDonald, our community manager. I hope that the community will continue to grow such that we’ll need additional curators to help manage features like the Discover section.

Facebook recently announced they were hiring 10,000 moderators, and I know Twitter has a large staff as well. I expect one mistake that these larger social networks made early on was hiring too many programmers, and not enough curators. For Micro.blog we always want people who can interact with the community and stay ahead of any issues.

Discover has already seen a few iterations. First, it was a simple list of users. Then it expanded to include photos posted by the community. After that, a human-curated list of posts was added. And now, hashtag-like emoji’s allow you to find posts on topics like books, music, and football. Did I miss anything? This must be a fun part of Micro.blog to tweak and see how the community responds. I know I’ve found it to be very fun to have open a few times during the day. Can you share a little about how posts end up in the Discover tab? Who is making those selections and what are the next steps?

I feel like the current iteration of Discover is by far the best yet. There were a couple problems with just featuring a list of users. You can only feature so many users, so we randomly selected users to show from the featured list. Those users would get a lot of attention but unless we continually update the list, it might not be enough people to fill your timeline with interesting posts if you just pick a few people to follow. The list got stale quickly as new people were joining the platform.

Now, throughout the day we skim through posts and replies and put them in Discover. This is a better reflection of the activity on the platform. It’s not all posts, but it’s a good snapshot of the kind of things people are posting about. It looks good and isn’t overwhelming. It’s a great way to find new users who just joined Micro.blog, too.

Emoji topics are a little different. Whenever Micro.blog sees a new post, it checks it for emoji and adds it to a collection. If an inappropriate post shows up, we can just remove it from the collection without effecting anything else about that post or user on Micro.blog. There are a limited number of emoji, which keeps everything simple. I don’t think it will get out of control like Twitter hashtag search results often do.

One aspect I’ve always loved about microblogging was that it could be consumed and participated with in realtime. A few examples that come to mind are backchannels for live TV events like awards shows, or for conferences and meetups, etc. Is this something the Micro.blog team thinks about much? Are there any apps, features, or other considerations that would be made specifically to foster realtime interactions for things like this?

I agree this is a natural fit for indie microblogging. Something like live sports might not appeal to everyone, so it would be useful for both tuning into those feeds or filtering them out. Over the weekend, we put the football emoji in the Discover section for people who were posting about the NFL playoffs, as a simple experiment for making current topics more discoverable.

There are myriad other things we could talk about like Pins, third-party applications, indieweb building blocks like Webmention, and the all new Micro.blog logo and app icon. Is there anything you’d wish to highlight? If so, please do. And lastly, what is something you wished I asked but didn’t that maybe you’d like to make sure people reading this interview know (feel free to allow this to be nothing)?

The third-party ecosystem and larger IndieWeb community are both really important. There are several third-party apps for Micro.blog in development now, for iOS and Android. When I was designing the Micro.blog API, I based it on JSON Feed, Micropub, and other common APIs so that third-party Micro.blog apps could also be adapted for other platforms. And likewise, Micro.blog benefits from many existing IndieWeb tools and open source software like WordPress. The more we can push forward the user experience for indie microblogging, making blogging more approachable, the stronger the open web will be.

Thanks Colin! It was great to have a chance to share some of our thoughts behind Micro.blog.

Thanks to Manton for taking the time to write thoughtful responses. If you haven’t yet given Micro.blog a try head on over to there and give it a whirl. You could very well make an impact on the type of place it becomes.

You can follow Manton on Micro.blog at @manton. And I’m @cdevroe.

Micro.blog is now public

Manton Reece:

Micro.blog is now available to anyone. There’s a limit of 100 new sign-ups each day, so that we can better respond to feedback as the community grows.

I’ve been using Micro.blog on the web, Mac, and iOS for a few months and the community there has been great. In fact, the vast majority of my web site’s comments are webmentions sent from responses on Micro.blog.

Congratulations to Manton for reaching this milestone.

Jack Baty: “Please just start a blog”

Jack Baty on his rather handsome looking new blog:

Would you all please just start a blog? I don’t care which platform you choose. Pick one and publish. Cross-post or don’t. Implement Webmentions or don’t. Allow comments or don’t. Tweak the design to within an inch of its life or don’t. Publish long posts or short, it doesn’t matter.

I wish.

Colin Walker: “Should replies be posts?”

Colin Walker, in a post on whether or not replies to other posts (or, comments) should be their own posts:

There has to be a line, a point where a comment is just that and not a reply. It’s a question of semantics but not everyone’s answer to “what is a comment and where does it belong?” will be the same.

I struggle with this a lot.

It is likely the point I should have made in my post regarding Micro.blog becoming a commenting service (and the fact that I don’t like that). I don’t want to reply on my blog to every reply to my posts on M.b because then I would have dozens and dozens of posts on my blog that would be very tough for readers to follow contextually. I believe the commenting mechanism that has been around for decades, even un-threaded, is far more useful than dozens of desperate posts stitched together loosely with a link that says “in reply to”.

Webmention attempts to bridge that gap between post and reply but that also is tough to follow along if the thread gets unwieldy.

However, I also don’t want to reply to every reply on my posts directly on M.b either (though, I do from time-to-time) as that isn’t much better than using any other silo like Twitter or Facebook. Should M.b go away, all of those conversations would be lost.

This isn’t a new issue nor is it exclusive to M.b. If I replied on my own blog to other people’s posts on their own blogs (like I am in this post to Colin Walker’s blog) then one side of the conversation could disappear at any time. I can only control my side of the equation. But at least if I have my own blog I have control of that one side.

I think it is good that these topics are being discussed again. The same debates have been swirling since blogging began, they swelled again when the indieweb movement began to take shape, and I think they are happening again as a result of M.b’s growing community. I do not believe there is one single answer to many them. You have to do what is right and sustainable for you.

For now, here are my personal rules for replying to posts. These will most definitely change over time.

  • If I want to say a quick “congrats” or “excellent post” or something of that nature I will leave a reply directly on their blog. If they do not have commenting turned on I will attempt to email. If they do not have email publicly available I’ll say nothing at all.
  • If I have something substantive to add to the conversation, or if I would like my “followers” to see the post I will quote the post on my blog with my additions to the conversation. Like this post.
  • If I simply want to direct people to the content I will use my new repost tag that I’ve been experimenting with. I’ve seen others use the “a post I liked” type post. That could work too.
  • If people reply using M.b, Twitter, or Facebook I will not reply on those services*. But I may reply on my own blog.
  • If I would like to keep my reply private I will attempt to email.

As an aside: I know some of you do not want to leave a public comment. I love getting reader emails. I get a fair number of them. And some of them have been excellent conversations. So please don’t hesitate.

* I no longer have a Twitter or Facebook account. I do have a M.b account but I’m beginning to wonder if I need one as I have my own fully functional weblog. If I didn’t and I wanted a microblog and didn’t want to use Twitter, I could see having an account. If I wanted a more fully featured blog I still believe WordPress is the best tool for that. Also, I’m sure as the M.b community grows it could mean that my content would be discovered by more people. I think M.b may end up being a thriving, well run, community and service. It is why I backed Manton’s efforts via Kickstarter. But, if I have my own blog, and if I really don’t care much about my content being discovered, then I see little reason to syndicate to it. For the time being I’m still going to as I want to see how the service matures.

Replies from Micro.blog and oh hai, comments

If you visit my site at all you may have noticed many of the recent posts have replies showing up on them from Micro.blog. Here is one example post. That is because webmention works pretty well on Micro.blog.

However, this is causing me a bit of frustration because it feels as though the conversation about a post is happening on Micro.blog rather than on people’s own blogs. Even if those people have their own blogs they are using Micro.blog to reply*. It is an interesting thing to see. Effectively, Micro.blog is feeling a lot like Twitter – replies to my posts are on there so I have to go there to reply to those replies.

To that end I’ve decided I’ll start turning comments on some posts (like this one). I’d much prefer people reply to my blog posts on their own blog or – starting today – on my blog. Even though I like Micro.blog better than Twitter or Facebook doesn’t mean I want to have to navigate to that web site each time I want to reply to comments on my posts.

* I’m unsure if that is what the M.b team wants to happen. But that is what is happening right now. Also, M.b is supposed to be a host for blogs if people want it to be. But, again, even people with their own blogs are using M.b’s reply feature to reply to posts.

Ugh. See what I mean about webmentions? I linked to Colin’s post. No webmention. *flips table* I give up.

Webmentions are working on this post. I haven’t changed anything. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  My only guess is that WordPress’ trackback feature is working between WordPress installs. See also. And this too.

Colin Walker on the IndieWeb

Colin Walker:

Yet there is still a problem, and that is the apparent insistence on the implementation of specific technologies as implied by the guides and documentation.

Go read his entire post. There are all sorts of “problems” with the IndieWeb and Walker lays some of them out nicely. (Remember, I told you to subscribe to his site.) He mentions that the entire thing can be confusing to non-developers. Well, I am a developer and while the protocols themselves aren’t impossible to grok if you spend some time reading or visiting the IndieWeb IRC chat, I have completely given up trying to support it because it is far too time consuming and nothing ever seems to work for every long.

I’m writing that out of frustration. Sorry. I know it can work. Look at Jeremy Keith’s site. I’m so jealous. He’s put tons of time into making so many of these things work. I want what he has. I simply have chosen not to spend nearly as much time as Jeremy has to get all of this stuff to stick together.

Here is just one example. I have webmention turned on for my site via the “official” WordPress plugin. It doesn’t work. Colin Walker has linked to my site several times. And I to his. His webmentions have yet to show up on my site. Mine have yet to show up on his. And his site isn’t the only site that has linked to me and the only way I’ve found out is via my Jetpack Stats (which I dislike having on but I keep it on for this very purpose). I’m certain that there is a logical reason webmentions aren’t working but I don’t feel like looking under the hood again (and again and again) to figure it out.

I’m not the type of person that needs everything to be easy. I don’t mind some configuration here and there from time-to-time and if something is really worth the effort I’ll even write the code myself. But supporting the IndieWeb (even just a single piece of it like Webmention) has exhausted this developer to the point of giving up.

Scranton’s first Homebrew Website Club

Next Wednesday I’ll be hosting the first Scranton-based Homebrew Website Club at Condron Media‘s headquarters on Penn Avenue. There are other locations HWC will be happening on that day too. If you have your own site and I you care to work on it in anyway at all please do stop by.

Homebrew Website Club is not a typical meetup, like say a WordPress meetup, in that you stop by to learn a particular topic (although I have no doubt you will learn if you attend one). It is more a reoccurring time that is set aside to allow you to work on your personal web site. Perhaps you’ve been meaning to finish up a blog post that has been in draft for weeks, or you need to fix a theme issue, or you want to do something more complex – whatever it is, HWC is your opportunity to do that while sitting next to other people that are trying to do the same.

I’ll be using the this time, each meeting, to fit more Indieweb building blocks into my personal site. I’ve recently added Backfeed, POSSE, Webmention, and others. And I plan on continuing to tweak them to get them just the way I’d prefer. Also, I plan on pushing my code and work back out into the world through this blog, my Github account, and #indieweb on IRC.

So, if this is something you’re into. Drop by.

You’ve been granted h-entry

This morning I took a few minutes to add microformats to the HTML of my blog. I had done so in the past when my site was using a completely different theme and hadn’t taken the time to add them back in. Shame on me. I should have done it much sooner since it took less than 20 minutes and now I think my blog will be a little easier to read for things like webmentions.

This post isn’t to be used as a guide in adding microformats to your WordPress theme. I’m simply writing this down as a way to walk myself through my own task of doing so. But if you read it and feel inspired to add microformats to your own site then I’ve done my job.

In short, the following classes must be added to your index pages (index.php, archive.php, search.php, etc.) and your single post page (single.php) to support the h-entry microformat.

  • h-entry
    • p-name
    • p-author
    • u-url
    • p-summary or e-content
    • dt-published

There are other classes in the spec, and I recommend supporting which ever ones make sense for your site, but if you only had these class names added your HTML, it would be much easier to parse for the little robots that are running around on the web trying to eat your code.

Many WordPress templates wrap posts in an article tag and add classes to it using post_class function. This function adds numerous classes to help you specify things like post-formats, post-types, etc. Supporting h-entry couldn’t be easier since the post_class function allows you to add any classes you’d like on your own. Like this:

Next, you’ll want to add the p-name and u-url classes to the link that goes to your blog post from the index. That should be easy enough. Mine looks like this but your’s will likely look a bit different. In my case the A tag’s contents contains the post’s name, and the HREF of the A tag is the post’s URL. So I can add both classes to the one element.

We’re almost there. The next class I needed was dt-published – or the datetime that the post was published. This one may prove to be a bit harder to wrap your head around but here is how I did it.

I used HTML’s time element so that I could take advantage of the datetime attribute. Exactly as the microformats wiki suggests. get_the_date in WordPress accepts PHP’s date formatting arguments (all those weird letters up there) so it didn’t take too long to figure out how to format the datetime correctly. Essentially, I’m formatting the date for machines in the attribute and humans in the contents.

Finally the contents of the post must be marked up. On my indexes I only show an excerpt of the post and on the single page’s I show the entire entry’s contents. So I use p-summary on index and the e-content class on the single post page. This is how my index page’s markup looks.

For my particular use I also needed to mark up statuses or what might be called “notes” on the indieweb wiki. In retrospect “notes” is a far better term since what I post as statuses are more often than not more a note than a status. But, oh well? I think I’m stuck with it for now. For statuses I simply mark up the entire content as both p-name and e-content as suggested by the microformats wiki.

Here are a few examples of each post format, in HTML, that I use on my site.

Status:

Image:

Post on Index:

I hope to improve this markup a bit over the coming weeks to support more microformats. But for now I think this will help to make my site’s HTML a bit more readable to our little bot friends.

 

I added a barebones display of WebMentions (pings, trackbacks) to blog posts. Example: http://cdevroe.com/2016/05/20/owning-my-words-and-photos-and-audio-bits/

I’m proud that the first “comment” I’ve approved on my site since ~2007 was a WebMention from @adactio. I’ll need a bit more time before WebMentions show up on the front-end of my site. But they will soon.

In reply to Manton: If the iPhone SE…

In reply to Manton: If the iPhone SE ends up with a 6 or 6+ quality camera in it I’ll likely be switching to it late summer. But the 10” iPad still feels perfect to me.

Side note: I look forward to when Barley 2.0 supports Web Mentions so that Manton would have been notified of this reply.

In dependence

Jeremy Keith has chimed in on the conversation started by Jason Kottke’s “The blog is dead” piece from a few weeks ago with In dependence.

Many of us are feeling an increasing unease, even disgust, with the sanitised, shrink-wrapped, handholding platforms that make it oh-so-easy to get your thoughts out there …on their terms …for their profit.

I’ve written up my thoughts across several posts here, here, and here.

I think the bit I’ve quoted from Keith’s piece is an important distinction to make. Some of the platforms that do make it easier to publish online do not use your content for their benefit like Tumblr and Medium do. WordPress.com (if you pay), Squarespace, Barley CMS, and others, allow you to publish a site easily while managing the hard parts for you. A service most definitely worth paying for. Because, as Jeremy also stated, “Publishing on your own website is still just too damn geeky.”

Squarespace doesn’t make money on your content. They make money on providing an easy to use, solid web publishing service. Tumblr makes money on your content.

If you’re making a decision on what platform to use to publish your content, or build your site with, there are a lot of things to consider. The “network effect” is important for some cases. If I was Time, who already has their own site but needs a way to reach a broader audience with its content, I would agree that they should try to share their content on Tumblr or Instagram. They can leverage those networks to draw people into their main site or apps. And they can do it for far less effort and money than most traditional advertising would afford.

However, if I’m someone that wishes to have an online presence that I completely control, that can be ad-free, and that allows me to publish anything I want whenever I want; I’d look for the following features in that platform:

  • Is the data portable? Meaning, can I both import and export all of my content?
  • Can I pay a fee to make the platform ad-free?
  • Can my URL structure go with me? In other words, if I were to change from one platform to another can I ensure that all of my previous URLs will live on or be redirected to their new locations?
  • Do I trust the owners to do the right thing if/when they should go out of business or be acquired by another company?

This discussion over the last few weeks has caused me to add a few features to the Barley CMS near-term roadmap even though customers are not even asking for them at this point. First, make data import / export something the customer can do easily on their own. We have the tools internally to import from and export to a few popular platforms and schemas but we’ve never made those tools available to the user because, so far, our customers require a bit of handholding for these action. We should and will make this something the customer can do on their own without contacting us. Second, adding support for things like webmentions. I can almost guarantee that none of Barley’s customers will ever ask for this but I think we should do it anyway. It is a great feature for any publishing platform to support.

I’ve said it before but I’m very happy that this discussion is happening, out in the open, and that so many smart people are chatting about blogging again.

The blog isn’t dead. It is just sleeping.

Jason Kottke, writing for Nieman Journalism Lab:

The design metaphor at the heart of the blog format is on the wane as well. Ina piece at The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal says that the reverse-chronological stream (a.k.a. The Stream, a.k.a. The River of News) is on its way out. Snapchat, with its ephemeral media, is an obvious non-stream app; Madrigal calls it “a passing fog.” Facebook’s News Feed is increasingly organized by importance, not chronology. Pinterest, Digg, and an increasing number of other sites use grid layouts to present information. Twitter is coming to resemble radio news as media outlets repost the same stories throughout the day, ICYMI (in case you missed it). Reddit orders stories by score. The design of BuzzFeed’s front page barely matters because most of their traffic comes in from elsewhere.

I suggest you read the entire post so that you can see how Kottke has reached the conclusion that the blog is dead. And of course, he’s right. The blog of today looks dead. But don’t bury it just yet because it may just be sleeping.

Me, in late-2011:

I believe the blog format is ready for disruption. Perhaps there doesn’t need to be “the next” WordPress, Tumblr, or Blogger for this to happen. Maybe all we really need is a few pioneers to spearhead an effort to change the way blogs are laid-out on the screen.

That, of course, is only one small problem facing the blog. As I see it there is another, more important, problem to solve; a way to connect the blogosphere. 

A set of protocols or standards will need to come along to help connect all publishing platforms together. The incredibly useful features we find inside of networks like Twitter will need to find their way out onto the world wide web. This means bringing actions like following or subscribing, mentioning, citing, link previewing, etc. to the independent web and have them be completely separate from any single service.

By the way, “independent web” generally refers to the web at large regardless of how you choose to publish content on it. Whether you use Barley CMS, Tumblr, Squarespace, or your own hand-written content management system you’re publishing onto the web and not into a silo like Facebook where content is generally not shared outside of its walls.

Connecting the independent web together is what IndieWebCamp is aspiring to help facilitate. They believe people should own their own data and be allowed to publish content anywhere and it would then be able to be distributed anywhere. The advantages to using Facebook should be brought out onto the web. There should be no real disadvantage to using one platform or another. In fact, there should be an advantage to using your own platform rather than those of a startup that could go out of business at any moment.

A good example of this in action are Web Mentions. Like Twitter’s @replies a Web Mention allows one URL to notify another URL that it mentioned it. They are the 21st Century’s Pingback. Jeremy Keith has a good explanation of how to implement them.

Would having a better way to discover a blog’s content from any of its pages, as well as a well-supported set of web protocols help bring the blog back from the dead? Maybe.