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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger. Chills easily.

Follow: @c2dev2, RSS, JSON, Micro.blog.

Three updates to my site

I’ve recently made three small updates to my site.

I suppose the first one isn’t so small. I’ve changed web hosts. Last week I migrated this site from WP Engine (which was getting very costly) to Dreamhost (which, so far, has under performed).

Moving the site was rather painless. However, the performance of Dreamhost’s shared services is very poor. I don’t even know why they offer it. My blog does not receive very high traffic but I get warnings nearly every day about there being performance issues related to my site. I would think that WordPress, out-of-the-box with very little in the way of plugins, for a personal web site would be easy to host. A slam dunk. I guess not.

So, at my next opportunity I’ll be looking to move hosts once again (though I did pay for an entire year). Recommendations welcome. I figure $100-200 a year is plenty for a personal blog.

Second, I’ve removed the ads I had on my site. You may not have even noticed them. That is because I only showed ads on posts that were older than 7 days old. I did this for a few months as an experiment. The ads made money but I hated seeing them on my site. The experiment was to see whether or not I could tolerate having them for the few dollars they’d generate. The answer is no.

Third, recently I’ve begun posting groups of images to my site. The reason I’ve started doing this is to remove some friction in my photo publishing process. I used to post single images per post and so trips or photoshoot days were spread out over many posts. Now, though, I’m wrapping all of those images into single posts, like this one. I find this much easier and so I’ll likely do it more often.

The problem then became that on my images page there was no way to tell which posts had single images or which had multiple. I’ve now added a small visual cue to show how many images are on that post. I like the way it turned out.

Decades in and my personal site continues to be one of my very favorite projects.

Daily blogging is freeing

Dan Moore on how blogging every day for 100 days lessened the pressure of publishing:

But once I committed to writing once a day, I was focused on getting something out. I still wanted to be proud of it, but there wasn’t as much pressure. It could even be something really short, or just a pointer to a different piece that I thought was interesting (like here or here).

So many of my colleagues and friends over the years have found it difficult to blog. They feel such pressure to make something they thought was “perfect”. Daily blogging is freeing. Getting ideas out into the world would never happen if everyone waited until they were perfect.

History belongs to those willing to hit publish.

Of course, this reminds me of so many pieces written over the years. Like this 2017 piece from Manton Reece No-pressure blogging (see also). It also reminds me of my friend Gary Vaynerchuk’s advice to budding entrepreneurs and, most recently, hip-hop artists to get a new song out every single day.

The message is the same. Publishing every day is freeing and leads to results you may never have imagined. It has for me.

Simmons returns to the blog

Brent Simmons:

I realized that I want my blog to be me on the web. This used to be true, but then along came Twitter, and then my presence got split up between two places.

Welcome back to using one spot to blog and microblog Brent.

I find myself in the same dilemma with Instagram lately. I publish photos there first and sometimes post them here. That will change starting this week. I’m going to try to share photos on my blog first and then maybe go to Instagram. Enough monkeying around!

Austin Kleon on daily blogging

Austin Kleon:

Also, quite frankly, Twitter turned into a cesspool almost overnight. My friend Alan Jacobs was very vocal about his split from Twitter, and after reading his vibrant blog and new book, How To Think, I just decided to give daily blogging a go again, and this time, to do it on my URL, on my old-school WordPress blog, like the old days, when blogging actually meant something to me.

Also

With blogging, I’m not so sure it’s about quantity as much as it’s about frequency: for me, there’s something kind of magical about posting once a day. Good things happen. Something small every dayleads to something big. (Seth Godin has championed daily bloggingfor years—he just passed his 7000th post.)

/via Jeremy Keith

Repost: Becky Hansmeyer on deleting blog posts

👉 Becky Hansmeyer:

Every once in awhile I have to fight off the urge to go through my blog and delete old posts that I consider stupid or poorly written. I have to remind myself that they’re all part of the journey; I’m a better writer now than I was four years ago, and a better programmer too.

Dean Allen

I did not know Dean Allen. But you couldn’t have been a blogger in the early 2000s without coming across, and admiring and swooning over, Textism – Dean’s blog. I was no exception. In fact, I was still subscribed to Textism’s RSS feed until I heard the news. Likely a 15 or so year old subscription.

There have been some lovely things written about Dean that I’ve read over the last 24-hours.

Along with hundreds of tweets. I’m sure there will be more.

I read every word of these posts. It is nice that these people have their own blogs where they can post more than just a pithy remembrance, but something that can truly reflect their feelings going through this loss.

What Dean’s passing reminds me of is how much I miss really great personal blogs. But it seems like they are coming back stronger than ever. I really hope they are.

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.

Fred Wilson on owning your content

Fred Wilson:

I would never outsource my content to some third party. I blog on my own domain using open source software (WordPress) that I run on a shared server that I can move if I want to. It is a bit of work to set this up but the benefits you get are enormous.

The above quote is coming from someone who was a major investor in, and active user of,  Twitter. You can have both. You can tweet and enjoy using Twitter. You don’t have to boycott it to own your own content.

Over the last few months I’ve found the right balance for myself. I’m not syndicating anywhere* but publishing on my blog. I tweet from time-to-time, I post some photos to Instagram and Facebook from time-to-time, but I do all of that manually. I do so full-well-knowing that any of that content can disappear at any time. And I’d totally fine with it if it did, because everything I want to last is here on cdevroe.com.

* All of my posts do end up on micro.blog but that service is simply ingesting my RSS/JSON feed. I do not have to do anything special for that to work. If Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram did that I’d likely turn that on there too. But I’m tired of trying to keep up with their platform changes to write my own plugins, or even use plugins to do so. So I choose to manually POSSE and keep my sanity.

An update via Android (audio)

A quick audio bit, recorded while driving through my car’s audio system for part of it (sorry), regarding upcoming blog posts and reviews of Android and the Pixel 2 XL.

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Micro Monday – January 8, 2018: Mike Haynes

Micro.blog has a new thing where each Monday you recommend someone to follow and why. Here is Jean MacDonald, Community Manager at M.b:

We are inaugurating Micro Monday January 8. Inspired by Follow Friday, we want to encourage helpful recommendations rather than lists of accounts to follow. We suggest you make just one recommendation per week. Include a link to the account micro.blog/username to make it easy for people to click and follow, whether they see your recommendation on the Micro.blog timeline or on your blog. We highly recommend you give a short description of the reason for your recommendation. (Include the phrase Micro Monday and you’ll earn a special pin!)

Sounds like fun. Though I don’t like that we feel we have to link to the micro.blog URL*.

This week I’ll recommend Mike Haynes. Mike is active on M.b and is working on an Android client that I’m eager to try out. Here is his web site too.

* I don’t particularly like Micro Monday’s rule of sharing the micro.blog URL (instead of the user’s domain) since I think the entire purpose of Micro.blog is to promote the use of independent platforms. But I’ll follow the rules. I hope the rule shifts in the future to sharing each other’s domain name.

Colin Walker’s tech predictions

Colin Walker answered the call. Interesting list. Here is just one:

Mark Zuckerberg reveals he has political ambitions after all. Not wanting to be criticised he “does a Trump” and supposedly signs over all control of Facebook while making a run for the White House.

I don’t think Zuckerberg will ever leave Facebook. Not even to be President.

But that’s the point of these lists. Let’s see what happens!

The new Technorati

Glenn Rice:

My first impression is that micro.blog could be the new, simpler Technorati for the rising IndieWeb tide – a nice centralised way for people to discover each other’s posts and sites without losing the decentralised, own-your-data nature of the indieweb.

I have very fond memories of Technorati so I do not mind this comparison. Technorati helped expose people to the power of the indieweb at the time because it was a jumping off point to find some of the best content all over the web. It wasn’t a platform so much as a service. As Micro.blog grows, particularly out of the small blogger audience it currently has, it could fill this role very nicely – while at the same time being a solution for many to publish their own blogs.

/via Jonathan Lacour.

Best of 2017 as told by me

To create this list I sat down and wrote from the top of my head the things I could remember being awesome in 2017. The list isn’t exhaustive. It is just what made an impression on me as being “the best” in each category.

Best Blog: fuzzy notepad

Evee consistently writes well-researched, readable, diatribes on topics that could otherwise be boring yet are fascinating and I hang on every word. Here are a few posts from 2017 to get you started:

Best blog redesign: Colin Walker

When I awarded this to Jason Santa Maria so many years ago it was due to his use of color, contrast, typography. But design isn’t limited to how something looks but also how it works. Colin Walker has spend much of 2017 tweaking his blog’s features in subtle ways to work just the way he wants it to. I’m sure he’ll continue to fiddle with it throughout 2018 but I think we can all learn from Colin’s iterative approach. Keep tweaking.

Best new (to me) blog: Brand New

I’ve known about Brand New for a long time and have stumbled across a post or two over the years. But this year I’ve been pushing myself to learn more visual design and one way was to subscribe to more blogs like this. I find these posts, and the community, to be an excellent resource.

Best service: Spotify

This year I’ve used both Apple Music and Google Play Music to see if I could move away from Spotify. Spotify is in a league all its own, the other two don’t even compare well. Spotify’s machine learning robots just do an amazing job at surfacing music that I would like. It is so good it is eery.

Notable mention: Google Photos. I’ve switch from Apple iCloud Photo Library to Google Photos and I’m consistently being surprised by how much better it is.

Best book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This was a tough call. I read some pretty great books this year. But the one that keeps coming up in conversations, the one I’m sharing the most is Ready Player One. I think it is the sci-fi novel that I read this year that most feels like it could happen within a few years.

Notable mention: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Best productivity tool: Bullet Journal

Bullet Journaling has made the biggest impact to my productivity and cognitive load than any other app, technique, or method this year. My “version” is slightly different than the default but I’m loving it.

Notable mention: Trello.

Best phone: Google Pixel 2 XL

I’m cobbling together my notes for a “review” of the Pixel 2 XL in the coming weeks but I can say, unequivocally, it is the best phone of the year. For me. I know the Samsung Galaxy Note8 made many people’s list and of course the iPhone X deserves a mention – but for the price, the quality of the hardware, and the software the Pixel 2 XL is an easy winner for me.

Before I get email, know that I have an iPhone X (Eliza’s phone) and I’ve tried the Samsung models. For me it came down to the camera system (which is actually better than the iPhone X in everything but the second lens), the software (Android 8.1 – Samsung is way behind) and the price. The iPhone X will be better next year and, hopefully, iOS 12 will be much, much better than iOS 11. But, as of today, Google is killing it.

One other side note: Google as a personal assistant is so much better than Siri it is jarring. I may have used Siri a few times per month in the past but today I use Google about 10 times per day with nearly zero mistakes.

Notable mention: Samsung Galaxy Note8, iPhone X.

Best podcast: The West Wing Weekly

If you’re not a fan of The West Wing this choice may not land with you at all. So, for you I would suggest Song Exploder. If you haven’t yet listened to TWWW I suggest starting at the beginning and also watching The West Wing along the way.

Notable mention: Song Exploder / Tim Ferriss.

Best platform: Instagram

When I deleted my social media accounts and didn’t even look at them for a few months the one I missed the most was Instagram. The platform continues to be one of the best and they continue to add great new features all the time while somehow keeping the app’s history in tact. The day may come when they add a feature that is terrible but so far they’ve done pretty well.

Side note: The algorithmic timeline almost pushed this one out for me. It is nearly inexcusable that this isn’t optional. I sincerely hope they find a way to allow users this option this year.

Notable mention: Micro.blog.

Best browser: Firefox Quantum

Perhaps this should be “most improved browser”? Quantum is a great name for the strides Mozilla has made with Firefox. They continue to improve the browser.

Oddly, Firefox is not my “daily driver”. I am using Chrome due to my switch to Android. (I’m ecstatic that I now can choose a default browser) I may, though, give Firefox a try across the board again soon.

Notable mention: Safari for turning off auto-play videos and ad tracking by default.

Best app: Apollo for Reddit for iOS

Though I’m now using Android I have to list Apollo as the best app. If you ever kill time by looking at Reddit (which I do a few times per week) I have to suggest you try this app. It is so well made you’ll wish it’s developer made every app you use.

Notable mention: Snapseed and Google PhotoScan (search App Stores).

Best code editor: Visual Studio Code

VS Code has improved a lot over the last year and has now overtaking Atom as my default text editor and code editor for all projects. While I still build native apps in Visual Studio most of my web work and text editing happens in VS Code.

The shared workspaces are the big feature for me this year. I can combine several code repositories into a single workspace and use Spotlight to launch all code related to a particular project in less than a second. It also has git and terminal integrated so I’m usually able to do all of my work in a single window.

Notable mention: Atom, Visual Studio for Mac.

Best YouTube channel: First We Feast

Specifically, Hot Ones. First We Feast has an interview show called Hot Ones that I just discovered this year and I can’t get enough of it.

Notable mention: MKBHD

Those are all of the categories I wanted to feature this year. Again, I simply pull this list together from the top of my head. Just like all years I saw so many amazing things it’d be very hard to create a real list. I suggest following my blog for all of 2018 because whenever I see something worth linking to I do so.

There are, however, some other companies, people, and products that I think deserve a shout-out. Here they are in no particular order: SpaceX, Khalid, Tom Hanks’ lost gloves tweets, The Last Jedi hype, Chris Stapleton, Joe Rogan’s Powerful JRE Podcast, Amazon Kindle and library loans, letgo, Google Maps, OK Google, Logitech MX Master 2S, USB-C, cast iron pans, Amazon Prime.

See you next year.

 

 

Today I did some maintenance on my domain name, registrar, hosting provider, and file structure for my site. I still have a few things I’d like to do in preparation for my personal blogging goals in 2018. I think it will be a banner blogging year for me.

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.

My creative energy (audio)

I’m not blogging as much. But that’s just because my creative energy is being poured elsewhere. Here’s what I’m up to.

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Evergreen blog post traffic

Rod Hilton, creator of the aforementioned Machete Order, in December 2015 just as The Force Awakens was released:

Wow, this Machete Order thing got big! After the post first “went viral” and got mentioned on Wired.com, I started getting around 2,000 visitors to it per day, which I thought was a lot. But then in the months before Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released, it blew up like Alderaan, peaking at 50,000 visitors DAILY. This year, over 1.5 million unique users visited the page. It’s been nuts.

This sort of thing happens on my blog as well. I have several posts that get tons of seasonal traffic. A few examples are my wireless GoPro file transfer tips, when an NFL game goes into overtime, and my thoughts on Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. There are a ton more too. I believe my all-time record for a single day’s traffic on a single post was 11,700+ views. So no where near what Hilton gets. These posts get thousands and thousands of hits some weeks and nearly zero others. I think it is fun. I don’t engineer my blog for these types of things.

I’d bet Hilton’s blog is getting hit yet again with the release of The Last Jedi.

Doug Lane on Microblogging tone

Doug Lane, on thinking a bit more before publishing on his own site than he would on Twitter or Facebook:

If I let moments of anger or frustration sit for a bit, one of two things will happen. Most likely, I’ll move on to something more meaningful without shoving valueless negativity in anyone else’s face. Or, if something negative is still on my mind after some time has passed, I still have the option to post about it. But it’s likely that whatever I post, even if it’s still negative in tone, will be more thoughtful and constructive than a vent in the moment would have been.

I’ve recently jumped back into the fray. This is something I’ve notice immediately. I’ll post absolute drivel on Twitter whereas I curate and sensor myself far more here on my blog. Though, some of you likely wish I did that a bit more.

It also reminds me of an opinion that I have about Snapchat. I’ve mentioned it in the past. I think that it is totally fine that you feel a bit more free on Twitter or on Snapchat to post things that you may otherwise think are worthy of the bin. Because they are made for that. I actually like having the separation.