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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

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.

On blog search engines

Brent Simmons has been reminiscing about blog search engines and writing down some ideas for how one could be made today.

Something he wrote sparked a memory.

Instead of having it crawl blogs, I’d have it download and index RSS feeds. This should be cheaper than crawling pages, and it ensures that it skips indexing page junk (navigation and so on).

In 2005 or so, for 9rules I had built this exact feature. I scheduled a script to run every hour or so to poll all of the blogs in the 9rules Network (which, at its peak was hundreds of web sites). I did so before ever knowing about scaling something like this. Today it would be so much easier and cost effective to build something like this that could scale to hundreds of thousands of feeds without much effort or funding.

Like Brent I miss the days of Technorati and its ilk. It gave us a window into what people were writing about. It gave us a back channel to people’s thoughts on topics we enjoyed. These days, I suppose, you can search for “Star Wars” on Twitter to see what people are saying about last week’s announcements. But it doesn’t feel the same.

Also, these days, I don’t even know what a blog is! Is The Verge not a blog? Is the WSJ not kinda-sorta a blog? Perhaps that is why even Google removed the blog-only search. Because so many things are blogs now.

It is fun to think about. But, like Brent I too am busy with side projects.

Chris Coleman returns

Chris Coleman, on his 17-year-old and recently unearthed personal blog:

I want my platform back. I don’t want algorithms or the cacophony to drown it out. If nobody’s going to see what I write, it’s going to be on my terms.

Chris was vital part of my career though he likely doesn’t know it. The first time I saw Photoshop used for web graphics was on his Powerbook. The first time I saw someone use a portable Mac for building cool stuff that had nothing to do with work was him. And the first person I saw combine his interests with the web was him as well. All of these things I hold valuable to everything I do.

In short, Chris taught me by example to work on what you love and use the tools you love to do it.

I’m glad his blog is back. I’m subscribed.

Joshua Blankenship celebrates 15 years of having a blog

Joshua Blakenship (dude has a name like a superhero doesn’t he?) on 15 years of blogging and on bringing his personal blog back online:

I don’t know much, but I know I miss 2004 web, personal websites, and curation that has nothing to do with algorithms. And maybe you do, too. So here we are, dusting off the URL, like a baby Blankenphoenix rising from the ashes of 27,000 deleted Viagra comments.

Welcome back.

A new interview with Manton Reece of Micro.blog for 2019

Last year, around this time, I published an interview with Manton Reece – founder of Micro.blog (M.b) – about how the platform was growing and what the goals for 2018 were. It was such a great interview and it helped me to understand the direction that M.b was going that I knew I had to interview him again to check in for 2019.

Answering these questions isn’t easy. Manton and I have been volleying back and forth for about 60 days for this interview to come to this point. So before we jump into the interview I just want to take a moment to thank Manton for taking the time to thoughtfully respond to my questions. I hope the entire M.b community enjoys this interview and it helps to give an idea of what is happening there and where the community and platform are headed.

I’ve tried to include links to most everything we mention so that you’re able to find all of the little tidbits. If I missed anything, leave a comment or reply on M.b and I’ll try to track down what you’re looking for.

Now, onto the interview:

Thank you again Manton for taking some time to answer my questions. Last year’s interview was fun so I thought it’d be a good idea to revisit a few of the topics in it and also catch up with you on how Micro.blog is doing and see where it is headed in 2019. Last year you mentioned that most of the growth on the team would come in the form of curators or support. Has the team grown? If so, what does the team look like today and what will it look like in 2019?

Manton: Great to talk to you again! The size of the team has not grown since last year, but I think we’ve done more with the people we have. Jean MacDonald has hosted over 40 episodes of our Micro Monday podcast, and Jon Hays has lead recent improvements to our iOS app and new apps Sunlit and Wavelength. I still expect the growth to be on the curation side and hope that can be a focus of 2019. Where the other big social networks try to use algorithms to solve problems, we think if you want a great community, humans need to be actively involved — featuring content, listening for problems, and thinking about the impact of new features.

Customer support and system administration are the other areas that I’m looking forward to getting help with, but as the platform evolves it’s still valuable for me to be handling most of that myself. I hear from customers every day about what they love and what features are missing. Since we last talked, I’ve also moved my primary blog with thousands of posts from WordPress to Micro.blog hosting, and that has been a great way to prioritize improvements to the hosting part of the platform. Blog hosting is the actual business of Micro.blog and enables us to do everything else we want to do for the social network and community.

From an outsider’s perspective, I don’t know how you’re able to do as much as you do! You are coding Micro.blog, keeping up with the infrastructure software/hardware, dealing with support, paying the bills… the list goes on and on. Then, on top of all that, you’re building a few iOS apps like Sunlit and Wavelength. You also have your own podcast called Timetable and a long-running podcast called Core Intuition. Not to mention your personal blog, help documents for Micro.blog, and keeping up with the community and the Slack channel.

How do you prioritize all of this? Is one project more important than another?

Manton: I think good things can come from trying to do a little too much, but it’s not usually sustainable. Eventually it catches up with you and you have to simplify and wrap up or delegate some tasks. We are in that kind of period right now with Micro.blog. We will continue to do a lot, but some parts of the platform — like the iOS apps — can reach a point of maturity where we work on stability improvements and polishing existing features rather than adding brand new features.

Android is another good example. Many people ask for an official Android app for Micro.blog. Because I don’t have much Android experience myself, I know I would be stretched too thin right now to tackle it, so we are encouraging third-party solutions instead. There’s a new version of Dialog for Android which has full support for the Micro.blog timeline, posting, replying, the Discover sections, and more. I’m really excited about it.

The most important project is the Micro.blog web platform, because without that foundation nothing else is possible. Improving the API and blog hosting will always be something we work on, alongside other priorities that come and go.

I for one am very happy that Dialog exists. I’m also happy that it is pretty good too. What other third-party projects have you come across that more people should know about? And, what haven’t you seen made on top of Micro.blog that you wish existed?

Manton: People should keep an eye on Gluon, which is in development now for iOS and Android. I’ve enjoyed reading developer Vincent Ritter’s blog post updates about working on it — the early choices he made on how to build the app and later decisions to update the UI and rewrite portions of it.

Integrating other platforms is another area that is great for third-party apps. For example, IndieWeb-compatible tools like OwnYourGram (for copying Instagram posts to your blog) or IndieBookClub (for posting about books you’re reading or want to read). Having so many third-party apps that can supplement the basic features on Micro.blog means that we can keep the primary experience as streamlined as possible, because the goal is to make blogging easier. I’d love to see more advanced tools for managing posts as well, such as batch editing posts or for import and export.

Switching gears for a moment to Micro.blog’s long term financial sustainability. I know at first there was a funding push related to the Kickstarter campaign, and of course there are those that pay a few dollars per year for the hosted service or other features like cross posting. What does long term sustainability look like for Micro.blog? Does there need to be a lot of growth in the customer base? How else can people like me, who use Micro.blog daily but are not currently paying, help keep Micro.blog funded?

Manton: Kickstarter was perfect to get us started, but paid subscriptions are better long term. I want to build features that are valuable and worth paying for. So we’ll keep making our blog hosting more compelling so that it’s good for people who are just getting started with a new blog, or people who want to migrate from other platforms. We often see people who might have a primary blog on WordPress — and a secondary microblog or photo blog on Micro.blog — decide that it’s simpler to just consolidate everything to Micro.blog, importing their WordPress posts. We don’t expect all the millions of bloggers who host on WordPress to move over to Micro.blog, but even a relatively small number moving to Micro.blog will make the platform more sustainable.

We just rolled out several major new features for blog hosting, including categories and custom themes, so you can have full control over the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript on your site. You don’t need to be a designer or developer to use Micro.blog, but it’s nice to allow some more flexibility for those people who do want to tinker with their site. And now web developers can create custom themes for Micro.blog that can be used by other members of the community.

As for supporting Micro.blog if you aren’t a paying customer, the best way is to tell people about it. All our growth right now is from word of mouth. It’s great when people invite their friends from other social networks, or when they post about why they like Micro.blog on their own blog or talk about it on their podcast. You don’t need to have a large audience to make a big difference.

I’d be remiss to not mention the apparent resurgence of blogging. If not in action then in the collective consciousness. It seems many people are talking and writing about blogging lately. With Medium changing its policies, Tumblr being owned by Oath/Verizon/Aol, Twitter being a hive of villainy, Facebook selling our fears to our captors, and Instagram growing up to be like’s its parent… it seems that blogging is poised to have a huge comeback. Are you doing anything at all to capture that momentum? Or, are you just trying to keep on your roadmap as usual?

Manton: It feels like everything we’ve been working toward for a few years is starting to come together, as more people realize the downsides of these massive, centralized platforms. Whether someone is quitting Facebook tomorrow or a year from now, I want Micro.blog to be a great default choice for reclaiming ownership of your content and getting in the habit of writing or posting photos regularly. When Basecamp recently migrated their long-running blog Signal v. Noise away from Medium, they summed up the change just like we see it: “Traditional blogs might have swung out of favor, as we all discovered the benefits of social media and aggregating platforms, but we think they’re about to swing back in style, as we all discover the real costs and problems brought by such centralization.”

The other part of this is to have a safe, welcoming community. I hate to see people get discouraged from blogging because “no one” is reading, so it helps that we have the Micro.blog timeline and replies where a blog post can start a conversation, or new posts can be featured in the Discover section. I think 2019 is going to be great for blogging. Micro.blog differentiates itself because it offers a solution for both blog hosting and a great community.

Professional blogging; whether that be funded by advertisers, subscribers, fans – is a big business. What are your thoughts on how Micro.blog helps or ignores people or businesses that may want to use the platform to share their content and earn a living from it?

Manton: Micro.blog was designed for people, not “brands”, but there’s no reason it can’t be used for businesses as well. Toward the end of last year I wrote a “12 days of microblogging” blog post series, and on one day highlighted how businesses can use Micro.blog.

Personal blogs can evolve into a revenue source as well, like offering subscriptions or sponsorships. But Micro.blog will never have ads and we aren’t likely to add features specifically for people to make money from their content in the way that Medium is trying to do. We want to focus on helping people discover blog posts, and whether someone monetizes their blog or uses it for occasional self-promotion is up to them. It’s okay if most blogs are personal and non-commercial because that lends itself to authenticity, and there’s great value in just having a space of your own to publish to.

We also think podcasting is only going to get bigger, which is why our first new paid plan was microcast hosting for short-form podcasts. We keep increasing the limits and now you can publish even hour-long episodes to Micro.blog. Like personal blogs, podcasts could be sponsored, or they could be just for fun, or they could indirectly benefit your business, such as supplementing a blog or helping promote something else you’re working on.

I believe you’ve touched on open source regarding Micro.blog in the past. Some of your own projects, like JSON Feed, are open source. Will you be open sourcing Micro.blog or any pieces of it?

Manton: I don’t plan to open source all of Micro.blog in the near future. It’s a complicated project with several components across multiple servers, so it’s not really suitable for just “running yourself” right now. However, I’d love to open source more of it, especially when there’s an immediate benefit to people. For example, for the new custom themes feature, I rewrote all of the themes to use the Hugo blogging engine, and we’ve shared all our changes on GitHub. That’s something people can use right away. Jon Hays also wrote a framework called “Snippets” for the Micro.blog API and Micropub API that we’ll be using in our iOS apps, and we’ve open sourced that as well. I think there is more in our iOS apps (including Wavelength for podcasts and Sunlit for photos) that would be great to open source.

I think I catch myself looking for a search feature on Micro.blog at least twice a week. For instance, I’m big into houseplants lately and I wanted to find some people on M.b that were as well. And I can’t figure out how to do that. Is search coming?

We now have a basic search on the web version of Micro.blog under Discover. This currently searches any post that has been included in Discover. We have plans to add search to the native apps so that it’s easier to access, and expand it so that it searches even more posts on Micro.blog. However, one of the early design goals with Micro.blog was to launch without a full search index, because I didn’t like how Twitter’s search and especially trending topics could be gamed or expose the worst conversations on the platform, even in some cases being a place for more abusive, hateful replies. So we’re going a little slowly with search to make sure that we don’t recreate any of those problems.

I know I’m only scratching the surface for the questions that the community is likely curious about. I hope I did an OK job asking the important ones. Are there any topics I left off that you wish I had asked you about? Or anything you’d like to highlight?

Your questions were great. Thank you! I’d like to mention again what Jean MacDonald has done with our podcast Micro Monday. This podcast didn’t exist when you interviewed me last year, and now we have a great archive of episodes highlighting members of the community — how they got started blogging and what they are interested in, whether that’s related to Micro.blog or something else. It helps people understand Micro.blog while at the same time featuring stories from the community. I’m always inspired hearing what people are up to, and it’s a weekly reminder to me of how important it is that people have a voice on the web with their own blog.


What a fun interview! Until next year…

Baremetrics left Medium last year

Josh Pigford, last year, on leaving Baremetrics leaving Medium:

I realized Medium is really great about surfacing content, but it removes the face of it. It neutralizes all content to basically be author-agnostic. It’s like Walmart or Amazon in that you can buy from thousands of different brands, but you rarely actually know what brand you’re buying…you just know “I got it from Amazon.”

This is an excellent analogy for Medium. Distribution at the cost of customer acquisition and brand loyalty.

Responses to RSS isn’t dead. Subscribing is alive.

There were a number of responses to RSS isn’t dead. Subscribing is alive. Partly due to being on Micro.blog Discover and perhaps also due to Brent Simmons linking to it (thanks Brent!).

Chris Aldrich:

I’ve been enamored of the way that SubToMe has abstracted things to create a one click button typically with a “Follow Me” or “Subscribe” tag on it.

SubToMe seems interesting. A single button that gives the user a ton of options to subscribe. For now, I’m sticking with my Subscribe page that gives a short description of what Subscribing is and where they can do it. Perhaps I’ll extend the list of services in the future.

Jeremy Cherfas:

As for tools creating better ways to surface stuff, Newsblur does allow you to train it, which to me seems more useful than using an algorithm to train me.

I don’t need an algorithm personally. I actually like the urgency having many subscriptions creates. It forces me to weed through my subscriptions from time-to-time and unload a few. But I’m glad to hear Newsblur has something they are working on for this.

Rian van der Merwe:

I really like how you structured your “Subscribe” page in a way that non-tech people would understand. I went with “Follow” as the title, since that’s a word that has become synonymous with getting updates. What are your thoughts on Follow vs. Subscribe?

Follow is likely the more modern and widely popular verb. I think each network has had to make this choice on its own to help users infer what type of place they signed up for. Facebook has “friend”, Twitter “follow”, LinkedIn “connect”. Each of these verbs have meaning. Follow and Subscribe are both impersonal enough to fit with blogs but each have their own feeling behind them. Subscribing, to me, feels like I’m reading a publication (whether it be by 1 person or many). Following feels more like I’m one wrung down on a ladder. I could be alone in this feeling though.

As an aside: I’m so happy that blogging is being talked and written about so much over the last few months. 2019 already feels like a boon for one of my favorite things.


RSS is not dead. Subscribing is alive.

Sinclair Target, writing for Motherboard:

Today, RSS is not dead. But neither is it anywhere near as popular as it once was.

This isn’t the first nor the last article to cover the creation of the RSS standard, its rise to relative popularity with Google Reader, and its subsequent fall from popularity.

But the big point that many of these articles dismiss lightly or directly omit is that RSS is still used as the underpinnings of so many widely popular services today. Apple News, Google News, Flipboard (each with likely tens of millions of users or more) and many others use RSS it is just that people do not know it.

We should likely stop talking about RSS. We need to simply start calling RSS “Subscribing”. “Subscribe to my blog” is the only thing we need to say.

Also, tools like Inoreader, Feedly, etc. should create far better ways to surface content for readers from their active subscriptions. When people subscribe to more than just a few sites it quickly can be overwhelming to people that don’t like to wake up to “inboxes” with 300 unread count. People just abandon those. It is why Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. all use algorithms to select which content people should see when they open the app. I’m weird. I want to see everything in reverse chronological order. But “most people” want to see something interesting for the few moments they devote to reading their subscriptions.

RSS will never be as popular as Facebook. Let’s all get over it. But please do subscribe to my site. 🙂

Signal v Noise exits Medium

DHH:

These days Medium is focused on their membership offering, though. Trying to aggregate writing from many sources and sell a broad subscription on top of that. And it’s a neat model, and it’s wonderful to see Medium try something different. But it’s not for us, and it’s not for Signal v Noise.

SvN was not long for Medium. It never felt at home there. Basecamp (the company, formerly known as 37 Signals) has too strong of a voice and brand design to ever have their blog live inside a platform with such web and brand hostility as Medium.

I think back to 2012 when SvN redesigned, I linked to that redesign then, and how they had carefully considered their typography, graphics (they had a different graphic for each category of posts), layout. Mig Reyes, at the time, wrote:

Instead of poring over other blogs, I spent a week studying books, magazines, and of course, Bringhurst. Capturing the right feel for body text was step one—it sets the tone from here on out.

If you care this much about your site/blog you cannot be holed up in some constrained content silo like Medium. Medium is an excellent (perhaps currently the best) web-based writing tool but the platform is more than just that. It promised exposure which is why many blogs like SvN gave it a try. But that was definitely the wrong reason to go there.

Nice pick up for WordPress of course but in reality SvN could have found a home on any platform they had full control over. I like the new design too.

Dialog out of beta

Mike Haynes:

We appreciate everyone’s patience as we worked through the development process and look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback.

Mike may see the development and launch of Dialog as taking longer than he would have liked, but from where I sit the app has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.

Back in May 2018 I linked to Dialog saying that it was “very much beta”. The current version is very much complete. I’m very glad the app exists.

Repost: Anton Peck on blogging in 2019

👉 Anton Peck on Twitter:

Prediction: 2019 will be a noticable shift back to blogging. Social networks may see a slight hit. People have things to say, ideas to write about, stories to share.

Ton Zijlstra linking curiosity to his blogging

Ton Zijlstra, replying to Frank Meeuwsen’s post that was replying to my post, took a different angle:

Over the last 16 years my blog has been a good instrument to trigger, feed and explore my curiosity. Me blogging more means I’m curious to expand my horizons again.

His post reminded me of a discussion that came up in 2013 on the blogosphere… writing is how I think. And still to this day, my blog is where I form ideas and hypothesis regarding my own interests.

Don’t let people tell you blogging is dead. Seems alive and well to me.

My crypto and indie web goals for 2019

Steven Johnson, in Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble:

The true believers behind blockchain platforms like Ethereum argue that a network of distributed trust is one of those advances in software architecture that will prove, in the long run, to have historic significance.

I’m very late to the game in reading Johnson’s piece in the NYT. I’ve had it stored in Pocket for far too long. I’m glad I took the time this morning while drinking my coffee to read it. It is very good. It includes many things I think about most; the open web, how tech giants are so important in what the future will look like, and what we can do to mitigate the downsides of them owning the future.

Since 2011, I’ve been asked about Bitcoin and blockchain from time-to-time. My advice to people (including myself) is to recommend people do their own research.

I’ve been buying BTC lately. Partly because the price is rather low at the moment but also partly because I have a completely different goal in 2019. I’m not prospecting. If my wallet’s value appreciates, excellent. If it doesn’t, I don’t care. My goal in 2019 is to use crypto currency (likely Bitcoin or Ether?) to pay for some every day mundane things. My goal is to transact the equivalent of around $10,000 USD in some form of crypto during the course of the year. That could be accepting crypto or spending crypto. It is my hope that by not being a hodlr, and also not trying to get rich, that I will help the crypto financial ecosystem in some small way.

Going back to Johnson’s piece. He writes a lot about the open web and the open protocols that are in place and how on top of those certain companies own things like our identity. He doesn’t quite go so far as to mention the Building Blocks of the indie web but I wish he had. But I think we’re starting to see decentralization on many fronts happen. I think 2018 was a big year for this and I think the shift is only going go accelerate.

I’m not going to make any predictions specifically for 2019 since I believe it will take longer than that. However, with blogging being easier than ever, with Mastodon and indie web protocols, and Solid and many other projects happening – I think we’ll start to see the power of Facebook and Google splinter. Even if it only splinters a little it will be a good thing for the open web.

My indie web goal is to bring my personal site a little more inline with indie web principles. As you long time readers will know, supporting the indie web exhausted me. I gave up. It was too hard. But, the beginning of such things is hard and I should buck up and figure it out. If I do and somehow help make it easier for the next person the web will be a better place.

I recommend reading Johnson’s entire piece.

Leo Laporte leaves Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook

Leo Laporte:

Yesterday I deactivated my Twitter account and kicked Tumblr to the curb. A couple of weeks ago I did the same with Instagram. A month or so before that I killed Facebook. And I survived. No, thrived!

I had deleted my Twitter account in the past and lived. And while I haven’t deleted my account again I am on Twitter far less than ever. I spend much more time in my RSS reader (like in 2003 era), dabble on Micro.blog, and now on Mastodon a bit. It feels so much better even if decentralized.

Repost: Aaron Parecki “blogchain”

👉 Aaron Parecki:

what if instead of webring we called it blogchain

Keeping a record of your thoughts and media and owning it

Go ahead and read Matt Haughey’s post on why he left Twitter. But I wanted to pull out this bit:

I didn’t like that everything I wrote ended up being hard to find or reference, and even hard for me to pull up myself when I wanted, where a blog makes it pretty dang easy to see everything you wrote about in the past.

If I’m analyzing my reasons for blogging and/or microblogging on my own domain this is likely #1. I love having a history of my thoughts, guesses, observations, and photos. And I love that I own it.

Laura Kalbag on blogging

Laura Kalbag:

When I wrote about owning and controlling my own content, I talked about trying to keep my “content” in its canonical location on my site, and then syndicating it to social networks and other sites. Doing this involves cross-posting, something that can be done manually (literally copying and pasting titles, descriptions, links etc) or through automation. Either way, it’s a real faff. Posting to my site alone is a faff.

It is a bit of a faff*.

In fact, I only syndicate to Micro.blog currently because it is effortless. I do not syndicate to any other social network. I sometimes wish that I were doing so again because I know I would get more readers here as a result, but – as Laura rightfully spells out – I just don’t have the time or energy to devote to getting that working again. I’ve spent countless hours trying to get it to work the way that I’d want it to (and took the time to catalog those issues here on my blog) and I’m just not going to do it again.

/via Jonathan Snook on Twitter.

* I had never seen this word prior to reading her blog post. I had to look it up. Glad I did. Adding this one to my quiver.

We got blogging right 20 years ago – Jack Baty

Jack Baty:

Looking at my blog from 2003 makes me think we got blogging right early on.

Yep. Everything else has been additive. But a blog from 20 years ago, like mine, would be just as good today as then.

One year of Micro.blog

Manton Reece:

A little over a year ago we started rolling out Micro.blog to Kickstarter backers. So much has happened since then — from new Micro.blog platform features to companion apps like Sunlit and Wavelength — that I wanted to highlight a few milestones.

See also, my interview with Manton earlier this year. So much has happened since that interview was published. Micro.blog has been fun to watch grow.

My only complaint, now that I’ve switched to Android, is that M.b leaves Android users out to dry since all of the clients Manton has released are for iOS only. However, I believe that will change this year as more tools are released for M.b that are cross platform. At least I hope so.

A hearty congratulations to the Micro.blog team on this anniversary. Many more to come.

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.

Download audio

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.