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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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.

As a result of this decision, I’ve now opened commenting up on all posts so far in August 2017.

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.

My personal blogging tips

I’ve been writing things down on my own blog for a few decades. I wish more people did too. If you’d like to have a personal blog but struggle finding things to write about, here are a few tips that may help.

  • Don’t post about what you will do, post about what you’ve already done – In other words, I try to avoid the “I should blog more” posts and just get on with blogging more. Also, I like posting photos and status messages sometime after they’ve happened.
  • Find a theme – Niche blogs do extremely well. So stay on topic. Personal blogs do less well but they should still have a theme and that theme should be you.
  • Create reasons to post – My What I saw series and observations series give me a reason to write. Should I feel writer’s block I can fall back to one of the series.
  • Have a schedule – I try to post one or two posts per day prior to 9am. Some are scheduled in advance some aren’t. Everything else that happens is completely random.
  • Be totally fine with missing the schedule – Sometimes I don’t blog for a few days or weeks due to time off away from the computer or just being focused on something else. And I’m totally ok with that.
  • Don’t post test posts – Create a staging or a local development environment to test your site’s features. It is really easy to do.
  • Try not to care about stats – Stats are useful for a number of reasons but obsessing over them won’t help you at all. Check them once a month to see how you’re doing.
  • Create an inspiration list – In your notebook or notes app write down some topics you’d like to write about someday. Make it long. Like, 50 items. Don’t worry too much about what should be on it just start writing the list down. When you can’t think of anything to write about look at that list and simply pick any one at all and check it off.
  • Subscribe to a bunch of blogs that interest you – More than likely the conversations started by others will give you more than enough to write about.
  • Perfect is the enemy of good – Just hit publish.
  • Have fun! – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed blogging all these years and I don’t imagine I’ll be stopping any time soon.

If you have a neglected blog or are just starting one – jump in! Oh, and don’t forget to email me the URL.

I saw one of my photos appear on Micro.blog’s Discover page. Thanks for that @manton.

Marisa McClellan on the early days of blogging

Marisa McClellan:

I miss those early days of blogging, when you didn’t need perfect pictures and a post didn’t require a vigorous social media campaign in order to find some readers.

Those days aren’t over Marisa! We’re still here. Still posting imperfect pictures!

Twan van Elk on social media

Twan van Elk:

Everytime I open up my feed reader and read about people’s lives, thoughts, work, observations, what they ate, that beautiful flower they saw, I ask myself: why do I enjoy this so much more than any social media timeline I’ve ever been on?

Because blog posts feel more permanent than social media posts causing people to share wholesome, thoughtful pieces (generally speaking) to their personal blogs rather than spewing acid-filled buckets of hate.

Colin Walker on evergreen content

Colin Walker:

Evergreen content. It’s what many bloggers crave. Posts that keep people coming back. Passive traffic that you don’t have to do anything more to receive.

Back-in-the-day we called this the longtail. Publish enough posts on a given niche and generate tons of traffic over the longterm due to people searching for those topics and your blog becoming a valued resource.

The problem is that it is crap traffic for a personal blogger. It is someone in a moment of need of a piece of information and they are looking for it via your site. It isn’t reflective of your audience size, it isn’t someone that is interested in your opinion or perspective, it is just someone that jammed their fingers in the right order on Google and found your site.

I have a post here on my blog that generates ridiculous amounts of traffic. It skews every number in my analytics. None of those thousands and thousands of people ever come back to my site. Very few even click around. I’m glad people are finding my solution to that particular issue but other than that it provides me no value at all.

That being said, if I was a professional blogger that wanted to make a living at writing I’d be all over it as it is the best traffic for generating money via advertising.

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.

Colin Walker on blogrolls

Colin Walker:

Part of the problem with people based following models on social networks is that you follow the whole person so see everything they post whether it is relevant to you or not. There is no filtering system.

He goes on to mention that blogrolls that also supply an OPML file make it quick to subscribe via RSS to all of the blogs in the roll. Then, that person can determine whether or not to keep each subscription based on the value they get from them.

I can see that. But, I still go back to my original thought on this. If I subscribe to a bunch of blogs (and I do) and then I link to individual posts that I think are interesting, then I’m acting as a curator for my subscribers. This is why Kottke, Daring Fireball, and Waxy are so popular. They highlight some of the most interesting content, discussions, or resources they’ve found on the web. I do not intend to try to be as focused as Daring Fireball or as prolific as Kottke, but if I find something interesting I enjoy linking to them and giving my thoughts. If I really think something is worth discussing then I will link to it in an individual post.

If you subscribe to my blog and notice I’m routinely linking to a particular source (like Colin Walker) you may consider hopping over to your nearest feed reader and subscribing to his site as well.

Walker also mentions that anecdotal evidence suggests that people using RSS or JSON Feed to subscribe to blogs is on the rise. I’m seeing that too. And I’m very happy about it.

Should I start a blogroll?

Dave Winer:

I’m thinking of restarting my blogroll. Remember those!

I’ve been thinking about that too.

I have a list already created of what blogs I would add to it. But I find linking to individual posts with some context provides more value than just a list of URLs.

Social Thoughts

Me, in 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.

I still feel that way over six years later.

Colin Walker has a personal blog he calls Social Thoughts. If you read his most recent few weeks of posts you’ll see that he is toying with several subtleties to how his blog looks and works. Of course he has microblog posts, similar to my statuses, but he also has longer form posts. And he’s struggling with how to show them, how to segregate them into feeds (or not), etc.

Like him I too play around with how my blog looks and works. You can see that in my commit history since my WordPress theme is open source.

Looking at his blog’s front page, however, I think he’s onto some interesting ideas. One example is how each day’s content is separated (like blogs used to be). Another being that he has a small indicator for when there are comments on a post. But my favorite thing is that he’s sharing these little experiments out in the open. I’m looking forward to seeing more.

Intro to Micro.blog

Noah Read:

Micro.blog is a social timeline, similar to Twitter, where you can post short snippets of text with links and photos, and converse with others. The biggest difference from most other social networks is where these short posts come from. They come from people’s own websites, where they control the content and can do whatever they like. Micro.blog aggregates its feeds from each member’s personal site and gives people chances to reply and favorite content on the the service.

“people’s own websites” can be their own site powered by whatever they want (WordPress, Squarespace, etc.) But, they can be powered by Micro.blog too as Micro.blog has a blog hosting option built-in.

My status posts are automatically syndicated to Micro.blog for free.

The drawbacks of scheduling posts

Scheduling posts to my blog has a few drawbacks but I think the most annoying one is that the topics I write about could be out-of-date pretty quickly or the topic could be covered by someone else.

I have a personal publishing goal to publish an image and blog post per weekday. Sometimes I go for long stretches making that goal and other times I go stretches without. To do so I schedule a bunch of posts in advance.

I wrote about this process in October of 2016 when I wrote a custom WordPress plugin to make it easier (for me) to schedule image posts.

I don’t just schedule image posts but also links, regular posts, and audio bits. For example, I’m writing this post on Tuesday and I’m going to schedule it to be posted on Thursday (the next available slot that I have open in my personal publishing calendar). This particular post contains nothing that needs to be published on a specific day so it doesn’t matter when I decide to publish it. However, earlier today (Tuesday) I wrote a quick post regarding JSON Feed, a topic I’ve been writing about a bit lately, and scheduled it for tomorrow morning. Then, not a few hours later, I noticed the same topic written about by someone else and mainly covered my point. So now I’m faced with allowing that post to publish as is, editing it, or deleting it.

Or, maybe I shouldn’t care at all?

This is one of those posts that I’m glad I wrote because by the time I distilled my thoughts on the matter, edited this post, and re-edited it, I’ve come to a conclusion. Starting June 1 (today) I’m going to continue scheduling posts that do not contain any timely subject matter (like image posts) and set aside some time each morning to write posts for the day. So I’ll be switching my strategy from publishing each day to writing each day. It should be fun.

 

 

 

JSON Feed WordPress plugin

Manton Reece just released the JSON Feed WordPress plugin into the WordPress directory. Making it mad easy to install and support the new spec.

WP Admin → Plugins → Add New, then search for “jsonfeed”.

I’ve updated to this version in the directory so that all future updates come from there as well.

JSON Feed

Manton Reece and Brent Simmons have created a new specification for creating feeds using JSON. They write:

We — Manton Reece and Brent Simmons — have noticed that JSON has become the developers’ choice for APIs, and that developers will often go out of their way to avoid XML. JSON is simpler to read and write, and it’s less prone to bugs.

JSON Feed has been implemented on a few platforms already and it was talked about a lot since its debut. I’m glad someone has created a spec around this so that the developers that would like to use this can now rally behind a unified specification. However, JSON Feed won’t be replacing RSS any time very soon.

RSS is something you could call a “good enough” solution. It is already in place, tons of stuff supports it, and works fine. And while the developers of all of the apps and services that use RSS could update their software to create and parse JSON Feed it is doubtful they will very quickly as the benefits aren’t all that great. The advantage of JSON Feed mostly comes when creating new services not replacing old ones.

I don’t think Manton and Brent believe JSON Feed will replace RSS. I don’t think that is why they created the spec. I believe they feel this is a good alternative for the developers that would like to use it and that they wrote the spec out of a need that they had. Which is good.

I’ve discussed the benefits of replacing RSS with JSON in the past. Me, in June 2015 on one of the benefits of replacing RSS with JSON:

RSS is a fairly bloated specification. It is a bit verbose and the file sizes for even a small blog can get relatively large quickly. JSON is, by its very nature, a bit more succinct. This would result in faster load times, easier caching, etc.

So while there are definite benefits, it is doubtful that RSS is going anywhere for a long time. There have been a few attempts to replace RSS with something that is smaller and easier to parse over the years and they simply didn’t catch on. This weekend Dave Winer (the inventor of RSS) chimed in on JSON Feed and he has a similar reaction to it as I have had; it is great that the specification exists but it will not be replacing RSS for news or blogs any time soon.

I’ve added a JSON feed to this blog because Manton created the WordPress plugin already.

Side note: How did I not see this one coming?

 

Twan van Elk quits social media

Twan van Elk, in response to my recent post:

This week I am deactivating several social media accounts and focusing more on my blogging.

He followed through too. I loved this bit after only a few days away from social media:

That is also something that has changed: I now write for me. Sorry people, I hope you like what you read on my blog if you read my blog, but first and foremost I now write for myself. As a way to process information, or leave a reminder or just some tips or instructions that I know I will want to come back to. It is of value for you also? Great! I am glad I could be of service.

Exactly. Enjoy writing for you Twan. I do the same. And now I’m subscribed.

Den Temple and I did an impromptu virtual Homebrew Website Club via Slack this evening. I was able to make a few updates to my blog. Happy about that.

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.

Tim Bray on blogging in 2017

Tim Bray:

On a blog, I can write about blog­ging and whim­si­cal­ly toss in self-indulgent pic­tures of May’s bud­ding aza­leas.

OK, Tim. I see your azaleas and raise you these springtails.

Tim’s post via Jason Kottke and Jeremy Keith.

See also.