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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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.

My old blog is back

You may have noticed a slight uptick in my publishing. That’s because I am, once again, coming back to my blog as the central place that I publish. Except this time I care far less about any of the content getting to any social networks.

It is simply too exhausting to get working correctly. And once you have everything sort of working right, something about these networks change or a new one arises (like Mastodon). So rather than stifle my publishing based on getting each gear properly greased I’m giving up. Sorry indiewebbers. I’m just going to publish here on my blog.

I don’t care if anyone on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram sees or reads any of this. I just want my blog back.

So does Dave Winer:

Before 2010, on my blog, I could have long and short items. I could use HTML. Link to as many places I wanted, where ever I wanted. There was no character limit, so the short items could grow if they needed to. The same format could accommodate post-length bits with titles that were archived on their own pages. Every item appeared in the feed, regardless of length, regardless of whether it had a title.

I plan on turning off a bunch of the code I have running here on my blog to support these networks too. I’m going old school.

If you like my blog subscribe. If not, that’s OK too.

No-pressure blogging

Manton Reece:

I love that blogs can scale from the trivial to the important. The microblog post about what you had for breakfast. The half-baked rant about something you’re passionate about. And sometimes, the rare essay that really hits the mark and makes people think.

Publishing most of my “tweets” here first has led to some frivolous posts. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Takes the pressure off of me to have every post be significant before hitting publish.

Scranton’s first Homebrew Website Club

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

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

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

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

How I create my weekly link posts

With my What I saw this week series of posts hitting #29 this week I thought I’d take a second to share how these posts do on my site, how I create them, how I choose what I will link to outside of these posts.

These posts are some of my most popular week-to-week. My active subscriber numbers aren’t that high – I’d say less than 1,000 people subscribe to my site in some way or another – but the traffic to these posts are as high as any other popular post on my site. I believe there are two reasons for this; consistency and because I share them on Facebook. I try to share these posts every single Friday at 10:30am and I think that helps a lot. Facebook is starting to push a lot more traffic to my blog than Twitter. It used to be the other way around. For years. But I honestly believe Twitter is losing ground on this front (more on this at a later date when my thoughts have had more time to simmer).

How do I create them? As I mentioned in a previous post, I keep a note open to throw URLs in during the week. On average I’d say I put 2 to 3 URLs in that note before the week is out. Mainly because I haven’t stored them in some other way. On Thursday or Friday I take the URLs from this note, and also look through my Twitter favorites, my YouTube history (if you’re logged into YouTube on all devices it stores a history of all videos you’ve watched), my Unmark archive, and lastly I comb through Chrome’s browser history (I keep my history for years). This takes me about 25 minutes a week.

Then comes the choice about what to include in these posts and what to link to separately. You’ll probably notice that the bulk of my publishing comes on Fridays and the weekends lately. That is because I’ve gotten out of the habit of scheduling my posts for the week on Sundays. I think I’ll get back to this soon. But also it is because many of my posts are simply links to other things I find interesting and so at the end of each week I do a dump onto my blog.

I choose what to link to separately mainly based on category or thread. My interests are myriad but overall I like to cover specific trends here on my blog such as the indie web, blogging, photography, social networking, hiking, flying my drone, kayaking, etc. If a link falls into one of these categories, or is a continuation of a discussion I started here on my blog, I generally separate those posts out into their own.

App.net shutting down

Dalton Caldwell:

We envisioned a pool of differentiated, fast-growing third-party applications would sustain the numbers needed to make the business work. Our initial developer adoption exceeded expectations, but that initial excitement didn’t ultimately translate into a big enough pool of customers for those developers.

I’ve been a paying subscriber to App.net for the entire life of the platform (that is, until they cancelled my subscription this week).

When App.net launched many were drawing a line of comparison between it and Twitter. And since this announcement I’m seeing many drawing a line of comparison between App.net and Micro.blog. This isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison.

If you read Dalton’s vision above, it doesn’t read anything at all like Twitter or Micro.blog.

App.net was an API for application developers to build on top of. Yes, something Twitter-like could be build on top of it. But so could so many other things. It had a data storage service, a push notification service, and even a crowd-funding feature called Backer that would, presumably, allow developers to pre-charge for new features for apps.

App.net was a very ambitious platform that, I believe, got pigeon-holed into a Twitter comparison because they created Alpha – a Twitter-like microblogging platform – as a demonstration of their own API. I think this muddied their messaging to the point where most people would describe App.net as a Twitter alternative.

Manton Reece’s forthcoming Micro.blog is not anything at all like App.net. Though, many are confused about Micro.blog similar to how many were confused about App.net. (I’ve had at least three conversations about Micro.blog where people have no idea what it will do.) They are comparing it to Twitter even though Manton doesn’t usually draw that line himself. And I think he will have to find a way to communicate its decentralization and the fact that it will work with your existing blogging platform so it too doesn’t get packaged and framed as simply a Twitter replacement.

A visual history of Waking Ideas

Danny shows off a visual history of his personal site. As we change, so too our personal web sites.

Fix the internet

Vicky Boykis:

We are a LONG, long ways away from the destruction of the internet as a giant billboard. It takes time to turn a huge skyscraper into an gutted shell of a building, and it will take just as much time to turn our current internet from a loud, obnoxious, toxic mall, back into a public forum.

Stop worrying, hit publish

Jen Simmons, on her blog:

So I have nothing much to say in this post. Or more honestly, I have so freaking much to say, I don’t know where to start. So I’m going to start here. I just need to break the silence. And get into a habit of posting. So I’m posting this. And I’m going to publish it without thinking about it. Without proof-reading it really. Without thinking about how it will be received.

Stop worrying. Hit publish.

Me, in September:

My blog archive is a source of both pride and head shaking. Why did I write about that? Why did I allow myself to publish that? But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yup.

NEPA BlogCon 2016

img_5047

I often wonder what it would be like to be a first-time attendee at a conference like NEPA BlogCon. Even with the speakers attempting to keep things easy-to-understand I’m sure the flood of information can be overwhelming. I think that is why the mix of presentations at these sorts of events is so important. It can’t be all buzzword-ridden tips and tricks and how-tos. Some of it needs to raise high above the how and address more of the why. Principles rather than rules.

I think NEPA BlogCon does a decent job at striking this balance. This year’s presentation line-up showed how to add visuals to blog posts to make them more effective but they also discussed motivations and passions. No matter what blogging or social media platforms you use yourself, everyone can identify with the passion behind the topics they choose to write about or create media for. There is emotion behind why we do what we do (even if you do it for work) and many times that emotion was palpable during the presentations.

Blogging started as journaling. Public diaries written to connect with someone outside of your bedroom out in the world where hopefully someone would read and listen and understand what you were going through. That same passion has spilled over into every topic under the sun including parenting, technology, food, wildlife preservation, and vacation planning. People love these topics and so they write and create and share and record and speak and draw about them. And they put this media out into the world to hopefully connect with someone outside of their offices that will understand and connect with that passion too.

How can one harness that passion to achieve their goals with their content? That’s the question that ultimately gets answered at events like NEPA BlogCon. The goal could be to earn a buck. But the goals also could be to change minds, to educate, to have fun!

NEPA BlogCon may have the word “blog” in the name but blogging has become so much more than a singular activity and toolset. Tools do not matter any more. One’s blog may be rooted at one source web site (hopefully) but one’s content spreads out over the ether like daffodil seeds blowing in the wind passing over the plains of Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. How does one harness these tools? Which one’s should I use for my audience? Which one’s shouldn’t I use and why? NEPA BlogCon touches, and rightly so, on all of these things also.

If you are passionate about something and have been attempting to share that passion through online media, and if you’re reading this because you are curious about whether or not you should attend next year’s NEPA BlogCon then you’ve already answered that question. Yes, you should.

This year’s conference was held at Penn State Worthington Scranton in Dunmore, PA. This was the closest NEPA BlogCon has ever been to where I live. And, it will be at the same location next year. I’m very excited about this because a few attendees have already expressed interest in adding an activity or two to the day prior to the event as a result. I hope to see some time slated for hacking on our blogs and also for doing something outdoors (like a hike) and using the experiences and photos we gather on the hike to help new bloggers share that online. Should be great.

Thanks as always to the organizers and volunteers and sponsors.

Here are a few photos I snapped at the event followed by a few other blog posts shared by attendees.

James D. Gallagher Conference Center

Videographer

Food and coffee

Food and coffee

Rubik's Cube

My capturing setup

5th anniversary cake

Orange Whip Band at SBC in Pittston

A few other attendees have shared their experiences. Britney Kolodziej shared a very Buzzfeed-esque, gif-filled post. P.J. shares his first experience at the con. And I’m not sure who did this but there is a shared Google Doc with tons of notes from the presentations.

Oh, and don’t miss the official NEPA BlogCon 2016 Photoset on Flickr.

E9: Follow up, Blog comments, and personal blogging

Danny and I enjoyed listening to ourselves talk so much that we did it again this week. Our conversation is mainly about blog comments and personal blogging. Riveting stuff. Listen to all of it.

Download MP3

E8: Tesla, Twitter, Blogging

Extra special, and most likely reoccurring, guest Danny Nicolas (@djloche) and I have a conversation about Tesla, Twitter, Blogging and a bunch of other things.

Download MP3

Eleven and six and twenty

Thanks to Jeremy for remarking how he forgot his blog’s 15th anniversary (congrats Jeremy!) it reminded me to check and, well, I missed my blog’s anniversary by nearly the same number of days as he did.

On Saturday October 1 this blog, my personal blog on my own domain name but not my first ever personal blog, turned 11 years old. This was the first post.

My blogging journey did not begin with this site. It started about 10 years before that. Prior to owning cdevroe.com – which was a gift from Josue Salazar (Thanks again Josue) – I had personal sites on Tripod (circa 2002), on a domain called colinspage.com (circa 2003 though it began in 1998 or 1999), I blogged on theubergeeks.net (circa 2003) and even had another blog in between that I wrote in ASP myself. My best guess is that I began blogging long before it was called blogging somewhere around 1995 when I was working at a computer store near my parent’s house.

In addition to my own personal online journal at the time we began plugging away on TheHutt.net (circa 1999) – which I helped develop alongside friends Chris Coleman and Chris Kuruts. We used the site to mark the upcoming Star Wars prequels. What a mistake! (The films, not our site.)

Six years ago I started curating The Watercolor Gallery – a site I take great pride in. That site recently had an anniversary as well that I failed to mark. I’ve been working on a brand-new version of the site too.

So I’ve been blogging for somewhere around 20 years. And my personal blog has taken many forms before finally settling here on cdevroe.com. And, as I sit here writing this post with nearly 20 years of writing on the web under my belt I am incredibly excited to continue writing on my blog.

Thanks to Jeremy for both the reminder and the constant inspiration from his blog.

A few updates to my site

Late last week and over the weekend I’ve made a few subtle updates to my site. I saw that this weekend was Indie Web Camp in Brighton and while I can’t travel a few thousand miles to hack on my blog I can sit at my desk and do a bit of hacking.

The main things I updated were randomizing the image shown on the home page, cleaning up the main site navigation, changing the word “photos” to “images” since they were interchangeable throughout the site, and cleaning up a bit of the code. Somehow I had forked my own theme’s code a few month’s back and so the code was a little bit sporadic. I was able to sift through the source and cobble together what must have been a few different nights of hacking and then ditch the rest. Now I’ll be able to make some steady progress on making this site a bit more what I would like.

In addition, I’m rebuilding The Watercolor Gallery in WordPress and adding a few features and will be “relaunching” that site within the next few weeks. I’m really looking forward to doing so as I have a backlog of features, interviews, art spaces and videos to publish.

Remy’s decade of blogging

Remy Sharp recently celebrated 10 years of blogging. What is he most happy with?

More importantly, every single URL on my blog that’s ever been published still works, and even better than that (for me) is my archive showing off the decade of writing I’ve been producing over all this time.

My blog archive is a source of both pride and head shaking. Why did I write about that? Why did I allow myself to publish that? But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Congrats Remy.

Three microphones

I began posting to my own site in earnest on March 6th of this year. I wrote:

So, starting tonight that is what I’m going to try again to do with a goal of sticking with it in perpetuity. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be posting to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram, but that everything that I post there will originate here on my site. I may still craft those messages manually (since each network is so nuanced) but like Jeremy and Manton I will have to figure that out as I go too.

More or less this is what has happened over the last three months. It has been fantastic.

I’ve redesigned my site, added a few new post formats (more on that here), and have published a slew of status updates, photos, blog posts, and even a few audio bits — which I hope to do more of. I’ve switched platforms, tweaked my settings to no end, and tried a menagerie of plugins to get the site working as I would like.

I’m far from finished and perhaps I never will be. I feel like personal web sites change as often as people do. I’ve had some sort of online presence since the mid-90s and I’ve been tweaking and adjusting everything ever since.

As I wrote above, I have ended up sharing to each network in different ways. I do not publish here and syndicate everywhere. It isn’t all or nothing for me. It is a mixed bag. I find the nuances between the services too numerous to be able to do so. Others do a far better job. So, I reply to tweets directly on Twitter, I post things to Instagram that I do not post elsewhere (and I’m OK with that, even if it all goes away some day) and I post photos to my site that may or may not end up on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook, and I pick and choose which status updates end up being syndicated as well. It’s a bit of a mess but it is my mess.

But there is one important rule I have… anything that I want to live forever lives here.

I’m beginning to think of these networks as microphones with giant logos on them. Imagine someone giving a speech and there being a microphone for each news network in front of them. My blog is the lectern and the microphones are for Twitter and Facebook. When I want to speak into both microphones I do, when I want to speak into one I do, and when I don’t want to speak to either of them I cover them with my hand. Instagram is at a different lectern altogether because I want it to be. When I want to say something there I walk over to it.

This approach is working for me. I think one of the biggest drawbacks to only publishing on these platforms is that at any moment it can all go up in flames and you’ll have no way to recover your data or your audience (if that is important to you). By publishing the things I want to live on to my site I have control over that. For the stuff I decide to post directly to those networks I do so knowing it can (and likely will) disappear. I have peace-of-mind knowing I have a copy for myself.

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy the fact that I’m treating Twitter so differently. That I’m sharing things that I typically wouldn’t have (example). And that I’m publishing longer posts as well.

I love my web site!

 

I agree with Seth, read more blogs

Seth Godin, on his blog:

Other than writing a daily blog (a practice that’s free, and priceless), reading more blogs is one of the best ways to become smarter, more effective and more engaged in what’s going on. The last great online bargain.

I obviously agree with Seth. Everyone should blog. And should read blogs.

Also, this bit from Seth:

For those of you that have been engaging with this blog for months or years, please share this post with ten friends you care about. We don’t have to sit idly by while powerful choke points push us toward ad-filled noisy media.

Done. Looks like I needed to touch up my teach a friend RSS post from 2011 as it mentions services that no longer exist. So I did that Seth. Like Seth, I too use Feedly. If you want to subscribe to this blog on Feedly you can do so here.

Stop tracking referral spam with Google Analytics

Nice tip from Scott Buscemi on the Luminary Web Strategies blog:

Have you ever logged into Google Analytics and noticed a huge, unexpected spike in traffic to your site? Maybe your last blog post was shared by a huge influencer on Twitter — or maybe you’re the victim of referral spam.

One simple click. Be warned, though, you may be humbled by how much real traffic your site is getting with all of the junk removed. However, it will be a far more accurate picture of how many real people are visiting.

Owning my words and photos and audio bits

Jeremy Keith wrote on his blog about owning his words, or, being willing to publish his words (snarky or otherwise) on his own site under his own name. I recommend you read his entire post.

But this bit stood out:

I wish I could articulate how much better it feels to only use Twitter (or Medium or Facebook) as a syndication tool, like RSS.

I feel the same way. I sort of tried to articulate the more tangible results of publishing from my site first in Observations about “tweeting” from my site. But let me get into a bit more detail here about not just tweeting but publishing in general.

By publishing to my own web site first…

  • I feel like I’m curating a library rather than throwing loose papers into a raging torrent.
  • I have the ability to quickly move to another platform if I so wish
  • I can choose how things look and feel
  • I can track, or not track, any metric I’d like to
  • I can publish several different types of media: photos, audio
  • I can turn discussion on or off

As Jeremy said, I own my words and photos and audio bits. I love it. As I said in the observations post and even as I wrote earlier this morning; I wish everyone did this.

Everyone should write (or, blog?)

Deanna Mascle wrote on her blog on why all teachers should write. In it she says this about why students should write in every class every day:

Reflective writing at the beginning of a class or before a lesson can help students access existing knowledge and build a foundation for new information. Writing activities during a lesson can reinforce new knowledge and help students connect it to their existing framework. Writing after a lesson can serve multiple purposes from supporting knowledge transfer to fostering memory development to demonstrating comprehension. Plus, creative projects can increase engagement which in turn improves learning and retention of knowledge. Writing (if you do it right) is active learning. Writing (if you do it right) is fun. Writing (if you do it right) is meaningful.

See also this bit I linked to from Mascle about one year ago.

I think everyone should write. And I also think everyone should write publicly. So many are willing to write SMS messages or Facebook status updates… but what if you took just one of those ideas and fleshed them out? What if you took the time to take one of those tirades about the cost of strawberries at the local market and examined it from all perspectives; farmer, distributor, grocer, customer? By doing this you’d be teaching yourself, as you write, and if you still felt compelled enough with your argument to hit publish, everyone would be better for it.