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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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

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What I would write about Vero

Colin Walker wrote his hot take on Vero and it is exactly what I would have written (only his post is far more eloquent than mine would have been). Go read the entire post but here are a few highlights.

As soon as I saw what Vero was all about – the idea it “makes sharing online more like real life” using selective audiences I was immediately taken back to the promises of Google+ and its circles.

This is an apt comparison. As he rightly points out, managing ones Circles on Google+ and deciding who to share what with is exhausting to the user. On paper it seems like an excellent approach. But on every social network that has this feature – Facebook included – it is rarely used. Who wants to move people from one list to another only to move them back again when your relationship with them shifts?

Although Vero promises an algorithm free feed and no ads (it will monetise using subscriptions and charges for selling via the platform) I’m not sure that jumping from the frying pan of one silo straight into the as yet unproven fire of another is what we really need right now.

I thought about this when I signed up. However, it doesn’t take much for a platform like Vero to support the open web and be less of a silo than Facebook or Twitter. An open API, data portability, and support for one’s own domain are the main features. I can’t presume that no other platforms will support the open web eventually. In fact, imagine if Twitter did this like Medium has? Then what would people think of Twitter?

I wish them well and hope they prove me wrong but, while I think the noise about Russian developers and the CEO being the son of a former Lebanese prime minister is stupid and tantamount to inciting racial hatred, I’m afraid I won’t be signing up.

I’m very glad he brought this up. When I saw the drivel on Twitter about these details about this platform I was saddened. Are we saying all Russian developers are bad? Or all Lebanese billionaires? I would always urge caution when signing up to brand-new platforms but to think we’d all call these people out simply based on where they were born is… well Colin already said what it is.

Eliza and I poked around with Vero as much as we could while the app crashed and timed out. It won’t stick. Not because of the scaling issues – most platforms have those. It won’t stick because it will be far too noisy for users right out of the gate.

When Instagram pivoted from a check-in app to a filtered photo app it exploded because it made photo editing and publishing one simple step. It did one thing well. Slowly it has added other features but this primary feature is still the foremost one today. Vero has photos, music, links, books etc. Once the hype settles down people just want to post photos. Instagram should be scared of whatever comes next. Obviously people (including me) do not like the current algorithmic feed. But Vero is no Instagram killer.

Colin Walker’s tech predictions

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

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

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

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

Noah Read’s tech predictions

Prompted somewhat by my technology prediction time capsule, Noah Read takes a stab at what he thinks we’ll see (or, won’t see) in 2018.

He has some interesting takes. Most of which I agree with.

I do not think I agree with this take, though:

AR will be a passing craze, while at the same time making certain niche use cases much better than they’ve ever been. I just hope those use cases are more useful than funny animated masks on social networks.

AR may indeed be a passing craze but I don’t think that will be determined within 2018. It will take much longer to know that. And I don’t think the use cases for AR will be niche. For instance, I do believe my future workspace will be “in AR” rather than VR. (Or, perhaps this is my own wishful thinking). And I think there are enough people like me that would want this to say it is larger than just a niche use.

Of course, maybe I’m wrong and Ready Player One will be the reality.

Regarding self-driving technology, though, Read says:

Problems of infrastructure, distance, regulation, public opinion, and human nature will infuriate utopians who would like a Jetson’s future today, but these are real issues that will slow adoption in the real world. It’s coming, but current estimates seem optimistic.

This I agree with. Obviously.

Many of us underestimate how long change happens. The change we want we want immediately.  Personally, I want self-driving to become mainstream yesterday. But I feel we’ve still got nearly a decade of manual cars and drivers to deal with before things take off.

More people should write down their predictions. And not just for 2018 but for the next 20 years. It is a fun mental exercise and I’m certain it will be fun to look back upon every few years.

To that end I randomly challenge Colin Walker, Matt MullenwegManton Reece, and Mike Haynes to jot down at least 5 predictions for the next 20 years.

Best of 2017 as told by me

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

Best Blog: fuzzy notepad

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

Best blog redesign: Colin Walker

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

Best new (to me) blog: Brand New

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

Best service: Spotify

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

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

Best book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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

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

Best productivity tool: Bullet Journal

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

Notable mention: Trello.

Best phone: Google Pixel 2 XL

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

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

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

Notable mention: Samsung Galaxy Note8, iPhone X.

Best podcast: The West Wing Weekly

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

Notable mention: Song Exploder / Tim Ferriss.

Best platform: Instagram

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

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

Notable mention: Micro.blog.

Best browser: Firefox Quantum

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

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

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

Best app: Apollo for Reddit for iOS

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

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

Best code editor: Visual Studio Code

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

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

Notable mention: Atom, Visual Studio for Mac.

Best YouTube channel: First We Feast

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

Notable mention: MKBHD

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

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

See you next year.

 

 

Colin Walker “be careful what you wish for”

Colin Walker:

I spent years blogging about social media, trying to think about ways to drive mainstream adoption. When we reached the tipping point I had to ask “what now?” but still managed to find things to write about for a while.

But, for the last several years, I have become increasingly disenchanted with social networks, and the way they operate, leading to the deletion of my Google Plus account and shuttering of my Twitter profile.

This strikes very close to home. For years and years I beat the social media drum. In fact, I’ve personally installed Twitter on people’s phones and signed them up to the service. But then, when I deleted my Twitter account, people thought I was nuts.

Wanting any social network to “take off” falls squarely in the “be careful what you wish for” department. If “everyone” was using your favorite network – you may not like it anymore. That is the case with Twitter*.

* Twitter problems are myriad. But a big one is that their community is full of wolves.

Micro.blog for Mac beta

Micro.blog:

Mac users can use the native Micro.blog for Mac app. It’s a free download and supports most of the same features as the iOS version.

You can see a short video of it on Manton’s blog. You’ll even notice a rather handsome avatar make an appearance.

Unfortunately I cannot give this a spin yet since I haven’t upgraded my Mac to High Sierra. And it doesn’t appear I’ll be doing so for at least a month or two since I haven’t seen any updates from Apple on that front. High Sierra just seems far too unstable to switch to on my main work computer at the moment.

Colin Walker, though, seems to like this new app:

Manton has repeatedly said that this is just a version 1.0 app but, I have to say, it’s been rock solid. Browsing, replying and posting to the blog have all been a breeze and I’ve not had a single issue or error.

Required reading

The first time I linked to Colin Walker, which was only about 4 months ago, it was because he was fiddling with his blog, trying to come up with the right way to display his content for him and his audience.

It is a topic that has fascinated me for 20 years and to see someone else thinking about it out loud is great.

Over the years I’ve tried many, many different ways to layout a blog. Fortunately, I’ve been able to explore dozens and dozens of options due to my work. I’ve designed and developed online magazines, large-scale video blogs, large online libraries of information for teachers, students, television stations. I’ve even had the privilege of working on a network of blogs, called 9rules, where we aggregated hundreds of blog’s content into many categories and sections. The projects I’ve worked on over the years have had billions of views.

So, I can honestly say I’ve thought about this topic as much as anyone alive.

Long, longtime readers of my blog will remember how I wrote about how the blog format needed to be disrupted back in 2011. This post has ended up being a tent pole on this blog. Here’s the crux in a snippet:

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. There are still so many problems to solve; how new readers and also long-time subscribers consume the stream of posts, how people identify with the content of the blog on the home page, how to see what the blog is all about, how to make money, how to share, and how interact and provide feedback on the content.

While the lion’s share of people’s microblogging, photos, video, and audio are still going to the big network sites – there are a few people who are rolling up their sleeves and trying to figure out how blogs should be laid out in 2017 and beyond.

Colin Walker is one of those people.

If you go back through a few posts from this month from him (I wish he used tags) you’ll see how Dave Winer’s post here sparked the idea of a required reading page. And how he’s been thinking about it for a few days now. I understand how he feels. When that seed is planted it is tough to uproot.

One of my reasons for saying that the blog format is in need of disruption has to do with the brand-new visitor’s perspective of a blog. On any given day if a new person were to show up on my site they’d only see the latest few posts that I’ve written. I could be making a joke, linking to a friend, writing about how to save battery life on the new Apple Watch, sharing some thoughts on Bullet Journaling using audio, or sharing a photo of a recent evening at a local lake. Would they come away understanding “what is Colin’s blog about?”. I don’t know. I think some days are more representative of what I’d like my blog to be than others. Some entire weeks probably poorly represent what I’d like my blog to be.

Currently my site’s layout is fairly simple. I’ve chosen this mostly due to the fact that traffic to my site is primarily to single posts and overwhelmingly viewed on mobile devices. So if I were to begin fiddling like Colin Walker is… I’d likely start with what my single post design is, rather than my homepage. More people are introduced to my blog through a single post than the homepage.

Based on Colin Walker’s thoughts I may update my about page this week a bit to include a section explaining what my blog is primarily about. For me, I think that will be enough. But I don’t feel like it solves the issue Winer and Walker bring up. I’m anxious to see what Walker ultimately comes up with.

Colin Walker hits 1000 posts

Colin Walker:

I am enjoying blogging now more than I have in a long time. The addition of microblogging greatly removes the burden of constantly writing essay pieces and the clamour for perfection that it instills. And that’s something to be thankful for.

Agreed.

Congratulations to Colin. I expect him to hit 2000 in no time.

Mobile blogging goals (audio)

Recorded September 10, 2017

Starting with this audio bit I’m making a few changes.

I’m ditching the episode numbers. My audio bits are not a podcast, they aren’t really episodes, and keeping track of the numbers is just more work. I will, however, denote in the title that this is an audio post.

I’m also switching to the audio format that comes directly out of Voice Memos on the iPhone rather than doing the work of converting the file to MP3. If you have any issues listening to this audio file please let me know.

Enjoy the listen!

Links

Download Audio File