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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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

Colin Walker opens up comments

Hooray!

Colin Walker:

Colin Devroe’s post was the tipping point (I told you his points were compelling) and I decided it was time to get over myself and look at opening things up again.

This is the post Walker is referring to. You can read his follow-up as well.

Like me, Walker has opened up comments on his blog.

Any one that has a blog and is worried about moderating comments can let that fear go. Those days are over. Even if you’re incredibly popular there are tools that would make this relatively easy (like Disqus). And since the site is 100% yours that allows you to be super strict in your policies should that need arise.

One side note: I have WordPress set to automatically close comments on posts older than 30 days. Perhaps 8 or 10 years ago I wrote a WordPress plugin that did this since most comment spam was a result of a bot that worked like a Google spider. It found related posts via Google and left comment spam. By closing comments on posts older than 30 days this alleviates a huge amount of spam. This feature is now built into WordPress and works perfectly. It isn’t ideal, and I may consider turning that off in the future, but for now it means I only get about 5 spam comments per week which are automatically blocked by Akismet.

Colin Walker: “Should replies be posts?”

Colin Walker, in a post on whether or not replies to other posts (or, comments) should be their own posts:

There has to be a line, a point where a comment is just that and not a reply. It’s a question of semantics but not everyone’s answer to “what is a comment and where does it belong?” will be the same.

I struggle with this a lot.

It is likely the point I should have made in my post regarding Micro.blog becoming a commenting service (and the fact that I don’t like that). I don’t want to reply on my blog to every reply to my posts on M.b because then I would have dozens and dozens of posts on my blog that would be very tough for readers to follow contextually. I believe the commenting mechanism that has been around for decades, even un-threaded, is far more useful than dozens of desperate posts stitched together loosely with a link that says “in reply to”.

Webmention attempts to bridge that gap between post and reply but that also is tough to follow along if the thread gets unwieldy.

However, I also don’t want to reply to every reply on my posts directly on M.b either (though, I do from time-to-time) as that isn’t much better than using any other silo like Twitter or Facebook. Should M.b go away, all of those conversations would be lost.

This isn’t a new issue nor is it exclusive to M.b. If I replied on my own blog to other people’s posts on their own blogs (like I am in this post to Colin Walker’s blog) then one side of the conversation could disappear at any time. I can only control my side of the equation. But at least if I have my own blog I have control of that one side.

I think it is good that these topics are being discussed again. The same debates have been swirling since blogging began, they swelled again when the indieweb movement began to take shape, and I think they are happening again as a result of M.b’s growing community. I do not believe there is one single answer to many them. You have to do what is right and sustainable for you.

For now, here are my personal rules for replying to posts. These will most definitely change over time.

  • If I want to say a quick “congrats” or “excellent post” or something of that nature I will leave a reply directly on their blog. If they do not have commenting turned on I will attempt to email. If they do not have email publicly available I’ll say nothing at all.
  • If I have something substantive to add to the conversation, or if I would like my “followers” to see the post I will quote the post on my blog with my additions to the conversation. Like this post.
  • If I simply want to direct people to the content I will use my new repost tag that I’ve been experimenting with. I’ve seen others use the “a post I liked” type post. That could work too.
  • If people reply using M.b, Twitter, or Facebook I will not reply on those services*. But I may reply on my own blog.
  • If I would like to keep my reply private I will attempt to email.

As an aside: I know some of you do not want to leave a public comment. I love getting reader emails. I get a fair number of them. And some of them have been excellent conversations. So please don’t hesitate.

* I no longer have a Twitter or Facebook account. I do have a M.b account but I’m beginning to wonder if I need one as I have my own fully functional weblog. If I didn’t and I wanted a microblog and didn’t want to use Twitter, I could see having an account. If I wanted a more fully featured blog I still believe WordPress is the best tool for that. Also, I’m sure as the M.b community grows it could mean that my content would be discovered by more people. I think M.b may end up being a thriving, well run, community and service. It is why I backed Manton’s efforts via Kickstarter. But, if I have my own blog, and if I really don’t care much about my content being discovered, then I see little reason to syndicate to it. For the time being I’m still going to as I want to see how the service matures.

Colin Walker on the Summit beta

Colin Walker:

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time I’ve spent beta testing Summit and look forward to the new builds.

Colin has provided excellent feedback on Summit. So have so many of the beta testers. I too am looking forward to publishing new builds.

If you’re on the beta list (which you can get on by putting your email address in the form on this page) and you haven’t gotten Build 15 yet – please let me know. Build 16 is due mid-September.

Colin Walker on thinking out loud on his blog

Colin Walker:

It’s always a little weird glancing at my visitor stats and seeing that someone has read a post that no longer reflects my position.

100% agree. Most of my posts are out-of-date and my opinions have changed slightly since I’ve written them.

I love this bit:

This is why I always refer to the blog as an ongoing conversation with myself – it is the public manifestation of working things out in my head.

That is why I say that writing is how I think. See also.

Magnet for macOS

Magnet:

Activated by dragging, customizable keyboard shortcuts or via menu bar, Magnet declutters your screen by snapping windows into organized tiles.

Although macOS Sierra has a great split-screen option* that rival’s Windows 10 snap-to-side feature I’ve always wanted a bit more control. This utility is currently only a dollar and does a lot more.

/via Colin Walker.

* To activate split-screen view on macOS: make an app full screen, then drag the second app you’d like up into the menubar and place it on top of the other full screen app. Here is a video. It isn’t very intuitive but it is nice that it exists. I think Windows 10’s feature is a bit easier to discover by dragging to the edge of the screen.

Snapchat is a party, LinkedIn is a business lunch

Colin Walker, like me, struggles with what should be syndicated to networks and what should be brought back into the blog context. He makes this specific point about replies:

Social replies like on Twitter or Facebook don’t, in my opinion, need to be owned – they belong in the context of the social network and that particular conversation.

I suggest reading his entire post so that you get a clearer picture of his struggle.

As you may know I’ve decided to leave social networking altogether and so I don’t have this struggle any more. However, one analogy came to mind when I was reading Colin’s post.

When Snapchat arrived on the scene many in the blogosphere thought it was crazy to have such an ephemeral medium sucking up so much oxygen. I didn’t see it that way. Perhaps I didn’t love Snapchat but I didn’t see it as bad simply because you couldn’t save what you posted there. It reminded me of going to a local pub. If you drop in at a pub for a pint and rattle off some diatribe about your favorite sports team to the other pub-goers – does that really need to be saved somewhere? If I’m having a random conversation about a movie I saw recently while sitting around a campfire with a friend, does that belong in the Internet Archive?

If we view each site on the web as a real physical place then we begin to realize that some places are museums, some libraries, others local pubs, and still others are rowdy nightclubs. Each have their place to make up the human existence but not all need to be saved or syndicated or shared.

I simply do not view Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Snapchat and Instagram the same as I do my blog. So I do not believe that all of the content that I post here should end up there and vice versa. Some things deserve to disappear. And there is a certain beauty in that. The same way I enjoy a good local pub rant.

Colin’s struggle is real – it isn’t easy to choose what gets saved and what doesn’t. What should go to one network and not another. Especially in the moment it is very difficult to know. And, it is complex for a single person to maintain that connective technology to allow that to happen in the first place.

I don’t envy his position. I don’t know what I would do if I were him. But, for me, not being on any social media currently has made my decision very easy. What I share here stays here. Everything else you’ll never see. And I’m totally cool with that.

Less apps is more

Tim Nahumck:

I always try to reduce the number of apps that I use at any given time and cutting the reliance on multiple services when and where possible.

This sounds a lot like my repeated attempts to consolidate around Apple’s default applications.

I like Tim’s use of Slack as a personal center of information. I have Slack open all day as well and pushing just about everything into that would eliminate the need to have other apps open. I may look into this.

/via Colin Walker.

Colin Walker on macOS software

Colin Walker:

Using OSX can be more intuitive at times but it is visually inconsistent. It may have been through various aesthetic revisions but it can feel old. I think Microsoft has done a better job of enforcing a standard look for applications on the desktop and the Windows design language is now generally more modern.

In the early 2000s when I jumped from Windows to the Mac I felt this very same way … except I was describing the Mac as generally more modern and Windows as visually inconsistent. It is interesting to see a new Mac user’s perspective.

Even today, when I use a Windows 10 computer and click down a few screens I find it terribly inconsistent. I see stuff that looks like Windows 98 to my eyes sometimes. I don’t see that in macOS very often – if at all. But, I can see Walker’s perspective. macOS does feel a little long in the tooth to me too. Not compared to Windows 10 but just that the overall design language is stale. Perhaps High Sierra will spruce things up enough to keep it fresh.

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.

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.