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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

A fun first week at “home”

It has been a fun week. Kyle and I started working from our home offices and I’ve made dozens of tweaks to my personal site and my IFTTT recipes for cross-posting so that I can share from my site first.

I’m pretty happy with where this is going. Let’s start with a few questions and answers, followed by some observations, and then finish up with what I’d like to do next.

  • Do I reply on Twitter? This is a question I asked both Manton and Jeremy. I’m going to do what Manton does for now and reply to tweets on Twitter.
  • Will I bring replies onto my site? I don’t know yet. They’d likely need to be a wholly different thing, like comments, and I’m not sure I want that.
  • Same for Facebook? Yes.
  • Will I share my photos to Instagram? For now I’m posting photos on my site separately from Instagram. No cross-posting. There is and will always be overlap. But I hope after many months that my site will have a much stronger representation of my photography than Instagram has. And, in fact, I hope it influences my photography. Instagram certainly has. I want to start thinking “How would this look on my site?” rather than “How would this look on Instagram?”

A few random observations:

  • My view of Twitter this past week has been more like a feed reader than a social network. I like it. I get caught up on the last few hundred posts at a time.
  • I’m really enjoying that everything I make can now be searched in one spot. Rather than all over the place. Also, Twitter’s search is abysmal so it is effectively useless. Eventually, having years worth of status updates will be fun to search through.
  • Since I’ve begun working from home this past week too it all makes sense that I’m posting on my own site. It feels like a homecoming or something.

A few things I’d like to do next:

  • Finish Barley 2.0 – Barley 1.0 isn’t great on mobile making status updates on-the-go a bit rough. It works. But far from “good”. I could build something custom but I’d prefer to finish Barley 2.0. It is one of the reasons I’m doing this homesteading. It will leverage WordPress as the application framework and so we’ll get a lot of things we don’t have as a result.
  • I plan to leave IFTTT behind for something a bit more custom. Example: People get confused by the trailing URL on my status updates. They click expecting to see something more when there is nothing more. I’d prefer the URL not there on statuses that are shorter than 140 characters but IFTTT doesn’t offer options like that. Once Barley 2.0 is finished I can tweak cross-posting rules.
  • The layout and design of my site leaves a lot to be desired. But I don’t want to focus on that until I have all the bits in place. Content comes first. So once I feel fairly settled on what the content should be, look like, and how it should be found I can begin to think about design.
  • Eventually I’d like to have a “pick-and-choose” interface for cross-posting. Some blog posts might work pretty well on LinkedIn, others on Medium, and others via Facebook and Twitter as links. Etc. I think it’d be cool to have a default setting but be able to customize that with every single post.

Week one was fun. Week two should be less tweaks and more use.

Fits and starts and homesteading

I annoy myself. I want to post content to my own personal site and not through closed social networks — because I want to keep control of everything I create forever. But the networks are so easy to use and work everywhere and more people read them than read this site.

Over the years I’ve said that I will post everything through my site. In 1999, 2003, 2008 and 2013 (and other years), for a little while each time, I did.

However, over the last few months I’ve been working on Barley 2.0. This release will bring a lot more capability to the content management system I use for this site and as a result the desire to bring everything together once more is rising.

I’ve been incredibly inspired by Jeremy Keith and Manton Reece. Both of them are doing a remarkable job sharing everything through their own web sites and then onto social networks and they are figuring it all out as they go.

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.

I hope this will have a few positive side effects. First, I’ll have control of my own content’s destiny. Second, I’ll have greater control of my content’s presentation. Third, this will force Barley to get very good at posting from mobile devices and at sharing with social networks — two features Barley should have anyway.

Expect my site to change dramatically over coming weeks as I figure all of this out.

Homesteading

In March 2008 I began to regret using so many different services to store and share different types of content like photos, tweets, videos, links. And so I began to plan bringing all of those services together on to my personal site.

I’m going to begin working on one service at a time, slowly bringing it all together, and giving each a home here on my site. I’ll try my best to keep a log of my experiences doing each of these, jotting down why I’m handling it the way that I am, and asking for feedback as I find the best solution for me as I go forward.

I wanted to make my personal site the one and only place people would come to find the answer to “What is Colin up to?”.  And for a while, I succeeded. I had my photos, mobile notes, videos, links, etc. all piling up in my own personal WordPress installation. From a certain, geeky, “post-things-exactly-as-I’d-like-to” way it was Utopia.

That was nearly 6 years ago. A lot has changed since then. Most of the services I used then are gone; Ma.gnolia, Pownce, Flickr (nearly everyone I followed there has jumped to Instagram), Viddler (now for Business-only), Cork’d (long gone), and a site I used to write for called The Uber Geeks. All gone or no longer relevant.

The fact that all of these services have in fact gone away really shows how on-point my gut was. That posting everywhere simply wasn’t a sustainable way of sharing if you cared about having control or access to all of the data that you tirelessly put the effort into getting online.

Frank Chimero recently looked back at 2013 and noticed, as I did in 2008, that he was sick of having all of this data in different silos all over the web:

So, I’m doubling down on my personal site in 2014. In light of the noisy, fragmented internet, I want a unified place for myself—the internet version of a quiet, cluttered cottage in the country. I’ll have you over for a visit when it’s finished.

I like Frank’s style so it will be interesting to see how, and if, he manages to do what I wasn’t able to do longterm. (And I’d be willing to bet the way he does it will look nicer than what I did too.)

Why wasn’t I able to continue? It mostly has to do with the network’s associated with these services. Sharing a photo to my blog may have gotten a few eyeballs, but sharing a photo on Instagram or Flickr gets a lot more. But, there comes a time where you simply don’t care about those sorts of things anymore. I’m pretty sure I’ve reached those times.

Stay tuned.