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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Independent microblogging

Manton Reece re: Medium’s recent announcement that they are laying off 1/3rd of their team:

The message is clear. The only web site that you can trust to last and have your interests at heart is the web site with your name on it.

He’s right of course. He has said it a million times. So have I. Like right here. And so have many others.

Manton, by the way, is currently Kickstarting a book and service about independent microblogging. I told you about the service already. Go back his project even though it is very well funded already. This is important stuff.

Aaron Parecki tackles 100 Days of Indieweb

Aaron Parecki:

Inspired by the “100 Day Project“, I’m setting out on a goal to accomplish 100 days of visible improvements to my IndieWeb projects. The challenge is to ship something visible and post about it for 100 days. Some of the improvements may be super tiny, some of them might be big.

I’m super swamped else I’d join Aaron in this. Perhaps in the spring. He’s already a few days into this. I’ll be following along on his blog.

micro.blog

Manton Reece regarding the forthcoming micro.blog:

Renaming a product before its official launch may not seem like a big deal, but in this case it gives the app a new importance. Just by renaming it, the app feels more ambitious. It forces me to devote more attention to it, which means saying goodbye to some of my other web apps that I can no longer focus on.

I’m glad Manton has found the right name and direction for this service he’s been working on for some time. I’m anxious to see it get out into the public.

What am I building here?

If you’re reading this you likely do something every single day that you haven’t put a name to. You publish. And, it is very likely, that you publish different things in several different places with just a little overlap.

You might publish:

  • quippy remarks about a live event on Twitter
  • filtered photos, that presumably look a bit better than you think you could do on your own, on Instagram
  • slightly deeper more personal things on Facebook
  • your career updates on LinkedIn
  • pieces of your day through short, ephemeral videos on Snapchat or Instagram Stories
  • and maybe, just maybe, you publish pieces of audio on Anchor or video on YouTube.

That’s great. And it is well and good that you are sharing so much of yourself with the world. Hopefully you’re sharing some insight, perhaps something entertaining, or something creative. And hopefully you’re also getting some of those things in return. Otherwise, you likely wouldn’t continue doing it.

What I’m slowly building here on cdevroe.com is my own publishing platform for all media with no restrictions and very little threat of disappearing.

Currently I can publish small status updates, images, audio bits, and blog posts. And I’m doing that every single day. If Twitter goes out of business in the next year or if they are acquired by a company that changes it for the worse – I’ll still have my site to publish on. If Anchor doesn’t make it, I’ll still have my conversations with Danny or even some onions sizzling in a cast iron pan (because, why not?).

The advantages to owning my own platform go beyond its longevity. I’m also not limited in feature set. My audio bits are longer than 2 minutes. My status updates can be longer than 140 characters.  My images can be any size and dimension. And if I need something else I can make it.

cdevroe.com is mine. And I’m really excited to continue bolting on new features and expanding my own personal capability to publish anything I want and have it outlast me.

You’ve been granted h-entry

This morning I took a few minutes to add microformats to the HTML of my blog. I had done so in the past when my site was using a completely different theme and hadn’t taken the time to add them back in. Shame on me. I should have done it much sooner since it took less than 20 minutes and now I think my blog will be a little easier to read for things like webmentions.

This post isn’t to be used as a guide in adding microformats to your WordPress theme. I’m simply writing this down as a way to walk myself through my own task of doing so. But if you read it and feel inspired to add microformats to your own site then I’ve done my job.

In short, the following classes must be added to your index pages (index.php, archive.php, search.php, etc.) and your single post page (single.php) to support the h-entry microformat.

  • h-entry
    • p-name
    • p-author
    • u-url
    • p-summary or e-content
    • dt-published

There are other classes in the spec, and I recommend supporting which ever ones make sense for your site, but if you only had these class names added your HTML, it would be much easier to parse for the little robots that are running around on the web trying to eat your code.

Many WordPress templates wrap posts in an article tag and add classes to it using post_class function. This function adds numerous classes to help you specify things like post-formats, post-types, etc. Supporting h-entry couldn’t be easier since the post_class function allows you to add any classes you’d like on your own. Like this:

<article id="post-<?php the_ID(); ?>" <?php post_class( 'h-entry' ); ?>>

Next, you’ll want to add the p-name and u-url classes to the link that goes to your blog post from the index. That should be easy enough. Mine looks like this but your’s will likely look a bit different. In my case the A tag’s contents contains the post’s name, and the HREF of the A tag is the post’s URL. So I can add both classes to the one element.

<h3><a class="p-name u-url" title="Permalink to <?php the_title_attribute(); ?>" href="<?php the_permalink(); ?>"><?php the_title(); ?></a></h3>

We’re almost there. The next class I needed was dt-published – or the datetime that the post was published. This one may prove to be a bit harder to wrap your head around but here is how I did it.

<time class="dt-published" datetime="<?php echo get_the_date('Y-m-d H:i:s'); ?>"><?php echo get_the_date('F jS, Y'); ?></time>

I used HTML’s time element so that I could take advantage of the datetime attribute. Exactly as the microformats wiki suggests. get_the_date in WordPress accepts PHP’s date formatting arguments (all those weird letters up there) so it didn’t take too long to figure out how to format the datetime correctly. Essentially, I’m formatting the date for machines in the attribute and humans in the contents.

Finally the contents of the post must be marked up. On my indexes I only show an excerpt of the post and on the single page’s I show the entire entry’s contents. So I use p-summary on index and the e-content class on the single post page. This is how my index page’s markup looks.

echo '<div class="p-summary">';
the_excerpt();
echo '</div>';

For my particular use I also needed to mark up statuses or what might be called “notes” on the indieweb wiki. In retrospect “notes” is a far better term since what I post as statuses are more often than not more a note than a status. But, oh well? I think I’m stuck with it for now. For statuses I simply mark up the entire content as both p-name and e-content as suggested by the microformats wiki.

Here are a few examples of each post format, in HTML, that I use on my site.

Status:

<article id="post-3964" class="h-entry post-3964 post type-post status-publish format-status hentry category-uncategorized post_format-post-format-status">                    
 <div class="p-name e-content">
  <p>Scheduled my image posts for the week. I wanted a change so I chose mostly older photos from different locations.</p>
 </div>
 <time class="dt-published" datetime="2016-10-09 08:55:20"><a class="status-date" href="http://cdevroe.com/2016/10/09/3964/" title="Permalink to this status update">8:55am on October 9th, 2016</a></time>
</article>

Image:

<article id="post-3894" class="h-entry post-3894 post type-post status-publish format-image hentry category-uncategorized tag-airplane tag-flying tag-rc tag-scott-township post_format-post-format-image">
 <div class="p-name e-content">
  <p><img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-3895" src="http://cdevroe.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/IMG_4998.jpg" alt="img_4998" srcset="http://cdevroe.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/IMG_4998.jpg 1000w, http://cdevroe.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/IMG_4998-300x200.jpg 300w, http://cdevroe.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/IMG_4998-768x512.jpg 768w" sizes="(max-width: 1000px) 100vw, 1000px" /></p>
  <p>Coming in for a landing, Scott Township, PA &#8211; September 2016</p>
 </div>
 <p class="text-uppercase text-muted"><a class="u-url" title="Permalink to Coming in for a landing, Scott Township, PA &#8211; September 2016" href="http://cdevroe.com/2016/10/09/coming-in-for-a-landing-scott-township-pa-september-2016/">October 9th, 2016</a></p>
</article>

Post on Index:

<article id="post-3945" class="h-entry post-3945 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-uncategorized tag-git tag-github tag-subscriptions tag-youtube">
 <h3><a class="p-name u-url" title="Permalink to Tracking my YouTube subscriptions over time" href="http://cdevroe.com/2016/10/08/tracking-my-youtube-subscriptions-over-time/">Tracking my YouTube subscriptions over time</a></h3>
 <p class="text-uppercase text-muted"><time class="dt-published" datetime="2016-10-08 13:02:22">October 8th, 2016</time></p>
 <div class="p-summary">
  <p>As I wrote late last month, I&#8217;m using YouTube a lot, and so I&#8217;d like to track my subscriptions over time. Git is the best tool for this sort of thing so I quickly jotted my YouTube subscriptions down and put them on Github. To retrieve your own subscriptions you can use YouTube&#8217;s Subscription Manager. [&hellip;]</p>
 </div>
 <p class="text-primary"><a title="Permalink to Tracking my YouTube subscriptions over time" href="http://cdevroe.com/2016/10/08/tracking-my-youtube-subscriptions-over-time/">Read more...</a></p>
</article>

I hope to improve this markup a bit over the coming weeks to support more microformats. But for now I think this will help to make my site’s HTML a bit more readable to our little bot friends.

 

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.

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!

 

Every morning I take a few moments to work on my site. And each day it edges closer to being just “OK”. But that doesn’t stop me from publishing. Personal sites are always a work-in-progress.

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.

We know better now

Manton Reece, on his blog, on podcasting lock-in, the open web, silos, and more:

While the open web still exists, we really dropped the ball protecting and strengthening it. Fewer people’s first choice for publishing is to start a web site hosted at their own domain. Like the destruction of Pennsylvania Station, sometimes you only know in hindsight that you’ve made a mistake. We were so caught up in Twitter and Facebook that we let the open web crumble. I’m not giving up — I think we can get people excited about blogging and owning their own content again — but it would have been easier if we had realized what we lost earlier.

He’s right. I got caught up in Twitter, Facebook, etc. and put so much effort into those that I lost the spark for my site. Even though I’ve had once since the 90s. I’ve reignited that spark by posting first to my site and then allowing that content to go out through those networks.

However, I could totally see a future where I don’t share to those networks at all again.

Observations about “tweeting” from my site

It is hard to believe that it has been over 6 weeks since I began posting status messages from my site rather than through Twitter or Facebook. Here was my first status update. Here are some observations that I’ve made:

  • I figured out my process of updating, and replying, within about 10 days and have only made subtle changes since.
  • I’ve only had one or two people complain about the fact that every tweet or Facebook update contains a link even if there is no more content to find on the site. Even so, once Barley 2 is finished I’ll drop IFTTT for my own custom solution which will ditch that link unless it is needed.
  • I do not check Twitter nearly as often. Usually twice per day or so. I catch-up on Twitter in bulk using Tweetbot on my iPad the most. I hope Tweetbot never goes algorithmic.
  • My status updates are far more informal and personal. Sort of like Twitter in 2006-2008 before every tweet had to feel like a well-written press release. I’m now more apt to share the shirt I’m wearing or my opinion on hotel sheet tucking. Some may not like this, I love it.
  • I’ve only shared a photo in a status update once or twice. Here is an example. I do not know if I’ll ever share photos in a status update again or not but I’d really like to. One thing that keeps me from doing it is that IFTTT doesn’t send that photo off to the networks. Perhaps my custom solution will.
  • All of my status updates currently have a “title” that you can’t see. And I have to manually edit it on mobile. With Barley 2 I will be able to remove the need for a title since WordPress supports title-less posts. I think.
  • I didn’t lose a single subscriber to my RSS feed as a result of including these status updates in it (that I know of).
  • I sort of wish I had a private version of my site so that I could update my status 10-times as often without annoying anyone simply to have a searchable history of these types of thoughts and observations. In fact, I may do exactly that. Or, I could turn off Twitter/FB/RSS unless I tag a post with a specific keyword. Choices.
  • Not being limited to 140-characters comes in handy once-and-a-while.
  • I wish more people did this.

I’m definitely going to continue on. My only regret is that I didn’t do this sooner.

A note about blogging

Great quote from Dave Winer:

A good blog exists independently of people reading it.

 

In dependence

Jeremy Keith has chimed in on the conversation started by Jason Kottke’s “The blog is dead” piece from a few weeks ago with In dependence.

Many of us are feeling an increasing unease, even disgust, with the sanitised, shrink-wrapped, handholding platforms that make it oh-so-easy to get your thoughts out there …on their terms …for their profit.

I’ve written up my thoughts across several posts here, here, and here.

I think the bit I’ve quoted from Keith’s piece is an important distinction to make. Some of the platforms that do make it easier to publish online do not use your content for their benefit like Tumblr and Medium do. WordPress.com (if you pay), Squarespace, Barley CMS, and others, allow you to publish a site easily while managing the hard parts for you. A service most definitely worth paying for. Because, as Jeremy also stated, “Publishing on your own website is still just too damn geeky.”

Squarespace doesn’t make money on your content. They make money on providing an easy to use, solid web publishing service. Tumblr makes money on your content.

If you’re making a decision on what platform to use to publish your content, or build your site with, there are a lot of things to consider. The “network effect” is important for some cases. If I was Time, who already has their own site but needs a way to reach a broader audience with its content, I would agree that they should try to share their content on Tumblr or Instagram. They can leverage those networks to draw people into their main site or apps. And they can do it for far less effort and money than most traditional advertising would afford.

However, if I’m someone that wishes to have an online presence that I completely control, that can be ad-free, and that allows me to publish anything I want whenever I want; I’d look for the following features in that platform:

  • Is the data portable? Meaning, can I both import and export all of my content?
  • Can I pay a fee to make the platform ad-free?
  • Can my URL structure go with me? In other words, if I were to change from one platform to another can I ensure that all of my previous URLs will live on or be redirected to their new locations?
  • Do I trust the owners to do the right thing if/when they should go out of business or be acquired by another company?

This discussion over the last few weeks has caused me to add a few features to the Barley CMS near-term roadmap even though customers are not even asking for them at this point. First, make data import / export something the customer can do easily on their own. We have the tools internally to import from and export to a few popular platforms and schemas but we’ve never made those tools available to the user because, so far, our customers require a bit of handholding for these action. We should and will make this something the customer can do on their own without contacting us. Second, adding support for things like webmentions. I can almost guarantee that none of Barley’s customers will ever ask for this but I think we should do it anyway. It is a great feature for any publishing platform to support.

I’ve said it before but I’m very happy that this discussion is happening, out in the open, and that so many smart people are chatting about blogging again.

My island on this ocean

Me, over four years ago:

As it stands I post what I’m currently doing to Twitter, I am testing out Pownce with mobile blogging, events, links, and files, I post mobile phone photos to Flickr (as well as the occasional screenshot), videos go on Viddler, bookmarks end up on Ma.gnolia, tasting notes end up on Cork’d, and my thoughts on Appleproducts find their way toTUG.n.

What a difference four years can make! Pownce, Ma.gnolia, Cork’d, TUG.n, all gone. Flickr rarely gets my attention. Twitter is still here but is changing policies more often than I change my shirt. Viddler, I’m very proud to say, is stronger than ever but is certainly a much different service than it was then.

The Internet is like the open ocean and what we publish seems to be on a life raft simply going along for the ride.Yet our personal websites seem to be like small islands in this ocean. Sure, their beaches may change from time-to-time but the island remains – like a beacon to all travelers that we’re still here – somewhere to always come back to as these rafts take on water and eventually sink into the deep.

This environment forces me to rethink, yet again, how and where I publish on the web. This internal debate seems to be one that keeps coming up, over and over, year after year, as the ocean of the Internet ebbs and flows.

Should I simply post everything that I publish directly to this site and nowhere else? Do I cross post things to this site and also onto other services? Do I simply link back to this site from those services? Do I syndicate to those services with their own accounts (like I do now on Twitter and Facebook for this site)? Do I post some content here and some content elsewhere?

Believe it or not, and you may think I’m crazy, but these questions plague me all of the time. I constantly struggle with this. And I never seem to muster the conviction to make a hard choice and so I’ve got content everywhere; Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, the brand-new App.net, Flickr, a little on Google , and so on.

Why does it take conviction to limit myself to only posting on this site? Because there is a pull and a need to share this content with as many people as possible. With nearly 2,000 followers on Twitter, a few hundred on Instagram, friends and family on Flickr, etc. it is hard to limit the exposure of this content. I want people to see what I’m publishing. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. This site, as it stands, only has a relatively small audience. Some of my posts get views in the single digits, others, in the hundreds of thousands. So I can never really be sure how many people are paying attention. That is why it takes conviction. I have to be OK with the fact that maybe, just maybe, no one will notice. And maybe, just maybe, no one will care.

I think I’ve gotten to that point. Even as I write this I’m coming around to the idea that I don’t really need anyone to read this post. And if they do read it I’d much rather them read it here than on Facebook or Google . Whether or not I choose to publish here on my site or elsewhere doesn’t really matter at all to anyone but me. And I want to publish to my site. So I should publish in a way that makes me happy, right?

There is an upside to making this a hard, line-in-the-sand choice. If anything I post is shared around the web it will point back to my website. My island. Some have built up enormous followings on Twitter and Instagram. What happens when they go away or change? I’d much rather people remember me for my website than for my Instagram stream.

So what does this mean? Well, I’ve thought about it. And I’m still going to tweet. Though probably far less. Twenty-five thousand plus tweets so far and counting. My entire family and most of my close friends are on Twitter. And, using Twitter Lists, I’m able to get a lot of value from this service. Far more than any other. However, I’m done with Facebook, Google , Flickr, ADN and Instagram (even though I love Instagram). Everything that I publish is going to be on this site. Follow, don’t follow, it is up to you.

Do you deal with this struggle? I’d love to read about how you’re dealing with it on Hacker News.

Some have asked if they’ll be able to stay subscribed to this site via Twitter and Facebook. Yes, you will. As long as their policies allow for it. And also RSS if you’re a nerd like me.

Jeffrey Zeldman: The vanishing personal site

Jeffery Zeldman on the trend of personal sites, or the one-stop URL for each person’s published goods online, going the way of the dinosaur and how more and more people are publishing their goods on many different services.

I’d be remiss not to mention my goal of Bringing it all together and how I’m getting pretty close to my personal online publishing Utopia.

Jeremy Keith wrote about his personal efforts, and the efforts of a few others, and how the strategies all differ. It seems that there are few different ways to go about “bringing it all together”, you just have to choose which one you like the best.  Here is a short list:

  • Publish only on your own site.
  • Publish everywhere but aggregate back to your site.
  • Publish everywhere but link from your site.

There might be a few strategies I am missing, but these seem to be the most common I’ve seen lately.  I am attempting to live by the first strategy on the list, though things like Twitter I tend to keep on Twitter.

What strategy will you choose?