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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

The Apple Watch is less obtrusive than a phone

Jeremy Keith:

I’m always shocked when I’m out and about with someone who has their phone set up to notify them of any activity—a mention on Twitter, a comment on Instagram, or worst of all, an email. The thought of receiving a notification upon receipt of an email gives me the shivers.

Me too.

I thought this might be a good time to bring this topic of notifications back up. Not only because Jeremy wrote about it but also because I now own an Apple Watch – which may seem counter intuitive to this whole distraction free discussion.

However, I’ve found the Apple Watch to be a lovely little device that can easily be set up to unobtrusively notify you of important things. In fact, I believe it is less obtrusive than an mobile phone.

I have a few notifications turned on for my phone:

  • Text messages – I get very few of these
  • Calendar reminders – I live by these
  • Dark Sky rain alerts – I like to keep dry
  • Night Sky condition and object alerts – I heart the universe

I am not notified of any social network activity or emails. Those things I dive into when I feel like it.

With this set up I feel I’m very rarely distracted by a notification. And now with the Watch, I can say I’m less distracted during a conversation with the persons in front of me physically.

Here is a scenario: you’re have a chat with someone and you get a text message alert. Your phone either makes an audible noise or it vibrates and the screen illuminates. The other person saw and/or heard the alert. So now they know your brain is wondering what that alert could be. Even if you don’t break eye contact with that other person, they know and you know you have a message waiting. With the Apple Watch I get a gentle tap on the wrist when I’ve gotten a text message. The screen does not illuminate. The other person doesn’t know I’ve gotten an alert. I’m able to stay present and check the alert when there is a break in the conversation. In this way, I think the Apple Watch is less obtrusive than a phone.

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.

Jeremy Keith on JSON Feed

Jeremy Keith:

I don’t know if syndication feeds have yet taken on their final form, but they’re the canonical example of 927ing.

🙂

See also.

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.

Looking beyond launch

Jeremy Keith regarding Clearleft’s upcoming rebrand:

I think it’s good to remember that this is the web. I keep telling myself that we’re not unveiling something carved in stone. Even after the launch we can keep making the site better. In fact, if we wait until everything is perfect before we launch, we’ll probably never launch at all.

This is precisely what we thought when we redid Condron Media’s site this week. It is no where near complete. It works. It works on all screen sizes. And it was enough to get started. We plan on releasing new content, updates to the messaging, and even new page layouts each week for many weeks.

Resilient Web Design

Jeremy Keith:

Resilient Web Design is a short book. It’s between sixteen and seventeen megawords long. You could read the whole thing in a couple of hours. Or—because the book has seven chapters—you could take fifteen to twenty minutes out of a day to read one chapter and you’d have read the whole thing done in a week.

Can’t beat the price. I’ve already dug in a little. Hoping to dig in a bit more during this snowy weekend.

Google’s AMP is a gilded cage

Terence Eden:

If, like me, you made the mistake of trying out AMP on your website – you’re in a tricky position if you try to remove it. Google doesn’t like anything leaving its clutches.

I appreciate nothing about AMP. In fact, I don’t click any links that use it in protest.

/via Jeremy Keith.

Tweeting for 10 years

Last week Jeremy Keith reminded me, yet again, of an anniversary I share with him. That is, we’ve now both been tweeting for 10 years. Here is my first tweet.

Jeremy beat me by 6 days and only 5,000 tweets. Can you believe that back then only 5,000 tweets were sent in 6 days? These days I’d guess that 5,000 tweets happen a few thousand times per second. And tomorrow, on Election Day, you can guarantee millions of tweets per second.

Jeremy reflects on the early days and also on some of the things that changed over time. Please, please go read his post. But I’ll expound slightly on what he’s written.

Most notably this bit:

The most obvious sign of change was the way that Twitter started treating third-party developers. Where they previously used to encourage and even promote third-party apps, the company began to crack down on anything that didn’t originate from Twitter itself. That change reflected the results of an internal struggle between the people at Twitter who wanted it to become an open protocol (like email), and those who wanted it to become a media company (like Yahoo). The media camp won.

If you listened to audio bit E8, wherein Danny and I chat about Twitter, one of my suggestions for Twitter is to go back to this. To go back to supporting third-party development. We chatted about the whacky uses of Twitter (like drawbridges, plants that need watering, etc.) but there are very, very practical uses too.

But now, just a few weeks later, I do not feel that would be enough to save Twitter. And I do mean save it. It is dying. It will go away. I do not see anyone coming in to rescue it at this point. In fact, if someone does step up to the plate to try to rescue it, it may be the wrong entity to do so and it may get worse.

Jeremy has a leg up on me that I do not have. He posts his “tweets” first at his site and syndicates to Twitter. Well, I do too. However, I don’t only post to my site. I tweet. A lot. It is a hard habit for me to break. I love tweeting during sporting events. I love even more tweeting during tech events like Apple’s Media and WWDC events or Microsoft’s Build events or rocket launches. In context they are fun, sometimes funny, sometimes informative to follow those conversations happening on Twitter. If I published those particular notes to my site first they’d be in a silo of sorts and out of context. Someone stumbling upon them would have no idea what I was talking about. So do I just not write those tweets any more?

Unlike Jeremy I will be sad if Twitter goes away. It has been part of my life for 10 years and I think it is the best social network we have going. But, like Jeremy, I’ll keep posting here. Because my site will be around for as long as possible.

Now I just need to break the habit of posting tweets to Twitter.

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.

My #FollowFriday recommendations

Today I decided to go through the list of accounts that I follow on Twitter and cherry-pick those I think others should consider following and why. I’ve tweeted all of the suggestions but I also wanted to catalog them here on my blog.

Update, September 23, 2016:

These are just a few of the Twitter accounts that I’m currently following. The accounts that I follow change all the time. But my general goal is to have a timeline that continues to inspire me to make and share.

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.

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.

Idle Words

I had no idea that Maciej Cegłowski, operator of Pinboard, had a personal blog chocked full of great writing. Did you? How did I miss this?

I’m only now aware of this due to Jeremy Keith’s writing about Maciej’s Kickstarter. He’s looking to travel to Antarctica and write about the experience.

At first I thought… why can’t he fund himself? Then I saw it was a 36-day trip that is going where not too many people go.

Most Antarctic tourism is limited to voyages along the Antarctic Penninsula lasting just a few days. Only about 350 tourists a year visit the Ross Sea, an area of immense historical and natural interest reachable only from New Zealand. Due to the great expense of the trip, I’m asking for a small donation from interested readers.

Well OK then. *gets wallet out*

Thanks for sharing Jeremy.

Jeremy Keith wrote 100 words for 100 days

What an amazing feat by Jeremy Keith:

I missed the daily deadline once. I could make the excuse that it was a really late night of carousing, but I knew in advance that I was going to be out so I could’ve written my 100 words ahead of time—I didn’t.

I didn’t go twelve days before missing my first day and here I am several weeks in having missed several days. I utterly failed. So I applaud Jeremy with a long, slow clap.

I realised a few weeks into the project that the piece of software I was writing in (and relying on for an accurate word count) was counting hyphenated phrases as one word. So the phrase “dog-eat-dog world” was counted as two words, not four.

On the Mac I was using the Evernote client to count the number of words my posts were. On iOS I had to use Simplenote since Evernote didn’t show word count there (ahem, Evernote team!). After writing a few posts on my iPad I realized that Simplenote was counting the title in with the post count. So there are a few that are off by 3 words. Oh well.

Most of the posts used observations from that day for their subject matter—diary-like slices of life.

I read every single post Jeremy wrote and I really enjoyed each one.

Since I failed so miserably I may not continue to even try but, rather, move onto something far more different for me in my blogging. First, though, I need to reflect on why I failed so miserably at this simple task — given that I have written daily on my blog without issue several other times.

The answer that comes to mind first is the issue of writing on weekends. I generally write on my computer. I seldom write on my blog using a mobile device or a tablet. Barley works great on these devices and I could have done so… but it simply isn’t what I do. Even if I was using a different application or service I still wouldn’t write on weekends. So I think I set myself up for failure. (Side note: I saw Jeremy would do anything to get his post up. So I have no excuse at all.)

Either way (whether or not I continue) I think what Jeremy did was amazing. Kudos.

Two needs for deep linking

What are Deep Links? Scott Rosenberg recently wrote a piece on Backchannel on Medium about Deep Links. He wrote:

Deep linking means to bore a wormhole-tunnel that hops you directly from a specific spot in one app to a spot in another, no side trip to a browser or a home screen needed.

You get it. If you have Swarm and Foursquare or Facebook and Messenger installed you get pushed from one application to another all the time. Facebook forces you to send private messages via Messenger and Foursquare forces you to check-in via Swarm. So, if you’re in one app and need to do one of those tasks it “deep links” you from one application to another.

Sort of like a hyperlink on the web goes from one web page to another.

Rosenberg goes on to state why he thinks they’ve failed (so far). Here is my reason:

They aren’t discoverable. They can’t easily be found, written, or shared. You may see one from time-to-time. For example, if you click on a Periscope link on Twitter you will be asked to open Periscope to view the live video stream. This is a “deep link”. And, the URL for the deep link looks sort of familiar but also foreign and weird. It is typically something like pscp://broadcast/2034390

To me that reads; open Periscope to this broadcast.

Wouldn’t it be cool if I could hand-write some Periscope links to send people to one of my broadcasts? A friend’s broadcast? Or my profile? I asked Periscope about this 3 days ago on Twitter. No response from them.

I think if “deep links” could be more easily written and shared we’d see a huge increase in their usage.

Note: I found Rosenberg’s Medium piece via Jeremy Keith.

Edited for content and clarity on October 11, 2016. Essentially I removed my argument that they are poorly named and focused on the much more important issue with deep links; discoverability.

 

100words by Jeremy Keith

HTML 5 is now a W3C Recommendation

This was slated for 2022 at one point. I’m very happy to see things leveling off with this recommendation by the W3C. As Jeremy Keith said in his comments about this event on HTML5 Doctor:

On the one hand, it doesn’t really matter whether HTML5 is W3C recommendation or not. After all, what really matters to developers is what they can use in browsers today. So, from that perspective, the way the WHATWG views HTML as a “Living Standard” makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, it’s awfully nice to have some stability in the ever-changing world of web standards and browsers. That’s where the W3C provides balance. They are the yin to the WHATWG’s yang. HTML5 reaching recommendation status provides a welcome punctuation in the ongoing story of the most important format ever created.

“the most important format ever created”

That sums it up.

 

Move the web forward

Jeremy Keith, on his personal blog:

It is entirely possible—nay, desirable—to use features long before they are supported in every browser. That’s how we move the web forward. If we waited until there was universal support for a feature before we used it, we’d still be using CSS 1.0 and HTML 2.0.

We agree. For our broad features we do our best to make sure our services work in the widest array of browsers possible. However, we are not afraid, nor will ever hold back from, using the most cutting edge features of the web simply because some percentage of people using old terminals at their desk job can’t use them.

Move the web forward.

 

Communication for America

Jeremy’s title. Not mine.

Jeremy Keith chimes in about remote work (see last post) and the advantages the “time shift” can have when working on large client projects:

As it turned out, it wasn’t a problem at all. In fact, it worked out nicely. At the end of every day, we had a quick conference call, with two or three people at our end, and two or three people at their end. For us, it was the end of the day: 5:30pm. For them, the day was just starting: 9:30am.

We’d go through what we had been doing during that day, ask any questions that had cropped up over the course of the day, and let them know if there was anything we needed from them. If there was anything we needed from them, they had the whole day to put it together while we went home. The next morning (from our perspective), it would be waiting in our in/drop-boxes.

In the very late part of the last century and into this one I worked with an entire team in India on a software project. When things were really cooking we also found a similar groove where I’d come into work each day to a pile of work having been accomplished by that team, some questions, comments, feedback, and stuff I could deal with. I’d work through it during the day and send it back. It was like project tennis and it forced each team to deliver something almost every single day. It worked great.