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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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 I do not publish here and syndicate everywhere.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!

 

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.

Twitter’s problem

I already quoted Gary this morning but I might as well do it again. In Daily Vee #29 (go right to the moment here) he said:

I know that 8 years ago if I said “follow my friend Joel, he’s awesome” 2,000 people would do that when I had 7,000 followers and now 37 will do that when I have 1.2 million followers.

This is it in a nutshell. Twitter’s “problem”. I remember in 2007 being able to tweet, at a bar in Philadelphia, “I need a beer” and someone bringing me one within a few minutes. I likely had less 200 followers then. I have 3,000+ now and no one is listening to me at all on there.

I don’t know exactly how to fix Twitter’s issues. I have ideas, of course, but I don’t know how to fix this problem; everyone is on Twitter that matters already and yet nothing is happening on there. And yet everything is. What a weird situation!

But, why did you unfollow me?

Please do not be alarmed if you’ve noticed that I have unfollowed you on the Twitter. It isn’t because I do not like you. It is, again, because I’m refactoring the way that I handle Lists on Twitter.

The unfortunate consequence of this most recent refactoring, though, is that if you have a private account I may no longer be able to follow you on Twitter. Twitter does not currently allow me to add your account to a list if we don’t follow each other.

Update: Why am I refactoring? This is why.

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.

RSS to Twitter using PHP

Update January 19, 2010: This script is now available on GitHub. Go forth and fork.

Today I noticed that my now ancient PHP script to update Twitter automatically using PHP/cron needed to be updated. It turns out that Twitter stopped recognizing URLs with ? in them as clickable links. Here is an example tweet where you’ll notice this happening.

I could have told Twitter and asked that they update the way they handle URLs but in reality my script was old, slow, too long, and shouldn’t include ? anyway so I figured I’d write a new one from scratch that included my short URL scheme.

So, here is the PHP script to parse an RSS feed and send the posts to Twitter. It includes a caching mechanism so that you won’t have duplicate URLs posted to Twitter. If you want it, take it. However, if you are better than I am at PHP (most 6yr. olds are better than I am at programming) then I ask that you fork the script on Gist and try to improve it.

Update Dec. 6 @ 5:34p: Kyle Slattery, follow Viddler team member, loves him some Ruby on Rails. As such he’s offered up this version of the script rewritten in Ruby.

Next up we have Anthony Sterling, self-proclaimed “PHP addict”, who has rewritten the script to make the configuration a bit easier. He also changed the way the cache is saved. He’s using a hashed version of the title for each post as his key. I do not believe this to be the best way to go, since post titles can easily change after publishing – but I do like that the script is about 20 lines shorter and the code is arguably cleaner.

Thanks to both Kyle and Anthony for their versions. Lets keep this going and see if we can get this script much more succinct, stable, faster, and usable by others?