2014/09/17 4:31 pm

Maybe I do need a day phone and a night phone. In the evenings I’ll use the too-big-for-pockets iPhone 6 Plus, and when leaving the house I’ll take… the 3.5-inch iPhone 4S. The future is on the extremes.

Microblog links

Brent Simmons points to my post on microblogs and asks:

“Is the web we lost gone forever? Was it a brief golden age before the rise of Facebook and Twitter and The Algorithms of Engagement?”

But he quickly follows with an alternate view: that it’s a blip and we’ll get back on track. And that’s what I believe.

Instead of accepting a common opinion that Twitter is slowly replacing RSS readers, we should flip that around. What kind of changes could be made to RSS readers to embrace microblogging and make Twitter itself less important? Because once we do that, we get back control of our own short-form content and at the same time encourage open tools that will survive independent of whatever happens with Twitter and Facebook in the future.

I received some other great feedback about defining what it means to be a microblog post. One question that I didn’t address is links. Noah Read writes:

“It has consistently annoyed me that Twitter and App.net’s links count against my character count. It seems to run counter to what I love about microblogging, carefully chosen words communicating a succinct idea. I often have a pretty good tweet composed and then I paste in the link to a site or image and have to rework the whole thing.”

And David Ely says that a microblog post…

“Contains a single thought, a link with short commentary, or a photo with a caption.”

Whereas a full blog post would often contain multiple links. Certainly a lot of what is posted to Twitter and Facebook is just a single link with short commentary.

I also noticed recently that Dave Winer’s Radio3 includes links in the text when tweeting, but in the RSS feed the text and the link are split out. The URL goes in the RSS item’s link tag. While this is easy enough to support in tools, it’s surprising if you consider the link part of the content, not metadata. (I also expect inline HTML links to become even more common.)

2014/09/16 8:31 pm

Made it down to Houndstooth for Cafe Bedouins for the first time in months, maybe all year. Austin is getting a serious rain tonight, but it let up a little for the drive.

Lost in the wilderness

Great post by Gus Mueller on losing your way in a project:

“Maybe you’ve been making foundational changes to your app. You’ve been spending time cleaning up your code, rewriting those hacks you’ve been wanting to fix for years now. Or you’re targeting a new SDK and there’s all these deprecated methods to replace. So while important change is happening, you don’t seem to be moving forward. You look up and all of a sudden notice this has been going on for weeks and you’ve been standing still all this time, and now you’re standing still for no reason at all. And you’re lost in the wilderness.”

I work on several apps throughout the week, evenings, and weekend. Most people would say: too many apps. The only way I can possible keep up is if every minute that I’m at the keyboard I’m productive, on the right path to finishing the project. Usually I can do it. But even so, I frequently fall into exactly the wilderness Gus describes, losing valuable time off in the weeds on things that just don’t matter.

The difference between those who can ship apps and those who indefinitely have a great idea that’s never complete often comes down to how much time we’re lost in the wilderness. By giving it a name we can recognize when it happens and hopefully recover more quickly.

2014/09/15 5:17 pm

I should stop writing this blog post complaining about people who complain about U2. Lots of real work to do.

Defining a microblog post

I’m working on a new project around timelines and microblogs. It consumes RSS feeds, so I’ve been wondering how strict to be when accepting posts. What does microblog mean, anyway?

Wikipedia defines it this way:

“Microblogging is a broadcast medium that exists in the form of blogging. A microblog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically smaller in both actual and aggregated file size.”

But that’s not quite specific enough. From my perspective, a microblog post has these qualities:

  • Must have an RSS feed.
  • Does not have an RSS item title.
  • Contains short post text, 280 characters or less.

Not having an RSS item title might take some getting used to for mainstream blogging clients and readers. Most RSS apps assume that all posts have a title, even though titles are technically optional in the spec. But I think this is an important distinction because if you think about Twitter-like posting, it should be fast and convenient; making up a title first interrupts the flow of posting.

I picked 280 characters instead of App.net’s 256 characters because it’s slightly less nerdy, and feels right at exactly double Twitter’s 140. This should be thought of as more of a guideline than a rule, though — just something to shoot for.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your feedback. Post to your own blog and then send me an email.

2014/09/11 4:12 pm

Fixed the RSS feeds. Turns out they were returning valid RSS but with an HTTP 404 header. After fighting with mod_rewrite, I ended up hacking the fix into WordPress.