Monthly Archives: June 2017

I’ll admit it. I’ve checked a few times today if the latest Planet of the Apps episode is out yet.

→ 2017/06/20 4:38 pm

Fixed inconsistency between conversation threads on the web vs. the Micro.blog iOS app. Much better.

→ 2017/06/20 3:58 pm

Uber’s perpetual second chance

Last week, Uber sent an email to customers linking to the results of its investigation and the next steps for the company:

After a report of inexcusable workplace harassment surfaced earlier this year, our board and senior leadership took immediate action. They asked former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and experts from the law firm Covington & Burling to conduct a thorough investigation. After four months of review, this week they released their report, which you can read here.

People always deserve a second chance. Companies, not so much. I see no reason to use Uber again, especially when there are now many ride-sharing apps that are just as good.

Uber had a strong brand, and now they’ve undermined it. Uber had the best user experience, and now most ride-sharing apps have matched it.

Uber is still in more cities, but that’s less of an advantage than I first assumed. Austin went without Uber and Lyft for a year and the city’s roads didn’t descend into chaos. It was fine.

Maybe ride-sharing is a winner-take-all market as Ben Thompson has convincingly argued. But maybe ride-sharing is just one commodity feature in the future of transportation, and as these services are integrated into larger platforms like Apple Maps and Google Maps, Uber’s dominance will fade just as their differentiation has faded. (On the extreme side of this, some competition to Uber such as RideAustin already treat the infrastructure as nothing special, operating as a non-profit to serve drivers and riders.)

It may seem foolish to bet against a company with billions of dollars in revenue, but Uber has little competitive advantage in software to show for the huge investment and current loses. They have more drivers, but with frequent turnover, how loyal are those drivers? I took a ride with Fasten and my driver thought that signing up and driving with Fasten was so similar to Uber that perhaps Uber was even secretly running it.

Uber reminds me of the Trump campaign and administration: mistake after mistake, and they get away with it. But at some point the second chances have run out, and the problems will stick and have real consequences, taking the whole thing down.

Companies are not always built to last. Sometimes it’s unfair — products that never find the right customers despite the founders’ best intentions. But sometimes companies deserve to fail — mismanagement, bad products, and toxic culture.

Companies fail all the time. I hope everyone at Uber is ready with a new job when it’s Uber’s turn.

What to post to a microblog

On the surface, an independent microblog might seem a lot like a Twitter account. There are some important differences: you own your own content, you can use Markdown or HTML for styled text, and you aren’t limited to 140 characters. An indie microblog can be just as easy to use as Twitter, but more flexible since it lives at your own web site, even with your own domain name.

So you’ve created a Micro.blog account or chosen to set up your own blog. How should you use your own microblog compared to Twitter or Instagram? Here are some ideas:

  • Use it the same as Twitter. Write short posts on your own microblog and cross-post them to Twitter. This is essentially what I do. If what I want to say fits naturally in 140 characters, it goes to Twitter as-is and followers can reply or like it there. If it’s a little longer, Micro.blog automatically truncates the tweet and links back to my blog.
  • Use it instead of tweetstorms. If you find yourself trying to express a thought and it’s going to take 2-3 tweets, consider posting it to your own microblog instead. Micro.blog suggests a limit of 280 characters. It’s still short enough that it encourages quick, easy posting, but it’s long enough that you can use it for much more well-formed posts.
  • Use it for a photoblog. I’ve noticed some pushback against Instagram as they add more ads, clutter the UI with Snapchat features, and move away from a simple reverse-chronological timeline. I want to make Micro.blog a great alternative for photo-blogging, which is why you can discover users from photos and there’s a UI for filters and cropping. You can see all my photos here.
  • Use it for a linkblog. Link-style blogging is for short commentary about another article, usually with a link at the end pointing to the other web site. Since microblogs are based on Markdown or HTML, you can also include inline links, which makes the blog posts look clean and readable on your own site. Micro.blog’s cross-posting will automatically parse out the link and append it to the tweet version of the post.
  • Use it for company news. Because it can be integrated into an existing full blog or web site, a microblog is a convenient format for posting updates about your business or industry topics you care about. This is why Micro.blog allows custom domain names and also offers the Sidebar.js include.

Of course there’s no single correct way to blog. I’ve enjoyed watching Micro.blog users try different approaches to microblogging to figure out what works best for them.

Since I can’t be at IndieWebSummit next weekend, thinking up some IndieWeb-related improvements to Micro.blog I can work on. Micropub and Webmention support could still be improved.

→ 2017/06/18 11:44 am

Glad we finally switched to AT&T’s unlimited wireless plan. With 5 phones, we kept going over, and it removes any worry when tethering.

→ 2017/06/17 11:38 am

Still not using Uber and wasn’t even going to write about them, but a conversation at lunch sparked some more thoughts. I’ll post on Monday.

→ 2017/06/16 5:27 pm

The algorithm has ruined Facebook

Dave Winer writes today about how because of the way the Facebook news feed works, sometimes you never seem to hear from friends again because they’re demoted by the algorithm. Your friends are posting, but you never see what they’re saying. Also:

For other people you are a missing person. You being the person who dutifully informs all your Facebook friends of what’s going on in your life. You, the friend they never seem to think of. No surprise they’re not thinking of you. The Algorithm decided you don’t count.

If you want to see this in action, visit Facebook in a web browser and see what it shows you. Don’t scroll or click anything, just wait a few seconds and hit reload. Then hit reload again. And again. Each time you’re presented with a completely different view of what’s important. It’s unusable.

Jeremy Keith on Presentable and the IndieWeb

I know there are so many great podcasts that it’s difficult to listen to everything. I’m still making my way through all the commentary about WWDC. But I just finished Jeff Veen’s Presentable episode 25 this week and particularly enjoyed it.

Jeff talked to Jeremy Keith about his new web design book, and about the web industry repeating the same old mistakes, with a really great discussion about the IndieWeb. When asked about how people prefer to post on a social network, because maybe fewer people will find their own site, Jeremy said:

I always get frustrated when people talk about this as a reason not to do something. For me, that was the whole point of the web — that nobody was stopping you. You’re right, maybe nobody will read this thing that I’ve published, but I could publish it and nobody was stopping me. To see people stop themselves, to act as their own gatekeeper…

There’s much more that I can’t capture in a truncated quote. Highly recommend listening to the full interview in context.

Core Intuition 286

We just posted a new episode of Core Intuition. From the show notes:

Manton and Daniel compare notes on recent MacBook Pro repairs and the relative merit of purchasing AppleCare. They react to Tim Cook’s admissions that an Apple “car” project exists and is still underway. Manton looks on the bright side of “Planet of the Apps,” and Daniel looks on the dark side. Finally, they talk briefly about the controversy around an excerpt from “One Device,” by Brian Merchant.

There’s still a lot to cover from WWDC. It’s a good time to be a Mac or iOS developer.

I didn’t quit a great job 2 years ago to go work on something I didn’t believe in. If Instagram is cool with copying Snapchat, showing more ads, and never improving their API… Hey, welcome to Facebook. I’d rather work on things that I think matter.

→ 2017/06/14 10:47 pm

Interesting how much leeway we give to Instagram because their 1.0 was so great. API that doesn’t allow posting? Should be unacceptable.

→ 2017/06/14 9:41 pm

What’s happening

Because I don’t follow anyone on Twitter, about once a week I’ll randomly click through a few Twitter user profiles to see if I missed anything interesting. Usually the answer is no. If something important is happening, it’s also being discussed in more detail on blogs, and I’ll see it.

Yesterday I checked on the last tweets of a few developer friends who stopped posting either after the election or on inauguration day. I have a lot of respect for anyone who makes a quiet, peaceful stand on principle. It’s not easy to go against the flow.

The 2016 election was a disaster. It still hurts to think about it. I keep telling myself and others: heads down, keep working. I have to believe we can get through this.

Today another story exploded on Twitter: a shooting at a congressional baseball practice. If you had clicked through from the trending links on Twitter this morning you’d have seen the worst speculation, misinformed partisan tweets, and unhelpful “facts” before we knew what really happened. When we should all be striking a solemn tone for the injured, the tweets instead quickly turn dark.

For a service that prides itself on breaking news, Twitter is an absolute dumpster fire in times like this. The best of Twitter is the thoughtful tweets and discussion, connecting new friends and diverse opinions. When real news breaks, the service runs uncontrolled, in fits of nervous energy and hate. It’s a terrible place.

Micro.blog will never have trends, search, or even retweets until we can elegantly solve this. The world doesn’t need another platform with so much manipulative power.

Today’s update to Reeder for iOS includes initial support for JSON Feed. This is my default feed reader, so very happy to see this.

→ 2017/06/14 1:16 pm