Category Archives: Weblogs

Micro.blog to Medium

Micro.blog has always supported cross-posting to Twitter. Write a post on your own blog, and Micro.blog will send it to Twitter with a bunch of great default logic like attaching photos, appending inline links, and smart truncation so that tweets look great.

Today we’re adding Medium as a supported cross-posting destination. At first I had resisted adding Medium because Medium might be someone’s primary blog, so it made more sense for you to post directly to Medium yourself and then add the RSS feed to Micro.blog, so that posts show up in the Micro.blog timeline.

But recently Medium discontinued support for custom domain names. And if you can’t even have a domain name for your blog, it’s clear that Medium is much less a true blogging platform and really just a social network for long-form content. It’s a very poor solution for anyone who wants to own their content, but it’s now a natural choice to cross-post your blog posts and reach Medium’s audience.

When you enable Micro.blog cross-posting to Medium, Micro.blog takes the HTML of your post and sends it to Medium. It supports titled essays or short microblog posts without a title. If your blog is hosted on Micro.blog, cross-posting is included for free. For external blogs like WordPress, it’s $2/month for cross-posting to Twitter and Medium.

I’m looking forward to hearing how people use Medium with their microblog and what improvements we can make. Thanks for your support! (Here’s how this post looks on Medium.)

Micro.blog theme updates

Over the last couple of days we’ve shipped a few improvements to Micro.blog. There’s an update to the Mac version with some bug fixes and better support for showing the title field when you’re writing a longer blog post. The default themes have been updated too.

It’s also much easier to preview themes for your microblog. Under your account there’s now a “Preview Themes” button that lets you click through and test out the themes. Here’s a 10-second screencast recording to show how it works:

Interview on Colin Devroe’s blog

Colin Devroe interviewed me about Micro.blog:

Yesterday I volleyed back and forth via email with Manton Reece, the founder and creator of Micro.blog. Micro.blog is in that same relatively early stage where new features are released with regularity, where the community is growing steadily, and where the users have the strongest voice.

I’m happy with how the interview turned out. It’s one of the best summaries of what we’re trying to do with Micro.blog, all in one place. Hope you like it.

Update on microblogging with WordPress

I wrote a short guide on microblogging with WordPress over a year before Micro.blog was opened to Kickstarter backers. A few things have changed since then, so it’s time for an update.

There’s now a long introduction to WordPress and Micro.blog over at help.micro.blog. Parts of it are taken from my upcoming book, Indie Microblogging. I’m wrapping up the book for the first part of 2018 and will likely sell it online for anyone who missed the Kickstarter.

Happy Holidays from Micro.blog

Thanks everyone for your support of Micro.blog this year! We’ve come a long way since I launched the Kickstarter campaign for Indie Microblogging back on January 2nd. We really appreciate all the feedback and new users who are embracing Micro.blog.

Yesterday we added another “secret pin” to Micro.blog for the holidays. You can unlock it by posting to your own blog and mentioning Christmas, Hanukkah, or one of a bunch of different winter themes and celebrations for this time of year. (It also works for posts from last week, so you may already have unlocked the pin.)

We love adding pins because it encourages people to blog more, and we hope to do more in 2018. This is also a great time of year to earn the Daily Blogger, Photo Challenge, or Night Owl pins!

Wishing you and your family and friends the best this week. Thanks again for being part of the Micro.blog community.

Inspired to blog

Vincent Ritter has a new post about Micro.blog, and how it’s helped put a focus back on his own blog:

Later this year I finally got my invite through for Micro.blog. Just logging in, seeing the simplicity and the really amazing community of people, I knew this was something special. This ultimately made me rethink my entire site and what I want to do with it.

I created Micro.blog to encourage other people to blog more. It’s working. But I’ve realized it goes both ways: seeing all the great posts out there has inspired me too. Thanks Vincent and everyone who is taking the idea of an indie microblog and running with it.

Blog archive format

As I’ve been improving the import and export functionality in Micro.blog, I’ve done a lot of work with WordPress’s WXR format, which is based on RSS. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with WXR, it’s more complicated than it needs to be for non-WordPress sites, especially when you start to tackle image uploads that exist outside of the post text.

Micro.blog can also push an entire site’s Markdown, HTML, and images to GitHub, which is the most complete mirror and perfect for migrating to another Jekyll server. It introduces so many extra files, though, it’s not reasonable to expect that other blog platforms could support the same level of detail.

I’d be happy to ignore the WordPress-centric nature of WXR and use it as a common blog archive format if WXR provided a mechanism to store image uploads. Helping people migrate from WordPress to Micro.blog-hosted blogs has only emphasized to me that a better format is needed.

In chatting with the IndieWeb community, the idea was proposed that an HTML file using h-feed would provide portability and also an added bonus: it could be opened in any web browser to view your archived site. Images could be stored as files with relative references in the HTML file. (I’d throw in a JSON Feed file, too, so that importers could choose between using a Microformats parser or JSON parser.)

The files would look something like this:

  • index.html
  • feed.json
  • uploads
    • 2017
      • test.jpg

The basics from h-feed would follow this structure:

  • h-feed
    • h-entry
      • p-name
      • e-content
      • dt-published
      • u-url
    • h-entry

Only index.html and feed.json would be required. Any other paths in the archive would be determined by the contents of the HTML. (I’m using “uploads” in this example, but it could just as easily be “archive”, “audio”, or any other set of folders.)

For large sites, the HTML could be split into multiple files with appropriate <link> tags in the header to page through the additional files. While it could contain CSS and your full blog’s design, I’m imagining that the HTML would be extremely lightweight: just enough to capture the posts, not a way to transfer templates and themes between blogs.

The whole folder is zipped and renamed with a .bar extension. Easy to move around and upload all at once. I’ve created an example file here (rename it .zip to open it).

I’d love to hear what you think. I talked about this on a recent episode of Timetable as well. Might be a nice topic to follow up on at IndieWebCamp Austin in 2 weeks.

Mainstream use cases for a microblog

Doug Lane is writing a series of blog posts about what real-world use cases for Micro.blog could help attract more mainstream users to the platform. It starts with this:

One of the biggest challenges that Micro.blog faces with its upcoming public launch is how to make the jump beyond its early adopter base of blog enthusiasts to “regular people”. It’s tempting to daydream about everyone from teenagers to grandmothers abandoning their social media silos en masse and simultaneously raising “Indie Blogger” flags, but that’s probably not realistic.

He then follows up with a few ideas. I think this approach is exactly right: carve out several niches that are perfect for Micro.blog and focus on those in marketing, providing as much value as possible for those users, then expand to more mainstream users from there.

Squarespace actually does a great job at this. The first thing you see when you click sign up — before being prompted to create an account — is to choose a template for your web site. At the very top of the list: a wedding blog and a product catalog.

Squarespace screenshot

Photoblogging and linkblogging are still some of the most common ways people use Micro.blog. From a business perspective, I also like it for product news. Earlier this year I posted some ideas for how to use a microblog.

Kickstarter update on photos, Mac app

I sent an update to Kickstarter backers today. I wanted to point people to the new Mac app for Micro.blog, and also show off some of the great photos that Micro.blog users have been uploading this week as part of the photo challenge. Here’s the email.

Hello Kickstarter backers! Today we’re wrapping up the 7-day photo challenge on Micro.blog. The challenge was a suggestion from the community: @douglane posted to his microblog with themes to inspire more people to take and post photos.

I’ve loved seeing all the new photos. Here are just a handful of the many photos that have been posted over the last week.

Micro.blog photos

We also recently released version 1.0 of the Micro.blog app for macOS Sierra and High Sierra. This is the best Micro.blog user experience yet, with a timeline, posting to your blog, photo upload, and a new Discover section for finding posts and users to follow.

You can download the Mac app here.

Micro.blog screenshot

I’m also continuing work on the Indie Microblogging book. I’ll be sharing more about the book as soon as I can. Thanks for your support!

IndieWebCamp Austin set for December

We’re holding an IndieWebCamp in Austin next month! This is a 2-day event — Saturday and Sunday, December 9th and 10th — for anyone who wants to learn more about the IndieWeb, discuss web standards and tools, or just hack on your own web site. We’re lucky to have IndieWeb co-founders Tantek Çelik and Aaron Parecki in town for the event.

There was another IndieWebCamp in Berlin last week. Neil Mather had a great blog post about his experience there:

It ran over 2 days, with day 1 an unconference with a number of discussions, the topics and schedule decided entirely by participants in the morning. Day 2 was hack day, with everyone working on an indieweb related bit of work, be it on their own website or on a shared project.

IndieWebCamp Austin registration is open now. Tickets are just $5. Looking forward to planning some next steps for Micro.blog over that weekend. Hope to see you there!

WordPress to Micro.blog migration

Over the weekend I opened up a WordPress importer for Micro.blog-hosted sites. Now that Micro.blog can serve as your primary web site — with personal domain name, short and long posts, themes, and pages — some users may want to consolidate their older WordPress blogs to Micro.blog. I’ve just finished a round of testing and bug fixes with a couple sites, including the 2000+ posts on my 15-year-old WordPress blog.

Micro.blog has always had great support for WordPress. If you host on WordPress and want to bring your posts into the Micro.blog timeline, all you have to do is add the WordPress RSS feed. This new importer is for people who want to migrate their whole site to be hosted by Micro.blog, not just mirror posts to the timeline with RSS and continue to use WordPress for hosting.

To access the importer on the web, click on Account → Edit Domains & Design → Import. It will prompt for a WXR file, which you can export from your WordPress site under WP Admin → Tools → Export. WXR stands for “WordPress eXtended RSS”, which is an RSS file with some extra WordPress metadata.

It’s important to note that the WXR contains post text, but not file uploads. To solve this, Micro.blog parses the HTML for all your posts, looking for img tags. It then downloads those referenced photos and adds them to your Micro.blog-hosted site. For this reason, it’s important that you keep your old WordPress site online until the import has finished. (The importer does not currently support WordPress photo galleries.)

If you try the importer, I’d love to hear what you think. And of course you can add a new Micro.blog-hosted site for just $5/month under the “New…” menu.

Micro.blog special pins

For the initial rollout of Micro.blog, we had a bunch of pins you can unlock, to encourage people to blog more. For example, pins that get unlocked after a certain number of blog posts, or when you upload a photo. We also added a couple of new time-based pins for special events, like mentioning “iPhone X” during the Apple event last month.

Today I added a Halloween pin. You can see some of the pins for my account in this screenshot:

pins

I also talked about this on today’s Timetable. Happy blogging! 🎃

Supporting #WomenBoycottTwitter

I’m glad to see #WomenBoycottTwitter getting some traction. Complaints come and go, but a real break sends a stronger message and gives us perspective. I would never have started Micro.blog unless I had spent enough time away from Twitter to see a better way. It’s not enough to just complain.

Very little has changed since I wrote my 10-year Twitter post last year. If you wait for Twitter to solve all the platform’s problems, you’ll be waiting a long time.

Twitter experiments with 280 characters

I had first suggested a 280-character guideline for microblog posts back in 2014. As I’ve said many times since then, and through launching Micro.blog, I believe expanding the limit will make for better conversations, less mangled punctation, yet still remain short enough that it encourages quick posting.

Twitter announced today that they are also experimenting with a 280-character limit! From their blog post:

We understand since many of you have been Tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters – we felt it, too. But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint.

They focus most of the announcement on explaining how the current constraints are different for some languages, like Japanese, which can fit far more words into 140 characters. That’s true, but it glosses over the most important point.

Longer text allows for more thoughtful posts, fewer misinterpreted shouting matches, and Twitter desperately needs to improve the tone of conversations on their platform. I’m a fan of this change.

Tomorrow matters

As I plan for the iPhone X pre-order, I wanted to write a blog post about all the iPhones I’ve bought, and when. I’ve skipped a few generations, and even made some seemingly oddball choices like getting the iPhone 5C when all my friends got the 5S. In the process of searching old blog posts to confirm whether I even bought the 3G or waited for the 3GS, I found this old blog post about WWDC 2008.

In the post I had collected 95 tweets from myself and others during WWDC. This was 9 years ago, so it’s a bit of a blur. But reading them again brings back memories. These old tweets are gold.

If I hadn’t collected the tweets, I would never find them again. And if anything changes at Twitter, they could just as easily be lost. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that you couldn’t go back more than 3200 tweets in your timeline. Searching old tweets is still impossible in third-party Twitter clients.

Obviously I’m all-in on indie microblogging. I post to my own blog and let Micro.blog sort out cross-posting a copy to Twitter. But looking at these old tweets, I’m just struck with how foolish it was to ever post content exclusively to Twitter. It was an assumption that today mattered more than tomorrow, when the opposite is often true.

A photo is the most clear expression of this truth. Taking a photo doesn’t improve the moment. It’s for later.

Twitter in 2008 was a mix of microblogging and conversations. It was writing without pretense, with no expectation of likes and follower counts. It felt ephemeral, and maybe it still does to many Twitter users today. But you never know when you want that fleeting comment to actually last, and if you don’t control the post, there are few guarantees that it will.

Decline and return of indie blogs

In announcing plans to move A List Apart away from advertising, Jeffrey Zeldman writes about the decline of independent web sites:

In recent years, we’ve seen our rich universe of diverse, creative blogs and sites implode—leaving fewer and fewer channels available to new voices. As more content centralizes into a handful of all-powerful networks, there’s a dreary sameness in perspective and presentation.

I don’t know what the new A List Apart will look like, but if they can encourage designers and developers to embrace independent blogs again, I’m all for it. I like the way Zeldman has framed the change for A List Apart.

It used to be that A List Apart’s most popular authors were all frequent bloggers. I think the attention on Twitter instead of personal sites has effectively created a gap of lost years for many blogs: long stretches of time with very few if any posts. Perhaps Zeldman’s post is an indication that this trend has already reversed.

Gabe Weatherhead recently made some points on Macdrifter about the decline of indie blogs — that podcasting is a cheap substitute for written posts, and that tweets and link-blogging have killed thoughtful commentary:

I want to hear opinions and ideas from good writers, not pull quotes with a trailing off-the-cuff remark.

It’s a good post, but I see his conclusion differently. The solution isn’t fewer link blogs, but more of them. By taking microblogging back from Twitter, we create a natural place for traditional blogs to grow. Indie microblogging is the gateway drug for long-form content.

To everyone reading Zeldman’s post about A List Apart and nodding your head, retweeting the link, clicking the like button… Dust off your blog and actually post about it. A better web is built one page at a time.

Homebrew Website Club

Tonight we’re starting up a local Austin chapter of the Homebrew Website Club. This is a group from the IndieWeb community which already meets regularly in San Francisco, Portland, other cities, and online.

From the IndieWeb wiki:

Homebrew Website Club is a bi-weekly meetup of people passionate about or interested in creating, improving, building, designing their own website, in the same structure as the classic Homebrew Computer Club meetings.

For Austin, the first meeting will be 6:30pm at Monkey Nest Coffee, 5353 Burnet Rd. Everyone’s welcome. Bring ideas for your own web site, questions about Micro.blog, or just grab a coffee and hang out. We’ll meet in the extra room at the back of the coffee shop.

Micro.blog custom pages

As I mentioned in this morning’s post about Medium, it’s important that Micro.blog-hosted sites can have their own domain name. Some people use their microblog to supplement an existing web site. Others use Micro.blog itself for hosting their full web site, because the focus on short posts makes the site easy to update.

Today we’re introducing a new feature for hosted microblogs: custom web pages. These can be used for expanded “about” pages, contact information, lists of current projects, essays, or whatever you want to write about on your web site. Micro.blog pages use Markdown and are automatically included in the navigation for your site.

Here’s a screenshot of an example page being edited:

Pages screenshot

If you have a Micro.blog-hosted site, check out the pages list under Account → “Edit Domains & Design”. Enjoy!

Medium stumbling forward

Dave Winer isn’t optimistic about the recent Medium changes:

We’re in the long tail of the demise of Medium. They’ll try this, and something else, and then another thing, each with a smaller probability of making a difference, until they turn it off.

This has been the concern with Medium since the very beginning. Because they defaulted to Medium-branded user blogs on medium.com instead of your own blog at a personal domain name, there was a risk that if Medium didn’t work out as a business, many great posts would disappear along with the service. You might get more readers in the short-term, but it’s a bad trade-off when links break and you have to start all over again.

Nick Heer wrote about the “sameness” of Medium sites — how the sites blur together as just pages on Medium’s platform. Several prominent sites have left:

Earlier this year, Film School Rejects and Pacific Standard moved away from the platform; this month, the Awl announced that they went back to WordPress with their old custom theme. The Ringer and Backchannel also left Medium. Once again, I can tell those sites apart from each other.

I think Medium has good intentions. But the premise was wrong, with an emphasis on medium.com/@username URLs that aren’t portable, and no obvious way to get a custom domain. Getting this right is IndieWeb 101.

That’s why on Micro.blog the microblogs are username.micro.blog by default. It sounds like a small thing, but that difference is everything. It’s easy to swap out for a personal domain name, with free SSL hosting, multiple themes, custom CSS, and it’s based on Jekyll so that it can be moved to any host.

Medium is stumbling forward, trying to find the right path because their initial foundation wasn’t right. I hope they get there.

Flip the iceberg

Many people are initially confused by Micro.blog because they are expecting a strict clone of Twitter. They are expecting another App.net. But as I said in the Kickstarter video, clones of Twitter and Facebook have come and gone. They’ve all failed. A different approach won’t guarantee success, but it is required to have a chance.

I plan to stay the course. I’m inspired by the work of the IndieWeb, which was founded 6 years ago and is still gaining momentum today. I hope that the solar eclipse photos posted to indie microblogs today will last through the next North American eclipse 7 years from now, and longer.

There was a great article on AltPlatform about how compatibility between new blog-focused platforms could eventually become bigger than any one social network:

Open source tools like WordPress, 1999.io and Mastodon.social are creating many small networks of publishers, and popular tools like Twitter and Micro.blog could peer with them. If all of the social networks outside of Facebook interoperated at some level, they might eventually “flip the iceberg” and become the dominant form of social networking.

It’s going to take a while, but I have no doubt that this “flip” is exactly what will happen. The entire web should be the social network. It’s too big of an idea to be contained on a single web site.