Tag Archives: blogs

Kickstarter, first week wrap-up

One week down. The launch on Kickstarter is going great. It’s fantastic to see everyone’s reaction to the project. More than ever, I’m convinced that the time is right for this.

I wanted to highlight a few posts and links. I was a little caught off guard by activity on the first day, so I’ve yet to really reach out to press contacts who might want to write about Micro.blog. I’ve been focused on replying to questions about the service and book.

John Voorhees wrote for MacStories about the Kickstarter:

Micro.blog has a lot in common with social networks like Twitter, such as replies and favorites, but with an important difference. Instead of locking users into a proprietary system owned by someone else, the content created by individuals is owned and controlled by them. As part of the Micro.blog service, Reece is also building publishing tools with Markdown support, including a native iPhone app, to help people get started with microblogging.

John had interviewed me at WWDC last year about what I was up to. While I didn’t have the name Micro.blog yet back then, I was actively working on the service and you can hear many of the same themes from back in June as I’m saying today.

I thought Marco Arment summed up the urgency well:

We’ve all been pouring a lot more of our writing and attention into Twitter and Facebook than the rest of the web, and the diversity and decentralization of the web has suffered greatly. Far too much power now rests in far too few hands, and we’re starting to suffer tremendous consequences.

Reaction from the WordPress community has also been encouraging. I knew I wanted to reach WordPress fans, because Micro.blog works great with WordPress, but I’m not as plugged into that community. I was excited to see Matt Mullenweg tweet a link to it. And WP Tavern did an excellent write-up, mixing interview questions with previous posts of mine:

During his 14 years of blogging and 10 years of using Twitter, Reece became an advocate for the open web. He said he used to be excited about Twitter and built apps for the platform but grew disillusioned at their approach to locking down the API.

I’m thankful for local articles as well, such as this story from Silicon Hills News by Laura Lorek. Laura is just in the last day of her own Kickstarter campaign for a podcast companion to the Austin news site.

Not to mention blog posts from Brent Simmons, Gus Mueller, Becky Hansmeyer, Ben Brooks, Dave Peck, Chris Aldrich, John Johnston, and the hundreds of tweets and links I’ve seen over the last week. It’s really special to see it spread so far. Thank you again to everyone who has linked to the project.

Now that I’ve had a week to reflect on the campaign, and listen to feedback, I’m starting to form a much clearer picture of how the rest of the month needs to play out. This is the kind of opportunity that doesn’t come around very often. I’m looking forward for the work ahead.

Startup life and Medium

Pretty hilarious guide to San Francisco startup life from Padlet on Medium. Here’s just one small part:

“Markets are chockablock with these desk+gym hybrids — standing desks, treadmill desks, cycling desks. This is why I feel bullish about my swimming desk idea — a big water tank with an infinity pool and a computer bolted on one side. Noise cancelling scuba masks, snorkels, and fins come as standard equipment.”

I’ve been fascinated with Medium lately, and have cross-posted a couple recent posts over there to better understand it. Is it a blogging tool? Sort of. Is it a social network? Not exactly.

While you can follow other users there, I find that even with the 100+ people I’m following, the posts I see on Medium are almost exclusively popular essays written by people I don’t know. They’re recommended enough that they show up in Medium’s daily emails, or on the home page, or linked from other blogs I read. But it’s like if you signed in to Twitter and only saw retweets.

This may explain Medium’s design changes to encourage quick, microblog-like posts, in addition to full essays. Longer blog posts just aren’t written often enough to make for a meaningful social network.

Why Ello isn’t enough

Last week, to not much fanfare at all because nearly everyone had already lost interest, Ello shipped their iPhone app. Credit to them for attempting to build a new social network, because this is extremely difficult. But it seems to me that Ello is a bust. They needed a more compelling pitch than simply “no ads”.

(I’ve heard some people joke about Ello’s monospaced font, but I kind of love that about Ello. If you want to differentiate yourself, design isn’t a bad place to start.)

App.net was — and likely will be for many more years — the most successful attempt to compete with Twitter and Facebook. If they fell short, despite how many things they got right, how can another clone of existing social networks hope to do any better?

I wish I could cheer Ello on. Spend enough time clicking around on Ello and you discover a niche but fascinating community, full of beautiful art and photos. It’s just that after so many months, there’s still not even a mention of an official API on the planned features page.

The next great social platform can’t be yet another centralized system. It has to be more distributed and more open even than App.net. It has to focus on writing and bloggers and embrace what is good about the web. Ello doesn’t do any of these things.

Medium as the new Twitter

Daniel Jalkut had some fun recently, exploring whether Medium’s improvements to posting are turning it into a next-generation Twitter:

“Medium is now the most Twitter-like service on the web, was founded and is run by one of Twitter’s creators, and answers most of the gripes that people have had about Twitter over the years.”

My gut reaction to this was that Medium creates more problems than it solves. In a reply on Medium:

“Medium is really interesting, and beautifully designed, but it’s not progress over Twitter unless you’re annoyed about the 140 character limit. It’s still totally centralized, has no API, and works against wanting to host and control our own content. Basically a step back for the open web. (Although I think there’s real value in mirroring content here.)”

Medium also feels like it wants to be a desktop experience right now. It’s not optimized for mobile in the way that Twitter has been from the beginning. There’s good stuff happening there, but I want to see more tools that encourage blogging instead.

Typed.com and the state of blogging

Typed.com from Realmac Software looks great. Set to launch later this year, crowdfunding for the project has already passed $67k.

Ben Thompson wrote recently about how blogging has changed:

“Twitter has replaced link-posts and comments, Instagram has replaced pictures, and Facebook has replaced albums and blogrolls; now Medium is seeking to replace the essay. None of this is a bad thing: literally billions more people now have a much simpler way to express themselves online thanks to the ease-of-use that is characteristic of any service that seeks to focus on one particularly aspect of communication, a big contrast to a blog’s ability to do anything and everything relatively poorly.”

It’s a good post, although I’d say that even if those changes aren’t “a bad thing”, they can have bad consequences. Medium is a beautifully designed site and there is some great writing published there. But if it discourages people from owning their own content and writing at their own domain name, then it is a step back for the web. The best use of Medium is to cross-post there, to expand your audience, but not as the primary location for your writing.

If you’ve read between the lines on my posts about microblogging and open APIs, you may have guessed that I’ve also been working on a blog platform, although (I think) of a much different kind than Realmac’s Typed.com. I believe we need more blog platforms, not fewer. Accepting that Twitter and Facebook are the only way to publish online is like collapsing all the publishing systems down to a couple centralized tools. That approach is convenient in the short term but ultimately bad for the web.

The best and most diverse writing on the web still happens on individually-owned blogs. It’s linked to from Twitter, but it originates on blogs. If you’re not blogging than your writing doesn’t have the reach, doesn’t have the permanence, doesn’t have the impact that it could have.

And 2015 is going to be great for blogging. I’m looking forward to trying Typed.com and also sharing some of what I’ve been working on. If you want an early heads-up, sign up on the announcement mailing list.

Twitter or RSS

I use Feed Wrangler as my RSS service, but I like this quote from Feedbin’s Ben Ubois:

“Twitter and Facebook are often cited as the reason for the decline in RSS usage. Where does content originate though? Right where it always has: on blogs and websites that probably have an RSS feed.”

It’s a great point. If you had to choose between only reading Twitter or only reading weblogs, which would you choose? Losing Twitter would be a bummer for a lot people, but losing weblogs would decimate the web. We should do more to strengthen weblogs and RSS because they are the foundation for so much of the most important writing on the web.

12 years of blogging

It’s SXSW this weekend, and while I’m again not attending this year, it’s a reminder that today is the 12th anniversary of starting this blog. I took some time today to fix the categories and tags on about a dozen older posts. One of those was fun to rediscover, linking to John Siracusa’s review of Mac OS X 10.2. Here’s the part from John that I quoted:

“And forget about any truly forward-looking features akin to Copland’s saved searches or BeOS’s metadata-powered custom views. Put simply, the Finder, once the crown jewel of the Mac user interface, no longer seems to be a priority at Apple.”

That was September 2002. It feels like it has really taken until 10.9 Mavericks (with tags and Finder tabs) for that to change.

No way to live

Two great blog posts yesterday from Brent Simmons that I think are related, though I read one early in the day and the other catching up on RSS feeds late at night. First, on quitting his job to work full-time on Vesper:

“A year ago I was a designer for an enterprise app I didn’t care about — or even like in the least tiny bit — and which you’ve never seen or heard of. That’s no way to live.”

It reminds me, of course, of the famous Steve Jobs quote:

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

And then, Brent says about Twitter:

“The 140-character stream is where things not worth saying, and not worth reading, thrive. It’s where things actually worth saying get over-simplified and then get lost, if they get said at all.”

In other words, do something you care about, write something lasting. The older I get, the more both of these resonate with me. And even though I haven’t posted to Twitter in over a year, I think I needed to read that post to focus back on this blog, where my writing should live.

Approaching a year with App.net

App.net started 10 months ago as a blog post. I thought it would be interesting to look back on a few things I’ve written on my blog about the service as it has grown.

August 12, 2012, on the potential:

“In less than a month, they went from a mission statement video that seemed just a step away from vaporware, to following through on an API spec and then alpha version web site. They delivered.”

August 28, 2012, when I launched Watermark with App.net support:

“You can now add an App.net account and it will download any posts from your friends, making them available for search. Watermark is already storing tens of millions of tweets, and I’m excited to start adding App.net posts to that archive as well.”

January 11, 2013, with how and why I stopped posting to Twitter:

“Over three months ago I stopped using Twitter. I wanted to make a statement — perhaps in an overly-dramatic way — that the developer-hostile environment that Twitter had evolved into wasn’t something I could support anymore.”

January 21, 2013, reacting to one use of the global feed:

“And that’s the really good news: if what makes ADN special is the people, then it’s because all of the people have something in common. They didn’t chose ADN by accident, or because it was the default choice. They chose it because they wanted something better.”

March 25, 2013, where I review 3 iPhone apps:

“In this post I’m going to briefly review 3 of the most popular iPhone clients: Netbot, Felix, and Riposte. You can’t really go wrong with any of these three apps.”

March 28, 2013, about adopting the file storage API:

“There’s a lot of activity around App.net file storage right now. I think we’re going to see some great things built with this.”

And of course I’ve said much more about this on the Core Intuition podcast. Episodes 50, 65 and 82 are probably good places to start.

If you’ve been thinking about giving App.net a try, you can use this invite link to sign up for free. There’s also a great new iOS app that lets discover apps and sign up directly on the iPhone.

More blogging, week wrap-up

My blog posts have always come in waves, ever since I started this blog 11 years ago. I’ll post for a few days straight, then nothing for weeks. And every couple years, I’ll declare that I’m determined to fix this broken pattern, and I’ll start blogging again nearly every day. It doesn’t last.

What I finally realized is that I have to be serious about posting every single day. If even one day slips by, the whole thing breaks down and I’ll fall back into ignoring it, because there’s the added friction of wanting to post something “great” to make up for the missed days.

If you subscribe to the RSS feed, you’ll notice that I’ve now been posting once or twice every day for about a week and a half. I don’t link to all of these posts from App.net, so here’s the recent ones you might have missed:

App Store old app maintenance:

“But if apps are an art form, an important part of our culture, then it shouldn’t require so much work to make sure they don’t disappear forever, so quickly.”

Smartphone religion:

“I got into the Mac in the 1990s during the lead-up to Apple’s certain doom, so I spent quite a lot of time arguing with Windows users.”

Moving off SendGrid:

“So it’s a good time to move away, to a company that I can pick based on merits and attitude and not just because it was the default choice.”

No new Apple products yet:

“Apple’s aggressive releases add even more anxiety about updating apps to keep up with the latest APIs and hardware.”

Start small:

“It’s a reminder to me that great things can start small, unambitious. I never would’ve guessed that a web comic artist starting so plainly would later produce a single strip that’s so incredible.”

Three ADN clients for iPhone:

“In this post I’m going to briefly review 3 of the most popular iPhone clients: Netbot, Felix, and Riposte. You can’t really go wrong with any of these three apps.”

Little Outliner:

“Yesterday Dave Winer and Kyle Shank launched Little Outliner, an impressive JavaScript outliner that uses HTML5 local storage.”

Apple and the impression of being small:

“But too many voices also creates noise, and noise makes simple things messy, confusing. Apple still gives the impression of being smaller than they really are because our view of them is heavily filtered.”

iOS text cursor swipe:

“While I was writing my review of ADN clients, I wondered aloud if Riposte or Felix or some other app entirely was the first to support swiping to move the text cursor. It seems a nice enough trick that someone should get credit for trying it first.”

iCloud sync narrative:

“Pretty sure we hit a tipping point in the iCloud just doesn’t work narrative this week. Whether that judgement is fair or not, Apple should drop everything to focus on making iCloud totally robust in time for WWDC.”

Climber for ADN:

“Toward the end of this week’s Core Intuition, we talked a little about the App.net file storage API and mentioned the new iPhone app Climber.”

Register a domain name:

“Using Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn exclusively for your content is like an artist who picks their own colors but still stays within the lines of a paint-by-numbers kit. A domain name is your own canvas.”

Hotline servers:

“This article from Macworld is important because it will serve as a sort of Hotline software ‘about page’ for future internet searchers.”

Searchpath invoices and automation:

“Then life and other work got in the way, and weeks later I still hadn’t shipped it. I wanted it to be completely perfect and automated, so that I never had to think about it.”

I also got tired of the non-retina (and outdated tag-line) of the old header. I’ve started over with a plain blog design, finally dropping HTML tables for layout (!) in favor of Bootstrap CSS. A more complete new design will follow later.

Announcing Searchpath

Today I’m happy to announce my new web app: Searchpath. It’s search for your web site or blog with an innovative “popover” UI. Simple, fast. With better control of your search results, and no need to link to Google or show ads to your readers.

There are so many sites out there that don’t have search, or have very poor search. I wanted to build something that makes setting up a great search box on your site absolutely trivial.

Searchpath knows about blogs — it finds the text on your page to index, and can automatically strip out redundant titles from posts for clearer search results. It tracks popular search terms. It gives you more control, by letting you exclude archive pages and customize the font and links with CSS.

I’m running it now on this blog. Check it out in the sidebar, or visit searchpath.io to sign up and try it on your own site.

When it disappears

Dave Winer reiterates that we must plan now to preserve our online writing:

“There were far fewer bloggers. Maybe thousands. Today there are millions. None of them are thinking about what happens when Tumblr or Blogger or WordPress or Facebook disappear. But come on — we almost know for certain that one of them will. Given enough time they will all disappear.”

These companies are only as strong and permanent as their leaders, and leadership doesn’t last. If you think it can’t happen soon, look at the new Digg. Although they want to export the previous content, currently nothing from Digg’s 7-year history is accessible. Not by accident, not by catastrophic failure, but because no one at the new company cared to keep it around.

10 years of Daring Fireball

Daring Fireball turns 10 years old today. I love this visualization of the posts from those years. You can view by article length and highlight posts for certain topics.

There’s a rich history of posts in the archive. Like the best blogs, there’s consistency in design, tone, and format. None of the URLs have ever changed.

Here are some of my favorite essays.

June 4, 2004, Broken Windows:

“Arguing that it’s technically possible that the Mac could suffer just as many security exploits as Windows is like arguing that a good neighborhood could suddenly find itself strewn with garbage and plagued by vandalism and serious crime. Possible, yes, but not likely.”

April 20, 2006, Initiative:

“What I’ve concluded, though, is that if I want to make a full-time income from Daring Fireball, I need to just do it full-time. I.e. that it’s not going to work the other way around — to wait for the revenue to burgeon and then start putting full-time effort into it.”

August 4, 2006, Highly Selective:

“I’m sure there are other examples of Mac apps that offer anchored list selection, but the point remains that the vast majority of software now follows Apple’s lead and uses the unanchored model for list item selection. If ‘Mac-like’ means ‘what most other Mac software does’, then in this case the Mac-like behavior is wrong, or at the very least, worse.”

October 2, 2008, The Fear:

“But this pitch also worked because it was true. All three of those products sound good on their own. All three in one device sounds insanely great. Jobs was introducing the iPhone simply by describing precisely what it was.”

April 24, 2009, Twitter Clients Are a UI Design Playground:

“I read web sites and email and RSS feeds on my iPhone, but Twitter is the one service where reading on my iPhone doesn’t feel constrained compared to reading on my Mac.”

June 26, 2009, Copy and Paste:

“That we had to wait two years for the iPhone’s text selection and pasteboard is a good example of one aspect of the Apple way: better nothing at all than something less than great.”

January 27, 2010, The iPad Big Picture:

“Software aside (which is a huge thing to put aside), it may well be that no other company could make a device today matching the price, size, and performance of the iPad. They’re not getting into the CPU business for kicks, they’re getting into it to kick ass.”

August 24, 2011, Resigned:

“The same thought, care, and painstaking attention to detail that Steve Jobs brought to questions like ‘How should a computer work?’, ‘How should a phone work?’, ‘How should we buy music and apps in the digital age?’ he also brought to the most important question: ‘How should a company that creates such things function?’”

December 25, 2011, Merry:

“— how much will I be willing to pay then to be able to go back in time, for one day, to now, when he’s eight years old, he wants to go to movies and play games and build Lego kits with me, and he believes in magic?”

February 16, 2012, Mountain Lion:

“This is an awful lot of effort and attention in order to brief what I’m guessing is a list of a dozen or two writers and journalists. It’s Phil Schiller, spending an entire week on the East Coast, repeating this presentation over and over to a series of audiences of one.”

Congrats John. Here’s to the next 10 years.

Preserving the blogosphere

This is kind of a short, technical footnote to my last essay. There I linked to an older blog post from Dave Winer, just one of many of his on this subject. Today he writes how we should archive blogs before we worry about Twitter:

“With Twitter there’s a rich corporation minding it. They can and imho should be funding their own archive. But with the historic blogosphere, dating back to the early-mid 90s, a lot of it is already gone. The need to preserve it, by independent historians and librarians, is greater than the need for Twitter to be publicly archived.”

I have a lot to say on this, and I can’t wait to share a new web project that I started recently which could play a small roll in blog backups. When I killed off my little app Wii Transfer, I did so to refocus Riverfold around preservation. I wrote:

“It also doesn’t fit into a new theme I have for Riverfold: apps that are all about keeping and remembering what matters. For Clipstart, that’s family videos. For Tweet Library and Tweet Marker Plus, that’s old tweets.”

Dave mentions libraries several times in his blog post. It’s no accident that the word “library” is in Tweet Library’s name; my ambition for this app far outpaces my coding speed. But blogs are a different problem, and they need something special — perhaps multiple solutions.

First drafts on iPad

“Iain Broome”:http://writeforyourlife.net/writing-ipad-review on iPad writing, via “John Chandler”:http://byjohnchandler.com/:

“I can, and do, write regularly with my iPad. But, to be perfectly honest, I rarely use it to edit, because I find it kind of clumsy to move the cursor around the screen with my finger. However, the iPad is a marvellous first draft machine.”

Most of my blog posts start life on the iPad too. I write them in Simplenote, sync with the Mac to finish the post if it needs editing, then copy to MarsEdit to publish. It’s not completely smooth, but it’s a workflow that wasn’t even possible a year ago.

Honeymoon world tour

“Via Daring Fireball”:http://daringfireball.net/linked/2010/09/12/lanyrd, I’m loving “this blog and idea”:http://sparkabout.net/ from newlyweds Simon Willison and Natalie Downe, who are traveling the world on a working honeymoon:

“We’ve been in Morocco now for just over a month. We launched Lanyrd from a rented apartment in Casablanca, and we’re writing this update from a Riad in Marrakech. So far, travelling and working on a startup have complemented each other surprisingly well.”

In 1999, Traci and I took a similar but shorter 2-month vacation to Europe where we both worked remotely. This was before wi-fi, so much of the destination planning centered around pay-by-the-hour internet cafes or reliable hotel phone lines for dial-up. Lots of backpacking, cheap rooms, and trains and boats between 6 countries. We were constantly broke and our accommodations varied between the crummy (freezing showers at a hostel) to the beautiful (freezing showers with a Mediterranean view), but those were easily some of the best weeks of my life. At the end of the trip we got engaged and came back to America to get married and have kids and never leave our neighborhood again.

Someday we’ll go back.

James Duncan Davidson, author of

James Duncan Davidson, author of the upcoming Learning Cocoa (2nd edition), has a new blog. He’s already started rolling with thoughts on preserving his blog posts:

“As long as I can make sure that my data migrates to long lasting media at some point, I can protect them and read them far into the future. However, when that migration happens, I may have all my data, but I’ll have no idea when I wrote it. You see, all those filebase time information will be blasted away when I move the data onto a new filesystem.”

I’m using Radio for this site, and it can automatically archive blog posts to XML files. That is definitely a step in the right direction, and more than most other products will do. It is particularly tricky to get data out of Blogger.

And I still have too much email stuck in old proprietary formats that I may never be able to retrieve completely. Sigh.