Tag Archives: markdown

Inline links in microblog posts

When I was first trying to figure out how my microblog posts should look, I was thinking more like tweets and less like HTML. Eventually I settled on HTML for publishing and display, with Markdown for writing.

Here’s what a microblog post looks like in the timeline for my new web app:

screenshot

You can compare that to how it looks when cross-posted to Twitter. It’s not exactly a fair comparison since the tweet was truncated, but it’s still incredible to me how much better these posts look if you allow inline links and some more characters.

Two weeks notice: it just works out

John Saddington, who develops the Mac blog editor Desk, pointed to one of my recent posts and wrote:

“It does make me ponder, once again, what I’m doing with my so-called ‘career’ and if it’s the ‘right’ one. Although, every single time I think about that I know that I won’t like the answer… yet it always just works. I can’t tell you why or how I found or discovered this cadence, but, to each his own.”

Which in turn makes me reflect on my own career. I’ve been extremely lucky. The right jobs just seemed to have presented themselves to me when I needed them. I hope that luck hasn’t led to overconfidence as I take these next steps to become more independent. It would be a glorious failure if my luck runs out just when I need it most.

So I’ll have to work harder. I’ll have to better manage my finances, better plan and execute on new products, and better support each app so they’ll form a sustainable business. As I type this, I’m actually a little nervous for the first time since I put in my notice. Lots to do.

Tonight’s challenge: finish integrating CodeMirror into my new app, to provide Markdown syntax highlighting. I had never heard of this JavaScript library before this week. It seems very capable — a big jump forward on a feature I didn’t even think I could provide for 1.0.

Two weeks notice: writing documentation

Boy Scouts have a saying: leave no trace. One of its basic principles is that when you pack up your camp site, make sure you clean up all the trash. The place should look even better than when you found it.

It’s not a bad principle to keep in mind when leaving a job, either. Projects should be in a good state. I’ve fallen short in one key aspect of this — a conspicuous lack of unit tests in my web apps — but I’ve been more successful in other areas, like up to date versions of Rails and pretty comprehensive documentation.

Documentation is also an easy thing to improve at the last minute. Today I’m reviewing some API docs from top to bottom again, making sure that the confusing edge cases for how an app works are well covered. For my job at VitalSource, this means editing in Confluence.

The apps in Atlassian’s main suite that I’m familiar with — Confluence, Jira, and HipChat — have improved in small increments over the years. I makes sense that they would move fairly slowly; the apps are heavily used in larger companies, so a major redesign or feature change would not be well-received by many of their customers. Of those 3 apps, HipChat seems easily the best designed, and I expect having Slack as a competitor will keep them focused and driven to improve the app.

This post isn’t meant as a rant against Confluence, but as I use it’s default markup language or WYSIWYG editor I’m reminded of just how much I enjoy writing in Markdown instead. For my own apps, I’ve experimented with writing documentation in Markdown hosted on GitHub, which gives me easy publishing and version history. Tweet Marker, for example, pulls a Markdown file from GitHub directly and formats it inside its own web interface for Twitter app developers.

As usual, open formats like simple text files are a great choice for any writing that you want to last. For my new microblogging project, I need to repurpose a lot of writing I’ve done on this blog and move it into more formal documentation. I’ll probably use Markdown and GitHub for that as well.

Twitpic and what’s next

After being threatened by Twitter over trademarks, Twitpic has decided to shut down in 3 weeks:

“We encountered several hurdles and difficulties in getting our trademark approved even though our first use in commerce predated other applications, but we worked through each challenge and in fact had just recently finished the last one. During the ‘published for opposition’ phase of the trademark is when Twitter reached out to our counsel and implied we could be denied access to their API if we did not give up our mark.”

Twitpic is not a small hobby site. It grew to a $3 million business at its height in 2012 according to this Mixergy interview. Founder Noah Everett also attempted to launch a Twitter-like service called Heello, though it never gained much traction and appears to be offline.

John Gruber asks:

“Why not just change the name to something original?”

While I wonder if that comment may have a dual purpose, aimed as much at Standard Markdown as Twitpic, I’ll answer it anyway. Because Twitter has a well-documented history of stepping on developers. This trademark fight is just the latest, and at some point, I have to assume that Noah was fed up and called it: enough is enough.

Enough with building apps in a toxic ecosystem. Developers who care about microblogging should take it back. Let’s build tools for the web that will matter, that will move the web forward and make our writing last, not locked away behind APIs and ads.

Justin Williams kills 2 apps

Justin Williams on his decision to stop selling his apps MarkdownMail and Today:

“Financially, it may not have made much sense to cut off the revenue streams, but therapeutically I’m freeing up that portion of my brain to focus my full attention on the next version of Elements and the dozens of other ideas that that are circling in my head.”

I felt exactly the same way when I stopped selling Wii Transfer earlier this year. It wasn’t until a month later that I realized how much I had been enjoying that revenue, limited as it had become. I don’t regret it, though. It was the right thing for my potential customers, not to be misled into thinking there would be new versions. And it was the right thing for my focus, working on other projects.

VoodooPad 5

VoodooPad 5 is out this weekend, with a new file format that plays nicely with Dropbox. Gus Mueller says:

“No more connecting to WebDAV servers and having to deal with authentication issues and strange HTTP errors. Now you can just put your VoodooPad 5 document in a Dropbox folder and VP will detect when pages have been updated.”

This is another good example of where web APIs like Dropbox can be more useful than iCloud. Multiple people can collaborate on a VoodooPad document, and the direct download and Mac App Store copies of VoodooPad can sync together.

Also new in version 5 is native support for Markdown and an ePub export option. The workflow for help documentation that I posted 5 years ago carries over to VoodooPad 5 just fine, too.