Tag Archives: microblog

Twitter threads

Twitter announced today they will make it easier to chain tweets together in the official app. John Gruber summarizes the pro-tweetstorm argument on Daring Fireball:

This is a good idea. People are creating threads without official support, so true support can only make it better.

The problem is that Twitter threads take the place of blog posts. Most people won’t think to switch to their blog instead of firing off a series of tweets, but some will. Promoting Twitter threads to such a prominent place in the UI will encourage more people to create Twitter threads. It will lead to more content in Twitter and less on the open web.

Micro.blog takes a different approach. When you type over 280 characters, instead of offering to split it into multiple posts in a thread, it reveals a title field and lets you turn it into a full blog post. I feel really good about this solution because the UI actively tries to make the web a little better instead of worse.

Friction and silo dead-ends

Instagram is experimenting with a repost feature. From The Next Web:

Instagram appears to be finally working on a native Regram button. It’s a feature many users have been waiting for for some time. Currently, users wanting to reshare content have to either save the image or video to their device and re-share it from their own account, or call upon one of several third party apps like Regram, a popular Android option.

I wrote last year about how I thought the lack of Instagram reposts was deliberate. Early versions of Instagram were built carefully, and it seemed designed to encourage posting your own photos:

When you have to put a little work into posting, you take it more seriously. I wonder if fake news would have spread so quickly on Facebook if it was a little more difficult to share an article before you’ve read more than the headline.

If Instagram ships this, it will likely increase memes and other non-photos in your timeline. Along with ads, it will make the timeline feel even more cluttered.

Meanwhile, Ben Thompson covers Facebook’s curation efforts and how the lack of friction on social networks is both a good and bad thing. If it’s difficult to post, fewer people will do it. But if it’s too easy — with few limits on what is appropriate to share with your followers — you’ll get the dumpster fire that we currently have.

I believe in a middle-ground solution. Make it easier to post to your blog. That’s what indie microblogging is all about, why I’m writing a book on it, and why I built Micro.blog. But don’t make thoughtless re-sharing completely frictionless. That’s what leads to fake news spreading, why hateful tweets are exposed in algorithmic trends, and why safe communities must have some amount of curation.

Facebook is right to hire 10,000 curators. But what they’re missing is the balance between curation and an open platform, with the freedom to post to your own site. That’s why Facebook is a dead-end for the web.

Timetable on MarsEdit 4 and open APIs

Today I posted another episode of my daily podcast Timetable. It’s a short episode about the MarsEdit 4 release and why even competing apps should be compatible and embrace the open web. Here’s a transcript.

Today, MarsEdit 4 shipped. I posted to my blog with a link to the new version, and I included some comments in the blog post about using MarsEdit with Micro.blog.

Congrats to Daniel. This has been years in the making. It’s great to see it come out, and we’ll be talking more about this on my other podcast Core Intuition later this week.

Even if Daniel wasn’t my friend and co-host of Core Intuition, I’d still be excited about MarsEdit, because more blogging software is a good thing. The Mac version of Micro.blog kind of competes with MarsEdit, since you can use Micro.blog to post to WordPress, just like you can with MarsEdit. But it’s also a nice complement, because you can use MarsEdit to post to blogs that are hosted on Micro.blog. And MarsEdit is full-featured and has more features that you might want to upgrade to, even if you’re using Micro.blog.

And this is how I think software should work, and why the open web and open APIs are important. You should be able to switch between apps without changing everything.

You should be able to use MarsEdit to post to your blog. You should be able to use Micro.blog — the Mac app or the iOS app — to post to that same blog.

Imagine if you could use the official Twitter app to post to Facebook. You open Twitter, you click new tweet, and then you click in the destination (somewhere in the UI), and you select Facebook instead. And instead of going to Twitter, it goes to Facebook.

Sounds crazy. How could that possibly work? Why would Twitter or Facebook ever allow something like that?

But that’s how it should work. We are so used to these silos and these apps that are not compatible with anything, that we just accept it. But that’s how it should work.

You should be able to use multiple apps to post to different services. And that’s what’s happening with apps that are built with some compatibility in mind, especially on IndieWeb standards. That’s what’s happening with MarsEdit and Micro.blog, although on a much smaller scale.

I’ve been thinking about how much work we have to do to reach the audience of potential indie microbloggers. Last night, I attended AustinRB, a local meetup here in Austin for Ruby programmers. There was a great talk on metaprogramming — really enjoyed it. And as I mentioned yesterday, Tom Brown, who is also helping me out with IndieWebCamp planning… He gave a talk on the IndieWeb.

And listening to questions from the audience, it was just so obvious how far we have to go. Everyone is so used to Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, that in a way we have to outline the IndieWeb and services like Micro.blog in a way that mainstream users of other social networks can relate to.

It’s a big jump to go from only thinking about Twitter, to all of a sudden thinking about your own domain name, sending replies between independent web sites perhaps, to thinking about a timeline that is based on feeds from all over the web. It’s a big jump.

And in a way, it’s kind of discouraging when I think about making that case for how the web should work. It’s a massive task to explain the value of the open web and the danger of relying on 100% centralized networks.

But on the other hand, there are a lot of people in the world, a lot of people who want to write on the internet, who care about what they say and how they say it. WordPress powers 29% of the web.

The market is there. It’s just a matter of reaching everyone. And so that’s encouraging.

And it starts in communities like the IndieWeb. And hopefully in the community we’re trying to build on Micro.blog.

It’s not too late to register for IndieWebCamp. It’s this weekend in Austin. Go to IndieWeb.org. I hope you can join us. There’s a lot of work to do to build the web that we need. Thanks for listening today.

MarsEdit 4 and microblogs

Daniel Jalkut shipped MarsEdit 4 today. This version includes many improvements, from brand new icons to support for WordPress “Post Formats” which are convenient for microblog posts.

Micro.blog-hosted blogs also have full support for posting from MarsEdit 4. You can post short microblog posts, or you can add a title, upload photos, and write longer posts. Blogs on Micro.blog are really fast, have custom domain names, and support importing from WordPress.

MarsEdit screenshot

Congrats Daniel! I’m sure we’ll be talking about this milestone on Core Intuition.

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.

Kickstarter update with IndieWebCamp and rollout plans

Today I sent the following email to Kickstarter backers. I’m working through the waiting list of invites to Micro.blog now. I know it’s taken the better part of a year, but we’re almost there.

We are just about ready to open up Micro.blog to the world. Starting later this week, we’ll no longer require an invite code. Up to 100 users will be able to register on Micro.blog each day. This helps us focus our attention on the community and take care of new users as we ramp up to the public launch.

I’m also excited to share 2 more things that are happening next month:

IndieWebCamp: December 9th and 10th in Austin, TX. If you’d like to learn more about indie blogging, work on your own web site, or just chat with me about Micro.blog, consider joining us in Austin. You can register here. More info from the web site:

IndieWebCamp Austin 2017 is a gathering for independent web creators of all kinds, from graphic artists, to designers, UX engineers, coders, hackers, to share ideas, actively work on creating for their own personal websites, and build upon each others creations.

Stickers: I’ve just ordered a new batch of Micro.blog stickers for IndieWebCamp and Kickstarter backers. Expect to receive an email from Kickstarter to confirm your shipping address.

EFF-Austin party after IndieWebCamp

In a little less than 2 weeks we’re holding the first IndieWebCamp in Austin: December 9th and 10th at Capital Factory. You can register here. Doors open at 9am and we’ll have coffee and breakfast tacos while everyone checks in.

Saturday night after IndieWebCamp will be the EFF-Austin Holiday Party. There’s a meetup page to RSVP for the party. Even if you can’t attend IndieWebCamp for the full weekend, you’re welcome to join us anytime Saturday and stick around for the party. (Please register for both so we can better plan for the event.)

Who should attend IndieWebCamp? Anyone who cares about the independent web. Anyone who remembers how the web used to be — the creativity of personal web sites, the freedom of open APIs — and how it could be that way again. From the event web site:

IndieWebCamp Austin 2017 is a gathering for independent web creators of all kinds, from graphic artists, to designers, UX engineers, coders, hackers, to share ideas, actively work on creating for their own personal websites, and build upon each others creations.

I hope you can make it. If you have any questions, email me at manton@micro.blog.

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!

Because you’re passionate about it

“People will want to go to it because you’re passionate about it, and people love what other people are passionate about. You remind people of what they’ve forgotten.” — Mia in La La Land

Business without direction is hollow. Your company can be full of users or money but if it’s empty of purpose, no one will truly care about what you’re building.

This is one of several problems with Twitter today. It’s not just that the leadership team is overwhelmed and paralyzed. They can no longer articulate to users what Twitter the company is passionate about.

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! 🎃

Micro.blog for iOS update

Micro.blog for iOS version 1.2 is rolling out to the App Store right now. This update features a new sharing extension, to make it easier to send photos and links from other apps to Micro.blog. It also has better support for the iPhone X screen.

We ended up rushing this update out a little to make sure it was approved in time for the iPhone X release, so there are a couple glitches we missed in testing when sharing photos. Working on a 1.2.1 update now to make the sharing extension more robust.

Thanks as always for using Micro.blog. In addition to the iOS app, the Mac beta is also getting regular updates. (This blog post was written and posted with it.)

Core Intuition 302

We posted episode 302 of Core Intuition today. From the show notes:

Manton and Daniel anticipate the night of iPhone X pre-orders, and the shame of waking in the middle of the night to order a phone. They catch up with their faltering ambitions to ship MarsEdit and Micro.blog, and acknowledge the merit of sharing ambitions with others to help motivate progress. Finally, they contemplate whether eliminating a feature altogether is preferable to shipping it with obvious deficiencies.

Good luck to everyone trying to pre-order an iPhone X tonight!

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.

Timetable 66 and Release Notes

I posted a new Timetable today after listening to the Release Notes podcast where Charles and Joe discuss requiring in-app purchase subscriptions. As I talk about on Timetable, I’ve been working on the Mac version of Micro.blog, so it was a good opportunity to make a final decision on Mac App Store support.

Speaking of Release Notes, I’ll be out in Chicago for the conference next week. If you’re attending, hope to see you there. Ask me for a Micro.blog sticker.

Micro.blog themes open source

Micro.blog launched with 6 unique themes, and advanced CSS support to customize many aspects of the design. I love seeing users take one of the existing themes and make it their own, such as what Dan Counsell has done with colors and fonts on his site.

The publishing engine for Micro.blog is based on Jekyll, so of course the themes are Jekyll themes as well. I wrote last year about why I chose Jekyll. I’ve forked several themes to improve their support for microblogs, JSON Feed, and IndieWeb standards.

A few of these changes are now up on GitHub. You can find these themes in the @microdotblog repository:

I’ll be updating the other themes on GitHub soon. While you can’t upload an entirely new theme to your Micro.blog account yet, many people have asked for that, and hopefully these themes will provide a starting point.

More on 280 characters

For this week’s Core Intuition, Daniel and I spend the whole show talking about Twitter’s 280-character change and related fallout. It makes a good complement to my initial blog post, as well as yesterday’s episode of Timetable.

And of course I liked this part of Colin Walker’s blog post:

Having gotten used to a 280 character limit on micro.blog I can honestly say it makes a world of difference.

Dave Winer wrote about the need for Twitter to take risks:

So if you think the 140-char limit is so great, why isn’t Twitter making money for its shareholders? If you were management at Twitter would you be conservative or would you take risks? As a shareholder, I want them to take risks. Big ones. Why not? They don’t really have anything to lose.

My daughter’s Twitter account has access to the new 280-character limit, so I’ve had a chance to see the new UI. Instead of counting down, it uses a circular progress bar until you get near the end of the limit. The UI is further proof that Twitter didn’t make this change on a whim. They plan to ship it.