Micro.blog now has Markdown highlighting as you type in replies. Micro.blog has had basic Markdown support since the Kickstarter launch, but we’ve been improving how it processes Markdown and where the visual highlighting is used in the web UI.
Here’s a short screencast of the new reply UI:
Don’t have a Micro.blog account yet? We’ll be inviting more users soon. You can sign up on the announce list.
In a post on Daring Fireball today, John Gruber makes a convincing argument for Safari showing favicons in tabs:
With many tabs open, there’s really nothing subjective about it: Chrome’s tabs are more usable because they show favicons.
Even more surprising to me is that Safari doesn’t use favicons for pinned tabs. Instead it uses a special monochrome vector icon. Ever since adding favicon support to Micro.blog, I’ve had on my to-do list to create one of these vector icons for Safari, but so far I haven’t been able to justify the effort. (And judging by a handful of my favorite sites, no one else has bothered to create a pinned tab vector icon either.)
Why does Apple require a separate icon format here? Probably for the same reason as John Gruber’s guess about normal tabs:
I don’t know what the argument is against showing favicons in Safari’s tabs, but I can only presume that it’s because some contingent within Apple thinks it would spoil the monochromatic aesthetic of Safari’s toolbar area.
It seems clear that these pinned tab vector icons are a dead-end. There are already too many sizes of favicons. Safari should have basic favicon support in tabs and do it with as few extra icon files as possible.
I recently added “repost-of” support to Micro.blog’s Micropub API implementation. This lets you pass an extra URL — the post you’re writing about — in clients like Micropublish. There’s deliberately still no concept of a retweet or repost, though.
When I wrote last year about Instagram and reposts, I was concerned with introducing features that could be abused or lead us back to reinventing Twitter’s problems. There’s even more evidence now that quick reposting shouldn’t be implemented blindly. Look what happened on Soundcloud:
Similar to Tumblr’s reblog or Twitter’s retweet, reposts were designed as a way to help new music spread virally. But from the start, artists abused the feature by constantly reposting their own tracks, pushing them back to the top of their followers’ feeds every few days.
For Micro.blog, I believe the right approach is to first introduce a simple “quote” feature. This UI would be streamlined to support quoting a sentence out of a blog post, with your own thoughts tacked on. It would fit with the spirit of easy posting in Micro.blog, but it would encourage more thoughtful posts and naturally scale up from traditional linkblogging.
It’s always cool to see Webmention comments on real sites across the web. It’s not just a W3C spec. Like many ideas from the IndieWeb, this is a simple web technology that actually works today.
We’ve been improving Micro.blog’s support for Webmention. When you reply to a post on Micro.blog, from the web or iOS app, it will ping the site you’re replying to, giving that site a chance to include the comment. You can see these replies show up under recent posts from Aaron Parecki and Jonathan LaCour.
Drew McLellan had a good overview of implementing Webmention, including using services like Bridgy to bring in tweet replies:
The end result is that by being notified of the external reaction, the publisher is able to aggregate those reactions and collect them together with the original content.
Colin Walker highlighted Webmention when writing about Micro.blog:
It looks like a basic Twitter-style network but that is only scratching the surface; its simplicity belies its power.
Micro.blog also has limited support for receiving Webmention requests for people replying to a Micro.blog-hosted blog from their own site. As this support improves, both in Micro.blog and as more people enable Webmention on their WordPress sites, the distributed nature of the web as a broad social network will really start to shine.
This morning I updated Micro.blog’s XML-RPC posting to support the MetaWeblog API, which allows uploading photos to your hosted microblog. If you’re using MarsEdit to post to Micro.blog, edit your “System API” in MarsEdit’s blog settings to “MetaWeblog API” instead of “Blogger API”.
Working on the photo upload support has also helped clarify how Micro.blog should process text from the different posting APIs such as MetaWeblog and Micropub. After the next version of the Micro.blog iOS app ships, Micro.blog will start requiring Markdown and escaping HTML tags from Micropub, just as it currently does from the web interface. This will be a much better default for most people, and bring more consistency between web and iOS posting.
MarsEdit and other tools that use XML-RPC will still be available for when you want more control over the HTML that is posted. Micro.blog does allow Markdown in your MarsEdit posts, but otherwise it does very little processing of text from MarsEdit. It even lets you post long-form blog posts.
Today we’re adding Facebook cross-posting to Micro.blog. Facebook support is now built in, just like Twitter cross-posting, and can be configured for a microblog hosted on Micro.blog or any external blog with a feed.
Micro.blog’s cross-posting naturally works with long-form content or microblog posts. For longer posts, it includes the title with a link back to your blog. For microblog posts, it sends the entire text to Facebook.
Micro.blog also parses your post HTML looking for
img tags, downloads the photo and attaches it to the Facebook post. This means that microblog posts with photos look great on Facebook, but the source content is still on your own web site. It works really well with the Micro.blog app for iOS.
I feel like Micro.blog is starting to pick up steam. I’m looking forward to rolling out more improvements before the public launch.
Micro.blog’s business model is pretty simple. If you want Micro.blog to host a new microblog for you, or use the Twitter cross-posting with an existing site, there’s a small monthly subscription. We want Micro.blog to be the easiest way to start a blog.
Included in all Micro.blog-hosted microblogs is support for custom domain names, so that you can map yourname.com to your blog. While we’ve always supported SSL for the default yourname.micro.blog hostnames, custom domains need their own SSL certificate. Managing SSL certificates is a hassle, and until recently, also expensive.
I’m happy to announce that we are now rolling out free SSL hosting for custom domains, powered by Let’s Encrypt. While it’s not fully automated yet, we’ve already started enabling these for customers as requested. If you have a Micro.blog-hosted blog with a custom domain, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll enable SSL on your site.
There are more features coming for hosted blogs leading up to the public launch of Micro.blog. Don’t forget to sign up on the launch announce list.
Great to see Daniel Jalkut announce a public beta of MarsEdit 4. There are a lot of new features in this version, but the one that I love the most actually might seem minor. It’s just a short line in Daniel’s announcement, under WordPress-specific enhancements:
Post Format support
For anyone using WordPress for microblogging, this is a big deal. It means you can post with the “status” post format for your short posts. It’s a really convenient way to post to a WordPress microblog from a Mac. (And of course, you can use MarsEdit to post directly to a Micro.blog-hosted blog as well.)
A few years ago, Jon Hays and I built an app for photos called Sunlit, powered by the App.net API. We evolved it to work with other services, like Flickr and Instagram, but as App.net faded away we could never justify the investment to rewrite significant parts of the app to bring it forward and keep it relevant. It also wasn’t clear what the app should do if we were to modernize it. So we let the app sit in the App Store, kind of neglected, and even discussed removing it from sale.
As I rolled out Micro.blog to Kickstarter backers, Jon dusted off the Sunlit project and experimented with something that should’ve been obvious to us earlier: Sunlit should post to blogs. And more than that, it should work well with microblogs and IndieWeb standards. It should become a great app for photoblogging. The new version of Sunlit can post photos to Micro.blog, WordPress, or any site that supports the Micropub API.
To play nicely with microblogs, we introduced a new post type in the app for single photos. For longer posts, you can still collect multiple photos together, add text, and post them as a story directly to your blog. There’s also a brand new editing interface with filters and advanced adjustments:
Jon has put a bunch of work into this while I focus on Micro.blog. Sunlit 2.0 is already feature complete and in beta testing now. We expect to ship it sometime this summer.
I was very excited to see this post from Brandon Kraft, about the potential for an expanded role for WordPress in the IndieWeb movement:
The dream isn’t to return to the past before social media, but help make social media part of the web in an organic way. For this post, you can like it or comment it on via this site, WordPress.com, Twitter, or Facebook, but all of the comments will appear here using Webmentions. The closed gardens will still exist, but it’ll make it easier for people to reach out between them.
People always ask me how Micro.blog is going. There are many answers to that: from the business side, or how the community is growing, or the technical bits of scaling the backend. But one simple answer is how Micro.blog’s success can be judged in posts like Brandon’s.
I still believe strongly in the dual nature of success that I posted about earlier this year:
Key for Micro.blog: it’s a success if more people blog. To provide value it doesn’t need to replace Twitter. But also, it can.
Of course, “if more people blog” is a simplification that leaves out what naturally happens next: the spread of more web standards and better tools for microblogging. If Micro.blog has played even a small part in encouraging IndieWeb standards within WordPress itself, that is great progress. I’ll be happy to raise the bar for what success looks like.
As I expected would happen, using iOS 11 on my iPad Pro after WWDC has inspired me to revisit the universal version of Micro.blog for iOS. Here’s a screenshot of my current build:
I plan to include this in 1.0. I’m in the process of moving the app from TestFlight to its final home in the App Store. As we prepare for the public launch, this’ll make it much easier for everyone to download it, and it shouldn’t be limited or scaled up on the iPad.
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.
Jean MacDonald was on the latest episode of Collin Donnell’s new podcast The Run Loop. They talk about App Camp For Girls, Micro.blog, Portland, and more, with a preview of Jean’s talk at CocoaConf Next Door. It’s a great episode to queue up before WWDC.
And a related reminder: we’re having an informal meetup on Tuesday at lunch for anyone interested in independent microblogging. Sign up for more information here. Hope you can make it and say hi to me and Jean.
Brent Simmons and I were guests on The Talk Show this week. We talk about JSON Feed, Userland Frontier, Micro.blog, and much more.
Brent also announced Evergreen for the first time on the show. Evergreen is a new open source feed reader for the Mac. I’m really looking forward to where this app could go.
One quick correction as I’m re-listening to the episode. For some reason I said that I became interested in Frontier when it pivoted to be open source software. I meant free, not open source. I worked with Frontier in the mid-90s, around the 4.0 release that Brent mentioned, and as I blogged about back in 2004 when Frontier’s kernel was actually open-sourced.
It was fun to revisit this era of Mac scripting on The Talk Show, and I hope that when we look back on the origin of JSON Feed we have similar good memories. There were a bunch of people who made the format what it is, participating in debates about field names and scope. It all contributes to the traction that JSON Feed is getting now.
This week we added a selection of photos to the Discover page on Micro.blog, and today I uploaded a new TestFlight beta with the same feature inside the app. It’s another way to find users to follow, or just see what the Micro.blog community is up to.
Here’s what the iPhone screen looks like:
I think photoblogging is a really important part of indie microblogging. When I share photos online, I want them to be at my own web site in addition to cross-posted to Twitter and other social networks. Photos always capture something — a moment with family or friends, visiting a new place, or just the everyday routine as it changes — and I want Micro.blog to provide a great user experience for photos, from filters to hosting.
I talked with Ben Brooks over Slack this week about Micro.blog and JSON Feed. From the chat:
Micro.blog and JSON Feed share a common goal, which is to encourage more blogging on the open web, and new tools that can make blogging easier. I feel like we’ve gotten off course a little since the early days of blogging, with so many people now putting all of their writing into closed, centralized platforms like Twitter or Facebook. I think we can make it easier to own your own content, have your own domain name, and maybe learn from the UI in modern social networks too.
Slack makes for a really interesting interview format. Some of the spontaneity of a podcast, but with live editing and an automatic transcript. Similar to what Talkshow.im was trying to do before they shut down.
I want to point to some developer activity in the Micro.blog community. The first is a macOS Today Widget called TodayPoster by Bryan Luby. It gives you a text box to post directly to Micro.blog-hosted blogs from the macOS Notification Center.
The next is a Mac client built with Electron. Developer Matthew Roach has a blog post about it with a download link.
There’s another iPhone app in development as well. It’s not ready yet, but from a screenshot by Francisco Cantu, looks like it will be a good alternative to the official Micro.blog iPhone app.
Really excited to announce JSON Feed today with Brent Simmons. It’s great to see all the feedback and links to new feeds. Special thanks to everyone who contributed to the spec, debating field names and requirements over the last few months.
The premise was simple: the time is right for a JSON-based approach to feeds. We hope that JSON Feed is straightforward enough to be implemented quickly, and capable enough to push the next decade of blogging software forward. We love RSS too and tried to learn from its success.
Micro.blog already supports JSON Feed nearly everywhere. There are feeds for hosted microblogs and your timeline, and the Micro.blog custom JSON API itself is actually just JSON Feed with Micro.blog-specific extensions.
I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone does with this. If you’ve shared any code or templates for JSON Feed, or if you’re working on apps to support it, let us know.
Kirby Turner has a detailed write-up on his workflow for posting from his iPhone. It uses a combination of Editorial, Working Copy, and Jekyll:
The workflows save me time and simplify the publish steps. For instance, Jekyll uses YAML as front matter for each post. There’s no way I want to write this front matter by hand on my iPhone each time. I can use TextExpander, but seeing the front matter can be distracting on my iPhone. So I let Editorial’s workflow work its magic to generate the YAML front matter before handing off the document to Working Copy.
Check out his embedded video for what it looks like in action. I love Jekyll, and it’s a big part of Micro.blog, but there’s no denying that the nature of static sites makes mobile posting more difficult. Looking forward to seeing more iPhone workflows like this that make microblogging easier.
After a couple months away from Timetable, because I’ve been focusing so much of my time working on Micro.blog, I’ve finally returned to the microcast for a sort of second season. Timetable will be published daily now, Monday through Friday, to chronicle the actual release of Micro.blog and the Indie Microblogging book.
Episodes 38 and 39 are out now. You can subscribe in Overcast or iTunes.