Tag Archives: microblog

Jekyll mobile posting

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.

Timetable returns

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.

Core Intuition 275

Last Friday we published Core Intuition 275. From the show notes:

Daniel and Manton talk about Manton’s decision to hire Jean MacDonald as Micro.blog’s Community Manager, and the psychological effects of transitioning from a single to multi-person company. They also react to this week’s Apple announcements, focusing mainly on Apple’s new Clips app and how it relates to Apple’s historic focus on facilitating user creativity.

This episode captures the biggest shift for my business since I left my regular job a couple years ago. I’m also hoping to resume my Timetable podcast soon, since there’s more I’d like to talk about that won’t always fit into Core Intuition.

Guiding the Micro.blog community

Earlier this month I flew up to Portland for a few days. It was a great trip. I posted about attending the Blazers game and meeting the IndieWeb group at the DreamHost office. I also sat down with Jean MacDonald to talk about what she has been up to and show her what I’ve been building for Micro.blog.

Today I sent an update to Kickstarter backers about the stretch goal promise I made to hire a community manager. I couldn’t be happier to announce that Jean MacDonald will be helping me in the next steps for Micro.blog.

It became clear as I’ve been talking with Jean that she will add so much to the project. Making the announcement today has inspired me even more to finish rolling out Micro.blog and to see where the community takes it.

On last week’s Core Intuition, I told Daniel that the approach for Micro.blog has to be different than for my previous apps. It’s such a big opportunity that if I don’t focus everything on it, then it will not work. I covered the same theme in a post last month:

I’ve realized as I work toward launching Micro.blog that this product is different. It has a much greater scope than anything I’ve built by myself. To be successful, it needs a team.

No single decision will guarantee success. But today’s announcement is a big milestone for Micro.blog because it’s more than a promise or hope for things to come. Jean’s experience will be essential to guiding the community and moving the platform forward.

App.net archive

App.net officially shut down last night. As I wrote about earlier this year, App.net was an important milestone in the move to more open social networks. I’m glad the platform existed and I enjoyed participating there as a user and developer.

Linkrot and the lack of permanence on the web is a recurring theme for this blog. In the final days as App.net was winding down, I wanted to put my money where my mouth was. I spun up a couple new servers and wrote a set of scripts to essentially download every post on App.net. It feels like a fragile archive, put together hastily, but I believe it’s mostly complete. I’ve also downloaded thumbnail versions of some of the public photos hosted on App.net.

I’ll be making the posts available somewhere, although I don’t know exactly what form the archive should take yet. I’ll also be considering whether to integrate it with Micro.blog, for anyone who wants to migrate to a new microblog and didn’t have time to manually export their posts. (I’ve already built a similar feature to import from Twitter’s .zip archives.)

To my Kickstarter backers, thanks for your patience as I took an unexpected detour this week. Major work on Micro.blog continues. I have a big announcement for next week and invites should be ready the following week. I’ll post an update to Kickstarter soon.

More on algorithms and UI

Ben Thompson’s daily update email today covers fake news and algorithms. It’s a great post, although a little disheartening in the way that most coverage of filter bubbles and the election tend to be. One line in the closing paragraph:

Algorithms have consequences, particularly when giving answers to those actually searching for the truth.

It mirrors something I wrote in January about algorithms and curation:

Software has consequences. How it’s designed informs what behavior it encourages. If it’s built without thought to these consequences, it will succeed only by accident.

Quick posting via retweets on Twitter and re-sharing on Facebook contributes to the spread of fake news. As the New York Times article Ben links to says, fake news is “designed to attract social shares and web traffic”. Bad news stories with dramatic headlines can spread more quickly than they would if everyone posted an original comment with their link.

It’s too easy to click a retweet button without thinking. Fake news is as much a user experience and design problem as it is an algorithmic problem.

We

Ten years ago I wrote a post about customer support. Nothing in my attitude toward customers has really changed since then, although my products have changed along the way.

Most of my Mac and iOS apps could be built by one person. Even Sunlit, which I developed with Jon Hays, could be maintained by one person. And so when providing support for my apps, I’ve always embraced being an indie company and said “I” instead of “we” when talking about my company Riverfold Software.

I’ve realized as I work toward launching Micro.blog that this product is different. It has a much greater scope than anything I’ve built by myself. To be successful, it needs a team.

This is why my first priority with the Kickstarter stretch goal was to bring someone new to the project. I was initially nervous about making that announcement. I thought that nervousness was because the stretch goal might not work, or because my post was long and could be misinterpreted, but I realize now that I was nervous because I knew it mattered.

The first decisions a new company has to make will end up shaping many things that follow. I worked at VitalSource for over 14 years because the technology decisions and leadership at the beginning were so strong they carried forward for years.

The same rule applies for a very different kind of company: Uber. When you look at their series of missteps, it seems clear that these are inherent problems that go back to day one. I think John Gruber is right when he says Uber’s response is “too little, too late”.

We can learn from every company culture that fails. I don’t expect to make all the right decisions with Micro.blog. But I’m going to try very hard to make the first decisions correctly, because it will make everything easier going forward.

Piezo and Dash without the App Store

Great post from Paul Kafasis of Rogue Amoeba about Piezo sales for the year after leaving the Mac App Store, and how it suggests that Dash’s post-MAS sales weren’t a fluke. Rogue Amoeba’s data points to this key point:

Far from the Mac App Store helping drive sales to us, it appears we had instead been driving sales away from our own site, and into the Mac App Store.

For me, the question of whether to use the Mac App Store is also closely tied to using in-app purchases in addition to Stripe. As I work to get Micro.blog shipped to Kickstarter backers, and eventually launched to a wider audience, I’ve wondered whether there should be an in-app purchase to make subscribing to Micro.blog from iOS easier. Of course the Mac App Store and in-app purchases are different things, but both require juggling multiple payment systems with the hope that it will be easier for users.

And it would be a little better for customers in the short-term. The problem is that it would be much worse for me as a solo developer trying to do too much. The backend systems would be more complicated, and I think the product would suffer because of it.

Timetable 37

I’m taking some time to resume Timetable recording. From the latest episode:

Now that the Kickstarter campaign has wrapped up, I move to the next phase of getting Micro.blog ready, planning for invites, and focusing on the Slack community.

I started Timetable over a year ago to document what it was like to build Micro.blog and figure out how to launch it. Each episode is about 4-5 minutes long. Reaching this point with the Kickstarter finished is a huge milestone, but there is plenty of work still to do and talk about.

Safe search on Twitter

Twitter made an announcement today about stopping abusive accounts and hiding low-quality tweets. I think filtering search results in particular is a very good step in the right direction:

We’re also working on ‘safe search’ which removes Tweets that contain potentially sensitive content and Tweets from blocked and muted accounts from search results. While this type of content will be discoverable if you want to find it, it won’t clutter search results any longer.

As I work on Micro.blog, I’ve tried to be mindful of where users can stumble upon posts that they don’t want to see. Replies is a big one, and I’ll be focusing most of my attention on that. But search, trends, and hashtags are also a problem, because they let anyone’s posts bubble up to a much wider audience. I’m launching Micro.blog without them.

Owning your content matters right now

Twitter and Facebook are both powerful tools to help people organize. We’ve seen some of that over the last few weeks of protests. While these social networks are also broken in significant ways, they’re not all bad. They bring people together and expand the reach of posts from our own web sites. That’s why many people embrace cross-posting.

Even more important is the free press. Not just big sites like the New York Times and Washington Post, but also small sites like yours and mine. Trump will continue to attack and undermine the mainstream press. Everyone who publishes on the internet should consider where that leads.

It’s not a good foundation to concentrate so much writing into one place like Twitter or Medium. Distributing writing across more web sites protects us if one massive site shuts down. It gives us flexibility to move to the next popular network if one emerges.

Sometime in the next 2 years, a reporter or blogger is going to break a story about the Trump administration. It’s going to be too important to ignore. But to be taken seriously, it can’t be an anonymous Twitter account that’s easy to cast doubt on. It has to come from someone accountable who has built a reputation by publishing good work and owning it.

Owning your content by having a microblog at your own domain is empowering. Maybe you’re writing about what you had for lunch. Maybe you’re photo-blogging an important trip. Maybe you’re posting from your iPhone at a protest outside the White House.

It doesn’t matter what it is. If it’s happening and worth writing about, it’s worth owning. Now more than ever.

Exponent 102

Maybe you aren’t building a new social network. Maybe you aren’t obsessed with the rise and fall of tech giants. But if you are at all interested in why Instagram and Snapchat took off, check out episode 102 of Exponent with Ben Thompson and James Allworth:

Ben and James discuss the history of messaging apps, the rise of Snapchat, and why Instagram Stories was such a brilliant move.

I feel like I just had a whirlwind business school class in 57 minutes. So much of what they talk about is applicable to what I’m working on.

Humans and algorithms

I’ve been following Seth Godin and reading his books for many years, but recently two of his statements caught my attention. The first is an older video episode with Gary Vaynerchuk, where Seth talks about why he has no presence on social media except automatic cross-posting of his blog posts.

The second is equally relevant to what I’ve been thinking about with Micro.blog. Seth says that we’ve surrendered control over how our software works to algorithms instead of human decision-makers who can take responsibility for mistakes. It’s too easy to blame the computer:

That person who just got stopped on her way to an airplane—the woman who gets stopped every time she flies—the TSA says it’s the algorithm doing it. But someone wrote that code.

Algorithms are a shortcut. They should give us more leverage to go further, faster, not dictate where we go.

The social web is now permeated with algorithms. Today, Twitter again promoted what’s trending higher up in their app. That may be a step in the wrong direction. Trends can sometimes surface the better parts of Twitter, but they’re also an invitation to view the worst possible tweets you’ll ever see.

Let’s not be afraid to add curation by humans. That’s not an admission of failure. It’s an acknowledgement that algorithms are imperfect.

Software has consequences. How it’s designed informs what behavior it encourages. If it’s built without thought to these consequences, it will succeed only by accident. For 2017, one of my goals is to slow down and be more deliberate about features that can have this kind of impact.

Release Notes interview and 2017 conference

I was a guest on the latest episode of Release Notes this week. We talk about the Kickstarter launch of Micro.blog and more:

Today Manton Reece joins us to talk about Micro.blog, the new microblogging service that he’s developing. We talk to Manton about why he thinks a new microblogging service is needed, the importance of owning your own content, and his successful Kickstarter campaign.

Speaking of Release Notes, the conference is coming back for 2017 in a new city: Chicago. I haven’t been to Chicago in years, so I’m excited for an excuse to visit.

I blogged about my time at Release Notes 2015, but never got around to posting thoughts from 2016. In short: it was a great conference. For a snapshot of the talks, see Matthew Bischoff’s slides and Ben Norris’s sketchnotes.

App.net is shutting down

Dalton Caldwell and Bryan Berg announced the official shutdown of App.net today:

In May of 2014, App.net entered maintenance mode. At that time we made the difficult decision to put App.net into autopilot mode in an effort to preserve funds and to give it ample time to bake. Since then every dollar App.net has charged has gone towards paying for the hosting and services needed to keep the site running. Unfortunately, revenue has consistently diminished over the past 2+ years, and we have been unable to return the service to active development.

As I wrote about just last week, the founders of App.net deserve our thanks for trying something very difficult and succeeding beyond what anyone expected. I’m still amazed at everything they were able to do.

So, what now? I believe the next step for the open web and Twitter-like services is indie microblogging.

One year of Timetable

I started my microcast Timetable a little over one year ago. I’ve recorded 35 episodes, so fewer than 1 a week. My goal is still 2-3 a week, so hopefully I’ll work up to that for 2017.

This podcast is one of my favorite things to do right now. It’s so much easier to record and publish a 5-minute podcast than a 1-hour podcast. All I need is something to talk about.

Here are the feed descriptions for each episode over the last year, starting with the earliest. Reviewing these provides a neat snapshot into the journey of building Micro.blog. You can subscribe at timetable.fm.

1: On the first episode, I introduce the idea behind the show and the topics I hope to cover.

2: On this episode, I talk about trying tea instead of coffee, how I named this podcast, and my work schedule as I wrap up the week.

3: On this episode, I talk about finishing some work and the new iPhone microphone I bought.

4: This morning I was downtown to work at a coffee shop for a few hours before lunch. I talk about getting out of the house and last night’s icon sketches.

5: Today I stopped at the post office to pick up some stamps to mail stickers for the new microblogging app and platform I’m working on.

6: I start with some thoughts on basketball, my potential Kickstarter campaign, and whether it’s better to start strong or finish strong. (Go Spurs Go!)

7: This morning I was distracted a little with backups, ordering a new hard drive, and thinking about my iOS app, which was just rejected by Apple.

8: Recorded in 3 segments, I set my alarm early this morning to get some coding done before the day starts slipping away.

9: Today I mention the iPhone app rejection, talk about why the iPhone app itself is secondary to the web version, and reveal more about the Kickstarter.

10: I take the iPad Pro and my microphone out to the front porch, to think through what work I need to focus on for today.

11: Back from a sick day or two, I talk today about Twitter’s algorithmic timeline change and why it would be nice to launch a product when your competitor has some bad news.

12: Back from a quick trip to Portland, today I’m thinking about the music for my Kickstarter project.

13: I finally drop the stickers in the mailbox at our neighborhood post office. Thinking this episode about what it means to be lucky.

14: At my 10th new coffee shop in as many days, I write a few blog posts. And on this episode I talk about it.

15: I reflect on 6 months as an indie, think about stealing time for projects, and plan how I can use working from a coffee shop in the morning to provide a better structure to my day.

16: This week I’m thinking back on how Staple! Expo went over the weekend, and why it never helps to panic when something isn’t going perfectly to plan.

17: It’s spring break week, which means the kids are out of school and SXSW is taking over downtown.

18: I’m playing Nintendo’s new iPhone app Miitomo, watching my Mii character pace around the room as he (and I) wait for our iPhone SE delivery. Also talk about the library routine and Rails 5.

19: I finally record a video for my Kickstarter project. Now I just need to edit it and do everything else.

20: I talk about receiving the Loish art book and my current thoughts on Kickstarter goals and rewards.

21: Today I take stock of the last few weeks of client work and recovering from 2 months of focusing so heavily on my personal blog.

22: Last week was stressful. This episode is about being mad at nothing and everything, and why fireflies are magical.

23: I play a clip from the Upgrade podcast and then talk about my struggle to wind down a product correctly.

24: I summarize my week in San Francisco from the perspective of not just the WWDC technical news and events, but also of using the trip to refocus on my priorities for Riverfold Software.

25: Back after a summer break, on this episode I talk through what we can learn from Tim Duncan’s incredible 19-year career.

26: I talk about getting derailed with home repairs, the U.S. presidential election, and writing about the Dash controversy.

27: One week after the election, I react to Apple’s design book announcement and talk about why social networks may be broken.

28: Not enough sleep yet still focused on getting work done. I review today’s blog post and play a clip from the Moana soundtrack.

29: I got a new domain! I talk about the .blog registration process and my evolving plans.

30: From a listener question, I talk about steps in November to wrap up old projects and finish new ones.

31: I try the new WeWork location at the Domain, listen to a singer at the car dealership, and remember that I need to get out to talk to real people about my work.

32: I share some thoughts on the first day of Super Mario Run and how my work week is wrapping up.

33: The morning after Christmas, I give a quick update on Micro.blog plans and Kickstarter’s Launch Now review feature.

34: Happy New Year! I talk about the first day of the year, and the final day to finish my Kickstarter project for Micro.blog.

35: A week after launching the Kickstarter, I talk about its success so far and why I believe I can build Micro.blog, with a clip about optimism from Gary Vaynerchuk.

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.

Thank you to App.net

Even before announcing Micro.blog, I’d get asked about App.net. It may surprise you to hear that there’s still a community there, 2 years after the service was put into maintenance mode. All my microblog posts are cross-posted automatically, and I’m always happily surprised to continue to get replies on App.net.

I was an early believer in App.net. I wrote in 2013 that it was not just a Twitter clone but an amplifier for applications that couldn’t be built before. It came along at the right time, took off, and then faded. The App.net founders deserve significant credit and thanks for trying something risky and succeeding to grow a community that lasted so long.

Now, with social networks broken in ways we didn’t fully acknowledge before, the time is right for another shot at a more open, ad-free microblogging platform. That’s why I’ve been working on Micro.blog.

I could use your help to spread the idea of independent microblogging. We don’t need just another Twitter or Facebook clone. We need a new platform that encourages blogging on the open web. You can learn more on Kickstarter here.

Medium may not last

On Monday, I launched my Kickstarter project about independent microblogging, with a focus on owning your own content and making blogging easier. On Tuesday, Lindy West left Twitter in a post about Twitter’s inability to deal with harassment. On Wednesday, Ev Williams announced that Medium would lay off 50 employees.

The message is clear. The only web site that you can trust to last and have your interests at heart is the web site with your name on it.

That’s the main goal with Micro.blog. Build a service and write a book that makes independent blogging more approachable. No one knows exactly what the web will look like in 10 years, but we can take the first step to get there. If you’ve been frustrated by the ad-based silos and waiting for a reason to post to your own site again, I’d love your support.

Kickstarter, day 1

Yesterday morning I woke up early, after not enough sleep, and flipped the switch to launch my Kickstarter project. I’ve been amazed at the response, seeing it funded on the first day. If you backed it or shared a link with friends, thank you. It meant a lot to see so many people embracing the idea.

I’ve backed 18 projects on Kickstarter but never created one myself, so I didn’t know what to expect. Was the funding goal too high? Too low? Even at the last minute I was noticing problems with the video and wished I had more time to improve it.

But I really wanted to launch something new at the beginning of 2017. I settled on January 2nd a couple of weeks ago and decided to stick with it. I announced the date on Core Intuition. I booked a sponsorship slot on 512 Pixels to lock myself into the date. I gave my mailing list an early heads-up that it was coming. I even set a promoted tweet to run, for some reason. (And I quietly deleted some other advertising ideas from my OmniFocus list, because I just ran out of time to pursue them.)

Today, I took a few minutes to re-listen to episode 34 of my short podcast Timetable, which I had published on Sunday, the day before launching on Kickstarter. It’s fascinating to me in the context of the success of the project so far, and in general people’s positive reaction to the video, because I think you can hear the doubt in my voice about it. I was not confident.

And I felt the same way yesterday morning, staring at the “0 backers” text on Kickstarter for a little while, wondering if maybe I had rushed it out without enough planning. That’s a really bizarre feeling. It’s much different than selling traditional Mac or iOS software.

Right now I’m feeling incredibly lucky to have the chance to launch this project — to see it spread and to hear everyone’s feedback and ideas. I have a bunch of work to do. And I have new features that I wanted to build for Micro.blog which I haven’t announced yet, which now it looks like I’ll be able to prioritize.

I’ll have more thoughts soon. In the meantime, I’ve been answering questions on Kickstarter and email, and I’ll be sending a project update later today to all backers with details on what comes next. Thanks again for your support!