Tag Archives: microblog

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.

Twitter experiments with 280 characters

I had first suggested a 280-character guideline for microblog posts back in 2014. As I’ve said many times since then, and through launching Micro.blog, I believe expanding the limit will make for better conversations, less mangled punctation, yet still remain short enough that it encourages quick posting.

Twitter announced today that they are also experimenting with a 280-character limit! From their blog post:

We understand since many of you have been Tweeting for years, there may be an emotional attachment to 140 characters – we felt it, too. But we tried this, saw the power of what it will do, and fell in love with this new, still brief, constraint.

They focus most of the announcement on explaining how the current constraints are different for some languages, like Japanese, which can fit far more words into 140 characters. That’s true, but it glosses over the most important point.

Longer text allows for more thoughtful posts, fewer misinterpreted shouting matches, and Twitter desperately needs to improve the tone of conversations on their platform. I’m a fan of this change.

Overthinking stats

Manuel Riess has been writing about why he didn’t stick with previous blogs. On the topic of paying too much attention to stats:

When using WordPress, it’s easy to get the basic numbers of interest: how many visitors, from which part of the world etc. The next level is Google Analytics… what a plethora of settings and numbers! I stared at them all the time after a new post went up, it was exhausting.

I highlighted Manuel’s microblog in an email to Kickstarter backers recently, as an example of using custom domain names. You can follow him on Micro.blog.

I still haven’t looked at stats for Timetable. And I’ve resisted adding follower counts and page view stats to Micro.blog for the same reason. If all that drives you is the number of likes on a tweet, or subscribers to your podcast, it’s easy to get discouraged when the numbers don’t pan out. Or worse, overthink your writing when you know a bunch of people are paying attention.

Everyone has something to say. Write because you love it, or to become a better writer, or to develop an idea. The stats should be an afterthought.

Micro.blog post editing

Micro.blog users have wanted the ability to edit microblog posts for a while. We planned to add it, but first I thought we needed an edit history and probably a window of time during which edits are allowed, to prevent people from abusing edits by changing the meaning of a post in an earlier conversation.

While I still want those things, I realized that they were just excuses to put off implementing the feature. And with full pages and longer posts, editing was increasingly a big omission.

This week I rolled out a complete overhaul to the posts interface under your Micro.blog account. The layout is better, it’s more prominently linked in the UI, there’s an easy way to switch between posts and pages, and you can finally edit posts.

Micro.blog screenshot

There are a couple quirks of the UI still to improve. For example, if you’d like post edits to be reflected in the timeline, you should click the Remove link in the timeline so that Micro.blog pulls the latest version from your microblog. I’ll be working on polishing those areas over the coming weeks. But already it is much better. Enjoy!

Micro.blog iOS 1.1

Micro.blog for iOS version 1.1 is now available. This release adds a number of new features:

  • Added support for longer posts with titles. Type more than 280 characters to reveal an optional title field.
  • Added Markdown syntax highlighting while typing.
  • Added formatting bar for common styles. Select a phrase and tap the link button for easier markup.
  • Added support for uploading multiple photos.
  • Added a Browser sharing item to open the current post on the web.
  • Fixed a potential crash in profile links and glitch when holding down to select text.

Here’s a quick screencast showing some of the highlighting and title support:

Hope you like the update. You can download it from the App Store

Tomorrow matters

As I plan for the iPhone X pre-order, I wanted to write a blog post about all the iPhones I’ve bought, and when. I’ve skipped a few generations, and even made some seemingly oddball choices like getting the iPhone 5C when all my friends got the 5S. In the process of searching old blog posts to confirm whether I even bought the 3G or waited for the 3GS, I found this old blog post about WWDC 2008.

In the post I had collected 95 tweets from myself and others during WWDC. This was 9 years ago, so it’s a bit of a blur. But reading them again brings back memories. These old tweets are gold.

If I hadn’t collected the tweets, I would never find them again. And if anything changes at Twitter, they could just as easily be lost. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that you couldn’t go back more than 3200 tweets in your timeline. Searching old tweets is still impossible in third-party Twitter clients.

Obviously I’m all-in on indie microblogging. I post to my own blog and let Micro.blog sort out cross-posting a copy to Twitter. But looking at these old tweets, I’m just struck with how foolish it was to ever post content exclusively to Twitter. It was an assumption that today mattered more than tomorrow, when the opposite is often true.

A photo is the most clear expression of this truth. Taking a photo doesn’t improve the moment. It’s for later.

Twitter in 2008 was a mix of microblogging and conversations. It was writing without pretense, with no expectation of likes and follower counts. It felt ephemeral, and maybe it still does to many Twitter users today. But you never know when you want that fleeting comment to actually last, and if you don’t control the post, there are few guarantees that it will.

Gizmodo on RSS

David Nield of Gizmodo has a sort of re-introduction to RSS, with an overview on why it’s more useful than ever:

One of the main reasons RSS is so beloved of news gatherers is that it catches everything a site publishes—not just the articles that have proved popular with other users, not just the articles from today, not just the articles that happened to be tweeted out while you were actually staring at Twitter. Everything.

Obviously I’m a fan of RSS. Micro.blog has great support for it throughout the platform. But even though I subscribe to hundreds of feeds, I even caught myself recently loading a few favorite news sites manually instead of using the feeds. Doesn’t hurt to be reminded that there’s a better way.

Homebrew Website Club

Tonight we’re starting up a local Austin chapter of the Homebrew Website Club. This is a group from the IndieWeb community which already meets regularly in San Francisco, Portland, other cities, and online.

From the IndieWeb wiki:

Homebrew Website Club is a bi-weekly meetup of people passionate about or interested in creating, improving, building, designing their own website, in the same structure as the classic Homebrew Computer Club meetings.

For Austin, the first meeting will be 6:30pm at Monkey Nest Coffee, 5353 Burnet Rd. Everyone’s welcome. Bring ideas for your own web site, questions about Micro.blog, or just grab a coffee and hang out. We’ll meet in the extra room at the back of the coffee shop.

Micro.blog custom pages

As I mentioned in this morning’s post about Medium, it’s important that Micro.blog-hosted sites can have their own domain name. Some people use their microblog to supplement an existing web site. Others use Micro.blog itself for hosting their full web site, because the focus on short posts makes the site easy to update.

Today we’re introducing a new feature for hosted microblogs: custom web pages. These can be used for expanded “about” pages, contact information, lists of current projects, essays, or whatever you want to write about on your web site. Micro.blog pages use Markdown and are automatically included in the navigation for your site.

Here’s a screenshot of an example page being edited:

Pages screenshot

If you have a Micro.blog-hosted site, check out the pages list under Account → “Edit Domains & Design”. Enjoy!

Medium stumbling forward

Dave Winer isn’t optimistic about the recent Medium changes:

We’re in the long tail of the demise of Medium. They’ll try this, and something else, and then another thing, each with a smaller probability of making a difference, until they turn it off.

This has been the concern with Medium since the very beginning. Because they defaulted to Medium-branded user blogs on medium.com instead of your own blog at a personal domain name, there was a risk that if Medium didn’t work out as a business, many great posts would disappear along with the service. You might get more readers in the short-term, but it’s a bad trade-off when links break and you have to start all over again.

Nick Heer wrote about the “sameness” of Medium sites — how the sites blur together as just pages on Medium’s platform. Several prominent sites have left:

Earlier this year, Film School Rejects and Pacific Standard moved away from the platform; this month, the Awl announced that they went back to WordPress with their old custom theme. The Ringer and Backchannel also left Medium. Once again, I can tell those sites apart from each other.

I think Medium has good intentions. But the premise was wrong, with an emphasis on medium.com/@username URLs that aren’t portable, and no obvious way to get a custom domain. Getting this right is IndieWeb 101.

That’s why on Micro.blog the microblogs are username.micro.blog by default. It sounds like a small thing, but that difference is everything. It’s easy to swap out for a personal domain name, with free SSL hosting, multiple themes, custom CSS, and it’s based on Jekyll so that it can be moved to any host.

Medium is stumbling forward, trying to find the right path because their initial foundation wasn’t right. I hope they get there.

Flip the iceberg

Many people are initially confused by Micro.blog because they are expecting a strict clone of Twitter. They are expecting another App.net. But as I said in the Kickstarter video, clones of Twitter and Facebook have come and gone. They’ve all failed. A different approach won’t guarantee success, but it is required to have a chance.

I plan to stay the course. I’m inspired by the work of the IndieWeb, which was founded 6 years ago and is still gaining momentum today. I hope that the solar eclipse photos posted to indie microblogs today will last through the next North American eclipse 7 years from now, and longer.

There was a great article on AltPlatform about how compatibility between new blog-focused platforms could eventually become bigger than any one social network:

Open source tools like WordPress, 1999.io and Mastodon.social are creating many small networks of publishers, and popular tools like Twitter and Micro.blog could peer with them. If all of the social networks outside of Facebook interoperated at some level, they might eventually “flip the iceberg” and become the dominant form of social networking.

It’s going to take a while, but I have no doubt that this “flip” is exactly what will happen. The entire web should be the social network. It’s too big of an idea to be contained on a single web site.

Markdown replies in Micro.blog

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.

Safari pinned tab favicons

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.

Reposts and quoting

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.

Webmention in action

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.

Micro.blog photos from MarsEdit

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.

Micro.blog + Facebook

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.

SSL for hosted Micro.blog sites

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 help@micro.blog 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.

MarsEdit 4 and microblogs

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.)