Tag Archives: twitter

Core Intuition 236 and app subscriptions

We published Core Intuition episode 236 today, discussing the recent App Store announcements and a listener question about offices. We wrap up with plans for WWDC.

There has been a lot of great blog posts and podcast episodes already on the App Store subscription change. I listened to Under the Radar 31 and the Release Notes special edition today and recommend both. The most confusion seems to be around what kind of apps are appropriate for subscriptions, where by “appropriate” I mean “what Apple will approve”.

John Gruber also follows up at Daring Fireball on this question:

Professional apps that require “a lot of maintenance of new features and versions” don’t fit either of those categories. Would Twitter clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific qualify for subscription pricing? After talking to Schiller yesterday, I thought so. Now, I don’t know.

As I mention on Core Intuition, apps that have a backend service with obvious hosting and maintenance costs — a music streaming service, an invoicing web app, or a blogging platform, for example — are easier for users to understand as needing to be subscriptions. Twitter apps are an interesting example because some are pure clients to Twitter’s backend, but many increasingly have their own app-specific services like timeline syncing or push notifications.

For years Apple has allowed apps to use auto-renewing subscriptions. I had an iPhone app and companion web service that was approved by Apple for auto-renewing subscriptions, after I made the case for the service as a “cloud” archive. From section 11.15 of the App Store review guidelines:

Apps may only use auto-renewing subscriptions for periodicals (newspapers, magazines), business Apps (enterprise, productivity, professional creative, cloud storage), and media Apps (video, audio, voice), or the App will be rejected

From my experience and listening to other developers, I’ve had the impression for a while that Apple would essentially reject most auto-renewing app submissions by default. While we still don’t know what “all categories” means in the new announcement, I expect it means that there will no longer be a kind of blanket rejection. Apple will still reject many apps as poorly suited for subscriptions, though, and maybe that’s okay for now.

(I’m conflicted on this point. John Gruber’s suggestion to approve everything and let the market decide is compelling and fits better with my instinct that the control should be in developers’ hands.)

“Subscription fatigue” is a real thing that I’ll occasionally hear from customers about. No one wants to pay $1/month to 40 different apps and services; it feels like a burden in a way that paying the same total price to just two apps at $20/month does not. Nevertheless, subscriptions are very powerful. Everything I’ve done over the last few years is to position myself to eventually have a recurring-revenue success.

Time to rethink blog comments

Twitter has lost some of what made it special for communities 5 years ago. I’ve noticed a few trends:

  • Twitter’s 140-character limit and easy retweeting encourage and amplify negative tweets. Sincerity is less common. Everything is an opportunity for a joke.
  • Widely followed, long-time Twitter users don’t find the joy they used to when interacting with followers. Some have retreated to private Slack channels, at the cost of public discussion and approachability.
  • Developers have never completely forgiven Twitter for crippling the API. This doesn’t directly impact most users anymore, but it’s a backdrop that gives every new Twitter feature a tone of distrust. Progress is slow.

Meanwhile, blog comments have slowly been killed off over that same period. The rise of social networks, combined with the technical problems of fighting blog comment spam, pushed most bloggers to prefer answering questions on Twitter.

Becky Hansmeyer writes about the intersection of these problems — that some Twitter users avoid public discussion, but most blogs no longer have comments to fall back on — by pointing to a post from Belle Beth Cooper:

“Belle’s post really resonated with me because it reminded me of something I think about a lot: when an ever-increasing number of blogs and media outlets are disabling comment sections, where do decent, thoughtful people bring their discussions? I only offer readers one way to contact me on this site, and it’s via Twitter. But what if, like Belle, you no longer use Twitter (or never did in the first place)?”

We didn’t realized how much we lost when we turned our backs on blog comments years ago. Just look at one of Daniel Jalkut’s blog posts from 10 years ago, which he and I discuss on an upcoming episode of Core Intuition. 53 comments! And they’re all preserved along with the original content. That’s difficult to do when comments are spread across Twitter and easily lost.

It’s time to take what we’ve since learned from social networks and apply it the openness of cross-site replies. That’s why I want to support Webmention. As Becky mentions, Civil Comments look great too. I think we can encourage both in parallel: distributed comments like Webmention for sites that can support it and better centralized comments like Civil.

Blog when you disagree

The echo chamber. We only follow people who we already agree with. We only jump on the bandwagon of snark and ridicule when it’s already the accepted narrative, and thus safe to be part of the mob.

But sometimes you’ll find an area where you aren’t completely in line with the crowd’s opinion. There’s a topic that keeps coming up for which you have something to add. The default story is missing an important angle.

When you disagree, that’s what you should write about, and you should post it to your blog. 140 characters thrown against wave after wave of mainstream opinion tweets will be drowned out. A blog post isn’t a cheap opinion; it’s a statement that what you think matters.

The evolution of linkblogging

In my posts about defining what makes a microblog post and guidelines for RSS, I talked a little about links but didn’t explore linkblogging. While many blog authors post primarily long essays, shorter link blogs are a common approach for bloggers who want to post new content several times a day.

Essentially two types of link blogs have evolved since the early days of blogging. The most traditional link blog can be seen in Dave Winer’s posts (click on the Links tab). These are links with a very short commentary. Many tweets are like this. In a way, this format is the purest form of microblogging.

The second type of link blog starts to fall outside the limits of microblogging. Instead of just including a URL, authors use a quote from the linked material as the foundation for the post. The majority of Daring Fireball posts adopt this format. While John Gruber is known for his full essays, those longer posts are infrequent today. He keeps his site active by linking to other interesting essays and tacking on his own brief opinion.

Daring Fireball has become so successful that Gruber’s approach to linkblogging has been copied by many other sites. MacStories, Six Colors, One Foot Tsunami, John Moltz’s Very Nice Web Site, and Marco Arment’s blog are just a handful that follow this pattern. All of these sites post the occasional essay, but most blog posts link away to an external site in the RSS item, not back to their own site.

At a technical level, this difference can best be seen in the RSS feed’s <link> and <guid> elements. These elements will contain URLs that either link back to the main site, or link away to an external site.

Here is where this evolving approach to link blogs starts to break down. Let’s take an example from Six Colors, one of my favorite sites. (I recommend subscribing. The members-only secret podcast with Jason and Dan Moren is really fun, and the email magazine is great too.)

In a link post about Hulu’s pricing, Jason Snell actually writes 4 paragraphs of commentary (plus a footnote). This is more like an essay than a short link post that points to the external site.

Another example is when MacStories linked to Twitter’s launch of Moments. A few paragraphs of quoted text, 5 paragraphs of MacStories commentary. The commentary is as important or even more important to read than whatever Federico is linking to.

Sometimes we read sites like MacStories, Six Colors, or Daring Fireball more for the commentary than for what is being linked to. But when using an RSS reader, there is too much confusion about where an item’s link goes when clicked if the site’s feed isn’t consistent about linking everything back to its own site.

And in fact Jason Snell acknowledges this problem by offering two separate RSS feeds: the default one, with a mix of links back to Six Colors for essays and pointed elsewhere for link posts; and another feed with everything linking back to Six Colors, where the commentary lives. He also attempts to minimize confusion on his own site by giving each type of post its own icon in the site design.

The less clear-cut the distinction between essays and link posts, the more confusion we introduce to readers. In some ways, this mixed approach really only works for Daring Fireball, because his feature essays are so long, and so obviously different in format to the rest of the link posts.

Good conventions for blogging have been at a standstill for years. While part of the appeal of indie blogging is there’s no one “right” way to do it, and authors can have a strong voice and design that isn’t controlled by a platform vendor, we must accept that Twitter has taken off because it has a great user experience compared to blogs. It’s effortless to tweet and the timeline is consistent. For blogging to improve and thrive, it should have just as straightforward a user experience as social networks wherever possible.

Luckily, RSS already has everything we need for clients to visually distinguish between link posts and regular ones. If the <link> element points to a domain other than the one for the site, it’s probably a link post. If the <link> and site domain match, it’s a full post.

I’ve adopted this in my new microblogging platform by exposing the domain in the UI itself, at the end of the title or microblog post whenever it’s a link post. If it’s a full post, the link isn’t added. And for either type of post, the timestamp links back to whatever was in the <link>.

Here’s a screenshot from one of Dave’s posts. Note that the link was not in the RSS text. It was added by my app automatically:

linkblog example

This has been a long post, but it boils down to two simple recommendations:

  • If you’re a blog author and you’re adding any significant commentary, the RSS feed should point back to your site.
  • If you’re an RSS client developer, the difference between link posts and full posts should be exposed in the UI.

I believe that adopting these will bring more consistency to blogging. Users won’t need to hover over links, or guess what will happen on a click or tap. It’s a small change that will make reading blogs a little better.

Concerned about user-generated content

On the latest Under the Radar podcast, Marco Arment and David Smith talk about ways to make your app more robust. That includes tips for scaling your app with a lot of data, and also dealing with potentially hostile user data. It’s that last point that I’ve been thinking the most about lately.

With the experience of building Tumblr and Instapaper, Marco is clearly now hesitant to ship app features that accept arbitrary user-generated content, because a small indie company just doesn’t have the resources to deal with spam and abuse. Instead, he suggests outsourcing whenever possible. For example, letting Apple accept and reject podcasts, and basing the Overcast podcast directory search on that already-vetted list.

Let’s say you’re building a Twitter-like service. As we all know, hate is widespread on Twitter. At times, it seems impossible to even have a G-rated Twitter experience. But the problem is less that users can publish terrible tweets, and more that it is so easy to be exposed to those tweets with search, trending topics, retweets, and replies.

As I work on my microblogging project, I’m trying to be aware of these points in the platform where bad content can leak out. So I don’t have global search or trending topics. I also don’t make it easy to stumble upon random users. But I do have replies, which by default will currently go out as push notifications if you have the iPhone app installed. It’s that area that I should focus my attention.

Two options that come to mind for minimizing abuse in replies:

  • Don’t allow replies from people you aren’t following. This solves the problem, but it comes at the expense of discussion. It removes the accessibility that many people love about Twitter’s asynchronous following model.
  • Quarantine or attempt to classify replies so they don’t bubble up in your timeline or as notifications by default. This would be like an over-aggressive email spam filter. Difficult to get right and possibly routed around by clever microbloggers.

After listening to Marco and David, and reviewing the full scope of what I’ve been trying to build, I’m pretty concerned about this. I’m looking at Akismet, and other metrics internal to my app for judging content and suspicious user accounts, but I may be a little in over my head on this issue.

River5 and twtxt

Two new microblog-related services have launched. This week, Dave Winer announced River5:

“So I decided it was time to do a restart of my JavaScript RSS aggregator, and it’s now ready for Node users — it’s called River5. […] This is a foundation for developers to build on, but it’s also possible for an adventurous user to set up their own rivers.”

River5 is built on a few XML and JSON formats, including River.js. I’m pretty interested in River.js as a format for aggregating multiple feeds together, so I’ve supported it in my new microblog platform. As a next-generation RSS, though, I prefer the proposal I wrote about in a post called RSS for microblogs.

Next up is twtxt, which attempts to recreate Twitter as a distributed, command-line based system with self-hosted text files:

“Instead of signing up at a closed and/or regulated microblogging platform, getting your status updates out with twtxt is as easy as putting them in a publicly accessible text file. The URL pointing to this file is your identity, your account. twtxt then tracks these text files, like a feedreader, and builds your unique timeline out of them, depending on which files you track.”

I’m less sure what to think of twtxt. The simple plaintext format is nice, but we already have a good infrastructure for this with RSS. And as I’ve noted before, having HTML in RSS with inline styles and links is nice for microblogs, and it’s not clear to me whether that would fit well with twtxt.

If you want to start an indie microblog, my suggestion remains to use existing blog software that can generate simple RSS feeds. Short posts, no titles. This is a widely-deployed format that we can continue to work with for years to come.

Algorithmic timeline now rolling out

Dan Moren reports that Twitter is rolling out their algorithmic timeline, where tweets aren’t strictly reverse-chronological. It is opt-in for now, and likely won’t apply to third-party clients:

“I’d also guess that third-party clients won’t be able to implement this for a while, if ever. So users of Tweetbot, Twitterrific, and others won’t really have a substantively different experience.”

I don’t see the setting in my Twitter account yet. As a user, I hardly care, because I don’t read the Twitter timeline directly anyway. But I’ll be watching how people react to this and how it might affect my own microblogging plans.

Matt Gemmell on Twitter ads

Matt Gemmell has started including shorter posts on his blog. Today he writes about Twitter’s decision to not show ads to some popular users:

“There are problems with that approach, the main one being the tacit admission that their ads are detrimental. If you’re rewarding people by reducing the hostility of their experience, maybe just fix the experience for everyone, and find something positive to charge for instead.”

Ads are the worst. I don’t know if it’s possible to build a large-scale social network like Twitter or Facebook without being mostly ad-supported, but I’d like to believe it is. WordPress.com — which has elements of a social network, even though we don’t consider it one — might be the closest successful attempt.

Long-form writing as a filter

Soroush Khanlou, looking for more new blogs to read, makes a great point that the process of blogging leads to better writing:

“Opening my RSS reading and finding 30 unread items makes me happy. Opening Twitter and seeing 150 new tweets feels like work. I’m not sure why that is. I think Twitter has become more negative, and the ease of posting quick bursts makes posting negative stuff easy. With blogging, writing something long requires time, words, and an argument. Even the passing thought of ‘should I post this’ creates a filter that lets only better stuff through.”

I think there’s something to that. It’s often only after writing our thoughts down that we fully understand how we feel about a topic.

And here’s where I bring this back to microblogging. Because when starting a post, we don’t always know whether it will be long or short. How often have you seen a series of tweets that in hindsight even the author would agree should have been a blog post?

This is less of a problem if instead of tweeting you start out with the intention of posting to your own site. Short post can stay short, and posts requiring more words can naturally expand to a full essay.

I don’t think that our short-form, seemingly unimportant writing should exclusively be on centralized networks. If it’s worth the time to write something — whether a thoughtful essay or a fleeting one-off microblog post — then it’s worth owning and publishing at your own domain name.

Ignoring follower counts

I’ve said before that there’s something about the 140-character limit that brings out both the best and worst in people. Nick Harris hints at this while writing about taking a break from Twitter:

“But largely ignoring the Twitter Noise Machine – particularly when my timeline becomes the Twitter Hate Machine – is going to be good for me.”

He also talks about the obsession with stats and follower counts, which Brent Simmons picks up on and carries further:

“I did have Google Analytics for a few months in 2014 when I was doing sponsorships. I spent too much time looking at the numbers and trying to make them go up. But no amount of going-up is ever satisfying: I just wanted more.”

When designing my new microblogging platform, I made a conscious decision to not even show follower counts. You can get the followers from the API, but I didn’t want to have the numbers right in your face when viewing someone’s profile. It’s too easy for us to make a judgement based on how many followers they have, and so miss out on whatever they have to say.

Here’s a Twitter feed

Whenever someone says “I don’t read RSS”, I actually hear “I don’t read Manton’s blog”. I could give plenty of reasons why they’re missing out by ignoring RSS — it’s still the best way to keep up with bloggers you like who aren’t linked or retweeted often enough to bubble up on Twitter — but some people won’t be convinced.

Over three years ago I stopped posting to Twitter. I know it was the right move on principle because there was a real cost in exposure, with fewer people actively keeping up with what I’ve been working on. As I’ve said before: it wouldn’t mean anything if it didn’t cost me anything.

And yet, many people get their news from Twitter. Since I started microblogging on my own site, I’ve had time to reflect on the role of indie microblogging and cross-posting. I think the IndieWebCamp has it right: publish on your own site, syndicate elsewhere. I wrote more back in July about cross-posting.

Most importantly, as I work on a microblog publishing platform of my own, how can I develop a solid cross-posting feature if I don’t actively use it myself? I’ve recommended IFTTT to beta testers, but only by using it myself can I know where the gaps in functionality are.

So I’ve been experimenting. All of my posts now go out to the Twitter account @manton2. This was an account I created 6 years ago for testing. Except for a few of the first tweets, I’ve cleared out the test content and given it a new life.

It’s worth noting some advantages and disadvantages to this:

  • I can write at my domain name and own my content, but have it automatically sent to Twitter for folks who are there. Unlike how I’ve been treating these cross-posts to App.net, I’m not sure whether I will stay engaged and answer replies on Twitter. We’ll see.
  • Most of my microblog posts are around 200 characters. These will get truncated on Twitter, with a link back to my site. Full essays get a nicer title and link. I’ll continue to improve this.
  • I’m effectively starting over with zero followers, compared to the 5000 followers I left @manton with. I have no plans to resume using my original account, though. Think of the “2” in @manton2 as a reminder that this is a mirror of my posts, and an imperfect one.

You can follow @manton2 on Twitter. Thanks for reading.

Silos as shortcuts

As a follow-up on Twitter and links, I want to point to this great post from Rian Van Der Merwe about platform silos as “shortcuts”:

“The point is that publishing on Medium and Twitter and Facebook gives you an immediate shortcut to a huge audience, but of course those companies’ interests are in themselves, not in building your audience, so it’s very easy for them to change things around in a way that totally screws you over (remember Zynga? Yeah, me either).”

My current thinking on Medium is that it’s a shortcut to building an audience for a single post, but doesn’t really help build a true audience. In other words, you will get more exposure, and maybe one of your posts will be lucky enough to be recommended and included in Medium’s daily email, but after someone finds it they aren’t as likely to read your other posts and subscribe to your entire site.

We can’t talk about silos like Twitter and Medium without talking about cross-posting. Noah Read says:

“While it is relatively easy to post to a blog, syndicating that content to Twitter, Facebook, or Medium still requires additional configuration, which many users won’t do. I think it would be in blogging software’s interest to make these POSSE features a standard part of their core product. In order for the open web to not lose ground, ironically they will need to play nicer with closed platforms than they are likely to receive in return.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about this too. For beta users of my new product, I’ve been telling people to use IFTTT to wire up cross-posting to Twitter. But that’s another step that will be confusing to people — an opportunity to lose interest and give up. Cross-posting should be a core feature.

Twitter and the cost of links

Federico Viticci covers the news that Twitter will expand from 140 characters to 10,000, nicknaming the feature Twitter Notes. His nickname is appropriate given this latest transformation to become more like Facebook, since Facebook’s Medium-like capability for long posts is also called Facebook Notes.

The tweets and blog commentary on this have really missed a key aspect and cause for concern, though. Many posts – including even my own first attempt – have focused on whether Twitter Notes would water down Twitter’s unique strength. They then conclude that it’s better to include a long-form text feature rather than the compromise hack of screenshot text and tweetstorms. Federico sums up this endorsement with the following:

“Unlike other recent additions to the service, I want to believe that third-party developers will be able to support the feature in their clients (Jack seems to suggest as much) and that the iPad won’t be left behind again. I may be disappointed when the day comes, but if done right (see Matthew’s points here) and as long as Twitter Notes are intended as attachments for regular tweets with real text, I don’t see why I would be against them.”

Here’s why this matters, and it gets back to my post last week about the hyperlink. Closed platforms want to trap all activity, not send it out. The danger in Twitter Notes isn’t that they will replace textshots, it’s that they will replace external blogs.

For all of Twitter’s problems, at least right now most of the good writing we see on Twitter is actually linked out to external blogs (and yes, increasingly Medium posts). To shift that to be stored more on Twitter itself would be a setback for the open web. It would slowly train a new generation of timeline surfers to prefer Twitter-hosted content instead of blogs.

I wrote the above in draft form, and then later saw Ben Thompson’s daily update about the Twitter news. His take is the first I had seen that directly covered the issues of linking, even suggesting that no one really clicks on links anymore. But while he’s worried about Twitter from a business standpoint, I’m more worried about the attack on the web.

Ben also mentioned the clever trick Jack Dorsey used in writing his response as a textshot. Daniel Jalkut pointed out the same thing in the latest Core Intuition. Jack could have posted it to a blog, or to Medium, but he deliberately picked the worst way to work around Twitter’s current 140-character limit, to underscore his point.

Now, Will Oremus writes for Slate about the potential new Twitter walled garden:

“What’s really changing here, then, is not the length of the tweet. It’s where that link at the bottom takes you when you click on it—or, rather, where it doesn’t take you. Instead of funneling traffic to blogs, news sites, and other sites around the Web, the ‘read more’ button will keep you playing in Twitter’s own garden.”

I know we can’t rewind the clock to the heyday of the blogosphere. But we can still do more. More to encourage bloggers, more to spread awareness about how the web is supposed to work, and more to value open APIs. I think it starts with 2 things:

  • Build tools for independent microblogging, to make blogging just as easy as tweeting. I’m trying to do this.
  • Make the web faster, so the cost of clicking on a link goes down. Google’s helping this with AMP.

I was encouraged when I saw that Known had added support for AMP. They have their doubts about AMP, but at least they were quick to try it. From the Known blog:

“We’ve shipped support for AMP because we see potential here, and recognize that something should be done to improve the experience of loading independently-published content on the web. But attempting to bake certain businesses into a web standard is a malformed idea that is doomed to fail. If this is not corrected in future versions of the specification, we will withdraw support.”

Maybe AMP ends up being too ad-friendly to become a good standard. I don’t know. But if so, we’ll move to the next idea, because the web has to be faster. Slow pages are like a disease for links.

Anyone with a blog should be concerned about what could happen with Twitter’s 10,000-character push. We won’t feel the effects right away, but years from now it will matter. We should do more not just to promote blogs and writing on the open web, but to also make it easier for Twitter alternatives to exist through independent microblogging.

Timetable episode 5

I just published episode 5 of my new short-format podcast, Timetable. I’m having a lot of fun with this. Producing an episode that’s only 5 minutes long means I can experiment without investing too much time.

As I was listening to some other podcasts this week talk about the Twitter news, it occurred to me how important it is to have a good mix of podcasts, just as it is with blogging. Many of the most popular Apple-related podcasts hit the same news stories each week and have nearly the same opinion. Don’t get me wrong; I listen to a bunch of them and they’re great. But it’s a reminder to me that for Timetable, and especially for Core Intuition, not to be afraid of having a more contrarian role when it’s appropriate.

There’s nothing controversial in the latest episode of Timetable, though. Just me talking about getting some stamps to finally send out stickers.

Twitter’s 10k limit

First, Twitter experimented with changing the timeline, so it’s not strictly reverse-chronological. Then, they renamed Favorites to Likes. Soon, they will remove the 140-character limit, becoming Facebook, and the circle will be complete:

The current plan is reportedly to show just the first 140 characters in the news feed and then allow readers to click to expand the tweet and see the other 9,860 remaining characters. The new option may launch later this quarter.

The learner is now the master. Welcome to the dark side.

Stars vs. hearts and Twitter’s decline

In an essay about Twitter written in 2014, Ben Thompson described why he believed in the service:

“I think this actually gets to the problem with Twitter: the initial concept was so good, and so perfectly fit such a large market, that they never needed to go through the process of achieving product market fit. It just happened, and they’ve been riding that match for going on eight years.”

I’ve always thought the same thing. That Twitter started out so good, with such strong core features, that those basic features have carried it through all the years of missteps and inaction. But it’s not just that the features are “good” (although they are); it’s that they are unique.

Listening to the Connected podcast the other day, Federico Viticci and Myke Hurley made the statement that only nerds care about Twitter changing stars to hearts, favorites to likes. I was nodding in agreement until I talked to my daughter. She also didn’t understand why they would change away from stars, and she’s been on Twitter less than a year.

It’s not just nerds. Many new Twitter users recognize the subtle difference implied with hearts. But I realized that there’s something even more important about what this change says. Why is my daughter even on Twitter, in addition to Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Vine? Because — even if most people can’t pin down exactly what makes it special — everyone knows Twitter is different and interesting.

All Twitter has going for it is its uniqueness. The timeline user experience, the retweets and favorites, the hashtag, and the short 140 character posts. Changing any of those key strengths to be just like every other social network means they’re watering down their own potential impact. Eventually that approach will produce a bland product that has no unique qualities.

We’ve already seen the timeline experience significantly altered. Promoted tweets, “while you were away”, inline conversation threads, and Twitter cards. Twitter in 2015 looks a lot more like Facebook than it did a few years ago, to everyone not using third-party Twitter apps.

Growing the user base is fine. But making Twitter more accessible to new users won’t do any good if you lose the much larger base of passionate users who have loved the product for years because it’s unique. You’re not going to beat Facebook by becoming even more like Facebook. If that’s Twitter’s strategy, then the service is already in decline.

Jack Dorsey to lead Twitter again

Three years ago today I posted my last personal tweet. That time and distance away from mainstream social networking has given me a new perspective on the importance of independent microblogging. It has shaped where I write and what tools I build.

But Twitter remains as fascinating as ever. Just a few weeks ago, the board seemed unsure about letting Jack Dorsey split his time between Twitter and Square:

“The responsibilities of running Square, which Dorsey reportedly refuses to give up, may now stand in the way of a Steve Jobs-esque return as Twitter’s full time chief executive. In June, its board took the unusual step of publicly declaring that it would only consider candidates ‘who are in a position to make a full-time commitment to Twitter’, a thinly-veiled reference to Dorsey’s preoccupations.”

Then they backed away from that:

“That declaration, as it seems to have turned out, has been a largely empty one. The idea that Dorsey might return gained steam among people both inside and outside the company over the past few months even though he had no intention of leaving Square. He even referred to the companies as his two children when discussing the dilemma, according to a source.”

Today they officially announced that Jack will return to lead Twitter. Of all the recent articles, my favorite is this one from Recode, a long profile on Jack’s role and changing attitude:

“He seems to be a completely different man than the one who returned to Twitter in March 2011 as executive chairman and product czar. Former colleagues recall a man looking for payback for his 2008 ouster; loyalty was key, and many who were loyal to Twitter’s other co-founder, Ev Williams, were booted from the company. Back then, Dorsey would routinely sit in on meetings without saying a word. When he did speak, his contributions were so abstract that few understood what he was talking about. In some cases, he’d simply write a single word or two up on the whiteboard.”

And it goes on, showing how Jack has matured as a leader. Everyone will be watching what he does, and how Twitter evolves. Every article written about an upcoming Twitter feature will mention Jack’s involvement, no matter how insignificant. He’s a big part of the story now.

Ev also wrote about the official announcement:

“Twitter is bigger and more important to the world than we ever dreamed when we started. And it still has incredible, unrealized potential. It will not be easy to unlock it. But we have thousands of smart, creative people working every day to make the company great. And Jack has already demonstrated the ability to inspire the team and think boldly about the next phase of Twitter.”

The greatest challenge for Jack will be figuring out how to take whatever those thousands of employees are working on and turn it into actual user-facing features that ship to customers. Federico Viticci, reviewing the new Tweetbot 4 release last week, wrote about how Tapbots has built something more ambitious than the official Twitter for iPad app, even though Twitter has a much bigger team:

“On the other hand, Twitter for iPad – long ignored by the company – has emerged again with a stretched-up iPhone layout presented in the name of ‘consistency’. It’s a grim landscape, devoid of the excitement and curiosity that surrounded Twitter clients five years ago.”

I still run Tweet Marker, which was created during that period of innovation that Federico refers to, but my focus now is on indie microblogging and the open web. I’m content to watch Twitter from the sidelines and wish Jack the best of luck.

I will return to Twitter when…

As I’m catching up on some news, two posts today about Twitter caught me eye. First, very big news via Federico Viticci, that full tweet search is available even to third-party apps. Twitter’s limited search was the main reason I originally built Tweet Library. It’s fantastic that this data is now more easily available.

But it was this opening paragraph from Jason Snell’s article on Macworld about Twitter neglecting the Mac version that got me thinking:

“Three years ago this month Twitter broke its covenant with the third-party developers who helped fuel its initial growth and create some of its most innovative features. The message was clear: Twitter was in charge of its own platform, and while other Twitter apps would be tolerated, it would only be in limited fashion and for a limited time.”

It was around this time, nearly 3 years ago, that I posted my last tweet. My bet with Daniel is over whether I will return to Twitter within 5 years. People ask if I’ll come back sooner, and if I did, what it would take. I’ve often struggled to articulate those conditions, because I think we are seeing slow but consistent progress to unwind the developer-hostile decisions made a few years ago. It may be that in a couple years the environment will be much improved, but there won’t be any single decision that “fixed” it, or it may be that Twitter is doomed to have changing leadership and there will never be any guarantees.

There is one thing, though. There is one change that was made while rolling out the version 1.1 Twitter API: they removed support for unauthenticated RSS feeds of user tweets or timelines. If they reversed that one decision, the next day I would be back on Twitter.

I can pick out a single feature like this, among every other improvement that third-party developers would love to see, because the combination of removing RSS and at the same time locking down the API — those changes together best represent the move away from the open web. Any other incremental improvement short of unauthenticated RSS, no matter how welcome, isn’t enough.

Riposte push server crowdfunding

Back in April, the App.net app Riposte was removed from sale. Riposte wasn’t just the best client for App.net; I think it held its own against even the best Twitter apps, too. The push notification server for Riposte (and its messaging app complement, Whisper) was to keep running for some months and then shut down this summer.

Even if App.net is slowly fading away, like many users I still have Riposte on my home screen. I cross-post all my microblog posts from this blog to App.net. When I get replies and mentions on App.net, I like to see them as push notifications in Riposte. I can reply in the app easily, or skim through the timeline to see what else is going on.

Now the developers have launched a crowdfunding campaign to keep the Riposte server running. Their goal is a modest $500 per year to cover AWS hosting and time to keep everything running smoothly. Even if you’re not very active on App.net anymore, consider donating as a thank-you for everything Riposte did for App.net, and for what it did to advance the state of UI design in social networking apps.

Two weeks notice: Core Int 192

Continuing from last week’s Core Intuition, today Daniel and I talk more about how things are going with the final days of my job winding down. We then take the second half of the show to catch up on recent news around Twitter’s leadership.

From the show notes:

“Daniel and Manton acknowledge celebration as a survival tactic, discuss the urgency of making ends meet as an indie, and examine changes underway at Twitter with interim CEO Jack Dorsey.”

You can listen or subscribe at the Core Intuition web site. Special thanks to returning sponsor CocoaConf. They’ve got conferences coming up in Boston and San Jose, and then Yosemite National Park next year.