Tag Archives: microblog

Seth Godin and blogging every day

Great post by CJ Chilvers about blogging regularly, via Micro.blog user @kaa, with a quote from Seth Godin’s podcast. Seth says to blog every day…

…because of the discipline it gives you, to know that you’re going to write something tomorrow. Something that might not be read by many people—it doesn’t matter—it will be read by you. If you can build that up, you will begin to think more clearly. You will make predictions. You will make assertions. You will make connections.

CJ adds:

Nothing has been healthier for my idea generation than to throw out ideas. Once they’re in the public, they feel completely gone. I’m free to come up with new and better ideas. And I do.

For more people to blog more often, blogging has to be easier. That is a key premise of Micro.blog — why blogging UIs should take inspiration from Twitter and Instagram, and why we have little incentives like unlocking the 30-day pin on Micro.blog for blogging every day.

IndieWeb Summit next week

I’ll be in Portland next week for IndieWeb Summit. Marty McGuire has a nice overview and invitation for anyone to attend:

IWS kicks off with a pre-party on Monday evening at the Pine Street Market where you can enjoy some great handmade food and drinks. More importantly, you can meet and befriend some of the most earnest and clever folks I know when it comes to having fun being yourself on the web. You’re likely to share stories about how awful silos like Facebook and Twitter have become, get inspired to build things you didn’t even know you wanted to put on your website, and hatch schemes for what you’d love to learn, discuss, and build over the next two days.

Looking forward to seeing folks there. There’s a lot of interesting work being done in the IndieWeb community, and of course we want Micro.blog to be a great IndieWeb-friendly platform that can make independent blogging even easier. Jean MacDonald and I will be giving an update at IndieWeb Summit about the Micro.blog community and what we’ve learned trying to reach new users.

WWDC 2018 wrap-up

I realized after flying back home that this was likely my 20th trip out to San Jose and San Francisco for WWDC. I certainly loved the early years, as well as the height of WWDC in San Francisco as the community was growing, but I’ve found the no-stress compromise of the last few years without a conference ticket to be some of the most enjoyable and productive.

This year I arrived Saturday before lunch. Jean MacDonald and I used this extra day for Micro.blog planning, and to walk around the conference area looking for a good spot for the meetup. In the evening, a bunch of us met up at Santa Clara Valley Brewing.

Santa Clara Valley Brewing icons Santa Clara Valley Brewing beers

Sunday morning I was up early, got some coffee and breakfast while working at Voltaire Coffee House, then drove up to San Francisco. I had rented a car for what has become a pre-WWDC tradition for me the last several years: having lunch out at the Presidio in San Francisco and catching the latest exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum. I picked up Jon Hays at SFO along the way, and we also stopped for the view from Twin Peaks on the way back.

Voltair Coffee House Presidio Picnic Walt Disney Family Museum Twin Peaks

It was great to catch up with people at sjMacIndie on Sunday night. Jon and I left a little early to watch the second half of game 2 of the NBA finals from a bar around the corner. I wore my Tim Duncan t-shirt.

Monday morning was keynote watching at AltConf. While I was initially underwhelmed by the keynote, the announcements have been growing on me throughout the week. Apple’s strategy with Siri still isn’t what I’d like to see, but it’s significant progress. We go into this more on the latest Core Intuition. Overall a pretty good conference. I’ll be watching the Mac App Store improvements too.

Hopefully by next year I’ll remember that finding a place downtown for dinner late at night requires a little planning. Nevertheless, had a great time talking with friends and meeting new folks over dinner or drinks for the nights I was in San Jose. This year even featured a random trip to In-N-Out for burgers.

I really enjoyed both the live recordings I went to: Accidental Tech Podcast and The Talk Show. Unfortunately I had to leave Wednesday so missed the Relay show. I have a bunch of podcasts to catch up on.

The Talk Show

The highlight of my week was the 2nd annual Micro.blog WWDC meetup. It means a lot to see the support from the community. Micro.blog continues to get better every day, and I’m looking forward to meeting even more users next year. Thanks again to everyone joined us at the meetup, and to Jeff Watkins for the group photo!

Micro.blog Meetup

Micro.blog meetup details for tomorrow

The 2nd annual WWDC Micro.blog meetup will be Tuesday at 12:30pm outside Grace Deli & Cafe. If you’re attending WWDC this week, grab a to-go box lunch and meet us there, or you can get a sandwich or wrap first from the cafe.

It’s less than a block from the convention center: 303 Almaden Blvd. View the location in Google Maps or Apple Maps.

Grace Deli

If you were at the 1st meetup last year, it’s just on the front side of the building from where we met last year. We’ll have some more Micro.blog stickers and would love to show off the new beta version of Sunlit or talk to anyone who is currently using Micro.blog or interested in learning more about indie microblogging.

Hope to see you there! Thanks for all your support.

Twitter streaming API and Micro.blog

The writing has been on the wall for years. Now that Twitter plans to move ahead with deprecating APIs that apps like Twitterrific and Tweetbot use, it’s even more clear that there’s no overlap between Twitter’s priorities for the API and what traditional clients need.

When I wrote about Icro, the first third-party app for Micro.blog, I said that I always want to encourage other developers building for Micro.blog. It’s worth exploring how these Twitter API changes compare to Micro.blog and how we can improve.

The streaming API is a big part of this. Twitter apps currently use the streaming API to deliver tweets in real-time without polling, or to notice when someone is @-mentioned so that a push notification can be delivered. Losing this API is especially frustrating because it means developers need to rewrite a bunch of code only to make their apps a little worse instead of better.

Micro.blog doesn’t actually have a streaming API yet. Micro.blog supports multiple APIs, but no persistent connection. The new app Icro doesn’t have push notifications, although the official Micro.blog app does. For a brand new app like Icro, it would be a lot for the developer to also run a server just to do push notifications.

As I think about how we solve this, I remember a discussion in the Twitter developer community when the iPhone first got push notifications. It was an open question: should Twitter third-party developers run their own servers for push notifications, or should Twitter itself deliver push notifications on behalf of third-party apps? Obviously third-party developers have had to run their own servers.

I think a goal for us with Micro.blog should be that third-party developers get access to the same basic tools that we use to build our own apps. Rate-limits should be the same for an app like Icro as they are for the official Micro.blog app, for example.

With that in mind, I’ve mentioned before that I’d like to offer a push notification service for developers. iOS and Android developers could upload their push notification credentials from Apple and Google. Micro.blog would store them and deliver push notifications directly to third-party apps.

This has a few pretty big advantages:

  • Third-party developers won’t need to run their own servers. This levels the playing field so that any Micro.blog app, no matter how small, can offer basic features like notifications.
  • Push notifications are more capable now than at their introduction in 2009. They can be used not just for an alert message but for silently sending data to an app in the background, such as when new posts have been added to someone’s timeline.
  • It’s more efficient. Instead of keeping persistent connections open to Micro.blog servers, Apple and Google handle the persistent connections between devices and the cloud. Micro.blog can simply forward @-mentions to the clients that have requested them via Apple and Google infrastructure.

This is a little bit of extra work for Micro.blog, but Micro.blog is already doing similar processing when a reply comes through. For every reply to a blog post, Micro.blog checks if there is a Webmention endpoint so that it can forward that reply to an external site, such as one hosted on WordPress. Opening up push notifications feels like a natural extension to that.

Some developers might not be comfortable outsourcing this to Micro.blog. That’s fine. In particular I’d like to hear any concerns over security or features where this approach would be too limited. (To be clear, we’d offer this for free. Our business is blog hosting.)

Back to the Twitter news. John Gruber summed it up this way:

Twitter isn’t explicitly saying that they’re shutting down third-party clients, but I don’t know that it’s feasible for them to exist if they don’t have access to these APIs. It’s like breaking up with someone by being a jerk to them rather than telling them you’re breaking up.

That’s a great analogy. Micro.blog is barely a year old, so there is plenty still to do, and there are parts of the API that aren’t as mature yet as they will be. But I think we’re transparent about what we’re trying to do and how we can support developers. We’re not going to be jerks about it.

I’m really excited by what I’m seeing from the community. Icro is in the App Store. Slate is another iPhone app currently in beta. Dialog for Android is in the Google Play Store as a public beta. And then there are all the apps following IndieWeb standards that are compatible with Micro.blog.

WWDC is only a couple weeks away. We’ll have a Micro.blog meetup on Tuesday (June 5th) at lunch. I’d love to talk to developers at the meetup or anytime that week in San Jose to get feedback on how we should handle streaming and notifications.

Twitter executing on 2012 vision

I’ll have more to say tomorrow specifically about the technical side of Twitter’s streaming API, but for now I want to highlight where this all started. In August 2012, Twitter posted to their blog about upcoming changes to their API. This was the post with the infamous 4-quadrant chart showing which third-party apps Twitter wanted to encourage, and which apps (in the upper-right quadrant) they didn’t want third-party developers to work on anymore.

From the post:

In the upper right-hand quadrant are services that enable users to interact with Tweets, like the Tweet curation service Storify or the Tweet discovery site Favstar.fm.

Although it wasn’t clear in the blog post, Twitter later clarified that Storify and Favstar were fine. Nevertheless, Storify announced last year that the service would be shutting down… tomorrow, actually. Favstar is shutting down next month.

The post from Twitter continues:

That upper-right quadrant also includes, of course, “traditional” Twitter clients like Tweetbot and Echofon. Nearly eighteen months ago, we gave developers guidance that they should not build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” And to reiterate what I wrote in my last post, that guidance continues to apply today.

It has taken nearly 6 years, but it feels like today’s API changes finally wrap up the work that started in 2012. The apps that are possible with the new Account Activity API are exactly the apps that were encouraged in those other quadrants. The pricing makes no sense because it wasn’t designed for traditional Twitter apps like Twitterrific and Tweetbot.

Two months after that post from Twitter, I quit the platform and stopped posting to @manton in protest. I only wish I had started working on Micro.blog immediately in 2012.

IndieWeb Summit invite

I’ll be attending IndieWeb Summit next month. If you’re interested in indie blogging or what we’re doing with Micro.blog, consider joining us for the 2-day conference in Portland. I like how gRegor Morrill highlighted that the group should be more than just programmers:

You don’t need to be a programmer! In fact, I would love to see more non-programmers attending. We need writers, graphic artists, designers, UX engineers, and anybody that wants to reclaim some of their online presence with a personal website.

There’s a lot of overlap between the Micro.blog and IndieWeb communities. As we’re now in Micro.blog’s 2nd year, I expect the platform to become more mature, and I’ll be wrapping up a few loose ends with IndieWeb technologies. IndieWeb Summit will be a great time to reflect on what we’ve been able to do and look to what’s next.

More whimsical

People often write about Micro.blog, but I don’t usually do a good job of pointing to all the reviews. A new blog post this week from Lance Somoza stood out to me:

It reminds me of the earlier days of the Internet, where everything was more whimsical and less threatening than the current status quo. When it comes to free services, we have sadly come to expect a gimmick, trade-off, or worse in exchange for our data. Micro.blog’s opposition to this idea, simply makes it a joy to use.

Thanks everyone for taking a chance on the platform. I’m really happy with how the platform has grown, from new photo blogs and microcasts to third-party apps like Icro. We don’t have ads and we don’t have venture capital funding. The support from the community drives everything.

Icro 1.0

Last month I gave a talk about microblogging at Peers Conference in Austin. In it I covered Twitter’s changing attitude toward developers, from the early days when everyone wanted to build a Twitter app — as John Gruber wrote in 2009, Twitter apps were a playground for new UIs — to when Twitter started actively discouraging traditional third-party Twitter clients.

For Micro.blog, I always want to encourage third-party apps. We support existing blogging apps like MarsEdit, and we have an API for more Micro.blog-focused apps to be built. I’m excited to say that a big one just shipped in the App Store: Icro.

Icro is well-designed, fast, and takes a different approach to some features compared to the official Micro.blog app. In a few ways, it’s better than the app I built. This is exactly what I hoped for. We wanted an official app so that there’s a default to get started, but there should be other great options for Micro.blog users to choose from.

Here are a few screenshots from Icro:

Icro screenshots

Thanks to developer Martin Hartl for building Icro and being part of the Micro.blog community. You can download it for free from the App Store here.

Instagram import in Micro.blog

Micro.blog for Mac version 1.3 is now available. It features a brand new import feature for uploading an archive of Instagram photos to your blog.

The best way to explain it is to show it. Here’s a video:

You can download the latest version here or click “Check for Updates” in the Micro.blog for Mac app if you already have it installed. Let us know how it works for you and we’ll continue to make this better in future versions. There’s also a help page with more details.

One year of Micro.blog

I’ve never sent an email to all Micro.blog users until today. As indie developers, sometimes I think we worry so much about accidentally spamming a customer that we err too much on the side of sending essentially no email. As we’re at about the 1-year mark for Micro.blog, it seemed like a good opportunity to send an update. Here’s the text of the email that went out.

A little over a year ago we started rolling out Micro.blog to Kickstarter backers. So much has happened since then — from new Micro.blog platform features to companion apps like Sunlit and Wavelength — that I wanted to highlight a few milestones.

First, thank you for your support. We wouldn’t be able to continue to improve Micro.blog without the feedback from the community. Special thanks to everyone who has supported Micro.blog directly with a paid plan for a hosted microblog.

If you haven’t checked out Micro.blog lately, here are some things that happened just in the last few months:

  • We launched a microcast called Micro Monday to feature members of the community. Each week, a different Micro.blog user joins Jean MacDonald for a quick interview about how they blog and what they like about Micro.blog.
  • To make it easier for anyone to create a short podcast, Wavelength lets you record, edit, and publish a microcast from your iPhone. You can also upload MP3s from the web and serve a podcast at your own domain name.
  • Sunlit is our iOS app for posting photos and discovering photos and new Micro.blog users to follow. It’s a free app with more control over publishing stories with photos, text, and different filters.
  • There’s a new theme for hosted microblogs called Marfa. We use this theme on Micro Monday.
  • Medium was added as a cross-posting option. Post to your own blog and Micro.blog will automatically send a copy to Medium.
  • Expanded the Discover section on the web and in the native apps to highlight photos, podcasts, and more. It’s a great place to see what people are posting about or find new people to follow.

You can always add a new hosted microblog or upgrade a trial by clicking “Plans” from Micro.blog on the web.

Any questions or feedback? Don’t hesitate to let us know: help@micro.blog.

— Manton

Sunlit 2.1

We released version 2.1 of Sunlit today, our companion app for photos on Micro.blog. Here are the changes:

  • Added support for posting to multiple Micro.blog-hosted blogs. Tap the URL when publishing (or your profile photo in Settings) to change the default blog.
  • Added setting to disable WordPress gallery support for external blogs.
  • Added Micro.blog header to Discover section.
  • Improved story publishing speed by uploading multiple photos at once.
  • Improved layout of Settings screen into publishing and import groups.

Photos continue to be a really important part of Micro.blog, especially as more and more people are disillusioned with Facebook and Instagram. Here’s how I see it: a network of independent photo blogs is a much better replacement for Instagram than yet another closed photo silo. Sunlit is just one piece of the puzzle.

Micro.blog to Medium

Micro.blog has always supported cross-posting to Twitter. Write a post on your own blog, and Micro.blog will send it to Twitter with a bunch of great default logic like attaching photos, appending inline links, and smart truncation so that tweets look great.

Today we’re adding Medium as a supported cross-posting destination. At first I had resisted adding Medium because Medium might be someone’s primary blog, so it made more sense for you to post directly to Medium yourself and then add the RSS feed to Micro.blog, so that posts show up in the Micro.blog timeline.

But recently Medium discontinued support for custom domain names. And if you can’t even have a domain name for your blog, it’s clear that Medium is much less a true blogging platform and really just a social network for long-form content. It’s a very poor solution for anyone who wants to own their content, but it’s now a natural choice to cross-post your blog posts and reach Medium’s audience.

When you enable Micro.blog cross-posting to Medium, Micro.blog takes the HTML of your post and sends it to Medium. It supports titled essays or short microblog posts without a title. If your blog is hosted on Micro.blog, cross-posting is included for free. For external blogs like WordPress, it’s $2/month for cross-posting to Twitter and Medium.

I’m looking forward to hearing how people use Medium with their microblog and what improvements we can make. Thanks for your support! (Here’s how this post looks on Medium.)

Demo of Micro.blog 1.3.4

We shipped version 1.3.4 of the Micro.blog iOS app. It includes a bunch of photo-related improvements and bug fixes, including better support for non-square photos.

We’re on a bit of a roll with Micro.blog, shipping microcast hosting, our brand new app Wavelength, a new blog theme, and this iOS update all in the last week. Great time to join or come back to the platform.

Wavelength 1.0.2

We just wrapped up a bunch of improvements to the initial Wavelength for Micro.blog app. Here are the changes:

  • Updated MP3s to 128 kbps, mono. We’ll consider adding a preference for quality and stereo in the future.
  • Fixed playback volume using correct iPhone speaker.
  • Fixed a few potential crashes and improved publishing error messages.
  • Fixed Auphonic username field to not use auto-correct.
  • Fixed glitches with consistently using external microphones.
  • Fixed error sometimes when splitting segments.

I recorded and edited the last 2 episodes of Timetable exclusively with Wavelength on my iPhone X. It’s really great to see some new microcasts pop up over the last few days. Thanks for trying it out!

Wavelength for Micro.blog

We have something really big to announce today. Micro.blog now supports hosting short-form podcasts, also known as microcasts, with a companion iPhone app called Wavelength for recording, editing, and publishing episodes.

Wavelength screenshots

Before the Kickstarter campaign last year, I started my Timetable microcast to talk about the things I was working on, with a focus on planning what would become Micro.blog. Creating a short podcast is really fun. It’s much easier to record and edit than the longer podcasts we’re all used to. But it’s still not easy enough, and even after nearly 100 episodes of Timetable my workflow was cobbled together with too many apps: Ferrite, Logic, Auphonic, WordPress, a shell script, and sometimes Transmit.

Micro.blog is about making short-form content you own as simple to post as a tweet because we believe blogging should be easier. Podcasting should be easier too.

We’re rolling out a new hosted plan on Micro.blog to accommodate microcasts. When you upload an audio file to your site — either from the web, Wavelength, or a third-party app — Micro.blog will automatically create a podcast feed for your microblog. Listeners can subscribe directly, or you can add the feed to the Apple Podcast Directory and it will show up in popular apps like Overcast and Castro. Everything can be served from your own domain name, just like a normal microblog. We’ve been using this infrastructure for all the episodes of our weekly Micro Monday microcast.

New hosted microblogs with microcasting support will be $10/month. Microcast audio files will be limited to 20 MB. Existing microblogs hosted on Micro.blog can be upgraded to support microcasting for an additional $5/month.

Everyone has a story to tell. Whether that’s through short microblog posts, longer essays, photo blogs, conversations with friends, or now through podcasts, I hope that the Micro.blog platform and suite of apps can help. If you haven’t checked out Micro.blog lately or are learning about it for the first time, now is a great time to join the community. Thanks!

Apps of a Feather

I posted a link to this last week, but it’s worth some additional comments. Apps of a Feather is a new site to spread awareness about upcoming Twitter API changes:

We are incredibly eager to update our apps. However, despite many requests for clarification and guidance, Twitter has not provided a way for us to recreate the lost functionality. We’ve been waiting for more than a year.

I have a long history with Twitter. I was user #897. I built multiple apps for the platform. I invested so much of my time and code into the Twitter ecosystem.

Then Twitter leadership showed us the future, and it was clear that third-party developers had little or no place in it. It was just a matter of time. And now, maybe time has run out.

If you still love Twitter, absolutely tell them to reverse course and rebuild their relationship with third-party developers. These are great apps and great developers, and I don’t want to see their business cut down because of a developer-hostile platform outside their control.

Meanwhile, we’re working to make Micro.blog better every day. It’s the most ambitious thing I’ve ever worked on. Building for the open web needs to be done in parallel to hoping the other social networks improve, whether you’re still waiting for those sites to do the right thing, or already know it’s time to move on. I only wish we had started sooner.

Core Intuition 321

We start this week’s Core Intuition talking about the Apple education event in Chicago. More in the show notes:

Daniel and Manton talk about Apple’s Chicago education event, and Apple’s challenge in breaking into the education market so dominated by Google. They scrutinize whether the special event was “event-worthy” or not. Daniel talks about his motivation problems with shipping MarsEdit updates, and complains again about App Store Review uncertainty. Finally, they talk about the challenge of knowing whether a product with lackluster success is on the brink of something great, or should be moved on from.

Thanks for listening and subscribing to the show.

IndieWeb generation 4 and hosted domains

Naturally because of the goals of Micro.blog, I see a lot of discussion about “owning your content”. It’s an important part of the mission for Micro.blog to take control back from closed, ad-supported social networks and instead embrace posting on our own blogs again.

But what does it mean to own our content? Do we have to install WordPress or some home-grown blogging system for it to be considered true content ownership, where we have the source code and direct SFTP access to the server? No. If that’s our definition, then content ownership will be permanently reserved for programmers and technical folks who have hours to spend on server configuration.

IndieWebCamp has a generations chart to illustrate the path from early adopters to mainstream users. Eli Mellen highlighted it in a recent post about the need to bridge the gap between the technical aspects of IndieWeb tools and more approachable platforms. With Micro.blog specifically, the goal is “generation 4”, and I think we’re on track to get there.

I want blogging to be as easy as tweeting. Anything short of that isn’t good enough for Micro.blog. You’ll notice when you use Twitter that they never ask you to SFTP into twitter.com to configure your account. They don’t ask you to install anything.

More powerful software that you can endlessly customize will always have its place. It’s good to have a range of options, including open source to tinker with. That’s often where some of the best ideas start. But too often I see people get lost in the weeds of plugins and themes, lured in by the myth that you have to self-host with WordPress to be part of the IndieWeb.

Owning your content isn’t about portable software. It’s about portable URLs and data. It’s about domain names.

When you write and post photos at your own domain name, your content can outlive any one blogging platform. This month marked the 16th anniversary of blogging at manton.org, and in that time I’ve switched blogging platforms and hosting providers a few times. The posts and URLs can all be preserved through those changes because it’s my own domain name.

I was disappointed when Medium announced they were discontinuing support for custom domain names. I’m linking to the Internet Archive copy because Medium’s help page about this is no longer available. If “no custom domains” is still their policy, it’s a setback for the open web, and dooms Medium to the same dead-end as twitter.com/username URLs.

If you can’t use your own domain name, you can’t own it. Your content will be forever stuck at those silo URLs, beholden to the whims of the algorithmic timeline and shifting priorities of the executive team.

For hosted blogs on Micro.blog, we encourage everyone to map a custom domain to their content, and we throw in free SSL and preserve redirects for old posts on imported WordPress content. There’s more we can do.

I’m working on the next version of the macOS app for Micro.blog now, which features multiple accounts and even multiple blogs under the same account. Here’s a screenshot of the settings screen:

Mac screenshot

The goal with Micro.blog is not to be a stop-gap hosting provider, with truly “serious” users eventually moving on to something else (although we make that easy). We want Micro.blog hosting to be the best platform for owning your content and participating in the Micro.blog and IndieWeb communities.