Breaking Out of the Silo

In my never ending quest to make this site all things “miklb”, one of the goals of the IndieWeb is to POSSE, that is, Publish on your own site, syndicate elsewhere. Breaking the habit of using Twitter without posting first on my site is going to be a hard one, but it’s a goal. While debates rage about extending character counts to 10,000 words, if we only were to use our blog for long form thoughts and link back to Twitter, this wouldn’t be an issue. Consider this an exercise in

Email is so 2015

tl;dr Wouldn’t it be nice if in the newfound popularity of email newsletters, the signup form had an option “I regularly consume your content via another means, but would love to win your cool thing”

Back in the dark days of the internet, websites would have simple sign up forms for users to get updates about the site. Unless you used RSS (or Atom) to read the sites. Even then, online marketers and brands would offer specials not advertised on their site to build the engagement via email. The size of your mailing list was a badge of honor for those marketers.

Then came along social media, and email lists were pushed aside for the shiny new thing. In the beginning, there was a glut of social media options, and it was almost impossible for a brand to engage on every outlet. Facebook likes and Twitter followers became the new badge of honor. And while social media is still a great way to engage users, brands and marketers soon discovered they couldn’t always control the message, especially with Facebook. So what did they do? They realized the most common form of communication available to the web is the venerable method of email. Cyber Monday was a perfect example. I couldn’t count the number of comments I read on Twitter about people weeding their email of offers from long ago forgotten sites. But I mostly follow web professionals who know the ins-and-outs of online marketing and get their information from, (well, probably Twitter, but they are an anomalous subset of the Twittersphere.) The point being, millions of people woke to an inbox of offers. Many people clicked those links, some bought stuff. It works.

Sign up form for The WirecutterRSS/Atom syndication in its purest form is not a common method of reading websites today (unless you are part of the aforementioned anomalous subset of Twitter users), but still provides the backbone of many ways content is consumed. But this isn’t about syndication. It is about the rebirth of mailing lists, and more specifically, the forms that sites now deploy to get you in. Those lists sign-ups are generally there year round, but right about the holiday season, sites/brands begin offering “free stuff.” Be it a book, a song or a full suite of electronics, sign up for their mailing list, enter a chance to win. I’m not an expert on this subject, didn’t even play an email marketer on TV. Sign up form for The WirecutterBut my understanding is you can’t force people into subscribing, just like contests have the small disclaimer, “no purchase necessary.” Generally what these forms do is pre-populate the subscribe checkbox, which is still a slippery slope in my opinion of conforming to the spirit of opting in. But hey, a free TV is a free TV?

More to the point, there is never an option (at least one I’ve encountered) that says, “I love your content and regularly read it so I don’t need an email reminder. However, I’d love to win your cool stuff.” Hell, provide a short text box to allow the user to optionally add how they consume it. It very well might be a great insight into your audience and their online consumption habits. Because at some point, inundating your readers/consumers will call into play the law of diminishing returns.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid the new badge of honor is the hydra of social media followers guarding the treasure chest of email subscribers.

On Twitter Clients and Their Change in TOS

Update: The plot thickens. Sean Coates pointed out on Twitter this morning that the Twitter API announcement has been pulled, with no obvious response. Most of the mailing list message is still available in an article in the Guardian.

First, I’m not a developer of software. I make websites. I use Twitter. A lot sometimes. I have found the reaction to Twitter’s curious announcement in the change in their terms of service interesting. Granted, most reactions I have read are from developer types, so it may be biased. The sentiment could be summed up in a tweet I saw today, “Twitter: from #dickbar to #dickmove”. That basically Twitter added a new “feature” in their most recent mobile app that absolutely no one liked and users were abuzz with suggestions for other clients. Rather than listen to these users (granted, they did release a minor update that apparently mitigates to a degree the trending bar, coined by Gruber the dickbar) they simply decided to post to a mailing list telling developers to not plan on being able to create alternate clients. Poor timing? Possibly. They very well could have been planning this announcement for some time. Still seems odd.

But what if they had challenged themselves internally? “We are going to make such a kick ass experience for the desktop, mobile and web, users won’t bother with these imitators.” They could have looked at who was doing great things with the iPhone and the desktop and simply hired them to make their product better. Listened to their users to see what features these other clients were offering and make them better. Isn’t that what free-market competition should be all about? Not, “hey, thanks for helping build up our user base, now go screw yourselves.”

Ultimately, Twitter really reminded me that I don’t pay for it, so I can’t really bitch about it, and should remember my goal of Less Twitter, more me..

Less Twitter, More Me

The first blog post I read about moving away from Twitter & microblogging began my thinking of how I might do the same. I came into the “blogging culture” late in the game, so I didn’t have as much an identity as some.

However, lately I’ve been feeling more and more my microblogging platform of choice, Twitter, was becoming increasingly ephemeral. I was conditioning myself to minimize my thoughts due to some arbitrary constraint. Not to mention, I didn’t have my own reference point. Sure, I use
Instapaper
& Pinboard, but I did not have a chronological reference to what I was thinking and feeling. Not to mention a real reference point of meaningful information I felt important to file away for posterity.

So today launches a new direction for Michael B, one where I do not question if I can get my point across in a finite set of characters, if my use of UTF-8 character encoding will translate to other platforms. Where I can come back a year later and the data will be mine, easily reached, in a database of my own management. No worries if I post a picture if someone will sell it, if my words will be broadcast to ears to which I’ll never know.

I don’t mean to say I will not be verbose (which I am) or that I’ve mastered some modern day Strunk & White, rather I will not feel confined. And to which I will feel free.

Also, I will genuinely get back to the root of why I fell in love with publishing on the web, and hopefully make some, albeit small, mark on the face of web publishing.

This is just but the first iteration of the new site. I hope to integrate some of the third-party services that I previously shared on this domain, and still feel an important way of expressing fully who I am, but I needed to make the move now, and fill in the important pieces as I move forward once again.

I’m quite happy this is (not valid due to old content) HTML 5 with generous dashes of CSS 3. I hope to expand on both and as I learned my first go around with self-publishing on the web – learning is doing. (Update: I was going to switch the videos to the experimental Youtube HTML5 embed code, however unfortunately the videos had been taken down. I also found additional typos in the same post. The home page is now currently valid HTML5)

Twitter, Tweetie and What is Next?

Just wanted to jot down some thoughts on the news that came out Friday that Twitter had acquired Tweetie, the mobile/desktop Twitter client.

I’m not a developer, so I don’t have any skin in the game, but I do use the service, have paid for Tweetie for the iPhone, and am constantly looking for the perfect OS X desktop client. Thus far, Nambu has been my app of choice, suffering through the many iterations during beta testing to the point it’s a pretty damn good choice. I’d probably pay $15 for it if were to come to that.

My first thoughts on the matter is that Twitter is still looking to monetize, they can’t go on sucking up VC forever. Certainly selling mobile apps isn’t the way they’re going to go, they’ve already said as I understand it that they will release the next version as free (at least that’s what I think I read).

There’s been much debate in the past about how this would happen, and I genuinely think they are finally preparing for advertising. Certainly this deal had to be in the works prior to the iAds announcement, with Steve Jobs lambasting current mobile ads, and outlining that monetizing search on the mobile platform as being a poor business model, but it is what got me thinking this way. Why else would Twitter be buying up mobile/desktop clients to give away free if they weren’t preparing to have inline ads in time lines? Or offering a freemium model to have ad-free time lines? I’m not suggesting they would use iAds, rather their own inline advertising. Similar to how Twitteriffic does now in it’s free versions.

Certainly this is all just conjecture on my part, but not one that I’ve seen discussed in the fallout from Friday’s announcement. Simply wanted to put it down in writing so I would stop wandering off on the subject every time I read about the transaction.

UPDATE
Well, that didn’t take long to come true – NY Times – Twitter to Make Money with Ads. As I said last night in a tweet, it certainly wasn’t prophetic, as there had been much speculation on how Twitter would monetize and advertising was one way discussed, but calling it the morning of the announcement with little other speculation that I’m aware of, must earn me some kind of geek merit badge?

So it seems by snagging the best mobile clients for themselves, if they do wind up doing revenue sharing for inline ads, they cut out the middle man on a popular platform.

Sharing Flickr Photos on Twitter With an iPhone

tweetie screenshotAs great a mobile device I think the iPhone is, there was one thing I couldn’t do with it that I wanted without fuss – easily upload a photo from the phone and post the picture to Twitter via my Flickr account. Prior to the 2.0 OS, you couldn’t even copy and paste a URL, but even after you could, it just wasn’t as quick and convenient as most tasks are on an iPhone. Sure, you can use one of the 3rd party services like yFrog or TwitPic, which might be fine for a throw away snapshot you don’t really care about, but if it’s something you’d like to reference in the future, or have control over how and where it’s used, they simply don’t seem like a good option. I merely wanted to snap a photo, enter a title, tap a button or two, and the photo upload to a Flickr set and automatically post to Twitter. Enter Flickit.

It wasn’t evident when I first starting using the app how to accomplish this. Even after I explored the app and found in the default metadata settings an option to post to Twitter or your blog, I didn’t see how to actually enter my Twitter credentials within the app. I then thought perhaps it was a Flickr setting, and looked into the settings for Flickr for the ability to connect to Twitter. Again, I didn’t see any obvious option.

Finally, I emailed the developer to inquire how exactly to accomplish this. Maybe it was just me, but the solution certainly didn’t seem intuitive, which isn’t usually the norm with Flickr. You have to go to your account->extending flickr->your blogs->edit. From the dropdown, you can then select Twitter as the type of weblog you have. Then within Flickit, in the aforementioned settings->default metadata, you can choose to autopost to Twitter, in addition to setting defaults for title, tags, description, sets and groups. You do have the choice within Flickit to not post to Twitter on individual uploads by altering the setting for that image, so you are not locked into tweeting every upload.

Now, you can easily snap a photo, even from within the app, quickly upload it to Flickr, and it will post the title and URL of the photo’s Flickr page to Twitter. Still not the same as a Twitter client harnessing the Flickr API and allowing you to write a full tweet, upload the image, and embed the URL like they do with the other 3rd party apps, but it sure beats using 3 apps and cutting and pasting a link, or compromising in choice of image hosting. Oh, and did I mention Flickit is free?

URL Shorteners, HTTP Referers and 301 Redirects

I’ll start by saying I don’t know much about the subject, but am posting this in the hopes that someone who does can elucidate the issue. My basic dilemma is that I have a short bit of code on my single page templates that checks to see if a visitor is from Twitter, and if so, show a little message. (Not an original idea, I think I saw it on a post at Smashing Magazine). The code they used didn’t work, but with the help of BigJibby in the Habari IRC channel, I was able to get it working with Habari.

I more or less forgot about it, until a few people noticed it and asked if it was a plugin. When I replied it wasn’t, they asked if I could make it into one. So it went into a to-do list I keep of Habari related ideas. This evening I began working on it, and while troubleshooting how to actually output something to the entry single template (that’s a whole other can of worms), I discovered the code snippet wasn’t working. With the help of Michael, we discovered the problem wasn’t with the code snippet, rather it was with the URL shorteners. Twitter recently started defaulting to Bit.ly, and I recently began experimenting with Tr.im, both of which weren’t sending twitter.com as the referrer. Rather, due to their 301 redirect they return NULL. Which in a nut shell sucks.

Somehow Google Analytics is able to track referrals from Twitter, as last week when I had a huge upsurge in traffic from the popularity of the Infinite Summer Bookmarks, I’m seeing 50 visitors from Twitter the first day (of the 785, by far a record for this little weblog).

At this point, finishing the plugin seems moot, as the only way to be sure that visitors will actually see the message would be to use a URL shortener that doesn’t return NULL, of which, the only one we found that to not be the case was Owen’s Pastoid. I didn’t test Tinyurl, nor was I interested in looking for others. The disappointment had already set in. Besides that, if you are auto posting to Twitter with a plugin, you wouldn’t have the option to use a different shortener.

So kind readers/stumble-uponers, if anyone has a solution to this problem, please enlighten me. Meanwhile, I’ll work out the issue with Habari and my desire to output content on a single entry template within the content output, not above the body tag.

For anyone interested in the snippet of code I am using:

if ( parse_url($_SERVER['HTTP_REFERER'], PHP_URL_HOST) == 'twitter.com' ) {
echo "

Welcome, Twitter visitor! If this post is useful, don't hesitate to retweet!

";

Twitter: Reducing the Noise

Just a quick tip to reduce some of the noise in your Twitter stream by only showing @ replies of people you follow. I was a little surprised more people didn’t know this was a feature built into Twitter. However after speaking to a couple of people at the Tampa TweetUp who use Twitter professionally and weren’t aware of the setting, I thought it might be worth detailing.

The basic premise is that you only show @replies from people you are following to people you following. This isn’t a per user setting unfortunately, however, it does reduce the noise, especially for those prolific Twitters with a lot of followers they are constantly responding to. 99 times out of 100, the response is of a personal nature or has no context, so its just a distraction and noise.

This setting removes those, and only shows @replies to people whom you both follow.

To change the default setting:

  • from the home page, click settings
  • From settings, click notices
  • for @ replies dropdown, chose Show me @ replies to the people I’m following
  • Save your new setting

Note you can turn off all @replies in this setting as well if you have no interest in messages between two users at all, however, I’ve found that this setting is the best of both worlds, in that at least there’s some context to what a response is about and generally makes sense. No more @so-and-so, LOL!!!

I’ve recently blogged about reducing noise in my online life, and certainly this has helped immensely. There are several people who I follow that have a broad network and use Twitter as a much more social application, but also occasionally link to interesting tidbits that I’ve found useful. If it were not for this feature, I’d long ago stopped following them. Now for there to be a temporary way to mute someone, for instance when they are live Twittering an event you have no interest in…

Tampa MOSI TweetUp

I’m very excited to be attending the Tampa TweetUp this Saturday night (1/17/09) at the Tampa Museum of Science and Industry. Billed as an unstructured evening for

…other local Tweeple who enjoy Twitter, blogging, and all that is social media for an evening of drinks and great conversation. Enjoy a night out of the office or home, Away from your computer, to dork out with others who share similar passions of social networking and have a few drinks.

Not only is this a chance to socialize in person, MOSI is opening up the top of the IMAX dome, giving us an “exclusive 8-story high, 360 degree view of Tampa” (hopefully I’ll be able to get a few good pics), the museum will be introducing their Virtual Ambassador Program. From what I gather of the details of the event, MOSI is developing a viral marketing program by giving bloggers and social media persons some swag, including:

  • One year free membership to the museum
  • Free ticket to every IMAX film opening from January – June 2009 (excluding special engagements)
  • Free ticket to Body Worlds 3 and the Story of the Heart opening January 22, 2009 – The Original Exhibit of Real Human Bodies.

in exchange for a “6 month commitment in helping raise community awareness online about the museum, Body Worlds exhibit, IMAX, and other MOSI offerings”. I have every intention in participating in the program, as I’d certainly enjoy attending events and exhibits and then blogging/Twittering about them afterward.

tweetup!In regards to the TweetUp itself, ever since attending BarCamp Orlando, I’ve wanted to connect with local bloggers and web geeks like myself. To that end, I’ve failed, as scheduling conflicts prevented me from attending BarCamp Tampa, as well as a few local blogger meetups. However, I swore to myself that this year I would make a concerted effort to be available for these events, as well as actively help foster more of them. I read with envy tweets from people in places like Philadelphia and Orlando who are connecting in real life with other bloggers and developers. I don’t want to wait until I’m in a different city to meet and connect with folks who live down the road.

Though I don’t consider myself a big “social networker”, I do love me some Twitter, and certainly understand their place in today’s web. I am actually taking my first steps in embracing a broader view of social networking by integrating some of the features available in Facebook Connect into a site I’m developing for a client. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s certainly been an enlightening process, and has undeniably changed my attitude towards sites like Facebook in that just because I personally do not participate in a particular network, it doesn’t mean the network has no value. That said, I don’t think I will ever say the same thing about MySpace.

Cleaning My Online House

signal focusI’ve started a draft of a post on getting older, New Year’s resolutions, and where I want to be in ‘09, but an aside to that is I’ve come to the realization that I need to limit the “noise” of my online world, which is the predominate one I live in. Specifically, the last couple of days that means cleaning out syndication feeds, and not just pruning dead ones. It means seriously evaluating everything that comes through my reader and determining if it’s a source of information or entertainment that is of value to me; determining if the volume of content justifies a constant bombardment from the source. Because several items in my reader are of time sensitive nature, I generally have my reader always open, fetching content every 15 minutes. Only when I’m in a serious crunch mode do I shut the reader down. I’m sure I could create filters of some nature that only fetched the time sensitive ones at a more regular interval, and the less time sensitive set to a manual updating, however I’ve come to enjoy the steady flow of information throughout the day. It’s just that I need to hone that stream.

One thing that’s also become abundantly clear over the last few weeks is that several of the sources in my feed reader are being duplicated due to my use of Twitter (either automated heralds of new blog posts, or manual linking). Seeing that Twitter contains entertaining and informative tidbits that don’t make it onto most blogs, the obvious choice was to dump the source in my reader, and continue to follow via Twitter.

Ironically enough, the genesis of this revelation was the result of having signal vs. noise, and the 37 signals product blog in my reader, and following @jasonfried on Twitter. There is so much redundancy and overlapping between the 3, that more often than not, all 3 would hit my “inbox” within minutes of each other with the same content. I certainly understand why, as most people aren’t following all 3, so Jason and 37 signals are trying to market and share information to the widest audience. Unfortunately for those like me, it becomes a nuisances, albeit an enlightening one that spurred a much needed tuning of the throughput.

Now that I’m in this mode, it also means that I’m shrewdly evaluating all blog feeds. A perfect example was tonight, Dave Winer’s Scripting News. 5 photos, in separate posts, with no context. Rather I should say, no context to me. Though I generally find his posts about blogging and “social media” thought provoking, whether I agree with his point or not, the majority of his content isn’t germane to my goals and focus. So out it went. That’s not to say when I have some downtime, and want to read a movie review from an amateur film buff ( and I use amateur only in the sense that reviewing films doesn’t put food on his table, as far as I know), that I won’t wander over to the actual site and peruse his site.

Certainly this process is also being applied to whom I follow on Twitter, as evident by this declaration:

when someone incessantly twitters about twitter, I call the line and unfollow.

This also applies to a few of the more recent people I’ve followed who find it necessary to welcome each of their new followers with a new tweet. Is there any harm in using all 140 characters and possibly welcoming more than one at a time? And is it really necessary to welcome them? Why not just provide good and interesting content in your tweets instead? Even better, if they reply to something you talk about, bloody respond to them. That’s the purpose. It’s not all about you…anyway, I digress.

Finally, I feel as though I should clarify that I’ve resurrected this weblog as a means to commit thoughts down to “paper”, and affirm to myself why I’ve chosen this path, the one of an online world. If for some reason it provokes someone else, all the better. If it provokes a discussion, then I’ve succeeded. If at worst, I can look back and provoke myself to get back on track, it’s not all that bad a thing.

Why Twitter is Just…Cool

First, I’ve oft meant to write something about Twitter, specifically since I read Zeldman’s “Self Publishing is the New Blogging”.

And ch-ching was heard in the land. And the (not citizen) journalists heard it, and it got them pecking into their Blackberries and laptops.

And then the writers and designers, ashamed at rubbing shoulders with common humanity, discovered the 140-character Tweet and the Tumblr post. No stink of commerce, no business model, nothing that could even charitably be called content, and best of all, no effort. Peck, peck, send.

I discovered “blogging” and the culture surrounding it just before what I assume is the time when “…(not citizen) journalists heard it…”. It was an exciting discovery, which ultimately lead me to the career I (usually) enjoy now. And as much I probably contribute to the not citizen “pecking at their Blackberries and laptops”, and as much as Twitter has long lost the purity of “not having a stink of commerce”, I personally enjoy the freedom of 140 character rants, without any concern whether anyone is reading them or not. I use Twitter solely because there’s a certain cathartic release in firing off something like “trying to explain browser differences on form styling is like swimming in 3 day old mashed potatoes”.

Anyway, that wasn’t the original intent of this post. Rather, there really is another reason I enjoy Twitter. It’s a compelling way to get a glimpse into the lives of people that you’ve crossed paths with and whom you find interesting or share common interests with, but haven’t had the opportunity to really get to know.

Then something like today happens. I’d been away from technology the last twenty four hours, and wanted a light hearted way of catching up with what was going on in the world, and the web in particular. Plus, there’s always a few good laughs along the way (see @hotdogsladies).

twitterThen this tweet came across Twitterific. First, I’ve not really ever met either Chris or Sean. Chris I began following after he began following me at blogOrlando3. I wasn’t even sure who he was until the brief encounter we had at the after party. (Chris was the lucky guy handing out the drink tickets. Everyone’s best friend for at least 5 minutes.) Afterward I realized that he helped Josh Hallet with the the conference. I, like many people, truly enjoyed blogOrlando, the vibe surrounding it, and felt anyone who put that together or were involved I’d like to eventually get to know. So I follow several people that were at blogOrlando, including Chris, Josh, and Jeremy.

Sean I first encountered in the Habari IRC channel when he came along looking for help with getting some patches committed so he could fix the s9y importer and migrate his blog to Habari. Always excited for a new user/community member, I committed his patches, and soon noticed him hanging around the channel. Long story short, Sean is now part of the PMC of Habari, and can commit his own damn patches now ;-).

My point? I guess after writing this I don’t have something profound to say. I’d just never seen a correspondence between Chris or Sean on Twitter in the time I’ve been following both. Certainly I don’t know either well enough to know if they actually have met, which wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for two developers (who also share a love of great beer, another reason I enjoy their tweets) to have met.

But it gave me one of those smiles and six degrees of separation moments.

Oh, did I mention it gave me a smile after a couple of shit weeks?

Twitter Productivity

Twitter Productivity. Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it? Well, with the recent announcement of i want sandy’s demise, I came across a Twitter bot that actually seems like a productive tool for the Twitterer. Timer allows you to simply follow it, in which it then follows you. Then you simply send Timer a direct message to remind you of something upcoming, ie, d Timer 60 call client X. You’ll then get a direct message 60 minutes later reminding you to call client X. Seems it only recognizes minutes, so I’m not sure how efficient it is for reminding you of something past the short term, but it’s still an interesting tool. Couple the concept with the fact that the developers of i want sandy are now working for Twitter, we might see similar type tools integrated into Twitter.