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cleverdevil

cleverdevil

cleverdevil

cleverdevil

cleverdevil

cleverdevil

 

I very badly want a trip to Maui soon. Crossing fingers its a possibility this year!

 

Checked into Seaside Torrance

Relaxing at home.

 

The Deck is Shutting Down

1 min read

Innovative ad network The Deck is shutting down for good. From their announcement:

In 2014, display advertisers started concentrating on large, walled, social networks. The indie “blogosphere” was disappearing. Mobile impressions, which produce significantly fewer clicks and engagements, began to really dominate the market. Invasive user tracking (which we refused to do) and all that came with that became pervasive, and once again The Deck was back to being a pretty good business. By 2015, it was an OK business and, by the second half of 2016, the network was beginning to struggle again.

The consequences of walled gardens like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Medium soaking up the majority of internet traffic go well beyond data ownership and privacy. A more decentralized world wide web creates more opportunities for innovation and a system that is harder to "game."

 

Tweetstorms vs. Publishing

2 min read

Today, I read about the launch of an app to make it easier to create "tweetstorms" on Twitter. I'll start by saying that Stormcrow seems like a well-designed, very useful app, and my commentary here isn't meant to take anything away from the developer. That said, the fact that this app needs to exist is a sad indictment of the current state of personal publishing on the web.

From a user experience perspective, tweetstorms are an absolute disaster, both from the creation perspective, and the consumption perspective. Twitter is not designed for long-form content, and tweetstorms are a dirty hack, at best. Nevermind the issue that people's carefully crafted communications are then sent off into the void of Twitter, where the conversation is difficult to follow, algorithmically curated, and controlled by a corporation.

I'm really proud to work for a company who's ultimate purpose is to help people own their digital identity, and its becoming clearer to me that its possible to also provide a better user experience for all involved in the process. I've shared some of my thoughts on user experience and the IndieWeb already, and I plan to continue to think (and write) about the problem in the future!

 

Fearlessly updated to the latest @withknown from GitHub. Huzzah!

 

Other Review: Hello From the Magic Tavern

5 out of 5 stars

I recently discovered Hello From the Magic Tavern, a spectacular podcast with a ridiculous premise.

Hello! I’m Arnie. I fell through a magical dimensional portal behind a Burger King in Chicago and found myself in a strange magical land called “Foon.” I’m still somehow getting a weak wi-fi signal from the Burger King so I host a weekly podcast from the tavern the Vermilion Minotaur, interviewing monsters, wizards and adventurers.

The show primarily features Arnie and his "boon companions" Chunt, a shapeshifter usually taking the form of a talking badger, and Usidore, a wizard with a ludicrously long name. The show is silly, hilarious, and nearly completely improvised on a weekly basis. My commute has been massively improved by listening to Arnie, Chunt, and Usidore, and I highly recommend you join in, too!

Photo Credit: Hien Pham

 

This sounds great. I wish Known had even deeper support, but this is a good start. Thanks Aaron :)

 

Sweet Sunday kids

 

Movie Review: Sing

3 out of 5 stars

It was movie night in the LaCour home theater, and the family hunkered down to watch Sing, a 2016 animated feature from Illumination Entertainment.

Sing tells the tale of a struggling theater owner Buster Moon, voiced by Matthew McConaughey, as he tries to save his theater from financial ruin by hosting a signing competition. After a mishap by his assistant, Moon ends up advertising that the show will feature a $100,000 prize, rather than a $1,000 prize, and chaos ensues.

The movie features average animation and some decent voice work from McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, and Seth McFarlane. It drags a bit in the middle, and could lose about 15-20 minutes of run time to make it tighter. That said, great music and some decent laughs make it a worthwhile rental for the family.

 

Recipe: The American Trilogy Cocktail


Ingredients

  • 1 oz. Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz. Apple Brandy
  • 1 brown sugar cube
  • 4 dashes Orange Bitters
  • Orange peel for garnish

Takes . Serves One.

Last night, I was introduced to this lovely cocktail by a talented bartender at a speakeasy in Long Beach. It was conceived in New York's Little Branch bar in 2007, and is a riff on the classic Old Fashioned cocktail.

Start by dropping four dashes of orange bitters on top of the brown sugar cube, and muddle with orange peel. Then, add one ounce each of Rye Whiskey and Apple Brandy, stir with ice and serve with an orange peel garnish.

 

Enjoying my first "American Trilogy" cocktail. I'll toss up a recipe tomorrow!

 

Second refurb Gillette Slim is back...

Gorgeous work by Delta Echo Razor Works.

 

Barber time

 

Daniel Jalkut on Apple's "Clips" and Social Networks

Great post by Daniel Jalkut on Apple's new Clips app, an upcoming app that takes inspiration from Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook "stories" to enable users to create fun videos to share with their friends. Interestingly, rather than trying to build out yet another social network (which Apple has famously failed on in the past), Clips targets existing social networks.

... any time Apple might have spent building out their own social network is better spent investing in tools that maximize users’ enjoyment of the social networks they already belong to. Rather than obsessing over the venue in which social interactions occur, Apple can profit by equipping its users to be more expressive, wherever they may roam.

I like this core philosophy, and it actually aligns quite nicely with my vision for the IndieWeb. Rather than targeting only silos like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, it'd be wonderful if great user experiences like Clips could enable publishing and sharing to user sites through Micropub and the ilk. Looking forward to playing with Clips!

 

Lovely Interview with Jenny Slate

Vulture is on a tear lately, with great interview content with some truly interesting people. I just wrapped up reading this interview of Jenny Slate, who is brilliantly funny and blisteringly talented.

Today, she’s leaning in to International Women’s Day by wearing a sundress covered in red roses and made by a company, Day Space Night, that’s run by women. She even canceled her one meeting with a man, an appearance on Snoop Dogg’s podcast, so she could have an entirely penis-free day. And she’s planning on ending the day by going with her girlfriends to a 90-minute seminar on fertility and reproductive rights.

I love her honesty and willingness to be candid about every personal struggle. Notably, I laughed out loud when I read about her evolving decision-making process around selecting projects, in light of her fresly nutured feminism:

And now that she’s got a financial cushion from Zootopia and Secret Life of Pets, she can act on what she’s learned and say “no” more often. Specifically, she’s drawing the line at any movie that, she says, “makes it okay to laugh about things like women’s bodies after birth, like when women who’ve just had babies are referring to their vaginas as all ruined. I think it’s really rude for someone to disparage a vagina in the female body after it’s just fucking created and exploded a baby into our world. It makes me furious and I will not change my opinion on that.”

Love, love, love Jenny Slate. Worth a read!

 

User Experience and the IndieWeb

6 min read

Those of you who have been following me on this site and on Twitter for the last few years know that I've been a proponent of the IndieWeb and its ideals, and would like to see a return to the open web.

Earlier today, I published a series of tweets about my desire for better, more unfied experiences for people who want to actively participate in the IndieWeb:

I received some great replies from fellow members of the IndieWeb community, including some links to interesting building blocks that people have been working on for years:

Ryan Barrett also shared his thoughts on the topic way back in 2015, with many great ideas.

Building Blocks vs. Unified Experiences

Tools like Granary, Indigenous, and InkStone are great pieces of the puzzle, as are open source CMS's like Known and WordPress with support for Micropub, Webmention, and other IndieWeb building blocks. But, the reason that silos like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are popular is that they provide a convenient, easy, and attractive unified experience for content consumption, content creation, and interactions. In order to be successful, and drive mass adoption, the IndieWeb must provide a user experience on par with silos on all three of these fronts.

I think that Manton Reece's Micro.blog project is another good start on attacking the problem, and may get us closer than we've ever been before, which is why I pushed my employer to back the project. But, again, its likely not enough on its own.

Between RSS and Atom, Webmention, and Micropub, the building blocks are there to create such an experience in a decentralized way, with participants in the network owning their own domains, websites, and data, pulling in content from a variety of sources via feeds, and creating posts, reactions, and interactions to their own sites with notifications to other participant sites.

My Vision for a Unified Experience

Today, most people's experience of the web is through algorithmically generated, ad-supported timelines like Twitter and Facebook. Frequently, its on mobile devices in the native app clients for these silos, rather than through a web browser. That's really a shame.

These algorithmically curated timelines are filling the gap that feed readers and aggregators like Google Reader left open. Web browsers have also ceded ground to silos, focusing purely on navigation, tab management, and search, rather than thinking about the bigger picture.

The ideal solution to this problem would be a native application for desktop operating systems and mobile platforms that places user experience at the forefront, and provides:

  • Content consumption for both the open web, through RSS/Atom, and silos like Twitter and Facebook in separate tabs or timelines.

  • Content creation for both the open web, through Micropub, and silos like Twitter and Facebook via syndication or their APIs.

  • Rich interactions for both the open web, through Webmention, and silos like Twitter and Facebook via their APIs.

Back in the early days of Twitter and the iOS App Store, John Gruber wrote about Twitter clients as pioneers of user experience. He was absolutely right! Twitter's (then) open-ish API enabled indie software companies like The Iconfactory, Atebits, and others to innovate and create incredible user experiences. In fact, the early work of The Iconfactory in Twitterific led to the hashtag, @-mention, and other patterns to take hold. The concept of "pull to refresh" was born out of this storm of innovation. Then, as it tried to figure out how to monetize its VC-backed platform, Twitter closed up its APIs, cutting off this innovation.

A unified experience for the rebirth of the open web is a massive market opportunity. The building blocks are there. History has shown that these kinds of experiences can become massively popular and drive innovation.

Opportunity for Who?

This opportunity begs the question: who will build this unified experience? Well, this time, the building blocks are truly open, so anyone can participate. All of those amazing indie developers who were creating Twitter clients back in 2007-2012 could absolutely dust off their code, and pick up where they left off.

That said, I think that browser vendors are in the best possible position to create these experiences, as this is all about driving people to the open web, and consuming it inside of web browsers. I firmly believe that innovation in web browsers has been stagnant for years, with the focus mostly being on search, navigation, rendering, and tabbed browsing, while the ultimate user experience has remained fundamentally the same.

Because of its values and origins, Mozilla is perfectly suited to the problem, and needs to reinvent itself after years of declining market share for Firefox. Mozilla has spent years on distractions like phone operating systems, and a client for enabling publishing, interaction, and content discovery and consumption on the open web, free from silos, is a great opportunity to get back to its roots.

How Can I Help?

For my part, I'm going to continue to advocate for the IndieWeb, support the members of the community that are making the future possible, and work with my employer, DreamHost, to help enable people to own their own digital identity with open platforms like WordPress.

How can you help? Well, that's a blog post for another day.

 
 

"White People"

1 min read

Yesterday, while I am here in Atlanta for WordCamp ATL, I hopped in a Lyft from my hotel to head out to dinner. When I opened the door to the car, I could hear Outkast playing, to my approval. The driver was a young African American man, and he greeted me before activating Google Maps on his phone. Then, he reached down to his stereo screen, and picked a playlist named "White People." The Outkast stopped, and on came Maroon 5.

I would have told him to switch the music back to Outkast, but I couldn't stop laughing for long enough!

 

WordCamp Atlanta: Day Two

2 min read

Its the end of day two for WordCamp ATL, and I've had a really great time. The themes from day one continued to be important, with business success, automation, productivity, and design dominating the content and conversations, but a few more themes did emerge.

Development Isn't Always Programming

Following my attendance at LoopConf and A Day of REST, WordCamp ATL has been much less focused on lower level development topics like APIs and PHP code, but today I did hear several talks about leveraging WordPress as a platform to build more than just marketing websites. The theme and plugin ecosystem for WordPress is so rich, that it becomes possible to create full backend business systems on top of WordPress.

One talk I attended featured an entire business process automation system built on top of WordPress and Gravity Forms. It was truly impressive! By using plugins and themes, and the general power available in WordPress core, its possible to build out entire systems with WordPress without writing a single line of code. WordPress freelancers and agencies are solving real problems for real businesses in a very non-traditional way.

Deployment is Hard

I also attended a few sessions related to hostng and deployment. Its clear that WordPress entrepreneurs don't want to worry about managing servers, scaling sites, or deploying and upgrading their sites. It was good to hear that people are still in search of hosting, as I work for a major web hosting provider focused on WordPress.

Its exciting to see all of the activity in the managed WordPress space, and even awesome projects for DIY'ers like Trellis and Bedrock from Roots. WordPress developers have plenty of great choices for enabling worry-free hosting.

See Y'all Next Time

Overall, it was fun to be back in Atlanta, even if only for a few days, and WordCamp ATL was a very well organized event, with a vibrant community, excellent content, and a large audience. I hope to be back next year!

 

WordCamp Atlanta: Day One

4 min read

I'm happy to have traveled to Atlanta today to attend WordCamp ATL, a two-day gathering of WordPress professionals designed to educate, connect, and share experiences. My employer was a sponsor of the event, and it was a great opportunity for me to visit my old stomping grounds, talk to customers, and learn about what's going on in the WordPress community.

I thought it'd be fun to touch on a few of the highlights and themes from day one of the event.

Path to Success

Easily the most common theme of day one was enabling success. The majority of attendees of WordCamp ATL are trying to build sustainable businesses designing and building websites for their customers. Atlanta has produced quite a few successful WordPress businesses running the gamut from individual freelancer to large agencies and everything in between, and many of them are speakers.

In my conversations with attendees, a common refrain has been "how do I create success for my clients, and therefore for my business." The day kicked off with Troy Dean's keynote about building his seven-figure business on top of WordPress, and he tackled this question head-on, encouraging the audience to build their business on "authenticity, congruence, and intention," not just a quest for money. He summarized his talk with a quote:

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.

Zig Ziglar

Other talks focused on effective marketing, messaging, and packaging to build successful WordPress businesses. But, success isn't just about creating success for your clients, its also about creating success for yourself, which leads me into the next key theme for the day:

Process, Automation, and Time to Publish

Entrepreneurs face many challenges on the road to success, and the biggest one may be the sheer volume of work to do. Time is the most precious resource of an entrepreneur, and many of my conversations with attendees on day one focused on making the best use of limited time.

For designers just getting started, I heard about page building plugins like WP Beaver Builder and leveraging premium themes to get from proposal to client delivery as quickly as possible. Genesis and Underscores came up more than once, as did many theme vendors. In the early days of a designer's business, they'll be attracting customers with very limited budgets, and being able to whip out a website rapidly is critical.

Once a designer moves to the next phase of their business, their attention turns to automation and process. There were several talks about standardizing your workflow to reduce wasted time, and there was also a great talk about leveraging automation to optimize your business by David Laietta of Orange Blossom Media. David covered using platforms like IFTTT in concert with services like MailChimp, Slack, and Trello to fully automate everything from proposals, to contracts, to client requests to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. David will be launching a site called Bear Hacks in the coming days which focuses on automation, and I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Design is Still King

Finally, I'm very pleased to see that good design is still a fundamental topic of conversation and focus in the WordPress community. There were excellent talks on typography, responsive design, and design best practices. A room full of smart, technically-minded creatives is one of the most enjoyable places for me to spend a weekend, so it was great to see that design is still a focus.

I'm looking forward to what tomorrow holds, and I'll try and post a followup if I can grab some time.