Also pondering how to best present @-mentions across the IndieWeb and how they should be represented in Micro.blog. Curious to hear your thoughts, @Manton. Thinking my extensions to JSON Feed may be useful, here...

The iPad – The Brooks Review

Great post by Ben Brooks on the iPad post WWDC 2017.

This is a critical point for iPad, where we are about to turn the corner in a very big way.

I think Ben is right. The vast majority of the work that I do these days could be done on an iPad, though I would still rely on an application like Prompt for SSH'ing into servers to write code. The hardware announced at WWDC solves many of my original gripes with the iPad, and a few problems that I didn't even know that I had. The software announced at WWDC is perhaps even more impressive in just how far it pushes the envelope.

Apple perfected iPad hardware at about the same time as they perfected the software for it, and they kind of fucking know it. They are being a tad pompous about it. And they acted the same way with the MacBook Air — “if you think this is a Netbook, oh boy, are you in for a treat.”

For the first time in a long time, I believe the premise that the iPad could be the primary computing device of the next generation of the workforce. The gap is closing, and its closing fast.

#micro

Apple makes major podcast updates - Six Colors

Jason Snell discusses the changes Apple is making to its involvement to the podcast world, including some new extensions to the feed format to enable more customization inside their own Podcasts app, which is getting a major revamp is iOS 11. In addition, they're adding in-app analytics (anonymized).

I wonder what this means for JSON Feed, and for Marco Arment's Overcast? I'm a believer in the addition of more metadata to feeds to enable clients and consumers to create better experienes for users.

#micro

Feed reader revolution: it’s time to embrace open & disrupt social media

Great post by Chris Aldrich that echos my own feelings about the potential for an integrated content creation, consumption, and interaction experience for the open web. I've already got a good start on it, since I have a website that supports Webmention and Micropub, and I've created a plugin for Nextcloud News, my feed reader of choice, that enables interactions.

My goal is to completely exit Facebook by the end of 2017 and Twitter shortly thereafter.

#indieweb #micro

On HomePod

5 min read

 

I've recently been thinking about the smart-speaker category, musing about Amazon's recently announced Echo Show, and speculating about if and when Apple would get into the game. Earlier this week, I got an answer when Apple announced the HomePod, a smart speaker with voice control powered by Siri. So, has the announcement of HomePod made my choice clear? Will I buy a HomePod, an Echo Show, or another smart-speaker?

Well. Its complicated.

Smart Speakers in Theory

In theory, smart speakers have several appealing features for me:

  • Convenient access to cloud-based music services like Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify. Being able to whisper an incantation into thin air, and have the speaker play pretty much any song I've ever heard means that I'll spend more time listening to and enjoying music.
  • High quality audio in my great room, which is excellent for hosting parties, or just enjoying in the evenings after the kids have been put to bed.
  • An always-on assistant for my home, with a massive library of integrations and home automation support. I can imagine bringing up recipes on a screen for reference in the kitchen while I cook, only by using my voice, or setting multiple cook timers, asking for conversions, etc.

On the other hand, there are some significant theoretical drawbacks, the most significant of which is security and privacy. Having an internet-connected microphone in my house that is always listening is a bit scary. Is my information safe? Is the company that I am sharing it with a good steward of my data?

HomePod Tradeoffs

HomePod has really muddied the waters for me. I absolutely love the convenience, integrations, features, developer story, and screen on the Echo Show, but the dismal audio quality and significant concerns with privacy and security give me pause. The Echo Show is also not particularly well integrated with Apple's ecosystem, in which I am thoroughly entrenched, though that seems to be changing.

The HomePod has addressed my privacy concern very effectively. Apple made it abundantly clear that they don't send any audio up to their servers until you say "Hey, Siri," and that all information is encrypted in transit, and is anonymized to protect its users. I trust Apple more than I trust Amazon, Google, or pretty much any other major technology and services company. They're interested in selling me their products to improve my life, not in sharing my information with advertisers, or more effectively mining my information to enhance its retail offerings.

Audio quality is also huge focus for Apple with the HomePod. In fact, their marketing site introduces it as "the new sound of home," and spends significant time and effort discussing the internal speakers and adaptive audio features that use its onboard processing to optimize the sound to the room. While there's no way to beat, or even match, a properly tuned multi-speaker audio system, I am betting that Apple's engineers can make the HomePod sound pretty great. Certainly, much better than the Echo. In addition, Apple has built in multi-room audio features that put competitors like Sonos to shame, thanks to tight integration with iOS.

So, HomePod addresses my two main concerns of Smart Speakers with ease! Yet, the HomePod leaves me very conflicted. Why? Because, frankly, its not particularly smart. I was expecting to hear about a total overhaul of Siri, focused on improving accuracy, opening up the platform to developers, and closing the gap with Alexa. Yet, the HomePod has, in many ways, delivered the "same old Siri," which has no developer story to speak of. The only integrations you'll find are those with HomeKit, which thus far hasn't really taken off. Meanwhile, the Alexa Skills library is growing at a massive clip.

Finally, the HomePod clocks in at $349. Ouch. The Echo series ranges from $49 for the Echo Dot, $179 for the full size Echo, and $229 for the Echo Show, which features a touch screen and an integrated HD video camera. Now, Apple can always demand a premium price point, and I have no doubt that the industrial design and engineering quality of the HomePod will put the Echo to shame, but given the feature disparity, I am a bit disappointed in the price.

What's Next?

Given the tradeoffs and price point of the HomePod, I am almost certain to pass on the first generation. If Apple puts significant time and effort into Siri and the developer story, that may change. Early signs from WWDC are that they're interested in opening up HomeKit more, so I'm optimistic. I'm also hopeful that Apple will eventually release a HomePod with a screen with integrated Facetime support, which would be ideal for my kitchen.

Conclusion? Well, I think that the smart speaker category is pretty nascent, and its going to take a few more years to shake out. Amazon has the early lead, and both Google and Apple now have entrants that are playing catch up with varying degrees of success. As of now, I'm sitting 2017 out to see how things change before committing to a platform.

#micro

Micro.blog, JSON Feed, and Evergreen Give Me Hope for the Open Web

3 min read

I've long been a believer in the power of the open web, but my passion for saving it has been ignited by the IndieWeb movement, as of late. More and more people are discovering their distaste for creepy, ad-driven content silos like Facebook. Today's post by Dave Winer on the evils of Facebook, and John Gruber's hilariously sardonic "Fuck Facebook" reply do an excellent job of encapsulating my own frustrations. That said, there are reasons for hope.

The IndieWeb movement itself has been chipping away at the problem for years, but I've been particularly encouraged over the past few weeks by a few new developments.

First is the successful launch of Manton Reece's Micro.blog project to his Kickstarter backers. I'm a backer myself, as is my employer, and I've had the pleasure of using the platform for a few weeks now. Its early, but the project is already bearing fruit, with a rapid development pace, a vibrant community, and lots of excellent people to follow. Micro.blog is built on the notion of independence and respects your ownership of your data.

Next is the announcement and early success of the JSON Feed format created by Manton and Brent Simmons. JSON Feed is a new format designed for content syndication, similar to RSS and Atom, but based upon the JSON serialization format, which is popular with developers these days for being extremely easy to properly generate and parse. Since its announcement, there's been a flurry of activity around JSON Feed, including outcry about "yet another standard," and those who are upset that JSON Feed was created at all when there are other JSON-based syndication formats in existence. Over all of the noise, though, the adoption rate has been impressive. Many projects have been updated or created to generate and parse JSON Feed, and consumers are starting to adopt the format as well, including Feedbin, News Explorer, NewsBlur, Inoreader, and a few podcast apps. I've even jumped into the fray, creating an initial implementation of JSON Feed for the Known CMS that runs this website, and a second pass that aims to build in additional information through JSON Feed extensions. Regardless of competing standards, shortcomings in the format itself, etc., its undeniable that JSON Feed is generating real, palpable excitement for the open web, and that's undoubtedly a good thing.

Finally, in the midst of all of this, Brent Simmons has announced that he's working on a new, open source feed reader for macOS called Evergreen. Brent was the original creator of NetNewsWire, which was at one time my favorite app. In fact, I created several themes for NetNewsWire back in the day, and was a member of the beta testing and feedback group that Brent set up. Evergreen has a chance to take a fresh look at the problem of consuming feeds, and with JSON Feed and the new capabilities it could support through extensions, I am hoping that Brent takes a crack at solving the bigger picture that I blogged about in March. Imagine an open source app that bundles consumption (through feeds, including JSON Feed) with content creation and interaction (leveraging Micropub, a newly minted W3C recommendation, and Webmention). I'm looking forward to seeing what Brent produces!

So, yes, I lament the state of the web, thanks to walled gardens like Facebook, but I'm optimistic about the future.

#indienews #indieweb

Bloomberg: Apple Is Manufacturing a Siri Speaker to Outdo Google and Amazon

Apple may be joining the game, but they're entering it pretty late. From the sound of it, the device won't have a screen, causing them to fall further behind Amazon, which is tempting me with the Echo Show and their addition of support for iCloud Calendars and Reminders. I really want to stay within the Apple ecosystem, but Apple's not making it easy... #micro

JSON Feed Creators Aim to Revitalize Interest in the Open Web

It's been fun to watch the release and rise of JSON Feed. This article does a good job of pointing out the benefits of JSON Feed and its philosophy, while also surfacing some of the common objections.

#micro

Hey, Micro.blog's latest iOS app seems to be able to publish to my website via Micropub! Nicely done, @manton.

Amazon Echo Show

I've long resisted the Amazon Echo products, along with other similar "lady in a can" products from Google. The idea of an always-on microphone creeped me out, and the utility just wasn't there, especially since my only options seemed to be Google, who is driven by advertising, and Amazon, who hasn't really proven itself in the consumer hardware space, yet.

That said, I bought a Fire TV and Fire TV Stick late last year, because I wanted something with 4K support for my newly acquired family-room TV, and also wanted a portable streaming stick option to bring with me on the road to use with my portable projector. Overall, I've been quite impressed with the quality and reliability of the products, and I am starting to believe that Amazon can create decent consumer hardware products.

Amazon recently announced the Amazon Echo Show, which provides all of the functionality of the traditional "lady in a can" Echo, but adds a camera and touch screen to enable a bunch of additional features, including video chat. The device looks homely at first glance, but its appearance, especially that of the white-bordered option, is really starting to grow on me in a sort of retro-futuristic way. It almost looks like something that 

Go and watch the cheese promotional video on the site. If it works as well as the video says, I find the addition of the screen and camera to potentially be the tipping point for me. I'm finally starting to understand the appeal of these devices, and can easily see myself buying a few for my house, along with one or two for family to enable quick drop in video chats.

#micro

Jonathan LaCour

Looks like I spoke too soon. Micro.blog handles photo posts with titles now, but seems to not embed if you include any content in the body, which Known let's me do.

Awesome! Micro.blog now properly embeds photo posts on my timeline! Micropub still doesn't work yet from the iOS app to Known, though. Still, progress!

Tim Bray on Blogging in 2017

1 min read

Replied to a post on tbray.org:

Thank you, Tim, for still blogging, and owning your own identity on the web. Your presence makes it more vibrant, unique, and diverse.

The great dan­ger is that the Web’s fu­ture is mall-like: No space re­al­ly pub­lic, no store­fronts but na­tion­al brands’, no vi­su­als com­posed by am­a­teurs, noth­ing that’s on of­fer just for its own sake, and for love.

This sentence in particular resonated with me. I want the web to be a massive, interconnected network of independant thinkers, businesses, artists, communicators, individuals, etc., not just a collection of brands shouting into the void, hoping to attract consumers.

#indienews #indieweb #micro

Jonathan LaCour

Four roses small batch.

#micro

Jonathan LaCour

Trump now agrees with the majority of Americans: He wasn’t ready to be president

Delightful. Just delightful.

Donald Trump spent a great portion of 2016 insisting that being president would be easy — at least for him. HuffPost compiled a number of examples of him dismissing the problems that accompany the job as being easily dispatched. Building a wall on the border with Mexico is easy. Beating Hillary Clinton would be easy. Renegotiating the Iran deal would be easy. Paying down the national debt would be easy. Acting presidential? Easy.

To a reporter from Reuters this week, though, Trump had a slightly different assessment of the presidency.

“I love my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life,” Trump said. “I thought it would be easier. I thought it was more of a … I’m a details-oriented person. I think you’d say that, but I do miss my old life. I like to work so that’s not a problem but this is actually more work.”

How much longer do we have to endure this guy? I'm not sure I can take three and half more years of this.

#micro

Seared in my Field Skillet, which is truly wonderful. #micro

Jonathan LaCour

Well put, Colin. A platform like Micro.blog has a great deal of potential to advance the adoption of IndieWeb building blocks like Micropub, IndieAuth, Webmention, and mf2, even if the users of Micro.blog don't know or understand any of the underlying foundations. Why? User experience! Micro.blog is simply leveraging IndieWeb technology and standards to build a platform that makes users happy.

While Micro.blog is a great step forward for the IndieWeb, I still believe that the holy grail is getting native support for IndieWeb deep within WordPress core, including broad support from themes. WordPress runs over 28% of all websites, and IndieWeb support in core could be the tipping point for broad adoption.

@brucegodin I create all content on my site, which is linked to Micro.blog via RSS. My site syndicates to Twitter.