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Blogs and blogging Social Web

“Are our present social media posts going to mortify our kids in the future?”

One of the challenges of being a parent in a time where we can share so much of our lives on social media is deciding how much to share about our kids. I decided to stop sharing much more than tidbits about our kids online a year or two ago. One of the reasons I stepped back was this:

One commenter criticized parents like the essay’s author for having “turned their family’s daily dramas into content.” Another said the woman’s essay surfaces a “nagging – and loaded – question among parents in the age of Instagram. … Are our present social media posts going to mortify our kids in the future?”

Michelle Ruiz

Of course part of the challenge is that our friends and family are likely on Facebook, and that’s where they share their lives. They don’t necessarily share publicly (as in the Public sharing option), but Facebook is their social hub.

Sharing our kids’ lives isn’t a modern phenomenon. Parents have been doing it for generations. What’s new is that we can share so much, across such vast distances, and at scale. Far beyond ye olde photo albums with printed photos. As Priya Kumar pointed out

Unlike the diary entries, photo albums and home videos of yore, blog posts, Instagram photos and YouTube videos reside in platforms owned by corporations and can be made visible to far more people than most parents realize or expect.

Facebook and the problem with posting about your kids online

I created a private family blog that is only accessible to family and close friends as a way to still share our lives with family and friends, and only with them. It hasn’t attracted much interest, though, and the reason seems to be that it’s not on Facebook, and therefore not part of that social hub.

It’s tempting to just go back to sharing this stuff on Facebook, and rejoin the collective there. The problem with this is that doing that is more likely to be harmful to our kids. And that doesn’t justify the convenience to our friends and family.

So, I reconsidered the value of our family blog. Instead of its primary purpose being a way to share our lives with friends and family in a way that better protects our kids’ privacy, I see it as a great way to document our lives for our kids.

I’d love to see our friends and family interacting with our family blog, but I’m not expecting to see that for the time being. Facebook has too much of a hold over our digital, social interactions (at least in my circles).

WhatsApp is a pretty prominent platform too, but sending a WhatsApp message to a family group isn’t the same as a blog post with photo galleries, a story, links, and maps that I use to document our experiences.

There are definitely more private options available for sharing our personal lives online. I’m partial to blogs but there are adoption drawbacks.

Still, given the choice between fewer visits from Facebook (and other) hold-outs, and committing our children to a degree of publicity they won’t want as they grow up, I’m comfortable adjusting my expectations of how many people will visit our family blog.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Anna Samoylova
Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web

More thoughts about Micro.blog as an indie social network

Brad Enslen is doing some great work over at Micro.blog, spreading the word about this innovative service. He published a post titled “The Case for Moving Your Social Network to Micro.blog“, that’s pretty self-explanatory.

https://ramblinggit.com/2018/12/the-case-for-moving-your-social-network-to-micro-blog/

I think there’s certainly merit in shifting your social network over to something like Micro.blog, in the near term at least. As Enslen explains –

As the name Micro.blog implies the primary thing you can do on it is write short form posts like Twitter and Facebook.  But you can also post long form posts just like you would on a conventional blog, just keep typing and when you hit 280 characters in a post a Title Field appears and you are long form posting – effortlessly.  There is no friction or barriers between you and just writing.

Posting is easy, like posting on Twitter and the blog just auto-generates itself.  You can post, “I like pizza.”  You can post a picture of your cat plus a poem about your cat. You can post a 600 word essay about the Chicago Cubs. Whatever you want, however short or long you want. It’s one of the features I like the most.  Posting photos is very easy on MB.  There are quite a few dedicated photoblogs there.

And you can move.  If you decide to move you can export all your posts and import them on a different blogging platform.  This is exactly why MB strongly encourages you to use your own domain it makes moving easier.

Brad Enslen

There are two challenges, as I see it at the moment:

  1. If your social graph/network isn’t using Micro.blog, it’s value for you may be pretty limited (or you can create a new network!); and
  2. I worry that shifting over to another, single service is repeating the same mistake we all made focusing our social streams into a small number of social networks that we don’t control. Micro.blog is certainly more open than Twitter or Facebook, and you don’t even need to host your blog there to participate, so it’s better in that respect.

I’ve been using Micro.blog as a pseudo-Twitter for a little while now. My blog posts publish there automatically, and I’ve discovered some fascinating people there along the way.

The syndication aspect is why I think there’s definitely something to adopting Micro.blog as a social network, even if it’s more of a stepping stone to something else. I’d love that “something else” to be a distributed social fabric that’s informed by posts on our personal sites/blogs.

I don’t think we’re quite there yet (wherever there is?), but I’m hopeful that we can move beyond a site as a static site or as a chunky blog, to a point where a site/blog can be a source of articles, and also simpler shares like status updates, Instagram-like photos, and so on.

Micro.blog is the closest to that, that I’ve seen. Here’s Manton Reece’s overview of Micro.blog. I think it offers a pretty good perspective on what this distributed social experience could look like:

I’m not really interested in moving my site away from WordPress, and that’s not because I work at Automattic. Overall, I enjoy using WordPress, and I think it’s one of the best options out there for publishing just about everything from a personal blog, to more complex publications.

Hopefully WordPress will evolve, and incorporate technologies that feed this loose vision of a federated social Web based on personal sites that talk to each other seamlessly. In the meantime, there’s a growing collection of plugins that add these pieces along the way (such as the wonderful IndieWeb plugins).

So, perhaps Micro.blog is a good candidate for an alternative to Facebook, and Twitter*. It’s certainly a couple steps in the right direction, while we figure out what a post-Facebook/post-Twitter social Web looks like.

*well, certainly Twitter given that Micro.blog doesn’t support privacy options you may want to use in a Facebook alternative, and assuming that the people you want to follow are on Twitter too …

Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web Writing

Twitter threads make no sense to me

Twitter threads make no sense to me. I also find then to be pretty frustrating.

I’ve read some really interesting, and engaging Twitter threads (you probably have too). Every time I read one, I ask myself two questions:

  • Why is this person going out of their way to share this story/their thoughts on a format that breaks the flow with every tweet?
  • Why doesn’t this person value their ideas/content/thoughts enough to give them/it a dedicated home on the Web that others can return to?

Sure, Twitter is great for firing off missives on the go. It’s both a real benefit, and the reason why Twitter’s becoming the seedy part of the Web.

It’s also a space that you don’t control, don’t own, and have no guarantee will still respect you in the morning. Taking the time to formulate your thoughts, and share them one tweet at a time, over multiple tweets, reflects a degree of dedication, and a determination to share them with the world.

Why, then, would you do the digital equivalent of carving your thoughts into beach sand, only to see it washed out when the tide comes in?

There are so many opportunities to share your ideas in a more resilient format, such as a blog, or even a collection of static HTML pages on a server somewhere. You can even tweet the link, if you want to get it out to your Twitter followers.

The cost of setting up, and maintaining a blog, are almost negligible. Do that instead. Your future readers will thank you.

Oh, and on a related note …

I occasionally come across tweets that attach images of typed documents. Please don’t do that. See above.

unsplash-logoFeatured image by drmakete lab
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Blogs and blogging

All The Blogging At Automattic

One of my favourite aspects of working at Automattic is how central blogs are to how we communicate (another important tool is Slack). We have loads of internal blogs that we call “P2s” (because they generally use the P2 theme).

We use P2s to post support requests, share tips for doing better work, update each other on new additions to our families, submit internal support requests, and more.

It feels like we’re using blogs in ways that seemed like futuristic stuff back in the early 2000s, and that really appeals to me. There’s something about blogs that have appealed to me every since I first came across the medium in 2003/2004.

To actually work in an environment where they’re actively in use for so many purposes, and by so many people, is like being in Blog Nirvana.

I find more interesting ways to use our blogs each day at Automattic, and I love it.

When I see people dismissing blogs, I can’t help but think that they’re missing a huge opportunity by turning away from this incredible platform.

Categories
Blogs and blogging

Mobile blogging shouldn’t be this hard in 2017

Is it just me or is mobile blogging still much harder than it should be in 2017? Why is it still such a convoluted process to quote something, easily add links and publish something appetising from a mobile device?

Or maybe I’m just using the wrong tools …

Categories
Blogs and blogging Writing

Blogging for 10 years and still going

This blog began its life under a different domain on 6 December 2004. It has survived in one form or another until now, thanks and no thanks to me. I started my blog after tinkering with blogging back in the primordial days of the social Web when blogging was the New Thing, after interactive fora. Keeping a blog alive for 10 years feels like an achievement. Having 3 527 blog posts under my metaphorical belt (not counting this one) feels like I have made a meaningful contribution towards documenting my life and the things that interest me. It is something worth commemorating.

I’ve created multiple blogs, merged them into this one, almost killed this blog on many occasions (my most recent attempt was particularly spectacular). After blogging here very sporadically, this blog started to become more meaningful and almost losing a decade’s work (some of it probably wasn’t worth saving but it all represents aspects of me at some point or another), I decided to make a point of using it more often.

Blogging seems to be having a sort of Renaissance. You may have noticed a number of prominent bloggers returned to blogging with a 30 Day Challenge they took on to blog every day. I was tempted to do that but didn’t see myself sticking to that and still posting something worthwhile every day. I’ve thought about podcasting through SoundCloud or even doing video posts but as much as I enjoy consuming audio and video content, creating it hasn’t stuck with me. Writing remains my favourite way of expressing myself, followed closely by my photography.

10 years is a convenient time period to commemorate blogging. It certainly feels like a substantial period of time. At the same time, the underlying writing habit pre-dated it and will probably stay with me for decades to come. I blog because of some compulsion to share stuff and as blogging tools become easier to use, I expect I’ll blog more often. It is still one of the best ways to express yourself in your space that won’t vanish when terms of service change (at least, less likely, I hope).

Categories
Blogs and blogging Social Web

Blogging 2.0 – when your blog becomes your social hub

You may have gathered that I think about how we use social services like Facebook, Twitter and others quite a bit. You also probably know that I am a pretty big Path fan although it’s not clear whether Path has much of a future when it comes to the people who mean the most to me (Update 2016-02-18: Path seems to have largely fallen by the wayside for me and my friends who were previously big fans. Slack has become a great option in its place, which is pretty interesting).

I started thinking about blogs in a social context. Blogs like this one have become personal hubs where we share our ideas, passions and more. For many people, their blogs are their digital news feeds and identities but they aren’t nearly as optimised for personal sharing as dedicated social services like Facebook, Google+ or even Path. This is one of the reasons why many people use Facebook or Google+ as their personal blogging platforms. These services have pretty granular sharing options even though their users don’t have meaningful control over their “blogs”.

At the moment this WordPress blog enables me to share posts publicly (my default), password protect posts or keep them to myself with a private publication option. What if WordPress enabled me to share posts with limited groups of people that I define instead? What if people could register using a variety of social profiles and I could allocate those people to groups and when I publish blog posts, share selectively?

It may look a bit like BuddyPress although what I have in mind doesn’t necessarily involve creating a social network on your site but rather establishing your site as a node in a decentralised social network of connected sites.

That sort of model would probably look a lot like Google+ Circles but it would be my site which I directly control and can host. Imagine that becomes a wider practice and now you have a distributed social network constituting a network of blogs that link to each other, can be followed and participated in. WordPress would be an ideal platform. It already has a substantial network of users. Theoretically possible. The question is whether anyone would take advantage of the functionality?

Categories
Blogs and blogging Creative expression Miscellany

Techno frazzled

 

I’m hypothetically on leave at the moment (back at work on the 6th) and my plan was to pull my mind back from the ledge it has lived on for the past year or so and back to rolling green fields caressed by cool breezes and the sounds of my children’s laughter. As usual, it takes a little longer than I expect for my mind to calm enough to meet a semblance of my idea of being on holiday but I have high hopes for the few days remaining.

Anyway, one of the things I have noticed as I strive to spend more human time with our kids and my wife is how easily I am caught up by an array of digital inputs and streams on my iPad and iPhone. I disabled email notifications (sort of) so that isn’t bombarding me but what I realised today is that I am still frazzled because I am constantly flipping between my feeds, an ebook or two, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Path (a bit), Flipboard versions of most of the previous items and the desire to write more for this blog. That is before I get to the bit where I spend more than a few minutes focused on our kids and whatever they want to tell me or do with me.

I’ve accepted a totally fragmented and, quite possibly, upside down array of services, inputs and outputs because I have been so hectic, sorting out that mess hasn’t really been a big priority. Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about this blog and its value to me as a core expression platform which I control (well, more than most of the others I use) and which can function as a fairly decent reference point of who I am and what I think about, generally speaking. Unfortunately WordPress isn’t as good as Tumblr or Google+ when it comes to sharing mixed-content items so I have been thinking about using those services more and for the sorts of things I’d rather publish here and a number of variations.

I found myself in a ridiculous position of reading a post on Flipboard I wanted to share and spending about 5 minutes sharing to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ (or, as an alternative, to Tumblr instead of Twitter and Facebook because Tumblr then shares with Twitter and Facebook) even though I’d much rather share directly to my WordPress blog and keep it all on one site. Reading articles and sharing them has become an utter pain in the butt. It is just too much effort, depending on where I read the article. Sharing items I pick up on in Reeder is quite a bit easier because of Buffer integration but I still have this complexity beneath it all and two aspects of the insanity have been particularly vexing: what do I do with this blog to make it a more meaningful part of my digital life and identity and do I continue attempting to use Tumblr and Google+, alongside other profiles for the quick shares? Surely this is far too convoluted?

Realising my self-induced techno frazzled state was keeping me from both a relaxing week and a half off and being more productive; I decided to find ways to simplify my process. I really like my blog and using it as a central hub. I’ve been reading a number of posts about blogging and Om Malik’s post stands out for me as a nice explanation of what I’d like to do with this blog:

And while I embrace every new social platform with gusto, I find it frustrating that my point of view is spliced across various networks. I think the blog is the one that ties it all together — a central location where you fit together all the Lego pieces. In many ways it is no different than what blogs used to be in the beginning. Instead of them being a starting point of the journey, they are now the final stop, a digital home in our social media meanderings. Marc Canter,came up with a concept called “digital life aggregators.” And he was right — blogs are just that, digital life aggregators.

It occurred to me that I probably have a pretty backwards workflow and could also ditch a couple channels I have been forcing into my others. One that came to mind is Tumblr which I have always liked but couldn’t really find a comfortable space for as a way to share stuff as a sort of secondary blog. I tried using it as a standalone blog; importing it into my main blog and, lately, adding a widget from my Tumblr feed to my blog to bolt it on, so to speak.

When I started thinking about simplifying it all, the solution to my Tumblr challenge was pretty simple, in retrospect: stop using Tumblr to share miscellaneous stuff that is pretty lightweight but not substantive enough to bother with a relatively manual process of posting it to this blog. Instead (and it’s almost embarrassing it has taken me so long to have this epiphany) I’ll just use Twitter for that stuff. So between my blog and Twitter, I have my content creation covered. Tumblr then falls into line with Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter (wearing the other hat) as ways to share my posts and other stuff with people who may be interested and who are firmly entrenched into these services.

One thing that seems to have emerged from the social Web is how the engagement part of the interaction has been separated from, and only remains loosely associated with, the source posts on my blog. It’s a bit like using separate speakers connected through a receiver for your home entertainment system instead of the speakers built into your TV. The engagement end of that barrel is still a series of pipes but it starts to simplify what I share on this blog and which is lighter weight stuff which I’ll share through Twitter either on its own or with other, appropriate services.

One of the thoughts I had about dropping Tumblr for Twitter (well, the thought after how I have finally caught up with how most people must be using Twitter) is how its updates and changes have changed its look and functionality to do a lot of what Tumblr does (specifically with inline media). It makes more sense to me, at any rate.

I still feel like there is a lot more room to simplify everything. I could cut back on many of the services I use but I keep thinking that would be pretty short-sighted. So, here I am, thinking out loud about how my inability to cut through my techno frazzle has frustrated my strong desire to spend far more time doing more quality human stuff with my family.