238 posts categorized "Social Media"

Trying a New Rule - No Social Media Usage Until I Have Created Something New

Being a writer not being distractedI'm trying something new as part of my day:
No social network usage until I have created something online.

No Facebook. No Twitter. No Instagram... Ello... Google+... or anything else.

Nothing on any of those each day until I have done something such as:

The issue is that I've noticed lately that I've been doing more consuming of content versus creating content.

And as I looked at why, I've noticed that I've been spending a longer time inside of social networks. Before I start my work day I'll fire up Facebook... and 30 or 40 minutes later I emerge. Or on a break I'll scan Twitter or Instagram... and... again time goes by.

Which isn't to say that Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / etc. aren't useful... they definitely are.

But I find I am letting them distract me into consumption of news, updates, etc., instead of creating my own.

So my little experiment is NOT to check any of those until after I've created some content in some form.

Now, I've given myself permission to "cheat" a little in that I might schedule several posts to go out in advance... but the point is to be publishing more than I am doing now.

We'll see how this goes...


Image credit: A few years ago Donna Papacosta posted a photo of this button on her Facebook page. I liked it so much that I printed it out and taped it up on the cross-bar of my office window so that every time I look up from my computer I see that image! The photo is of that image between the blinds that I have covering the window on sunny days.


UPDATE #1 - So on the second day I already failed... I was just getting going and had my phone open checking something else... and bam... I fired up Facebook and started surfing through my Newsfeed. Almost an unconscious action at this point! Will take some re-training to break this habit.


An audio version of this post is now available:


Instagram Embraces The Algorithm - Switches From Showing Newest First

Instagram

Some big news in the social media world this morning was that Instagram is embracing the algorithm. Instead of seeing posts from Instagram accounts you follow in "reverse chronological order" (newest updates first) you now will see them in an order determined by Instagram. As the company wrote in a blog post today (my emphasis added):

You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most.

To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.

Note that important part:

To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.

Your feed will "show the moments WE believe".

Instagram decides.

You have no say in the matter.

Now, of course, Instagram's parent Facebook has been doing this for years now. Twitter, too, has recently embraced the algorithm saying in February that users would start seeing "the Tweets you’re most likely to care about" at the top of your timeline..

Algorithms are not necessarily bad.

I wrote about this topic over on Ello a month ago in a post "Sometimes Algorithms Help Us" [1].

The reality is that algorithms can help us sort through the deluge of content that is exploding on all the social services. As I wrote in that Ello post referencing first blogging and then Twitter:

The deluge of content became too hard for one person to handle

Algorithms can help us sort through the deluge and try to bring to the surface the most interesting and useful items.

The big question is - who is in control of the algorithm?

Is it ME, the user?

Or is it the service/platform?

And in that case how will they potentially manipulate the algorithm toward their own ends?

The problem is that there is a great potential for abuse on the part of the service/platform. As I noted in my recent post about Facebook Reactions, Facebook manipulated users newsfeeds back in 2012 as part of an experiment about moods.

Beyond that, I know many folks, myself included, who just assume that Facebook and now Twitter (and now Instagram) will use the algorithm to manipulate our feeds to show us more advertising and sponsored posts.

They have to, really, in order to pay their investors given that advertising is really their only revenue source.

And this is the problem - the algorithm is a "black box". We, the users, have no idea what is inside of it or how it works.

The corporation is entirely in control.

They are the gatekeeper of the content we see.

Ideally we would have some degree of transparency and control. We would at least know how the algorithm is affecting what we see. But we don't for most of these services.

In their blog post today, the folks at Instagram write:

We’re going to take time to get this right and listen to your feedback along the way. You’ll see this new experience in the coming months.

I hope they do listen - and I hope they do help us at least understand how the algorithm will shape what we see.

Perhaps they'll take some inspiration from Facebook that still provides (at least for the moment) the option to change to see the most recent updates:

Facebook news feed

Although I thought I saw somewhere some stat that only a very few people actually use that option.

Meanwhile, all we can do is embrace the algorithm ourselves... we have no control over the Instagram platform. That is entirely in the hands of the corporation (Facebook) behind it. If we are to continue using it, we are subject to their whims and desires.

Welcome to our brave new world where the corporations are the gatekeepers of what we see.

And, in truth, the algorithm just may help us find more interesting and relevant images within the deluge of Instagram photos.

What do you think? Will embracing the algorithm help make Instagram more interesting and useful? Or do you see this as a cynical attempt to merely get more advertising visible to us?

P.S. Many more stories about this change are appearing on Techmeme.


[1] Note to self: need to pull that post out of Ello's walls and publish it here on the open web.


Do Facebook Instant Articles Support The Open Web... or Facebook's Walled Garden?

Facebook instant articles

Will Facebook's impending opening up of its "Instant Articles" on April 12 to ALL publishers of content help the "open web"? Or will it just keep more people inside of Facebook's shiny walled garden?

As Facebook's launch announcement says in part:

We built Instant Articles to solve a specific problem—slow loading times on the mobile web created a problematic experience for people reading news on their phones. This is a problem that impacts publishers of all sizes, especially those with audiences where low connectivity is an issue.

...

Facebook’s goal is to connect people to the stories, posts, videos or photos that matter most to them. Opening up Instant Articles will allow any publisher to tell great stories, that load quickly, to people all over the world. With Instant Articles, they can do this while retaining control over the experience, their ads and their data.

It sounds great on many levels and blogging pioneer Dave Winer has written passionately about "How Instant Articles helps the open web" (also published on Medium). He went on to document his Instant Articles (IA) feed and to talk about how his blog posts now automagically stream out to Facebook Instant Articles along with other services: Oh the places this post will go!

The beautiful part about Instant Articles is that it is based on good old RSS feeds ... and so with a few additions to the markup of your RSS feed you could be ready to go technically to start publishing Instant Articles. (There are a number of other steps you need to do, though.) Even better, and a point Dave definitely makes, Facebook Instant Articles will update when you make changes to your original text - something that doesn't happen with services (such as Medium) where you can syndicate your articles after you write them... but they don't update.

As Dave notes in "How IA happened from my point of view" by quoting me (in my comment left on Medium), I think this a great step in allowing publishers to easily get their content into Facebook's Instant Articles. My quote said:

"I have expected that Facebook would be focused on keeping everyone inside their shiny walled garden and thought I understood that Instant Articles involved putting your content on FB’s servers… which I now understand it *does*, but via caching of an RSS feed. Which is VERY cool!"

In my previous quick reading about Instant Articles, I had understood that it involved publishers loading their content onto Facebook's servers - and so I thought that we who publish would be forced to load our content onto FB's servers separate from our own websites.

In other words, I thought we would need to publish twice.

This, to me, would NOT support the "open web" that exists outside the big walled gardens of content that we are seeing now evolving.

I thank Dave for helping me understand that Facebook very nicely chose to base IA on the consumption of RSS feeds. This allows us as publishers to create our content once and syndicate it out to Facebook Instant Articles.

This is good and very much in line with the IndieWeb thinking around "POSSE - Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere" that I very much believe in. I applaud Facebook for making it so easy for content publishers to make our content available as Instant Articles.

BUT...

Is the existence of Instant Articles good for the open web?

Right now, when I post a link in Facebook to an article on one of my sites:

when people follow that link they view the article on MY site.

On MY web server, running somewhere out on the distributed, de-centralized and "open" web.

(Which, yes, is increasingly getting centralized in terms of content hosting providers, but let's leave that for a separate article. The point is that I currently do have multiple choices for where I host that content.)

People can interact with my site, see my content there, potentially leave comments there on the site, etc.

My site, and the content on that site, is not dependent on Facebook.

The key point about viewing Instant Articles is:

Reading "Instant Articles" keeps you ENTIRELY within Facebook's walled garden.

You read the Instant Articles inside of your Facbook mobile app. You comment and interact with the article inside of Facebook's app.

All the interaction happens within Facebook's mobile app.

Yes, as a publisher I can get analytics about my content, including via other services such as Google Analytics.

And yes, all the Instant Articles content is pulled in from my website out on the "open web". But while that content is pulled in using "open protocols",

the content is cached (stored) on Facebook's servers and made available through Facebook's own networks.

Over time publishers might start to ask:

Why not simply publish everything DIRECTLY inside of Facebook?

With Instant Articles, Facebook is already serving out my content from their servers... why don't I simplify my workflow even more by just publishing all my content natively inside of Facebook?

And if I were Facebook that would be what I would ultimately want. Even more content exclusively inside MY walled garden that would keep people staying inside those shiny walls.

Yes, User Experience Matters

Having said all of this, I do understand WHY Facebook is doing this beyond the obvious desire to keep people in their walled garden:

The mobile user experience of reading/viewing content has a HUGE need for improvement!

Even with the push by Google and many others to make the web "mobile-friendly" there is still a huge amount of room for improvement.

We need to speed up the "mobile web" and to improve the user experience.

Facebook is trying to do this with Instant Articles. Google is trying to do this with "Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)", which I'll be soon writing an article about. Apple would like to do this with Apple News.

All of those efforts, though, do speed up the mobile web ... but only for users of specific apps / browsers / etc.. Each of the efforts creates a better mobile user experience, but within their own walled gardens.

And I do understand that from Facebook's point of view the mobile user experience isn't as seamless as it could be when people are in the Facebook app and then follow a link out to a completely different look-and-feel and a completely different user experience.

It can be jarring. And it may not work all that well.

Instant Articles will bring a significantly better user experience to users of the Facebook mobile apps.

As a user of those Facebook apps, I can see that being a good thing. Admittedly I sometimes do not follow links I see in my NewsFeed because I know from experience that the site linked to loads slowly and I don't have time at that moment to wait to view that article. I want to see it NOW.

But is the price of a better user experience worth the continued centralization of content within large walled gardens?

And will anyone really care... as long as they can read their article as fast as possible?

Will I Publish Through Facebook Instant Articles?

Of course!

I'm not stupid! The reality is that right now a huge amount of the audience I want to reach is within Facebook's shiny walled garden - and uses Facebook's NewsFeed as a primary way of getting much of their content. I am there myself and do get a large number of links that I visit on a daily basis through what I see in my Facebook NewsFeed.

Like Dave Winer already does, I'm working to see what I can do to make at least a few of my sites accessible via Instant Articles by the April 12 launch. (For instance, I see WordPress plugins for IA already emerging and FB themselves provides some guidance for content management systems.)

I'll do it because my end goal is to get my content seen by the people who I want to reach.

And right now, Facebook is the way that so many people consume content.

I have to go where the conversation is happening.

Do I worry, though, about the long-term effects this may have on the "open web"?

Absolutely.

And I think you should, too.

We Need An Open Internet

We need an "open web" ... and a far larger "open Internet" ... where we don't have to ask permission to communicate, connect, collaborate and create (what many of us call "permissionless innovation").

The centralization of content, both in terms of publishing of content and consumption of content, is a very worrisome trend.

Huge, centralized walled gardens such as Facebook today can make Instant Articles "open to everyone" ... but tomorrow they could start to play much more of the "gatekeeper" role, determining:

  • precisely "who" gets to publish content to the Facebook audience (which they are already doing in a way through the process of applying for Instant Article access);
  • whether that content gets to be seen by all Facebook users (which they are already doing with the NewsFeed algorithm and could do even more now that Facebook Reactions are out);
  • whether that content gets to be seen for free - or for a price (which they are already doing with the NewsFeed algorithm for displaying Pages content and letting you "boost" content).

Yes, I'll publish through Facebook Instant Articles (assuming my feeds get approved) because it will help Facebook users more easily view my content.

And I'm glad that Facebook chose to use RSS as the base to allow us to easily publish our content as Instant Articles without having to create a separate mechanism for publishing to Facebook.

I just worry that in then end this will only help keep more people inside of Facebook's shiny and pretty walled garden ... versus interacting with the many other sites and services that make up the larger open Internet.

What do you think?

Will you start publishing your content as Facebook Instant Articles? Do you think that we as content providers have much of a choice if we want to reach people on Facebook? What do you think this will do long-term?


An audio podcast about Facebook Instant Articles is also available:


UPDATE #1 - In a bit of synchronicity, Dave Winer published a new post - Who should support IA and how - at about the same time as I posted mine. He suggests that IA should be used as essentially the improved plumbing to make the mobile user experience better across different platforms and walled gardens. I don't disagree.. but I wonder how many of the other walled gardens (ex. Twitter, Medium) would actually support Facebook's protocol. (Sounds like a topic for another blog post...)


Facebook's Staggering 2015 Q4 Results - Amazing (and Concerning) Numbers!

Facebook quarterly results 2015Q4This week Facebook released amazing quarterly results for Q4 of 2015 that truly show what a HUGE hub of activity Facebook has become. Mark Zuckerberg posted this "Comunity Update" photo with these staggering numbers for monthly active users (MAU):
  • 1.59 Billion monthly Facebook users
  • 900 Million monthly WhatsApp users
  • 800 Million monthly Facebook Messenger users
  • 400 Million monthly Instagram users

Wow.

Consider that there are 7 billion people on the entire planet... 7.3 billion if we go with US gov't data... that's about 1/5th OF THE WORLD (21%) USING FACEBOOK each month!

And nearly 1 billion people using WhatsApp.

Amazing numbers!

Admittedly, I'm more than a bit concerned about all of this communication being centralized within one corporation. This gives a HUGE amount of power to one corporate entity to be the gatekeeper of content and communication. Already with the NewsFeed algorithms Facebook is controlling what we see and share. As these numbers grow, they continue to gain more and more control.

As I wrote about last year, Facebook's control of multiple "user directories" severely limits the ability for new entrants to enter the messaging and communication scene.

It's definitely concerning... but it's also amazing.

Congrats to all the people at Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram for hitting these incredible numbers! It will be curious to see what next quarter brings!

P.S. Those who want deeper details can dive into Facebook's 2015 Q4 Earning Report. LOTS more data...


Hashtag Support In Ello Helps Find Great Content

Octothorpes hashtags 660About three weeks ago, Ello added hashtag support and made it possible for people to find great content that is being posted on Ello. Paul Budnitz wrote about the launch (on Ello, of course) and included some examples (to which I've then added a few more):

Obviously hashtags have been around on other social networks for quite some time. When Ello launched last year some people almost immediately asked where the hashtag support was.

Now it's here... and if you search on Ello (using simply https://ello.co/search ) you can now use hashtags as a great way to find new content - and to find new people to follow.

I'm still writing on Ello now and then - https://ello.co/danyork - partly out of just interest in trying a different service and partly because I like the _principles_ upon which Ello is founded. Now, hashtags are helping me find other people of interest who are posting new and different things.

If you're on Ello, or gave it a try back in the beginning and then haven't gone back, do check out the hashtag support and see what you may find...


Ello Releases iOS App And Drops Invitation-only Status To Let Everyone In

Ello ios appToday the team at Ello released an iOS app so that iPhone/iPad users can now very easily add posts and photos into Ello, read Ello posts and interact with people throughout the Ello community.

Co-founder Paul Budnitz wrote about the iOS app and also said that Android and Windows apps will be coming later this year.

You can download the Ello app in Apple's AppStore.

Along with the release of the iOS app is also the news that you no longer need to have an invitation to join Ello. As Budnitz writes:

There was suddenly a ton of press about Ello, but we chose to keep Ello invitation-only, to keep our community from growing too fast. We knew that the best way to create a strong & positive community is to start from friend to friend — and to create features for the artists & creative people that form our core today.

Today, though, the team is ready for growth and is letting anyone in. All you have to do is sign up through the main Ello page ... or though the iOS app.

Anyone can now join Ello.

The challenge Ello has is the same one of all online communities...

how do you become a place that people CHOOSE to spend their time in?

We all have a zillion choices today of different communities and websites in which we can spend our time. How does Ello become one of those for more people?

It's a variation of the "directory dilemma" that I wrote about for messaging apps. As I said there:

People will only use a communication application if the people they want to talk to are using the application.

Ello faces a similar challenge:

People will only use a social network if the people they want to talk to are using the social network.

Be that friends, family, work colleagues, celebrities, services, etc., etc.

If there is interesting content and conversations, people may join in. If not, people will wander off to the next community or site that interests them.

For me... perhaps it's the quirkiness of the monospace font... or the connection to Vermont... or just the fact that I have found a few people who I enjoy following and interacting with... but I'm there on Ello (as "danyork") and will continue to post and interact.

I'm looking forward to using the iOS app to see if that helps make the experience of using Ello that much easier. So far it seems quite nice!

If you gave Ello a try back in the fall when there was all the buzz... why not try it again now? And if you've never tried it, why not do so now?

I'm off to try the app some more...

Related Posts:


The 3 Critical Elements To Getting Your Blog Post Noticed

PJ with bullhorn

What do you need to do to get your blog post noticed? When we are drowning in a sea of content, how can you make your post stand out? How can you maximize the chances that people will actually find your blog post, read it and then hopefully share it?

In the 15 years I've been blogging, I've seen that there are three critical elements that help in getting your post noticed. There are, of course, many other things you can do to improve your posts... but I want to start with three elements that can help get people to follow the link and VIEW your post.

First, though, let's agree that almost everyone today finds your blog post through either of three mechanisms:

  • Search results
  • Social media sharing
  • News aggregators - sites like Reddit, Hacker News, Digg, etc.

Given that, your goal is make your post accessible in a way that supports these three mechanisms and makes people want to choose YOUR link to follow versus all the other ones they see in search results or in social media streams.

Three caveats before I begin:

  • There's a separate discussion we could have about the SEO work you might do to make your post appear in search results... but let's park that discussion and just assume for the moment that your post is visible in search results.
  • Think of what I say below in terms of someone finding your post and then sharing it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, whatever... or on news aggregation sites like Reddit or Hacker News... all they do is drop the URL in. Typically the title "automagically" appears. You want to make it easy for this to "just work" for them.
  • There is no magic silver bullet. These are just suggestions. There are many other factors that can come into play, including just random accidents of timing. But these are tips that can certainly help.

And for the "Too Long; Didn't Read" crowd, here's the quick summary:

  • You need a strong title that someone would click if that was all they saw on a site like Twitter or Reddit.
  • You need a first few sentences that when seen in a "preview" on, say, Facebook, would make someone go "Huh?" and want to learn more.
  • You need a visually compelling image that will draw viewers' eyes to your link versus the other ones.

With that, let's dive into more detail...

1. If You Saw Only Your Title, Would You Click The Link?

The first thing I tell people is simply this:

If you saw this title in your Twitter feed, would YOU click the link to find out more?

If yes, great.

If no, think of a title that WOULD make you click the link. (And in place of "Twitter", it could be any other social network...)

The companion to this question is:

If someone in your target audience saw this title in his/her Twitter feed, would he/she click the link to find out more?

Be harsh on yourself when you are asking this question. A Twitter feed is a FIREHOSE of information being sprayed out at you... in the midst of all of this, would your title cause someone to click the link?

And yes, this is exactly why Upworthy comes up with such cringe-worthy headlines as (and these are all real):

  • She took off her bra and put it over Paul Krugman's face because science.
  • Her Olympic dreams were nearly crushed, until an unlikely coach saved the day.
  • The 4 most ridiculous arguments people use to defend Bill Cosby, presented by Amy Schumer.
and Buzzfeed uses headlines like these:
  • 21 Things That Happen To Everyone Who Wears Makeup
  • This Gay Teen Is Taking The Internet By Storm With Her Feminist Yearbook Quote
  • Can We Talk About How Hot Drake Is In This Instagram Photo?

Mind you... I DON'T RECOMMEND YOU FOLLOW THIS PATTERN! (And in fact, social networks are fighting back against this kind of "click-baiting"!)

But it works.

Ask yourself... didn't you want to click on at least one of those headlines to learn more?

Upworthy, Buzzfeed and all these similar sites understand that the title is what makes people want to click. (And yes, they do A/B testing to try out many different titles for a post before they converge on the one that will work the best... but they have zillions of visitors and can easily do this.)

Now, you also have to have a title that fits in with the kind of style you want to have on your blog. And, going back to "discovery", you want to have a title that has some meaning related to your content.

Similarly, you want a title this relevant to your content! You don't want people to feel betrayed if they followed a link because of a title - only to find out the text is something completely different.

With those thoughts in mind, the question goes back to - if you saw this title in a social network, would you click the link?

A strong title is critical.

2. Do Your First Sentences Make People Want To Know More?

This is one that people often miss... they come up with a great title but the first sentence is insanely boring.

Remember this...

most social networks and search results SHOW A PREVIEW of your text!

Twitter doesn't... it just shows the title. But Facebook... Google+... LinkedIn... others... all show a preview of the first sentence or two of your text. Search results from Google and other search engines typically show a preview, too.

Yes, there are ways to influence what search engines or social networks show as the preview... but the simplest way is just to write compelling sentences that will intrigue people!

Here's an example from my own Facebook feed that I think works well:

Blog post example

First, the title:

Yet another reason to love Netflix: It's helping to kill reality TV

Yes, okay, so maybe it's a bit inflated, but it got me to pay attention.

But notice the text:

15 years ago, the reality TV craze took off in America and many people assumed that quality television programming was doomed to extinction. The reasons for this were...

Wait.. wait... What are those reasons? How is Netflix killing reality TV?

I WANT TO KNOW!

See how it is sucking me in? (FYI, here's that post if you want to read it.)

Now, there's many ways to do create this introductory text... and yes, there's really an art to it. One simple way is:

Ask questions!

I do this a lot. Perhaps too much... but I've found it works. Here's a recent post of mine:

Danyork questions

Ignoring the fact that I royally screwed up on the title and entered "March" instead of "May" (subsequently fixed, but not before it went out in social media), look at how I began:

Would you like to learn more about what the WSIS+10 Review process is all about? How can you participate in the process if you are not with a government? What is "WSIS" all about anyway — and why should you care? Those questions

Why yes... I would like to know the answers to those questions... let me click on the link and see what the answers are!

Scroll back up and notice the questions I used at the beginning of this post. Did you see them in a preview? Did they perhaps pull you into reading this post?

Questions work.

Think of questions you are answering in your article... put them up in that first paragraph.

Sometimes questions don't work with your text, of course. Here's another example of a recent post I wrote:

Danyork scourge of cancer

Again... a title designed to intrigue people: who was struck by cancer? Was it anyone you knew? What effect will it have on him? (i.e. me)

And then the introductory paragraph:

I haven't written about our journey with cancer for a while because my wife's own journey has been one of the ongoing tedium of Tamoxifen ... another day, another pill... and more fatigue, joint pain and so many more issues. It is, though, unfortunately

What journey with cancer? (for those who don't know about it) What is going on?

The goal is again to get people to FOLLOW THE LINK.

3. Do You Have An Image That Draws Attention To Your Post?

Look back at the three examples I gave you above... all three of them have an image that shows up in the preview. This draws people attention to your post when it shows up in a newsfeed. (There was a study that I can't seem to find right now that showed how much higher of a click-through rate a shared post had if an image was included. But think of your own usage - which links do you click through?)

If the first one about Netflix, there is an image of smiling young actress. I actually have no clue who she is, even after reading the article... but the photo is something visual that will draw people in.

My second example from CircleID isn't the best in my opinion. I mean, it's my standard headshot, so perhaps it helps in the "Gee, he looks serious so maybe I should read this because it's a serious matter" kind of way.

But it's better than NO image.

The third example with the cemetery is again a visually interesting image. It pulls you in.

Now - how do you get an image to use?

I generally get my own images from three sources:

  • Photos I have taken ... or photos that someone else I know has taken and then sent to me with the permission to use the image. This is the easiest and simplest. If it is your photo there's no need to worry about attribution. You can modify it in any way you want. Generally these are the photos I try to get, either myself - or from a colleague or friend who is at an event or something like that.
  • Flickr's Creative Commons-licensed photos - Flickr provides a wonderful service to bloggers by letting people upload photos with a Creative Commons license that allows other people to use the photos under certain conditions. Generally this means that you need to include a link to the photo as a source of attribution. In some cases there might be restrictions on commercial usage, but it varies. Flickr supports a range of CC licenses that you can search on:

    Flickr creative commons

    I used Flickr to find the image I used in this post.

    A companion point is that if you upload photos to Flickr, please do consider putting them under a CC license so that other people can use them like this.

  • Screenshots. I'm a heavy user of Skitch on my Mac and use it pretty much every day for images that I put into blog posts. Sometimes it might be the logo of a website I am writing about... or the logo of an event... or it might be an image from a website ... ... or, as in a case today, I might take a screenshot of a PowerPoint slide where I very quickly created an image to use in a post. :-) There are many other similar tools for Mac and Windows - the key point is that you can rapidly take and then modify/resize an image.

    BE REALLY, REALLY CAREFUL HERE! Just because "it's on the Internet" does NOT mean you can just freely capture an image and use it. There's a whole other post that could be written about image licenses... and many good articles can be found out there. When in doubt, do NOT use an image you capture if you do not know that the person who made the image available would not want you to. For example, I often use event logos freely because typically the event organizers WANT all the publicity they can get... and by using their logo when I write about the event I'm reinforcing their branding and helping spread the word. But some events are very sensitive about what logo gets used and so you need to always check and see if they provide guidance or restrictions.

I know some folks like the image collection at the Internet Archive and there's many other sites. I generally avoid "stock photography" purely because so many other people are often using the same images... but I have sometimes used photos from such sources.

The key point is that you need an image of some type to help draw people to your post.

You do, of course, want to be sure that the image has some relation to the content of your article. The best images are ones that reinforce the message and ideas in the article.

As I Said At The Beginning...

There are many more things you can do to draw attention to your post, but these are three of the critical elements I have found help in getting attention to posts.

But don't trust me...

... think about these three things when you are next scanning down your Facebook feed... or your LinkedIn feed... or Google+ ... or Twitter...

What draws you in?

What makes you click/tap on one link versus another one?

What makes you reshare/retweet a link?

If you think about it, odds are that it will come down to some combination of:

  • the title grabbed your attention; and/or
  • the image grabbed your attention; and
  • the preview text reinforced that following the link would be worthwhile.

And in the end you clicked/tapped the link...

Learn from what drives your behavior!

Comments are definitely welcome... please feel free to leave them below or on social networks where this gets posted.

I look forward to being attracted to your posts! :-)


An audio commentary on this topic is available:


Image credit: Paul Schreiber on Flickr


Celebrating 15 Years of Blogging! Starting with Advogato...

Just keep bloggingFifteen years ago today I did something that I had no clue would transform my life in the years ahead. On May 10, 2000, I was sitting in cavernous basement office of Linuxcare on Townsend Street in San Francisco. It was after 9pm and being a visitor I was just working late. Sitting there, I created an account on a site called Advogato and...
... I started blogging!

Well, in truth it wasn't called "blogging" right then. On Advogato it was called a "diary". The words "weblog", "blog" and "blogging" were still working their way toward becoming the conventions they are today.

Still, it was the start of my journey into what we call "blogging". Oh, I had been writing online for many years before that... after all, I'd first gone online in the mid-1980s. And in fact the reason I was sitting in that office in San Francisco was because of a series of articles on the Linux Gazette site that had brought me to the attention of the Linuxcare founders, who then funded me to help create the Linux Professional Institute (LPI).

But that first post on Advogato was my entry into personal writing on my "own" page and in a form that interacted with others.

15 years later - and THOUSANDS of blog posts across many different sites - and several jobs that came about because of my blogging... it's kind of fun to think back to where it all began.

Look Back At My Blogging Journey

As I look back on that very first entry (still online! (and numbered "0" in typical engineer fashion)) I can notice a few things:

  • It was long, as per usual. (As I note at the end - and it's still true today - "no one has ever praised me for my brevity!")
  • I was working with the CVS version control system. I haven't touched that in many years and now, of course, use git for version control.
  • I had just picked up a paper book about DocBook. I would go on to write and speak about DocBook at many events, and would use DocBook as the source format for all of Linuxcare's documentation in a single-source publishing system. MANY years later in 2011 I would write my "Migrating Apps To IPv6" book for O'Reilly entirely in DocBook.
  • The Cluetrain Manifesto was new! :-)

I love that I included this line in the entry:

I decided to join this experiment... let's see if I actually keep up with it.

I would continue to write there... close to 400 more (typically long!) entries until June 2004 when a 5-6 week site outage (Advogato was at that time one man's labor of love, not a dedicated hosting site!) would see me and a number of other folks move over to LiveJournal. I posted only very rarely on Advogato after that, although a few years ago I set it to pull in and cross-post the feed from my Code.DanYork.com blog.

Starting in 2004 dyork.livejournal.com would become my "personal home" on the web (under the domain-name blog.danyork.com) for a few years until 2008-2009 when I switched to my DanYork.com site I still have today.

Meanwhile, in late 2005 I decided to split off my telecom/VoIP writing and also my PR/marketing/social media writing into focused blogs at:

Those two remain the main places I publish my own personal content, although they are not the primary places I write these days.

Years later I would come to regret splitting those two topics as they would come crashing together and the lines would blur... but at the time, working for Mitel Networks, I wanted a separate place to write about telecom and VoIP.

In 2007 when I was "synergized" out of a job at Mitel after their acquisition of Inter-Tel, it was a couple of blog posts that brought me to the attention of Jonathan Taylor and RJ Auburn who brought me into Voxeo where I had a wonderful four years.

It was amusing... I had been trying for most of 3 years to get Mitel to have a corporate blog, but they were at the time reluctant to engage in the more conversational medium. (They have a blog today, of course.) At Voxeo, within 3 weeks I had a corporate blog portal up and over the years that would grow to a peak of having 20 separate blogs for different people, channels, audiences and products.

I also had the most amusing title I've ever had: "Director of Conversations". (Yes, that was on my business card!)

The deep experience in WordPress would serve me well when I left Voxeo in 2011 to join the Internet Society where I was charged with very rapidly getting a web site online to help accelerate the adoption of key Internet technologies. The result was the Deploy360 Programme, a site where I still write quite frequently today.

It was, in fact, my blogging as well as my speaking that had brought me to the attention of the Internet Society.

My blogging over these many years would also lead to:

  • MANY different speaking presentations at conferences and events around the world.
  • My two latest books (on IPv6 and VoIP security) came about due in part to people finding me due to my writing.
  • Countless other opportunities and conversations.
  • Learning an insane amount (because to write about topics you need to know them!).
  • Getting into podcasting... both audio and video.
  • All sorts of new connections and ideas.
  • Friendships with some great people.

This last one is important... the Internet is ultimately about people... and it is through the sharing of information on sites like blogs that we get to learn more about our shared humanity.

Today

Today, in 2015, I write across so many different places that I had to build a site to aggregate my feeds just so that *I* could keep track of them all! That is:

http://danyork.me/

My main personal sites continue to be Disruptive Telephony, Disruptive Conversations... and also increasingly CircleID. There are a number of others I list here:

http://www.danyork.com/blogs.html

The great part of today is that my regular daytime job is focused around blogging! As I explained back in February my new role at the Internet Society is to look at our content across all our different sites and blogs. As a result I'm writing not only on Deploy360 but also on the main Internet Society blog and other sites we have. (A curious new aspect is that sometimes I am ghost-writing posts for other people, which is something new for me... but that's a good topic for another post...)

Though the role of "content strategist" didn't even remotely exist (at least as a title) fifteen years ago, it's a sign of how far we've come in the distribution of writing / content creation that roles like mine now exist.

A Long Strange Journey

It's fascinating to me to look back and reflect where that action 15 years ago has ultimately taken me... but it also reflects what I've been saying for all these years:

There has never been a better time to tell your own story in your own words through your own channels!

The traditional ways we communicate have been fundamentally disrupted... and the opportunity is there for anyone who can consistently create high quality content that others find helpful.

It's been an amazing 15 years... and I look forward to seeing what happens with what we now often call "content" over the next 15 years!


The Tension Between Consumption and Creation of Content (a.k.a. spending time reading Facebook doesn't help with writing)

Facebook newsfeedThere went another hour! I wanted to do some writing tonight but first I sat down and said "I'll just take a quick look at Facebook"... and there I was... an hour later... having learned all about the lives of friends (well, the parts of their lives they want to post about on Facebook), read a bunch of interesting links, and gone off into topic areas that were fascinating - although probably didn't really add anything to the fullness of my life.

Meanwhile, the total number of words I'd written was...

zero.

There is this fundamental tension between consuming content and creating content.

It has nothing directly to do with the Internet, of course. Long before the Internet it was easy to be distracted from writing by TV, radio, books... or just conversations with friends and family, or projects around the house or office.

Distractions have always been numerous... the Internet just does what it does best by removing the middlemen and making it even easier to be distracted.

My friend Donna Papacosta once posted an image on Facebook that I printed out and taped up on my window frame right at eye level that said simply this:

Writing is
3% talent
and
97% not getting distracted
by the Internet

I see that every day when I sit in my home office, with the ever-present reminder that the key word is:

FOCUS

and the need to do that.

Two years ago I wrote a post that took the rather draconian line of "Every Minute You Spend Consuming Content Is A Minute You Are Not Creating Content".

That is, of course, very true. But there is the reality that sometimes we NEED to consume content. Sometimes it is because we are researching something we want to write about. Sometimes it is just simply that we want to relax... that we need to give our minds a break.

I've come to appreciate over many years that there is strong value in stepping away from the creation of content to give yourself a break... and often when you then return to the creating you return refreshed and renewed. Reading a good book or seeing a movie or reading good articles online can often lead to new lines of writing or thinking. There is value in staying up with what friends are doing - and sharing what you are doing.

The trick is trying to find the balance. There is a natural tension between time spent on consumption vs creation. Too much consumption leaves little time for creation. Too much creation can leave you without the benefits of some consumption.

Somewhere in between lies the point we need to achieve.

I don't have the answer... each day I'm trying to find that balance. Some nights like tonight I don't do so well... other days I do.

Focus.

Balance.


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FriendFeed Finally Fades... Farewell!

FriendfeedFarewell, FriendFeed! Goodbye! Ever since Facebook acquired Friendfeed back in 2009 we wondered what its fate would be... now we know. This past Monday, March 9. 2015, the FriendFeed team posted a simple note that said in part:
We wanted to let you know that FriendFeed will be shutting down soon. We've been maintaining the service since we joined Facebook five years ago, but the number of people using FriendFeed has been steadily declining and the community is now just a fraction of what it once was. Given this, we've decided that it's time to start winding things down.

Beginning today, we will no longer accept new signups. You will be able to view your posts, messages, and photos until April 9th. On April 9th, we'll be shutting down FriendFeed and it will no longer be available.

I saw some reminiscing on Hacker News and within FriendFeed itself... but I think we all knew this day was coming.

Before today I hadn't logged into the site for quite a long time. I only have recent content posted there due to the fact that TypePad is still set to post articles (such as this one) over to FriendFeed. But for most of us the conversations left the site... off to other venues and places. (But I've seen that there are still some very strong communities that have been thriving within FriendFeed to this day.)

FriendFeed was remarkable to me at the time for it's ability to aggregate feeds of all sorts of different services into one place. For quite some time http://friendfeed.com/danyork was the link I gave people to find "all of my writing in one place". Sometime after the Facebook acquisition I realized it may not be around and so I wound up building my own aggregation site - http://danyork.me/ - but it was FriendFeed that first brought that idea to me.

It was also a great place for group discussions. For quite some time it was the home of the For Immediate Release (FIR) podcast listener community and we would all discuss episodes and other topics there. That's all moved to the FIR Community on Google+ ... which hopefully will last a bit longer! :-)

The Wikipedia entry on FriendFeed has some good background. It was a great service back in its prime!

Farewell, FriendFeed!

P.S. If you'd like to export your data out of FriendFeed, there is a script available from Claudio Cicali on Github that may help.


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