Outrage On Internet Over Lion-Killing Shuts Down Dentist's Website And Office, Hammers Him on Yelp, more...

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There's a communications crisis happening right now on the Internet that should be of interest to anyone involved in PR / marketing / communications. As you are by now probably aware, a Minnesota dentist apparently paid $55,000 to go big game hunting in Zimbabwe and wound up killing a lion named "Cecil" that was popular with locals and tourists. The dentist admitted that he killed the lion and issued a statement expressing his regret.

The outcry globally has been extremely fierce. Consider this:

  • the Yelp page for the dentistry practice is full of all sorts of negative reviews.
  • the company's website was sluggish earlier yesterday (July 29) and has been completely offline since mid-day yesterday.
  • the company's Facebook page seems to have been taken down (perhaps by the company itself?)
  • videos from the company on YouTube are being slammed full of negative comments.

And a great amount of venom has been spewed at the dentist and his company in many other forums all across the Internet. (Ex. over 6,300 comments in a Reddit thread!) As a result, the dentist has now closed his office, putting his staff out of work and referring all his patients to other nearby dentists. Protests are happening at his office - and all over the Internet.

It seems like the company is trying to react on Twitter:

but I am admittedly a bit suspicious because:

  1. The Twitter account misspells "Bluff" with only one F.
  2. The Twitter account seems to have no tweets before yesterday and has only 59 tweets (at the time I write this).

However, I thought I got to that Twitter account from the dentist office's website when I could still get there after first learning about this story yesterday morning. And the account is tweeting out positive things about the company. Which makes me think it is real...

Either way, we are currently seeing a serious level of retribution for this action.

While I personally can't understand why someone would go and kill a lion - and do understand the outrage felt by so many, I do wonder about the scale of the retribution directed at this dentist.

From my own experiences with dentist offices, they typically do involve a number of different people who just work there. All of those employees (plus the patients) - who had nothing to do with the killing of the lion - are affected by the actions of the outraged people across the Internet who are shutting down this business.

As communicators, are you ready for something like this?

If the actions of an employee, or owner in this case, were to generate this level of outrage on the Internet, do you have a plan to cope with it?

And can you implement that plan on Internet speed?

Realizing, of course, that there are very few ways to know if you'd be truly ready to cope, but there are things you can do both technically (ex. have a CDN in front of your website) and from a process point of view (ex. have a plan!).

As Christopher Penn said today in a post inside of Facebook "Mob rule is scary." Indeed it is.

What would you do if your company or organization found itself in the cross-hairs of global outrage?

P.S. You can discuss this in the FIR Podcast Community on Google+.


Photo credit: a cropped version of this photo from Peter Glenday on Flickr. (I don't actually know that it is "Cecil" outside of the fact that it is tagged with that name and was taken in Zimbabwe.)


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...

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The Power of SoundCloud As A Podcast Publishing Platform

Podcasting soundcloud 660

Why do I like SoundCloud as a podcast hosting platform? What advantages can SoundCloud offer podcasters? Why should you consider SoundCloud as a place to distribute your podcast?

Last week SoundCloud announced that its podcasting features were now publicly available to everyone [1]. Given that I've been using SoundCloud's podcasting feature in their beta program since May 2012, I want to share some of my reflections on why I think SoundCloud has great potential as a powerful platform for podcast publishing and promotion.

To set the context for my comments below, I started using SoundCloud three years ago to see how it could work for the "rapid creation of audio content". I wanted to just be able to push record in an app and then publish and promote my podcasts. I wanted it to be super easy. The result has been my "The Dan York Report (TDYR)" podcast that I publish now at:

https://soundcloud.com/danyork

From the start it's been an experiment to try out SoundCloud as a platform because I have several other podcasts I'd like to start. So TDYR has been my testbed to try out ideas and tools. I do pay for their SoundCloud Pro Unlimited plan which at $135/year works out to what I consider a reasonable $11.25/month for the hosting of my audio files.

As a result of all of this, here are 10 reasons I find SoundCloud powerful for podcasters.

1. Speed And Simplicity Of Creating And Sharing Podcasts

Here's all I do to create a new podcast episode:

  • Open up an app on my iPhone.
  • Press "Record" and record whatever I want to say.
  • Press "Share to SoundCloud" (or "Upload"), enter in a title and hit the button to start.

Boom!

That's it. The podcast is uploaded to SoundCloud and then shared out via the RSS feed to iTunes and also via social media to Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

That's seriously it.

Super fast creation and sharing/promotion of audio podcasts.

Now, of course, you could make the process more complex if you want to. I record my TDYR episodes as just raw audio without any kind of post-production and without an intro, outro or any other kinds of audio segments. In my case, I want the simplicity and rawness. But the beautiful fact is..

2. Many Applications to Create/Record Podcasts

... there are many, many, MANY applications that yet you create audio and share it up to SoundCloud. Applications are available for iOS, Android, Mac OS/X, Microsoft Windows and many other operating systems. SoundCloud has a whole directory of applications that can be used. Although many of them are for consuming/listening, they do have a whole list for creating/recording. Many of these are targeted at music producers, but many can also work for podcasters.

Because I am aiming for speed, I typically record on my iPhone and find that I'm generally using either:

I've been primarily using Opinion for the past while but recently they rolled out their own podcast hosting (competing with SoundCloud) and now give that preference in the export/sharing part of the app. I'm a bit concerned that they may continue to promote that service and make it harder to publish out to other services. On the other hand, the Hindenburg Field Reporter app doesn't seem to be frequently updated... although that may not be necessary, really. It's a rock solid app!

I've also used AudioCopy, a free app that SoundCloud started recommending when they removed recording from their own SoundCloud app. It's fine, but I like the editing capabilities of the other two apps.

The key point is that there are many choices of apps that will connect and share to SoundCloud.

And, of course, SoundCloud just lets you upload an audio file in a variety of different formats. So you can record your episode using any kind of device or application. I've recorded some episodes using one of my Zoom Handy audio recorders and then just copying the MP3 file from the SD card onto my laptop and uploading to SoundCloud through their web interface.

3. Automatic Sharing Out To Social Media

A great part of the simplicity is that when I post an episode to SoundCloud it gets automagically shared out to whatever services I've configured. I've set up a default configuration and then can override that sharing from the apps during the upload process. The beautiful thing is it supports multiple accounts for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+:

Soundcloud connections

And, as noted below, you can use services like IFTTT to distribute podcasts out to even more sites and social networks!

4. Insanely EASY Embedding of Podcasts

Another huge advantage of SoundCloud is that it is incredibly easy to embed podcasts in a blog post or web page. SoundCloud supports "oEmbed" and so very often all you have to do is drop the URL of your SoundCloud episode into your software and... ta da... that's it! This works great for all my WordPress sites. It also works great in chat clients such as Wire.

If your site/application doesn't support oEmbed (such as TypePad, the site I use for this blog), it's trivial to get a snippet of HTML code that you can then drop into your post (as I will do at the end of this post):

Soundcloud embed

This also works with social networks, too. Drop a URL for a SoundCloud episode into Facebook or Ello, for example, and the embedded player will automagically appear so that people can listen right there in their feeds.

5. Comments At Specific Points In The Podcast

Engaging with listeners is always a critical part of building a community around your podcast. Typically you get comments as replies to the blog post about your podcast or as replies on social media.

But what's cool about SoundCloud is that you can get replies AT THE POINT IN TIME within your actual podcast. If someone wants to reply to something specific you said, no longer are you trying to get to the point in the episode where you said whatever it was to remember what you said - the comment can be left right at that point of the episode.

Now, this DOES require a SoundCloud account. And so many of your listeners may not want to register for a (free) SoundCloud account just to be able to leave you comments at specific times. But some of your listeners might, and so for them it becomes a great way to build interaction.

6. Open API Makes Integration Easy

SoundCloud understands the power of becoming a platform for developers and they provide rich support through a SoundCloud developer program and much more. One result is the many applications I pointed out in #2 above, but another result is services such as IFTTT (If This, Then That) that allow you to easily set up actions involving SoundCloud. There are many IFTTT "recipes" for SoundCloud that are already available:

Soundcloud ifttt

As the screen capture shows, the integration can go both ways - in or out of SoundCloud. For instance, I had a recipe for a while that would trigger whenever I published an episode to SoundCloud that would post a link out to my App.net account (until I pretty much stopped using App.net). I also plan to set one up that will post to a specific WordPress site every time I publish a new post. Going the opposite direction, you can see that there are recipes that will publish to your SoundCloud account every time you put a file in, say, a Dropbox folder.

Now, IFTTT is just one site. There are many other sites that have their own integration with SoundCloud... all because of this open application programming interface (API).

7. Search and Discovery

SoundCloud as a web site / service is all focused around the consumption and listening to music and audio. Like any social network, people with an account can "follow" you and get all your recent episodes. SoundCloud makes it very easy to search and find episodes. It supports hashtags.

Now obviously this is again using the SoundCloud site, which your listeners may or may not do... but this becomes a way that you can potentially find new users.

8. Downloads

Just as the embedding of a podcast is easy, so is the downloading of a podcast IF you enable people to do so. This is a choice. But if you want to allow people to download an episode, all they need to do is to go to the episode page (an example) and the download button is right there.

9. Spotlight

If you create a good number of episode and want to highlight some of the episodes you think are the most important, SoundCloud lets you put up to 5 sounds in the "Spotlight" area of your SoundCloud profile page. A nice way to help people coming to your site to see what you think are your best or most important episodes

10. Statistics

Typically as a podcaster you want to know how many people are listening, right? As I've written about before and we've talked about over on the FIR podcast, statistics are difficult because you can know how many people downloaded a podcast, but not whether they in listened.

SoundCloud has many statistics and can perhaps obviously give more statistics about user behavior when your podcast episode is played from the SoundCloud site or apps. For regular "RSS downloads", you still do get a good bit of information, although, as mentioned above, it's challenging to know what the stats truly mean. Here's the "RSS downloads" of my last week of TDYR stats:

Stats on SoundCloud

Apparently I'm interesting to people (or someone) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! Who knew? And then Southbury, CT... (but I have family and friends in that region :-) )

Anyway, a good number of statistics are available

Others...

There are other reasons why podcasters may like the platform. For example, it's great that Creative Commons licensing is available for those who want to allow others to share their audio content under a CC license. There are also monetization options available that I, quite frankly, haven't explored yet (since I don't see TDYR as something that people would want to advertise on). The whole "social network" aspect of SoundCloud can be compelling, too, for building an audience. For example, people can "repost" your episodes and share them out with followers.

I'd note, too, that you don't have to use SoundCloud as your exclusive hosting platform. A friend, Donna Papacosta, primarily hosts her podcast on Libsyn[2] and then also uploads it to her SoundCloud account as an additional distribution channel. C.C. Chapman also posts some of his episodes to his SoundCloud account. So it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing thing. You can experiment!

Issues

While I'm obviously rather pleased with SoundCloud, there are still a number of issues I would love to see them address:

  • Support for IPv6 - Given the work I do with the Internet Society, I'm looking for hosting platforms that realize that all the new mobile networks and the efforts to bring the next 4 billion people online are going to need to use IPv6 in their networks. YouTube, Facebook and all of Google's properties all work over IPv6. SoundCloud needs to get there, too.
  • Use HTML5 instead of Flash - Similarly, SoundCloud really needs to ditch their Flash player and use HTML5 audio instead. Flash creates so many issues on my various systems. We now have HTML5 audio support in most modern browsers. SoundCloud has had experimental support for HTML5, but they need to move that out of beta, too, and make it the default.
  • Finish the transition to their new website user experience - SoundCloud has been in this strange transition from their "classic" website to the "new" website for a year or more now and it still provides a strange and bizarre user experience. You click some link in your account settings and... ta da... you are back in an old user experience... and then you have to find your way back to the regular "new" view. They need to just finish this up.

Hopefully those are all things they will continue to work on to make the platform even stronger.

Getting Started with Podcasting On SoundCloud

If after reading all this you want to get started with a podcast on SoundCloud, they provide a very simple guide to begin:

http://on.soundcloud.com/creator-guide/podcasting

Basically, you create an account, set up the RSS feed settings, get some app that will upload to SoundCloud... and start publishing!

That's it!

If you are already using SoundCloud, all you should need to do is go into your "Settings" and to the "Content" tab where you will see your RSS feed and can set up any specific fields you want to configure:

Soundcloud content settings

As you can see at the bottom of that image you can configure your defaults for all uploads in terms of the license and whether uploads are automatically in the RSS feed.

Again, the Creator Guide for podcasting has more info.

I was admittedly rather skeptical of SoundCloud in the early years of my experimentation. Their "support" of podcasting in their beta program was pretty weak three years ago and it seemed all they wanted to do was build their own "walled garden of audio" and try to get everyone to come onto their platform.

But with this public launch of "podcasting" (which really amounts to exposing RSS feeds!) they've finally opened up those walls and made it so that you can use the SoundCloud platform for hosting your podcast - giving you all the advantages I've outlined above - but then making your content available to everyone out there to consume in whatever applications and systems they choose.

I look forward to hearing many more podcasts on SoundCloud... including yours! Please do feel free to follow me on SoundCloud as I continue with my experimentation. I'd love to hear from you what you think about all of this, either in the comments here or, of course, on the accompanying audio version (TDYR 243) of this post up on SoundCloud.



[1] For more stories about the launch, see Techmeme and Mediagazer.

[2] In full disclosure I also use Libsyn for hosting some of my podcasts (and have since 2005) and find their services very useful, too.

Photo credit: A merger of a Flickr CC-licensed image from Colleen AF Venable and SoundCloud's logo.


FIR On Technology, Episode 4 - How To Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

FIR On Technology logoHow do you make your website “mobile-friendly”? Given Google’s impending April 21, 2015, deadline to start using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor for mobile search results, what can you do both in the short-term and in the longer-term to both provide the best experience for mobile users - and also retain your Google search result ranking?

In this fourth episode of “FIR On Technology” Dan York explains what you need to be thinking about with regard to “responsive design” of your website, outlines some of the resources Google offers to help, and explains several of the options you have to make your site mobile-friendly.  During the episode Dan discusses the following sites:

Get this Podcast:

The music for the intro and outro is “Early Warning” from Mark Knox and is used with his permission.

Sharing Your Comments

FIR Community on Google+Share your comments or questions about this podcast, or suggestions for future podcasts, in the online FIR Podcast Community on Google+.

You can also send us instant voicemail via SpeakPipe, right from the FIR website. Or, call the Comment Line at +1 415 895 2971 (North America), +44 20 3239 9082 (Europe), or Skype:fircomments. You can tweet us: @FIRpodcast. And you can email us at [email protected]. If you wish, you can email your comments, questions and suggestions as MP3 file attachments (max. 3 minutes / 5Mb attachment, please!). We’ll be happy to see how we can include your audio contribution in a show.

To receive all podcasts in the FIR Podcast Network, subscribe to the “everything” RSS feed. To stay informed about occasional FIR events (eg, FIR Live), sign up for FIR Update email news.

NOTE: This podcast announcement was originally posted on the For Immediate Release (FIR) website.


Some Quick Thoughts On Periscope, Meerkat And The Era of Simple Livestreaming

Periscope 1Unless you've been offline or ignoring social media for the past couple of weeks you've no doubt seen the dueling "livestreaming wars" between the iOS applications Meerkat and Periscope. Perhaps you've viewed some of the streams... or broadcast some yourself.

Given that I do live streaming as part of my employment, I'm fascinated by these new and emerging apps. They also remind me of what Qik tried to do back in the mid-2000s before Skype bought Qik in 2011 and promptly shut the service down. (Only to have Qik re-emerge recently as a different kind of mobile messaging service from Skype.)

I've been playing with both Meerkat and Periscope and offer a few quick thoughts based on my own experience. I will be exploring these apps more... but want to record some comments for today's For Immediate Release podcast episode and want to use this post as a basis for that report.

The beauty of both of these apps is that it makes it absolutely TRIVIAL for someone to start live streaming. Just login with Twitter and press the a button to start broadcasting live to the world!!!

Here are some thoughts about both apps and then some thoughts on this larger new era of simple live streaming.

Periscope

Periscope was purchased by Twitter and apparently had the app in development for quite some time. Things I like:

  • Polished user interface.
  • The "hearts" that you can give to "like" something are fun.
  • The replay capability is useful... although it seems the stored videos are only available for something like 24 hours.

Things I am not as excited about:

  • The comments appear and then disappear... and there seems to be no way I could find to go back and see them again, without replaying the video. Given that in a couple of trials I was driving with my iPhone on my dashboard, I could NOT read the comments while driving.
  • No horizontal orientation... you have to hold the phone in a vertical orientation. Yes, you can turn the phone sideways and hold it horizontally, but all the comments and hearts still come in the vertical orientation.
  • Several people viewing my live streams indicated they had connection issues.

Meerkat

Meerkat was out before Periscope and captured a great amount of attention at SXSW and recent conferences. Things I like:

  • Comments are scrollable within the stream. You can read them later (during the time of the stream).
  • You can hold the camera horizontally.
  • Comments can be out onto Twitter.
  • You can answer comments by text within the app (although is this really important? I'm not sure).
  • So far no connection issues for me... but I've seen others have issues.

Things I am not as excited about:

  • Comments are gone after the stream.
  • No replay capability.

Changing Our Expectation Around Privacy

I think there is a larger societal question we need to be thinking about - that person walking down the street holding a phone up can be streaming everything they see live out onto the public Internet?

Intellectual Property

To that point... there are a whole host of intellectual property issues that I think we as a society will need to address. Nothing whatsoever technically prevents someone from streaming a concert or any presentation live. There are many artists and speakers who charge for their events and don't want them live streamed.

Cost

People in the mobile telecommunications companies have to be loving this - here are ways that people will generate a great amount of mobile data very quickly! Unless people have "unlimited" telecom data plans, they are going to be running up some good-sized costs. Great for the telcos... not so great for the producers. However, any event with "free" WiFi around could easily attract a good number of streams.

Bandwidth

All of these live video streams will create some interesting additional pressures on the Internet's infrastructure. Particularly in situations where there is "asymmetrical" connections, i.e. you have a faster download than upload speed. The streaming out of events could create a much larger requirement for upload speeds than there has been before.

Digital Divide

All of which feeds into a question about the "digital divide". The Internet users who are in regions with good Internet connectivity will be both able to produce/broadcast and also able to consume all these live streams. What about people in other parts of the world where bandwidth is much more limited? How will they be able to participate in this new era of live streaming?

Similarly, these Periscope and Meerket apps are right now only available on Apple's iOS platform... what if you can't afford an iPhone?

Ephemeral Moments and FOMO

One of the interesting elements of Meerkat is that once the stream is gone... it's gone. It's ephemeral like Snapchat... it's there... it's gone. You have to be there to see it and participate.

This leads to the "Fear Of Missing Out" (FOMO) and the "need" to be part of that.

Periscope allows replays, which changes it a bit. Now it's a recording available for some time. I'm not sure which is better.

[Side note: I don't know how truly "ephemeral" either Meerkat or Periscope is... the streams have to go through some server out there and the server could easily record any and all streams.]

Rich Interaction

What I did find very cool about using both Periscope and Meerkat was the rich interaction I could have with the audience. They were able to leave comments that I could react to right within the stream itself. They were able to guide the conversation... asking questions that I then answered.

In several cases friends I knew joined into my live streams. In one case this meant I switched to speaking German because I knew a German friend was watching. In another I switched the camera to view myself so that a friend I hadn't seen in a few years could see what I look like today.

It was great in so many ways to have this rich interaction during a stream. I'm looking forward to trying this out in some events in the future.

Final Thoughts...

... I'm very intrigued by these new applications. They make live streaming so incredibly simple and easy for anyone to do. I think we do have some of these larger societal issues and conventions to think through... but our era of ubiquitous live streaming is definitely upon us.

I see great potential for these apps in live streaming of events... for citizen journalism... breaking news... bearing witness to unfolding events... marketing/webinar types of events... indie musicians and artists... tutorials...

The reality of course is that we'll also see a lot of incredibly mundane and boring live streams. We'll probably see a good deal of porn. We'll see other ways to abuse live streams that will appall us. That's what always happens with any new service.

I will continue testing the apps. I want to see what else they can do. I want to explore more of the technical aspects - things such as their actual bandwidth usage. I want to know if any of them work over IPv6. (Sadly, expecting them NOT to do so.) I want to understand how secure they are.

So I'll be writing more... as I have time to do so.

Meanwhile, these are just some initial thoughts.

What do you think? Are you experimenting with either Periscope or Meerkat? Or some other similar app?

P.S. See also "Periscope and live video are changing the internet forever", a good take on how these apps are already changing live news...


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Keeping The Web Open: Dave Winer's "Radically Silo-Free" MyWord Editor

silosDave Winer is at it again. The creator of some of the original blogging software back in the early 2000s and one of the creators of RSS released last week his "radically silo-free" blogging editor MyWord Editor (MWE) with this purpose:

A shot in the arm for the open web. A way for JavaScript developers to collaborate on a new fun project. A way to escape from the silos that threaten to turn us into commercial robots, consumers and promoters, when we aspire to be thinkers and doers.

Think of it as bringing the ease and beauty of writing of Medium... without being locked into Medium's platform. (Or at least... I would say that is the aspiration... Dave's MWE is still in development.)

The MyWord Editor code is available as open source on Github at:

Dave calls it "radical" for this reason:

These days blogging tools try to lock you into their business model, and lock other developers out. I have the freedom to do what I want, so I decided to take the exact opposite approach. I don't want to lock people in and make them dependent on me. Instead, I want to learn from thinkers and writers and developers. I want to engage with other minds. Making money, at this stage of my career, is not so interesting to me. I'd much rather make ideas, and new working relationships, and friends.

He goes on to explain why MWE is “silo-free”:

  1. There's an open API that connects the in-browser app to the server. So you can replace the app. Or the server. Or both.

  2. Because there's an open API, you can build anything you want at either end. You're not limited by my vision of what's possible. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

  3. The app is provided in source, MIT license. So there are no secrets. And you can use my source as the starting point for your own editor.

  4. The server is provided in source, MIT license. No secrets, etc./p>

  5. The app has a command that downloads all your content in JSON, so you can move your data from one server to another, at any time. If any instance removes this command, alarms should ring out all over the land. It's your content, ladies and gentlemen, not theirs.

  6. Of course every MyWord user has a great full-featured RSS 2.0 feed. We love RSS and it feeds us and we feed it, it's doing great, and anyone who disses it is a mean rotten silo-lover.

He followed this with another post explaining more:

and then he further expressed his view that WordPress is also silo-free... but there is also a need for a better and simpler user experience:

where he made this statement:

Blogging is frozen

There haven't been new features in blogging in a long time. Where's the excitement? It looks to me like there's been no effort made to factor the user interface, to simplify and group functionality so the first-time user isn't confronted with the full feature set, left on his or her own to figure out where to go to create a new post or edit an existing one. Blogging platforms can be both easier and more powerful, I know because I've made blogging platforms that were

You can read more about this at http://myword.io/ ... and you can play with a hosted version yourself at:

(Yes, of course, I had to try it out.) It uses Twitter as an identity provider right now... but of course the code is open source so someone could hack away and look to use a different identity provider.

As someone who has been gravely concerned about "lock in" and the need for us to have control over our own content (think back to my posts about Known And The Indie Web), I am pleased to see this entry into the range of tools we can use for sites. Yes, I do most of my own work in WordPress these days... but I also very much understand Dave's notion that we need simpler tools with an easy user experience.

As I have the time I definitely intend to check out MWE and set up my own instance of it. I'm glad Dave is out there building tools like this... let's see where it goes!

What do you think?

Image credit: Doc Searls on Flickr


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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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Google Says Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly By April 21 - Or Drop In Search Results

Mobile friendly testIs your website "mobile-friendly"? Does it display nicely on a mobile device such as an iPhone, iPad, Android or other smart phone? If not, you have until April 21 to make it mobile-friendly... or you will suffer a drop in Google search results!

In a February 26 post on Google's Webmaster Central Blog, Google very clearly indicated their direction (my emphasis added):

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

Google does not often clearly state what signals it uses for ranking search results... but here they are.

Get "mobile-friendly" ... or drop in search ranking for mobile searches!

This last point is important - they say the mobile-friendly status will be used as a ranking status for mobile searches. I interpret this to mean that if your site is not mobile-friendly you might still rank highly in searches from regular computers/laptops/desktops, but your ranking would decrease in searches from mobile devices.

However, given how many people are now using mobile devices to access the Internet... and how that trend continues to increase over time... NOT having a mobile-friendly site is going to impact people being able to get to your site.

UPDATE: I also recorded an audio podcast, "FIR On Technology, Episode 4 - How To Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly" about this topic. More information and links can be found on that page.

Tools To Help

To help with the transition to a mobile-friendly web, Google has provided several tools. First, they have a "Mobile-Friendly Test" tool at:

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

It will analyze your site and tell you if you are "mobile-friendly" in Google's view (which is presumably what they will use in the ranking signals).

Second, Google has a guide to creating mobile-friendly websites at:

https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/get-started/

A key section here is:

where they explain options you have to make your site mobile-friendly.

Moving To A New Theme

In some cases, such as this Disruptive Conversations site that is still hosted on TypePad, my only choice is to move to a new "theme" that uses "responsive design". I've already done this with danyork.com, but haven't yet done that here (but I will before April 21). This can be a larger process if you want to continue to use your existing style and design.

With other content management systems (CMSs) such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, you can also move to mobile-friendly themes as there are many available. When I've been creating new sites on WordPress in the past year or two I've made sure that all the themes I've been using have had "responsive design" as one of their attributes.

Using A Plugin

With some of the CMSs, there may be plugins that can help you make your site mobile-friendly without changing the theme. For instance, with WordPress, there are two that I've used to make sites mobile-friendly:

Both of those plugins essentially provide a responsive-design theme that gets used for your site when a mobile device connects to your site. You may not have all the design capabilities that you would have in having your main theme be responsive (in terms of having the mobile theme look like your main theme), but these plugins provide a quick way to get your site to be "mobile-friendly".

Other CMSs may have similar plugins, modules or extensions - you need to check with your CMS. Google's guide has links to help you get started.

Other Options

If you don't use a CMS or your CMS doesn't offer mobile-friendly themes or plugins... well... you may want to consider moving to a CMS that offers such capabilities (although that can be a huge task). Or you can read up on the principles of "responsive design" and see what you can apply to your website.

Getting To A Mobile-Friendly Web

The end result out of all of this will be a mobile-friendly web... and as all the millions and billions of new users come on to the Internet odds are pretty good that they will be using mobile devices, so the good news is that your content will be readily accessible on all those devices.

The bad news is that you may have some work to do between now and April 21 if you haven't already made your site mobile-friendly. (Well, assuming you care about ranking highly in Google search results - but if you are reading this site you probably do!)

If you've needed a deadline to make this happen... here it is!

Get mobile-friendly by April 21... or watch your Google search ranking drop!


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Suggestions For An Editorial Calendar Tool/Service? (For Content Strategy)

Editorial calendarWhat kind of tools or services have you found most useful for maintaining an "editorial calendar" for the content creation your organization does? What have you found helps you best plan out your content strategy?

For the last 3.5 years at the Internet Society, I've been using the insanely awesome EditFlow plugin for WordPress to plan out the content we've been creating on our Deploy360 website. EditFlow is an amazing amount of awesomeness bundled into one plugin... and if you use WordPress and aren't yet using EditFlow, I'd strongly recommend you check it out!

But here's the thing - in my new role within the Internet Society looking at content strategy across all our different sites and channels, I need a tool that lets our team plan:

  • content across several different websites we maintain
  • content on external websites (ex. CircleID)
  • content in social channels
  • different types of content (ex. blog posts, articles, videos)

Unfortunately I can't easily do this within WordPress. Yes, I could create a dummy "site" on a WordPress server and then use EditFlow as a tracking tool... but that would be a bit of the proverbial square-peg-in-round-hole.

Here's what I love about EditFlow and use on a daily basis:

  • Convenient calendar view - with filters - I can just go into Dashboard -> Calendar and I've immediately go a view into everything we've published and everything we have planned. I can filter the view to see only items based on:
    • Status (ex. published, draft, idea)
    • Category (topic)
    • Author
    • Post type (ex. blog post, resource page)
  • Drag-and-drop re-ordering - One of the single biggest features we'll use is the ability to just drag unpublished content around in the calendar view. When we have our weekly editorial calendar meetings, we will look at what is being planned and just move things around if we need to do. Super simple and easy.
  • Fast creation of new ideas - In those meetings as we talk about what content we want to create, we can just click a "+" button and add a new story idea directly into the calendar interface. (In the background it creates a draft WordPress post scheduled for the relevant day.)
  • Easy deletion of content - Similarly, if we decide to cancel an idea, we can just trash it from the calendar.
  • Story Budget - EditFlow also has another view that it calls the "Story Budget" where I can easily see over a given time period how many pieces of content were created for any given category. On a site where we write about many different topics, this is an easy way to see how balanced we are across the different topics. Similar to the calendar view there are many ways to filter the view.

    Storybudget

  • Multi-user - EditFlow works well because we can give access to as many people as we want (and you can control who has access) - they just need to have an account on our WordPress server. Our team simply logs into the server from wherever they are in the world and we walk through what we have planned for the week. After we move items or create new items, people need to refresh their browser view - but that's it. It works really, really well.

Now, we don't even use the editorial comments, editorial metadata, notifications and user groups that are part of EditFlow. Our Deploy360 team is small enough (4 people) that we haven't yet really needed those capabilities.

But now I'm looking for something with those kind of capabilities that can be used by our larger Communications team and also other people across the organization. I'm NOT necessarily looking for something that will connect to our various publishing platforms. I'm okay if there is simply a way to check off that an item has been published.

Any suggestions or ideas? Some searching around online has shown me DivvyHQ, which is a hosted service that looks from the YouTube videos like it will meet many of what I've listed above. (Not sure about the "categories"... but I think that may fit into their "calendars".)

Other suggestions for hosted services? Suggestions for software we'd host ourselves?

(Thanks in advance - and I'll plan to summarize what I learn in a future post.)


View a discussion on this topic at:


Suggestions So Far


UPDATE: I'd also love it if the service/tool had some of the kinds of content creation statistics I wrote about desiring earlier.


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How To Turn Off Sounds In The Facebook iPhone / iPad App

Do you want to turn off / disable the sounds that Facebook just added to the latest version of their iOS app for iPhone and iPad? If you are like me and find these kind of sounds associated with actions (such as "keyboard clicks") annoying, here's what you need to do.

1. Go Into The Settings Inside The App - First you need to tap on "More" in the lower right corner of the app and then tap on "Settings":

Facebook ios settings

2. Go Into "Sounds" - Next tap on "Sounds":

Facebook ios sounds setting

3. Turn Off "In-App Sound" - Finally, just tap the slider to turn off the sounds.

Facebook in app sound

Now, maybe you like these kind of sounds... but I personally don't. I'm the guy who turns off "keyboard clicks" because I do NOT want to hear a sound whenever I tap a key.

I don't want aural feedback.

Some of you may... and that's fine. I don't.

Someone at Facebook seemed to think that we all wanted this and so they added it in to one of the recent releases and... ta da... as soon as we updated the Facebook app on our iPhone or iPad we started getting clicks and swishes and other sounds.

This points to one of the larger issues with our new world of mobile "apps":

We are at the mercy of whatever the app developer wants to do.

If this were a browser-based "app" (a set of web pages), we could typically configure the browser to not play any sounds - and then all web pages would be subject to the settings in the web browser.

But we've left that land where the web browser serves as our window to content. Instead we have custom-designed apps where we have to figure out where the settings are in each of the different apps.

For instance, when the sounds first started in the Facebook app, I went into the generic "Settings" app in iOS to try to find out how to turn them off. I looked under:

  • Facebook
  • Sounds
  • Notifications

and couldn't any settings in any of those places to turn it off. Only then did I tap on the "More" inside the Facebook app to see if there were any settings there.

Now... the good news is that at least Facebook gave us a control to turn the sounds off! They didn't have to and could have just made that a mandated part of the app.

But that's back to the point... for the convenience and simplicity of using a mobile app, we've surrendered control to the whims of the application developers.

I'm personally not really thrilled about that evolution of the mobile Internet, but it's hard to see how we walk back to a different path...


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