203 posts categorized "Blogging"

Returning to POSSE - Writing on my own site, THEN on Facebook, Twitter, etc

Sheriff posse flickr tom kelly

Over the past few weeks as I’ve been grappling with colon cancer, it has been soooooooooo tempting to just pop open the Facebook app, write a story in the box and press “Share”.

Simple. Easy. Done!

Or inside the Twitter app… or LinkedIn… or… or...

But here’s the problem with that...

All the stories get LOCKED INSIDE A PLATFORM!

They are there living on the platform’s servers, inside the platform’s systems.  Maybe they are visible publicly, maybe they aren’t.  Maybe they will be around in two years, maybe they won’t.  Maybe people will find them, maybe they won’t.

The future of your stories is entirely at the whim of the platform.

As I wrote about on the Internet Society’s blog earlier this year, one of my own guiding principles is “POSSE“, a content publishing model from the “IndieWeb” movement:

Publish on your
Own
Site,
Syndicate
Elsewhere

And so over these past few weeks, I tried really hard to do that with my journey through cancer: the diagnosis, followed by the recovery, followed by the results.

But it’s HARD. It was so insanely tempting yesterday when I got the great news just to pop open Facebook and share it with everyone.

But when I do that… it’s shared ONLY within Facebook’s shiny “walled garden”. It’s not shared with people I know who choose NOT to use Facebook. It’s not shared with the communities I’m in on other social networks.

The “open Web” on top of the “open Internet” is really the only way to do that. But it’s hard. There’s extra steps involved for me right now with the way my various blogs are set up.  I want to work to make that easier and simpler… but doing so will take time… which is challenging to find.

But if we don’t find ways to OWN OUR OWN STORIES then they will stay locked away in closed, proprietary walled gardens.  And maybe that’s fine for some of those stories. Maybe they are small and mundane… “in the moment” stories that we don’t really care about. But even so, we feed the platforms. We help them to grow.

 I’ll keep trying to follow the POSSE rule… and I’ll be writing more here about that.


Image credit: Tom Kelly on Flickr CC BY NC ND


Revisiting a Not-So-New Rule - No Social Media Usage Until I Have Created Something New

Being a writer not being distracted

I woke up this morning frustrated that I simply haven’t been writing across my various sites. In theory I am a “writer”, but I haven’t been writing! And as I wrote in My 3 Words for 2018: “because if I don't write... the stories build up inside of me until they want to explode like a pressure cooker without a relief valve. Writing is my relief valve. I need to do it.

So I said to myself- I know, I will impose a new rule on myself... no social media usage until I publish something new! A blog post, a podcast episode (such as my The Dan York Report short audio segments), an article on some site (ex CircleID), a longer update on a social site... something.... anything.... BEFORE I get sucked into the vortex of social media updates. 

And I will start with a blog post like this one...

Except... I discovered I WROTE THE EXACT SAME POST TWO YEARS AGO! July 24, 2016, to be precise.

And... I noted that on day #2, July 25, 2016, I had already failed. ☹️

So this morning’s great idea turns out to be nothing new. 

In fact, I can go back 10 years ago, to a post in September 2008, where I wrote about Jeremiah Owyang’s “Pay yourself first” philosophy. Or may many other posts about struggling with consistent writing.

Now, maybe this rule is like the “no sweets today” diet rule that turns out to be an aspiration that just doesn’t happen. And maybe EVERY day is too high a goal. Maybe every other day. But I have to do something, or consumption will win over creation. 

Unless, of course, I want to reframe my own perspective and think of myself as an “occasional writer”... and just accept only writing now and then  

I am not quite ready for that. Let’s see how I do this year!

 


Heading to Belgrade This Week for WordCamp Europe 2018 (WCEU)

Wceu 2018

If any of you will be at WordCamp Europe 2018 this week in Belgrade, Serbia, please do say hello. I'll be there starting this afternoon and am greatly looking forward to learning from many of the people involved deeply in the WordPress community.

In particular I'm looking forward to the Developing for Privacy and Data Protection session. Based on the work done in the community to help website operators comply with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), this workshop will look at what comes next. I'm personally very interested to see where this will go.

I'll also be going to some accessibility workshops and checking in on topics such as caching, security and mobility that are always of interest. I also have some meetings with partners and others.

Anyway, if you're there at WCEU 2018, feel free to drop me a note.


Big News! 360° photos now available for any WordPress site via JetPack plugin

360 photo

For those of us experimenting with "360-degree photos", last week's announcement of Jetpack 4.5 had a hidden but awesome feature: you can use a shortcode to embed your 360 photo or video into ANY WordPress site (that uses the Jetpack plugin).

Here is why this is so huge - up until last month, the only sites that would display 360 photos were either:

  • Facebook
  • Google StreetView

That was it. Two effectively closed walled gardens of content.

As I mentioned in my reports into a couple of For Immediate Release podcast episodes, my concern was that only Facebook users would really get this benefit. I wanted the ability to display 360 photos on any website.

On December 15, 2016, WordPress.com announced that all hosted sites could embed 360 photos or videos. This was a great step forward in bringing 360 photos out to more sites.

Then just last week version 4.5 of the JetPack plugin was released and, somewhat bizarrely, while the announcement contains no mention of this awesome new feature, an Automattic staff person confirmed the inclusion of the support in a comment.

You can read all about this new capability here:

Now, since this Disruptive Conversations site is sadly NOT on WordPress, I can't show you the features directly here. However, I've gone ahead and embedded 360 photos on two WordPress sites I have:

Those were both taken using the Google Street View application on iOS. (And yes, sometime I need to write or record a tutorial about how to do this.)

I have included the shortcodes in the blog posts so that you can see how easy this is to do. You just:

  1. Take the 360 photo using the Google Street View app on your smartphone. (This will save it to your camera roll on an iPhone.)
  2. Upload the image to your WordPress site.
  3. Use the appropriate shortcode in your blog post.

That's it!

Of course, you need the Jetpack plugin installed in your site, but that's all.

Many thanks to Automattic's Jetpack team for bringing out this capability so that we could set our 360 photos free of the walled gardens and bring them to any WordPress site!

What do you think about this? Will you try some 360 photos now?


Writing Every Day of November - the NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo Challenges

NaNoWriMo NaBloPoMo 2016

Today is the day! Every year on November 1 some number of writers across the world challenge themselves to write EVERY SINGLE DAY in November.

Some amazingly choose to focus on writing a novel. They go the "NaNoWriMo" route, a.k.a. "National Novel Writing Month"... where "national" is really any nation in the world. Best place to learn more is the simple address: nanowrimo.org

Given that the target of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000+ words, that's a serious commitment!

Others of us, and I'll add myself this year, choose to focus instead on writing at least one blog post every day as part of "NaBloPoMo", a.k.a. "National Blog Posting Month".

NaBloPoMo started back in 2006 and since 2011 has been championed by the BlogHer community. BlogHer is supporting NaBloPoMo again in 2016, but it wasn't clear for a while if they were going to do so. Meanwhile, another group at the "Cheerpeppers" site started a "blog once a day" challenge under the name "Nano Poblano".

Regardless, the point is to challenge yourself to write every day.

And of course being in our social world, you can follow along at the hashtags #NaNoWriMo and #NaBloPoMo - and also now #Nanopoblano (the hashtags all link to Twitter here but you can find them used on other social networks as well).

For myself, I am going to give it a try. Writing (and publishing) every day. As I recently wrote, I'm struggling to write consistently... so this provides a goal for me to strive for.

Now, I won't be writing here on Disruptive Conversations every day. My personal goal is publish some article across all my various blogs each day of November. That includes the blogs at the Internet Society, my employer.

You - and I - will be able to track how I am doing at my danyork.me site where I aggregate all my posts across all my sites.

We'll see how I do!

And best wishes to everyone else who are pushing themselves to do one of these challenges this year. Let's see the writing happen!

P.S. I haven't signed up for either the BlogHer or Cheerpeppers challenges. I'm just doing this for me right now.


Ello Introduces a "Buy Button", allowing creators to sell their work

Ello buy button 660

Remember Ello? The social network whose beta version happened to launch in September 2014 when everyone was upset with Facebook? With a commitment to not selling your data and not having advertising, it was a breath of fresh air coming out of Vermont and Colorado.

For a few months, many people jumped on board and tried it out.

And then the "directory dilemma" took over ... people found that the people they regularly communicate weren't on Ello... and so many people drifted back to Facebook, despite the advertising and other concerns.

However, a strong community of people did stay (and continue to join) and Ello evolved over time to position itself as "the creator's network" with a strong emphasis on art, graphic design, photography and more. (In full disclosure, I do occasionally post to my account on Ello, although not as often as I once did.)

To help support that creative community - and ultimately to hopefully help support Ello as a platform - the Ello team introduced the "Ello Buy Button" that anyone can use to sell their products through Ello. As noted in their introduction post, usage is a few easy steps:

  • Upload an image of your product
  • Click the $ icon
  • Add a link to the product in your store
  • Publish

Once you do that your image will have a green "$" icon that, when clicked/tapped, will take the viewer over to your site where they can purchase the product.

In scrolling through my feed on Ello, I do see a few of these buttons starting to appear from a few users.

In conjunction with that news, Ello also announced a "Shop" category of the Discover section of the site where you can now see and search the products for sale. (If you are logged in to Ello it is at the easy URL of https://ello.co/discover/shop.)

I am intrigued by this move, particularly because there seem to be no restrictions on the URLs you use. You seem to be able to point to any site from the image.

Now, I think this will only really work for the artists / designers / photographers who have built up a following on Ello. I've seen some beautiful artwork displayed on Ello, and this now gives people the option to obtain that artwork for themselves.

We'll have to see... the question will really be to check back in after a number of months and find out how many purchases were actually made. (Although that might be hard to gather...) Meanwhile, kudos to the Ello team for introducing this option as a way to potentially help support those who create art.


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:


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...)


The First Step To Successful Writing/Blogging Is To Put Words On The Screen

Typewriter

The first step to successful writing or blogging is very simple...

write something!

Put words on the page or on the screen.

End the tyranny of the "blank page" or "blank screen".

Start... somewhere.

Write... something.

And then, in the case of blogging, hit the almighty "Publish" button and send your words out into the ether for others to find and consume.

Danyork feb2016 bloggingI've been struggling with this a good bit myself lately. If you look at my danyork.me site and see the calendar on the right side for this month (Feb 2016), the dates in blue are when I have published blog posts or articles across any of the 12+ sites where I write. This includes the Internet Society main blog and Deploy360 site, where writing on those sites is part of my job.

It's pretty sparse for someone who claims to be a "writer".

There are a zillion excuses and explanations I can give, of course. I've been "too busy". I've been caught up in "planning" for future events and activities. I've been sucked into "research". I've been writing words for articles and posts that are published under other people's names. I've been very tired with some other activities going on. I just haven't had the time.

All of which are true. But all of which are irrelevant.

The truth is that we prioritize what is important to us... and there's always time in there for dashing off even a small post such as this one.

Yesterday I stumbled upon a recent post from Greg Ferro titled "Blogging Success Is Simply About Doing" where he writes this:

You can be guaranteed that nothing will happen if you publish nothing. I can guarantee that something will happen if you publish something.

Exactly.

The first step is to ... write something.

Today, this post is that "something" for me.

What will yours be?


An audio commentary on this topic can be found in TDYR 289:


WordPress Now Powers 25% of Top 10 Million Websites

W3techs wordpress 25percent

Fascinating news out of W3Techs earlier this month that WordPress now powers over 25% of the Alexa top 10 million websites. The next closest content management systems (CMS) are Joomla at 2.8% and Drupal at 2.1%.

The full stats are found here:

http://w3techs.com/technologies/overview/content_management/all

And a quick view of the top of the chart shows more data:

W3techs cms nov2015

Note the very top line - and this one is extremely important:

57.2% of the top 10 million sites do NOT use an identifiable CMS.

Either those sites use custom software or somehow strip off identification so that the tools W3Techs uses cannot detect the type of CMS that is being used by that site.

This leaves 42.8% of the top 10 million websites that DO use a CMS.

If you look at the chart:

  • the grey bars indicate the CMS' percentage across all Alexa 10 million sites
  • the green bars indicate the CMS' percentage within sites that use a CMS

So the net is:

  • 25.1% of the top 10 million sites use WordPress
  • Of the 42.8% of sites that use a CMS, 58.7% of those use WordPress

And of course all of this data is only on the Alexa Top 10 million sites. There are then millions more sites using various CMS' - and some % of those will be using WordPress.

Still, the Alexa Top 10 million is one set to use - and W3Techs has now been doing these measurements for years.

One interesting note out of the W3CTechs blog post about this milestone is what happens when you move from looking at the Top 10 million to the Top 1000:

When we split up all websites by traffic level, we see that WordPress is leading at all levels, but the market share among the top 1000 sites is significantly lower at 30.3%. Drupal (19.7%) and Adobe Experience Manager (11.8%) are the other dominant systems in that section. Note, however, that using a standard CMS is not very common among the top 1000 sites, more than 90% of them are custom developments.

The article also has some interesting stats on usage by language. It also has this note:

WordPress is not only the most popular CMS, it is also the fastest growing system: every 74 seconds a site within the top 10 million starts using WordPress. Compare this with Shopify, the second-fastest growing CMS, which is gaining a new site every 22 minutes.

WordPress' Matt Mullenweg chimed in with a post "Seventy-Five to Go" noting that the goal now was much of that remaining 75%, particularly the 57% who do not use any CMS right now.

He may be on to something there. If you look over at W3Techs historical yearly trends in CMS usage, you can see the rise of WordPress, but also the decline of "None" from 76.4% in 2011 to 57.2% most recently:

W3techs trends

So does all this mean that you should ditch your other CMS' and move to WordPress? Or that you should use WordPress for your next project?

Not necessarily.

I'm a firm believer that you need to use the right tool for the right job and the choice of CMS can depend upon many factors related to your individual site and needs. And while I use WordPress as the CMS for almost all of my newer sites, I also use other platforms for other sites.

And... from a security point of view, I do like a diversity of different systems out there - and I like the fact that there is competition and choice among open source CMS'.

However, the report certainly shows the robust and continued growth in the WordPress platform and the strength of the overall WordPress ecosystem. And it bodes well for the future of WordPress.

Congratulations to the team at Automattic and all the MANY people contributing as part of the much broader WordPress ecosystem!

P.S. I first heard about this statistic on the WordPress Weekly podcast epidode 212. If you are interested in WordPress, I find this podcast useful.

P.P.S. There's an irony, of course, that I'm writing this on a blog hosted on TypePad... I keep thinking that some year I'll move it to WordPress, but the effort involved is huge...