• Number of photos I’ve posted since the end of the Micro.blog photo challenge 10 days ago: zero.

  • One of the things I really like about Micro.blog is being able to favorite posts without thinking about whether it’s sending some kind of message or causing the post to be shoved in the face of other people. Usually, it’s just something I want to save so I can revisit it later.

  • Discounts Sometimes Make Me Feel Bad

    I’ve noticed that more of the independent creators and small businesses I follow are jumping into the Black Friday discount email frenzy these days.

    My reaction is usually:

    • Oh yeah, that’s an awesome small business I like. Cool to be reminded of them!
    • Wow, 25 percent discount? I paid full price in the past because I thought the product was worth it and liked the feeling of supporting a sustainable business. But now I feel kind of yucky.

    I’m not suggesting that independent creators and small businesses shouldn’t market their products more aggressively. I’m not even saying that holiday discounts shouldn’t be part of the mix. There’s just a better way to go about it than mimicking the big box retailer playbook.

    Imagine that rather than getting a deep discount email mixed in with 30 other Black Friday messages, I got a few other emails throughout the year with short updates about how business is going and appeals like:

    • I’ve created something new that I’m really excited about. Since you’ve bought my stuff in the past, I’ll give you 10 percent off if you pre-order it.
    • You’re part of a weirdo niche that likes our products, and it’s your birthday next month. Give this free shipping coupon code to all of your family members and see what happens.
    • I know Halloween just happened, but we’re a small shop with big holiday season plans and only so much time and inventory to make it happen. If you help us out by getting an order in by Nov. 15, we’ll give you 10 percent off.

    In each of these examples, marketing tactics and discounting are still used. But they are more about staying on the radar and making any discounts feel like win/win scenarios that preserve the positive feelings that come from supporting an independent business.

  • I just finished Vacationland by John Hodgman (Amazon / iBooks), a collection of stories in which Hodgman applies a humorist’s lens to small town life in Western Massachusetts and Maine. It was a fast and enjoyable read with enough of Hodgman’s “privilege humor” to make you think a little. If you check it out in eBook form, be sure not to miss the great cover design by Aaron Draplin.

  • Brian Krebs has a jaw-dropping post about how over 200 personal data elements of U.S. college financial aid applicants and their families can be accessed with nothing more than a name, social security number, and date of birth. Good thing this information is well-protected. Oh, wait…

  • Friday Favorites

    Here are a few of my favorite observations from Micro.blog this week:

    Music Monday

    On Monday, several separate music discussions popped up on Micro.blog. I struggle with new music discovery, so I was hoping this would happen sooner or later.

    @apulianasphoto from a Dream Theater show prompted a flurry of progressive rock talk, and others shared music picks ranging from classical to French alternative.

    New Tools to Play With

    One of the perks of having so many indie blog enthusiasts in one place is that useful tools just show up.

    This week, I enjoyed:

    • Setting up an RSS feed of my Instagram timeline using a web app by @snarfed that @jeremycherfas pointed me and some others to
    • Playing around with a “not even alpha” version of Evergreen, @brentsimmons’ forthcoming RSS reader for the Mac
    • Jump-starting my Christmas shopping with Gftbot, a fun web app that @jack shared

    I haven’t had a chance to play around with it yet, but I’m also looking forward to checking out the Pythonista script that @jbwhaley shared for posting to Micro.blog from the Drafts app.

    52 Shirts

    I’ve occasionally seen @sketchbookb post original t-shirt designs to Micro.blog, but I finally took the time to take a closer look what he’s doing. He’s designing a new shirt every week for a year and accompanying each new design with an explanatory blog post.

    I enjoyed the design and backstory of “First Tree”, his latest design. Some of my other favorites are “Instant”, “Rogue Teacher”, “Cursive”, and “Angry Moderate”.

    All of the shirts are for sale on Threadless, and if you diligently check out the links I shared above, you might even find a holiday coupon code for 20 percent off.

  • Things I’m Thankful For

    I’m thankful that even though my job is demanding and sometimes chaotic, I have the time and location flexibility to be present for my family.

    I’m thankful that my wife and I are good team in managing the daily circus of parenting two strong-willed young boys.

    I’m thankful that my parents, and my wife’s parents, are in good health and finally getting to enjoy retirement after rocky starts.

    I’m thankful that even though the leadership of my country is hopelessly broken, I see countless examples of people rising above it to support and care for each other every day.

    Happy Thanksgiving if you’re celebrating today, and have a great day anyway if you’re not.

  • It looked like the Celtics might have one more fourth quarter comeback in them, but credit to the Heat for closing it out strong. The winning streak ends at 16. 🏀

  • I’m not sure why, but I really want one of these UPS electric cargo trikes.

  • Attracting Mainstream Users to Micro.blog

    One of the biggest challenges that Micro.blog faces with its upcoming public launch is how to make the jump beyond its early adopter base of blog enthusiasts to “regular people”. It’s tempting to daydream about everyone from teenagers to grandmothers abandoning their social media silos en masse and simultaneously raising “Indie Blogger” flags, but that’s probably not realistic.

    It’s also not the right measurement of success.

    Micro.blog doesn’t need to achieve Facebook-level ubiquity or turn non-technical people into IndieWeb true believers in order to achieve mainstream success. It just needs to zero in on real-world use cases that it can meet more effectively than existing options, starting with the ones that people will be most likely to pay for.

    A few candidates that I’ve been thinking about are:

    • Micro-communities
    • Events
    • Simple small business web presence

    I’m going to write a post about each of these three topics over the next week or so to see I can give my loose ideas further definition.

    In the end, they may all be bad ideas, but one of the things that has been fun about Micro.blog so far is that its users’ ideas about how the service can improve and evolve over time are heard and valued.

    Sharing ideas that have a small chance of making your social network better is much more enjoyable than complaining into a void about how Jack Dorsey or Mark Zuckerberg are doing it wrong.

    What ideas do you have about how Micro.blog can attract mainstream users when it launches?

  • The video of The Weather Channel’s failed attempt at filming the Georgia Dome implosion is pretty fantastic.

  • The Dallas Mavericks, looking nothing like a last place team, had the Celtics on the ropes. But the Celtics forced overtime and handed the keys to Kyrie. The winning streak extends to 16. 🏀

  • It’s been fun to see some the music discussion on Micro.blog today, but I wish there was some way to favorite full conversations to revisit later. It doesn’t look like favoriting individual replies works, and when you favorite the original message in a conversation, it doesn’t seem to pull up the full conversation from the Favorites screen later.

  • I don’t make it through too many episodes of The Talk Show due to length, but this week’s episode with @MerlinMann was so good that it flew by.

  • Here is a different kind of Boston sports winning streak post. The New England Patriots won their sixth straight game today, and I couldn’t care less.

    Robert Kraft hangs out with Trump on Air Force One and at Mar-a-Lago. Tom Brady played coy for a year about his longtime friendship with Trump. Bill Belichick, who barely speaks publicly about football, found time to write a gushing letter to support Trump’s battleground state efforts.

    And now I have more time for grocery shopping on Sundays.

  • The Celtics took care of business in Atlanta to extend the streak to 15, but if I had it to do over I would have watched that bananas Golden State / Philly game. 🏀

  • Micro.blog photo challenge day seven: “Shadow”.

  • Photo Challenge Day Seven: ‘Shadow’

    We made it! Day seven of the Micro.blog photo challenge is upon us. I’ve really enjoyed seeing everyone’s photos and having a little push to pick up my camera on a daily basis.

    Our final subject is “Shadow”. So far, we have:

    As always, shoot me an @-reply if I missed your photo.

  • Friday Favorites

    Here are a few of my favorite observations from Micro.blog this week:

    Photo Challenge

    I was pleasantly surprised by how many fellow microbloggers jumped into the Micro.blog photo challenge. The idea wasn’t anything particularly new, but it felt like it served as a bit of an icebreaker and got people (me included) in the habit of showing up every day and interacting with others. It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone by seeing seven photos they’ve taken over seven days.

    While I think we should avoid letting Micro.blog turn into all gimmicks all the time, I hope we can find other common themes to rally around from time to time. They don’t necessarily need to be week-long endeavors. It could be as simple as someone writing a post about an interest (e.g., “these are my top 5 albums of all time, and here’s why”) and encouraging others to weigh in with posts of their own.

    What Is This? Why Am I Here?

    There have been some pockets of discussion, particularly as @manton released invitations to a bunch of new users, about existential topics like:

    • What is this Micro.blog thing, and how am I supposed to use it?
    • Why will this be more successful than Twitter/App.net/Mastodon?
    • Will this ever be more than a group of techies discussing website plumbing?

    These are healthy questions to ask, but one of the things that excites me about Micro.blog is that I can see the foundation for something big and meaningful, but its success or failure is not binary. If it never becomes anything more than a reasonably priced static website generator that embraces open standards, is easy to post to from any device, and connects me with a few people who remind me once in a while that I’m not alone writing into a void, that alone is valuable to me.

    Of course, it can become much more, and I think that there is a lot that we as users can do to help it realize its potential. An easy start is just showing up and making it a fun and welcoming place to be. And then, as the general launch approaches, we can tackle issues like how to attract a more diverse user population.

    I always really enjoy seeing Micro.blog users connect on shared niche interests. In perhaps the best example of this yet, @vasta, @schuth, and @kulturnation had a delightful exchange about apples yesterday. Yes, apples. Links were exchanged. Desk calendars were shown off. Apple picking invitations were extended. I didn’t really have anything to contribute, but I actually quite like apples myself and have saved the links to read later.

    And to further cement apples as yesterday’s top trending topic, @johnjohnston posted this photo for the photo challenge.

  • The Golden State Warriors are very good at basketball, but not good enough tonight. The Celtics’ winning streak extends to 14. 🏀

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