How has it taken me five years to find these Words?
The most powerful tool on the web is still words.
— Justin Jackson
How has it taken me five years to find these Words?
The most powerful tool on the web is still words.
— Justin Jackson
Success! I am now mirrored on GitHub.
Note: GitHub mirroring appears to have a delay. I added my GitHub access token to my Micro.blog settings around 5 pm. Files were mirrored to my repo around midnight. Also, the last few posts have not been mirrored yet.
Mirroring to github — 2nd try
I followed the @help guide: started a new repository in the format
Then, granted access to micro.blog with a GitHub access token and checked the “repo” scope.
Then, added the GitHub repo and token in Micro.blog account > “Edit Domains & Design”.
Then, went back to GitHub and enabled GitHub pages under the repo settings by adding a one line README file.
Now, I’m posting this summary hoping that’s the step that exports my microblog site.
Alright, I have questions about mirroring to github. I think I have to initialize the repository with some content before it mirrors. I’ll throw in a readme page in there after my commute to see if it works.
Mirroring to github…
I’m not a developer (or able to code really) but it looked like fun to mirror my hosted blog to github. So I followed the @help mirroring instructions to start my first repository, got a personal token, and added it to my account. Here goes nothing…🤞
…nor is it meant to be. Once I realized that, I went ahead and signed up for Micro.blog.
I still remember when I first signed up for Twitter. I think it was sometime in late 2007 or early 2008. It looked like an interesting thing to do although I didn’t really get it at first. During those first few months I posted a few random things but never really engaged with it.
Years later, I’m even less inclined to post on Twitter. I mostly go on there every few days to catch up on breaking news. I will look through a thread but that gets old quickly when I start seeing some of the awful responses. It seems to me that Twitter has devolved into a megaphone driven by outrage where people go to talk at each other. The amount of actual conversations seem to be on a steady decline. Thread after thread is full of people trying to score points with their tribe by shouting at perceived opponents. Still, I kept coming back to read Twitter comments and follow those awful threads. It’s like hate watching an awful reality TV show or sensationalist news.
Perhaps the last straw for me is the recent response by Twitter to the banning of Alex Jones by other platforms. I won’t go into how and why he’s despicable but I will say he should have been banned a long time ago. Of course, this is not a call to infringe on his or anyone’s first amendment.1 Alex Jones is free to continue telling each and every lie he comes up with, but Twitter, and every other private tech and social media platform, are under no obligation to provide him a megaphone. Yet, Twitter chose to defend the decision to provide him a platform. It’s their right of course, but it makes it clear that Twitter’s business model is based on creating engagement through outrage. It makes sense, anger and outrage drive up all measures of engagement — likes, replies, shares, time spent on a platform.
For me, and many others I hope, Twitter has gone over the tipping point. It’s actually unpleasant to go on there. That’s why I don’t see the point of a Twitter clone. Yet, I kept coming back to Micro.blog. I couldn’t put my finger on it but something about it was different. Then I heard @manton on a podcast. Don’t remember which but it was probably a Relay.fm podcast. So I subscribed to Core Intuition to find out more about Micro.blog but it wasn’t until I started listening to @timetable and @monday that I got a better sense of the platform.
So, if its not a Twitter clone then what is it? Well, I took a crack at that on my first post — it’s an open blogging platform. We each make our blog what we want but the point is that it’s ours, a corner of the internet where we put out some thoughts in short form for easy interaction (like Twitter) or long form when appropriate or necessary.2 That’s not only more flexible but also more useful than Twitter. On Twitter you can shout into the ether or join a mob but its purpose is not your individual expression, its purpose is to capture your attention so Twitter can monetize it.
I still go on Twitter, even if I don’t like it,3 but I don’t linger as much. I am much more interested on creating something than being a spectator.
I can’t believe this still has to be explained: Twitter et al. are not part of the government. The first amendment applies only to US Government action. That’s why it starts with, “Congress shall make no law respecting…” ↩
Not all thoughts can be expressed in less than 280 characters. Shocking, I know. ↩
That’s how strong the the pull of outrage is. ↩
This is what happens when you don’t know what you’re doing. I spent more time yesterday trying to post multiple images with text in between than I did writing up the post.
I’ll take a different approach today. I’m going to send this short write up to the Micro.blog app with the URL scheme. Then, I’m going to add 3 images and post. After posting I will edit the post and rearrange the images and text. At least it’s a good excuse to put some more NASA images up.
Chaotic Clouds of Jupiter — NASA — “Vortices within Jupiter’s northern hemisphere.”
Soaring Into an Orbital Sunrise — NASA — “The International Space Station soars into a sunrise every 90 minutes, each and every day.”
A Closer View of the Moon — NASA — “Our planet’s Moon as seen from the International Space Station.”
Some quick notes on the differences between posting images from the Micro.blog app and Sunlit:
<style>attribute to the image with a
max-height:200px. The official app uploaded all three images with
width=“600”matching the width of the text.
One last thing. I published my initial post with an H1 header using markdown instead of using the Title field. The header was highlighted by the app editor but displayed in the post as
# Title instead of a header. Also, the post wasn’t linked with the title but with a random ID number instead. So I erased the post and uploaded a new properly titled post but the link was not fixed. Now the original post page still loads but its not in my posts list so I don’t know how to erase it.
NASA Image of the Day — Churning in the Chukchi Sea — I added this first image so the text that follows would show above the other images in this post.
I use my iPad as my main writing device. Accordingly, I post to Micro.blog via the official iOS app￼ and use the web interface when I want to make changes to a post. That reminds me of my number one issue with the currently available iOS apps, you cannot edit or delete a post from the app. The addition of these features would make posting directly from iOS a much better experience.
There are three official apps available for Micro.blog. The aptly named Micro.blog app used for text posts, Sunlit for location and photo sharing as well as stories, and Wavelength for microcasts.1
I’ll talk about Wavelength on a future post. Probably, if and when I start that microcast I’ve been thinking about.
Until this morning, I had only used the main app for text posts. The app itself works fairly well. It is a straightforward app with a clean interface well suited for browsing my timeline and discovering people to follow.
The post editor is bare bones but functional and that’s OK, it’s meant for publishing not writing. I prefer using Drafts 5 to write posts. Once I’m happy with a post I use a Drafts action with a simple URL scheme
Aside from the aforementioned inability to edit or delete a post, I was pretty happy with the main app. Then I hit a roadblock. I was trying to attach some images to this post to highlight the search function on the discovery tab of the app. I sent the post to the app and then pulled up some images I wanted to add and dragged them into the app editor. The image attaches but doesn’t let me place it in a specific place on the post. I assume all images attach to the top of the post when you publish. I didn’t publish it because it was obvious the image won’t attach in the place I want it to.
I went to the post editor in safari only to find myself in the same situation. All images attach as a list but there is no option to place each image in the right spot. That’s when I turned to Sunlit. I figured I could use the story feature to arrange the text and images in the order I want.
Sunlit walks you through the posting of stories. The app has some limitations. For instance, when you post multiple images it will automatically group them by date. But, while you can drag images from one group to another, you cannot drag an image by itself to start a new group. If you delete the image and add it again it will be put in the original group as will any other image from the same date.
First, the bad news. While Sunlit is slicker than the main Micro.blog app,2 you cannot drag and drop an image into it. I added the images I wanted to use from my photo library. I had to do it one by one to be able to add text under each image. I was unable to put text on top of the images except to replace the date which appeared in a bold font like a title so I added a random earth image at the beginning of the post. That way the first part of the text went under the earth image. Then each subsequent image was followed by the rest of the text in the order I wanted to display it.
The earth image at the top was a landscape but the preview displayed only a square. I wanted the post to include the complete image not a square. I deleted the photo then added it once more to see if I had missed an option to post the full image or a square. After a moment, I tapped on the image preview which opened up an image editor. The image was shown in full which I took to mean the full image would be posted. The editor itself appears to have more than I need to edit any photo before posting but I wish it would have been more easily discoverable.
I was planning on talking about all the iOS apps available, including Icro, the third party app I prefer for browsing Micro.blog because you can swipe on each post to see the conversation, share, or reply, but I’ve gone too long already.
The Official App
I almost forgot the search function on the discovery tab of the official app. I cannot find search on the web interface.
I’m I making this way harder than it’s supposed to be? There has to be a better way. I suppose the simplest answer would be to publish posts with images from a Mac but I prefer writing on an iPad.
I’ve spent a couple days trying to edit the custom CSS for the various themes available here on Micro.blog. As a quick aside, one of the reasons for hosting my blog here are the relatively limited options for customization. I don’t want to spend all my time fuzzing over themes, plugins, fonts, etc. I’m supposed to be writing. I don’t know CSS so I figured I would pick a theme and make a go of it. Well, I forgot there’s always something to fuzz over when you’re keen on procrastinating.
At first I narrowed my choices of themes down to Hyde, and Typewriter. I like the sidebar element on the Hyde theme and the use of the Inconsolata font with the grey background on the Typewriter theme. If you’re reading this, you must have noticed that I’m using Marfa instead.
I had settled on Typewriter as the theme of this blog. I do like the sidebar on Hyde but the sidebar remains in portrait orientation on the iPad which makes the posts look too narrow. That wasn’t a dealbreaker, though. The reason I didn’t pick Hyde is because I really preferred to use the reverse layout option. So I copied the following from the Github repository for Hyde and inserted into the Edit CSS page:
<body class="layout-reverse"> ... </body>
From reading the repository’s README file, I assumed I was calling out some built in class in the theme CSS that would do the trick for me. Well, it didn’t work. From my limited understanding of CSS, I think I am adding a new
<body> tag to a file where one exists so it’s just being ignored. Obviously, I don’t know if that’s the case so until I figure it out I won’t be using the Hyde theme. Too bad cause I also wanted to change the theme colors. Perhaps I could use dark gray for the main column and keep the sidebar black or maybe dark blue.
So I moved onto Typewriter. I also would like to try a dark gray color as the background but that can wait. The reason I didn’t keep it was because when I posted my first post the front page displayed the entire post in bold Inconsolata. I did not like it. I also could not get the error 404 page to work. It’s a shame cause the 404 page for Typewriter really is nice.
So I went with Marfa for now. I did use @roelwillems’ Micro Guide: Changing the default colors of the Micro.blog Marfa theme to change the link colors. I changed everything to the same color for now although I want to try different colors to see what each color instance changes. But that will be for a later post.
I like the Marfa theme but it’s still not my first choice. What I dislike the most is loading it on an iPad in landscape mode. I don’t like how narrow the post is on the screen. I need to figure out how to make it wider. I’m sure that and changing around the link colors will take another couple of days. As for the other themes, it may take longer until I figure out where to start.
After looking into Micro.blog sometime last year and periodically coming back to see what it’s all about, I am finally giving it a try. I can’t say I 100% understand the platform yet but here is the simplest description I have come up with:
Micro.blog is an open blogging platform where you own your content. Also, there’s a twitter-like timeline but that’s a bonus.
I know that may be an oversimplification but I think it captures the most important features. At the very least, that’s the idea that convinced me to come over and give it a try.
I’m not trying to minimize the importance of the timeline, there’s a lot of value in it, but that’s not the feature that brought me on board. Like many others, I have a pantheon of blogs filled with the intent to write. Somehow, I never got around to writing much on any of them. That’s why, I appreciate Micro.blog’s implicit focus on short posts. It’s a constant reminder that the length or tone of the post is not as important as actually making the time to write. And, assuming this time I put words on the page, it is important to me that, good or bad, I own my writing.
With ownership in mind, I think $5 a month is a fair price for a straight forward blogging service. When you add to that the ability to interact with the community via an integrated timeline the value becomes obvious even if it took me a while to understand what the platform is actually about.
Anyways, let me know if I’m on the right track about the platform. In the meantime, I will be spending some time trying to figure out themes and how to make the custom CSS work.