• Micro.blog and Events

    Famously, it was an event, South by Southwest 2007, that put Twitter on the map. But even before that, the early Twitter team was trying to use events, raves more specifically, to sign up early users.

    It didn’t go well.

    An excerpt from Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton:

    It wasn’t how the grand public launch of Twitter was supposed to end up: Jack in the hospital at around 2:00 A.M., covered in blood, and Noah, Ray, and a few others still dancing at a rave a few blocks away. But in hindsight, it was as predictable as nightfall that the public debut of this tiny social start-up would end this way.

    So, this is yet another case in which @manton should not follow Jack Dorsey’s playbook. But, as I mentioned in my earlier post about diversifying the Micro.blog user base, I think in-person events are a great use case for drawing a more diverse set of users into Micro.blog.

    There are existing tools that serve the events market, such as white-label event apps and established social networks like Twitter. But I don’t think any of the current tools meet the needs of event organizers or attendees particularly well.

    The event-specific apps at most events I’ve attended have been fairly poor. Their usefulness is often limited to easy access to the event schedule. They don’t bring the event topics to life or help me connect with my fellow attendees. Most attendees probably don’t even bother to install them. And they certainly don’t forge any connections among event attendees that persist beyond the end of the event.

    I have seen Twitter used effectively at some events, but there are some significant limitations:

    • Participation is limited to the subset of event attendees that are already active Twitter users
    • Twitter dialogue at the events is generally fairly shallow: quick pictures or quotes of what speakers are saying
    • Abuse and harassment, already of major concern to event managers, are amplified by Twitter

    It would be an interesting experiment to work with some event organizers to incorporate Micro.blog accounts into their event registration packages. Prior to the event, each attendee could be prompted to sign up for an account that includes a few months of Micro.blog hosting, as well as the option to connect the account to an existing blog. Participation could be a billed as central to the event experience — a way connect with speakers and participants to get the most out of the event.

    A week or two before the event, organizers and speakers could introduce themselves on Micro.blog, prompt attendees to do the same, and encourage people to share thoughts on what they are hoping to get out of the event. Micro.blog’s pin / gamification functionality could be adapted for the event, providing a way for event organizers to encourage attendees to engage in substantive discussion. Ideally, some of this dialogue will spawn ad hoc in-person meet-ups at the event and help people attending alone make social connections.

    Some attendees will likely wind down their Micro.blog usage after the event. But it’s likely that in some cases Micro.blog activity at events will evolve into lasting online micro-communities.

    A benefit of this use case for Micro.blog itself is that it could be a way to diversify the user population quickly. A concerted effort could be made to prioritize partnerships with events that cater to populations that are under-represented on Micro.blog. And then each event could be followed by promotion of the benefits of participating in the broader Micro.blog community in addition to staying engaged with the event cohort.

    I think the approach would appeal to event organizers as well. It adds a whole new dimension to the event experience. Everyone starts on an equal footing, and a code of conduct has been thoughtfully considered in advance. A simple, per-user pricing model would also make it accessible to smaller events without the budget to license and customize a white-label event app.

    As with the micro-communities use case, there are likely some Micro.blog feature enhancements necessary to support an events model. At a minimum, there would need to be some method of connecting Micro.blog activity that is focused on a particular event. It’s possible that hashtag support, as contemplated in my micro-communities post, could meet this need as well. The ability for event organizers to create a set of event-specific Micro.blog pins would be a “nice to have” feature as well.

    There are likely higher short-term priorities than tooling Micro.blog up to support in-person events. But as the platform grows and matures, I think it’s a great use case to keep in mind as a way to diversify the community quickly and make events more fun.

  • Micro.blog and Micro-Communities

    In a previous post about diversifying the Micro.blog community, I mentioned “micro-communities” as one of a few possible use cases that could expand Micro.blog’s appeal to a broader audience. By micro-communities, I was referring to loosely connected groups of people who connect online to share a common interest or life experience.

    It’s a use case that might be temping to dismiss as a stretch for Micro.blog. After all, online groups already gather in many different places: email lists, IRC channels, forums, ad hoc groups in messaging apps, Slack workspaces fashioned into topical groups, and, of course, Facebook.

    But there is something about an informal collection of independent blogs by people with a shared passion that makes for a much better micro-community experience than social networks or other online group platforms. I’ve experienced this first-hand with a couple of blogging communities I’ve participated in: an informal network of blogs by adoptive parents and the pen and paper enthusiast blog community.

    Some of the advantages I’ve found with micro-communities comprised of independent blogs are:

    • Blog posts are generally written with more thought and pride of ownership than drive-by group posts (and subsequent drive-by reactions)
    • While anyone can show up to a group and broadcast their thoughts to everyone, it’s possible to tightly control which blogs are deserving of your attention without closing yourself off to new voices
    • The act of commenting on someone’s blog or responding with a blog post of your own is a much richer interaction than most social media or online group exchanges

    Micro.blog can magnify these advantages. In particular, the experience of using blog commenting functionality sucks. The process of managing comments on your own blog also sucks.

    Micro.blog shifts these interactions into a more enjoyable, lower-friction format. I guess you could argue that it’s just as easy to post a drive-by garbage comment into Micro.blog as it is into a Facebook group comment. But the dynamic seems very different so far, which I think its owed to the fact that Micro.blog interactions are extensions of blogs. If you took the time to create a blog, you likely take some pride in it. Posting garbage on Micro.blog is like dumping garbage on your front lawn. It just doesn’t feel right.

    Micro.blog does need some additional functionality before it can serve the needs of micro-communities well, most notably a method for people with shared interests to find each other and stay engaged.

    Hashtag support in the most obvious approach that comes to mind. There are many social networks where hashtags aren’t particularly useful, but I think Instagram comes the closest to getting it right. There seem to be true communities centered around hashtags there. For example, the cat people and the bookworms are very easy to find.

    Instagram’s new capability to follow hashtags is also intriguing. But I think Micro.blog can take a concept like this so much farther. Instagram is a broadcast and react platform, while Micro.blog is a far superior vehicle for two-way or multi-party conversations.

    Whether it’s a hashtag model or a new approach or some kind, a method of connecting micro-communities could draw in a diverse population of users. Finding, joining, and participating in micro.blog requires some effort and expense. But making it the best destination for people to enjoy their passions and make new connections with people who share them will provide the necessary incentive.

  • I just finished The Taking of K-129 by Josh Dean. It’s the true story of the CIA’s audacious 1970s-era project to recover a Soviet submarine wreck from 16,800 miles below the ocean surface without tipping the Russians (or general public) off to what was going on. It reads like an adventure novel, complete with secret alliances with Howard Hughes and seemingly impossible engineering challenges. 👍

  • It’s time.

  • Freshly minted green belt.

  • It’s fascinating how many old school companies are jumping in with big Tesla Semi orders.

  • Friday Favorites

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

    Micromentaries

    It was a big week for documentary-style microblogs. Ryan Runs, a microblog focused on marathon training, was an early example of this approach. Last weekend, Ryan successfully completed his first marathon! It was really interesting to follow along through the ups and downs of his journey, and it was fun to see many fellow microbloggers cheer him on and offer congratulations. Congrats Ryan!

    Lyft Shifts, a newer microblog that documents the experience of being a Lyft driver, gained some momentum this week. If, like me, you’re one of those people who peppers your Lyft (yay!) or Uber (boo!) drivers with questions about the ins and outs of ridesharing, this account is for you. It’s fascinating to observe the dynamics at play among drivers, riders, and the services themselves.

    The New MarsEdit

    One big item on the ever-growing list of things I like about Micro.blog is that it gives me an opportunity to use MarsEdit again. (I’m using it to write this post, in fact.) I’ve owned MarsEdit for many years, but I hadn’t been using it as much until recently due to the fact that Squarespace doesn’t support third-party blogging clients.

    It was fun to see how much chatter there was on Micro.blog this week about the launch of MarsEdit 4. @manton and @danielpunkass have joked on the “Core Intuition” podcast that they are technically competitors now, since both MarsEdit and the Micro.blog Mac app can be used to post to Wordpress and Micro.blog-hosted sites.

    But this is another great example of how “official” apps and third-party apps can both thrive. I love using the Micro.blog Mac app for checking my timeline and publishing quick posts and replies. But I much prefer MarsEdit for longer posts. There are also certain things that are literally only possible on Micro.blog-hosted sites with MarsEdit, like viewing a live preview before publishing, saving drafts, and creating posts with alternating text and photos. I’m also finding MarsEdit really useful for making clean-up edits to some older posts I migrated over from Squarespace.

    Music Curation

    I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with music discovery and really enjoy seeing music-related conversations and recommendations on Micro.blog. These are continuing to pop up regularly, and I’ve particularly loved the cases where people have served up Apple Music playlist links that I could check out with a couple of taps.

    For example, @endonend put together a great “Best Music from 2017” playlist, and @zak made some updates to his ongoing “ZaxTrax” playlist.

  • Possibly the most Boston news lede ever:

    Former state senator Brian A. Joyce was charged in a federal indictment Friday with using his Senate office as a front to collect about $1 million in bribes and kickbacks that were laundered through his law firm, along with getting hundreds of pounds of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee for free. (The Boston Globe)

  • I’m looking forward to binge-watching Season 2 of “The Crown” this weekend. Season 1 hooked me, even though my prior interest level in royal family stuff was near zero.

  • My New EforAll Team

    A few days after my recent entrepreneur speed dating night, I was matched up with the EforAll team that I’ll be working with for the next few months.

    Felicia and Josh are a wife and husband who left more traditional full-time jobs to start a family farm. They’ve been at it for a couple of years and have some great momentum going, primarily selling through farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA) memberships. But they are interested in expanding into farm-to-table prepared foods and exploring other ways to grow their business.

    We had a great kick-off meeting today. Felicia and Josh are both bright and motivated, and the dynamic and mix of skills among the three mentors is also very good.

    It’s really fun to get my mental wheels turning about a business that is completely unfamiliar to me. I also really enjoy working with entrepreneurs with a running start with their business, since it’s possible to make a more significant impact in three months.

  • Loved this format: “Raising a Teenage Daughter” …with annotations by the teenage daughter to keep it real.

  • Tip of the hat to the Celtics marketing person who turned Giannis and the Bucks’ visit to Boston into “Greek night”. 🏀

  • We checked out an open house at the murder house today and learned that it is now under agreement. So I will be spared any further mental gymnastics on that topic.

  • My wife and I have been eyeing this house for sale in a different town/state for a while, wondering why it hasn’t sold even though it’s quite lovely and priced very well. It turns out that a horrific triple murder occurred there in the 90s. Show-stopper or negotiating point?

  • Friday Favorites

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

    Saying Hello

    This is a very minor thing, but I really enjoy the quick little exchanges that sometimes occur when a Micro.blog user I follow sees someone they know pop up on the platform.

    These posts are often short and free of any context. For example, “It’s nice to see you here”. Even so, it’s just nice to see people being nice.

    And even if the new user has nothing more than a single “hello world” post up so far, I’ll sometimes follow them. After all, if a person I enjoy following appreciates them, maybe I will too. And if I don’t, the cost of unfollowing later is low.

    Microreviews

    I’ve seen a couple of Micro.blog users post short product reviews that are more than a link and short quip, but less than an in-depth product review.

    For example, @singletary posted a short review of the Ring Video Doorbell 2 and @patrickrhone posted a similarly brief review of the GreenMade InstaCrate Collapsible Crate.

    I really like this format and will likely try it in the future. In the past, I’ve enjoyed geeking out on product review posts by pushing myself to be comprehensive and weaving in five or six quality photos. The problem is that this is very time-consuming, so I rarely do it anymore.

    I like the idea of pushing myself to write useful reviews within a tight length constraint. I also find this type of review enjoyable and helpful to read.

    New Ways to Post

    Micro.blog is friendly to third-party developers by design, and it’s fun to see developers experimenting and filling gaps.

    For example, @jbwhaley created an Alfred workflow for quick posts from the Mac this week. And @mikehaynes is reporting good progress on an Android client for Micro.blog that will make the platform more useful to many people once it’s available.

  • “The Obsidian Serpent”, the latest from The Atavist Magazine, is a somber story that managed to make me feel sympathy for a serial killer.

  • Damn, LeBron. That’s just cruel. 🏀

  • Entrepreneur Speed Dating

    I volunteer for a non-profit called Entrepreneurship for All. It’s a different kind of startup accelerator program. It surrounds people who want to start a small business with a team of two or three mentors from the local business community, along with a classroom curriculum and cash prize pool.

    One thing I really love about EforAll is its geographic focus. It’s not a big city thing. The program serves Massachusetts “gateway cities” — places that have diverse populations, many challenges, but also significant potential.

    Tonight, we kicked off the latest accelerator with an evening of “speed dating”. Each entrepreneur and mentor met one-on-one for six minutes to discuss their backgrounds and the basics of the entrepreneur’s business concept.

    Based on how we scored each other, our schedule compatibility, and some other behind-the-scenes magic, we’ll be grouped into teams and spend the next three months getting a kick-ass business off the ground together.

    The process is really fun and interesting, so I’ll try to write about it a bit more along the way.

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