The Macro Report: September, 2019

The beginning of Autumn was accompanied by a significant set of updates, with the team delivering a truly fantastic release schedule.

Let’s take a look at what’s been happening lately on Micro.blog.

In the past month…

Categories Upgrade

It is now possible to assign a category to a micro post. This is done via the new button on the New Post screen, with which you can control whether to add a category or save the post as a draft.

There is also a new way to manage categories: manual filters. With this feature you can automatically assign posts to categories based on the content of the post title and/or post body. It is also possible to use this feature retroactively, using the Run Filter button to filter existing posts into categories.

Category management was further improved in settings with the addition of number of posts per category. These numbers are also links to filtered lists of posts per category.

Free Testing

All hosted accounts now have access to a free second blog, should you wish to use it. The intended use for these blogs is for testing anything you might want to try before doing so on your main blog, whether that’s a post, page, file upload, or theme edits; it is the latter for which this new feature is especially well made.

You can now make changes without a care for whether it will have an effect on your main blog, whilst implementing changes are even easier thanks to the new Duplicate button. With this button you instantly make a copy of the theme, which is then available for use on your other blog. This works both ways, since you can then test changes on the test site with the copied theme and when you’re ready to apply those changes to your main blog you can access it since custom themes are shared across your blogs.

iOS 1.7

The latest significant release of the app was made to coincide with the major update to iOS itself. Support for Dark Mode was included, which works with the system-wide setting and so just works whenever your device is put into dark mode.

Sign in with Apple was also added, giving you the option of instantly creating a new account or accessing an existing one without the need to use your email app. Full support for Apple’s private email feature was also added shortly thereafter. When signing into an existing account make sure to choose the same address associated with that account.

Lastly, the tagmoji menu in Discover was overhauled to better match the web and Mac apps. The menu is fully featured, showing a partial list of the directory and a ‘Show More’ button to get access to the rest. A few fixes were also made as part of the update.

Easier Mastodon Following, Ghost Import, and more!

It is now easier for Mastodon users to follow people on Micro.blog, with a special version of the profile page accessible via following from Mastodon. Meanwhile, support for importing from Ghost blogs was added for Hosted blogs.

Further third party support was added in the form of push notification support; apps can now use the Micro.blog API to send notifications, with Manton already having provided support to Vincent Ritter’s Gluon and Martin Hartl’s Icro.

Account deletion also became a lot easier via the new Deleting your account Help document, which includes relevant information. Finally, the Micro Monday newsletter returned with a big post-summer catch up!

Elsewhere

  • Gluon was given a significant collection of updates throughout the month. Vincent added push notifications, iPad support, a pure black theme, displaying first name, and impactful speed improvements. It’s also great to see Vincent continuing his work on refining the design of the app.
  • Indigenous also receieved multiple updates as progress continues towards the first full version of the app. Kristof added accessibility improvements, global search, image upload on reply, an ‘Unread items’ channel, and auto submit of share intents, whilst a number of fixes were also made.
  • Quill was updated with a dropdown menu for choosing post status – Published or Draft – which can be found in the Publish settings of the main Editor.
  • Own Your Gram had a number of updates covering a variety of changes. Aaron provided a significant improvement to the setup and configutation settings, including instructions for running the app yourself, as well as multiple bug fixes to improve stability.

• • •

What a month! The team well and truly hit the high notes for providing not only a variety of improvements but a mightily impressive set of significant additions at that. I’d like to congratulate Manton, Jean, and Jonathan on delivering a stellar month, especially on the back of a fantastic set of summer releases.

The official releases were stunning, adding a significant amount of value to Hosted subscriptions whilst continuing to improve various aspects of the platform for different kinds of people. If you use Micro.blog for anything there’s a very good chance that thing was improved in some way. Further to this Manton spoke about making more improvements to the web app in the coming months, having delivered the big update for iOS. This is a particularly exciting hint considering that the web app was already improved by this month’s big releases.

Elsewhere, the community continued to provide their own exciting updates to third party projects. It was encouraging to see non-Apple options improved to further help the platform remain available to different people in different situations.

Finally, Jean is now out and about! It’s great to see our much loved community manager continue to make progress with her recovery.

Enjoy your weekend!

– Simon

The Macro Report: August, 2019

Summer came to a close with yet another collection of varied updates, further improving the Hosted offering and Micro.blog as a whole. There was some preparation also made for autumn updates, and a reminder of just how open and flexible the platform truly is.

Let’s take a look at what’s been happening lately on Micro.blog.

In the past month…

Photos Upgrade

There is a new section of Discover just for photos, in which you can see those photos featured in Discover all in a grid format. This alternative view pairs nicely with the Photos Index feature from July, and makes it both easier and more pleasant to find people and posts through the lens of photo-blogging.

On top of this Discover was given another set of new tagmoji, following on from July’s additions and a new addition to the Discover menu in the form of a “Show More” link which takes you to the official tagmoji directory.

Elsewhere, as part of her recovery Jean set a photo-based challenge for the community. Over the course of 11 days the community shared 11 photos, a theme per day set by Jean at the beginning of the challenge.

Tumblr Integration

You can now add Tumblr to cross-posting for your feed, making it easy to use Tumblr for broadcasting your blog or just mirroring it in general. As with the other cross-posting options, you can manage this in different ways across the Micro.blog apps.

As well as cross-posting, Tumblr imports were also improved via removal of the upload file size limit. This means that an archive export from Tumblr of any size can now be transferred to a Hosted account.

Finally, Manton provided a reminder of just how well Micro.blog works with Tumblr, including the new updates and a reminder of the domain follow feature with which it is easy to follow Tumblr blogs via URL.

Robots, iOS beta, and more!

People with Hosted sites can now better control how their sites are indexed by search engines thanks to the introduction of a robots.txt file for each site. You can switch this off entirely or customise how you see fit, for which Manton published a new help page. Also, for podcast-enabled sites you can now get basic download stats, for which Manton also provided context for their implementation and intended use-case beyond idle curiosity.

The iOS beta was given updates to include the new features for the operating system, including dark mode. TestFlight sign-ups were made available whilst Manton also published a preview of dark mode.

Lastly, Manton published a new help page with information about the annual subscriptions which include a discount to the price of hosting.

Elsewhere

• • •

The summer came to a close on the back of yet another set of full and varied improvements, whilst the interconnected ecosystem of which Micro.blog is a part also continues to hum along with updates and news to counter the increasingly desperate circumstance of silo networks.

Jean’s photo challenge was yet another great example of the Micro.blog community rallying around one another, displaying the humanity that is so important for the web. Even after the initial 11 days, people take up the challenge and those who have yet to do so are encouraged to share their photos. There was also excellent news from Jean in the form of her recovery, which includes indulging that podcasting habit of hers.

The acquisition of Tumblr by Automattic was big news in the world of web hosting, blogging, and social networks; it’ll be interesting to see if the blogging and social hybrid can be rescued from its somewhat underwhelming current condition. Meanwhile, Manton continued to talk about where Micro.blog stands now more than 18 months since the public launch and was able to focus on the flexibility of the platform, whether with large silos such as Tumblr or the web as a whole.

Autumn is now ahead of us and that inevitably brings the big updates from the large tech companies, including iOS and the Micro.blog apps for which we have already seen previews. Meanwhile, Manton has spoken about making continued improvements across the platform as a whole and appears to be gearing up for quite a significant September.

Enjoy your weekend!

– Simon

The Macro Report: July, 2019

Summer is well and truly upon those in the Northern Hemisphere and that means plenty of updates as the momentum from the first half of the year continued on throughout the month.

Let’s take a look at what’s been happening lately on Micro.blog.

In the past month…

Photos Index

The month ended with a big feature release; a photos index page. On this page you will see all of the photos posted to your blog in an index just like the format made popular by Instagram profile pages. The page is pre-built into new blogs whilst existing blogs can get it via single-button access; Manton also provided instructions on how to go about this if you already have a page named “photos”.

This feature is inspired by the work of Jonathan LaCour, who created Microgram which made it relatively easy for people to make such a page by copy-pasting a small amount of JavaScript into their site. Microgram is still available for people who would prefer to maintain the page in this way.

Manton has also since spoken about making additions to this feature, such as simple settings for customising the included post type. In the meantime you can customise the page via edits to your custom CSS, instructions for which can be found in Manton’s post.

Elsewhere with page structuring, it is now possible to make further edits to URLs as a way to signal greater granularity in your pages.

Enhanced Tagmoji

Several additions have been made to the emoji used for tagging in Discover, covering a variety of topics. These are all available via the menu on the web, which will soon be matched on both iOS and the Mac. The tagmoji can also be accessed by third party apps thanks to an update to the Posts API; this is reflected in an update to the official iOS framework, Snippets, by Jonathan.

With regard to emoji in general it is also now possible to use emoji in the (plain-text) bio of your account, which will then appear in your profile: micro.blog/USERNAME

Streamlined Subscriptions

Subscriptions are now much simpler, as the cross-posting plan has been merged into the basic plan. Not only has the basic plan been significantly improved via the many updates made by the team over the past 18 months, the cross-posting plan has now become more of a confusing element than anything else. Instead, the basic plan now includes unlimited cross-posting and those who already use the cross-posting plan have been switched to basic whilst continuing to pay the lower price.

This will make subscriptions easier to understand and reduce the support burden for the team from now on, thus freeing up even more resources for further improvements to both hosting plans, the latter of which – $10 per month for podcast and video hosting – remains unchanged.

As a reminder, you can choose to pay for your hosting with an annual plan which includes a reduced rate for 2 free months of hosting.

Copy HTML and more!

Another great feature was released in the later part of the month in the form of a new button: Copy HTML. With this you can easily grab the necessary code for easily positioning your uploaded images in a post or page. This is currently available on the web and ought to enable a greater variety of photo-blogging for more people.

After Apple updated the categories in their podcast directory, the settings for Hosted sites with podcast support was also updated to reflect this change. Also, in an addition inspired by Smokey Ardisson’s This Week on Micro.blog the Micro Monday newsletter now includes thumbnails of recent photos from across the community.

On the technical side of things, performance and stability improvements have been made to; Micro.blog in general; Sunlit; and LinkedIn cross-posting.

Elsewhere

  • Icro did not receive an update in the public release of the app but did get an improvement on the technical side of things, with Martin being able to remove CocoaPods from the app. This ought to make it easier for Martin to maintain the app.
  • Gluon had a relatively quiet month with a single update. However, this included a few changes with some minor tweaks, the addition of the new Micro.blog tagmoji, and the removal of push notifications. Vincent explained that notifications would soon return, better than before.
  • The Wiki received a few markdown-based additions on the main page and a minor edit to an existing category, as Smokey and Eli continued the steady progress of the new version.
  • A Drafts Action for posting to Micro.blog with categories was updated by Craig McClellan, fixing a token-based issue that would cause the Action to break.

• • •

It was great to see the team push on and fully embrace an active summer of updates. Hosted blogs are getting a lot of good new features whilst the platform as a whole continues to be improved on a regular basis, including an eye for stability and performance upgrades. Micro.blog continues to be supported with a thorough and carefully considered philosophy, whilst also embracing new ideas and feedback on a regular basis.

Whilst summer can be altogether quiet for many people in the world of consumer software, web-based platforms have the opportunity to make substantial improvements before the rush of large updates in the latter part of the year and the team is doing just that.

On top of that there was some sad news regarding our community manager, Jean. Whilst visiting Slovenia she became injured and had to return home early. Fortunately the community rallied and offered support as they could, showing yet again that this platform, this entire project is not just about technologies and the like but rather the people are what matter. Thankfully the team is made up of wonderful people and Jean is a fantastic representative for the community as a whole.

Enjoy your weekend!

– Simon

The Macro Report: June, 2019

Despite the all-consuming nature of WWDC, the Apple developer conference, a number of updates were made throughout June, and a variety at that.

Let’s take a look at what’s been happening lately on Micro.blog.

In the past month…

Monday Newsletter and Film Fest Friday

Micro Monday now includes a newsletter, launched in the first half of the month, and published each week to accompany the podcast. Each edition will is sent via email and posted to the Monday blog, giving people different options for subscribing to the round-up of links, quotes, information, and more.

Further community-centred work came in the form of a new site, Film Fest Friday. This blog will feature videos from across Micro.blog, with posts published every Friday and made available via feed subscription as well as a new account, Friday.

Discover Guidelines

Jean gave insight into a significant element of curation on Micro.blog; the Discover timelines. As well as providing a quick overview of its origins, she also provided the context into which this section of the platform exists and for the first time the explicit guidelines for curating Discover were revealed. Manton also posted about the goals of the platform, especially in light of further revelations about the damage caused by massive silo networks.

There is a great deal of potential for Discover to be an ideal alternative to the controversial and largely damaging mechanisms of the silo social networks. As such it was encouraging to see this information published as part of a wider gradual communication from the team regarding the inner workings of the platform.

Mac 1.9 and more!

The latest significant update for the Mac was released, with a mix of improved function, new design, and further fixes. It’s great to see the app become more flexible with regard to browser integration and better aligned with the other official apps to provide a unified yet still specialised experience.

Updates were also given to Wavelength and throughout the month to the Micro.blog servers, as part of an ongoing effort to consistently improve stability and performance across the platform.

Elsewhere, the Micro.blog meetup happened at WWDC for the third consecutive year. Not only did a whole bunch of people attend the meetup but Manton also reported that he has been asked about Micro.blog throughout the week. Manton also appeared on the Micro Monday podcast, answering more questions from the community, whilst the Micro Monday site received some maintenance to improve navigation.

Elsewhere

  • Icro for Mac was briefly previewed and then given an early release for Catalyst. Martin also continued to make open source contributions based on the app.
  • Gluon got a batch of updates as Vincent tweaked the design for improved UX, mostly centred around loading, made a few crucial fixes, and released the first version of the new reply function.
  • How to customise Micro.blog is a brand new resource site, made and maintained by Miraz Jordan. It is focused on utilising the various theme tools of the platform to change how your blog looks and functions. Primarily a guide-based site, Miraz also provides links, link posts, and more in what is a striking and well-designed site itself. There is an accompanying Micro.blog account, whilst Miraz also appeared on the Micro Monday podcast to talk about the project.
  • Just Good Music is a new community-built shared blog all about music, made and maintained by John Philpin and Joe Jenett. There are already a variety of community members posting to the blog, whilst everybody is welcome to join.
  • Musicians On Micro.blog is a new community resource for finding people, made and maintained by Jacob Gorban. With the multi-formatted directory you can find a mix of professional and hobbyist musicians from across the Micro.blog community.
  • The Wiki received a number of updates as part of its larger upgrade to the new version. Smokey and Eli have begun an impressive overhaul with changes to the main page.

• • •

It says a lot about the robust condition of the platform that this set of updates happened throughout the month. Not only did Apple’s major event not derail this activity but it also had no negative effect on the wider ecosystem, including the community; to the contrary, there was a spark of brand new energy from community-made efforts of different kinds and they all contribute to making Micro.blog a viable alternative to the silo networks.

If this is to be a sign of things to come, an entry way into the summer ahead then right now it feels like the best time to join Micro.blog and explore an alternative to the hostile, silo-dominated web.

Enjoy your weekend!

– Simon

The Macro Report: May, 2019

For May the core of the platform slowed down, with a mixture of light feature releases, smaller updates with fixes, and a few exciting events all still making up a packed month.

Let’s take a look at what’s been happening lately on Micro.blog.

In the past month…

Following Blogs

You can now follow posts from a site even if the publisher has not registered an account on Micro.blog. The system works with custom domains, following the idea that:

one site = one user = one domain name

To find and follow these sites you can use search in Discover, and you will then see their posts in your timeline. If that site supports Webmention, when you reply to a post Micro.blog will send that reply to the site as a comment on the original post.

New Themes

There are two new themes to choose from for people with a Hosted site: Minos and Hello, both of which have been adapted from existing Hugo themes. The release of the themes includes their availability on the Micro.blog GitHub organisation, and was quickly followed up with fixes.

They are as customisable as any other theme, whether you use the template system, custom CSS, edit the footer with HTML and/or JavaScript, or a mix of any of those options. One example of how to use the template system was provided via a guide for creating a custom home page, whether with any HTML you would like or even using categories to include certain posts.

New Home and more!

There is a new home page for Micro.blog, specifically for people who are new to the platform or who do not have an account. The redesign includes much more relevant information about the platform as a whole and can also be accessed by opening a private window or signing out of your account. On top of this Manton also published a post to outline how Micro.blog can fulfil an important promise; the fastest way to blog.

Elsewhere there was one final set of Sunlit fixes, finishing off a collection of minor updates in the aftermath of the recent significant changes.

From a less technical perspective, a special section of Discover was launched to cover Apple’s big summer event, WWDC. Also, a new spring giveaway was launched in which you could invite people to the platform and include 3 free months of hosting. Finally, the month ended with an invitation from both Jean and Manton to submit questions for the latter, with the imminent release of a special Q&A edition of Micro Monday.

Elsewhere

• • •

As we get close to the halfway point of the year it’s fair to say that it is now much clearer as to the basic shape of Micro.blog, at least from a broader perspective, and whilst there are still rough edges to smooth out as the platform grows there has also been lots of progress already with regard to performance and stability improvements. This is a positive indicator that the platform has a certain type of maturity built into it, which in itself is not especially surprising considering the philosophy with which it is built, that of the strong foundations of the open web.

A good example of this maturity, and general expansion is WWDC Discover. This update meant that the main section of Discover was allowed to continue featuring a range of subjects and posts, whilst it was possible for those following WWDC to see what the community was saying about the event.

Elsewhere, there was literal exciting news in the form of an article in The New Yorker, in which Cal Newport mentioned Micro.blog as an example of the web attempting to counter the behemoths of the social silos. This article was then listed on Techmeme, including a reference to Manton’s tweet (which he had of course cross-posted from his original blog post). To those who have joined the community as a result of this coverage: hello! Welcome to Micro.blog. :)

Enjoy your weekend!

– Simon

The Macro Report: April, 2019

For the second consecutive month it was full steam ahead, a thorough mix of big new features, enhancements, fixes, and most excitedly a big push for cross-platform updates. The different parts of Micro.blog have been brought into line with regard to necessary uniformity so that the platform is as coherent as possible, all whilst retaining the separate platform-specific flavours.

Let’s take a look at what’s been happening lately on Micro.blog.

In the past month…

Video

With one of the biggest updates of the year, a new type of media has been introduced in the form of support for video hosting and publishing. You can now upload videos to your account, either directly with the same button for uploading a photo or using the Upload Manager on the web.

This is best used for short videos, with a limit of 45 MB per upload, and is available on the web, iOS, the Mac, and in Sunlit. You can also play video inline, whilst a number of updates have been applied across the platform to further improve the performance of this feature, as well as an accompanying guide.

To access this feature you’ll need the same Hosted subscription required for podcast publishing.

Edit Post Date

It is now possible to change the published date on existing posts, using the Posts tab on the web. This makes it possible for imported posts to be changed to match their initial published date, should that be required, as well as modifying specific types of post to a date better suited for their purpose.

This additions is also the first hint at the possible future of the post editor being a powerful publishing tool; for example, that could include full post scheduling. Meanwhile, drafts will now be published at the date of posting rather than when initially saved.

Window resizing, search in Sunlit, and more!

You can now resize the window of the Mac app! There is still a limit on the size but it is much larger than the fixed version. Also, in the Posts list you will now see thumbnail previews of videos, whilst the app has received a few other fixes.

Elsewhere, in Sunlit you can now search for people in the Discover tab; simply scroll up and you will get access to the search bar. You can now also tap and hold the New Post button to access posting from external sources. In the Micro.blog iOS app the New Post and Reply buttons have been refreshed with a new design that is better matched with Sunlit; this is indicative of continued efforts to maintain and improve Micro.blog across all of the apps, as a group, whenever possible.

Elsewhere

  • Icro now supports video playback, as Martin Hartl quickly followed the newest tentpole feature release.
  • Indigenous gained a few significant features as well as a number of tweaks and fixes as Kristof continues the momentum of the past few months. You can now get push notifications (via Pushy.me), mark all as read button for high volume feeds, search for posts, and filter timelines via URL.
  • Own Your Gram was updated by Aaron to work with greater predictability, specifically with regard to importing photos from the moment you use it instead of automatically importing every photo you have already posted.

• • •

The obvious focus for this month with regard to the core was Video, not least because it ticks a big box for media-based publishing. However, I found a significant aspect of this was in the platform-wide approach of updates from the team; not only was the feature rolled out to each part of Micro.blog but it was equally supported thereafter. This marks a significant point in the history of the platform, wherein we see the great potential of small platforms built on good standards with a consistent and careful approach for how best to work in the best interests of the web as a whole.

This continues to be an exciting year, and with the developer conferences of the dominant vendors soon upon us it’s fair to say we’re just getting started. Not only that but the momentum of the independent web has continued apace, with yet more people talking about it, and those of us already exploring this space anew finding more and more positives in a life not lead by the corporate silos.

Even with this continued dialogue, Micro.blog continues to be a space where you can simply enjoy the freedom of posting to the web without even needing to care about the technical underpinnings or the philosophical foundations. The platform continues to be the ideal space for those people who simply wish to share any particular aspect of their life, with ever decreasing fiction and an ever-growing community. And that’s pretty damned good.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

– Simon

The Macro Report: March, 2019

Throughout March a steady stream of updates came to the different parts of Micro.blog, across different platforms, as part of a feature-packed schedule.

Let’s take a look at what’s been happening lately on Micro.blog.

In the past month…

Drafts

It is now possible to save unpublished versions of your posts, using the Save Draft button. Your drafts will then appear in the Posts section of the Posts tab. This is available both on the web and in the Mac app, the latter of which has been updated with a brand new Posts tab.

Further support for this is included in an API update, with which developers can now fully support both drafts and editing.

Sunlit Refresh

In a major update, the photoblogging app now works in a way similar to the other official apps. This includes the removal of the Stories tab and unification of short and long posts into the same screen; the auto-title feature has also been added, wherein once you add 5 or more photos the title field will appear, should you wish to add a title to your post.

Manton also published an outline of Sunlit’s purpose within the context of both Micro.blog and the independent web as a whole.

Portable Data and more!

Hosted Micro.blog data has become significantly more portable thanks to a mix of updates, primary amongst which is the new export option: Blog Archive Export, or .bar. With this you can export your entire site, including uploads. Manton also published an accompanying guide and uploaded the archive theme to GitHub.

It is also now possible to import your data from both Medium and Tumblr, including images, titles, and dates.

For accounts, further flexibility was gained with the introduction of a new subscription payment option: annual. You can pay for this subscription at the same discounted price of subscription gifts.

Elsewhere

  • Gluon received a whole bunch of additions; replying, theme switcher, appearance settings screen and associated settings, tap to reload feed, push notifications, increased TestFlight capacity, the new Android Alpha released, and Android dark mode. Vincent also provided a collection of screenshots in blog posts as part of his ongoing development.
  • Indigenous for Android also got a slew of updates; drafts for all post types, edit published date, notifications, image captions, custom mark as read, and a number of other tweaks and fixes. This was a thorough mixture of tentpole features and iterative improvements, some of which was covered on Kristof’s blog.
  • MarsEdit gained further Micro.blog functionality in Daniel’s 4.3 release. He added support for a distinction between created and modified dates on posts.

• • •

As Micro.blog keeps hitting milestones by way of what many would consider tentpole features it’s become more and more clear just how well focused the team’s efforts continue to be. The core is made for specific ideas, with a balance of strong opinions and considerations for different uses, whilst the technical underpinnings are both maintained and further developed to guarantee the platform’s status as a flexible and web-friendly option.

Given how well the year has begun, both with first and third-party developments, and across the web in general as blogging and other such aspects of the open web continue to gain momentum, it is becoming clear that we are in for an even better year than the first two years of the life of Micro.blog. This is exciting, and from a personal standpoint, especially motivating with regard to simply living the part of my life that is attached to my online identity. Now, let’s see what April has to offer…

Enjoy the rest of your week!

– Simon