Feedly’s Killer Feature

I’ve been using Feedly ever since Google announced they were going to 86 Reader.

The plan was to use it as a bomb shelter while the world of RSS was glassed and the survivors set out to rebuild a post-Google syndication world.

Because, clearly, it couldn’t be a permanent solution. Web apps are not acceptable substitutes for desktop clients, and not being compatible with Reeder or Mr. Reader seemed unforgivable. Just hunker down and wait for the right service to come along.

It turns out that there was one problem with my plan: Feedly has one simple feature that makes it much more useful than any other RSS reader I’ve used: Auto Mark As Read.

Feedly renders feed headlines on cards, so instead of scrolling through an endless list, you look through 10 or so headlines on a card, look at any articles that pique your interest, and then flip the card to see the next card of 10 headlines.

With Auto Mark As Read checked, every article on the card will be marked as read when you flip past them. So if you flip through a few headlines while standing in line somewhere, they are marked as read on the server and you never have to scroll through them again.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal until you use it. The benefit is that it makes processing RSS into something you can do intermittantly throughout the day rather than a major undertaking where you either have to read everything, manually mark every article as read or mark an entire category of links as read. It’s just not as precise, and it leaves me constantly scrolling through content a second time after I get interupted and come back later.

Though I’ll still be paying attention as more new services roll out throughout the months ahead, anything that doesn’t offer a similar feature will be a tough sell.

iOS 7 Redesigned by Apple’s Marketing Group

But when Apple wanted to refresh the experience of iOS under the new regime of Jony Ive, it didn’t have a decade. So, according to The Next Web, Ive took what might seem like a crazy approach in a company filled with some of the world’s best designers: He enlisted the marketing department.

Not sure why anyone would be surprised by this. I can say first hand that Apple’s marketing group is also filled with some of the best designers in the world. It’s not like they handed it off to the Olive Garden’s marketing team or a bunch of interns…

Via Fast Company

Real Time Marketing is the Worst

Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, began his keynote at the University of Michigan commencement ceremony with something that seemed appropriate for marketing, or at least what people who talk about advertising seem to think it’ll turn into.

“You can’t plan a script. The beauty of improvisation is you’re experiencing it in the moment. If you try to plan what the next line is supposed to be, you’re just going to be disappointed when the other people on stage with you don’t do or say what you want them to do and you’ll stand there frozen.”

We all know that improv is the future of advertising. Or at least people think that it’s the future. Or at least I did when I wrote a post about marketing turning into jazz a few years ago.

Whose Line is it Anyways-British Version

But those were simpler times. Back before marketing folks figured out that posting innane things on Facebook once a day was a good way to tell their C-Suite that they were doing the Internet, just like the man on the TV said to do.

“Look at all that engagement!” they tell their colleagues while pointing at pages of badly written, uninteresting, incredibly useless noise.

Some Examples:

If your teacher’s a Pepper, treat them with a Pepper.
Pepper in Pepper is perfection.
Start with a Pepper and finish with a Pepper.
Life: That thing you do in between Peppers.

So, Internet crisis averted. Let’s make more TV spots!

But, then the power went out at the Super Bowl and Oreo tweeted an instagram hashtag that spawned a few thousand marketing blog posts.

Real Time Marketing was here.

“Finally!” exclaimed the press and douchebag marketing bloggers, “The Future has come!”

Not to disregard the Oreo thing, because it was pretty cool. But I’m not convinced that sort of thing will scale well. It will definitely try to scale. Like some awful toenail fungus.

But there’s a chance that the only long term effect of their success will involve every brand under the sun pointing at things and yelling like an overly sugared two-year old.

I have a two year old. He points out every stop sign and school bus that we see when we’re out for a drive. But timeliness doesn’t necessarily equal relevance. Right?

Put a bunch of important people with MBAs in a room with a 24-year old social media guy and call it a Command Center if you’d like, but that’s not going to ensure business moving, or even good, ideas. What we’re going to wind up with is very loud social streams full of brands shouting and pointing and jumping up and down while trying to be clever. That doesn’t sound very futuristic to me. It sounds like spam. No one likes spam. Except for my parents in the 80s. But that was a weird time for everyone.

This is all why I tried to avoid any SXSW panels put on by agencies or marketing people. The whole business seems like it’s trying to find new ways to hassle people or trick people more effeciently rather than do a better job with the tools we already have or finding better ways of communicating with people.

We find ads to be annoying, but my son’s generation is growing up without advertising. He doesn’t even know what it is. Which could mean that they’re not going to have the same tolerance of it and are unlikely to allow it into their lives as readily as we do. There’s good odds that what marketing people make now will be considered spam in a decade or two. Big data or small data or whatever data. Some businesses that want an approach to their marketing that does not involve excessive improvisation or social media posting may want to consider the benefits of something like off page SEO to get their websites off the ground and skyrocketing through the Google rankings.

All of this is going to require deeper solutions than hashtags, real time photoshopping and inviting people to “tell us your story.” Using digital media well is going to require a notoriously dumb industry to finally have some respect for the people they are trying to market to. Which is why I love the digital space and the technology that screens out ads people don’t want to see. It’s going to make the world better by forcing marketing to be better for everyone involved.

10 Reasons Why I Moved From WordPress to Squarespace 6

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit manic when it comes to digital tools like task managers and blogging platforms. Even when I find something that works, I have trouble staying committed.

Last year when I moved to WordPress, I felt like I was finally settling down. I had previously tried out the beta of Squarespace 6, I had already spent some time on Squarespace 5, before that I had tried self-hosting WordPress a few times using services such as https://www.hostiserver.com/ and others, as well as WordPress.com, Posterous, Typepad, and I’ve been using Tumblr on the side for a few years.

So I think that I have a unique perspective on this topic, and after typing out that list of services that I’ve used, one could argue that I need extensive therepy.

So why did I move back to Squarespace again? The long and short of it is that while WordPress is the absolute master of blogging flexibility, I found that with great flexibility comes great responsibility.

They've been super responsive to my whining on Twitter.
They’ve been super responsive to my whining on Twitter.
  1. Squarespace is faster than self-hosting—Here’s the deal: hosting is only as cheap as it is slow. I’ve hosted WordPress on Bluehost and on Dreamhost and I didn’t find either of them to be reliable enough at the base price. And while the front end was noticeably slow, the backend was *painfully* slow. It was like the world was moving in bullet time while the dashboard watched in disbelief at the blur of the mouse and keyboard. Squarespace is much faster.
  2. Hosting is a hassle—Do you like working with Mysql databases? Do you like navigating terrible UX at hosting companies? FTP? Do you like having your website crash because you suddenly get a surge in traffic? What about companies that aren’t but so concerned with the end user if their services go down? If you do like those things, you should self-host. If you don’t like those things, you’ll like working with Squarespace. Other web hosting options are SiteGround and Bluehost. If either of these appeal to you, check out this SiteGround vs Bluehost web hosting security review.
  3. Squarespace does caching for you—This is where my relationship with self-hosting really began breaking down. If you self-host WordPress, you are going to be responsbile for making sure that your website is caching correctly to avoid being even slower and potentially taking down the entire Internet. There are plugins that do this. They are super complicated. Squarespace does all of that for you, and if you’re anything like me, you have no business doing that kind of thing for yourself.
  4. Squarespace SEO is better than mine—When I noticed that my old Squarespace blog was still out-ranking my WordPress install in Google after being dormant for over a year, I started installing and configuring more plugins that I didn’t really understand. That lead me to believe that I probably wasn’t the best man for the job, and would be in better hands in any hands but my own.
  5. WordPress Plugins create flexibility, but also can cause trouble—There are billions of plugins for WordPress, which is where it’s flexibility comes from. But are you using the right plugins? Are the plugins that you use breaking things? I’m pretty sure that I had a plugin break my code in a way that wasn’t fixed by the traditional solution of turning them all off to figure out which one is the problem.It was giving me some kind of parsing error that made me think that the dwarves dug too deep and awakened a terrible evil that went a lot further than just Google+ sharing problems.
  6. WordPress invites noodling—If there’s one thing that I’m good at, it’s burning hours by noodling with software. There’s so much flexilibity that I found myself constantly figuring out new ways to tweak things and break things. Sometimes it was necessary. Sometimes it wasn’t. Squarespace is fairly restrictive with what you can do, which hopefully will translate to less noodling around and more writing.
  7. WordPress is vulnerable to hacking—When looking for help with the parsing error mentioned above, I started to come across article after article about how easy it is for WordPress to be hacked and exploited. Not that anyone would find much benefit from hacking my website, but it left me feeling a little exposed and if I did get hacked I’d be completely helpless. Like a baby in the woods. Often larger websites will utilize pentesting in order to hone in on any weaknesses present in the site’s security; services like those offered by Cobalt are often in high demand, which can be found here – https://cobalt.io/pentest.
  8. Squarespace offers the comfort of a paid service—I never would’ve considered using a paid service to be a positive. Then Yahoo bought Flickr and ruined it, Twitter bought Posterous and closed it, Tumblr heads towards an ad supported business model, and Google pulled the plug on Reader, I’m running out of trust for free services. Especially when it comes to my home base on the Internet. Eventually the adults move in and the bright eyed idealism that made the free service great is beaten out of it. I’m pretty sure that Squarespace has been profitable every year since they launched, and they’ve done that through subscription revenue. That means that I’m the customer, not Google or advertisers or shareholders.
  9. Squarespace is more fun to use—After working with the clunky, bloated WordPress backend for a year, it’s nice to work in something that is a bit more fluid more pleasing to use, and ultimately just beautiful to look at. It’s also a true CMS, you can build almost any kind of website out of it in addition to having a blog.
  10. Squarespace just looks great—The templates offered are so well designed that they make most WordPress themes feel a bit amateurish. It certainly blows the doors off of Typepad when it comes to design…no contest. Though sometimes the high design nature of their templates can feel overly serious. I’ve found that putting a ridiculous picture of yourself in the header takes care of that.

Is Squarespace 6 perfect? Dear God, no it is not. It can be a bit of an adventure as the software still seems like a work in progress. Sometimes when trying to compose a post I’m not sure if I’m using a blogging platform or participating in some sort of glitch art experiment. Also, compared to WordPress, it can feel rigid like a frozen corpse (though as I search around it seems like the right code can make it more flexible).

I am super bummed out that I can’t use Blogsy or Marsedit with it as they haven’t released an API, which was honestly within an inch of being a deal breaker for me. I still get a little anxious about it because I love working in Blogsy, and Squarespace’s iOS apps are consistantly raked through the coals in reviews. I haven’t used them much yet, but the company says that they are being completely rewritten.

But their design aesthetic, lightning fast support and customer driven revenue model lead me to believe that it’s only going to keep getting better and better (if they want to stay in business).

Also, there’s just something enjoyable about it. I can’t quite place my finger on it. My brain says no, but my gut says yes. I can’t explain it.

So for now, I’ll be sticking it out with Squarespace 6. Who knows where I’ll be at this time next year, but I’m really hopeful that this will work out for the long haul.

SXSW: A home on the web: the state of blogging in 2013

(This is the second in a series of posts I’m doing to recap the SXSW sessions I attended in return for the free ride from my agency.)

One of the off the beaten track sessions that I saw this week was this conversation with Matt Mullenwig, who invented the open source blogging software that this blog uses before founding a company called Automattic to bring a commercial version to market at WordPress.com.

Given everything that’s gone on in the world of social media, from giant companies launching blogging platforms to the explosion of other ways for people to share online, it was interesting to hear his thoughts on where good old fashioned blogging stands these days.

Especially since I write on one every once in a while.

What I liked about him was that he came across as almost folksy when it comes to Internet start up people. He started making the software because he liked blogging and wanted a better way to do it. I’m not sure how many startups are founded out of love these days. It seems quaint. But it apparently worked, as WordPress is now used by over 14.7% of Alexa Internet’s “top 1 million” websites.

He maintains that their growth still mostly comes from word of mouth. People start sharing stuff on Twitter or Tumblr, then decide they want to get serious about it, and they ask a friend what to use.

What I really wanted to here his take on was how blogging fits into this new fangled micro-blogging pin-a-matic world. He actually thinks that social media is giving blogging new life, with most referrals to WordPress blogs now coming from social media. He believes that people want a home base that isn’t cookie cutter. They want their online expression of themselves to look different from everyone else’s. Which is why I have grossly neglected my blog theme. Also, because I mostly don’t know what I’m doing.

He believes Tumblr and WordPress are actually going in different directions. Tumblr is much more about curation while WordPress is about creation. And because of that Tumblr is actually interesting as a distribution mechanism. He see’s them as the start of the funnel…people will move from Tumblr to WordPress while still maintaining a tumblr to post links and photos but still create.

He’s not into advertising, and doesn’t think of WordPress as an ad platform. He thinks that’s what is behind experiences being ruined on other sites. Facebook is now doing everything they can to keep people on the page. WordPress doesn’t have to do that, and because of that, they don’t get in fights with other companies the way that places like Twitter and Facebook do. WordPress is Switzerland. It connects everything.

Moving forward, he mentioned a few tweaks to things like the reading experience and some regrets over the wysiwyg interface not being what it should be. But the biggest thing that he wants to change (and one of his biggest regrets) was making things about numbers. In his mind, a comment from someone you know is worth more than a hundred anonomous likes.

It’ll be interesting to see what that looks like.

Also, it’ll be interesting to see if WordPress swallows any more of my posts. He’s lucky that happened after his panel. It would’ve been a shame for him to have gotten the shoe to forehead treatment.

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SXSW 2013 Session Recaps:

1. The Next Frontier of Interactive: Smart Fashion
2. A Home on the Web: The State of Blogging in 2013

3. What’s So Funny About Innovation
4. Shut Up and Take My Money: Lego Does Crowd Sourcing
5. The Future of Porn (Cindy Gallup)6. Mashable Variety Show
7. The Future of Work8. Miku: The Open-Source Girl Who Conquered the World
9. Angry Nerds: Being Human in the Digital Age
10. Matthew Inman Keynote (The Oatmeal)
11. The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust (Rohit Bhargava)
12. Live WTF with Marc Maron