FIR On Technology, Episode 4 - How To Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

FIR On Technology logoHow do you make your website “mobile-friendly”? Given Google’s impending April 21, 2015, deadline to start using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor for mobile search results, what can you do both in the short-term and in the longer-term to both provide the best experience for mobile users - and also retain your Google search result ranking?

In this fourth episode of “FIR On Technology” Dan York explains what you need to be thinking about with regard to “responsive design” of your website, outlines some of the resources Google offers to help, and explains several of the options you have to make your site mobile-friendly.  During the episode Dan discusses the following sites:

Get this Podcast:

The music for the intro and outro is “Early Warning” from Mark Knox and is used with his permission.

Sharing Your Comments

FIR Community on Google+Share your comments or questions about this podcast, or suggestions for future podcasts, in the online FIR Podcast Community on Google+.

You can also send us instant voicemail via SpeakPipe, right from the FIR website. Or, call the Comment Line at +1 415 895 2971 (North America), +44 20 3239 9082 (Europe), or Skype:fircomments. You can tweet us: @FIRpodcast. And you can email us at [email protected]. If you wish, you can email your comments, questions and suggestions as MP3 file attachments (max. 3 minutes / 5Mb attachment, please!). We’ll be happy to see how we can include your audio contribution in a show.

To receive all podcasts in the FIR Podcast Network, subscribe to the “everything” RSS feed. To stay informed about occasional FIR events (eg, FIR Live), sign up for FIR Update email news.

NOTE: This podcast announcement was originally posted on the For Immediate Release (FIR) website.


The Tension Between Consumption and Creation of Content (a.k.a. spending time reading Facebook doesn't help with writing)

Facebook newsfeedThere went another hour! I wanted to do some writing tonight but first I sat down and said "I'll just take a quick look at Facebook"... and there I was... an hour later... having learned all about the lives of friends (well, the parts of their lives they want to post about on Facebook), read a bunch of interesting links, and gone off into topic areas that were fascinating - although probably didn't really add anything to the fullness of my life.

Meanwhile, the total number of words I'd written was...

zero.

There is this fundamental tension between consuming content and creating content.

It has nothing directly to do with the Internet, of course. Long before the Internet it was easy to be distracted from writing by TV, radio, books... or just conversations with friends and family, or projects around the house or office.

Distractions have always been numerous... the Internet just does what it does best by removing the middlemen and making it even easier to be distracted.

My friend Donna Papacosta once posted an image on Facebook that I printed out and taped up on my window frame right at eye level that said simply this:

Writing is
3% talent
and
97% not getting distracted
by the Internet

I see that every day when I sit in my home office, with the ever-present reminder that the key word is:

FOCUS

and the need to do that.

Two years ago I wrote a post that took the rather draconian line of "Every Minute You Spend Consuming Content Is A Minute You Are Not Creating Content".

That is, of course, very true. But there is the reality that sometimes we NEED to consume content. Sometimes it is because we are researching something we want to write about. Sometimes it is just simply that we want to relax... that we need to give our minds a break.

I've come to appreciate over many years that there is strong value in stepping away from the creation of content to give yourself a break... and often when you then return to the creating you return refreshed and renewed. Reading a good book or seeing a movie or reading good articles online can often lead to new lines of writing or thinking. There is value in staying up with what friends are doing - and sharing what you are doing.

The trick is trying to find the balance. There is a natural tension between time spent on consumption vs creation. Too much consumption leaves little time for creation. Too much creation can leave you without the benefits of some consumption.

Somewhere in between lies the point we need to achieve.

I don't have the answer... each day I'm trying to find that balance. Some nights like tonight I don't do so well... other days I do.

Focus.

Balance.


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Some Quick Thoughts On Periscope, Meerkat And The Era of Simple Livestreaming

Periscope 1Unless you've been offline or ignoring social media for the past couple of weeks you've no doubt seen the dueling "livestreaming wars" between the iOS applications Meerkat and Periscope. Perhaps you've viewed some of the streams... or broadcast some yourself.

Given that I do live streaming as part of my employment, I'm fascinated by these new and emerging apps. They also remind me of what Qik tried to do back in the mid-2000s before Skype bought Qik in 2011 and promptly shut the service down. (Only to have Qik re-emerge recently as a different kind of mobile messaging service from Skype.)

I've been playing with both Meerkat and Periscope and offer a few quick thoughts based on my own experience. I will be exploring these apps more... but want to record some comments for today's For Immediate Release podcast episode and want to use this post as a basis for that report.

The beauty of both of these apps is that it makes it absolutely TRIVIAL for someone to start live streaming. Just login with Twitter and press the a button to start broadcasting live to the world!!!

Here are some thoughts about both apps and then some thoughts on this larger new era of simple live streaming.

Periscope

Periscope was purchased by Twitter and apparently had the app in development for quite some time. Things I like:

  • Polished user interface.
  • The "hearts" that you can give to "like" something are fun.
  • The replay capability is useful... although it seems the stored videos are only available for something like 24 hours.

Things I am not as excited about:

  • The comments appear and then disappear... and there seems to be no way I could find to go back and see them again, without replaying the video. Given that in a couple of trials I was driving with my iPhone on my dashboard, I could NOT read the comments while driving.
  • No horizontal orientation... you have to hold the phone in a vertical orientation. Yes, you can turn the phone sideways and hold it horizontally, but all the comments and hearts still come in the vertical orientation.
  • Several people viewing my live streams indicated they had connection issues.

Meerkat

Meerkat was out before Periscope and captured a great amount of attention at SXSW and recent conferences. Things I like:

  • Comments are scrollable within the stream. You can read them later (during the time of the stream).
  • You can hold the camera horizontally.
  • Comments can be out onto Twitter.
  • You can answer comments by text within the app (although is this really important? I'm not sure).
  • So far no connection issues for me... but I've seen others have issues.

Things I am not as excited about:

  • Comments are gone after the stream.
  • No replay capability.

Changing Our Expectation Around Privacy

I think there is a larger societal question we need to be thinking about - that person walking down the street holding a phone up can be streaming everything they see live out onto the public Internet?

Intellectual Property

To that point... there are a whole host of intellectual property issues that I think we as a society will need to address. Nothing whatsoever technically prevents someone from streaming a concert or any presentation live. There are many artists and speakers who charge for their events and don't want them live streamed.

Cost

People in the mobile telecommunications companies have to be loving this - here are ways that people will generate a great amount of mobile data very quickly! Unless people have "unlimited" telecom data plans, they are going to be running up some good-sized costs. Great for the telcos... not so great for the producers. However, any event with "free" WiFi around could easily attract a good number of streams.

Bandwidth

All of these live video streams will create some interesting additional pressures on the Internet's infrastructure. Particularly in situations where there is "asymmetrical" connections, i.e. you have a faster download than upload speed. The streaming out of events could create a much larger requirement for upload speeds than there has been before.

Digital Divide

All of which feeds into a question about the "digital divide". The Internet users who are in regions with good Internet connectivity will be both able to produce/broadcast and also able to consume all these live streams. What about people in other parts of the world where bandwidth is much more limited? How will they be able to participate in this new era of live streaming?

Similarly, these Periscope and Meerket apps are right now only available on Apple's iOS platform... what if you can't afford an iPhone?

Ephemeral Moments and FOMO

One of the interesting elements of Meerkat is that once the stream is gone... it's gone. It's ephemeral like Snapchat... it's there... it's gone. You have to be there to see it and participate.

This leads to the "Fear Of Missing Out" (FOMO) and the "need" to be part of that.

Periscope allows replays, which changes it a bit. Now it's a recording available for some time. I'm not sure which is better.

[Side note: I don't know how truly "ephemeral" either Meerkat or Periscope is... the streams have to go through some server out there and the server could easily record any and all streams.]

Rich Interaction

What I did find very cool about using both Periscope and Meerkat was the rich interaction I could have with the audience. They were able to leave comments that I could react to right within the stream itself. They were able to guide the conversation... asking questions that I then answered.

In several cases friends I knew joined into my live streams. In one case this meant I switched to speaking German because I knew a German friend was watching. In another I switched the camera to view myself so that a friend I hadn't seen in a few years could see what I look like today.

It was great in so many ways to have this rich interaction during a stream. I'm looking forward to trying this out in some events in the future.

Final Thoughts...

... I'm very intrigued by these new applications. They make live streaming so incredibly simple and easy for anyone to do. I think we do have some of these larger societal issues and conventions to think through... but our era of ubiquitous live streaming is definitely upon us.

I see great potential for these apps in live streaming of events... for citizen journalism... breaking news... bearing witness to unfolding events... marketing/webinar types of events... indie musicians and artists... tutorials...

The reality of course is that we'll also see a lot of incredibly mundane and boring live streams. We'll probably see a good deal of porn. We'll see other ways to abuse live streams that will appall us. That's what always happens with any new service.

I will continue testing the apps. I want to see what else they can do. I want to explore more of the technical aspects - things such as their actual bandwidth usage. I want to know if any of them work over IPv6. (Sadly, expecting them NOT to do so.) I want to understand how secure they are.

So I'll be writing more... as I have time to do so.

Meanwhile, these are just some initial thoughts.

What do you think? Are you experimenting with either Periscope or Meerkat? Or some other similar app?

P.S. See also "Periscope and live video are changing the internet forever", a good take on how these apps are already changing live news...


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Keeping The Web Open: Dave Winer's "Radically Silo-Free" MyWord Editor

silosDave Winer is at it again. The creator of some of the original blogging software back in the early 2000s and one of the creators of RSS released last week his "radically silo-free" blogging editor MyWord Editor (MWE) with this purpose:

A shot in the arm for the open web. A way for JavaScript developers to collaborate on a new fun project. A way to escape from the silos that threaten to turn us into commercial robots, consumers and promoters, when we aspire to be thinkers and doers.

Think of it as bringing the ease and beauty of writing of Medium... without being locked into Medium's platform. (Or at least... I would say that is the aspiration... Dave's MWE is still in development.)

The MyWord Editor code is available as open source on Github at:

Dave calls it "radical" for this reason:

These days blogging tools try to lock you into their business model, and lock other developers out. I have the freedom to do what I want, so I decided to take the exact opposite approach. I don't want to lock people in and make them dependent on me. Instead, I want to learn from thinkers and writers and developers. I want to engage with other minds. Making money, at this stage of my career, is not so interesting to me. I'd much rather make ideas, and new working relationships, and friends.

He goes on to explain why MWE is “silo-free”:

  1. There's an open API that connects the in-browser app to the server. So you can replace the app. Or the server. Or both.

  2. Because there's an open API, you can build anything you want at either end. You're not limited by my vision of what's possible. Let a thousand flowers bloom.

  3. The app is provided in source, MIT license. So there are no secrets. And you can use my source as the starting point for your own editor.

  4. The server is provided in source, MIT license. No secrets, etc./p>

  5. The app has a command that downloads all your content in JSON, so you can move your data from one server to another, at any time. If any instance removes this command, alarms should ring out all over the land. It's your content, ladies and gentlemen, not theirs.

  6. Of course every MyWord user has a great full-featured RSS 2.0 feed. We love RSS and it feeds us and we feed it, it's doing great, and anyone who disses it is a mean rotten silo-lover.

He followed this with another post explaining more:

and then he further expressed his view that WordPress is also silo-free... but there is also a need for a better and simpler user experience:

where he made this statement:

Blogging is frozen

There haven't been new features in blogging in a long time. Where's the excitement? It looks to me like there's been no effort made to factor the user interface, to simplify and group functionality so the first-time user isn't confronted with the full feature set, left on his or her own to figure out where to go to create a new post or edit an existing one. Blogging platforms can be both easier and more powerful, I know because I've made blogging platforms that were

You can read more about this at http://myword.io/ ... and you can play with a hosted version yourself at:

(Yes, of course, I had to try it out.) It uses Twitter as an identity provider right now... but of course the code is open source so someone could hack away and look to use a different identity provider.

As someone who has been gravely concerned about "lock in" and the need for us to have control over our own content (think back to my posts about Known And The Indie Web), I am pleased to see this entry into the range of tools we can use for sites. Yes, I do most of my own work in WordPress these days... but I also very much understand Dave's notion that we need simpler tools with an easy user experience.

As I have the time I definitely intend to check out MWE and set up my own instance of it. I'm glad Dave is out there building tools like this... let's see where it goes!

What do you think?

Image credit: Doc Searls on Flickr


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FriendFeed Finally Fades... Farewell!

FriendfeedFarewell, FriendFeed! Goodbye! Ever since Facebook acquired Friendfeed back in 2009 we wondered what its fate would be... now we know. This past Monday, March 9. 2015, the FriendFeed team posted a simple note that said in part:
We wanted to let you know that FriendFeed will be shutting down soon. We've been maintaining the service since we joined Facebook five years ago, but the number of people using FriendFeed has been steadily declining and the community is now just a fraction of what it once was. Given this, we've decided that it's time to start winding things down.

Beginning today, we will no longer accept new signups. You will be able to view your posts, messages, and photos until April 9th. On April 9th, we'll be shutting down FriendFeed and it will no longer be available.

I saw some reminiscing on Hacker News and within FriendFeed itself... but I think we all knew this day was coming.

Before today I hadn't logged into the site for quite a long time. I only have recent content posted there due to the fact that TypePad is still set to post articles (such as this one) over to FriendFeed. But for most of us the conversations left the site... off to other venues and places. (But I've seen that there are still some very strong communities that have been thriving within FriendFeed to this day.)

FriendFeed was remarkable to me at the time for it's ability to aggregate feeds of all sorts of different services into one place. For quite some time http://friendfeed.com/danyork was the link I gave people to find "all of my writing in one place". Sometime after the Facebook acquisition I realized it may not be around and so I wound up building my own aggregation site - http://danyork.me/ - but it was FriendFeed that first brought that idea to me.

It was also a great place for group discussions. For quite some time it was the home of the For Immediate Release (FIR) podcast listener community and we would all discuss episodes and other topics there. That's all moved to the FIR Community on Google+ ... which hopefully will last a bit longer! :-)

The Wikipedia entry on FriendFeed has some good background. It was a great service back in its prime!

Farewell, FriendFeed!

P.S. If you'd like to export your data out of FriendFeed, there is a script available from Claudio Cicali on Github that may help.


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Google Says Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly By April 21 - Or Drop In Search Results

Mobile friendly testIs your website "mobile-friendly"? Does it display nicely on a mobile device such as an iPhone, iPad, Android or other smart phone? If not, you have until April 21 to make it mobile-friendly... or you will suffer a drop in Google search results!

In a February 26 post on Google's Webmaster Central Blog, Google very clearly indicated their direction (my emphasis added):

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

Google does not often clearly state what signals it uses for ranking search results... but here they are.

Get "mobile-friendly" ... or drop in search ranking for mobile searches!

This last point is important - they say the mobile-friendly status will be used as a ranking status for mobile searches. I interpret this to mean that if your site is not mobile-friendly you might still rank highly in searches from regular computers/laptops/desktops, but your ranking would decrease in searches from mobile devices.

However, given how many people are now using mobile devices to access the Internet... and how that trend continues to increase over time... NOT having a mobile-friendly site is going to impact people being able to get to your site.

UPDATE: I also recorded an audio podcast, "FIR On Technology, Episode 4 - How To Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly" about this topic. More information and links can be found on that page.

Tools To Help

To help with the transition to a mobile-friendly web, Google has provided several tools. First, they have a "Mobile-Friendly Test" tool at:

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

It will analyze your site and tell you if you are "mobile-friendly" in Google's view (which is presumably what they will use in the ranking signals).

Second, Google has a guide to creating mobile-friendly websites at:

https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/get-started/

A key section here is:

where they explain options you have to make your site mobile-friendly.

Moving To A New Theme

In some cases, such as this Disruptive Conversations site that is still hosted on TypePad, my only choice is to move to a new "theme" that uses "responsive design". I've already done this with danyork.com, but haven't yet done that here (but I will before April 21). This can be a larger process if you want to continue to use your existing style and design.

With other content management systems (CMSs) such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, you can also move to mobile-friendly themes as there are many available. When I've been creating new sites on WordPress in the past year or two I've made sure that all the themes I've been using have had "responsive design" as one of their attributes.

Using A Plugin

With some of the CMSs, there may be plugins that can help you make your site mobile-friendly without changing the theme. For instance, with WordPress, there are two that I've used to make sites mobile-friendly:

Both of those plugins essentially provide a responsive-design theme that gets used for your site when a mobile device connects to your site. You may not have all the design capabilities that you would have in having your main theme be responsive (in terms of having the mobile theme look like your main theme), but these plugins provide a quick way to get your site to be "mobile-friendly".

Other CMSs may have similar plugins, modules or extensions - you need to check with your CMS. Google's guide has links to help you get started.

Other Options

If you don't use a CMS or your CMS doesn't offer mobile-friendly themes or plugins... well... you may want to consider moving to a CMS that offers such capabilities (although that can be a huge task). Or you can read up on the principles of "responsive design" and see what you can apply to your website.

Getting To A Mobile-Friendly Web

The end result out of all of this will be a mobile-friendly web... and as all the millions and billions of new users come on to the Internet odds are pretty good that they will be using mobile devices, so the good news is that your content will be readily accessible on all those devices.

The bad news is that you may have some work to do between now and April 21 if you haven't already made your site mobile-friendly. (Well, assuming you care about ranking highly in Google search results - but if you are reading this site you probably do!)

If you've needed a deadline to make this happen... here it is!

Get mobile-friendly by April 21... or watch your Google search ranking drop!


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Suggestions For An Editorial Calendar Tool/Service? (For Content Strategy)

Editorial calendarWhat kind of tools or services have you found most useful for maintaining an "editorial calendar" for the content creation your organization does? What have you found helps you best plan out your content strategy?

For the last 3.5 years at the Internet Society, I've been using the insanely awesome EditFlow plugin for WordPress to plan out the content we've been creating on our Deploy360 website. EditFlow is an amazing amount of awesomeness bundled into one plugin... and if you use WordPress and aren't yet using EditFlow, I'd strongly recommend you check it out!

But here's the thing - in my new role within the Internet Society looking at content strategy across all our different sites and channels, I need a tool that lets our team plan:

  • content across several different websites we maintain
  • content on external websites (ex. CircleID)
  • content in social channels
  • different types of content (ex. blog posts, articles, videos)

Unfortunately I can't easily do this within WordPress. Yes, I could create a dummy "site" on a WordPress server and then use EditFlow as a tracking tool... but that would be a bit of the proverbial square-peg-in-round-hole.

Here's what I love about EditFlow and use on a daily basis:

  • Convenient calendar view - with filters - I can just go into Dashboard -> Calendar and I've immediately go a view into everything we've published and everything we have planned. I can filter the view to see only items based on:
    • Status (ex. published, draft, idea)
    • Category (topic)
    • Author
    • Post type (ex. blog post, resource page)
  • Drag-and-drop re-ordering - One of the single biggest features we'll use is the ability to just drag unpublished content around in the calendar view. When we have our weekly editorial calendar meetings, we will look at what is being planned and just move things around if we need to do. Super simple and easy.
  • Fast creation of new ideas - In those meetings as we talk about what content we want to create, we can just click a "+" button and add a new story idea directly into the calendar interface. (In the background it creates a draft WordPress post scheduled for the relevant day.)
  • Easy deletion of content - Similarly, if we decide to cancel an idea, we can just trash it from the calendar.
  • Story Budget - EditFlow also has another view that it calls the "Story Budget" where I can easily see over a given time period how many pieces of content were created for any given category. On a site where we write about many different topics, this is an easy way to see how balanced we are across the different topics. Similar to the calendar view there are many ways to filter the view.

    Storybudget

  • Multi-user - EditFlow works well because we can give access to as many people as we want (and you can control who has access) - they just need to have an account on our WordPress server. Our team simply logs into the server from wherever they are in the world and we walk through what we have planned for the week. After we move items or create new items, people need to refresh their browser view - but that's it. It works really, really well.

Now, we don't even use the editorial comments, editorial metadata, notifications and user groups that are part of EditFlow. Our Deploy360 team is small enough (4 people) that we haven't yet really needed those capabilities.

But now I'm looking for something with those kind of capabilities that can be used by our larger Communications team and also other people across the organization. I'm NOT necessarily looking for something that will connect to our various publishing platforms. I'm okay if there is simply a way to check off that an item has been published.

Any suggestions or ideas? Some searching around online has shown me DivvyHQ, which is a hosted service that looks from the YouTube videos like it will meet many of what I've listed above. (Not sure about the "categories"... but I think that may fit into their "calendars".)

Other suggestions for hosted services? Suggestions for software we'd host ourselves?

(Thanks in advance - and I'll plan to summarize what I learn in a future post.)


View a discussion on this topic at:


Suggestions So Far


UPDATE: I'd also love it if the service/tool had some of the kinds of content creation statistics I wrote about desiring earlier.


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Changing My Role At The Internet Society - Content Strategy Across All Areas

Internet Society LogoMonday will represent a big change for me at the Internet Society. Effective on that day I will be moving out of the Technology area into the Communications team with a broader charter to help in the creation of content - and a strategy for that content - across all the areas in which the Internet Society works. I'll still be doing a great bit of writing about technology topics, but I'll now be doing more related to public policy, development (of Internet access) and other topics.

I'm excited about the new role!

It's only 3.5 years ago that I joined the Internet Society in September 2011. To understand why I joined "ISOC", as it is know by some, you need to go back and read my post about the big change then, but essentially, it came down to this:

I believe we are at a critical point where we have before us a choice of futures for the Internet - and we as a society need to understand those choices... and choose wisely!

3.5 years later I believe that even MORE firmly than I did then.

We need to fight for the open Internet! We need to make the right choices that will allow our children to have the "Internet of opportunity" that we've had the privilege of having... and we've got quite a struggle ahead!

Over the past 3.5 years my focus within the Internet Society has been primarily on the Deploy360 Programme, our project to accelerate the deployment and usage of critical Internet technologies such as IPv6, DNSSEC, TLS, and more. It's been an awesome opportunity. I built out the Deploy360 website ... set up all the WordPress-based systems so that we could rapidly create and distribute content... wrote probably 1,000 pieces of content... recorded videos and audio segments... spoke at our ION conferences all over the world... attended IETF and ICANN meetings... and met some of the most amazing and passionate people I've ever encountered!

Along the way, I've wound up doing a great bit of work with DNSSEC, aiming to help make the Domain Name System (DNS) more secure - and I'll actually be continuing all of this "DNSSEC coordination" work on into my new role.

As part of the Deployment and Operationalization (DO) Team, we've been out there telling the story of how these technologies and standards can make the Internet work better, be faster and be more secure. It's hard to know exactly how much impact we've had... but we've received a good number of messages from people thanking us for helping them. It's been great to see!

And it's been great to wake up each morning working for an organization with a very clear mission.

Along the way we've had a lot of conversations internally about how the Internet Society needs to tell its story better. We're a large organization with over 60,000 member and over 100 chapters spread out around the world. We don't have a huge staff (about 90 people globally) but we have a large community and ecosystem of volunteers and members. We have a lot of different parts and pieces (and hey, you can join, too)... and we've been working on a great number of activities around the world.

In 2015, we're aiming to focus a bit more - and to get better as an organization at telling our story and helping people understand the work we do and the challenges that we as a society and world face.

As part of that, we have a new head of our communications team, James Wood, to whom I'll now be reporting, and we have a great bit of other changes underway. It's an exciting time!

Effectively what I'll be doing is expanding my content creation beyond just the technology side of Internet Society work to also write about topics such as public policy - in fact I've already started that with posts such as my one about the fundamental tension between security and privacy and the series of posts I wrote from ICANN 52.

More than just writing, though, I'll be working with authors across our organization to have a better strategy so that we are consistently creating quality content and maximizing the distribution. We produce a lot of content... so this will be a challenging, but interesting, role!

I'll also be working on ensuring we as the Internet Society have on voice on new and emerging topics... being a bit more "forward-looking" than we've been in the past. (Which ties in nicely with my whole "view of the crow's nest" orientation).

And, as I mentioned, I'll still be focused around accelerating DNSSEC deployment around the world... so I'll still have a foot deep in the technology realm!

Content strategy, technology, writing, forward-looking thinking... all in the service of ensuring the Internet remains open for innovation and opportunity!

It's really a dream for me... the opportunity to be even more of a voice for the open Internet... and I'm looking forward to making it happen!

That's the news from here... and I do have to end with thanking my current manager of the DO Team, Chris Grundemann, and also Olaf Kolkmann, our Chief Internet Technology Officer (CITO), both of whom have been incredibly supportive of me moving into this new role. It's been great working for them - and now the good news is that I'll still be working with them!

P.S. And in truth, while the role officially starts on Monday, I'm actually going to be preparing for and then speaking at the NTEN conference in Austin, TX, next week (about our choice of Internet futures!)... and so the new role really won't get underway until the following week!


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WordPress iOS App Now Has WYSIWIG Visual Editor

Writing blog posts for a WordPress site on an iPad or iPhone just got a whole lot easier! Or... at least, a whole lot prettier! With the new version 4.8 out this week, Automattic included a new visual editor that can give the "what you see is what you get (WYSIWIG)" experience:

Wordpress 4 8 wysiwig

Here is what it looked like before the change on my iPad - basically, it was just a raw HTML editor:

WordPress ios app before upgrade

There was a preview mode that would let you see what it was going to look like, but all the writing was in HTML. No big deal if you are a long-time HTML coder like me... but probably not the most fun for newer writers - and the HTML markup is also distracting.

Here is what the new post-upgrade view is:

WP iOS app after upgrade

A much nicer view - and also some of the commonly-used features are more accessible. There's also the "HTML" button for those who want to get into the actual HTML code.

The WordPress.com blog post about the new iOS version gets into a few of the other features that the new app has. I do like the updates to the navigation. I haven't yet worked with the new image settings, but look forward to doing so.

Anyway, if you haven't yet upgraded the WordPress app on your iOS device, you may want to do so... and if you haven't tried the app in a while you may want to give it a new try.


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How To Turn Off Sounds In The Facebook iPhone / iPad App

Do you want to turn off / disable the sounds that Facebook just added to the latest version of their iOS app for iPhone and iPad? If you are like me and find these kind of sounds associated with actions (such as "keyboard clicks") annoying, here's what you need to do.

1. Go Into The Settings Inside The App - First you need to tap on "More" in the lower right corner of the app and then tap on "Settings":

Facebook ios settings

2. Go Into "Sounds" - Next tap on "Sounds":

Facebook ios sounds setting

3. Turn Off "In-App Sound" - Finally, just tap the slider to turn off the sounds.

Facebook in app sound

Now, maybe you like these kind of sounds... but I personally don't. I'm the guy who turns off "keyboard clicks" because I do NOT want to hear a sound whenever I tap a key.

I don't want aural feedback.

Some of you may... and that's fine. I don't.

Someone at Facebook seemed to think that we all wanted this and so they added it in to one of the recent releases and... ta da... as soon as we updated the Facebook app on our iPhone or iPad we started getting clicks and swishes and other sounds.

This points to one of the larger issues with our new world of mobile "apps":

We are at the mercy of whatever the app developer wants to do.

If this were a browser-based "app" (a set of web pages), we could typically configure the browser to not play any sounds - and then all web pages would be subject to the settings in the web browser.

But we've left that land where the web browser serves as our window to content. Instead we have custom-designed apps where we have to figure out where the settings are in each of the different apps.

For instance, when the sounds first started in the Facebook app, I went into the generic "Settings" app in iOS to try to find out how to turn them off. I looked under:

  • Facebook
  • Sounds
  • Notifications

and couldn't any settings in any of those places to turn it off. Only then did I tap on the "More" inside the Facebook app to see if there were any settings there.

Now... the good news is that at least Facebook gave us a control to turn the sounds off! They didn't have to and could have just made that a mandated part of the app.

But that's back to the point... for the convenience and simplicity of using a mobile app, we've surrendered control to the whims of the application developers.

I'm personally not really thrilled about that evolution of the mobile Internet, but it's hard to see how we walk back to a different path...


An audio commentary on this topic is also available:


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Anyone Else Having TweetDeck Not Show Search Results?

Anyone having trouble with TweetDeck not showing results for some columns? Today 5 of my 12 columns are failing to load with this error:

No recent Tweets.
New Tweets will appear here.

You can see part of what I'm seeing here:

TweetDeck NorecentTweets

They are all columns that are configured to show search results for certain terms. They've been working wonderfully until last night when I opened up TweetDeck on a home computer (an iMac) after being away for a week. I've tried:

  • Closing and restarting the application (multiple times).
  • Changing the search query to trigger a reload of the column.

Nothing works... and I know there are new tweets to show for some terms, in part because I can see them in other working columns... and in part because I have sent out tweets using the search terms.

TweetDeck's Twitter account shows some issues with logging in, but that works fine for me. Tweetdeck is working fine for sending tweets, sending direct messages and for some of my searches... but just not for others.

I've tweeted TweetDeck asking about this, but not heard anything yet, so I'm just curious if others are experiencing anything like this.

Anyone?

P.S. And yes, I know there are now many other tools... but I've been a TweetDeck user since its very early days and have my searches and systems that, until today, have worked wonderfully for me.


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Is It Finally Time To Dump Feedburner? All Subscriptions Go To Zero...

Is it finally time to suck it up and dump Google's Feedburner for RSS feeds?

The writing has been on the wall for quite a long time that Google doesn't really care about Feedburner. There haven't been any substantive updates to the service in years and in fact they've removed services and integrations.

Tonight Dave Delaney posted an update to Facebook that let us know that Feedburner's stats were now showing 0 subscribers for all his feeds. I logged in and sure enough...

My Feeds

I can't find any mention of an outage or issue on Google's pages... and so we have no clue whether this is a temporary transient outage - or whether this is a sign of a further decline in Feedburner's service.

I'm one who has continued using Feedburner for most of my sites, in part just out of sheer inertia (i.e. having many other things I want to do that take higher priority to fixing things that aren't broken) but also because I've liked the service provided by Feedburner, particularly around statistics. I've tried other services (although not in the last year) and hadn't really found anything that gave as good a view into who is probably reading your feed.

Obviously I can just start promoting the raw RSS feeds that are the ones I added to Feedburner... but they don't give a sense of how many subscribers they may be.

But if the statistics are no longer working, then perhaps there is no longer a reason to stay at Feedburner... and so maybe I do have to actually make the time to make the move.

What do you all think? If you used to use Feedburner and don't, what are you using as a replacement?


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FIR On Technology Episode 3 - Understanding Markdown

Firontechnology 300What is the Markdown language all about? How is it being used on sites like Ello, Github and in the Jetpack plugin for WordPress? Why should communicators and others involved in PR or marketing careabout Markdown? How can it help more rapidly create content for the web?

Those are all questions I sought to answer in episode 3 of FIR On Technology with Dan York that I published last Friday. The podcast is now available for listening directly on the FIR website or in iTunes or the podcast RSS feeds.

On the episode web page I also provided a list of links for people wanting to know more about Markdown, which I'm reprinting here: 

I've found using Markdown to be extremely helpful in rapid content creation. I've naturally been using it on Ello (where I also wrote about this FIR On Technology episode) and on Github, but I'm also starting to use it for some posts on a couple of my WordPress sites courtesy of the Jetpack plugin. As I note in the episode, Markdown is not something necessarily new... after all it first came out in 2004... but it has seemed to attract more interest in recent years.

One point I forgot to make in the episode is that Markdown is not the only "lightweight markup language" out there. There are definitely other similar languages, each with their own take on how to make markup simple. An example I've used on several sites in the past is Textile. However, my interest these days has been in Markdown, and there seems to be a good bit of momentum behind the language... and so hence this podcast.

Anyway... I hope you find it useful and helpful. If you do, or if you have other comments or ideas or suggestions about Markdown, please do leave a comment here - or over in the FIR Podcast Community on Google+.

Enjoy!


P.S. I also recorded a The Dan York Report episode providing a preview of this FIR On Technology episode:


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Internet Society Job Opening: Senior Manager, Media Relations

Internet society isoc 300x149We're hiring! The Internet Society, my employer, is hiring for a range of positions, but the one I want to highlight here is the "Senior Manager, Media Relations". As the job posting states:

The Senior Manager Media Relations will be responsible for developing and executing public relations programs to increase the visibility and thought leadership of the Internet Society in the media.. The media relations strategy aligns with the organization’s priorities and is focused on programs and initiatives in the areas of Internet policy, technology, development, and education.

This new role will report to the Director of Media and Communications, be part of the Communications Team, and have a broad purview with many opportunities for visibility and impact. The candidate will collaborate with senior management, subject matter experts, and Regional Bureau Directors around the world. This position will be located in the Internet Society office either in Reston, Virginia USA or Geneva, Switzerland.

I can't speak highly enough about what the mission of the Internet Society means to me - and how critically important this time is right now in the evolution of the Internet. Back in 2011 I wrote about why joining the staff of the Internet Society was important to me - and 3.5 years later those reasons are still as important today as they were then... if not even more so! We've got an aggressive set of activities planned for 2015 - and we need people to help turn that action plan into reality.

We need people to join us to help tell the story of why the choices we make today for the Internet matter - and what we all as individuals and as organizations can do. In this particular position we're seeking someone who can help with connections out to the media around the world.

If you have a background in public relations / media relations, this is your chance to join a mission-based organization focused on ensuring that the Internet remains open for everyone around the world.

I love waking up fired up to go out there and help in whatever small way I can... you can join us!

PLEASE NOTE: I am personally not involved in the hiring for this position... the way to submit your information for consideration is at the bottom of the position posting.


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WordPress Seeking Feedback About "Community Hub" - Fill Out The Poll Today

Wordpress orgWhat would you like in a "community hub" website that would help local WordPress groups? What would you like to see for helping publicize events? Connecting groups to each other?

If you are involved with a local WordPress group, or would like to start one, the team behind the "Make WordPress Community" effort would like your feedback on what should be part of a community hub web portal. They'd like you to fill out this quick survey:

http://wordpressdotorg.polldaddy.com/s/community-hub-voting

The poll closes at 00:00 29th January 2015. (Not sure the timezone... so I'd err on filling it out sooner than later.)


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Excellent Article on Medium About Podcasting Stats: Downloads, Listens and Listeners

Podcasting statsWhat do the number of podcast downloads, listens and listeners really mean? Which statistics can you really believe? And what do they mean?

Back on December 12, Pete Davis published a great article on Medium titled "Downloads, listens, listeners, and about those podcast numbers" that dives into all these different stats. Davies was reacting to the hype over the podcast "Serial" and wanting to make sure people understood some of the nuances of how you can measure podcasts.

As he points out, the number of people downloading an episode can be very different from the total number of downloaded episodes. One person, who we will call a "downloader" might download many different episodes. As he notes, people might have different devices or podcast apps that all pull down episodes.

And the number of downloads is VERY different from the actual number of listens that occur. I can personally attest to this - my apps download many different episodes of podcasts... but I only listen to a few of them. The others have been downloaded but will probably never be listened to.

The challenge is that finding out if people have actually listened to a podcast is extremely hard. As Davies writes:

Nobody really knows exactly how many people are listening to podcasts.

This has a lot to do with the many different ways people can listen to podcasts. They can play them in a web page... play them in a podcasting app... play them in a music program like iTunes... download them and play them in some other music app.

All we can do is make guesses... or use imperfect numbers like downloads to make some kind of estimate of the popularity of a show.

It's a good article... and as he concludes, we do need better data around all of this. I also definitely agree with his conclusion that a large part of the success of "Serial" and "Startup" is that they offer compelling content! It happens to be in audio form... but the content and storytelling expertise is what draws people to these podcasts.


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I Was Going To Write A Blog Post, But The Plague...

I had every intention of writing a long blog post tonight... but then I stumbled upon Plague, a new link/photo sharing app for iOS and Android. Wow! Incredibly addictive!

http://thenextweb.com/apps/2014/12/23/plague-tinder-information-addictive-founders-onto-something/

You have been warned!


I Was Going To Write A Blog Post, But The Plague...


Google+ Finally Gets Photo Sharing Parity On iPhone/iPad/iOS

In an update to iOS (iPhone/iPad) apps yesterday, Google+ finally got the kind of sharing of photos that Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other social networks have had for some time. Now, when I go to share a photo, one of my options is Google+:

Photo Dec 22 1 07 16 PM

I realize that this is old news to Android users, but for those of us on iOS who have wanted to share photos on Google+, it seemed strange that we couldn't do so from the built in photos application within iOS. Sure, we could do it through the G+ app on the iPhone or iPad, but not from within the native photos app.

This functionality appeared after I installed version 4.8.0:

Googleplus 4 8 0

I did have to tap the " More ... " button once and then turn on the Google+ sharing, but after doing that I was then able to easily share to G+ the next time.

Great to see G+ finally getting parity with the other social networks. I look forward to being able to more easily share more photos!


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10 Years of FIR Podcast Coming Up on January 5, 2015 - Suggestions?

Unbelievably, the For Immediate Release (FIR) Podcast to which I contribute is coming up on a TEN YEAR anniversary! As co-host Neville Hobson recently wrote in the FIR Community on Google+:
On January 5, 2015, Shel and I will be recording episode 789 of The Hobson & Holtz Report.

That episode will mark a very special milestone for us and for our community of listeners and friends as it will be the episode that starts our eleventh year of podcasting.

So on January 5 next year, we will have completed 10 years of The H&H Report almost to the day - episode 1 was published on January 3, 2005.

A rather amazing run for a podcast! I remember quite well way back in early 2005 as the whole world of "podcasting" was this new and fascinating space. It was something like February or March 2005 when I stumbled across FIR and started listening... and then, of course, shy person that I am, almost immediately started sending in audio comments.

Over time those audio comments evolved into reports and sometime in the fall of 2005 I was officially named a "correspondent" into the show.

And ever since those days in 2005... pretty much every week I've sent in my 5-7 minute report. I've missed a few weeks, but over all those years it's only been a few weeks. Even as I write this post, I'm also writing the notes for what I'm going to talk about in my report into tomorrow's show (that I'll record in the morning).

I'll save some more reminiscing for that actual show #789 on January 5, 2015 ... but in the meantime I'll relay the rest of Neville's request:

We have in mind a few things we plan to say in episode 789 to mark the milestone. One thing we definitely want to do is highlight the journey from that single podcast in 2005 to the FIR Podcast Network you see today, and our plans in 2015.

Is there anything that you would like to say or contribute or suggest for that episode to celebrate 10 years? All ideas most welcome!

If you do have ideas... I would encourage you to leave them as comments inside the FIR community on Google+. You can also contact Shel and Neville through one of the various contact methods in the sidebar of the FIR website.

It's pretty amazing to think of FIR being around - and consistently published for 10 years - I'm looking forward to joining in the celebration on January 5, 2015!


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New WordPress 4.1 Provides Much Improved Distraction-Free Writing Experience

WordPress version 4.1 is out today and the greatest feature I like is a new and MUCH improved "distraction-free writing" experience.

Wordpress4 1 dfw

The beautiful part about this is that when you click in the window and start typing, all the sidebars and menus fade way so that you can just focus on writing...

BUT...

... the moment you move your mouse outside the writing window all the sidebars and menus come back!

This is a huge improvement over the previous experience with WordPress 4.0 where once you clicked the button you were in a white screen with no way out unless you scrolled up and clicked the link in the menu bar that appeared:

Wordpress4 0 dfw

I found the WordPress 4.0 way so annoying that I never used it. Inevitably after I entered the mode I needed to change categories or tags or something like that - and so it was simply easier to NOT use the distraction-free mode.

The WordPress development team produced a video that shows how well this new writing mode works.

I like it because it lets me write but also makes it super easy for me to get back to the menus and sidebars.

All you need to do to enable the "distraction-free writing" mode is to click on the box on the right top of the editing window:

Dfw

It acts as a toggle to turn the "DFW" mode on or off.

Very nicely done!

There were of course many other aspects of the WordPress 4.1 release. The release post and the field notes as well as the codex entry go into much more detail. The Twenty Fifteen theme is pretty cool... and some of the other features are also interesting. But for me... I just like this new writing environment!

What do you think? What do you like best about WordPress 4.1?


An audio commentary is available as TDYR 200:


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