Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for November 23 2015 – Fixing Leaks and Fighting with Sticks

In this episode, I play a song from Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys; I give a podcasting pro tip; I talk about how Mad at Dad has already become part of my routine; I give an update of how Secret Weapon GTD is working for me; I talk about Adam Romer and his presentation at Bar Camp CHS; unsubscribing from Merlin Mann; stick fighting for grownups.

Here is the direct MP3 download for the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast, November 23 2015

Links mentioned in this episode:

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Antony Johnston and the Incomparable Network

robot-corner

I am a fan of Antony Johnston’s comic The Fuse and have read some of his work on series like Daredevil. I listened to the episode of Surviving Creativity on which he was a guest, which was how I found out about his podcast Unjustly Maligned on the Incomparable podcast network. I love the high concept, which is that he gets a guest to defend something that is widely considered to be crap. I can’t wait to eventually hear Scott Kurtz defend Garfield.

The other surprise – other than Antony doing this podcast – is that there is an Incomparable network. I was a listener to the show on 5by5 for a relatively brief time. I can identify the episode that caused me to unsubscribe: 191, which featured a draft of old computers. I didn’t like the draft mechanic at all, and it felt at the time like scraping barrels to find things to draft so I unsubscribed. I had no idea that Jason Snell had broken away and used that program as the flagship of his own network. It seems like 5by5 has birthed more spin off podcast networks than any other source other than maybe TWiT (I haven’t checked these stats.)

There is no danger in my resubscribing to the main Incomparable podcast but I am listening to my first episode of Unjustly Maligned and I am enjoying it. My subscription list is like the tide, shows come in and shows go out. I’ll listen to this as long as I enjoy it, long may that be.

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Podcast Title Suggestion

Back to Work

I started listening to this episode of Back To Work. They have really been losing me lately with lots of talk about how hygienic hotel rooms are and other topics of percieved grossness in their environment. This might be overcounting because the subject bugs me enough that it seems like all the shows are about it, but I’d wager 75% of shows in the last few months have some of this talk. In this episode, sure enough by minute 3 they are discussing how people touch the lids of the disposable coffee cups. Come on, gentlemen, it’s time to reach deep inside to find a little bit of inner cowboy.

Because the show is teetering towards being more about that than helpful work topics, I think they should rename it. I’d suggest MAS*H, and they can even keep in the asterisks if they like. It stands for “Middle Aged Squeamishness Hour”. Seems right to me.

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This Blog Has A POSSE

Obey the POSSE

This will be a long post so I will put the TL;DR stuff right up top.

What

I am trying to reclaim my blog as the center of my online life, rather than various social media sites.

Why:

When I found out about the IndieWeb POSSE philosophy, it resonated with me. I’ve felt like this over the years, and this crystallized my thinking.

How:

I am using WordPress plugins to push my posts out to social media and Brid.gy to bring that activity back to this blog.

Background:

I first ran across the concept of POSSE (Publish Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere) in an episode of In Beta on the 5by5 podcast network. The basic idea is to set up a system where a site you own (typically a blog) is the origination point of your online activity, and from there it propagates outward to whatever social media sites you care about. This struck a chord in me, because I have watched myself following the same pattern as almost all the early 2000s era bloggers: blogging slowing or ceasing while all that activity moved to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, et al.

The concept is that by putting your site as the central primary point of activity, you retain ownership of everything. There are horror stories of people losing their Twitter or Facebook accounts and then losing years and years of their history in a flash. I have somewhat mitigated that problem by having a self-hosted version of ThinkUp running and faithfully gathering my social media information. (Interesting aside, Gina Trapani the developer of ThinkUp was the original cohost of In Beta.) This helps somewhat, but is a reactive rather than proactive solution. It doesn’t solve the fragmentation problem, and it doesn’t solve the “loss of blog mojo” problem.

Given that I like the idea of owning my whole stream, collecting it in a central canonical place with all activity pushing back to it, this whole thing seems like a natural fit for me. Of course, like all similar situations (think podcasting in fall 2004), there is not yet an off-the-shelf product to do this. It is time for a series of rickety Rube Goldberg devices! Yay, fun!

Current System:

This is the extremely early days of this concept, so everything is in flux. Also, I’m only a few days into this exploration so this is an ongoing research project. All of this is subject to change and certainly some parts of it will over time. This blog post itself should be an example of my own dog food being eaten. I’ll start with the activity flowing back to the blog, as this is trickier. The pushing out is pretty straightforward.

Note too that every bit of this is in the context of a self-hosted WordPress blog. The ins and outs will be different for other blogging tools.

Step 1: Webmentions
The first prerequisite for the whole thing was the trickiest bit for me, getting webmention support onto this WordPress blog. It requires installing the webmention and semantic-pingback plugins and then doing some configuration. Every profile you want to connect to your blog needs to have a link back to your blog in it, as the tools use this information for security. This page details how to do it. Learn from my mistakes and verify that you can receive webmentions via this test tool before you hook anything else up. I’d have gotten a lot of automatic coolness if I had.

Step 2: Backfeed
Backfeed is the idea of pulling the activity back to your own site. This page details the concepts and some tools. I opted to use Brid.gy because although it isn’t perfect it does pull back likes, favorites and things like that in addition to comments. I’ll discuss the ramifications of this decision later.

Go to Brid.gy and connect your target profiles. It can pull back your activity from Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. This is simple and familiar if you have ever approved third-party apps for you accounts before. If you have things working correctly and have activity on posts that link to your blog posts, you will immediately see this activity hit your blog like magic. It goes without saying that if you want to see the magic, you should have some active posts that point to your blog before you hook this up. It will be a tad anti-climactic otherwise.

Once I got it working, I made a test post that I put on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ asking people to interact with it. The result is pretty phenomenal, you can see it on this post.

Step 3: Pushing out (The SE, Syndicate Everywhere part)
There are multiple options for this. The simplest and easiest option for most people would be to use the Social->Publicize function of the Jetpack plugin from WordPress.com. Many, possibly most, WordPress blogs already have this. I chose to go with the SNAP plugin (Social Network Auto-Poster). This is because I’d like the full text of my posts to push out. That doesn’t seem possible with Jetpack, which automatically truncates. SNAP is highly configurable and will allow you to write your own template for each connected social media site. It’s not perfect, I’ll discuss that later as well. If you are seeing this post on any social media sites, then it worked. What you see is what it did.

Problems:

For the backfeed functionality, the dependence on Brid.gy is a point of failure. I have taken all the external dependencies of social media sites and collected all that into one big external dependency. Because of the way the webmentions work, the details of the information are contained in a Brid.gy url. Although the comments live in my blog, they are not useful without this external service. That service is free, maintained by a single guy as a labor of love and subject to shutdown at any time. It might also get overloaded, destroyed or subject to any manner of mayhem. If any of that happens, the comments that pushed to my site will be useless.

Also, in my short experience the working of Brid.gy is not 100%. Some fraction, about 5-10% of the attempts to push webmentions just fail. I don’t know why, if I look at the web page for my account I see a failure message with no further details or way to retry. Apparently, that is just it. If it fails, the whole game is over. Again, if I had some control over this process I would be able to at least look at logs. As it is now, if the Brid.gy black box fails, I don’t get to look inside.

A problem with SNAP is that while it pushes to Facebook, Twitter and a lot of others in the free version, if you desire Google+ integration (which I do) it requires the paid plugin. Worse, you will not find out until after you try to hook it up (like I did) that the plugin in incompatible with two-step authentication which I do have on my Google account. The developer seems resistant to making it work with that, and this is an important thing for me. Jetpack works with two-factor authentication but somehow the SNAP developer claims it is impossible for him. For testing purposes I’m turning off two-step for now, but there is a hard decision in my future.

Future Work:

To make this work better, I’d love to see my dependency on Brid.gy replaced by one to my self-hosted ThinkUp install. ThinkUp is already crawling my social media streams and recording all my activity. It seems like a pretty small effort to write a plugin to push a webmention in just the same way that Brid.gy does. That way, although I have an external dependency in my blog it is to a thing I own. Since this whole IndieWeb thing is about control, that seems philosphically better and more consistent to me.

It would be preferential to find a system that could push posts to every social media system I want it propagated to, in exactly the manner and format I choose, without changing my security settings. Whether this is pushing existing vendors to change their tools (like adding templating to Jetpack or two-step support to SNAP) or creating new tools (ugh, not by me) if these existed and were easily available off the shelf then this whole thing would be more of a product and less of a kit car with a zillion pieces.

Final Thoughts:

I am pursuing this as an ongoing project. I like the ethos, and I like the result. Twelve years ago, I made a dozen small blog posts a day not unlike how people currently use Facebook or Twitter. There is no reason I can’t return to that. I like this blog being the center of everything and the social media posts being the second-class citizens, rather than the other way around. I have it set up that via IFTTT rules I can originate a post in Google+ and have it push to Twitter, Facebook or back to this blog. Ultimately though, that is rewarding bad behavior. Just because three years in, Google+ still does not provide a write API does not mean they should be the primary position in my life. I’ll take the hits to make this work, and will continue to post on this topic as I refine my system. I hope that just like early podcasting, people will take the rickety systems and build more solid ones so that eventually, there is just a button to push or a thing to install (or pay for) and the whole thing is done. May it be so, world without end. Amen.

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Bootstrapping a Podcast Economy with Flattr

Bootstrapping a Podcast Economy with Flattr

Very short version: I think Flattr has the possibility of enabling a reasonable podcast economy. If enough people use it, podcasters will be able to generate an income with minimal overhead. If I pointed you here from an email, it is because I want to give you money.

Slightly longer background:

If you are unfamiliar with +Flattr , it is a very low friction microdonation system. The brilliant thing they did was to separate out the cash decision from the payment decision. Unlike most where you have to decide whether to pay $0.03 vs $0.05, that decision has a mental transaction cost. With Flattr, you allocate a pool of money to pay each month then you "Flattr" which is basically the same thing as a Digg, a Facebook like or a +1. The things you like in a month, that pool of money is spread equally across all of those. Brilliant.

I have had Flattr on my blog/podcast for a few years. It has been an interesting experiment and worth doing, but not a huge revenue producer for me. To this date, the using of Flattr was a niche, early adopter thing. My hope – and the reason for my push for advocacy – is that this spreads out into a more widely adopted platform.

In a world where this was as common as, say, Digg was at its height then there would be a reasonable amount of money flowing in a roughly meritocratic manner. The more listeners you have, in general the more money that should flow towards you. The money that comes into podcasting now is distributed quite bi-modally. The top 5% makes livable money from Stamps.com and Legal Zoom et al, the bottom 95% makes little or nothing. I've been lucky enough to sell t-shirts and make a little from sponsorships via the very kind folks at Backbeat Media. Over the course of this podcast, I am probably close to break even on hosting, equipment and various expenses. That probably puts me in the top 20 percentile of podcasters because most people pay expenses and earn nothing.

My pledge is that I will flattr every episode of every podcast in my subscription list that has it enabled. If you run off of WordPress, you can install the Flattr plugin and go to town. Make sure you check the option to put payment information in your RSS/Atom feed and you are good to go. I'm still looking for auto-flattring solutions, but for now I'm manually clicking the button on the site of every pocaster that has it on their site. The trickle has begun, I hope to see a wider adoption over time. If the amount climbs enough, I will increase the amount of money I give.

My appeal is two-fold. If you are a podcast listener and a fan, sign up for an account. The site is in Euros, that is no impediment to Americans. The money will auto-convert from your credit card. All of the podcasters that you listen to, flattr their episodes either automatically via a podcatcher or manually.

If you are a podcaster, create a Flattr account and let people give you money. If you run WordPress it is super easy, others might be slightly more work but nothing is hard to do. If you have technical questions, I volunteer to be your tech support. Be patient, don't expect anything huge at first but I can guarantee nothing about this will suck money away from you. At worst, you wasted a few minutes. At best, you might find yourself paying your hosting or more with the money that flows in.

Because this is a "boil the ocean" situation, the early going has been and is tough. It makes little sense to sign up as a listener when there is nothing to flattr. As a creator, it makes little sense to invest in a platform with few users. Let's cut through that, and push on both fronts simultaneously with a mutual leap of faith. Neither group has much to lose, so let's all just do it. I'm doing both ends myself, so I'm as invested as I can be. +Dan Benjamin of 5by5.tv does it for all their shows, the biggest network adopter I know of at this point. As Rage Against the Machine sings: "It has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime. What better place than here? What better time than now?"

This is already long, in a future post I'll talk about auto-flattr solutions for podcast listeners.

For now, I urge everyone to give this a try. You click like, +1 and similar things all day every day. You understand the paradigm, let's do it in a system where your money matches your attention.

#podcasteconomy #blog #flattr

Flattr – Social microdonations
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via Google+

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for September 13, 2013 – “My Life In Fandom #28”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast, September 13, 2013.

In this episode, I finish up the fandom series by covering the years 2000 to present; after that I discuss a few quotes I found funny from recent podcast listening.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode: