I was excited to reconnect with my friend Colin Devroe on this episode. We met through the WordPress community in Scranton and I just the co-working space he and his business part Kyle created. In this conversation, we get back to basics, and talk blogging. With the ever changing landscape of the web and social media, how important is it to have your own blog? Let’s find out!
- Colin Devroe
- Writing is How I Think
- Bad Reasons to Not Blog
- Colin’s personal blogging tips
- Seth Godin
- Repurposing Your Content with Jaclyn Schiff
- Chris Lema and Managed WooCommerce Hosting
- The Future of Blogging
- The Talk Show | Daring Fireball
- Bullet Journal
Break: Hey everybody. As we gear up for 2020, I want to hear from you and the things that you’d like to see on this show. If you have a question, a comment, a topic, a guest, or any suggestion for How I Built It in 2020, let me know by going to HowIBuilt.it/feedback. That’s HowIBuilt.it/feedback if you would like to see something on this show in 2020. And now, on with the show.
Colin Devroe: “Do what you want.” I think that’s the biggest thing that people leave out sometimes, is themselves in their blog. The most important thing that you’re going to bring to the world is yourself because your ideas very likely aren’t going to be original. In the sense that if you’re blogging about a particular lamb recipe, there’s a very good chance that it may exist out there, but it’s about bringing your own personality to it. How many times have we subscribed to a blog that the only thing that we liked about it was that the person had their own attitude?
Intro: I was excited to reconnect with my friend Colin Devroe on this episode. We met through the WordPress community in Scranton, and I joined the co-working space that he and his business partner Kyle created. In this episode, we get back to basics, and we talk about blogging. Colin has been on the internet for a very long time. Nearly as long as you could be on the internet, actually, so he’s been blogging for just about that long. With the ever-changing landscape of web and social media, “How important is it to have your own blog?” That’s the main question we answer, and we’re going to find out right after a word from our sponsors.
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Joe Casabona: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is a good friend of mine from Scranton, Colin Devroe. He is the senior vice president of product and marketing at Jujama. Colin, how are you?
Colin: I’m excellent. How about you? I’m excited to talk to you today. It’s been too long.
Joe: Yes, it has. I was thinking about this recently. There’s a co-working space that’s probably bikeable from my house, and I don’t want to go there, but I miss the co-work days. I miss going there, for those who don’t know, Colin and I know each other through the Scranton tech community, the WordPress community. He and his business partner started a– Is it Scranton’s first? I’m going to say Scranton’s first–
Colin: I would imagine, yeah.
Joe: Of which I was a founding member, and we had a lot of fun there until I moved away.
Colin: We did. Co-working is great. If people are listening to this while they’re working from home and you need to shake the box every now and then, I highly recommend finding a local co-working spot and getting involved.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Because I’ve said this before, too, but a lot of people are like, “I could just go to a coffee shop.” But you don’t get the community at a coffee shop. You get the, “Leave me alone” at a coffee shop. Co-working spaces are like you have co-workers, but they’re not co-workers. Cool. So why don’t you tell all of us, because I don’t think I know exactly what you’re doing these days. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Colin: Sure. I’m an OG internet blogger. I’ve been online since ’94, and I’ve had various businesses throughout the years. Now, currently, I am working for a friend of mine’s company called Jujama. My CEO is named Nadia Dailey, and what we do is build apps for events. If you go to an event in Vegas, let’s say to a WordPress camp, a WordCamp, or to a WordPress event or something. You can download an app that has an agenda on it, and you can see who is attending, and you can communicate with the speakers and all those sorts of things. That’s the app that we currently build, and we manage to have clients all over the world. Even just this week, we have events in Hawaii and Boston and South Africa and Dubai and Europe, and it’s been really exciting. I’m helping to run product and marketing there, and recently we’ve begun retooling our entire mobile apps from the ground up. They’re about ten years old now, so it’s about time. In software years, that’s about 150, so it’s about time that we have to start rebuilding everything. I’m having a lot of fun not only helping the team to start that project, but I did some hiring around that, and we built a small team to rebuild our entire stack from the top to the bottom. We could talk about that a little bit if you want, I know that’s what this podcast is about, the tools and the pieces. We’re building our mobile apps again in REACT, and we’re redoing everything from infrastructure to our API to the client applications on all platforms. It’s been really fun this year to focus in on that.
Joe: Gotcha. That sounds interesting, but you mentioned that you’re an OG blogger, and I like that. Because the circumstances under which we met, you had a really interesting product. It was your own CMS, but it was also a plugin for WordPress. Is that right?
Colin: That’s right, yeah. It was called Barley. If anybody has ever seen Medium, and what I mean by “Seen Medium,” is if you go in and try to create a post. Medium has this inline editor. Now, Gutenberg obviously for the hundreds of thousands of people that have installed that on their WordPress blog now, I think it ships by default, doesn’t it now? Gutenberg?
Joe: Yeah. Gutenberg is as of 5.0, so it’s been about a year.
Colin: OK, so pretty much anyone that’s using WordPress right now probably has at least tried it and used it or turned it off. Maybe? I don’t know. Depending on what they think of it, but that inline editing– Barley was that piece. We built a whole CMS around it that allowed you to manage an entire website, not just blog, but create pages and forms and so on and so forth. So yeah, we did that for a few years, but I don’t use the term “OG blogger” too lightly. I have been blogging for over 20 years, sometimes daily for runs of years at a time, and I can’t ever imagine not doing it. So, I don’t throw that term around very lightly, Joe.
Joe: Yes. No, I know. A lot of the conversations that we had and some of your encouragements were around getting us in the co-working space to blog more often. I know that.
Joe: For a while, I was doing those daily [scrapples] that you were doing that I thought was pretty cool, and so I would love to focus that conversation around that. Because I’ve been– I’m working on a podcasting course. I’ve been full-in on podcasting for the last few years, and about a year ago in October– A year from this coming October Seth Godin blogged on his blog that “Podcasting is the new blogging.” But I think there’s still a lot of value in the blog, but maybe we can talk a little bit about how it’s changed since you started. I’m a little bit behind you, and I think my first blog was– I called it “A bootleg blogger” because I just copied the HTML from a blogger template and put it up on my GeoCities site in like 2002.
Colin: That’s pretty good, Joe. That’s pretty OG right there.
Joe: That’s pretty good?
Joe: But maybe you could talk about– I feel like you were more cognizant of it while you were doing. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was a dumb 14-year-old. So, how has it changed? Like, how has the landscape of blogging changed since you started?
Colin: Blogging has changed so much. It’s interesting that you say you were 14 in 2002, I was 14 when I also started what I would call a blog, but it was 1994. So, I’m a little bit older than you, but not that bad.
Joe: Not that bad, no.
Joe: Yeah, probably something like that.
Colin: OK. So one episode was six accounts on an internet service in 1994, and sometimes we take that for granted nowadays. I can upload something to my website right now that’s a gigabyte, and I don’t even think about it. So that’s one big thing, but as far as the actual method of blogging, that doesn’t matter. It comes down to writing, and really there’s a couple of blog posts– Which maybe I’ll dig up for your show notes, I’m not sure how extensive your show notes usually are, but if you search my blog for “Writing is how I think,” there are many bloggers that have covered this topic in the past. Like Jeffrey Zeldman, and there’s a few others that are escaping my memory at the moment because this is probably about an eight or nine-year-old blog post at this point. But “Writing is how I think” is like, there are times where I’ll start a blog post, and my mind on a particular topic– My opinion will change by the time I’m finished writing it. I start off with this real ranty whatever blog post sometimes, and then by the time I finish editing it and going over it and looking up other resources about it, I come full circle on it. Now sometimes I won’t even publish that, or sometimes I will literally change the entire post and then end up publishing it. So for me, the blog has been– I do not blog for money. I don’t have any ads on my website. I have some statistics on there, only to know if anybody is linking to me. That way, I can respond to them when they link to me, but I turn off all other statistics because I don’t want to know. I don’t care. I have some blog posts that have been viewed millions of times, and I don’t write for that. My personal blog and so many others that have been doing this for that long, it is about me being able to share my ideas. It’s about me being able to formulate and reaffirm my ideas and carrying on conversations with others. In that way, I don’t think that the core of blogging has changed at all that whole time since 1994. People are still sharing. Let’s say you have a home project where you’re building a chicken coop, or you’re trying to help your kid fix their bike, or you’re doing this, or you’re doing that. People put that on their personal blogs or a vacation to Venice or something. Those things will always be there. I think one other big change that has happened is that what’s not a blog now, The New York Times runs on WordPress. The TechCrunch’s of the world and so forth follow that same reverse chronological blog paradigm. I would say some of the bigger changes is that everything’s a blog now, but the core blogging ethos hasn’t changed since then. But all the tools have space, internet ubiquity, all that stuff. All those things change around it.
Joe: OK, so great. There’s a lot of stuff to parse out there. But you mentioned some of the people who have been blogging for a long time, Zeldman is one of them. Jeremy Keith over at Adactio– I’ve never pronounced that right, but Jeremy Keith has pioneered even in recent years a few blogging things. Like, not track-back links, but the response links.
Colin: Yeah, web mentions.
Joe: Web mentions. That’s exactly right. Then you have people like [Kottke.org] who have been professionally blogging since 2005, as far as that’s when his full income– I think it was 2005 or 2006 was made from his blog.
Colin: I was a subscriber at [inaudible] [Kottke] since day one and a paying subscriber at both [Kottke] and Daring Fireball, and so many others that in that early 2000s went subscription model. You got a T-shirt, with Daring Fireball you got a card that said you were a card-carrying paying member back then.
Joe: That’s amazing. That’s a precursor to Patreon.
Joe: All of that is productized now. But I think what you said is right, New York Times is a blog, and all of these other news outlets are constantly pumping out content. Which is what you said, it’s about being able to share ideas. So from here, maybe it’s a foregone conclusion that if you’re on the web, you probably have a blog, but maybe it’s not. Maybe most people still don’t have a blog, or they have a website where they don’t regularly blog. What are some tips that you can give us for blogging regularly?
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Joe: It makes sense, what you’re saying. In the broadcasting community, they say the same thing. Over the summer, Michael K one of the– I’m a Yankee fan, so I’m going to say he’s famous, but he has a show on ESPN, and he’s pretty well known. He’s a play by play announcer for the New York Yankees, and he had some vocal cord surgery over the summer, so a guy who’s like a year older than me or a year younger than me, Ryan Ruco, took over and they were talking about as a broadcaster getting your reps in. They had a broadcast night where kids were taking a broadcasting summer camp, and they went to the game, and they had their recorders, and they were paired up, and they were doing a play by play of the game as kids for nobody to hear but themselves because they were getting their reps in. It’s the same thing with blogging. Just get your reps in. I’m looking at Seth’s blog right now, Seth Godin’s blog and these posts are longer than his usual blog posts. For a while there, he was blogging three to four sentences. Maybe it’s just the layout, maybe he changes his layout, and it just looks longer. But I guess the point I’m trying to make is that you don’t need 1,500-word tomes for your blogs, for your blog posts. If you listen to SEO experts, they’ll say, “It needs to be between 900 and 1,200 words to get good Google juice.” But that puts a lot of pressure on you. Like, if you want to write 300 words, do it.
Colin: Yeah. Obviously, there’s no rules. Everything I’m saying I’m saying in general terms, and I’m generalizing things and “Do what you want.” I think that’s the biggest thing that people leave out sometimes, is themselves in their blog. The most important thing that you’re going to bring to the world is yourself because your ideas very likely aren’t going to be original. In the sense that if you’re blogging about a particular lamb recipe, there’s a very good chance that it may exist out there, but it’s about bringing your own personality to it. How many times have we subscribed to a blog that the only thing that we liked about it was that the person had their own attitude? [Kottke] is an example of that. He’s curating the web for everybody for the last 20 years and trying to show you some of the interesting things, and if we weren’t interested in the things that he was, then we wouldn’t subscribe to it. So, Seth Godin’s blog, I think some of the length is coming from the fact that he just started a podcast. That’s my theory. When you started podcasts like this, I guarantee that if you listened to this podcast back, you’d have 50 blog posts written just in what we’re talking about. I think that him getting his mouth moving probably has lended itself to some of these slightly longer posts than we’re used to from him.
Joe: That’s a really good point. I think it touches on another really good topic, which is around repurposing your content. If you’re a YouTuber or you’re a podcaster, and you’re like, “I just don’t have enough content for my blog.” Just take that. Take a transcript of either one of those and finesse it into a good article, and publish that. Link to the original source, and maybe you’ll get more views. It’s like you said, Colin. It doesn’t need to be original, but it needs to have a unique spin on it.
Colin: Yeah. One other little tip for that, as far as syndicating across different platforms, the idea is what you’re spreading, but the medium changes with each platform. So if you have a recipe, you may share that recipe as a description and a set of instructions and then a list of ingredients on your blog, with maybe a photo or two. On Instagram, it could be a top-down stop-motion, whatever that they do on Instagram for recipes. We’ve all seen them, where within 15 seconds they make the entire dish, and then some instructions underneath. On Twitter, it could be a tweet storm of the instructions. Who knows? You can take the exact same idea or content and say, “How does this fit within that Medium, which is different on every platform, and repurpose it for all of those things?” The same thing could be said about a rough idea, not all things have to exist on all platforms. But if that’s what you’re trying to accomplish, then you can easily do that.
Joe: Yeah, and I think that’s great. To that point, you mentioned all of these platforms, but your blog can also be the one true source.
Colin: It should be, I would say.
Joe: I don’t do a good job of this, but I can have a new blog post every day. My regular blog posts, the YouTube videos, I should automatically create a post of my YouTube videos on my blog. I should automatically create a post on my blog every time a new episode publishes, and then that’s my life feed. People can go to Casabona.org and see all of the content that I’ve done.
Colin: Yeah. So, there are– I have a war in my brain about this particular topic, because the nerd in me wants me to save everything on my domain name. Coming from 1994 when I literally was saving every single pixel that I could– If you look at someone like Tom [inaudible], which I think that’s the way you say his name, it could be [inaudible], but I’m not exactly sure. He works for Mozilla, he started and helped found the indie web, he’s on the W3C team. I think it’s [inaudible].org, and Jeremy Keith and several others that are part of the indie web movement, they would say that you published your website first, and then you let it syndicate everywhere. In indie web terms, they call that “Posse.” “Posse” is publish on your own site, POS, and syndicate everywhere, SE. I have a slightly different opinion about this because the tooling of this is very difficult, and to be able to publish just to your blog and then have it automatically go everywhere and look the way you want it to– For me, it gets a little exasperating, and it’s a little overwhelming. I want the tweet to look exactly the way that I want. I want the Micro.blog post or the Tumblr post or the Facebook– Whatever it is that you’re syndicating to, I want it all to look the right way. I have a hard time just letting a WordPress plugin tweet for me and stuff because sometimes it doesn’t work. I’ve been beginning to view each of these platforms– Yes, my blog is the most important and I want to save everything that I think is worthy of saving there so that I own it and it’s my data, and I can link to it forever, as long as I keep paying Digital Ocean, my $4 every month or whatever it is. I would like it to stay there forever for the things, but I view Twitter now as a bar. If you go to the bar and you have a couple of drinks with your friends, and you’re having this great conversation about who knows what, it will never go anywhere other than that. “Is that a bad thing? Does it need to be recorded? Why aren’t your visits to the bar from 2000-whatever available everywhere?” Because those are just ephemeral things. There are things in our life that are ephemeral, and it’s okay for me personally that Twitter is ephemeral. When I post a tweet, I don’t think about it as “I hope I have this forever.” You can save your Twitter archive, and you can publish it to your blog and do all that, but I don’t care as much about my Instagram story that my mom is going to look at as much as I do about my blog. I view each of the platforms as their own thing, and I publish to them accordingly. The same way as if I was to stand at a podium and speak to 400 people, I would like that to be recorded, but if I’m standing at a bar chitchatting with my buddy over a couple of beers I don’t care if that ever goes– In fact, I would prefer it not to go anywhere. So, I don’t mind those platforms being ephemeral. That’s how I deal with it, although there are others that are a little bit more– I think that there’s a balance probably somewhere in between those two things, so I definitely recommend you looking up the indie web movement if that’s in the show notes. IndieWeb.org and that’s where you’re going to see things that Joe mentioned like web mention, or being able to connect– You could even do following and liking and everything on your own site and have it be where you’re connected to Mastodon and Twitter and everything now, which is really awesome if you have the time to go through and do all that. It’s getting better all the time.
Joe: Right, yeah. I love what you said about Twitter being ephemeral because I was the same way for a while. I was like, “I need to save all my tweets. These are thoughts that I had,” but it was earlier this year Joost De Valk held Yoast Con, and there was some drama around stuff he tweeted back in 2008, and it was inside jokes with other people in the community. Maybe they were inappropriate– Everything is inappropriate by 2019 standards, and he got in trouble for something that he tweeted 11 years ago. At that moment, I found a service called Tweet Eraser. I just deleted every tweet from 2016 back through 2006 when I started. Because I’m like, “I don’t remember tweeting anything like that or anything inappropriate, but who the hell knows.” James Gunn nearly lost the Guardians of the Galaxy– Like, he did lose the Guardians of the Galaxy job for an amount of time for some joke he made. Kevin Hart got lampooned for jokes he made that he subsequently apologized for, but the apology isn’t attached to the tweet.
Colin: This is the trouble with the internet as it stands. Obviously, someone can stand on a street corner and spout off anything that they want, and only a certain number of people will see it, and that number of people may never even remember it, and it doesn’t exist in perpetuity. The EU recently passed a law that says that you should be able– That the internet should forget you. That you should– So, these rules are changing. The privacy laws are changing. I don’t think that’s an excuse for people to say things that are whatever.
Colin: But at the same time, the internet does not follow the same rules as the world does at this time. So, things are catching up. The internet is very young, and it’s one of the things that sometimes us OGs do forget because we’ve been online for so long. It’s still very young. Only being around for 35-40 years, whatever it’s been, that the oldest version of the internet even existed. It has a long way to go. In a few hundred years, it may catch up with all of the other rules and regulations that we have.
Joe: Yeah, right. Absolutely. The worldwide web existed in ’91, it was invented, but it wasn’t in people’s living rooms and widespread until the late 90s, maybe even early 2000s. So, you’re absolutely right there. You’re right that it’s not an excuse for saying inappropriate things, but the bar today by which we measure inappropriate-ness will probably change in 20 years. So maybe something I’m saying now on this podcast has been deemed inappropriate by the fine people of 2040, and what if I get in trouble for that? But in any case, that’s neither– That’s a whole other podcast. We’re talking about blogging, and we’ve covered a lot of ground here. I want to ask you what you think the future of blogging is? We looked at its past, we looked at its present and how we have all of these different platforms where we can produce content and that content can serve as our blog, and we can centralize it. But what does the future of blogging look like?
Colin: It’s interesting that you say that because, of course, there’s always a blog post that I can point to. That’s a nice thing, too. One of the nicest things about having a blog is if you take the time to jot down your ideas, you might be wrong, you might be right, or you might be somewhere in the middle. I have a blog post from 2004 called The Future of Blog– Or, 2014, called The Future of Blogging. You can look that up, and my first sentence is, “I don’t know what the future of blogging is.” So, take it from there if anybody wants to read that. But essentially, I go in, and I talk about the decentralization of blogging, and I think that’s starting to come to the fore. I don’t think anyone ever considered their Twitter account a blog. But guess what? It’s exactly what it is. It was started as a micro-blogging platform, and that’s exactly what they called it back then. So technically, everyone that publishes to their Facebook account or to their Twitter account, Instagram account, is blogging. I think it’s funny because when I had my own personal blog and there was eight people online, I remember people thinking I was nuts for having a blog. Today, people think that you’re nuts for having your own domain name and blogging there rather than Instagram. But they are might blogging on Instagram, they don’t realize it, but they’re sharing their latte, and they’re sharing that they’re at the beach. They’re sharing that they’re here, they’re there, and they have a little story underneath. They’re commenting, and their friends are having a conversation. How is that not blogging?
Joe: That used to be called photo blogging, and now it’s just an app. Just like Instagram stories or YouTube, they used to be called vlogging. Now it’s just you’re a YouTuber, or you’re posting an Insta story.
Colin: Yes. So I think the decentralization of blogging is going to continue to get more bifurcated. It’s going to continue to split and split and split and split and split. Each of them will have their own flavors of things, which I think it’s a good thing. If you look at something like Mastodon, which on Mastodon for anyone that has looked into it, it looks a lot like Twitter on the outside. But what it allows people to do is create their own instance, so imagine if you could take Twitter, all of the pieces of Twitter and being able to tweet, being able to retweet and reply and all that, and you can have your own and have it be only about gardening. Or have your own and have it only about tattoos, or about this or about that. That’s what Mastodon let you do, except it lets you follow everyone across all of those so you can belong to a gardening Mastodon instance, and follow people from every other Mastodon instance, and in fact, Twitter accounts now I think. You can follow Micro.blog accounts. You can follow blogs on there. And Micro.blog, by the way, also has these features. If you have a Micro.blog account, you can follow Mastodon accounts, you can follow blogs. All blogs that have an RSS feed are already on Micro.blog, so if you do a search for anybody’s domain name– Like your HowIBuilt.it is already on there if you type it in. If it’s not, I think it’s just one button to add it or something, but as long as it has a feed that it can read, it should be able to create that. I think that’s we’re going to start seeing, is this splitting of where you publish what. Will you belong to more than one? Maybe. Could you belong to more than one? Yeah, you should be able to. I think the last thing that has to happen though is people have to own their data. I think even Facebook if you fast forward seven years from right now, lets mark a calendar. I think seven years from today, and you’re going to see that Facebook lets you completely own your data in some way. I think they’re going that way, and Mark Zuckerberg put a flag in the ground about 4-5 months ago with a blog post that said that they’re going to go private first for all things like WhatsApp and Instagram and Facebook. They’re going to go end to end encryption for all of those platforms, and so I think slowly but surely– I don’t know if Facebook will ever let you have your own domain name. I think they should have a long time ago. I think people’s Facebook pages for their businesses should have been their domain name a long time ago. I do not know why they didn’t do that. They could’ve charged anything and made that money.
Joe: That’s a crazy vertical because there are businesses today that their website is their Facebook page.
Colin: Yes. I use Facebook only to find people’s restaurant, “What are their specials today?” And so forth, that’s what I use Facebook for. So why is that not easy to make it so that when I type in Chip’s Diner that it goes right to their Facebook page? That may come, I hope that comes. I think that should come for people’s accounts. Why can’t CDevroe.com be my Facebook profile if that’s what I would want, and own that data? We’ll see, I think that’s the future of blogging. That it’s going to get more split up than ever, which to some may seem overwhelming and confusing, but I think that’s good to have that choice of platform. You can rally behind the platforms that you want to support more than ever. I think Twitter’s free speech rules and the way that they enforce them is going to end up hurting them because they’re creating their own rules that are above and beyond the country that they exist in. I understand why because they’re a global platform. The same free speech rules do not exist in India as they do here in the US, so I don’t know what choice they have. I don’t know what tips or tricks or recommendations I would give to them. But the fact that they are enforcing rules that go beyond the US Constitution is going to make it very interesting where people are going to be forced to move to other platforms to be able to say what they feel like saying. So, it’ll be interesting to see where this goes.
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Joe: Maybe we’ll have to tread lightly here, but we both have some connection to the social media website Gab. Do you think that–? I should say I’m not a user, the founder just happened to be from Scranton.
Colin: Yeah, I’m not a user either. I don’t know much about the platform other than he founded it, Andrew Tauber, and he just happened to be from our area. That’s it.
Joe: I remember I didn’t have much of an impression of him. Gab has gone in the complete other direction where you could basically say whatever you want there.
Colin: I’m not a free speech activist or the opposite of that. I think that if the constitution allows that to exist, then it should exist. That’s my opinion. If someone wants to talk about whatever they want to talk about on some other website, our Constitution does not allow me to have any objection to that. But that does not mean that it can exist in India or in North Korea, or China or whatever else. So, that’s the world that we live in and the country that we live in. You have to be able to take that if we live in the US, that’s it.
Joe: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. I think last year around this time, we were having some trouble with WordCamp Philly, and one of our sponsors was hosting neo-Nazi websites, and we didn’t want them to be a sponsor anymore. But there was a whole big back and forth about that, and it’s just a very interesting conversation to have. Again, we’ll have to do a three-part series now.
Colin: I’m down for it. I could talk about blogging all day, to be honest with you.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely.
Colin: We didn’t even get to RSS readers.
Joe: No, we didn’t. I was going to wrap up with that before I ask you my favorite question. I’ve seen a little bit of RSS reader Renaissance.
Joe: Lately, people are like moving away from Twitter and going back to RSS. I’m trying to do the same thing. When I explain what a podcast app is to people, a podcast app is just a glorified RSS reader.
Joe: So I guess, what are your general opinions about that? What can we expect from RSS in the near future?
Colin: I’ve had to temper my expectations for RSS readers over the years. I find them useful, but I have since RSS was invented– In fact, here’s a little short story for you, Joe. I tried my hardest to get onto the board of the RSS 2.0 Consortium in 2003 with Dave Winer and all those guys. Adam Curry, and a few others. Because this is, by the way, RSS 2.0. For those that don’t know, this is when they added the enclosure tag, which allows things like podcasts to exist. If it wasn’t for the fact that you could “Embed an MP3 and an in a RSS feed,” you would never have anything like what we’re doing right here. So I tried to get on the board of the RSS consortium because I had opinions about what should be in RSS. I didn’t get on the board, I was like 21 or something– 22 at the time, and they were like, “Get away.” They are swatting me. Yeah, exactly. Who knows what RSS– I probably would have ruined the internet at the time. Podcasts would have never came out, or who knows what.
Joe: “RSS should just be this.”
Colin: Yeah, exactly. “It should just say Colin on every RSS feed.” But so anyway, going back to my expectations. I cannot envision a future where I do not use an RSS reader, but that does not mean that my wife will ever use one that she knows of. If she opens Google News, Apple News, or any of these other news things, they’re all RSS readers, and people don’t know that. Or Flipboard, these are massively popular apps. Apple News probably has 50 million daily active users or something, or maybe more. I don’t know. Google News–
Joe: Some people even pay for it now.
Colin: Yes, people pay for it. Which they are syndicating content from magazines and news outlets and such, and they’re doing it with a slightly extended specification of RSS. So I think more people are using RSS than ever before, they don’t know they are, but I do believe that there are a subset of users right now that would enjoy using something like Feedly or InnoReader or NetNewsWire. If you visit multiple websites every week to see what the latest stuff is, you can stop doing that by going to Feedly.com or FeedBin.com or InoReader.com, or I don’t know. What’s your favorite one right now?
Joe: Feedly is the one I use, though I’m very curious about NetNewsWire. I have a strong requirement that it has to work on both Mac and iOS.
Colin: OK, so iOS App is coming very soon. It’s open-source now, NetNewsWire. Brent Simmons is the one that created it. NetNewsWire is super OG.
Joe: As of this recording, 5.0 just came out.
Colin: Right, and so NetNewsWire runs on your Mac and does not need a cloud-based service to run. It can store your subscriptions on your Mac, grab those RSS feeds, show you a cool version of it and work that way. It’s coming for iOS as well, as far as I know. I think the most recent episode of the talk show with Jon Gruber is Brent Simmons and Jon Gruber talking about NetNewsWire, so you might want to link that up. But the Feedbins of the world, I think I think NetNewsWire already syncs with Feedbin, but it will sync with Feedly soon. So, maybe you want to wait until that point release comes out and then hook up that way. My expectation for RSS is that there’s going to be a subset, maybe 5% of the internet user base– That’s probably being generous, that will love it and be diehard RSS users. There is a subset of probably 75-90% of the internet that’s going to use RSS and not know it, and that’s– I think Fred Simmons calls RSS “Just the piping.” It doesn’t matter. That’s how you’re getting it, and we don’t care where– We don’t know that when we turn our faucet, how far the water travels through the pipes to get to us. So, that’s what RSS is.
Joe: Yeah, that’s great. That’s a fantastic analogy. I think it’s absolutely true. Like you said, more people are using RSS than they ever before, but they don’t know it. For a while, I felt that RSS was going to be the way that I, as a programmer, would get information from other people’s sites.
Joe: Then, REST APIs happened, and JSON happened. But if you’re listening to this podcast right now, and if you are doing it in a podcast reader and not on the website, you are using an RSS reader.
Colin: Sure. If you’re in Pocket Casts or Overcast, or even Apple Podcasts, whatever it is. You’re using RSS, and you don’t even know it, which is fine. I think they created it for that, by the way.
Joe: Yeah, right. Exactly. They did that, and they changed the spec a little bit for podcasts.
Joe: That’s how you got podcasts, and they did the same thing for Apple News, and then Google reads everything. Some of the information– Like, if you search for a podcast on an Android phone, you will get podcast episodes directly in the search results because they’re grabbing your podcast RSS.
Joe: It’s all just very interesting to me. I love those thoughts. I’m going to make a commitment right now as we speak to use RSS more and make it part of my habit because I haven’t. I find stories on Twitter when I’m browsing Twitter, but I’m reading deep work right now, and I want to be less distracted, and having dedicated reading time in the morning be RSS will be better than just catching stories on Twitter when I catch them.
Colin: Yeah. I’m addicted to it. I’ve always had a few hundred subscriptions over the years. Every now and then, I do go in, and I delete all of my subscriptions at one time and then start over, and I do the same thing on Twitter. You’ve probably noticed that. But the reason why I do that is because I don’t like to create an echo chamber, so I don’t like to have the same people instructing my opinions over time. I delete everything and start off fresh, and whatever cream rises to the top, I get. So, that’s my personal little thing to keep myself from being too dogmatic about things, or what have you.
Joe: Yeah, that’s interesting. I try to keep the number of people I’m following to 300. I strictly adhere to that, because again I don’t want the noise.
Colin: Isn’t that double Dunbar’s–? Is it Dunbar?
Joe: Is it Dunbar? Yeah, maybe.
Colin: Dunbar’s rule, or something like that.
Joe: Yeah, it’s something like that.
Colin: Dunbar’s number, as it’s called. I think it’s less than– It’s way less than 300. What is Dunbar’s number? It’s 150.
Joe: Yeah, the number of people you can associate with, it’s 150 stable relationships. I wouldn’t consider anything on Twitter– [inaudible].
Joe: I took that rule from my friend Chris Lema who does the same thing. Because there are people following thousands of people, and I’m like, “How do you get anything?” Like, you rely on Twitter’s algorithm, I guess. Which shows–
Colin: I do things a little bit differently than you, Joe. I don’t know how many people I follow because I follow a couple of accounts, that’s it. But I have lists for everything, so I have a list for local stuff. All the local businesses, all the local people, all the local everything that’s on Twitter that I can possibly find. I throw them in a local list. That way, when I want to see what’s going on in a local festival or whatever it is, I have a Twitter list for that. I have one called Lump of People, and it’s literally everyone that I’ve ever met, like shaken hands with. I throw them into this thing, and every now and then, I dive into it. “What’s going on with Tim that I met at a random event way long ago, or whatever?” Just interesting to see what’s going on. I have one for creativity and inspiration, so people that only share inspiring tweets or creative art or music, paintings, so on, and so forth. I throw everything into that, and I have a few other lists. But I split everything into lists, I can look at the lists anytime I want, and I do. I can also go weeks without looking at them, which is nice.
Joe: Nice. That’s fantastic. So, we’re a little bit over time, but that’s OK. I do want to ask you my favorite and final question, though. Which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?
Colin: Trade secrets? Give me an example.
Joe: Most people– First of all, you did the thing that I hope everybody does, which is say the word “Trade secrets” in that grandiose fashion. I want to do like a cut of everybody saying it. I say “Trade secret,” but it’s just generally good advice that has helped them. So it can be like, “Don’t read the bad comments early in the morning,” I think was one of the first ones from the show.
Colin: I see. I’ll give you two. One is blog. Whether that’s for your company or for yourself, find a reason to blog. It will help you think and communicate and build an audience and everything. There are so many reasons to blog. I really can’t– Unless you’re a spy of some sort, I can’t think of any reason not to blog. So that would be– Since it’s on topic that we talked about today, the other thing I would say is something that Joe and I both do, which has changed a lot for me is bullet journaling. Definitely do a bullet journal. If you ever have anxiety about what you have upcoming or what your tasks are, if you don’t know when you’re going to fit in that workout or you don’t know when you’re going to finally get to work on that talk that you have to give at the coming upcoming event, whatever it might be, bullet journaling makes it so that you can let the anxiety of what you need to do go and only focus on what you need to do for the day and have time slots for things that are coming up. I would recommend going– It’s a free thing. You don’t need to buy any particular notebook or anything, and you can use the piece of paper that’s in front of you right now. If you go to BulletJournal.com, you can find out the instructions on how to do it. I’m sure Joe has blog posts that he should link to that he’s covered bullet journaling in, and my wife and I have modified that. We created something called a “Weekly index” now, so one open page and one full spread of a page is now our weekly index. The whole week goes on one spread, which I love, but that’s taken the bullet journal method and then just tweaking it for yourself that makes you work good. That’d be my other tip.
Joe: Yeah, I will link to– I did my organization tools as of earlier this summer, so I will link to that because I have modified the bullet journal method a little bit, but it’s usually helpful. Colin, it is always good to talk to you. I’m glad we got to catch up. Where can people find you? I know I’m going to link to a million of your blog posts, but say it for the transcript.
Colin: OK. I would say CDevroe.com is where you can start for everything. If you have an upcoming event and you’re an event organizer, and you’re listening to this, please consider using Jujama’s app. If you go to our website, you can see what we do, but it can help your event to encourage attendee interactions and so forth. That would be great if people could look that up, but I would say CDevroe.com for everything, and that’s it. Don’t worry about all the other things, because they’re going to die anyway. Don’t follow me. Follow me on Twitter if you want to, but who cares. It’s going to be gone someday.
Joe: Yeah, exactly.
Colin: My website’s going to last through dystopian future.
Joe: I will link to those, and all of the fantastic links we talked about over in the show notes at HowIBuilt.it. Thanks so much, Colin. I appreciate your time.
Colin: It’s been awesome. Thank you very much for having me.
Outro: Thanks so much to Colin for joining me this week. I love talking to Colin. As a matter of fact, when we were in the co-working space, there were certain days where my productivity was way low just because we spent the whole day talking about whatever and doing stuff. But it was fantastic. So, this episode is rich with links mostly from Colin’s blog, but lots of other stuff too. You can be sure to find all of those over at HowIBuilt.it/148. I think that it’s probably not a secret at this point that blogging is important. Having your own platform and owning your own platform, because of everything that’s happening with other platforms like Medium and Facebook and whatever, Twitter. It’s really important to own your own platform. So as Colin said, “Blog for your company, for yourself, find a reason. Even if it’s just a scratch pad, even if you don’t want to make it public, there are great apps like Day One out there to help you get your thoughts out and get those reps in for writing.” I enjoyed this episode. Again, you can find everything we talked about over at HowIBuilt.it/148. Thank you so much to our sponsors, Ahoy! Cloudways and Pantheon. They make the show happen, so definitely check them out. If you liked this episode, please subscribe. Give us a rating and review over at Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. As I said at the very top of the show, I have big plans for 2020. I want to be more intentional about the content that I’m giving you, and that means that I need to hear from you. If you have a topic you’d like me to cover, a question, or a guest you’d like to suggest, then head over to HowIBuilt.it/feedback and let me know. It’s a simple two-field form, your email address so I can respond and the feedback that you’d like to give. Again, that’s over at HowIBuilt.it/feedback. As always, thanks so much for listening. Until next time, get out there and build something.