Micro Matt

Micro thoughts and mini posts.

One question: where is the line between writing as “you” and distributing that writing as “Matt” or “Anonymous” or “John Doe” or whatever you choose to go by? I could imagine that the blog selector menu we have in the Write.as editor right now enables writers to “put on the clothes” of whatever alias they’re publishing under, perhaps getting them in the mindset. But I know, for example, I’ve personally started a post fitting for this Micro Matt blog, and ended up realizing it needed to be a full post destined for my Matt blog. In that case, I’ve switched the publish destination, added a title (required on Matt; elided on Micro Matt), and ended up elaborating on whatever I was writing. So I’m not sure if the distribution context should be intertwined with, or separate from (perhaps in another step), the writing process.

#design #writeas

Spending time designing an entirely new UI for Write.as / #WriteFreely today, tailored toward power users. After breaking down jobs-to-be-done and building up an interface from scratch, I’ve arrived at… essentially, WordPress or Ghost or any other CMS. So, how do I plan to make this different?

First: two distinct interfaces, “basic” and “advanced.” This CMS-ish UI would be the “advanced” one, activated only when you indicate you need it, such as when starting a publication rather than a personal blog. By default, users would continue getting a minimalist interface that is centered around writing and distribution, rather than advanced content creation and management. My idea here is that we hopefully don’t lose the plot, and Write.as remains useful as a personal writing / blogging platform. But if I’m rethinking things, I’ll probably want to revamp the “basic” UI users will see by default…

#design #publishers

A studio, not a company. When I think about a more grand vision for this overall thing I’m building every day, this is what I feel I want to build. I don’t want to wake up every day and go to the office — I want to go to the studio.

I hear “company” and think suffocating hierarchy and a dull, single-minded focus on profit. I hear “startup” and think underdog stories, empty hype, and forever chasing a carrot on a stick. But I hear “studio” and I think calm, open-ended creation — a place where your work is the goal in and of itself, and not just the means to another end.

This is probably an imperfect term for what I want, but it helps set my priorities straight: build first and the money will follow; work at your own pace; meander as needed; let life intermingle with “work” (in the artistic sense, not the job sense). At this point, all that’s really left to do is to keep creating.

I’m coming to believe that a good digital social space isn’t merely focused on the “social” aspect as we know it today. A commenting platform shouldn't merely offer comments. Social media shouldn't merely enable standardized reactions and call itself “social.” Instead, it needs to offer a social environment, some context, a culture, etc. It needs to view itself as only one part of a whole, instead of all there is. It needs to put individuals' needs above its own (especially its own business model).

If your social platform only enables gathering and “liking” things and replying to other people, it only actually enables a thin band of social activity among the wide spectrum of human interaction. When these anemic relations become the norm on a large scale, of course we start to feel isolated rather than in good company; forever wanting more instead of ever fulfilled.

My old assumption about my “multiple independent but integrated apps” theory was that the apps had to do a ton on their own. I was thinking of it mostly on a technical and individual product level: divide the apps into totally separate packages that don’t really need each other.

This assumption is proving false when I consider the overall suite design on a user level. For example, we have Write.as for writing blog posts and Snap.as for photo hosting — separate apps that work well independently and together. But while this means we can do interesting things on a per-product basis — like photographer profiles exclusive to Snap.as — the separation can be frustrating when you need to use the two together, like when I’m composing a Write.as post and need to insert photos. In that case, I can either switch apps or use the Snap.as browser extension — but this is still too abstract for many users. We need a different level of abstraction.

So I’m working on that now. For example, coming soon to our Classic editor: inline uploads, powered by Snap.as:

I was aiming to have made some progress on Remark.as by this point in 2021, but as tends to happen, other priorities took over — namely, some large migration projects that have spanned several months, some long-standing bugs that have grown too painful, and the continual waves of various SEO spammers from around the world.

I recently shared that the timeline on it is indefinite for now. But the topic got me thinking about it again in spare moments over the last few days. Coming at it fresh, with a “weekend project” state of mind, I came to a new design that basically resembles a link aggregator site like reddit or Hacker News.

This was what I imagined for the “social space” — basically, you head to Remark.as when you’re ready to read comments and shoot the shit with other people. Discussion happens around links back to the original content, rather than hosting the content on Remark.as itself; a close integration with Write.as means we could automatically “post” your articles over there, and we can dynamically link from your blog posts to the discussion, e.g. showing the number of replies you’ve received. Overall, of course, the goal is to keep the social space separate from the composition and publishing space. And I think with this design, for those who want a more social atmosphere, Remark.as would replace Read Write.as as their daily destination.

#remarkas #design #ideas

Yesterday I made some progress on general #WriteFreely maintenance. Reviewed some pull requests, added some quick fixes, and moved the repo on GitHub, as announced. I also figured out what was causing the “availability issue” — just some too-tight restrictions we recently placed on the API.

Just updated our demo WriteFreely instance to the latest on develop (thanks @liaizon@wake.st for the reminder!). If you want to try things out, you can create an account with this invite link, valid for the next three days: https://pencil.writefree.ly/invite/VTDTcP #WriteFreely

Doing some #WriteFreely maintenance today, merging long-standing pull requests and fixing some bugs. I'd like to wrap up a v0.13 release this month, ideally. Yesterday I put things in place to support “allowed” apps on the API, and today I need to look into some apparently availability-related publishing issues.

Part of what always excited me about the #fediverse was the chance to see all kinds of interoperable social apps. It fit well with my own idea for “a suite of independent, but connected apps” that I started building with Write.as and Snap.as.

Today I came across this talk, A World Without Apps, and it got me thinking beyond my own collection of composable tools on the web, to all levels of the computing stack. Providing that kind of environment everywhere of course will be pretty involved, but I can already feel it changing my thinking toward the tools I’m making.

Even certain basic concepts of my software that I’ve reused across apps, like “collections” and “posts,” could be used as elemental pieces that users could then combine and piece together however they want. I’m thinking about how I could build a tool that uses these elemental pieces to make brand new tools, and build my suite of apps and experiment with new ideas even faster. Then other people could do the same, and instead of only ever getting a single “official” version of WriteFreely, for example, you could build your own WriteFreely entirely the way you like it. In this way, WriteFreely as a piece of software becomes less of a wind-up toy, and more of a real tool you can use exactly how you want.

I also came across the Malleable Systems Collective and the people related to it, and finally looked into Solid after hearing about it for so long. Plenty of things to think about…

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