Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tech failure Thursday

DSC00616 (1400x909)I noticed that my blog posts have not been auto-magically updating on my Facebook page recently, so I dove into the maze of settings for RSS-Graffiti to fix the problem. 

Or, rather, I tried to.  Instead, I found this:

We currently power over 300,000 Facebook pages; only about 500, or less than 0.25% of clients, see enough value to pay for the service…lost a considerable sum of money…the product is not sustainable…we will be discontinuing….

As a small-business owner, I feel their pain, although I probably would have recommended taking a higher road in their sign-off.  Similar ‘sending a shutdown shout-out’ messages have become frequent on Medium (1, 2, 3), leading me to a few further thoughts:

  • Announcing the end: Telling users and investors that the service is going away by posting an essay on a company website or social aggregator is not a useful or graceful way to exit.  It is likely to be discovered too late and then irritates everyone who reads it.  ‘far better to provide a sincere apology, a self-accountable explanation, and a migration / recovery path for those impacted.
  • 300,000 users abandoned: This again underlines the transient nature of internet startups.  I have been burned by arbitrary service shutdowns many times, losing feeds, websites, contacts, mail, files, pictures, and connections that could not be replaced.  The large-scale demise of Windows Live Essentials, Microsoft Small Business services, and Google Reader shows that size is no protection.  Now, I practice redundancy and local backups for any data of value: I don’t rely on any single-site solutions.  Take a moment to think about who you trust and how you would recover if they suddenly stopped.
  • Rethinking the business model:  RSS Graffiti never gave me a compelling reason to pay. The added services that came with premium membership were faster posting, more social networks, and better support, but I didn’t need any of them for my modest use.  I would have paid a proportionate subscription, $5-$30 per year, and their large user base could have raised millions by that change alone.  When the business model fails, it’s important to admit it early and make a change.

There are a number of alternatives to RSS Graffiti available, and I have switched over to Buffer, which offers the features and small-scale flexibility that I need.  I am using the free DIY posting while I get the sense of it, but will likely switch to the pay model once I’m ready to connect my feed.

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DSC00611 (1400x932)And one work-around for feature-failure while I am on tech themes today.

I use Instagram more and more for my social connections.  People’s photos and comments make me feel happier, and I’m avoiding trips to the swamp of petty cruelties and advertisements that Facebook has become.  

Two tips for getting the most out of Instagram:

  • I am gradually expanding my connections by finding friends, relevant hashtags, strong curators, and occasionally taking the site’s recommendations.  I go through much the same process with Medium: accept that it takes time to gradually build up a feed on unstructured aggregators.
  • Instagram lacks the ability to export pictures and to upload from a browser, so I needed to find extensions for both.  InstaSave does the job of saving photos from my feed, while InstaPic gave me more ease and flexibility than the top-rated Grambler for posting from the PC desktop.

As always, my recommendations are entirely my own: I have neither been solicited nor paid for these comments.

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