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.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Houses and homes

DSC00512 (1300x867)It’s a Swedish Morning in Dorset.   The air is still, low light highlighting the leaves.  The sky’s a smooth blue wash, the air cold and the sun warm.  It evokes feelings of the Archipelago, reflections on lapping water, rounded rocks bordering dappled forests, the boats tied at rest.

DSC00531 (1300x862)It’s a Seattle Morning in Dorset.  Upstairs, there’s a queue for the bathroom, downstairs a rush for the kitchen. It will be an hour before hot water replenishes.  I remember calling the time up to the kids, 20 minutes then 10, before we had to leave for school.  The moaned responses, gathering the things for the day, organizing the family’s tasks.  Do we need dinner; what time should I pick you up? 

Home is where you are made welcome, where you feel needed, where you find your peace.

DSC00529 (867x1300)Should house, home, life, be clean or cluttered?  Two columnists exchanged letters in FT Home after visiting one another’s spaces.  One aspired to Kondo-style austerity: Anything that doesn’t make you happy or isn’t absolutely necessary should be touched, thanked and sent on its way.   The other embraced Freddy Mercury style disorder: I want to lead the Victorian life, surrounded by exquisite clutter.

I tend towards the latter.  Disordered spaces feel more personal and creative (as long as they are clean). Atalier The workshops and atelier's of artists and writers are dens of chaos, filled with inspirational memorabilia collected from travels and friends.  It’s cozy to be among the soft furniture, shelves of knick-knacks, and displays of art and photos that chronicle a life richly and happily lived.  It suggests, too, that the owner will have similar embrace and care for future times and peoples.

“I discovered that having each thing in the right place was not the well-deserved reward of an ordered mind, but a pretense to hide the disorder of my nature.”  ― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

DSC00520 (1300x862)There’s a comfortable clutter of people too.  The cardiologist waves and rushes to clinic; the kids’ come by asking about forms they are filling in.  I set aside a NY Times article about whether ‘roommate groupings’ might fit lifestyles where people want to live their own life, do their own things, but return to a familiar home base each evening. Cohousing mixes shared and individual spaces, diverse professional residents, combines privacy, community and sociability

For the moment, it kind of works. Its better than rattling around the empty house, warmer and larger than an apartment where I only pass neighbors in the hallways.

The Greek mom joins me for a coffee in the garden and brings her hyacinth out for some air.  She offers to make dinner for everyone this evening.  Language differences prevent much conversation, but we can agree it’s a nice morning to enjoy a half-hour’s quiet before the day truly begins.