Time is running out to support Indie Microblogging

Help Manton reach his $80,000 stretch goal on Kickstarter.

I've posted before about Manton Reece's Indie Microblogging Kickstarter. It's fully funded and is going to happen, but with three days to go, he's about $9,000 short of his stretch goal. If he hits $80,000, he'll hire a community manager to help shape the service, trying to proactively address issues like harassment that have derailed Twitter.

And one more reason to support Micro.blog... It just occurred to me that if I host my own Micro.Blog site, when I make a typo in a Micro.Blog post, I can go back and fix it!

If you are concerned about the future of social media, I encourage you to back Indie Microblogging on Kickstarter before Wednesday morning. Every little bit helps... I just increased my backer level.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he wishes he could fix typos on Twitter. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

I’m excited about indie microblogging.

Manton Reece has big plans for microblogs.


A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about what would happen if Twitter disappeared or became unusable. I started to explore other options for connecting with others in the design community. I started posting to Dribbble again* and I started playing around with Medium.**

Last week, while listening to my usual playlist of podcasts, I stumbled on a couple of discussions about Manton Reese’s Indie Microblogging Kickstarter project.

I backed it instantly.

The Kickstarter has two parts: A book and a service.

The book will detail a framework for independent microblogging… basically a standards-based system for posting and sharing Twitter-like posts.

The service is Micro.blog. And it’s a fascinating attempt to make it as easy as possible to host your own micro blog, basically a decentralized version of Twitter.

I think Manton’s got some great ideas. And I think his heart is in the right place. I love the idea of leveraging RSS for the underpinning of the service. I think 280 characters is great. The iPhone app supports Markdown. You can use your own domain for free or pay $5/month for Micro.blog to host your microblog. An API that others can use to hook into the service. And oh yeah, and the name is perfect.

The Kickstarter project was funded on the first day. And he’s now got a stretch goal — $80,000 — to help fund a community manager to shape the service and actively address the bullying and nastiness that is rampant on Twitter. I don’t know if he’ll make the stretch goal, but I love that he’s already thinking about this.

Also, remember in the early days if Twitter, before they cracked down on the API usage, when third party developers were extending and improving the service. I hope those developers throw everything they’ve got at supporting Micro.blog.

Many people are skeptical that Micro.blog will blossom into a sustainable full featured Twitter replacement. And I completely get that. Look at all the failed attempts to replace or replicate the functionality of Twitter of the years. It's tough to build a large user base for a new social media site and it's too early to tell if Micro.blog will take off — after all, the service hasn’t even launched yet. But I think the service and the concept are the right idea at the right time. I’m looking forward to using the service and watching it develop in the coming years.

I’m excited about Micro.blog and about the plan to use RSS to power what is essentially an independent version of Twitter. If you are concerned about the future of Twitter and social networks, I really encourage you to head over to Kickstarter and back the Indie Microblogging project.


* Watch for another post about using Dribbble…
** Of course, who knows what Medium will become.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he browses RSS feeds in Feedly. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Why I was forced to abandon my Gmail account

An extra period in an email address apparently doesn’t matter to Google.

A number of years ago I randomly started getting emails from a Republican Women’s Group in Virginia. I unsubscribed, but the emails kept coming. I unsubscribed again. Nothing changed. I finally responded with a nasty email explaining that I had repeatedly tried to unsubscribe, unsuccessfully.

 
 All of the images in this post are from emails I have ACCIDENTALLY RECEIVED. I don't think I'll be headed to Boone, Iowa for the Farm Progress Show.

All of the images in this post are from emails I have ACCIDENTALLY RECEIVED. I don't think I'll be headed to Boone, Iowa for the Farm Progress Show.

 

An employee with a political consulting group reached out to explain that they could not find my email address — bobwertz@gmail.com — in their records and they had no idea why I was getting their email. They finally figured out that the address in their database was actually bob.wertz@gmail.com. Somehow the mailing system was dropping out the period and sending the email to the wrong person. They removed bob.wertz@gmail.com from the mailing list and the emails stopped.

But new ones appeared. 

Over the years, I received emails from a number of mostly conservative organizations. I would unsubscribe and move on. Then, my dot-pleganger — as I began to call him — became a member of the NRA and I was inundated with email. Lots of it, all addressed to bob.wertz@gmail.com, but delivered to my address. At one point, I started getting emails from Match.com. I got sick of unsubscribing to the emails and pretty much abandoned my Gmail account.

 
 I'm sure that National Hog Farmer is a lovely publicatioN, but I didn't sign up for your email.

I'm sure that National Hog Farmer is a lovely publicatioN, but I didn't sign up for your email.

 

But I still needed my Google account for other reasons so I checked in occasionally. I had a few new subscriptions — Corn & Soybean Digest, Penton Agriculture, Sam’s Club, Farm Progress Show and National Hog Farmer. I had an email from Indiana Representative Todd Rokita from Indiana’s 4th District inviting me to his Women’s Summit on Safety. All addressed to my dot-pleganger.

I’ve avoided writing about this for a couple reasons:

  1. I didn’t really want to put my email out there. I can’t even imagine the spam I’m going to get now.
  2. It was annoying, but harmless. Basically, a bunch of annoying subscriptions and I could easily move on to a different, non-Gmail email account.

This week, I noticed that I missed an email from a friend to my Gmail account. I decided it was finally time to figure out what was going on and post about it in case others were experiencing the same issue.

 
 I don't live in your district, Todd. I don't even Live in your state.

I don't live in your district, Todd. I don't even Live in your state.

 

I started by trying to figure out if they were all using the same mailing service. They weren’t. 

As I continued to research, I stumbled across a Gmail help document that explained that Google ignores periods in the first section of the email. So bobwertz@gmail.com and bob.wertz@gmail.com are delivered to the same email account… on purpose.

Wait. What?

GOOGLE DISREGARDS THE PERIODS IN THE ACCOUNT NAME FOR GMAIL ACCOUNTS!

So now, I’m really confused. This means that there is no way that there can even be a bob.wertz@gmail.com account. My dot-pleganger doesn't exist. But even though the email address doesn’t exist, emails addressed to my dot-pleganger are still sent to my address because it’s… close? What kind of twisted logic is this? Why it the world would anyone set up an email system this way?

As for why I am repeatedly getting email that I don’t want, this leaves only two scenarios:

  1. Someone out there is mistyping their own email address repeatedly over a period of years.
  2. Someone mistyped my address once and then it was sold to a variety of entities that now spam me.

Either way, I’m irritated. I’m betting on the "my name is on a master list that keeps getting sold and recycled" scenario. (The fact that my dot-pleganger's address seems to circulate among mostly conservative causes seems to reinforce this theory.) I can unsubscribe from the emails I get, but I can never get that address off the master list.

 
 "NAvigate the complexities" of unsubscribing from email.

"NAvigate the complexities" of unsubscribing from email.

 

I’m also completely perplexed. Why would Google set up an email system that delivers emails to the wrong address on purpose? And who is the random person that apparently doesn’t know their own email address?

I had hoped that I would be able to reclaim my Gmail account. Alas, it doesn’t seem possible.


Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, creative director, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. In his spare time, he tries to unsubscribe from emails. Follow Bob on Twitter and Instagram.

Using an iPad again

In December, I pondered my mobile computing options. Do I move toward the iPad or MacBook for my mobile option? A couple of months after I posted that article, my wife mentioned that her iPad Air 2 wasn't working for her. We foolishly got her 16 GB of storage and she really wanted to use her iPad in her classroom for video. Plus, she really preferred the iPad Mini form factor over the iPad Air. So we bought her a new iPad Mini and I took her iPad Air 2.

I love the iPad as my mobile option.

My iPad is pretty much exclusively for writing. I won't be taking videos or storing pictures on my iPad so the 16 GB limitation isn't really a problem for how I'm using it. (That said, don't ever buy an iPad with only 16 GB of storage. It's massively limiting.)

I really like the 9.7-inch form factor. Much better for me than the Mini I had previously used. It weighs less than my laptop and I can use the same lightning charger that I use for my iPhone. (Not that I really ever need the charger on the road... The battery lasts for an insanely long time.)

But the real reason I love my iPad? Ulysses. My favorite writing app for the Mac is also on iPad and it's perfect. The syncing between my Macs, my iPhone and my iPad means that I can write or edit anywhere, on any device. It's amazing how a single great app can completely change the way I use my iPad.

I don't see going back to a Mac for my mobile device.* While this iPad will work for the foreseeable future, the new 9.7 inch iPad Pro looks like a perfect machine for me. I'm intrigued by the Apple Pencil and the keyboard cover. I don't mind typing on the screen, but I'm much faster and more accurate on a physical keyboard. 

Hopefully, Apple will continue to improve the hardware and developers will create pro caliber apps that take advantage of iOS ecosystem.


* Although, let's be realistic. I'm probably going to want one of the rumored MacBook Pros when they are finally released. 

Using my Apple Watch

I’ve seen a bunch of articles lately discussing the Apple Watch. Some folks feel the Apple Watch is a complete failure. Others argue that it’s a flawed success. But I’m going to take a slightly different take… Instead of telling you what doesn’t work, I’m going to tell you how I use my Apple Watch* every day.

Time. I know it's simple, but the Apple Watch does a great job of telling time. I forgot how much I missed wearing a watch. And I like that I can use different faces when I feel like it.

Schedule. I’m a long time Fantastical user on iPhone and I use the Fantastical complication to keep an eye on my upcoming meetings and schedule. I prefer the Fantastical watch app to the stock Apple Watch calendar app.

Weather. Apple Watch is perfect for getting a quick forecast. I've used Dark Sky on my iPhone for years and I like the Dark Sky watch complication better than the Apple weather app.

Activity Tracker. I used to wear a Fitbit, but I had syncing issues all the time. The Apple Watch tracks my steps and activity. I wish there was a better interface for viewing the data, but it syncs everything perfectly.

What’s the score of the Cubs game? I love that I can ask my watch for the score of the Cubs game. Siri quickly displays the score. Really helpful because the Cubs are awesome this year...

Apple Pay. As I’ve mentioned before, I love Apple Pay. And Apple Pay on the watch is even more effortless.

Timers and alarms. Apple Watch makes it easy to set timers for cooking and alarms for upcoming appointments.

Find my iPhone. Apple Watch lets me ping my phone and find it quickly. Helpful when I’m not sure exactly where I put it down around the house.

Remote. We love our new Apple TV. But occasionally, we can’t find the remote because it is ridiculously tiny and gets lodged between couch cushions. The Apple Watch is actually a great emergency remote for the Apple TV.

Quick response text message. I actually use the canned responses for text messages on my watch. Sometimes, all you need to answer with is “OK,” “Yes” or “No.” Or just an emoji. Apple Watch is great at that.

VIP. My notifications are mostly turned off for emails, but not from the VIPs that I’ve identified in Mail app on my phone. I get a quick buzz when someone important emails me. (I get too much email to get a notification every time anyone emails me.)

Directions. If you use Apple Maps, Apple’s implementation of directions on the watch is really nice. When I get driving directions, the next exit number or turn is on my wrist. And it buzzes when I need to make a turn. 

Sending stupid sketches to my wife. Liz also has an Apple Watch. Sometimes, sending a silly sketch is more fun than sending a text message.

Switching watch bands. It’s so easy to change out the watch band. I’ve got two and like to flip between them. I’m probably going to buy one or two more.

So is the Apple Watch worth the investment?

I feel like Apple Watch is worth the investment. Your mileage may vary. I really enjoy wearing the watch and get more than enough use out of it to justify the $300 I paid.** But people use the watch in different ways and you may come to a different conclusion.

The Apple Watch is an accessory.*** It’s not a full fledged computing platform. The screen is tiny. The interface isn’t as intuitive as it probably should be. There are plenty of first generation rough edges to iron out. 

But I find the Apple Watch fun and useful and I enjoy wearing it. For me, that’s enough.


* Apple Watch Sport, Space Gray, 42 mm.
** On sale at Best Buy.
*** I would argue that all smart watches on the market today are just accessories.