Splitting the web in two?

I just read Tom MacWright’s excellent post Clean starts for the web which argues that the web stack has gotten so convoluted, so expensive to maintain browsers for, that it might be time for a clean start.

At one point Tom mentions:

My first thought is that there are two webs:
The document web
/…/
The “application” web

The document being the old school web; wikipedia and news sites, and the application web being all the JS heavy SPAs like Facebook and Netflix.

I think this is an excellent point. There really is a difference between creating documents on the web, and creating interactive tools. One should be simple, one can be allowed to be complex. But I think we’re failing as web developers to imagine tools for creating documents. It’s so much easier to post a tweet, publish a tiktok video or send a snap, than it is to publish a document online.
Which is madness. If we want a living, thriving, open, web and not a series of walled gardens I think it’s time to start taking this seriously.

Starting something new

It’s almost a year since I closed down BlankPage, the writing service I ran for several years as a side project, and I think it’s finally time to start something new. Picking what to work on, has turned out to be a surprisingly hard problem.

When I started BlankPage is was just one of those excited moments when something life changing felt within reach, and I set about making it a reality immediately. This time I have more experience, and I know how important it is to work on things that are achievable.

That sounds a bit dark, but what I mean to say is that I have some idea of how much time, energy, and money I can spend on a project. So there’s no reason for me to pick a project that is far beyond those limitations in scope. I can’t build a new type of nuclear power plant by myself, with my savings. Understanding that and picking something a bit more viable is actually a freeing and exciting idea. Because it makes my next project so much more real, even in the idea stage.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Derrick Reimer wrote about finding product founder fit a while back, and I like the idea of picking a project that suits you as the creator. That should increase the likelihood of success.
So which are my criteria?
These are my thoughts, off the top of my head while writing this post:

  • The project needs to be small enough that a single full stack dev can easily build it.
    An MVP can’t take more than a few days to implement. Otherwise I won’t iterate fast enough.

  • The project cannot be production critical for the customers.
    I simply cannot guarantee seven 9’s uptime.

  • The Project’s competitive advantage should be based on a clear understanding of the users needs and wants.
    Not technology. It doesn’t have to be unique, it would be ok to just be different.

  • The Project should “give back” to the free and open web some how. The internet is important, and I think it’s up to all of us to strive to keep it open.
    So whatever I build, it should take cues from the IndieWeb movement somehow.

  • The Project shouldn’t aim to become a “scale-up”.
    If I end up taking on VC money, it will consume my life.

Alright, that’s enough for today I think. Back to work.

Massimo Vignelli on focus groups

It is one thing to believe something, and an entirely different animal to put that belief into an articulate argument for that belief. This quote by Vignelli explains the true issues of trusting focus groups and market testing.

“I don’t believe in market research. I don’t believe in marketing the way it’s done in America. The American way of marketing is to answer to the wants of the customer instead of answering to the needs of the customer. The purpose of marketing should be to find needs — not to find wants.

People do not know what they want. They barely know what they need, but they definitely do not know what they want. They’re conditioned by the limited imagination of what is possible. … Most of the time, focus groups are built on the pressure of ignorance.” via BrainPickings

Whenever someone asks me to do a focus group, I usually begin with asking that person what they want the focus group to answer. It is usually quite easy to guess the normal responses. Especially if the product or service is entirely new.

It’s not that the focus group isn’t observant or brilliant, they quite often are. The problem stems from them not having enough time with the product or service to really give us the important information. And sadly we can’t observe a tester for weeks.

Don’t confused with testing for quality assurance purposes, I’ve never seen a project without a few rough corners left, and that sort of testing is essential.

The continuing decline of Twitter

As I’ve written about before I love Twitter, the service, but I’m not very impressed by Twitter the company. Twitter wants to change that, Twitters claims they have changed. This time things will be different. The problem is that Twitter seems to have become even less likeable.
A few days ago Twitter launched Digits, a service completely unrelated to their core product. Possibly because they don’t like the whole micro-blogging thing. Digits is a service to help people log in without emails or passwords (in detail over on the Verge).

The interesting part, to me, is how Twitter deals with developers.

Twitter now wants to reach out to developers, to tell us they’ve changed, by inviting us to a conference about what sounds like dev tools:

As a peace offering, Twitter on Wednesday is expected to announce a suite of tools that aim to make it easier for programmers to build apps, according to people familiar with the matter. – WSJ

But Twitter already burned developers severely a few years ago by closing down APIs. They burned developers so much that Marco Arment just wrote a scathing blog post arguing that we can’t trust them. And I think he’s right.

Responding to Marcos comments a Kevin Weil (“vice president of product for revenue”) tells the Verge:

He (Weil) named a few companies that have made millions of dollars developing on Twitter’s platform, including TweetDeck, Hootsuite, and the social-media monitoring company Radian6, which sold to Salesforce for $340 million. The changes in 2012 were intended only to ensure Twitter had control over its core service, he says. “Our API was so open that we allowed people to compete with us, and so there were changes we had to make.”

Wait. What is Weil saying here? That Twitter as a platform should only be available to companies who don’t make money? Or just the companies Twitter would like to make money? Or is Twitter NOT a platform at all, but a closed service that has an API just to taunt developers?

None of the services mentioned compete with Twitter as a platform or service. One could argue they had competitive UIs though. But shouldn’t all that traffic made it easy for Twitter to monetize? Perhaps sell higher volumes of API access? It’s hard to understand just what Weil intends to say with this strange answer. My only possible takeaway is that Twitter prefers its partners to not actually succeed.

I think this proves Marco’s point wonderfully. Twitter doesn’t want developers. Twitter is not a platform. And they want those meddling coder kids to stay off their lawn.

Building web apps with WordPress and BackBone.js

Gave a talk today at WordCamp Norrköping on how to build web apps using WordPress, JetPacks REST API and BackBone.js.
A short presentation on the why and how to use BackBone.js and WordPress to build interactive web, apps or otherwise. My slides are available below and you can find the demo app on GitHub.

Medium’s new embed feature

Medium.com is quickly shaping up to a great reading and writing experience. A recent surprise feature is their story/collection/user embeds which let you bring medium with you anywhere.
https://static.medium.com/embed.jsJesperBylund

Odd to see what is basically an iFrame experience from such a design focused company. One can only conclude that they see some great experience behind this. Can’t wait to find out what it could be.

Everything you want to know about Facebook Graph Search


facebook-graph-search-logo.jpgfacebook-graph-search-logo.jpg

A week ago Mark Zuckerberg was on stage talking about the future of Facebook and unveiling Facebook Graph Search. Since then thousands upon thousands of articles have been written on the subject, so why write another one?
Every single piece I’ve read, seem to either misunderstand, or not care about what makes Graph Search different. So here I go, trying to explain what Graph Search really is.

Continue reading “Everything you want to know about Facebook Graph Search”

The mobile revolution at sime

The first day of SIME, the European tech/startup conference, was a vivid circus of great speakers with great production values. This time in Stockholm.
Sime is a special sort of conference because it is focused on marketing entrepreneurship and creating a forum for entrepreneurs and investors. While similar conferences might slog through technical details while zombie hordes of coffee ingesting listeners try to stay awake, SIME is more about showmanship. Almost every session is 20 minutes or less, even for the big players, and our host, Ola Ahlvarsson, is always on stage pushing things along.

Continue reading “The mobile revolution at sime”

Tracking, the flawed belief in statistics

Tracking is the basis for everything online these days. We track what content gets the most clicks to make sure we create better content. We track the ads we run to make sure our ads are targeted to the right people and that they convert well. We use tracking in all aspects of our lives to make better decisions and take the right action. But it’s not working, is it. No matter how long you stare at those numbers they don’t give you a golden bullet. So what’s wrong with this theory? Everything.
Continue reading “Tracking, the flawed belief in statistics”