I've been exploring various alternatives and innovations in social media platforms, primarily Mastodon and micro.blog. What I've found so far is encouraging, but there are some caveats and pain points.

The marmot is kind of an old-school blog. There were debates in the early days about the requirement to offer comments. I had comments on an early version of Groundhog Day (the marmot's immediate predecessor, I've been doing this for a long time). The comment feature worked, it just required adding some javascript to the export template, and all the commenting took place at an external site embedded in my page. I think there were ads, I know I didn't pay for it.

But I didn't really enjoy it. Some people (one person in particular) took it as an invitation to debate (he would probably call it "discuss"). I eventually stopped offering comments.

What I did enjoy was seeing people comment about what I'd written in their blogs, even if they didn't agree with me.

If twitter is the "public square" (it's not), then your blog is kind of the cyberspace metaphorical equivalent of your house. It's not a public space, even though it's public-facing. I wouldn't invite someone into my home to argue with me. You may find my choice of decor awful, you might think I'm an untidy housekeeper (you wouldn't be wrong), but you probably wouldn't point those things out to me in my home. It's too immediate. It's my castle, it's my house, my rules.

You want to go to your house and spend time there complaining about my house, or criticizing me, that's fine. If people come to your house to read criticism of other people, then I guess you've got to please them. I don't have to read it, and even if I do, it's not in my house. I can just leave. Go bitch about you at my place.

I'd often criticize high attention-earners back in the day. Doc Searls, Dave Weinberger, Robert Scoble, the internet triumphalists always proclaiming "This changes everything!" That got old, even for me.

Anyway, I digress.

So I created a micro.blog, and I've been playing with it a bit. There are at least two very interesting features. The first is that it will post content from an RSS feed. In the setup they tell you this should be your content, but I don't see any way that they have validated that. I suspect that feature will evolve in some way, or be removed. It's kind of an honor system thing right now, and the internet isn't known for placing a high value on honor. (What they could do is what Mastodon does, and have you place a link to your micro.blog on the site offering the feed to prove that you control it. They should probably implement that fairly quickly.)

My micro blog will also, simultaneously, post links to that content on Twitter and Mastodon, so that's a useful automation feature. For the moment, unless or until Elon changes it, I can subscribe to an RSS feed of my mentions on Twitter, or at least the replies to my tweets. So if someone replies to a post on Twitter, I can see the reply in NetNewsWire without ever visiting Twitter.

This accomplishes a couple of things. First, at least for now, my micro blog doesn't feel like my house. The marmot is my house. This is where I "live" on the web. So whatever activity takes place there, again, for now, is at some remove from my personal feelings. So if I acquire some "followers" on micro blog and they comment on the post, I think I'll feel somewhat detached from those comments. I could be wrong about that, we'll see.

Second, it is a useful means of discovery. Now, I'll need to tweak the RSS feed template to include a link back to the original piece in the body of the text. As currently configured, the content just appears on the micro blog with no indication that it originated here, at the marmot. I don't know how important it is to me that readers at micro blog know about the marmot. I need to think about that.

But, for instance, this post will make little sense at my micro blog unless I include this link, back to nice-marmot.

One pain point seems to be that it picks up the RSS feed item exactly once. I'm a terrible proof-reader, so I'll post something, read it on the web or in NNW and notice a typo or some bad construction. I'll go back to Tinderbox, make the corrections and republish. Those changes, naturally, appear on the web site immediately, and it seems that NNW will pick up the changed feed as well. Micro.blog does not. Once it's posted, I have to edit it within micro.blog to make the changes. So do it twice, basically.

The other pain point is that it seems that you can't edit your replies in your timeline. It looks like about the best you can do is copy the text to the clipboard, delete the reply, start a new reply and paste the old content into the new one and edit it there.

If you look at Twitter as a model, where you can't edit your tweets, I suppose that's not a bug or a feature, it's just the way the model works. But it can be a pain point if you use replies a lot.

Anyway, I'm learning a lot. It's interesting. It's rewarding from a novel experience standpoint. It's a relatively low barrier to getting online and blogging, and I highly recommend it if you want to get started blogging, so kudos to Manton Reece and his team. I'll be subscribing for at least a year while I explore this further.

It won't replace my own hosted site, but it seems like a powerful lever.