Bits and bobs for Thursday 29 January 2015


An occasional effort to link to interesting things I have seen. Not convinced about the format yet – let me know what you think.

  • One of my current obsessions is around mobile messaging apps. This interview with the CEO of Kik helps explains why this space is so exciting.
  • Slack has bought a company that does screensharing and voice chat to add to its text based workplace group chat thing. Makes Slack potentially more attractive to those looking for something approaching an all in one internal comms thing. For me though, it doesn’t move the workplace tech conversation on far enough.
  • A post about the future of Medium – published on Medium, of course. I really can’t personally figure out if Medium is incredibly interesting or just really boring. Could go either way – and the crunch will be when it begins to try and create revenue, I suspect.
  • A nice example from Simon Wardley on how to use his value chain mapping method.
  • Tumblr is rolling out new tools in its editor to help people use it to write longer form articles – a bit like Medium. Interesting, but one cannot help but wonder whether this goes against what made Tumblr popular with the people it’s popular with – i.e. quick sharing of memes, videos and so on. Is this Yahoo! starting to fiddle with its marquee purchase?

Blogging – writing and reading

Inspired, as I often am, by Lloyd and his various experiments in reusing media, finding new ways to use old stuff, and continuing to prod at blogging as a medium.

Thanks to him, I’m drawn back to Tumblr. It strikes me that the follow and post model that Tumblr embodies harks back to the original blogging tools like Radio Userland that combine reading and posting, and facilitates the easy (b)logging of other people’s content.

It is a closed system of course, which is a bit of a bad thing, but tools like IFTTT can be used to ensure a local backup of content is stored somewhere. But it feels better than – say – Facebook, which really is another follow and post type system. As is Twitter, of course, albeit with greater limitations.

WordPress – at least in its .com incarnation – seems to be following Tumblr by enabling users to follow blogs within a dashboard. But with these platforms, you can only (I think) follow blogs within that platform. It would be nice to be able to pull content in from elsewhere too.

The separation between a reading application and a writing application – which happened when? 2003? – was an error, as it enabled platform players to provide that holistic experience, and there doesn’t seem to be an open equivalent, unless anyone else knows of one.

Way to blog

There are a number of great options available now to start your own blog, for free, with just a few clicks of a mouse button. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses and here I run through five of the best ones.

WordPress is my personal blog tool of choice – I’ve been using it since 2005 and I’ve grown to love it. The free, hosted version at is great – easy to use with a whole host of features.


  • Easy to get started
  • Huge user community
  • Very active development


  • Feature-rich, or feature-bloated? For newbies there is a lot to learn
  • Doesn’t do email posting as well as some of the competition
  • Limited in terms of rich media embedding
  • Theme customisation costs money and is limited

Blogger is pretty much the granddaddy of blogging platforms – it recently celebrated its tenth birthday. Interestingly, it was originally developed by Pyra Labs before Google bought it. People at Pyra later went on to develop Twitter.

Blogger was left on the shelf by Google for a long time, but just recently seems to be sparking back into life, which is good to see.


  • The online help provided is excellent for newbies
  • Extremely customisable
  • You can embed pretty much any code in  your posts


  • Beige colour scheme for the editor looks hideous
  • No static pages I stand corrected in the comments – Blogger does do static pages these days

TypePad launched in 2003 so has been around for quite a while, and is a mature and stable product. Like, it is based on an open source platform, Moveable Type. For a long time it was often the case that enthusiasts used Blogger and professionals used TypePad, but since WordPress came along that’s no longer really the case.

TypePad does cost money, though comes with a


  • Sophisticated and easy to use editor
  • Plenty of customisation possible


  • It costs money, unless you go for the stripped down Micro version

Posterous is the newest service mentioned here, and it is making quite a splash for two main reasons: the ease of getting started with it (by simply sending in an email, you publish your first post) and the neat ways it integrates with other services.


  • Very easy to get started
  • Extremely well integrated into other social media services
  • Email posting is excellent


  • Not many options for customising the look and feel
  • Very much built with posting by email in mind – web editor not the best

Tumblr is a blogging system which focuses on making it easy to share content you find on the internet, adding your own comments as you go.


  • Super easy to post to, with a simple editor and templates to use depending on what media you are posting
  • Some nice themes and designs to choose from, which you can customise


  • Lightweight in terms of features – adding things like comments, tag clouds etc takes some hacking
  • Obviously set up as a scrap-booking style of blogging, not really suited to longer written pieces

Which blogging service do you recommend?

Easy blogging

Two services which aren’t very new, but which I only started using recently, are Tumblr and Posterous. They are basically blogging platforms, but in a different way to, say, WordPress, Blogger or TypePad.

It’s all about how you post to these services.

Posterous, for example, is almost entirely email based. You create your account on the service by sending it an email, and that’s by far the easiest way of posting to it – thought there is a web based interface if you really want one.

It’s brilliant at handling multimedia, especially photos and videos – just attaching one to your email will see it hosted at Posterous and embedded in your blogpost. Including YouTube URLs will embed the video into your post as well – it’s very easy. It’s also very impressive the way Posterous interacts with other social networks, cross posting nicely to Facebook and Twitter, and sending photos to Flickr too.

I use my Posterous as a personal blog, but one to which I post almost exclusively by email, from my iPhone.

Some of the other blogs that use Posterous that I read include:

Tumblr is a blogging system that is probably best described as an online scrapbook. Again, you could use it as a normal text based blog, but Tumblr really comes into its own by acting as a clipping service – you see a link, or a photo, or a video that you like online, and you post it to your Tumblog, perhaps with a bit of commentary added.

I’m using mine to clip videos I find interesting, or will want to save for later viewing. I never bookmark videos in Delicious for some reason, and this will make up for that!

Some other great Tumlr based blogs I follow include:

The key thing about both these services is the easy of use, and the way they speed up posting. I’ve never really kept a personal blog, but by being able to make quick, short posts on my phone, finding the time is a lot easier.

Perhaps if you are finding Twitter’s character limit a bit, well, limiting, but full blown blogging seems a little bit daunting, maybe Posterous or Tumblr can fill that gap for you!